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Numbers Game

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.

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Numbers Game

Richard Connor  |  Apr 10, 2020

IT’S TAX SEASON—not something many of us look forward to. Although HumbleDollar’s readers may be ready and willing to tackle their own taxes, many others approach Form 1040 with dread. I’ve seen that firsthand.
This has been my second year as a certified volunteer tax counselor for the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program, which offers free tax preparation for low-to-moderate income taxpayers, especially those age 50 and older. Earlier this year, Tax-Aide was providing this service at nearly 5,000 locations nationwide,

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Should You Sell?

Richard Connor  |  Apr 6, 2020

WHEN STOCKS SLUMP, experts are often quick to advise investors to sit tight or, better still, buy more. But that won’t be the right advice for everybody.
Christine Benz, Morningstar’s director of personal finance and one of my favorite financial writers, recently penned an article listing five questions to ask yourself if you’re pondering whether to reduce your stock exposure during a bear market. I figured I’d work through the five questions—and see what I could learn about my own finances.

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This Too Shall Pass

Richard Connor  |  Mar 31, 2020

ONE OF MY FATHER’S favorite sayings was, “This too shall pass.” Recent events have made me dwell on its meaning—and wonder where the phrase came from.
It seems to have originated as a Persian adage. It was employed in a speech by Abraham Lincoln before he became the 16th president: “It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations.

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Think Like a Retiree

Richard Connor  |  Mar 26, 2020

I’VE BEEN TRYING to imagine what the immediate future will look like. How do we make sense of a situation where we seem to have so little control? You hear estimates of a few weeks to 18 months before things get back to normal.
I’ll admit I’ve lately had many sleepless nights worrying about all of this. How can we think about the financial implications in an organized way? It strikes that maybe we should ponder the financial issues we currently face in the same way we think about retirement.

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Not Too Late

Richard Connor  |  Mar 23, 2020

WE OFTEN PREPARE our taxes, only to learn we owe a substantial sum to Uncle Sam. Most of us believe we can’t do much about this—and yet there’s one simple fix available to many taxpayers: Make a tax-deductible retirement account contribution this year for 2019.
Indeed, thanks to the stock market’s decline, this is a great time to shovel more money into your retirement accounts—and you may discover you can add to more than one account.

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Cheat Sheets

Richard Connor  |  Feb 25, 2020

WHEN MY YOUNGEST son graduated college, he had two solid job offers. One would have allowed him to live at home for free and the other was halfway across the country. Guess which one he picked?
In fairness, the job far from home was more interesting to him and provided a great start to his career. I remember him sitting down with his mother and me, and telling us he was planning to move to Texas.

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Choosing Life

Richard Connor  |  Feb 18, 2020

NONE OF US WANTS to contemplate our own mortality. But we all need to think about it—including thinking about life insurance.
I was lucky enough to have a long tenure with a large company that provided term insurance at reasonable prices. My employer provided two times our salary in coverage and we had the option to purchase additional coverage equal to eight times salary. I was also able to buy insurance on my wife’s life equal to three times my salary.

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Step by Step

Richard Connor  |  Feb 11, 2020

ONE OF MY FAVORITE movies of recent years was Hidden Figures. There’s a pivotal scene where the hero, Katherine Johnson, realizes they need to use an ancient numerical technique known as Euler’s Method to solve the trajectory equations for John Glenn’s mission. This involves breaking a complex problem into very small pieces, solving each part, and then summing them to get the solution.
Over my engineering career, I used various numerical integration techniques to solve complicated problems.

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What Are the Odds?

Richard Connor  |  Jan 31, 2020

FROM AN EARLY AGE, I was amazed at the power of mathematics to model our world and solve real world problems. In engineering school, we studied a host of mathematical techniques that did just that. But I wish we’d spent more time on probability and statistics.
In 1989, I read a book that gave me a broader view of how probabilistic our world is and, at the same time, made me aware of how ill-prepared the general population is to understand these concepts.

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Triple Play

Richard Connor  |  Jan 24, 2020

I’M A BIG FAN of health savings accounts, or HSAs. They’re becoming more popular as a way to pay for medical costs—and, in the right circumstances, they can also be a valuable addition to your retirement plan.
What’s so great about HSAs? If used properly, they’re triple tax-favored. You get a tax deduction when you deposit funds. The growth thereafter is tax-deferred. And if you use distributions to pay for qualified medical expenses, withdrawals are tax-free.

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Read the Fine Print

Richard Connor  |  Jan 14, 2020

IT’S THAT TIME of the year—when we should all reevaluate how much we’re saving in our employer’s 401(k). The 2020 contribution limit is $19,500, up $500 from 2019’s level. For those age 50 and older, the catchup contribution was also raised by $500, to $6,500, so these folks can invest as much as $26,000 in 2020.
In addition, it’s a good time to check we’re getting the most out of our 401(k). What are the rules on the employer match?

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Return on Investment

Richard Connor  |  Dec 31, 2019

MY WIFE AND I SPENT Thanksgiving on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. For 25 straight years, we’ve gathered there with my wife’s extended family to spend the week of Thanksgiving at the beach.
It started with about 15 of us in 1994, all in a seven-bedroom house. Over the years, the family—and the size of the house—have grown significantly. This year, we had 39 in attendance, representing four generations. For the past five years,

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Decision Time

Richard Connor  |  Oct 31, 2019

FALL IS MY FAVORITE time of year, but there used to be one thing I dreaded: picking a health plan for the year ahead.
Many folks don’t know how to evaluate their health insurance options. I used to be in that group—until I adopted a fairly straightforward process. Bear with me while I walk you through the sort of choice you might face as an employee. The same analysis can be used if you’re buying insurance on your own.

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Our Charity

Richard Connor  |  Oct 22, 2019

WHEN I WAS IN the workforce, it was easy to give to charity. Now that I’m semi-retired, it seems like more of a struggle—for four reasons:

Because I’m no longer employed fulltime, I can’t donate through payroll deduction, which used to make giving simple and automatic.
Leaving fulltime employment often results in reduced or uncertain income, and sometimes both. Today, I find it harder to know how much I can afford to give.
Retirement heightens thoughts of leaving a legacy to children and other heirs.

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Solo Effort

Richard Connor  |  Oct 14, 2019

SHORTLY AFTER I retired in March 2017, I was asked to consult on some projects. I knew it was going to be a more complex tax year than I’d faced before. I had earned income from my previous employer, pension income and self-employment income from my consulting.
On top of all that, my wife started a new fulltime job the Monday after I retired. We switched to her benefits, but her company didn’t have a high-deductible health plan with an HSA,

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