WHEN I TELL FOLKS that they’ve just met the only guy to lose money on a house in New Castle, New Hampshire, they usually respond with great surprise.
The fact is, in good economic times and bad, it’s hard to lose money on a New Castle home. This quaint New England village—a collection of island connected by causeways—has the honor of having some of the highest-priced homes and lowest property taxes in New Hampshire,
CAN YOU EVER HAVE enough? Yes, I’m talking about money.
But I’m not some gazillionaire burning up billions on a rocket to space. I’m talking about emergency savings for ordinary people. A cash stash. Rainy-day funds. Mattress money.
I thought I had enough a few months ago, but then life happened. Dental work. A blown clutch. More support for my son, who has a great job offer but won’t start work until later this year.
CONGRATULATIONS, your family has grown with the arrival of a first child or grandchild. As the celebration subsides, reality sets in: You want to do everything you can to pave the way for a secure future.
For new parents, the first step is to obtain two basic documents that’ll last a lifetime: a birth certificate and Social Security card. The hospital will start the process, but you need to be diligent. Is the name spelled correctly?
IF YOU’RE MARRIED, it’s almost certain that one of you will outlive the other—perhaps by many years. What are the financial implications? Here are 10 issues to keep in mind:
1. Social Security. For a married couple, their Social Security benefits can consist of two workers’ benefits or a worker’s benefit and a spousal benefit. On the death of either spouse, the remaining benefit is the higher of the two benefits. For instance,
EMERGENCY MONEY is dead money—and it’s rarely looked more dead.
Just as we shouldn’t carry more insurance coverage than we really need, we shouldn’t hold more emergency cash than necessary. Why not? Excessive money spent on insurance and kept in our emergency reserve will likely come with a hefty opportunity cost. Indeed, thanks to the double whammy of inflation and taxes, our cash reserve will slowly depreciate, and that’s especially true given today’s rock-bottom interest rates.
COMMON WISDOM tells us that we all pay taxes and that we all die. As a semi-retired minister, financial coach and tax preparer, I’ve gained an unusual appreciation for these two certainties of life. But never more so than this year.
I began my first congregational ministry in August 2001, two weeks before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The first class I offered was titled A Year to Live, in which we met over 12 months to plan and prepare as if we would die at the end of the year.
WHEN WE MOVED to California from India in spring 2014, it was a culture shock—and not just because of the much higher standard of living. Financial life in the U.S. is very different. Here are just some of the surprises that my husband and I have encountered over the past seven years:
Health care. I remember walking into my first U.S. doctor’s appointment. I froze—unaware that I had to pay a $50 copay for each visit,
I JUST CAME ACROSS a magazine article from the B.C. era—before coronavirus. The article, which appeared in a popular personal finance magazine, described a certain type of bond investment. The writeup was well researched and balanced, including a discussion of various risks.
In fact, the author raised the possibility of an economic downturn. How did he assess that prospect? “Recession, as always, is a risk,” he wrote, “but where’s the recession? Not seeing it,
DESPITE MY independent nature, I called family and friends after my injury. I thanked them for what they’d already done following my husband’s death—and requested additional, more intensive support.
One aunt, a government employee, arranged to work for a week at a nearby federal building. My sister-in-law also came for a week, and a cousin who is a nurse volunteered, too. A professional colleague parked her RV in the driveway and brought along her friendly pooch.
AFTER LEAVING the hospital, our family met up at a favorite neighborhood restaurant.
“What’s next?” the teenagers asked.
“Now begins the parade of covered dishes,” I answered.
For the month after my husband’s death, when preparing food hardly seemed possible, friends and neighbors made sure our refrigerator and freezer bulged. The kids experienced a variety of main meals, side dishes and desserts. There was enough for us and our many helpers, and we experimented with time and labor-saving meal shortcuts.
IT STARTED innocently. A doctor’s visit. A blood test. Results. Admit to hospital for “a couple days of observation” that instead cascaded, over six days, into my husband’s death at age 71. His death certificate states “etiology unknown.” While doctors suspected prescribed medication, we will never know just what caused his liver to fail.
Throughout, the situation had been confusing. Clarity regarding treatment options—and the likely outcome from procedures—was in short supply. He and I and doctors made medical decisions in the face of this uncertainty and without regard to costs.
TAKING CARE of aging loved ones is almost always difficult. You’re worried about them and want them to be comfortable and happy. But they’re also concerned about you and what you’ll have to deal with after their death—settling their estate, funeral costs and the hassles involved.
As my grandmother approached the end of her life, we asked questions that I was initially afraid to ask. But it was the right thing to do: Answering those questions relieved stress for both my grandmother and my entire family.
IN THE RUNUP to our marriage, everyone had advice for us—on everything from communication to sex to our finances. But some of the best advice we received came from a church leader my husband had known for years. He gave us a list of topics to discuss. These discussions resulted in some financials wins, while the conversations we avoided led to struggles.
Needs vs. wants. My husband and I each made a list of what we considered to be our needs and wants.
WHEN I MARRIED for the first time, I didn’t think much about it. I was in my 20s. My new husband (and future ex-husband) and I had already been living together for nearly a decade. Neither of us had any items of real value, so the financial implications of joining our lives meant very little. Marriage, it seemed, was just the obvious next step in our relationship.
When I married for the second time,
IT’S GRADUATION season. Entering the workforce? Here are five steps to help you jumpstart your financial life:
1. Manage your debt. If you’re like many graduates, you have student loans. Depending on how much you owe, you may be wondering how best to allocate your new paycheck. Should you direct every available dollar toward your loans or does it also make sense to begin saving? While everyone’s situation is unique, I have two suggestions.