I FOUND OUT A YEAR ago that my Aunt Ina Lou, then aged 95, had designated me as her agent in her financial and medical powers of attorney. She also named me as executor of her estate and the trustee for her trust.
She wasn’t well and needed more help than her thoughtful neighbors could provide. Within months, my brother, my wife and I had our aunt settled in an assisted living facility near her townhome in Burke,
THIS PAST SPRING, my brother Phil made the six-hour trip from our hometown in North Carolina to northern Virginia to visit our 95-year-old aunt, whom we know as Aunt Ina Lou. We hadn’t heard from her in a while, which was unusual.
Since we were children, she’d always sent us Christmas and birthday cards, and she’d missed some recently. Phil tried calling several times, but she hadn’t been answering her phone. This wasn’t particularly surprising since our aunt is almost deaf.
BUILDING A NEST EGG is relatively easy: Save as much as you can starting as early as you can. Invest in a diversified mix of low-cost mutual funds. Rebalance periodically. And tune out the noise.
By contrast, determining how much you can safely spend in retirement is far trickier. Consider three strategies.
First, there’s the much-discussed 4% withdrawal rate. In the first year of retirement, you spend 4% of your portfolio’s beginning-of-year value. In subsequent years,
MY FATHER-IN-LAW William retired from Duke University after teaching there for more than 30 years. He had a good pension, which—along with Social Security—covered all his expenses at the continuing care retirement community (CCRC) where he spent most of his retirement. Almost to the end, he was mentally sharp. I saw no need to inquire about his finances. I was mistaken.
In summer 2014, my wife noticed that William, then age 96, had left a large check for a matured life insurance policy on his desk for a couple of months.
AS MY WIFE AND I approached our June 2014 retirement, I set out to consolidate and simplify our investments.
The first account I dealt with was my 403(b). Fidelity Investments was handling the 403(b) plan for the University of North Carolina System, which is where I worked. But while Fidelity was the administrator, the plan included several Vanguard Group funds, to which I’d been contributing. This was where I had the majority of my retirement money.
IN SUMMER 2012, MY boss of 17 years announced he planned to retire the following year. I had enjoyed working for him and considered him both a mentor and a friend, and I had some trepidation about working for a new manager at this late stage in my career. While I enjoyed my job and was good at it, and I liked most of the people I worked with, it was a stressful, demanding position,
BY EARLY 2009, I HAD been investing for 22 years. My wife had invested for a bit longer, and our savings were starting to seem like a significant chunk of money. I was reasonably happy with our investments. Still, I knew that—for those 22 years—we had been paying too much in investment expenses, thanks to the high-fee funds in our employer-sponsored retirement accounts.
Another source of frustration was that our money was spread over seven financial accounts and 14 mutual funds.
WHEN I BEGAN investing in 1987 at age 33, I knew very little about the financial markets. As a new University of North Carolina employee, I just started having money taken from my paycheck each month and put in North Carolina’s 457 plan for state employees. A 457 plan is a deferred compensation plan, similar to a 401(k) plan, but the plans are offered by state and local governments, and they’re subject to somewhat different rules.
I LIKE TO THINK of myself today as a pretty savvy investor. But I wasn’t savvy when I started out. Despite attending business school and earning a master’s degree in computer science, I knew nothing about managing money or saving for retirement, so I initially made a number of blunders—but also one particularly lucky choice.
My first real job after college was in 1987, as a systems programmer for the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.