FOR THE BETTER PART of 40 years, I spent a great deal of time helping thousands of workers prepare for retirement. We ran seminars for workers and spouses on topics like retirement income, insurance, lifestyle, relocation and more. I think it’s fair to say that, if someone took advantage of the programs offered, they would have been well prepared financially and emotionally for retirement.
Sadly, relatively few workers utilized all that was available to them—this despite the support and urging of the unions that represented them.
SOME PEOPLE SEE Medicare-for-All as the utopia for health care, resulting in lower costs, higher quality and universal coverage. Others see M4A—a common shorthand for Medicare-for-All—as destroying health care in America, with total control residing in the hands of government bureaucrats.
Neither assessment is correct. Consider eight points:
Every health care system in the world has problems. Each system struggles with rising costs driven by factors like aging populations, development of new drugs and new medical technology,
FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT said on Aug. 14, 1935, that the new Social Security program would provide “some measure of protection to the average citizen… against poverty-ridden old age.”
Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works and chair of the Strengthen Social Security coalition, opined this year that “after a lifetime of work Americans should have enough guaranteed Social Security to maintain their standard of living.”
Make no mistake: There’s a vast gap between Roosevelt’s notion of protecting against poverty and Altman’s goal of guaranteeing one’s standard of living.
IT’S THAT TIME of the year. We seasoned citizens must take our required minimum distributions (RMDs) from our retirement accounts, like it or not, needed or not. Uncle Sam forces us to take these taxable withdrawals, so he can get his share.
It’s a fairly simple process to figure out how much needs to be withdrawn. Determine the total value of your qualified retirement accounts, such as your 401(k) and traditional IRA, as of the previous Dec.
THERE’S A RETAIL chain called The Container Store. As the name implies, it sells all types of containers, storage units and custom closets to help people organize their stuff, much of which they likely don’t need.
Let’s say you want a separate plastic box for each pair of shoes. You can have it. Did you know men own an average 12 pairs of shoes and women an average 27 pairs? Amazingly, 85% of women own shoes they purchased but have never worn.
I WAS RECENTLY looking at one of those “whatever happened to” top 10 lists. In this case, it was about a select group of celebrities and their money—or lack thereof. The point of the list: All of these people, who had made millions, were broke or worse. Several had filed for bankruptcy more than once. Others were deep in debt and most owed hundreds of thousands to the IRS. One former star, who once earned several million dollars a year,
LOOKING BACK ON MY 75 years or, at least, those after age 10, I realize I have always managed to make money. I never received an allowance or lavish gifts as a child, but it never mattered. I always earned what I needed.
Let me count the ways: raking leaves, shoveling snow, lemonade stands and—my favorite—rummaging through the trash cans in a local park for soda bottles. We got 2¢ for regular size and,
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.