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Confusing Ourselves

Richard Quinn

In addition to writing for HumbleDollar, Dick blogs at his own site, QuinnsCommentary.net. Before retiring in 2010, he was a compensation and benefits executive. Dick and his wife Connie have four children and 13 grandchildren, and they've been married for more than 50 years. Since retiring, they have been to 44 countries and driven across the U.S. twice. Dick takes pride in having kissed the Blarney Stone, drunk from the Fountain of Youth and placed a prayer in the Western Wall. He's written more than 200 articles and blog posts for HumbleDollar.

Confusing Ourselves

Richard Quinn  |  Jun 7, 2024

I’VE OFTEN BEEN TOLD that I’m too direct. To me, “direct” means to focus on the facts, get to the point, eliminate the fluff, keep matters as simple as possible.

Guilty as charged.

Think of all the time wasted by fluff. After making something more complicated than necessary, somebody is ready to provide a solution to what may or may not be a problem. Fluff thrives on confusion. It can scare folks unnecessarily. Most Americans don’t know how to deal with financial fluff.

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Luck Would Have It

Richard Quinn  |  May 23, 2024

I’VE BEEN WRITING FOR and reading HumbleDollar for more than six years.

I’m struck by the number of articles and comments that talk about things like divorce, job loss, health issues, adverse financial events and caring for elderly parents.

When articles discuss such experiences, the pieces are typically well read, with numerous comments, including many expressing empathy. The amount of personal information shared is amazing. No doubt readers can relate to many of these events.

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If I Go First

Richard Quinn  |  Apr 30, 2024

I MARRIED CONNIE because she’s four years older than me. That meant our life expectancies would be similar and hence a survivor annuity would be less expensive.
I am, of course, joking. Sort of.
Providing for Connie, should I be the first to go, is among my top financial priorities. During my working years, I received far too many calls from new widows who had just learned their husband’s pension stopped when their husband died.

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All About the Quest

Richard Quinn  |  Apr 21, 2024

OUR ANNUAL INTEREST and dividend income in 2024 will exceed my inflation-adjusted pay as a mailroom boy in 1961. Of course, back then, I earned a bit over minimum wage. It’s been a long journey.

Below are the daily net portfolio gains and losses for the third and fourth weeks of last month. These figures reflect our cash account, index and actively managed stock funds, corporate and municipal bond funds, two utility stocks and two variable annuities.

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Could Be Better

Richard Quinn  |  Apr 19, 2024

EVERY TIME I READ about the decline in traditional defined-benefit pension plans, and the rise and supposed failure of 401(k) plans, I get annoyed.
You’d think all Americans once had good pensions that provided a secure retirement. That isn’t—and never was—true. Barely half of American workers ever had a pension and many of those received little value from them because their job tenure was too short. Job tenure has long averaged some four years or so.

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Headache for Rent

Richard Quinn  |  Apr 16, 2024

FOR THE PAST SIX years, we’ve rented a house in Florida for a month or so. We used VRBO, and all went well. Even minor problems with a house were quickly addressed by the owners or their rental agents.

Not this year.

In September 2023, we rented a condo on the beach in Hillsboro Beach for February 2024. In December, I received an e-mail from the rental agent, Houzlet, Inc., saying the owner had financial problems and was selling the place,

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Making Claims

Richard Quinn  |  Apr 5, 2024

HAVE YOU HEARD THIS nonsense about Social Security? It’s nothing but a Ponzi scheme. The trust fund is just IOUs. My favorite: I’d rather invest the money I pay in Social Security taxes because I’d get better investment returns.

All three claims reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of Social Security and how it works. Social Security is insurance—a form of annuity, a type of pension, a social safety net. It isn’t an investment and shouldn’t be viewed that way.

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Good for Them?

Richard Quinn  |  Mar 28, 2024

BETWEEN INVESTMENTS and our two homes, Connie and I have accumulated a respectable net worth. I don’t expect we’ll need those assets to live on. What will happen to our money?

It’ll continue to grow, I hope. I want to be sure there’s sufficient wealth if, say, we need to pay for long-term care.
I want the income generated by our investments to be available to Connie, should I predecease her. She’ll also receive Social Security and survivor benefits from my pension.

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He Asked, I Answered

Richard Quinn  |  Mar 9, 2024

I’VE BEEN CHALLENGED—by Mr. Clements, no less. Jonathan didn’t actually say it, but his challenge was to defend my unorthodox views on investing and retirement, and the actions I’ve taken as a result.

Some of my decisions will seem illogical to others. Some don’t maximize investment returns. Some are very conservative, others not so much.

I don’t like math. I don’t like details. I haven’t used a spreadsheet in 30 years. I focus on the big picture and long-term goals.

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Retiring on My Terms

Richard Quinn  |  Mar 4, 2024

I OFTEN READ ABOUT the difficulties people face after retiring—difficulties that have nothing to do with money. Loss of identity, depression and boredom are all mentioned. It takes serious planning beyond finances to retire, we’re told.

As an employee, I was a type-A personality. I worked seven days a week, in and out of the office. I worked on vacations. My job required me to work with the organization’s most senior executives.

If there was anyone set for a fall upon retiring,

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Lessons of a Lifetime

Richard Quinn  |  Mar 1, 2024

MY RETIREMENT finances today are based on actions I took over six-plus decades, starting at age 18. Early on, I tried my hand at picking stocks and beating the market—to my regret. As time went on, I became more sensible.
Want to avoid my mistakes? Here are 10 tips based on my lifetime of managing money:

Start saving as soon as you have cash—it might be from shoveling snow, raking leaves or loose change—and never stop.

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Smaller Than It Looks

Richard Quinn  |  Feb 26, 2024

I RECENTLY STUMBLED on a retirement planning blog listing the top 10 regrets of retirees. Planning for health care costs was among the things that people wish they’d handled differently.
The site had this suggestion: “Before you retire, you should get a reasonable estimate of your health care costs and make sure you can afford them. Medicare does not cover everything and most people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket health care expenses in retirement—not even including funding a long-term-care need.”
This statement is scary—and very misleading.

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Faulty Assumptions

Richard Quinn  |  Feb 19, 2024

I SAW A GRAPH recently generated by some retirement-planning software. It showed the investor enjoying substantial portfolio growth over the course of his 30-year retirement. Forget running out of money. This particular software program says the guy’ll be a 90-year-old multimillionaire.

My curiosity piqued, I used the same software to run numbers for my finances. I ran optimistic and pessimistic assumptions. I entered my monthly expenses and my fixed income. I tried to run out of money,

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My Biggest Gamble

Richard Quinn  |  Feb 13, 2024

I’M NOT A SAVVY investor, nor do I pretend to be. Some people get paid to analyze and make predictions about stocks, often for people like me. How reliable are their opinions? I’m not so sure.

Take the newsfeed about my largest single stock holding, the utility Public Service Enterprise Group (symbol: PEG), that I got late last month from my Fidelity Investments account:

“Guggenheim Downgrades Public Service Enterprise Group to Neutral From Buy,

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It’s a Secret

Richard Quinn  |  Feb 6, 2024

SOME FOLKS SEEM HAPPY to tell the world how much they earn, how much they have in the bank and what their portfolio is worth. Not me.

If I were to share my income and net worth, I’d expect some serious consequences, and not just from local thieves. In fact, I’m so cautious I have a plan not to tell anyone, except my wife Connie, if I win the lottery.

To be sure, overt sharing often isn’t necessary.

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