THE FLU SEASON was approaching, so I decided to schedule an appointment with my medical provider for a flu shot. The next morning, I received an email from my prescription drug plan informing me that it was processing a payment for $30.80.
My immediate thought: “How could my medical provider charge me for a flu shot that I haven’t yet received? And why aren’t they billing Medicare?” Medicare provides a free flu shot to every enrollee.
WHEN I WAS GROWING up, I don’t remember my parents talking about the stock market. In fact, I’m not sure when they started buying stocks. It could have been sometime after I graduated from high school in 1969.
When I was a junior in high school, however, I do remember a conversation about stocks between two of my classmates. Brandon was telling Brian that he could buy a motorcycle if he sold some of his shares.
I WOKE UP ONE morning, looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the person looking back at me. Who is this person? It can’t be me. I’m not the same person I was five or six months ago. I don’t know if it’s the pandemic that caused me to behave differently or if I’m going through some kind of midlife crisis.
No, it can’t be a midlife crisis. I’m almost 70 years old, plus I don’t feel my life is boring,
MY FINANCIAL advisor has been on a mission to reduce my investment costs. He’s been replacing my low-cost, broad-based index mutual funds with the exchange-traded fund (ETF) version. He believes this will improve my investment returns over the long run.
For instance, if you own Vanguard Total International Stock Index Fund—a mutual fund—you’re currently paying 0.11% in annual expenses. But Vanguard’s ETF alternative charges just 0.08%, equal to a savings of three cents a year for every $100 invested.
WE JUST STARTED remodeling our house. I knew it would be an expensive project. Indeed, my next-door neighbor warned me about the difficulty of controlling costs.
He said they netted $250,000 from the sale of their old house. Their plan was to remodel their current home and use the remaining proceeds to pay off the mortgage on their vacation property. But unfortunately, they blew through their remodeling budget and didn’t have enough left over to pay off the other mortgage.
WHEN I WAS in my 20s, I joined a large aerospace company. It was my first job out of college. I was an employee who thought all my colleagues were team players working toward the best interest of the company.
Back then, I’d never heard of the term “office politics.” But Ron, my boss, took it to a whole new level. He was an expert at manipulating people.
Ron joined the company a year after I did.
I SOLD MY CONDO last month and the first thing I wanted to do was celebrate. It was such a relief to get rid of it, because owning a second home requires spending precious time maintaining it. At age 69, I can think of better ways to spend my time than looking after a vacation home.
At first, I was reluctant to put the condo up for sale. I had lived there for more than three decades.
THIS PANDEMIC HAS changed the way we live: Many people are physically distancing themselves, washing their hands more often and wearing a mask when they’re around others. But it’s also changed how I think about money—in six ways:
1. Emergency savings. Before the pandemic, I always thought a cash emergency fund equal to six months’ living expenses would be sufficient. Not anymore. The massive economic shutdown has led to millions of unemployed Americans—and it will take longer than six months for many of these folks to find work again.
“MONEY MAKES the world go round”—and that means we’re constantly making financial decisions. Almost inevitably, some go awry. Like everyone else, I’ve made a lot of financial mistakes over the years. Here are some I wish I could take back.
When I was age 23, I graduated from college with a history degree. It wouldn’t take long for me to realize it was a mistake. Early in my career, I was passed over three times for a promotion because I didn’t have a business degree.
IT’S OFTEN DIFFICULT to fathom what causes the stock market to rise or fall. The market doesn’t always reflect how the economy is currently performing—and sometimes the disconnect can seem huge.
This sentiment was captured in a recent MarketWatch headline: “‘The world is more screwed up’ than the stock market is currently reflecting, warns billionaire investor.” The article was reporting on comments made by Oaktree Capital founder Howard Marks, who told CNBC, “We’re only down 15% from the all-time high of Feb.
I DON’T THINK I can do it. I know it’s the patriotic thing to do—support our local businesses. But I don’t see myself visiting local restaurants, movie theaters or department stores for a quite a while.
After they lift the stay-at-home order, I’m not rushing out to my favorite restaurant and ordering a grilled chicken avocado wrap with a kale salad. I don’t care if the waiter is wearing a protective mask and gloves,
IT’S 4:45 A.M. and another day quarantined at home. Even though I have nowhere to go, I still get up early. It’s one of my favorite times of the day. This is when I go downstairs to the kitchen, make myself a cup of tea, toast some raisin bread and read about what’s happening in the world.
Later, Rachel and I will go for a walk and then have breakfast together. This is how we now lead our lives—sequestered in the house—away from friends and family.
WHEN MY FATHER died in 2012, my mother gave me his wedding ring as a keepsake—but I lost it. I turned my house upside down trying to find it. When my mother was alive, I prayed she wouldn’t ask to see the ring, because I didn’t know what I’d tell her.
I felt terrible that I had lost something that meant so much to my father, and I was upset with myself for not taking better care of it.
I MET WITH MY financial advisor last week to discuss my portfolio’s performance in the first quarter. This was the first time I’d looked at my investments since the start of the public health crisis and economic shutdown.
My portfolio, with a target mix of 35% stocks and 65% in bonds and cash investments, was down 6.8% for the quarter, while the S&P 500 was off 19.6% and the Dow industrials fell 22.7%, including reinvested dividends.
ALTHOUGH THE 2020 market plunge isn’t even six weeks old, there are already lessons we can learn from this financial crisis that can help us better manage our investment portfolio. Here are six takeaways from the current downturn, which has left the S&P 500 off 25% from its Feb. 19 high:
1. During a financial crisis, you often hear the phrase, “Stay the course.” It’s meant to encourage investors to stick with their financial plan during difficult times.