I WROTE MY FIRST article for HumbleDollar in 2017. I’d been retired for nine years and I had plenty of material. I’d made a lot of mistakes with my money over the years.
I was truly a humble writer then, and I still am. My early articles weren’t my best. It was a learning experience. I wrote them using the notes app on my old iPhone 5—an app that was designed for jotting down quick thoughts, not for writing articles. HumbleDollar’s editor had a lot of patience with me.
My writing improved over time, especially when I started using an online word processor. My articles began to get more attention. I felt a little bit more confident about what I was doing.
I’ve received some positive feedback from readers over the years. I appreciate each and every one of the comments and messages. But there’s one that really stood out.
One evening last year, I received a text message from my neighbor with a link to one of my HumbleDollar articles. It was an article about her younger son watering our yard and getting our mail while we were traveling. It was his first job.
When I saw the message, I thought she might be upset. I never told her I wrote an article about Michael. But she was fine with it, and wanted to let me know they’d read it.
They knew I sometimes wrote articles. I’d sent them a piece I wrote about my mother in 2020. Brian, their older son, discovered the rest of the articles I’d written for HumbleDollar.
When he told me he liked my stuff, it was one of the best compliments I received about my writing. I never imagined an 18-year-old college freshman would have any interest in what this 71-year-old had to say about money and life.
I realize it’s not really about me. It’s what I write about: financial security, good friends and good health. These are things that people of all ages strive for, and not just older folks like me.
Meanwhile, one reader recently asked me if I still use Vanguard Group’s Personal Advisor Services (PAS). I can understand why that question came up. I mentioned in that piece, as well as in a 2022 article, about eventually consolidating our investment portfolio into a single target-date fund or a few low-cost, broad-based index funds. But yes, as of today, PAS still manages our investment portfolio.
One of the reasons I enrolled in PAS was that I was looking for an advisor I could trust to manage our portfolio if something should happen to me. My wife was never keen on the idea, but recently she’s had a change of heart and wants to continue the service for now. Maybe the bear market and the silly mistakes I sometimes make have something to do with her change in attitude.
Vanguard charges 0.3% of assets each year to manage our investment portfolio. The exchange-traded funds in our portfolio average approximately 0.05% in annual expenses, so our total cost is about 0.35%. I’m okay with the additional cost of using an advisor if it gives my wife peace of mind. I’m about five years older than her, so there’s a good chance she’ll outlive me. But if we ever decided to leave PAS, a target-date fund or two index funds would be the alternative.
I also wrote in my recent article about having one credit card in our later years. We currently have three. Our Costco Anywhere Visa card is our primary card. It offers the most rewards. The other two we wouldn’t miss, and cancelling them would mean two less credit cards to monitor.
As we grow older, I believe simplifying our life is a wise move. I’ve always found that life is easier to manage and less stressful when you have fewer things to deal with. That’s what we’ve been doing lately, trying to rid ourselves of the clutter in our lives.
We invited a couple over to our house one evening. It was the first time they had been to our home since we remodeled. When the husband walked in and took a look around, the first thing he said was, “You don’t have a lot of things. I like that.”
That’s how I built my wealth over the years—by not owning a lot of stuff. The less you own, the more money you can save. In 2018, I wrote an article about a Fender Telecaster guitar my parents gave me in high school as a birthday present, and how it was the only valuable personal item I own, other than my car and my home. That’s still true today.
Dennis Friedman retired from Boeing Satellite Systems after a 30-year career in manufacturing. Born in Ohio, Dennis is a California transplant with a bachelor’s degree in history and an MBA. A self-described “humble investor,” he likes reading historical novels and about personal finance. Check out his earlier articles and follow him on Twitter @DMFrie.
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I like your comment, Dennis “That’s how I built my wealth over the years—by not owning a lot of stuff” but must add that you’ve done a number of other things correctly, too. From other articles you’ve written for HD, I know you’ve invested in a diversified portfolio, saved diligently, worked long and well in your industry, and possibly most important, not taken foolish financial risks. Oftentimes, the best financial recipe is one part humility, two parts knowledge, and three parts perseverance! Well done.
Good article Dennis. I like the minimalist approach. We still have a lot of stuff but do not buy many things today.
Trading cars frequently is very expensive. We have always kept our cars a long time, usually at least 10 years and 200k miles. I have never understood why people buy expensive cars and trade them often. That really adds up over a lifetime.
Dennis, I also enjoy your articles. I strongly think everyone should have at least 2 credit cards. If 1 credit card is stolen, lost, or unexpectedly canceled, it would be a problem.
Dennis, you are my favorite among the “amateur” writers at HumbleDollar. Presented simply, your content always resonates. What I most appreciate, though, are the human (and humane) qualities that come across in your writing. Humility, integrity, loyalty, compassion — you strike me as a genuinely decent person. Even more than your content, that’s what has me always looking forward to the next Dennis Friedman post. .
He’s from Ohio.
Not sure where they are from, but Don Southworth, Juan Fourneau, Marla McCune and Marjorie Kondrack convey similar decency in their posts.
