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Make Them Good Years

Howard Rohleder

A former chief executive of a community hospital, Howard retired early after more than 30 years in hospital administration. In retirement, he’s enjoyed serving on several nonprofit boards, exploring walking paths with his wife Susan, and visiting their six grandchildren. A little-known fact: In May 1994, he was featured—along with five others—on the cover of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance for an article titled “Secrets of My Investment Success.”

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Make Them Good Years

Howard Rohleder  |  Jan 4, 2024

MANY YEARS AGO, a Wall Street Journal article quoted a source as saying, and I paraphrase, “Young-old age should last as long as possible, while old-old age should last 15 minutes.” Those of us who have visited nursing homes can all relate to this.
Public health initiatives and medical breakthroughs have extended lifespans significantly over the past 100 years. In his bestselling book Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity, Peter Attia argues that we should focus not just on lifespan,

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Forget the Check

Howard Rohleder  |  Dec 10, 2023

THE HOLIDAY SEASON used to be a time when we’d write and mail more checks than usual. Some were gifts to family, while others were year-end charitable donations. But with the rise in mail theft and check washing, we’ve been on a campaign to limit the number of checks we write, plus we’ve almost eliminated the mailing of checks. Here are eight things we’ve done to reduce our exposure to check fraud:

We opened a secondary no-fee checking account and opted out of the overdraft protection.

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Look All Ways

Howard Rohleder  |  Nov 20, 2023

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN you’re hit by the proverbial beer truck? Will it be easy for others to pick up the pieces—the pieces of your financial life, that is?
To my knowledge, my wife isn’t checking the delivery schedule for the Anheuser-Busch brewery here in Columbus, Ohio. Still, she’s worried about the complexities of our finances. I’ve made a concerted effort since I retired to consolidate and close financial accounts, reduce our investments holdings, and streamline where it makes sense.

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Location, Location

Howard Rohleder  |  Oct 12, 2023

WANT TO IMPROVE YOUR portfolio’s long-run performance? You could boost your stock allocation—something I wrote about last year—or cut your investment costs. But don’t overlook another key strategy: thinking carefully about which accounts you use to hold your various investments, or what financial experts call “asset location.”
My wife and I have taxable accounts, Roth IRAs, traditional IRAs and a health savings account. Earnings in each account get different tax treatment both now and in the future.

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Pin Money

Howard Rohleder  |  Aug 25, 2023

I’M OLD ENOUGH TO remember when companies rewarded employee anniversaries with lapel pins. The number of years you served determined the quality of the metal and how many jewels were embedded in the pin.
I also remember when two different hospitals where I worked moved away from this practice in the 1980s and 1990s. Human resources departments came to realize that many employees didn’t value the pins. Perhaps there had been a day when pins were something people wore,

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College in Retirement

Howard Rohleder  |  Jun 29, 2023

I RECENTLY COMPLETED a course called England: From the Fall of Rome to the Norman Conquest. Before that was Books That Matter: The Federalist Papers. Okay, I’m a nerd, I’ll admit it.
Since I retired, I’ve looked for avenues to broaden and deepen my understanding of subjects that I was taught in high school and at the liberal arts college I attended. Back then, there were college courses,

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The Mary Jean List

Howard Rohleder  |  May 25, 2023

MY FATHER-IN-LAW Carson was a stereotypical engineer—organized and precise. All four of his children know the motto “measure twice, cut once.” Carson applied these traits to his finances, which he managed on behalf of himself and Mary Jean, his wife. Mary Jean depended on this.
As they aged, Carson maintained his mental acuity, but he was the first of the two to deteriorate physically. Mary Jean was strong physically but slowly surrendered to Alzheimer’s.

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Powering Up

Howard Rohleder  |  May 5, 2023

SPRING TURNS A MAN’S fancy to… wait for it… outdoor power tools. Every April, I’d haul out the gas mower to prep it for the summer season. That meant a trip to the hardware store for oil, a spark plug and an air filter. Then I drove to the gas station for some new fuel.
For an hour, I would pretend that I understood the manly art of maintaining an internal combustion engine. I would gap and change the spark plug,

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Grandpa’s Scholarship

Howard Rohleder  |  Mar 23, 2023

WHAT SHOULD I DO with the required minimum distributions from my rollover IRAs?
I’m age 65, which means that—under last year’s tax law—I must begin taking taxable distributions in 2030, the year I turn 73. I’ve been looking at my retirement cash flow, and it appears that my wife and I won’t need the money for our living expenses.
I’m investigating using the money to help fund my grandkids’ college education. I built a spreadsheet that maps my age against the age of each grandchild and determined the years they’re expected to attend college.

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Independent Investor

Howard Rohleder  |  Feb 11, 2023

FRANK CAPPIELLO and Carter Randall were longtime panelists on the television show Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser. Panelists typically worked at investment firms, with their affiliations displayed on the screen. At some point, Cappiello and Randall retired. On the screen, each was simply identified as an “independent investor.” At least one regular guest, John Templeton, also achieved this listing after retiring from running the Templeton Funds.
That “independent investor” label intrigued me then and does to this day.

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Mission Accomplished

Howard Rohleder  |  Jan 27, 2023

I JUST GOT A RAISE from Uncle Sam—and relief from one of early retirement’s biggest unknowns.
In December, when I turned age 65, I swapped my bronze-level Affordable Care Act policy for Medicare plus a Medigap policy. My wife was already on Medicare. Compared to 2020, when neither of us had Medicare coverage, our monthly cost today for health insurance is $684 lower.
My calculated risk has paid off. As a young adult, I set my sights on early retirement.

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On the Road Again

Howard Rohleder  |  Dec 30, 2022

SEEING NEW PLACES is something my wife and I have enjoyed throughout our married life. Some families have a vacation home that’s their primary destination. I can see the appeal: a place to get away to, where everything is familiar and memories are made.
Others have hobbies that consume their free time. I’ve lived near the Great Lakes and know boaters who head there every weekend. Then there are the golfers. Enough said. Or the football fans who tailgate,

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Never Going Back

Howard Rohleder  |  Dec 12, 2022

A FRIEND ONCE explained to me his theory of lifestyle creep—and how there’s a ratchet effect. Let’s say you move to a better neighborhood. A bigger house means larger utility bills. Property taxes will be higher, the lawns bigger and the landscaping more extensive. The neighbor’s cars are nicer, and the shopping and restaurants are more upscale.
Like a socket wrench, once the one-way ratchet of lifestyle creep clicks in, it’s nearly impossible to go back.

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Giving Thanks

Howard Rohleder  |  Nov 24, 2022

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.

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Rebuilding My Ladder

Howard Rohleder  |  Nov 13, 2022

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,

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