SOMEONE POSTED THIS comment on a Facebook retirement-planning group that I follow: “My plan is based on my spouse and I living to 95 and 94 respectively. Our paid house is now worth about 900K. I am comfortable it will appreciate at 5% per year. The plan shows a 75% chance of success. If we sell the house at 85-84 and rent at a retirement community the success goes to 99%. We could cut back on expenses and that 75% chance would improve but why do that if I don’t need to?”
I suppose that,
HOW DID I GET financially to where I am today, 15 years into retirement? It’s a good question—one that’s taken me a lifetime to answer.
I’ve been fortunate in a way that’s nearly impossible for Americans today. I worked for one company for nearly 50 years and I accumulated a traditional pension based on that service. In addition, during my last few years on the job, I was eligible for stock options, restricted stock awards and enhanced bonuses.
THERE’S A SAYING that “perception is reality,” meaning that what you believe is your reality, whether it’s true or not. Changing our perception isn’t easy. It takes effort, along with a willingness to discover and accept facts.
Many Americans’ perceptions are incorrect, leading them to make subpar financial decisions. Consider:
Social Security. Nobody stole the trust fund, it’s not going broke and, yes, it will be there for you.
Medicare. It’s not socialized medicine.
I WAS BORN ON THIS day in 1943. Today, I must acknowledge being old. I remember, years ago, scanning the obituaries and checking the age at death. Seventy-five seemed like a good run. Not anymore it doesn’t.
At age 40, I gave up the occasional pipe and vowed, if I made it to 80, I’d take it up again. That’s not going to happen. Not smoking may be a factor in getting this far.
THE TOPIC OF TRAVEL pops up occasionally on HumbleDollar, and I’ve even written about my own travels. The reasons for not traveling go from “can’t afford” to “no interest.” I can understand “can’t afford.” But the “no interest” is a mystery to me. The only budget we have in retirement is for travel. It’s funded with our Social Security checks.
When I was in school decades ago, my favorite subject was history.
I READ QUITE OFTEN on HumbleDollar about the trials and tribulations of those planning for retirement—questions like when to retire, where to retire, what will my expenses be, when to take Social Security, how to minimize taxes, how much money to save, how much to spend.
I approached retirement quite differently. Even I’ll admit I’m not typical, and perhaps only questionably normal. I tend to set major long-term goals with modest attention to details.
DOES THE RISE IN dual-income families, which started in the 1960s, mean that today it’s almost a necessity for both spouses to work? In my opinion, absolutely.
Our first child was born in 1970. That was the last time my wife was employed, apart from a brief part-time job when our youngest was in high school. But we’re the exception. Over the past 40 years, the number of couples where both have jobs has soared from about half to 70%,
IT’S TIME TO THROW out our broken retirement system and start over. My first article for HumbleDollar, published more than five years ago, was titled Choosing Badly. It was about the inability of most employees to make good use of their 401(k) plan.
Guess what? Nothing’s changed.
Today, some 401(k) plans still have too few investment choices, while others have too many. There are multiple options that people don’t understand, such as target-date funds compared with index funds,
AS I READ ARTICLES and comments on HumbleDollar, I see concerns about taxes, Medicare, Social Security, health care costs, college, inflation, investing—and the anxiety caused by the complexity of it all. I also see very different views on what’s earned and deserved. In some ways, it’s about what we consider fair.
I suspect the HumbleDollar community is more aware and more involved in their overall financial life than the majority of Americans,
I WROTE AN ARTICLE in 2019 titled Mercedes and Me. It was about my 52-year quest to fulfill a promise to my father—one I’m sure he never even remembered. My promise: to buy a Mercedes, a vehicle my father sold for many years but could never afford, even at dealer cost.
In 2014, after 10 years of diligent saving, I achieved my goal. I paid $60,000 in cash to make good on my promise and to fulfill my dream.
“CLEAN YOUR PLATE.” “You’ll eat what’s for dinner and like it.” “There are children starving in Africa.”
Those are lines I often heard as a child. I guess my parents weren’t aware of hunger in the U.S.—or the long-term damage to our waistlines and health that such clean-your-plate advice could have.
Still, at least we weren’t squandering food, which is a big problem these days. Each year, 80 million tons of food are wasted in the U.S.
A RECENT ARTICLE on this site, written by the editor, put me in a contemplative mood: How do I think about money?
Actually, I was already pondering this question, something I do frequently and especially at the end of the month, when my pension is deposited into one of our bank accounts and earnings on our investments are displayed in our Fidelity Investments accounts. I also ponder this question when I see our stocks and funds go up or down each day.
I HAVE TROUBLE accepting things at face value. I like to validate information, checking it against several sources. This is especially true when it comes to all things money- and retirement-related. But it’s not always easy to do.
Do Americans tell the truth about how they spend their money? Do they actually know? Does it really take extreme frugality to save for the future, a talent many folks lack or refuse to embrace?
I look around and,
IF YOU WANT ADVICE on investing, don’t ask me. My investment knowledge is, shall we say, limited.
I don’t pay much attention to expense ratios, individual stocks, international markets, the VIX, interest rates or much else. I know nothing about evaluating stocks or the overall market, though I have learned the hard way that rising interest rates aren’t friendly to utility stocks.
In other words, I’m more like your typical saver who’s playing at investing.
GOOGLE THE QUESTION, “How many Americans live on a fixed income?” You won’t find an answer. But we all know “fixed income” is used endlessly to describe the plight of us seniors.
For example, there’s this from the National Council on Aging: “Living on a fixed income generally applies to older adults who are no longer working and collecting a regular paycheck. Instead, they depend mostly or entirely on fixed payments from sources such as Social Security,