THE SAGA IS FINALLY over—18 months and $50,000 later. That’s what my clever moving strategy cost, including taxes, interest, insurance, utilities and some maintenance on the house I hadn’t lived in for more than a year. My strategy was intended to lessen stress, but instead it did just the opposite.
This all started because our 1929 house became too much to cope with, the stairs became too much for my wife—and I resisted moving for too long.
MY PARENTS and grandparents were forever affected by the Great Depression of the 1930s. They shunned debt, paid cash for everything, never invested in stocks and kept their modest savings in the bank, mostly in a checking account.
Following the 2008-09 Great Recession, many Americans also changed their financial ways, at least temporarily. We increased our savings rate immediately after the recession. But a few years later, we returned to our high spending ways.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT, when we were heading into Port Everglades, Florida, hoping to disembark in a few hours, there were mixed emotions. Sure, we wanted off the boat and to be home. But we had been at sea for nearly a month and we humans easily fall into routines. Once home, no one would be setting a tray of food at our condo door three times a day. Our last meal on the ship was filet mignon and lobster tails.
AFTER A SHORT but rough tender ride, we’re now off the Zaandam and on the Rotterdam, where we are once again quarantined in our cabin, thankfully still with a balcony. We are through the Panama Canal and now near Cuba. Our three-and-a-half week “mystery” cruise is—we hope—drawing to a close.
On March 30, Colombia refused to allow a plane to land on one of its islands near us. The plane carried medical supplies for the Zaandam.
YES, I’M STILL AT SEA. Confinement in our cabin is wearing thin. But unfortunately, with ports closed and politicians opposed to us docking in Florida, the end isn’t in sight.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be totally dependent on someone who you can’t see and have no contact with? Me neither. But now, I know.
Bottles of water show up at our door, the last one a full gallon.
I ATTEMPTED TO CHECK the markets the other day and everything was the same as the day before and the day before that. Had the world really stopped? No, it was Sunday. The fact is, I have no idea where I am or what day it is. I’m still in the Pacific on a ship full of senior citizens who outwardly have few concerns, except when the restaurants will open. But we are famous,
I WRITE THIS FROM somewhere in the Atlantic. We’re headed toward the Falkland Islands, where we’ll apparently see penguins. My wife and I booked this cruise months ago. Since then, of course, we’ve been told repeatedly that being on a ship for 30 days with mostly 60- to 80-somethings is not the best idea. Who knew?
There was a time when getting away meant little connection to the outside world. No more.
I’M WRITING THIS just before 6 a.m., following a few days during which world stock markets caught their own version of the flu. Frankly, I can’t sleep thinking about what’s happened—and especially about the investors who panicked and locked in their losses, just like so many folks did in late 2008 and early 2009.
It took me a few minutes to muster the courage to look at my 401(k). When I did,
HOW OFTEN DO YOU think about money? Hey, you just did. Seriously, we think about money every day and sometimes every hour. Some studies say we ponder financial matters even more often than the old standby: sex.
We’ve been thinking about the stuff for a long time. Money goes back about 3,000 years. Paper currency can be traced to China in 700 BC. They didn’t fool around: Their currency stated that all counterfeiters would be decapitated.
MOST PEOPLE THINK of their earnings as what they receive in their paycheck. But that’s not the case. Typically, it’s more—sometimes far more.
That brings me to my first topic: chief executive officers. You’ve all heard the numbers: This or that CEO was paid a salary of $30 million. Actually, no CEO was paid that sum or close to it. Those amounts represent total compensation, which might include their regular salary, stock awards and options,
FROM LISTENING to financial talk radio shows, it seems the hot topic these days is the SECURE Act and how it’s hurt the middle class. One caller had $2 million in his IRA, and was worried about the impact of the stretch IRA’s elimination on his children and grandchildren.
What am I missing here? I thought IRAs were a vehicle to help average Americans save for their retirement, not an estate-planning tool. Under the new law,
I RECENTLY READ about a trendy way to lose weight: intermittent fasting. Supposedly there are also health benefits. That got me thinking.
I’ve been roundly criticized for bashing the financial independence/retire early movement, otherwise known as FIRE, and for arguing that average Americans spend unnecessarily on all kinds of stuff, thus hampering their long-term financial security. My point of view hasn’t changed. But I’ve found room for compromise: Think of it as periodic financial fasting.
CATS ARE NOT MY favorite animal. They don’t like me, either. I’m allergic to them. If I go into a house with cats, within minutes I have trouble breathing. I once saw Cats on Broadway. Even the actors dressed like cats rubbing against my leg creeped me out.
Recently, I was in a restaurant. In the booth opposite were two young women, probably in their mid-to-late 20s. They were chatting away between texts.
I’M GUESSING OUR credit cards are excited. It’s the holidays, so they’ll get to see the light of day more often. December is a time for spending, for throwing caution to the wind, for rationalizing what we and our children need or deserve. It doesn’t help that we’re barraged with advertising tugging at our heart strings.
Perhaps it’s time to counterattack, to apply logic and to think not about the joys of Christmas morning presents or the next Chanukah gift,
FULL DISCLOSURE: I wrote this out of frustration, bordering on desperation.
More than a year ago, I bought a condo and took out what was supposed to be a short-term mortgage, which we’d pay off once we sold our home of 45 years. Silly me. You guessed it: I still have the mortgage and I still own the old house, with not even a single offer received. The No. 1 reason for buyers’ lack of interest: The kitchen is too small.