Thanks, great article. I like the idea of not owning too many things. As my wife and I age we are finding it easier to let go of things and enjoy donating the items we let go of to local charities. We are also exploring using PAS or similar low cost advisors for the same reason and one additional reason. If I live too a ripe old age or illness should happen and I don’t feel comfortable managing our money, it will be comforting to know my wife will have someone to work with if she doesn’t want to do it on her own.
I’ve always liked Dennis’ writing style. Free flowing and fun to read.
In regards to minimizing with advancing years, I find most of what I presently own more than suits me. But, against most practical advice, we bought a second home. Only time will tell how it works out, but it’s near enough our main home and provides respite from the summer’s heat.
I always enjoy your perspectives and your writing, Dennis! I appreciate it even more hearing how you wrote those earliest pieces…wow!
Dennis, Enjoy your comments. I also pay an advisor a nominal sum (>.01%) to be a sounding board for my plans and to be a backup for me to manage my wife’s finances if I am gone. I would always recommend having two credit cards as the safest way to go. Credit card providers can lock up your card for many reasons and you need an alternative to keep the necessities of life. I use the Costco card and a Fidelity card. Both with cash rebates.
How did you find such an advisor?
I must confess I don’t see the point of an ongoing relationship with PAS. Once your portfolio is set up, it should need no more than an occasional rebalancing, say once or twice a year, and not even that if you are in target date funds. Admittedly, 0.30% is a lot better than 1%, but it will still add up over time. Every few years I pay a fee-for-service fiduciary for a check-up – the last one, to determine whether I could afford the CCRC I was planning to enter, cost me $1,500.
When I was doing long term international travel I carried a minimum of three credit cards and two ATM cards (not in the same place), but in the US I mostly use an AA-affiliated MasterCard for the FF miles. I currently have a Costco Visa card, as I joined this year to use their audiologists, but I only use it there.
Thanks for the articles!
If you are successful and become wealthy, you can own a lot of valuable things, if you like. The trick is to put off buying them until you are wealthy.
As a retiree, i am able to buy high-quality goods and services, without worrying too much about expense. That’s what saving and investing can do – after 40 years, the money really does pile up.
Thank you for another good post. My oldest credit card is the first one I had in my own name, after my husband died many years ago, and closing the account would greatly lower my average length of credit, so I use the card for a small purchase every month to keep it alive. I plan to close it in the next year or so.
I’m still managing my own Vanguard accounts with the help of what I’ve learned at Bogleheads. I enjoy doing it and am satisfied with my performance, at least for now.
Can’t see the point of closing your oldest credit card. Your status in society seems to revolve around your credit card usage, regardless of your wealth, property ownership, or bank accounts. Such a thing affects your credit score and that determines interest rates, insurability, and God knows what else, similar to the Chinese social credit score. Nowadays you can’t even get a library card without a driver’s license (photo id) and a credit card.
Dennis I’ve appreciated your thoughtful and though-provoking commentary about money management and life since I began reading Humble Dollar essays a few years ago. Thank you. Among other things, I like your focus on simplifying one’s financial life and focusing on essentials. My wife and I have been downsizing; we’ve sold the large suburban house that we raised our children in and are leasing as we contemplate our next move. About a year ago we’ve switched the management of our retirement funds from Fidelity Wealth Management (~ 1% annual fee on gross assets) to a no advisory fee account that we manage. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I can periodically meet with a Fidelity account manager once or twice each year at no additional cost beyond the net fees associated with each index or mutual fund we own. All of our retirement assets are in a limited number of low cost stock and bond funds. Reading your pieces and others in Humble Dollar gave me the confidence that I could manage our retirement assets and make sensible decisions about life plans.
Dennis, I started reading HD in early 2018. I immediately liked the flavor of the site. Your articles, especially during that time, were an important part of the seasoning. Thanks, and thank you for continuing to share your thoughts.
To me even .3% is too much; 3k on every MIllion
No one should be paying more than FOUR FIGURES to an advisor
Look at Garrett Planning Network among others that charge hourly or yearly
Hello Dennis. Thanks for your input regarding continued use of Vanguard Personal Advisor Services. I signed up in Spring of 2019 after reading your post sometime in either 2018 or early 2019, and have been completely satisfied with the service and my assigned advisor. Vanguard’s low 0.3% fee is well worth it for me and my wife. It prevents me from making bad moves when markets are in turmoil, maintains the steady allocated/diversified ETF funds balance in our portfolio, and as a 73 year old, I can concentrate on many other interesting things at this time of our lives. But the main reason is what you explained – it gives me peace of mind knowing my wife will be in financial ‘good hands’ if something were to happen to me before her. She participates in some of the quarterly or other meetings with our advisor, and will be able to transition to maintaining the portfolio if I were incapacitated or pass before her. In my working and earlier retirement years, I enjoyed actively maintaining our portfolio, but made some dumb moves over the years. I was able to take an early retirement package at age 51 due to a corporate merger and downsizing, and never regretted it. I’ve been retired over 22 years now, and maintain a healthy lifestyle by exercise, eating a balanced diet, seeing our doctors for annual checkups, etc. We’ve always been frugal and never wasted or purchase things we can’t afford or do not need, travel whenever we want, and are very satisfied and happy with our family and life. Thank you for your excellent posts–I really enjoy them. Fred