IF YOU’RE LIKE MANY readers of this site, you’ll reach your 60s and discover one of those nice problems to have—that you’ve over-saved for retirement.
What now? For answers, check out a new book, More Than Enough: A Brief Guide to the Questions That Arise After Realizing You Have More than You Need. Author Mike Piper is the driving force behind both the Oblivious Investor website and the free Open Social Security calculator.
MONEY BUYS HAPPINESS—but it may not buy us very much. Indeed, no matter how much we earn and no matter what other steps we take to boost happiness, we may discover the impact is modest and fleeting.
That brings me to a recent academic debate. In 2010, Princeton University’s Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman noted that happiness, on average, didn’t appear to increase beyond an annual income of $75,000 or so—a finding that’s since been widely reported in the mainstream media.
RETIREMENT IS LIFE’S most daunting financial puzzle, not least because many of the decisions we make are difficult or impossible to reverse. To make matters worse, we’re often making decisions we’ve never made before, so we have no real expertise.
What sort of decisions am I talking about? Here are 10 examples.
1. When should I quit work? Needless to say, this is the most important retirement decision. Once you quit the workforce,
I SPENT NINE YEARS at English boarding schools. The food was beyond disgusting. The buildings were cold and drafty. I was constantly bullied. I would go as long as 14 weeks at a time without seeing my parents, who were based first in Bangladesh and then Washington, D.C.
But I also knew I was getting a good education, and I opted to stay when I had the chance to return home and go to the local U.S.
WE BUY ALL KINDS of investments and financial products. But what is it that you haven’t bought, do you have a good reason for not buying—or is there a gaping hole in your finances?
Below are some of the investments and financial products I’ve chosen not to own. The list, of course, isn’t comprehensive—and I didn’t bother to touch on financial products that are beyond the pale. Equity-indexed annuities, anyone? How about leveraged exchange-traded funds?
I MESSED UP MY retirement planning—but I have few regrets.
I don’t know if or when I’ll fully retire. Arguably, I’ve been at least semi-retired for the past nine years. That’s how long I’ve gone without a fulltime job. On the other hand, during those nine years, I’ve continued to earn enough to cover my living costs and I’ve worked longer hours than at any time in my life, thanks mostly to that insatiable mistress known as HumbleDollar.
I’VE PENNED MORE THAN 450 articles for HumbleDollar, so picking 10 favorites could have been a laborious task—if I’d bothered to look back through all the articles I’ve written.
But instead, I took an easier route, simply listing the articles that I could most easily recall. What made these articles memorable? Some were quite personal, while others broached ideas that I continue to grapple with to this day.
Really Useful Engine (Dec.
IF YOU KICK AROUND Wall Street for long enough, you’ll witness all kinds of investment fads—special purpose acquisition companies, cryptocurrencies, meme stocks, to name just a few. Each bubble differs, but the eventual comeuppance always feels brutally familiar.
But there aren’t just fads among investments. There are also fads among investment concepts. But while naïve investors tend to get caught up in investment bubbles, it’s the brainy types who fall in love with investment concepts,
RUNNING OUT OF MONEY is retirement’s biggest financial risk—though this, of course, never actually happens. Thanks to Social Security, almost all retirees will have some monthly income, no matter how long they live.
Still, Social Security alone probably won’t make for a comfortable retirement, though it is the financial cornerstone for many. In fact, Social Security accounts for at least 50% of income for half of retirees. That includes a quarter of those age 65 and up for whom their monthly benefit is at least 90% of their income—a statistic I find shocking.
WE LIKE TO ESCAPE the Northeast’s cold each winter, so we just spent 10 days in Sarasota, Florida. Like many others when they’re on vacation, we found our noses pressed against the windows of real-estate offices, perusing the listings and musing about whether we’d want to live there.
Fantasizing about the future is fun and free, but it can also be dangerous. It’s how folks end up buying timeshares and second homes during wonderfully relaxing vacations.
WHEN I FIRST LOOKED at the issue of portfolio withdrawals more than two decades ago, many financial experts suggested retirees follow a simple strategy: spend taxable account money first, traditional retirement accounts next and Roth accounts last. That way, you’d squeeze more years of tax-deferred growth out of your traditional retirement accounts, and even more out of your tax-free Roth.
If only things were so simple today.
Why have portfolio withdrawals become more complicated?
I GREATLY VALUE honesty. I think it’s important to be scrupulously honest with others and brutally honest with ourselves. That brings me to HumbleDollar’s annual report card.
After steady growth over the site’s first five years, our sixth year—2022—saw mixed success. Below are five key metrics that I track. These numbers, I believe, tell you not only about HumbleDollar, but also a little about the mood of Americans over the past 12 months.
MOST OF US ARE forever striving to be better versions of ourselves—usually with mixed success. Still, the changing of the calendar often prompts renewed efforts. But what should we focus on? Let me offer 10 words that I try to live by.
1. Pause. Throughout the day, we make snap decisions, and they usually work out just fine—except when it comes to spending and investment choices. Got an overwhelming urge to buy an expensive bauble or make a portfolio change?
I HAVE A CONUNDRUM: In 2023, I’ll have ample opportunities for tax-free growth—but probably not enough cash to take advantage.
It doesn’t get much better than tax-free, right? I remember the excitement when Roth IRAs came into being, thanks to 1997’s Taxpayer Relief Act. But today, the Roth is just the tip of the tax-free iceberg. Indeed, for 2023, I’m eyeing four tax-free accounts.
I want to fund a health savings account and my solo Roth 401(k),
READERS HAVE PERUSED almost 18 million HumbleDollar pages over the past six years. Many of those pageviews were garnered by the homepage, the latest articles page and the main money guide page. But what about the site’s articles? Below are the 30 best-read pieces since the site’s launch on Dec. 31, 2016.
If the list seems a little eclectic, there’s a good reason: Many of the articles that have enjoyed big traffic over the past six years have been those that got promoted by far larger sites.