I STARTED WRITING for HumbleDollar almost five years ago—and it’s become a big part of my retirement.
Some folks have likened me to Andy Rooney. It’s a comparison I’ve happily embraced. I try to offer pointed opinions leavened by a measure of humor. Here are my 10 favorite articles that I’ve written for the site.
Choosing Badly (April 24, 2018). This was my first piece for HumbleDollar. Employer-sponsored 401(k) plans are underutilized and misused.
DEAR 18-YEAR-OLD: You may be better educated and more intelligent than me. You may have more potential. But for sure you don’t have more experience. I have 60 years on you, so—as hard as it may be—take my advice:
There are no guarantees in life. You have to make of it what you will. Never give up.
You will have obstacles placed before you. You will be treated unfairly. You will have to deal with less-than-honorable individuals.
AS I READ ARTICLES and comments on HumbleDollar, I see concerns about taxes, Medicare, Social Security, health care costs, college, inflation, investing—and the anxiety caused by the complexity of it all. I also see very different views on what’s earned and deserved. In some ways, it’s about what we consider fair.
I suspect the HumbleDollar community is more aware and more involved in their overall financial life than the majority of Americans,
I WROTE AN ARTICLE in 2019 titled Mercedes and Me. It was about my 52-year quest to fulfill a promise to my father—one I’m sure he never even remembered. My promise: to buy a Mercedes, a vehicle my father sold for many years but could never afford, even at dealer cost.
In 2014, after 10 years of diligent saving, I achieved my goal. I paid $60,000 in cash to make good on my promise and to fulfill my dream.
“CLEAN YOUR PLATE.” “You’ll eat what’s for dinner and like it.” “There are children starving in Africa.”
Those are lines I often heard as a child. I guess my parents weren’t aware of hunger in the U.S.—or the long-term damage to our waistlines and health that such clean-your-plate advice could have.
Still, at least we weren’t squandering food, which is a big problem these days. Each year, 80 million tons of food are wasted in the U.S.
A RECENT ARTICLE on this site, written by the editor, put me in a contemplative mood: How do I think about money?
Actually, I was already pondering this question, something I do frequently and especially at the end of the month, when my pension is deposited into one of our bank accounts and earnings on our investments are displayed in our Fidelity Investments accounts. I also ponder this question when I see our stocks and funds go up or down each day.
I HAVE TROUBLE accepting things at face value. I like to validate information, checking it against several sources. This is especially true when it comes to all things money- and retirement-related. But it’s not always easy to do.
Do Americans tell the truth about how they spend their money? Do they actually know? Does it really take extreme frugality to save for the future, a talent many folks lack or refuse to embrace?
I look around and,
IF YOU WANT ADVICE on investing, don’t ask me. My investment knowledge is, shall we say, limited.
I don’t pay much attention to expense ratios, individual stocks, international markets, the VIX, interest rates or much else. I know nothing about evaluating stocks or the overall market, though I have learned the hard way that rising interest rates aren’t friendly to utility stocks.
In other words, I’m more like your typical saver who’s playing at investing.
GOOGLE THE QUESTION, “How many Americans live on a fixed income?” You won’t find an answer. But we all know “fixed income” is used endlessly to describe the plight of us seniors.
For example, there’s this from the National Council on Aging: “Living on a fixed income generally applies to older adults who are no longer working and collecting a regular paycheck. Instead, they depend mostly or entirely on fixed payments from sources such as Social Security,
I WAS RAISED IN a small town in Iowa. My mother died of breast cancer when I was two years old. My father struggled to cope with her death, but he paid the bills and made sure my basic needs were met. Indeed, when I look back, my upbringing seems pretty normal.
I survived high school, but had no clue what I was going to do with my life. One day, my father decided to give me a nudge.
I’VE DECIDED TO SELL some of my investments and buy a Bentley. The one I admire would cost about $300,000, including taxes and fees.
Just kidding. Besides, I couldn’t face my four children after such an indecent splurge, knowing that they’re dealing with high-deductible health plans, saving for college and socking away money for retirement—just like millions of other Americans.
While that Bentley purchase would be possible in theory, it would substantially reduce my assets,
THE PROLIFIC MR. QUINN recently wrote that people who were irresponsible in one area of their life, such as failing to return shopping carts, also tend to be irresponsible in other areas, like managing their finances. He’s probably right. Still, I’ve had times when, even though I’m a “responsible person”—I’ve had a successful career, my kids lived to grow up, and so forth—I nonetheless had pockets of disorder in my life.
For me, the two biggest areas of chaos were managing money and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen.
I GOT OUT OF THE ARMY in August 1969. In the months prior, my wife and I discussed our financial plans. Simply put, if I was given a raise to $160 a week when I returned to work, we could buy some furniture for our small apartment. Bingo—we made it. I was earning $8,300 a year.
The other part of our plan was to save my wife’s salary toward a house down payment. She left the job market for good the following July,
I CAN’T TAKE IT ANY more: I need to rant about health care.
There’s absolutely no reason to continue the current health-care payment system, none, not one. Where’s the rationale for having private insurance, Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)? Each was developed to deal with the same issue—paying for health care.
Some form of Medicare for all, or M4A as it’s sometimes known, is the only system that makes sense.
I DREAD THOSE RED down votes on my HumbleDollar comments. Perhaps at times I come across as less than empathetic, but that’s not really me. I have sincere empathy for anyone who honestly struggles to make life decisions, including financial decisions. I also realize that adhering to good financial practices is made hard by the problems that arise with the ups and downs of daily life.
I spent my working life, which spanned nearly 50 years,