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Driving Down Costs

Kristine Hayes

Kristine Hayes Nibler recently retired. She and her husband reside in Arizona. She enjoys spending her time reading, writing and training their four dogs.

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Driving Down Costs

Kristine Hayes  |  Sep 26, 2017

LIKE MOST PEOPLE, owning a car is my second largest monthly expense, right after housing. But unlike a lot of people, I also strive to be a super-saver, loosely defined as folks who max out their retirement accounts each year. That means I’m constantly looking for ways to cut my transportation costs.
Four years ago, when I found myself needing to buy a car, I settled on a gently used Honda CRV. Even though it was nearly six years old when I purchased it,

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Getting Sued

Kristine Hayes  |  Sep 4, 2017

LIKE MOST PEOPLE, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my car insurance. And like most people, the only time I do think about insurance is when I need to use it. Four years ago, I was involved in a collision. My car was totaled and my insurance company processed my claim quickly. Because I was deemed to be not at fault by my insurance company, I didn’t have to pay my deductible or any other expense related to the collision.

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Then and Now

Kristine Hayes  |  Aug 15, 2017

WORKING AT A COLLEGE is a bit like being in a time warp. Every year, I get older, but the students don’t. The 20-somethings I deal with make me realize just how much times have changed since I attended college.
Tuition. When I was a college student in the 1980s, 529 plans didn’t exist. Of course, tuition costs were also much lower, so there wasn’t as much need for a college savings plan.

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Growing Up (I)

Kristine Hayes  |  Jul 25, 2017

I RECENTLY RECEIVED an email from a friend asking, “What financial advice would you give to your younger self, now that you’re older?” I had to think for a while. But once I sat down to reply, I realized my attitudes about personal finance were already well-developed by the time I was in my 20s. I also realized my financial beliefs had been shaped, in part, by growing up in a family where money wasn’t exactly plentiful.

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To Buy or Not?

Kristine Hayes  |  Jun 29, 2017

FOR MORE THAN 20 years, I was a homeowner. Like most people, I had a love-hate relationship with the houses I owned. I loved building home equity in the two fixer-uppers I lived in. I loved knowing my mortgage payment would stay relatively constant from year to year. But I never enjoyed yardwork and I hated dealing with unexpected repairs, including replacing an aging sewer line in one house—to the tune of $10,000.
After I got divorced,

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Quitting Early

Kristine Hayes  |  Jun 20, 2017

I CELEBRATED MY 50th birthday a few weeks ago. Since then, I’ve found myself spending a lot of time thinking about numbers. Specifically, I’ve been musing about when I might be able to retire from my current fulltime job. Age 55, 58, 62? Or will it need to be later?
Several studies suggest the age at which most people leave the workforce has been steadily rising over the past several decades. This is likely due,

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Social Insecurity

Kristine Hayes  |  Jun 8, 2017

I RECENTLY ATTENDED a retirement readiness seminar sponsored by the financial firm that holds most of my retirement savings. The first question the presenter asked was, “How many of you think you’ll be able to retire comfortably living off just your Social Security benefits?” I was surprised to see how many people in the audience raised their hands. But maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised: It turns many of these same people couldn’t guess the average monthly Social Security benefit—and most thought it was far higher than it really is.

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Site Seeing (Part II)

Kristine Hayes  |  May 29, 2017

WHEN I REACHED my mid-40s and realized I was halfway through my working life, I figured it was time to get serious about retirement planning. A scientist by training, I began to dissect the details of my retirement accounts, including how my money was invested and at what age I could begin penalty-free withdrawals. I discovered retirement at age 55 might be a viable option, but only if I started saving a larger percentage of my income and made intelligent investment decisions.

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Wising Up

Kristine Hayes  |  Apr 25, 2017

IN THE 1990S, WHEN I started working fulltime, conventional wisdom suggested two possible routes to a comfortable retirement: Find a public sector job that offered a traditional pension plan or, alternatively, join the private sector and set aside 10% of my salary each year in my employer’s 401(k) plan. I was led to believe that if I followed either recommendation, I could sit back, let compound interest do its magic and achieve a financially secure retirement.

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My One and Only

Kristine Hayes  |  Apr 11, 2017

MY FAVORITE DIVORCE quote, if one can have such a thing, comes from comedian Louis C.K.: “No good marriage has ever ended in divorce. If your friend got divorced, it means things were bad. And now, they’re better.”
For myself, these words certainly ring true. But “better” comes at a price: Being a divorced, middle-aged woman means looking at financial matters from a different perspective than my married friends. Since I no longer have a spouse,

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Say It Forward

Kristine Hayes  |  Mar 30, 2017

A FEW MONTHS AGO, my retirement account hit a milestone—$250,000. I’d been looking forward to achieving “quarter-millionaire” status for a while, so when it finally happened, I decided to announce it on social media. I took a photo of my computer screen, with the value of my account highlighted, and uploaded the photo. Just as I prepared to make the post public, I decided to obscure the actual balance and edit the text to say my account had reached a “new personal record,” instead of revealing the specific amount.

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My Wants

Kristine Hayes  |  Mar 21, 2017

WHEN I CREATE MY monthly budget, I subtract expenses I deem to be “needs” from my take-home pay. What’s left is money I can spend on items I desire—my “wants.” For budgeting purposes, I divide my discretionary income into four equal amounts and budget that amount for each week of the month. Psychologically, I find it easier to keep my budget on track if I can see how much I spend on a weekly basis.

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Where It Goes

Kristine Hayes  |  Mar 7, 2017

WHEN I DIVORCED a few years ago, I found myself needing a crash course in financial management. My first task: Understanding where my money went—and figuring out where I could cut back.
Today, I create a budget each month. I don’t use any type of program or app—I prefer paper and pen. At the top of a page, I write down my take-home pay. I use take-home pay, rather than my $5,500 monthly gross income,

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A Less Taxing Time

Kristine Hayes  |  Feb 28, 2017

THE FEDERAL TAX code now contains over 10 million words, so it’s no surprise that most Americans score an “F” when it comes to understanding taxes. A few years ago, I would also have flunked.
But following my divorce, I knew I needed to educate myself on financial topics. While I could tell you how much I took home each month, I didn’t have a clue how much I paid in taxes, much less what my marginal tax rate was.

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From Half to Whole

Kristine Hayes  |  Jan 31, 2017

FOUR YEARS AGO, at age 45, I got divorced. These days, divorces are equal-opportunity proceedings. Since our income streams had been roughly the same, and we didn’t have children, our assets were split 50-50. For me, that meant losing half my state pension. Along with that loss came the realization that my retirement dream was just that—a dream.
Following the divorce, my lifestyle underwent a huge upheaval. Living on my own for the first time in my adult life,

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