IN NOVEMBER 2019, my 92-year-old widowed mother took an uncontrolled trip down a flight of wooden stairs in her home and got a helicopter ride to the regional trauma center.
Before her fall, we had a tenuous but semi-functional system of care in place. But the chaotic aftermath plunged us into unknown territory and claimed incalculable amounts of time, money and other resources from her caregivers. We spent months struggling with a new, impossibly complex set of rules and referees.
“RESOLUTE” is the wrong adjective to describe most of us at the start of a new year. We know what we should be doing for our future self. But within weeks, days and sometimes hours, we forget about the person we’ll become.
What can we do to improve our odds of success in 2020? As Stephen Covey taught us years ago in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the answer is to exercise integrity at the moment of choice.
WE HAVE A HARDWIRED biological incentive to promote the wellbeing of our kids, so that the family line will continue. This is the selfish gene in action. Yet modern human behavior suggests that the wiring may be at least a little faulty—for three key reasons.
Environmental. Our domination of natural resources continues to create tremendous improvements in global wealth, but it sometimes comes at the expense of the only confirmed habitable space that’s practical for our species.
A RECENT ARTICLE by HumbleDollar’s fearless editor got me thinking about the potential risk of having most or all of my investments with a single brokerage firm or fund company. What happens if the company collapses? I was surprised at how little I knew about these matters after investing for nearly 30 years.
The Securities Investor Protection Act of 1970 was passed by Congress in response to some turbulence in the markets that caused a number of brokerage firms to fail.
WANT GREATER financial success? It may all start at the local gym and in the fresh food aisle.
“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” —Benjamin Franklin.
Well, Ben, if only it were that simple. While the timing of our repose may not produce all of these outcomes, this aphorism offers food for thought. Are there connections between cognitive ability, physical health and wealth accumulation?
IT’S TIME AGAIN for our family’s semi-annual budget review. The budget meeting is typically initiated by the Household CFO, which would be me. Who is the HCFO in your home? You can probably figure it out from the following job description provided by Thomas Stanley and Sarah Fallaw in The Next Millionaire Next Door:
“The role of Household CFO is to ensure his/her household is building wealth in order to ultimately achieve financial independence….
MY PARENTS WERE married in 1947 and produced six children over the ensuing 17 years. Dad remained with us, in diminishing health, until 2008. Since then, my siblings and I have been looking after our Mom and her day-to-day needs.
Despite the seemingly endless chaos involved, we have done remarkably well. Here are just six of the things we’ve learned:
1. Your expiration date is unknown.
When observing longevity in our family over several generations,
JORDAN PETERSON, a Canadian clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto, has thundered onto the cultural scene, thanks in large part to his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. I began reading with healthy skepticism, but quickly became a fan.
Not that the doctor and I agree on all points. But the book immediately confronted my intellectual laziness in a careful but unavoidable way.
I CAN ALREADY hear the groans. “Oh brother, here we go again with another of those religious wackos. I’m glad I don’t have to worry about all of that faith-based nonsense. My finances have nothing to do with faith.”
How about the guy spending his last dollar on a lottery ticket at the corner market? Or the victims of Bernie Madoff? Or the 65-year-old Enron employee fully invested in company stock in summer 2001?
BACK IN THE EARLY 1990s, Donna and I were raising a young family, buying our first home and running a small business. We didn’t have a dime in any proper investment vehicles, as there weren’t an awful lot of dimes to spare. Somewhere in the fire and smoke, I received a copy of the Sound Mind Investing Handbook by Austin Pryor.
The book was easy to read and put a number of basic investing concepts within my feeble grasp.
IN THE NEARLY 30 years we’ve been married, Donna and I have used fewer than a handful of insurers for home, auto and umbrella liability coverage. The occasional changes we have made have been due to either the recommendations of an insurance agent or, in one case, an especially disagreeable claim experience. Fortunately, even though three of our four daughters are skilled at dispatching cars with stunning efficiency, claims have been few.
Indeed, my biggest insurance complaint has nothing to do with how a claim was handled.
THERE ARE MANY who claim to speak with authority on Social Security. I am not one of them. But I’m nothing if not curious. I recently set about testing some notions I have heard with regard to Social Security retirement benefits. A family member had asked for help understanding her Social Security statement, so I had some real numbers to work with. The statement predicted that her monthly benefits would be as follows, depending on when she begins benefits:
$1,907 at age 62.
MY FIRST ENCOUNTER with Dave Ramsey was in 2010, when I stumbled across a radio broadcast featuring one of his recorded presentations. His style was funny and engaging, and I thought he might be helpful in teaching my kids about money.
I bought each of them his book The Total Money Makeover and gave them reading assignments, which were followed by group discussions in the weeks that followed. Later, I also attended his local Financial Peace University (FPU) classes with daughter Karah.
MRS. J. LIVED in southeast Virginia and had purchased an eight-year-old truck at auction for her college-bound child. It turns out that the truck had spent its entire life in and around Rochester, New York, in the heart of the Rust Belt. Mrs. J. had been advised by her local garage that many of the exposed chassis components on her truck were covered in rust. Her neighbors’ cars did not exhibit this condition. She felt the truck was unsafe and that the vehicle’s manufacturer—my employer—owed her a solution.
OUR DECEMBER financial tradition is for my wife and four daughters to frolic in the holiday shopping minefield, while I decry their irresponsible behavior and try to establish some semblance of financial stewardship. In response, I receive heavy sighs, eye-rolling, and other displays of deep and abiding affection.
Maybe not coincidentally, December is also when we do our financial planning for the year ahead. There is no shortage of such discussions on the web.