DURING OUR TIME in Spain, we came to admire the water fountains common in mudejar architecture, the Moorish-style homes of Andalusia. During the lockdown, while I tried my hand at creating art, Jim picked up the hobby of making water fountains using a few basic items, including a small water pump and terra cotta planters that he found around the apartment.
As the lockdown dragged on, Jim progressed to building more complex fountains. He built an indoor one in a Zen-like style,
I RECENTLY INJURED my lower back playing tennis. I rested for a day and then decided I was well enough to resume my usual activities. But my haste worsened the pain, extending my recuperation to more than a week. Every move—even sneezing—hurt. Putting on my pants was a major struggle. I was forced to do nothing except rest.
Doing nothing was the one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Ironically, at the time of my injury,
IN THE PAST THREE years, Jim and I have moved five times—three times in Spain and twice in Dallas. We sold almost all our possessions when we moved to Spain, taking just four suitcases and two cats. When we returned to Dallas, we didn’t bring home much more—five suitcases and two cats.
Fortunately, I’ve discovered that I prefer living in a smaller home. I love the design of Spanish houses, which are—on average—just half the size of equivalent U.S.
IS SUCCESS WITHIN reach for anybody willing to work hard? We like to think of the U.S. as a meritocracy with a one-to-one correlation between effort and achievement. It’s a notion that allows us to feel that we’re in control of our destiny and that we’ve fully earned the success we enjoy.
But in truth, there are many factors that continue to tilt the playing field one way or another. Socioeconomic status, race and gender still sway the game.
MY RELATIONSHIP with money is complicated. I want to get the best value for our dollars, so I spend a lot of time comparison shopping. Other people hunt for bargains. I go on long safaris.
My frugality and comparison shopping have served Jim and me well. In our double-income household, we managed to save 50% of our combined pay—basically living on one income and saving the rest. That, coupled with some lucky breaks, propelled us to early retirement.
THREE YEARS AGO, Jim and I decided to retire to Spain. We were attracted by the promise of excellent health care, warm weather, low cost of living and travel throughout Europe. From there, we’d also be able to fly with relative easy to both the U.S. and Asia, allowing us to maintain family connections. All of this gave us a great quality of life for almost three years.
Then COVID-19 hit. Like everyone else,
JIM AND I RECENTLY moved from Granada, our first home in Spain, to Alicante, a city by the Mediterranean. The move gives us the opportunity to walk along the coast each day.
A few weeks ago, we hiked a rugged coastal trail that’s part of a nature preserve, with an ancient Roman dock still partially visible. Along the coastline, you can also see how layers of sand have built up over the centuries, compacting together to form the breathtaking sandstone hills we enjoy today.
RESEARCHERS HAVE spent decades probing the connection between money and happiness. For instance, a much-cited 2010 study by academics Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton found that folks tend to feel happier the more money they make—but only up to a point, which they estimated to be about $75,000 a year.
But using only income to measure the link between money and happiness is incomplete. Another study, entitled “How Your Bank Balance Buys Happiness,” analyzed the connection to people’s “cash on hand.” The researchers found that having more money in checking and savings accounts was associated with higher levels of life satisfaction.
IN MID-MARCH, I went into lockdown with optimistic thoughts. Perhaps it would give me time to perfect my Spanish, master classical guitar, write more blog posts, start online courses and even begin the book that Jim and I often discuss writing together.
I’ve accomplished none of my grand plans. Instead, I’ve been consumed by reading COVID-19 news. I’ve slept poorly and eaten too much. I remain perpetually exhausted. I struggle to focus and lack creativity.
THE MOST POPULAR retirement income strategy is built around the so-called 4% rule. Three-quarters of financial advisors say they use some variation on this approach. But is it safe?
The 4% rule specifies that you withdraw 4% of your nest egg’s value in the first year of retirement. Thereafter, you increase the dollar amount withdrawn each year at the inflation rate. Based on historical U.S. stock and bond returns, that strategy should carry you safely through a 30-year retirement.
WE ALL KNOW financial literacy is important. But it’s especially important if you’re a woman.
According to the Gates Foundation, “No matter where you are born, your life will be harder if you are born a girl.” Today is Equal Pay Day—the day when U.S. women finally earn enough to “catch up” with men’s earnings from the previous year. Women in the U.S. earn 82% of what men do for equivalent work and,
WHILE JIM AND I cooked dinner the other night, we talked about the old cars we drove when we were younger—and how they tended to pull to one side if we took our hands off the steering wheel. We humans have a similar tendency: We head in one direction unless we make a conscious effort to be more rational.
That brings me to the coronavirus and accompanying stock market plunge. We all have gut reactions to news like this.
RETIREMENT ISN’T just about reaching some magic savings number. You also need a strategy for turning that pile of savings into a reliable stream of retirement income that’ll last for the rest of your life.
In academic lingo, it’s about changing from accumulation to decumulation—and it’s a topic that my husband Jim and I grapple with, as we figure out how best to cover our retirement expenses. There are three common strategies:
I CONSIDER MYSELF a retirement newbie. I only quit fulltime work in May 2018. Still, it doesn’t take long to pick up a few things about life in retirement. Here are four insights I’ve gained over the past year and a half:
1. It’s important to have a plan. I have witnessed how some retirees, without a plan or direction, struggle to fill the empty time. Here in Spain, for some retirees it can become an endless Groundhog Day cycle of daily drinking and tapas hopping.
MUCH CRITICISM is leveled against millennials, often defined as those born between 1981 and 1996. The criticism is frequently directed at their money and career decisions, including their purportedly foolish spending, excessive borrowing, job-hopping, self-absorption and sense of entitlement.
The perception is so pervasive that even millennials buy into this view of themselves.
But I wouldn’t be too quick to criticize millennials or compare them unfavorably to older generations. Each generation confronts its own unique challenges and difficulties,