A New Kind of Heaven

Catherine Horiuchi

Catherine recently retired from the University of San Francisco's School of Management, where she was an associate professor teaching graduate courses in public policy, public finance and government technology. She's been selected to serve on the Sacramento Independent Redistricting Commission, which means she'll be having fun with the 2020 Census data starting in 2021.

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A New Kind of Heaven

Catherine Horiuchi  |  May 1, 2024

I’M TYPICALLY FRUGAL and financially cautious. But this past January, I became reckless. No, it wasn’t love, at least not the ordinary kind. Rather, I saw a photograph and made an offer of $48,000 on a “park unit” located 1,000 miles from home.
Park unit, I learned, is a technical term for a variant of what I’d call a mobile home. My first task was to look up the term, so I’d know what I was offering to buy.

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Twin Peeks

Catherine Horiuchi  |  Jan 12, 2024

CAN IT REALLY BE TWO years since I wrote about sending my twins off to college? One is a chemistry major, midway through her junior year. Meanwhile, for her twin sister, the artist, there have been big changes in her college trajectory.
My initial criteria for college selections included published statistics on cost, likelihood of admission, timely graduation and low rates of loan default. I took this last stat as a reasonable proxy for post-college success.

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Rethinking My Mix

Catherine Horiuchi  |  Nov 13, 2021

ASSET ALLOCATION is usually a set-it-and-forget-it exercise. At least, that’s how I’ve handled it until now. I decided on my appetite for risk, then set my stock-bond ratio accordingly.
I tallied everything once or twice a year, and then rebalanced. I’d apply a portion of my winning positions to my less successful asset classes. Rebalancing this way forced me to buy low and sell high. Combined with dollar-cost averaging, it’s an investing approach that’s served me well for more than 20 years.

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Not Your Friends

Catherine Horiuchi  |  Oct 9, 2021

FINANCIAL FIRMS spend heavily on marketing to create a friendly, customer-first impression. But these firms aren’t your friends, at least not in the ordinary sense of the word. They make their money, fairly and legally, by providing specific services to customers.
Friendliness at a retail level keeps your capital in place, where it works for the firm’s benefit. Every once in a while, I see language that clearly expresses what they want from our “relationship.” These communications help me review where I do business,

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Budgeting 102

Catherine Horiuchi  |  Sep 30, 2021

IT’S BEEN A MONTH since I dropped off my twins at college, one east, one west. Each has a debit card for an account with the credit union here in our hometown. One has downloaded the credit union’s mobile app. Both are already developing their own ideas and strategies for managing college life on a shoestring budget.
I got them their debit cards some time ago. I also opened a teen account for their brother,

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Learning to Spend

Catherine Horiuchi  |  Aug 17, 2021

MY TWINS ARE OFF to college. They’re on different paths. One is attending an institution less than 100 miles from home, while the other will be on the far side of the continent. One has a full-ride package of financial aid from her chosen college. The other isn’t getting as much.
Every morning this past week, I’ve intended to pay the first semester for the twin who didn’t get a full ride. I have the cash.

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Budgeting 101

Catherine Horiuchi  |  Aug 13, 2021

AS MY TWINS DEPART for college, they leave behind a home base where they find food in the refrigerator, get new clothes and shoes when needed, have bills paid and extra-curriculars funded, and receive a small weekly allowance to save or spend.
Now, they’re headed far from familiar security. They gain instead independence and the opportunity to explore other ways of living and spending, all part of their higher education. Cold cereal for supper?

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The Places You’ll Go

Catherine Horiuchi  |  May 19, 2021

MY TWIN DAUGHTERS just finished sorting through college offers and making their decision ahead of the May 1 acceptance deadline. With nearly 3,000 four-year colleges to choose from, how did they decide?
It wasn’t easy. The pandemic didn’t just close our local public schools. It also ended visits from universities and limited school-based college counseling. Counselors compensated with lunchtime workshops, links to webinars, and lots of robocalls and emails urging students to fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

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My Lazy Investing

Catherine Horiuchi  |  Mar 11, 2021

MY FIRST JOB AFTER college was at a global engineering firm. A roommate also worked there. It was a tedious office job, but my bosses thought I had potential and encouraged me to study engineering, which I didn’t.
Instead, I quit and went to graduate school to study linguistics, a field where I observed the most professors having the most fun. My last paycheck at the engineering firm included an extra sum. It was a refund for a retirement account that had failed to vest because I hadn’t stayed long enough.

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College Crapshoot

Catherine Horiuchi  |  Feb 8, 2021

A LIFE OF FRUGALITY might mean your children graduate college debt-free, which is a major accomplishment. But what about your happy-go-lucky neighbors, who spent every dime they earned and never saved for college?
At issue here is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is the basis for the all-important expected family contribution (EFC). The whole thing can seem like one big crapshoot, as I can now attest.
The EFC may determine that your spendthrift neighbors’ kids also get to graduate debt-free.

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Goodbye Assets

Catherine Horiuchi  |  Jan 12, 2021

MY TWINS ARE SENIORS in high school. That means, pandemic or no pandemic, we spent the fall applying to colleges.
Here in California, the pandemic closed public schools in March and most did not reopen for in-person teaching with the start of the current academic year. That forced parents to stand in for college counselors. The preparations high school juniors usually engage in, such as visiting colleges and taking standardized tests, didn’t occur this past spring or summer.

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Leaving Early

Catherine Horiuchi  |  Sep 24, 2020

LIKE OTHERS, I TOOK my first part-time job as a teenager and, once working fulltime, stayed at it steadily for decades. Being an adult meant being a worker, affiliated with some firm or another, one industry or another.
My plans for ever exiting the labor force were vague: “Save for the future, so someday you will retire with honor and dignity to spend your waning days as you desire.” I saved steadily,

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Good Company

Catherine Horiuchi  |  Jun 26, 2020

AS MY PERSONAL and financial life gradually became more orderly in the months after my husband’s death, I found myself wrestling with one particular investment: My late husband had spent the bulk of his working life with Union Pacific and, like longtime employees at so many companies, he’d accumulated a significant number of shares. What should I do with those shares?
My husband and I occasionally discussed the dangers of overweighting company stock—something that often happens when shares are used for the employer’s 401(k) matching contribution or they’re granted as part of incentive pay packages.

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From Two to One

Catherine Horiuchi  |  Apr 30, 2020

FOLLOWING MY husband’s death, I went from feeling prosperous to precarious in the space of a few short months. For decades, I’d had something extra in hand, beyond the minimum sum necessary to keep going. That sense of prosperity was now gone.
This wasn’t just my imagination. Studies have found that widows are significantly less wealthy than their married counterparts. One academic article notes, “The death of a spouse is an event that may precipitate a large decline in wealth.” Similarly,

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Missing a Step

Catherine Horiuchi  |  Apr 23, 2020

I LIKE TO THINK my husband and I were savvy and careful when planning our estate. Yet anybody can make an occasional dumb mistake. That brings me to my next surprise in settling my husband’s affairs—and it came with an unfortunate legal bill.
As a couple, we’d established a revocable living trust at a young age, when death was a strictly theoretical idea. The trust eliminated the need for our estate to go through probate,

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