I HATE TO BE WRONG. I’ve written before about the technique I’ve developed for evaluating health insurance. My wife and I have used it over the years to decide which plan to select. I’ve shared it with friends and colleagues, and many have found it useful in gaining insight into their own health insurance options. I still think it’s a valid and valuable method.
But our recent experience, after switching health insurance mid-year, made me realize it was missing one important variable—the length of time you’ll be in the plan.
I STARTED MY CAREER with a little-known engineering company called SAI. It’s now called SAIC, short for Science Applications International Corp., a publicly traded and internationally renowned technology firm. But when I started in 1980, there were only a few thousand employees and several small, independently run offices scattered across the country.
SAI was started in 1969 by Dr. J. Robert Beyster, a nationally recognized expert in nuclear physics and national security. He started the company with the dual tenets of technical excellence and employee ownership.
SENIORS RECEIVING Social Security celebrated the recent announcement that their benefits will increase 5.9% this January. It’s the largest cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in 40 years, and it’s based on a measure of inflation called the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).
As the name implies, CPI-W is a “monthly measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban wage earners and clerical workers for a market basket of consumer goods and services.” The index jumped 5.9% between the third quarters of 2020 and 2021.
WE ALL SUFFER, in ways large and small, from COVID-driven shortages. The global supply chain has been disrupted, affecting automobiles, furniture, building supplies and much more.
But the impact really hit home last month when my brother-in-law called and told me he couldn’t find his favorite bourbon. He lives in central North Carolina, where liquor sales are limited to state-owned stores. He had to go to three stores to find his backup brand, Maker’s Mark.
THE PREDOMINANT WAY financial planners get paid is by charging a fee based on the amount of money they’re managing. The typical industry fee I’ve seen is 1%, and it’s been that way for years. Under this model, a financial planner managing a client’s $1 million portfolio would charge $10,000 a year.
Charley Ellis’s recent article explained how this approach came into being. His article also demonstrated how a seemingly innocuous 1% fee can actually consume a large portion of a portfolio’s return.
I RECENTLY SPOKE with a colleague. I’d expected him to be retired by now. He told me that he’d planned to retire last spring, but his employer offered him a three-day-a-week part-time schedule with full benefits. He discussed it with his financial planner.
The planner told him that, if he retired, he had an 85% chance of meeting his retirement goals. By working part-time for two more years, his chances of meeting his goals went up to 95%.
I RECENTLY WOKE UP early to try and catch the peak of the Leonid meteor shower. Because the celestial event coincided with a full moon, the best time to view the meteors was at 5 a.m., just after moonset.
The estimates I read indicated that there were typically 11 to 17 meteors per hour during the peak. But there was no guarantee.
At 5 a.m., I got up and went to the front porch,
ONE OF MY FAVORITE tenets espoused on HumbleDollar is the emphasis on using our hard-earned money to buy experiences rather than possessions. As you get older, you feel like you have enough things. Indeed, my wife and I spent much of the past year getting rid of excess stuff when we downsized.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has put on hold some of the experiences we look forward to. Prior to 2020, in 24 of the previous 25 years,
OPEN ENROLLMENT begins in early November for many employees. This is a great time to see if you’re making the most of your workplace benefits, especially flexible spending accounts, or FSAs.
FSAs allow you to deduct pretax dollars from your paycheck for medical, adoption, commuting and dependent-care expenses. There are some new rules for the accounts this year in response to the pandemic.
First, the basics: During open enrollment, you tell your employer how many dollars you want deducted for these accounts over the next year.
MY WIFE AND I continue to modify our retirement plan in response to changes in our lives. Most of the changes have to do with the timing of both our retirements. But there’s also the puzzling question of which investment accounts we should draw on for income. More on that later.
First, a bit of background: I started receiving my pension at the end of 2017, after I stopped working fulltime. We expected to start drawing on our retirement savings in 2018.
AFTER THE DEATH of my father-in-law, I helped my mother-in-law organize and simplify their finances. One task I distinctly remember: taking her to the local bank, where she cashed in dozens of old savings bonds, some past their maturity date. It was a tedious process.
It wasn’t just my late father-in-law who failed to stay on top of such things. Last year, I discovered an envelope full of Series I savings bonds that I’d forgotten about.
IT’S OPEN SEASON for many of us—time to choose our health insurance for the year ahead. It’s a topic I got seriously interested in when I took over management of 500 mathematically astute engineers. They challenged me daily to understand how the various plans stacked up against each other. I spent a lot of time looking at various ways to assess the value of the different plan choices, and came up with a framework that worked for my family.
WE ALL HAVE OUR OWN indicators for where the cost of living is headed. These are the kinds of things that hit us viscerally. Last weekend, we had family visiting, and we decided to order pizza and wings. Two large pizzas, two dozen wings and an order of chicken tenders for our grandsons cost $103. A large pepperoni pizza alone was $26.
On Sunday morning, my wife and I took our two older grandsons out to breakfast.
I TURNED AGE 64 over the Labor Day weekend. One of my goals for my 65th orbit of the sun is to really dig into Medicare.
Luckily, I have a few friends and relatives who have blazed the trail before me. I’ve also studied Medicare as part of some financial planning courses I took a few years ago. Still, one topic I’ve never researched in detail is Medicare’s income-related monthly adjustment amount, otherwise known as IRMAA.
THERE’S A FAMOUS quote that’s often attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”
Making your own luck is a concept I’ve long believed in, and have written about before. Clearly, luck plays a role in all human endeavors—finances especially. I’m particularly intrigued by the intersection of luck and hard work. But how exactly can we add to our store of good luck?