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What Gets Taxed

Richard Connor

Rick is a semi-retired aerospace engineer with a keen interest in finance. He retired from Lockheed Martin Space Systems after a 38-year career designing satellites. Rick is a lifelong Philadelphian with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Villanova University. He completed the Certified Financial Planner® and Retirement Income Certified Professional® programs at the American College of Financial Services. Rick and his wife Vicky have two sons and three grandsons. They recently retired to the Jersey Shore. Rick is an amateur winemaker and enjoys a wide variety of other interests, including chasing grandkids, sports, travel and reading. He's written more than 100 articles and blog posts for HumbleDollar.

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What Gets Taxed

Richard Connor  |  Jan 23, 2023

INCOME SHOULD BE ONE of the simplest concepts in financial planning—and yet it turns out to be one of the most confusing, thanks to the multiple ways it’s calculated depending upon whether it applies to income taxes, Social Security and so on. My goal today: Help you sort out income’s shifting definition across the U.S. tax code.
Gross income. This is the granddaddy—income from all sources, before almost any taxes or deductions.

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Everyday Arbitrage

Richard Connor  |  Dec 27, 2022

SOME PROFESSIONAL investors make a living through arbitrage, exploiting small, short-term differences in the price of stocks, bonds, commodities and currencies. For the average investor, such trades can seem far too complicated. Still, I often look for opportunities for what I call “everyday arbitrage”—situations where I can take advantage of a difference in, say, tax rates or a product’s price.
Here’s an example: In a recent article, I wrote about how 2022’s higher interest rates will significantly reduce the payouts that some retirees will receive from the 2023 lump-sum option on their pension.

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Walking Man

Richard Connor  |  Dec 13, 2022

I RECENTLY WROTE about things we can do to protect our finances in the event we suffer cognitive decline. This may not be anybody’s favorite subject, but it’s an important one.
 Many of us have first-hand experience with the ravages of dementia. It can upend a carefully crafted retirement plan and necessitate costly medical care. Like many of my friends and colleagues, I’d like to know if there are things I can do to prevent or forestall the onset of mental decline.

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Running the Numbers

Richard Connor  |  Dec 11, 2022

THE HOLIDAY SEASON is upon us. Our thoughts—or mine at least—turn to family, friends, wine, decorations, gifts, wine, food, fun and wine. But before I ring in the new year, I have a few financial questions I need to resolve.
Our 2022 income hasn’t been what I expected. I earn consulting income in two ways. I’m a part-time employee of a small engineering consulting firm. In this role, I’m an hourly employee with no benefits.

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It’s All Relatives

Richard Connor  |  Dec 7, 2022

MY WIFE AND I JUST returned from our annual Thanksgiving vacation on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. This is a yearly outing for our immediate family, my wife’s four siblings and their families. This year we numbered 43, representing three generations of siblings, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, along with significant others.
I wrote an article about this family tradition three years ago. It started in 1995, and has been held 25 times since. We’ve only missed two years—one because of a family wedding in California and another due to COVID-19.

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A Taxing Situation

Richard Connor  |  Dec 6, 2022

MUTUAL FUNDS ARE about to send their shareholders some dubious holiday gifts—in the guise of capital gains distributions. These distributions usually occur mid-December and they represent a taxable event for investors who hold funds in a taxable account.
Even in a down year for stocks and bonds, a mutual fund may realize capital gains, which are then passed on to shareholders. These could come as a nasty surprise to investors already smarting from 2022’s steep losses.

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Rates Up Lumps Down

Richard Connor  |  Nov 29, 2022

WE HAVE ALL BEEN affected by rising interest rates in 2022, from skyrocketing mortgage rates to plunging bond prices. A less-publicized casualty: Higher interest rates are having a big effect on those approaching retirement who are eligible for a pension.
How so? Many pension plans offer a choice between a lifetime stream of monthly income and a onetime lump sum payment. Rising rates could reduce the lump sum payment that many employees would receive next year by 25% or 30%.

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Some Now More Later

Richard Connor  |  Nov 16, 2022

MY WIFE VICKY AND I have lately been discussing—yet again—when to claim our Social Security retirement benefits. We’re fortunate to have multiple sources of retirement income, including a defined benefit pension, traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs and two health savings accounts.
To date, we had assumed we’d both delay claiming Social Security until age 70, so we get the largest benefits possible. Until then, we’d planned to live on my pension, any consulting income I earn,

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When I Get Stupid

Richard Connor  |  Nov 7, 2022

COPING WITH FINANCIAL complexity as we age can lead to major problems—and denial isn’t the solution. What to do? One HumbleDollar commenter, in response to a recent article, recommended a book, What to Do When I Get Stupid, by economist Lewis Mandell.
The book has two main themes. First, we should try to create a guaranteed stream of income, preferably one that’s linked to inflation, to cover our core retirement expenses.

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Trip of a Lifetime

Richard Connor  |  Oct 27, 2022

MY FAVORITE NOVEL by Jules Verne is Around the World in 80 Days, which I first read as a child. It was published in 1872, and documented Phileas Fogg’s attempt to circumnavigate the world in 80 days.
The book has been made into a play, six movies and a half-dozen television series, including a recent entertaining PBS series. The Three Stooges even released a feature film version in 1963.
The Wikipedia entry for the novel lists 10 real-life attempts to replicate the fictional journey.

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D Is for Delay

Richard Connor  |  Oct 26, 2022

REMEMBER THE OLD sayings that “the cobbler’s children have no shoes” and “the carpenter’s house is falling down”? That’s how I felt last month as I frantically tried to enroll in Medicare.
My 65th birthday was in early September. Medicare has an initial enrollment period that lasts seven months. It starts three months before you turn age 65, includes your birth month, and ends three months after the month you turn 65. Suppose you were born on Sept.

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Where’s My Rate Hike?

Richard Connor  |  Oct 7, 2022

RISING INTEREST RATES are impacting everyone. The Federal Reserve has raised short-term rates at its last five meetings. It hiked interest rates 0.75 percentage point at its September meeting, the third time this year it’s raised rates by that amount. Bankrate reports that current projections see the Fed boosting rates by another 1.25 percentage points before year-end.
These increases affect what consumers pay for mortgages, car loans and credit card debt. As I write this,

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Birthday Wishes

Richard Connor  |  Sep 29, 2022

MY WIFE RECENTLY ASKED me if there was anything I wanted for my 65th birthday. She was racking her brain for a special gift, but was coming up empty.
I thought for a while, but couldn’t think of anything I really wanted. We have all the stuff we need. We’re blessed with a wonderful family, we live in a great beach town and we have enough assets for a comfortable retirement. We’ve spent 2022 working on our health and fitness,

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A Senior Moment

Richard Connor  |  Sep 21, 2022

I HAVE A MILESTONE birthday this month—turning age 65. This has long been considered the standard retirement age.
When the Social Security Act was signed into law in 1935, 65 was the age at which workers could receive retirement benefits. Many companies’ defined benefit pension plans still use 65 as the age at which employees can receive an unreduced pension. And 65 is the age at which folks become eligible for Medicare.
This is also the median age at which workers expect to retire,

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Hitting the Road

Richard Connor  |  Sep 20, 2022

MY WIFE AND I JUST returned from the first extended road trip of our retirement. We were away two weeks, drove 2,800 miles and visited 10 states. The primary reason for the trip was to stay five days on a houseboat on Beaver Lake, Arkansas, with seven friends.
We broke the trip into three phases. The first part took us from New Jersey to northwest Arkansas in two-and-a-half days. Along the way, we stopped in St.

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