AS WE CELEBRATE Thanksgiving, I’m reflecting on what I’ve learned over the past year or so from HumbleDollar—both as a reader and as one of the site’s writers.
An article I wrote about claiming Social Security bounced back and forth a few times between me and HumbleDollar’s editor, Jonathan Clements. The breakthrough came when Jonathan referred me to a free online calculator built by financial blogger Mike Piper. I’d been trying to do my own calculation in Excel.
I DID IT AGAIN. I correctly identified a trend but jumped too soon.
When interest rates plummeted as the Federal Reserve reacted to COVID-19, I had a ladder of certificates of deposit. Some of these CDs are only now reaching maturity. Each step of the ladder yielded 2% to 3%. This looked good in comparison to the low rates available through most of the COVID period.
As the short-term CDs in the ladder matured,
I LEARNED IN COLLEGE economics classes that there’s a time value to money. A dollar today is worth more than the promise of a dollar a year from now. Result? If you’re going to promise me a future dollar, you have to make it worth my while by paying me some interest.
This was certainly true in 1980, when I graduated with an economics and management major. Admittedly, inflation was even higher back then.
DICK QUINN RECENTLY wrote about his $233 surgery. I wasn’t so lucky.
When marketplace health plans first became available in 2012 as a result of the Affordable Care Act, my wife and I bought coverage. After my wife signed up for Medicare in 2020, I switched to a solo policy. I’d been counting down the days until I, too, qualified for Medicare at age 65. With a $7,000 deductible on my policy, I was crossing my fingers that my health would remain good.
I RECENTLY WROTE about lifecare communities. These provide a continuum of services—independent living, assisted living, custodial care—to meet changing needs as a retiree ages. The lifecare contract guarantees that, no matter what happens to your money, there will be a place where you can receive the appropriate level of care.
That brings me to a recent innovation offered by some continuing care retirement communities. Called lifecare at home, it’s much less costly than moving into a retirement community,
MY NEW ROUTINE is walking directly from the mailbox to our recycling container to deposit most, if not all, of that day’s mail. For years, I’ve been steadily reducing the amount of mail I send and receive. After reading Jonathan Clements’s experience with check washing, I’m looking to take this even further.
I remember when mail was important. My wife talks of growing up in Cleveland where, during the Christmas season, mail actually arrived twice a day.
EVEN THOUGH I’M NOT a doctor, I’ve been around medicine all my life. My father was a general practitioner and I spent my career in hospital administration. I had administrative oversight over three emergency departments of varying sizes. Based on my experience, here are 10 recommendations that may improve your experience should you need to visit an emergency room:
1. If you use the emergency room (ER) for a non-acute medical condition, bring a book.
RONALD REAGAN SAID “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’.” Government programs are put in place to address real concerns. But they often come with unintended consequences.
When created in 1965, Medicare addressed the real need of senior citizens who couldn’t afford health care, just as Social Security was established in 1935 to help seniors in poverty. Both have become pillars of American retirement,
I’VE USED QUICKEN since the DOS version, with my first entry made in August 1992. I’m trying to decide if I qualify as a power user. The fact is, there are so many Quicken features that I simply don’t use.
The product was first released in 1984 as a basic digital checkbook. It later moved to Windows and it’s now a subscription service. I love the ability to manage my checkbook, but over the years Quicken has added features aimed at managing my entire financial life.
WHEN I RETIRED 10 years ago, I need to replace my biweekly paycheck. Because I was retiring early, and there would be no pension or Social Security for many years, my goal was to use savings to create a synthetic paycheck.
During my final few years of work, I prepared by channeling most of my paycheck into both taxable and tax-deferred accounts. My pay was much higher than what I needed for living expenses.
WHEN PLANNING OUR early retirement, I realized that getting and paying for health insurance for my wife and me would be our biggest financial challenge.
Before 2010’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) took effect in 2014, we talked to an insurance agent who gathered our medical histories and submitted them to insurers for consideration. Despite two major surgeries, I was deemed insurable. My wife, due to a congenital condition that had never caused a problem but might,
MY IN-LAWS AND MY mother all moved into continuing care retirement communities after giving up their homes. My in-laws were not yet 70 when they moved in and my mother was age 75. They lived in two different communities about a 45-minute drive from one another.
Both communities provided excellent care, but had differing levels of service and had different ways of being paid. I’ve garnered further insights as a volunteer board member for a third continuing care retirement community (CCRC),
IN PROFESSIONAL sports, superlatives are often overdone. Even the GOAT designation—greatest of all time—is sometimes applied prematurely. But love him or hate him, Tom Brady is arguably the GOAT among NFL quarterbacks and perhaps among all NFL players. For proof, look no further than his collection of record-breaking statistics, Super Bowl rings and most valuable player awards.
Could it be that he has added another GOAT designation with his epic fail at retirement? Brady reversed his retirement announcement from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after just 40 days.
I’VE FINALLY DECIDED when to claim my Social Security benefit. Along the way, I realized that calculating the ideal start date is easy—provided you can predict your retirement income needs (doable), your investment returns (hard), the inflation rate (hard), your future tax rate (hard), your date of death (hard) and what Congress will do in the future (impossible).
This particular financial journey began when I was preparing a recent blog post on the knotty issue of when to file.
READER COMMENTS on one of my blog posts prompted me to dig deeper into my thinking about asset allocation. A trip to the HumbleDollar archive led me to a Charley Ellis article where he emphasized that readers should incorporate Social Security, pensions and annuity payments into any analysis of their asset allocation and portfolio risk.
A guaranteed stream of income is clearly valuable. I knew this, but I had missed the obvious conclusion—that the net present value (NPV) of these income streams should be considered part of a portfolio.