I ENJOY WRITING for HumbleDollar—but I often feel I get more from the thoughtful reader comments than whatever insights I provided. For instance, in a recent article, I discussed some year-end financial decisions I was considering. Two readers made comments that caused me to review my decisions, while also delivering a few dollars’ worth of humility.
The first comment identified an error in my spreadsheet analysis. I noted that my marginal New Jersey state income-tax rate was 8.97%.
HERE ARE MY TEN favorite articles that I’ve written over the three-plus years I’ve been a part of the HumbleDollar community. Although I write my share of technical and analytical articles, the ones I like the most have a human element.
As my wife will attest, I’m a bit of a softy, and care deeply about my family and friends. I like happy endings and want to see people succeed, especially the generations to come.
INCOME SHOULD BE ONE of the simplest concepts in financial planning—and yet it turns out to be one of the most confusing, thanks to the multiple ways it’s calculated depending upon whether it applies to income taxes, Social Security and so on. My goal today: Help you sort out income’s shifting definition across the U.S. tax code.
Gross income. This is the granddaddy—income from all sources, before almost any taxes or deductions.
SOME PROFESSIONAL investors make a living through arbitrage, exploiting small, short-term differences in the price of stocks, bonds, commodities and currencies. For the average investor, such trades can seem far too complicated. Still, I often look for opportunities for what I call “everyday arbitrage”—situations where I can take advantage of a difference in, say, tax rates or a product’s price.
Here’s an example: In a recent article, I wrote about how 2022’s higher interest rates will significantly reduce the payouts that some retirees will receive from the 2023 lump-sum option on their pension.
I RECENTLY WROTE about things we can do to protect our finances in the event we suffer cognitive decline. This may not be anybody’s favorite subject, but it’s an important one.
Many of us have first-hand experience with the ravages of dementia. It can upend a carefully crafted retirement plan and necessitate costly medical care. Like many of my friends and colleagues, I’d like to know if there are things I can do to prevent or forestall the onset of mental decline.
THE HOLIDAY SEASON is upon us. Our thoughts—or mine at least—turn to family, friends, wine, decorations, gifts, wine, food, fun and wine. But before I ring in the new year, I have a few financial questions I need to resolve.
Our 2022 income hasn’t been what I expected. I earn consulting income in two ways. I’m a part-time employee of a small engineering consulting firm. In this role, I’m an hourly employee with no benefits.
MY WIFE AND I JUST returned from our annual Thanksgiving vacation on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. This is a yearly outing for our immediate family, my wife’s four siblings and their families. This year we numbered 43, representing three generations of siblings, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, along with significant others.
I wrote an article about this family tradition three years ago. It started in 1995, and has been held 25 times since. We’ve only missed two years—one because of a family wedding in California and another due to COVID-19.
MUTUAL FUNDS ARE about to send their shareholders some dubious holiday gifts—in the guise of capital gains distributions. These distributions usually occur mid-December and they represent a taxable event for investors who hold funds in a taxable account.
Even in a down year for stocks and bonds, a mutual fund may realize capital gains, which are then passed on to shareholders. These could come as a nasty surprise to investors already smarting from 2022’s steep losses.
WE HAVE ALL BEEN affected by rising interest rates in 2022, from skyrocketing mortgage rates to plunging bond prices. A less-publicized casualty: Higher interest rates are having a big effect on those approaching retirement who are eligible for a pension.
How so? Many pension plans offer a choice between a lifetime stream of monthly income and a onetime lump sum payment. Rising rates could reduce the lump sum payment that many employees would receive next year by 25% or 30%.
MY WIFE VICKY AND I have lately been discussing—yet again—when to claim our Social Security retirement benefits. We’re fortunate to have multiple sources of retirement income, including a defined benefit pension, traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs and two health savings accounts.
To date, we had assumed we’d both delay claiming Social Security until age 70, so we get the largest benefits possible. Until then, we’d planned to live on my pension, any consulting income I earn,
COPING WITH FINANCIAL complexity as we age can lead to major problems—and denial isn’t the solution. What to do? One HumbleDollar commenter, in response to a recent article, recommended a book, What to Do When I Get Stupid, by economist Lewis Mandell.
The book has two main themes. First, we should try to create a guaranteed stream of income, preferably one that’s linked to inflation, to cover our core retirement expenses.
MY FAVORITE NOVEL by Jules Verne is Around the World in 80 Days, which I first read as a child. It was published in 1872, and documented Phileas Fogg’s attempt to circumnavigate the world in 80 days.
The book has been made into a play, six movies and a half-dozen television series, including a recent entertaining PBS series. The Three Stooges even released a feature film version in 1963.
The Wikipedia entry for the novel lists 10 real-life attempts to replicate the fictional journey.
REMEMBER THE OLD sayings that “the cobbler’s children have no shoes” and “the carpenter’s house is falling down”? That’s how I felt last month as I frantically tried to enroll in Medicare.
My 65th birthday was in early September. Medicare has an initial enrollment period that lasts seven months. It starts three months before you turn age 65, includes your birth month, and ends three months after the month you turn 65. Suppose you were born on Sept.
RISING INTEREST RATES are impacting everyone. The Federal Reserve has raised short-term rates at its last five meetings. It hiked interest rates 0.75 percentage point at its September meeting, the third time this year it’s raised rates by that amount. Bankrate reports that current projections see the Fed boosting rates by another 1.25 percentage points before year-end.
These increases affect what consumers pay for mortgages, car loans and credit card debt. As I write this,
MY WIFE RECENTLY ASKED me if there was anything I wanted for my 65th birthday. She was racking her brain for a special gift, but was coming up empty.
I thought for a while, but couldn’t think of anything I really wanted. We have all the stuff we need. We’re blessed with a wonderful family, we live in a great beach town and we have enough assets for a comfortable retirement. We’ve spent 2022 working on our health and fitness,