MY FATHER WAS A CAR salesman. For the last 20 years of his career, he sold Mercedes and he was good at it. He even won a sales contest that included a trip to Germany to tour the factory.
Unfortunately, selling Mercedes does not mean you can afford one. But he did get to drive them. As a kid, I was also hooked. When I was 17, I was allowed to drive a 190SL in the local July 4th parade.
ALTHOUGH IT’S ONLY been a few months since I first heard the term, I’m already tired of all the chatter about the financial independence/retire early (FIRE) movement. This so-called movement is so irrelevant that I don’t know why anybody, including me, writes about it—and yet my curmudgeonly instincts compel me to do so.
Don’t characterize me as a movement hater. To each his own. But consider a recent story in MarketWatch about a couple—he’s age 44,
SHOULD THOSE OF US who are better off financially feel guilty? When I read about income inequality, folks living paycheck to paycheck and the like, I occasionally feel a twinge of guilt. But it quickly passes.
This lack of guilt doesn’t imply a lack of empathy on my part or that of others who have been financially successful. Indeed, wealth is frequently used to help others. Society has benefited greatly not just from the jobs created by the Rockefellers,
YES, EDUCATION IS invaluable. But should young adults go to college to obtain a piece of paper that may mean little in the real world? Is the student debt we hear so much about really worth it? Could pushing college attendance for all be as misguided as pushing homeownership for all?
I’m not against formal education. I put four children through college. In fact, I believe parents are obligated to cover their children’s college costs,
IF YOU LIVED through the Great Depression of the 1930s and then the Second World War, your view of money was likely molded by those traumatic back-to-back experiences. You might respond by trying to build wealth, so you’re better prepared for the future, whatever it brings. Alternatively, you might hunker down and become ultraconservative for fear of losing everything.
My parents, born in 1910 and 1918, took the hunker down approach. When I was born,
I’M ONE OF THE LUCKY Americans with a pension. I know firsthand the sense of financial security that comes with steady monthly income.
Others don’t have it so easy. I worry a great deal about the majority of Americans—including my four children—who have no pension, and instead will rely on Social Security and their investments for their retirement income. My fear: Even if these folks are saving regularly, they don’t really understand how to invest or how to manage their nest egg once retired.
SOCIAL SECURITY remains a great mystery to many Americans and is widely misunderstood. For instance, when Social Security’s trustees release their annual report, we get vastly different interpretations. One group will read the report and conclude there’s a “surplus” and plenty of money to improve benefits. Meanwhile, another concludes that the program is in fiscal trouble and fixing it is vital.
Headlines frequently state the program is going bankrupt. It isn’t. Today’s level of benefits may not be sustainable,
UPON RETIREMENT, I picked up additional duties at home. One was cooking and the other was grocery shopping, both of which I enjoy. The shopping part furthers my ability to observe people, a favorite pastime.
I have concluded that you can tell a great deal about people’s spending and lifestyle habits simply by what’s in their shopping cart. And you can tell quite a bit about individual responsibility and personal behavior by what people do with their empty shopping cart.
IF YOU’RE IN a financial hole, is it prudent to keep digging?
There are 60 million Americans covered by Medicare, including 20 million who have opted for Medicare Advantage. These beneficiaries paid for their coverage through payroll taxes during their working years, and they currently pay with premiums and out-of-pocket cost sharing, as well as through taxes on Social Security benefits.
Still, this covers only a portion of total costs. In 2013, 38% of Medicare’s costs came from payroll taxes and 13% from Medicare premiums,
IN EARLY MAY, I WROTE about 16 ways that people waste money on everything from tattoos to shoes to children’s toys. That blog was subsequently posted on MarketWatch, where it collected almost 800 comments, most positive, but many not so much.
I was called out of touch, accused of having an entitlement mentality, talking down to people, privileged and more. I had clearly touched a nerve. Some commenters went into great detail about how difficult their lives were and how there was no money to waste.
THOMAS JEFFERSON said, “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
It’s well known that we tend to believe what we want or what fits our preconceived notions. But this is getting out of control. Here’s what drives me nuts on the misinformation superhighway:
1. “Health care is unaffordable.” There’s no denying health care is expensive and insurance premiums can be a heavy financial burden. And, yes, surveys find that Americans think health care is unaffordable.
ON JUNE 6, 2018, WE closed on our new condo in a 55-plus community. The time had come to avoid the stairs in our three-story house. Moving after more than 40 years was quite a transition. Still, condo living is great—so much less house stuff to do or worry about. Eventually, our monthly expenses will be greatly reduced.
Notice I haven’t mentioned selling our house. That’s because we haven’t. The thought of cleaning out a house,
I HAVE BEEN ACCUSED of being too critical of America’s spending habits. I’m not in touch with families who live paycheck to paycheck, or so I’m told. I was roundly attacked by folks on Facebook, who claimed I lacked sympathy for the federal workers who ran out of money during the government shutdown—even before they missed a payday.
We all know there are Americans who struggle to get by on very low incomes. But that’s the minority.
IN 1914, HENRY FORD approved a new minimum wage of $5 per day for most of his workers. Thousands lined up for jobs. Other businesses were thrown for a loop, as they tried to figure out how to compete for workers.
Ford’s shocking wage wasn’t pure altruism. He wanted to motivate his workers to do a routine, boring job and to reduce employee turnover. The $5 included an advance on profit sharing—another motivating factor.
FROM THE LOFTY PERCH of old age, and after a lifetime of thrift, I declare that I am qualified to comment on how not to waste money.
We’ve all heard the reports: Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck, a large number can’t come up with $400 for an emergency, and there’s no money to save for retirement and other goals.
Most of that data comes from surveys where people are, in effect, saying they don’t have enough income.