THE GREAT Recession highlighted the frightening amount of debt—especially mortgage debt—that had been taken on by many American families.
A decade later, the picture is far brighter, with one exception: student loans. Since 2008’s third quarter, education debt has ballooned 144%, according to data just released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. But the total of all other debt—mortgages, car loans and credit card balances—is up less than 1% over the same period.
I HAD TO PAY my credit card bill, so I went online and set up a payment from my credit union a week before the bill was due. Why not, it’s an online transfer, right?
The payment was due on the 16th. I went online the day before to check my bank account. It said the credit card payment was “sorted” and hadn’t transferred. Same thing the next day and the next.
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.
I WENT FOR MY yearly physical. During the exam, my doctor asked me if I was in a relationship.
“Yes, I’m with someone.”
“Is there anything she would want me to know about you?” he asked.
“Uh, are you asking how things are in bed?”
“No, no, no,” he answered. “I meant, has she noticed any changes in your health that I should be aware of? For instance, any skin lesions, forgetfulness or problems with your hearing that she might have brought to your attention.”
I have often heard that people who are happily married live longer than those who are single or divorced.
WERE YOU BORN between 1950 and 1953, have been or are currently married, and haven’t yet filed for Social Security benefits? There’s a loophole you may want to take advantage of—before it disappears.
For couples, settling on the right strategy for claiming Social Security benefits is critically important, because it affects the size of each spouse’s benefit or spousal benefit, as well as the survivor benefit. But the payoff can be especially large for the group I’m discussing here—those born between 1950 and 1953.
MANY OF US suffer from so-called loss aversion: We get more pain from losses than pleasure from gains. In other words, we’d rather not lose $5 than find $5 we never had.
Loss aversion has been extensively studied in financial decision-making. But it also applies to sports—especially golf. For instance, tournament coordinators might change a hole from a short par 5 to a long par 4. Par measures the number of strokes a golfer is expected to take to complete the hole—and,
WHEN WE ROLLED over into May, I was reminded of a saying I used to hear when I worked in the world of stock-picking: “Sell in May and go away.” The idea—based on questionable data—was that stocks lagged during the summer months.
This notion always seemed suspect to me. But even if it were true, I was never quite sure what to do with it. Should an investor sell everything on May 1 and then buy back on Labor Day?
WELCOME to HumbleDollar’s new financial life planner, which is designed to complement the portfolio builder we unveiled earlier this year.
The life planner’s goal: Guide you through 13 financial steps that’ll help you navigate the journey from your 20s to your 60s and beyond. Below, you’ll find the first of the life planner’s 13 steps—plus links to the other 12.
Step No. 1: Prep for Success. All too many Americans lead shaky financial lives.
FAMILY MEMBERS often look to me to “sort out” their financial problems. That’s no great surprise: I’m a fee-only financial planner. But I’ve resisted the “financial fixer” role.
Instead, I try to act more as an educator—by reframing the issue at hand and encouraging family members to take an active role in solving their problem. Consider three examples:
1. I have a relative who graduated from an expensive university. He was understandably concerned about his high level of student debt.
THREE YEARS ago, I decided to write a book about money for my children, then ages 9 and 11. Raising Your Child’s Financial IQ: The Most Important Things is now finished. Here are six things I learned along the way—which apply not just to writing a book, but also to life more generally:
1. Yes, you can find the time
I’m a physician, working 50 to 60 hours a week.
WHEN I WAS 10 years old, my Dad got a job offer in California. It was the early 1960s, we were living in Ohio and the local economy wasn’t doing very well. At the time, California was so desperate for factory workers that employers would run help wanted ads in local newspapers across the country.
My Dad, who was a machinist, answered one of the ads by simply placing a phone call to the employer.
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.
IF YOU ASK my wife what my favorite food is, she won’t hesitate to answer: It’s avocados. I make a large bowl of guacamole almost every week. Maybe that’s why I take offense when I read articles saying avocado toast is the reason millennials aren’t saving for retirement.
Avocado toast has a bad reputation with personal finance writers, because it’s an expensive and favorite brunch choice, especially among my generation, those born in the 1980s and ’90s.
A FEW WEEKS ago, life changed for 24-year-old Manuel Franco of West Allis, Wisconsin. The winner of a recent Powerball lottery, Franco took home $326 million—and that’s after taxes. With a sum that large, it shouldn’t be hard for Franco to make his winnings last a lifetime.
And yet, more often than not, such windfalls deliver heartache rather than happiness. Consider Lara and Roger Griffiths, an English couple who, in 2005, won the equivalent of $3.2 million from their local lottery.
HOW WE CHOOSE to spend our time and money is a declaration of what we deem important. A modest example: We might enjoy watching a wide array of cable channels, while caring little about the clothes we wear, and that’s reflected in our costly cable bill and minimal spending on clothing. And there’s nothing wrong with a choice like that—if it is indeed what we want.
But is it? Often, the things we consider important—and hence how we lead our lives and how we spend our money—aren’t the product of our own careful contemplation.