BEING STUCK AT HOME lends itself to some less-than-healthy habits, including binge watching TV, snacking at all hours and ignoring daily hygiene. One of the most tempting activities: online shopping.
I’m not normally a shopper, but even I can be lured by the thought of that daily delivery. Amazon, FedEx and UPS trucks go up and down my street all day long. With my older grandsons quarantined in California, buying and shipping a small treat to them—and then seeing their expressions of excitement via Zoom—is priceless.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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,
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.
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.