I’M AMAZED BY the opinions expressed by some retirees about the Medicare premium surcharge known as IRMAA, short for income-related monthly adjustment amount. Is it really unfair for higher-income older Americans to pay larger premiums for Medicare Part B and Part D? Many people think so.
IRMAA was part of 2003’s Medicare Modernization Act and took effect in 2007. The threshold at which IRMAA kicks in for a couple is four times higher than the median household income for Americans age 65 and older.
AS A REGULAR READER of HumbleDollar, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, I pick up all kinds of pointers on investing. And the more I read, the more I think I may have been doing it wrong all these years. My approach to picking investments is more aligned with a dartboard than a spreadsheet.
I’ve never owned an exchange-traded fund. I don’t know what the VIX is,
I’M NOT ONE TO DIVE into the mysteries of the tax code in an effort to avoid paying Uncle Sam. But I’ve lately stumbled onto something that many others are already well-versed in and which has been around since 2006: qualified charitable distributions.
If I make a contribution from my traditional IRA directly to a charity, the withdrawal is excluded from the taxable income reported by my wife and me and, indeed, it counts toward my required minimum distribution.
I BEGAN TRYING TO figure out the laws related to retirement and employee benefits after the enactment of ERISA in 1974. I spent endless hours over many years in lawyers’ offices in Washington, D.C., as each new law or regulation came along.
TEFRA, DEFRA and COBRA are but a few of the many laws that now confound Americans. I bet most people think COBRA was only about health insurance. In fact, it’s the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act.
I’M ANNOYED BY the financial independence-retire early movement, otherwise known as FIRE. Most annoying are the FIRE bloggers who present their fantasy world of radically early retirement, but don’t like to be questioned, challenged or criticized. As if I’d ever do that.
FIRE folks typically have a few things in common. They were high-income earners before “retiring” and their households usually had two incomes. They’re willing—indeed eager—to embrace a frugal, nontraditional lifestyle, sometimes outside the U.S.
I JUST READ THAT the 4% rule is making a comeback. From where, I thought?
Under the 4% rule, you withdraw 4% of your nest egg in the first year of retirement. If you had $1 million, you’d take 4%, or $40,000. In year two, you’d add inflation to your previous year’s withdrawal. Say inflation ran at 6%. You’d multiply $40,000 by that 6% to get the second-year adjustment of $2,400. Add that to the prior year’s $40,000,
IF EVERYONE WOULD just follow my advice when managing their money, all our financial problems would evaporate.
I’m kidding, I’m kidding.
From recently viewing a YouTube video, I learned it’s necessary to track all spending, have a budget and be mindful of spending habits. Nope and nope—but yes to watching our spending habits.
Managing money boils down to discipline and responsibility. You may not be able to keep up with the Joneses, take that vacation you desire or get that next tattoo.
RETIREMENT PLANNING videos and books can be frustrating because of the conflicting advice from so-called experts. Often, these experts are outside the mainstream. They retired in their 30s, or saved 50% of their income, or claim to be living so frugally in retirement that they need to replace just half of their old salary.
I prefer to think more about average Americans facing the reality and challenges of planning for retirement in the real world.
ON DEC. 14, MY WIFE and I celebrated 54 years of marriage—not bad for a curmudgeon and the person who’s had to live with him.
Considering that the average marriage in the U.S. lasts seven to eight years and the divorce rate is near 50%, we’ve done pretty well. On top of that, we got married just 10 months after our first date—and I was in the Army for eight of them. I remember receiving a letter from my dad while I was in the Army in which he basically asked,
I REACHED AGE 79 in November. No matter how you slice it, I’m now a senior citizen or, as I prefer to call myself, a seasoned citizen. That became obvious during a recent trip to the supermarket. As I leaned over to check the price of a case of water, a fellow in his 40s asked if he could lift it into my cart.
It was a nice gesture with good intentions, but I silently resented it.
MY LEAST FAVORITE time of the year is fast approaching—the holidays. The curmudgeonly part of me will be on full display.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many aspects that I like. I enjoy the spirit of Christmas, the music, getting together with friends and family, and eating. But let’s face it, there’s a lot of stress, aggravation—and money to be spent.
My DVR stores A Christmas Story, which is my favorite holiday movie and which I watch every December.
ALL THIS MARKET turmoil has me thinking about my portfolio—and the things I’m a little hazy about.
One of my stock mutual funds just paid me a capital gains distribution of more than $5,000. I sure wasn’t expecting that. In fact, I wasn’t expecting any capital gains this year. It seems the net gain on the sale of individual stocks within a mutual fund are distributed to shareholders, no matter how the overall fund has performed.
I’M BASICALLY A BORING kind of guy. I’ve been known to fall asleep during a raging house party. But when it comes to travel, you’ll find me wide awake. It’s one of my favorite things to do.
Given the hassle of international travel right now, Connie and I decided to see more of the U.S., rambling from state to state, planning no more than a day or so in advance.
We’ve just finished our third cross-country road trip since 2014.
I’M GOING TO SHOW you how to lose money. All you need to do is avoid some simple math, while embracing the widespread but illogical fear of health care costs.
Years ago, I designed employer health plans that gave employees several choices. Each option covered the same health care services. The differences among the options were the deductible, out-of-pocket maximum and premiums. The lower the deductible, the higher the premium you paid. Over time,
IN A FEW MINUTES, I’ll be off to play a round of golf with friends I met after we moved to our condo in 2018.
Golf is a crazy game, insane actually. It’s immensely frustrating and yet has a way of providing devious incentives to keep you playing—like hitting that last good shot of the day after 75 lousy ones. Not unlike stock-picking.
This week, I shot a 39 on the first nine holes.