AS WE CELEBRATE Thanksgiving, I’m reflecting on what I’ve learned over the past year or so from HumbleDollar—both as a reader and as one of the site’s writers.
An article I wrote about claiming Social Security bounced back and forth a few times between me and HumbleDollar’s editor, Jonathan Clements. The breakthrough came when Jonathan referred me to a free online calculator built by financial blogger Mike Piper. I’d been trying to do my own calculation in Excel. Working through the calculator greatly reduced my anxiety about picking the right date to pull the Social Security trigger. I realized that a wide range of dates were pretty much equally good.
Meanwhile, an article by Charley Ellis helped me rethink my asset allocation. The key insight: Predictable income such as a pension and Social Security can be considered part of your bond allocation. This gave me the comfort to increase my allocation to stocks. Luckily, this past year has been an good time to add to my stock holdings, thanks to the market decline.
Other pieces on the site prompted me to rethink how I invest my cash. John Lim’s article was the first place I read about the handsome yield available from Series I savings bonds. His article led me to open a TreasuryDirect account, so I could purchase I bonds. That account came in handy when a reader, in response to one of my articles, suggested I consider Treasury bills as an attractive alternative for my cash investments.
Not every insight is life-changing. Finding ways to tweak my personal finances can be just as satisfying. Jonathan had an article on check washing that opened my eyes. I’ve had my own frustrations with the post office, but I didn’t fully appreciate the risk of sending checks through the mail.
Based on Jonathan’s experience, I’ve taken steps to isolate one checking account to use only for mailed checks. If it’s hacked, there won’t be much money there to steal. I also signed up for the online payment service Zelle, so I can transfer money without mailing checks. In addition, I plan to make more payments online.
HumbleDollar offers the chance to learn from one another. If you’ve only been a reader, consider writing about some of your financial adventures. The process of putting words to paper forces you to think through how and why you do what you do. Reader comments may challenge your assumptions. Taken together, you’ll come away with a better understanding of your own approach and how to do better in future.
The checking account tip is an interesting one. We hand write, maybe, four checks a year from our account. We also have a few auto-pays set up against our checking account that trigger a paper check sent directly from our bank, which is great when the payee won’t accept credit card autopays.
The rest of our spending and bill payment is on one credit card. Or at least it was until a week ago when when we got our replacement credit card after the account was hacked – again. Probably from a gas pump reader, but who knows anymore?
So starting now we put in a new policy similar to the checking account one described in this article: we’re going to have two active credit cards. One will be for autopays and contactless payments (via Applepay or iPhone wallet for instance). This physical card will never be taken out of the wallet and used to buy anything, but we’ll keep it on hand in case a merchant needs to see it for some reason.
The second card will only be used when a physical card swipe is needed, like at a gas pump (more and more of those are now offering contactless – so that’s good).
It’s taken me years to figure this out. Now – hopefully – no more logging into a dozen different accounts to update autopay with a new card number.
Well this article is “inspiring” me to ask for advice from readers. I purchased 10K of I bonds this year at Treasury direct and another 5K from my tax refund. The 5K refund is paid out in paper bonds in various denomitations. I realized I don’t want to hold paper bonds – inconvenient at best for me and potential heirs. Does anyone know if these can be deposted in my Treasury Direct Account somehow? Thought I saw a comment awhile back that is possible somehow, but don’t know the procedure is. However I don’t want it to impact the 10K limit for 2023 either. Thanks to anyone who can help.
Hello Bob, you definitely can convert the bonds to be held in book form at Treasury Direct – and since you already have an account you’re ahead of the game. It’s been over a decade since I converted mine, so I don’t recall the exact procedure, but as I recall it wasn’t onerous. Maybe search Treasury Direct for the procedure?
Another reader turned (occasional) writer here, and I share the sentiments in your post and in Rick’s and Edmund’s comments.
The genius of Humble Dollar is the inclusion of lessons learned, good and bad, from contributors with diverse backgrounds, ages, and life histories. Coupled with expert advice from Jonathan and the other pros, this makes for a site that is not only educational but also a pleasure to read.
I’ve learned from your fine contributions and hope you keep them coming.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Howard, I’m a reader that decided to write. For four years, I ingested HumbleDollar articles with my morning coffee. Along with the financial advice—or suggestions—they offered, I realized the writers were also sharing real emotions of people much like me who were trying to stay on the right path with their money. I decided that my victories and struggles might be interesting, and perhaps helpful to someone else like me. I’m certain I’ve gained more by writing than I’ve given, and I am thankful for it. I hope to hear from another reader turned writer that answers your invitation.
Nicely said. I agree with all you said but especially your comment: I’ve gained more by writing than I’ve given, and I am thankful for it. Thanks for sharing and Happy Thanksgiving!
Happy Thanksgiving Howard, and thanks for your excellent contributions to the HD conversation.
Thank you for your articles… I have enjoyed them. I have learned through your writing that we are very close in age and have a similar outlook. Happy Thanksgiving to you.