WE JUST PURCHASED a new car. The whole buying process has been upended by the pandemic and today’s chip shortage, and we learned seven important lessons.
My wife and I view car buying as an unavoidable chore. We know financial experts recommend buying a car that’s a few years old, so someone else takes the big hit on the initial depreciation. We haven’t done that. We like to buy a new vehicle and keep it for 15 or 20 years.
“WE BEHAVE BETTER when we know others are watching—so be sure to tell friends if you’re aiming to exercise more, lose weight or save more.” I love the pithy sayings that appear each day at the top of HumbleDollar’s homepage. This statement appeared Oct. 19.
A few years ago, when I was still working fulltime, some colleagues and I adopted this philosophy. Suppose one of us had a goal, such as losing five pounds by the end of the month.
WHEN SHOULD YOU start drawing Social Security? If folks want to maximize their lifetime benefit, I think the answer is fairly straightforward.
Maximizing lifetime Social Security income isn’t always the goal, of course. Some people need Social Security to meet basic needs. These people usually claim benefits as soon as they reach age 62, the earliest possible age.
Others view Social Security as longevity insurance. They want as much monthly income as possible in the event they or their spouse live a long time.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN a person dies without a will and there isn’t enough money to pay all of his or her debts? Who gets paid and who gets shorted?
I’d always heard that funeral expenses were the first priority, and then unsecured creditors got everything else. I’ve recently learned from personal experience that the rules are more complex—and more generous to widows and widowers.
A 60-year-old friend of mine recently died. He hadn’t written a will.
DURING MY NEARLY 70 trips around the sun, I have made countless mistakes. Most have been minor, but three stand out. Two I have already made, and the third I’m about to make.
Mistake No. 1: Go-Kart. When I was 12 years old, I bought a go-kart. It has a fiberglass body and was built to resemble the car driven to victory by legendary driver Jim Clark in the 1965 Indianapolis 500.
IS THE IRS NO LONGER able to provide basic services to the public?
When my father passed away, he left his financial assets in a trust for my siblings and me. A trust is a good estate planning tool, but there are some disadvantages. Among them: A trust has to file its own income tax forms.
My mother is the trustee. She uses a local CPA to prepare the tax returns for the trust.
FINANCIAL ADVISORS used to suggest a 20-year planning horizon for retirement. Now, most advisors say to plan for a 30-year retirement. From my own experience, I believe 40 years should be the norm, and 50 years isn’t unreasonable.
If we plan for the longest possible life expectancy, we’ll almost always die with money left over. That’s far better than the alternative—living longer than planned and running out of money.
People who live to 100 are called centenarians.
MY MCDONALD’S INDEX is the way I keep track of long-term inflation. I worked at McDonald’s in 1971 and 1972, while in high school. The menu was much simpler back then: hamburger, cheeseburger, Big Mac, fish sandwich, small and large fries, coffee, small and large soda, and shakes—one size only.
We didn’t have Quarter Pounders, chicken sandwiches, salads, lattes, mochas, frappes, smoothies, sundaes, McFlurries, super-sized drinks, meal combinations or Happy Meals. The food was not made fresh.
RULES OF THUMB and conventional wisdom often serve us well. But we should make sure they’re truly applicable to our situation.
Like many parents, my wife and I prepared our first estate planning documents when our children were young. The estate planning lawyer suggested a so-called AB trust. If we’d taken his advice, when one of us passed away, half of our joint assets would have gone into an irrevocable trust. The surviving spouse would get the income from that trust,
I WROTE AN ARTICLE last month about five financial lessons I learned at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Clown College. But Clown College didn’t just offer financial lessons—it also offered valuable life lessons.
It was a topic I used to discuss with my students. For the last 16 years of my career, I taught college accounting courses. I encouraged the students to lead lives of reflection and learn from their experiences. I would share a short PowerPoint presentation,
AFTER THEY MARRY, some people discover their spouse has hidden debt. We had the opposite situation.
Several years after we were married and while living in Illinois, my wife got a letter from the New York Secretary of State saying she may be the owner of an unclaimed savings account in the town where she was raised. This was before the internet. We had no idea how New York found her. Neither my wife nor her parents remembered the account.
RINGLING BROS. and Barnum & Bailey Circus operated Clown College from 1969 to 1997. I attended in fall 1978 in Venice, Florida, home of Ringling’s winter quarters. Clown College was a one-semester, tuition-free, rigorous training program in clowning.
After completing General Electric’s two-year financial management program, I wanted to do something different. I applied to both the Wharton MBA program and Clown College. To my surprise, I was accepted by both. The decision was easy.
FOR 10 YEARS, MY WIFE and I have given each of our four children $5,000 to $6,000 per year for them to put in their respective Roth IRAs. So far, we have given each of them about $60,000.
They were amazed a few years ago when their investment gains for that year exceeded our annual contribution. Today, their Roth accounts are now each worth about $125,000, so their cumulative growth—about $65,000—now exceeds our total contributions.
OUR FOUR CHILDREN are adopted.
After we’d been married several years, we were dismayed that my wife hadn’t conceived. Through testing, we found that we were both essentially infertile. As one doctor put it, “It’s good you are married to each other.” We decided not to pursue surrogacy, in vitro fertilization or similar options.
I thought our life was on an even keel until one day my wife asked, “When you get to be 65,