TIME AND AGAIN, we’re reminded to fully understand a question—particularly when the question is complex—before acting or deciding not to act.
“Johnny pushed me” may have been the whole story, but not likely. Why did Johnny push David? What was the context? How are the two boys connected? What’s their history? Was it a big push? Did it do harm?
Ideally, we want to know the whole situation before we decide what to say or do.
ONE OF THE VERY best financial decisions is available to almost every American worker. That’s the good news. The bad news: Most workers won’t take advantage of this opportunity. Worse yet, they don’t know about it, and no one is telling them—even though they may need to make the right decision to be financially comfortable in their elder years.
What’s that best financial decision? I’ll get there in a moment.
Health care has been making wonderful progress in the past few decades.
IMAGINE YOU PLAN to retire next year. What can you do beforehand to gain the most later on? Here are some ideas to consider before you log off at work for the last time.
If you’re retiring mid-year, increase your 401(k) or 403(b) contributions. Raise your savings enough to make a full year’s allowable contribution in the months you have left. This may be your last chance to put away tax-deferred money. I retired mid-year,
PERSONAL FINANCE pundits love to debate safe withdrawal rates—the amount a retiree can withdraw each year from a portfolio without depleting it too quickly. I agree this is an important topic. In fact, I’ve addressed it a few times myself in recent months.
In July, I discussed the well-known 4% rule. A few weeks ago, I described an alternative called the bucket strategy. But as you build your retirement plan, withdrawal rates shouldn’t be the only consideration.
ACROSS THE COUNTRY, teachers are losing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement money because of the fees in their 403(b) plans. When I tell this to most teachers, they look at me with a level of skepticism that should be reserved for the salesperson who signed them up for a 12-year variable annuity contract.
“That can’t be true,” they say. “The district wouldn’t allow this. The union wouldn’t allow this. Everyone I know uses that company.
FINANCIAL EXPERTS often advise retirees to delay claiming Social Security. Their actuarial tables and statistics make a compelling case. Still, as soon as I’m eligible, I’ll strongly consider claiming Social Security.
Why? I never knew either of my grandfathers. My mom’s dad died of a stroke when she was age 19. One of my favorite photos of my parents’ wedding is that of my uncle—my mom’s oldest brother—walking her down the aisle. My grandfather never got to see my parents wed.
FORGET BUYING a home or paying for college. In terms of complexity and cost, nothing comes close to retirement—a topic that encompasses saving, investing, taxes, Social Security, health care expenses and countless other financial issues.
Fortunately, there’s a growing body of research to guide us, and some of the best studies come from Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research (CRR). Here are just some of the insights I’ve lately garnered from CRR studies:
VANGUARD GROUP released its latest How America Saves report last month. The survey details the behavior of participants in Vanguard-managed 401(k) and similar retirement plans.
Wall Street likes to depict everyday investors as fools. But the Vanguard report paints a very different picture: Employees are getting smarter. They’re saving more, trading less and aren’t so inclined to take big positions in their employer’s stock.
As I flipped through the numbers and charts with a cup of coffee on a recent Saturday morning,
ON THE JOURNEY to retirement, should you focus on setting a retirement spending budget or on making sure you have adequate retirement income?
I think the answer is obvious: There’s no point deciding on a budget until you know how much money you’ll have available to spend. And yet I hear about people who devote endless hours to detailing precisely how much they’ll spend in retirement on everything from housing to travel to health care to dining out.
I WAS 24 YEARS OLD when I started working fulltime. My salary at that first job wasn’t great—I was making about $16,000 a year—but the retirement benefits were stellar. As a government employee, I was entitled to enroll in the state’s pension plan. Every month, the government contributed an amount equal to some 17% of my salary. The money was guaranteed to never earn less than 8% interest a year. Most years, the rate of return was much higher.
MANY FOLKS ARE do-it-yourselfers when it comes to home improvement projects. On that score, I have no skills, so I end up paying others. In fact, in high school, I was so anxious to avoid metal shop and woodshop that I opted for typing and four semesters of bookkeeping.
It’s a different story when it comes to my finances. Yes, I use an accountant to file my taxes. But helped by both a degree in finance and the Chartered Financial Analyst designation,
WANT TO RUFFLE some feathers? All you have to do is utter “FIRE movement” on social media or in a crowded room of financial advisors. FIRE—short for financial independence/retire early—has grown ever more controversial as rising stock prices have fattened the portfolios of super-savers and brought their early retirement dreams closer to reality.
I fit the mold of the super-saver. I’ve saved 90% or more of my after-tax income over the past few years.
MY FIRST JOB AFTER college was at a global engineering firm. A roommate also worked there. It was a tedious office job, but my bosses thought I had potential and encouraged me to study engineering, which I didn’t.
Instead, I quit and went to graduate school to study linguistics, a field where I observed the most professors having the most fun. My last paycheck at the engineering firm included an extra sum. It was a refund for a retirement account that had failed to vest because I hadn’t stayed long enough.
THE PANDEMIC HAS given many folks a taste of what retirement could be like. An abrupt end to work. A loss of social connection. Trying to make ends meet on a much lower income. Many haven’t been happy with the experience.
Worried that your retirement could be similar? Here are eight lessons we can learn from the pandemic, all drawn from my new book, Retirement Heaven or Hell:
1. Retirement can be a shock.
I WROTE MY FIRST column for HumbleDollar four years ago. In that article, I described how a midlife divorce had forced me to learn as much as I could about investing and personal finance. As part of that education process, I spent hours creating spreadsheets designed to predict my financial health over the next decade.
Planning didn’t seem difficult back then because my life was quite simple. I shared a one-bedroom apartment with my elderly dog.