IT’S OPEN ENROLLMENT season for many employer health plans, Medicare and plans offered through the health care exchanges. The window of opportunity can range from a few weeks to perhaps a month.
Sadly, in my experience, most people wait until the last day or two and then make a quick decision. Even worse, they ignore the communications they receive and make no decision, leaving in place for another year the coverage they currently have.
CAN YOU LIVE ON Social Security alone? The answer is a big fat “it depends.”
I was recently taken to task by a reader, who stated he and his wife live just fine on their combined $30,000 in Social Security benefits. I also know of a retiree who says he’s quite happy living in a trailer out west on $1,300 a month. How does that square with the conventional wisdom that, once retired, you need 80% of preretirement income,
I WAS RECENTLY ON vacation. Okay, the truth is—since I’m retired—I’m always on vacation. Still, it was away-from-home time that costs extra money.
Back in the olden days, vacation meant our family of six squeezed into our 1972 two-door Duster and we were off on a six-hour drive to Cape Cod for one week. We saved for the entire year for that vacation. We allocated $100 a day to spend. If we spent less than $100,
TO MY WAY OF THINKING, it is inexcusable that we’ve reached the point where there’s even the possibility that Social Security may not be able to pay full benefits 16 years from now. Americans are scared by the prospect. Some have even given up hope that the program will continue to exist.
Back in 2000, Social Security’s Trustees urged action: “In view of the size of the financial shortfall in the [Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance] program over the next 75 years,
BEGINNING IN 1961—and for the 48 years that followed—I administered, designed, managed and negotiated health plans covering some 40,000 employees. In the late 1970s, cost became a growing issue. Over the years, we tried every trendy thing to control costs, from HMOs to wellness programs to shifting costs to employees. Nothing worked then and nothing seems to work today.
Before you jump to the most common conclusion, there was no insurance involved in any of the plans I managed.
I AM NOT AN investment expert. I am befuddled by such things as puts and calls. Who is putting what where?
I do know the difference between stocks and bonds. I know that bond prices go up when interest rates go down, and vice versa, and I eventually figured out why. I also know stock markets are used to raise capital and that shareholders are actually owners of a company, but with little power or influence,
THE FEDERAL government today released an inflation measure that’s closely watched—for no good reason.
At issue is CPI-W, the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. In July, it stood at 246.155. August’s level, which was released this morning, was 246.336. July and August’s levels are two of the three months used to calculate the annual cost-of-living increase for Social Security retirement benefits. The CPI-W for September will be the final factor in determining 2019’s benefits increase.
I HAVE A FRIVOLOUS routine. I buy $40 in lottery tickets on the first day of each month. Many years ago, this was part of my retirement plan—the years when I was young and foolish, or maybe just foolish.
For as long as I can recall, I’ve had a premonition of receiving $14 million, either from a long-lost relative or from the lottery. Time is running out, however. That relative appears to have forgotten about me.
I FEEL WEALTHY. I spent the morning in an upscale shopping mall where, as you stroll along, you can see Bentleys on display. Even the store clerks are a bit snooty. Once I was shopping for a gift and the clerk asked if I could afford the handbag I was considering. I guess, on that occasion, I didn’t look wealthy enough.
When I go shopping with my wife, I don’t feel wealthy. Instead, all I see are items we shouldn’t buy.
I’M IN THE PROCESS of moving into a 55-plus condo community—in my case, way plus. The property taxes on my new condo will be $12,200 a year, the bulk of which goes toward the local school system. But here’s the thing: No one in the community has children in school and hasn’t for decades. That got me to thinking. Why can’t we just buy the services we need from the town?
Years ago, I felt quite differently.
THERE’S LITTLE difference between the typical American family’s spending habits and that of our federal government—and many state governments as well. We run our government like many Americans run their financial lives, living above our means, seeking instant gratification, saving inadequately, showing little concern for the future, supporting our lifestyle with debt and denying the risks we face.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, all the major trust funds are headed for insolvency in the near future.
I WAS 45 YEARS OLD in 1988. That year, my oldest child started college and, the next year, my second son. Two years later, it was my daughter’s turn. The year after, my youngest went off to college. I had at least one child in college for 10 years in a row.
I bet you think this is a story of college loans and other debt. Nope, it’s about retirement planning. After going into major debt and using all my assets,
WE’RE FACED WITH a host of thorny retirement issues: Keep Social Security solvent. Make Medicare affordable. Many Americans aren’t saving enough. They want to retire earlier than they can reasonably afford. They’re effectively financially illiterate.
But in the end, you don’t need to worry about all Americans. Instead, what you need to worry about is you. Want a comfortable retirement? Here are my 10 commandments:
If your preretirement lifestyle is set with a view to what you can sustain after you quit the workforce,
AT 75 YEARS OLD, I find myself living paycheck-to-paycheck. I now understand how that feels and how it can happen. But you can put away the violin: It’s only temporary.
Being fiscally conservative, I don’t like being in debt or having unpaid bills. I even pay credit cards before they are due—or I used to. Until a month ago, I paid all my bills, with considerable money left over at the end of each month.
READ THE MEDIA AND you’ll likely be convinced that health care costs in retirement will be overwhelming. One example: The Motley Fool says the average couple will need $400,000 for retirement health care expenses—if they’re healthy.
Pretty scary stuff. But let’s be realistic: Every ongoing living expense stated as a lump sum looks scary. For instance, my total property taxes over my retirement will come to $435,000, excluding annual increases.
Not reassured? Consider this from a recent study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute: “For the majority of surveyed people,