I’M ONE OF THE fortunate 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.
ONLY ABOUT 40% of Americans have a will, including just 58% of those ages 53 to 71. The good news is, among those of us 72 and above, the percentage is much higher—81%.
Putting in place a will, trust documents, powers of attorney and so on is no easy task. I’ve been through the process twice and it’s not fun, mostly because a good attorney will ask a lot of uncomfortable questions you’d probably rather not think about—like,
SITTING IN A COFFEE shop, I struck up conversation with a middle-aged woman. We were talking about winning the lottery and then, as if one thought naturally followed the other, we got onto the topic of retirement. She mentioned how difficult it was for her and her husband to pay the mortgage and the monthly bills.
“After saving for retirement?” I interjected.
“We can’t save for retirement,” she responded. “Our plan is to get our mortgage paid off,
I’M A DEADBEAT. That’s what companies call people who pay off their credit cards in full every month and hence don’t incur interest. But I’m more than that. I’m a leverager. I leverage points and stars and credits everywhere I go.
Let me count the ways.
When I go to the gas station, I use my American Express card and my Exxon rewards card. I get credits from Exxon for buying the gas, which I apply to future gas purchases,
MANY AMERICANS seem to think of themselves as poor—even though they don’t come close to meeting the official definition.
Let’s start with some objective measures. One standard official measure says that, for 2019, a two-person household is in poverty with annual income of $16,910 or less. According to an MIT calculator, a two-adult household in Calhoun County, Alabama, needs to earn at least $8.54 per hour each—with both working fulltime—to support themselves. In Bergen County,
THERE’S AN ABUNDANCE of advice on how to plan for retirement. Oh, it’s good advice. But it’s also a bit complicated, often requires discipline and always necessitates actually doing something.
And let’s face it: Who needs advice? Who wants to actually do something? Here are 20 ways to ignore the experts—and wreck your chances of a financially comfortable retirement:
1. Keep thinking retirement is so far in the future that there’s no need to act now.