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Writing My Retirement

Dennis Friedman

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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