MY FIRST PET WAS a timid pup called Precious, a moniker inspired by the cartoon character of the same name. My four-year-old self felt an affinity for the runt of the litter, so I quickly picked him out. That sweet, little dog had a nature true to his name. I don’t remember his fate but, in those days, pets ranged free in our little town, and I fear he may have met with some mishap.
I’M THINKING ABOUT retirement—again. But this time, it isn’t my retirement, but rather my wife’s. I earn our family’s primary paycheck, so I’m usually the focus of our discussions when we sit down to scrutinize the numbers and comb through the calendar, looking for a date when we should each hang up our physical therapist’s goniometer.
Even though I earn the bigger income, my wife has diligently worked just as long as I have,
TWO YEARS AGO, at age 59½, I thought I was on the verge of taking a major step toward retirement. At the time, my usual zest for my work as a physical therapist was waning. Though I don’t think the quality of my patient care suffered, I found it took more effort to maintain the energy needed to complete a day at the clinic, and concentrating on work became tougher.
In addition to the tension building on the inside,
I WROTE RECENTLY about my wife’s lifelong love of traveling, and of my resolve to get in step with her as she resumes her rambles. To that end, earlier this summer, I drove our family to Charleston, South Carolina, to attend the retirement ceremony for my cousin Chris, and to see a bit of the city, to boot.
As our departure time approached, we learned that the original schedule for retirement day had been altered.
MY WIFE HAS PLANS for retirement. Travel plans. For too many years, she’s lived a mostly travel-free life. We’ve logged just a few short excursions to hither and yon.
Yes, there have been reasons for this dearth of travel that were largely beyond our control. But her biggest obstacle has been—and continues to be—me. I’m mostly a homebody, and I’ve been reluctant to change my ways.
My wife didn’t choose to love traveling. Rather,
I KNOW I’M NOT WISE. Still, I’ve picked up enough wisdom to realize I didn’t have much of it when I was younger. At the very least, 60 years of stubbed toes, slips and falls have shown me that some paths shouldn’t be trod, while a few are worth traveling.
I try to refrain from offering unsolicited advice. But I’ve lately had a growing desire to steer young adults toward choices that escaped my notice when I was their age—with a focus on three areas:
Think about who came before us.
I COULD BE KIND TO my home and say it has rustic charm, but that would be pretentious. The truth is, it’s an old house, built in 1930 by my maternal grandparents. It sits on a remnant of the farm my family once owned. It’s a place I love, and where I’d like to grow old, and therein lies the challenge.
More than 20 years ago, my father and I extensively renovated the house inside and out.
GETTING TO RETIREMENT is lazy work for an indexing aficionado. What could be easier than stuffing money every paycheck into an all-in-one target-date index fund? Even building a two- or three-index-fund portfolio takes minimal effort.
Actually retiring, on the other hand, feels like a fulltime job. Who knew that spending money takes more thought than earning, saving and investing it? At age 61, I’m faced with important decisions that I want to get right,
MY DAUGHTER IS MORE than halfway through her junior year of high school. College and career choices are hot topics in our household. My wife and I have a dilemma: Should we encourage our daughter to pursue a college degree that matches her passions—or nudge her toward one that has a better chance of paying the bills?
My daughter is no slouch in math and science, but her true love turns in another direction.
OVER EIGHT MILLION Americans have said “so long” to the U.S., heading overseas to work or retire. These expats—short for expatriates—most likely have eight million different reasons to leave our shores for life in another country. My wife’s cousin Chuck and her brother John are among them.
John had his eye on living abroad when he took his first engineering job with Litton Aero Products, where he helped support aviation customers in the Middle East.
“DOES MONEY BUY happiness?” That’s one of the questions in HumbleDollar’s Voices section. I hesitate to say that happiness is a commodity we can buy. But studies—and many people’s personal experiences—suggest a lack of money can bring on unhappiness.
A recent paper, “Financial Stress and Depression in Adults” by researchers at the University of Birmingham in England, supports this conclusion. The researchers reviewed 40 studies examining the relationship between depression and financial stress,
MY FAMILY IS FRUGAL all year long, even during the Christmas season. We’re modest with our gifts and sparing with our decorations. Each year, our sprucing up consists of one cut-your-own Christmas tree trimmed with the same ornaments we used the year before. I can’t say the same for our neighbors. They pull out all the stops to create a seasonal spectacle.
There’s no need to take a long, cold sleigh ride to the North Pole to scope out Santa and his companions frolicking in snowy splendor.
WHY DO SOME PEOPLE save more for retirement than others, even when their income is the same? It turns out that a difference in spending behavior, rather than a larger salary, may separate better savers from those who struggle to set aside funds for their future.
The Employee Benefit Research Institute and J.P. Morgan Asset Management joined forces to examine the spending and saving behavior of 10,000 households. The households, which were analyzed by age cohort,
THE NATIONAL Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has good reason to boast. Its programs serve as a catalyst to generate billions of dollars of economic activity that’s spread across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Also, the transfer of NASA spinoff technologies and products to private businesses improves the lives of each of us in myriad ways.
Along the way, it’s even put men on the moon—and plans to do so again,
I’M TOO EMBARRASSED to reveal how long it took my wife and me to prepare our wills. We knew this important task was near the top of almost every financial “to do” list—a list that, it seems, we’ve spent our adult lives slowly working our way through.
We’d discussed the details of our wills, including the crucial decision of who would care for our minor child in the event both of us died. Despite this,