I’VE LONG BEEN flummoxed by the difficulty people have managing money. It all seems so intuitive: Save, invest, repeat. Buy more when the market falls and a lot more when it crashes. Rebalance by adding more to losing asset classes—which today means buying value and international stocks.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m no financial genius. I’ve made my share of blunders. But I also know that being a do-it-yourself investor has saved me boatloads of money.
ONE OF THE GREATEST business books I’ve ever read is Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In it, he postulates the idea that, while things that become damaged by stress are considered fragile and things that resist stress are considered resilient, “there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile,” things that become stronger due to stress. So, he coined the word “antifragile” and then wrote an entire book about the subject.
SOCIAL SECURITY is a crucial source of income for many retirees. But unfortunately, there’s also much confusion, because the ways benefits are calculated sure isn’t simple.
Want to learn more? To get started, I’d suggest heading to the Social Security Administration’s website and creating a free “my Social Security” account. For those currently receiving benefits, the website allows you to:
Verify your benefit payment amount
Get a replacement Social Security card
Get a replacement Medicare card
Change your address and phone number
Start or change direct deposit of your benefit payment
Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax purposes
If you aren’t currently receiving benefits,
INSPIRED BY THE TV series The Queen’s Gambit, many people suddenly want to master the game of chess. But I’m more interested in mastering the practical world of retirement gambits—and that means matching wits with Congress and the IRS.
During my working career, I saved money in taxable brokerage accounts, IRAs and 401(k)s, but never focused on Roth accounts. At age 55, having left my last employer, I had two things that compelled me to begin—time and reduced income.
MY TWINS ARE SENIORS in high school. That means, pandemic or no pandemic, we spent the fall applying to colleges.
Here in California, the pandemic closed public schools in March and most did not reopen for in-person teaching with the start of the current academic year. That forced parents to stand in for college counselors. The preparations high school juniors usually engage in, such as visiting colleges and taking standardized tests, didn’t occur this past spring or summer.
BUILDING A NEST EGG is relatively easy: Save as much as you can starting as early as you can. Invest in a diversified mix of low-cost mutual funds. Rebalance periodically. And tune out the noise.
By contrast, determining how much you can safely spend in retirement is far trickier. Consider three strategies.
First, there’s the much-discussed 4% withdrawal rate. In the first year of retirement, you spend 4% of your portfolio’s beginning-of-year value. In subsequent years,
IT’S GETTING TO THAT time when New Year’s resolutions start falling by the wayside. Most people don’t worry too much about this. But it would be nice if there were a way to give resolutions more of a shelf life.
Todd Herman, a performance coach who has trained dozens of Olympic athletes, offers one possible solution. He calls it the “90-day year.” The premise is that a year is just too long a timeframe.
IF YOU SAW $20 on the sidewalk, you’d pick it up, right? Unfortunately, when we buy stocks and stock funds, there are no guarantees we’ll emerge a winner. But elsewhere in our financial life, $20 bills abound—and it often takes little effort and scant risk to grab this free money.
Looking for some easy financial wins? Here are 15 of them:
If you’re eligible for a Roth IRA and you have the spare cash to fund the account,
“IT WAS THE MOST stressful time of my career, but also the most rewarding.” I heard that comment, as well as variations on it, from many bankers over the past few months as they talked about PPP, or Paycheck Protection Program, the federal loan program launched to help ease the financial distress caused by the pandemic.
PPP has been criticized because not all the money has ended up with companies it was intended to help.
MY HUSBAND AND I are planners. We can tell you where we’ll be living 15 years from now, the trip we plan to take in 2022 and how much we’ll likely pay in taxes this year.
What we didn’t plan for: Paying more for Medicare—a lot more.
If you’re covered by Medicare, you’ll likely know that this year you pay $148.50 in monthly premiums for Medicare Part B, plus a premium for the Part D prescription drug benefit,
ARE JUNK BONDS risky? That was the question from a friend in his late 20s, whom I’ll call Josh. I answered that they were probably risky for him, but quite safe for me. Josh looked puzzled—until I explained that risk is in the eye of the beholder.
Josh has a stable career that pays well, but he doesn’t plan to stick with it forever. Instead, he wants a job that relates to his passion for outdoor activities.
I’M A DINOSAUR. Not only do I prepare my own tax return with no help from an accountant or tax preparer, but also I do it by hand. Yep, that’s right—no TurboTax or other computer program.
I really can’t use the computer programs because I often attach an oddball form or two that they don’t offer. On top of that, I always add “annotations” to parts of my return. These additional explanatory notes may be helpful to the IRS.
WHAT INTRIGUED readers last month? Folks once again flocked to articles focused on retirement issues, along the way helping propel HumbleDollar to its best month ever in terms of pageviews. Here are December’s seven most popular articles:
Naming beneficiaries for your retirement accounts? When it comes to your spouse, there’s a crucial difference between IRAs and 401(k)s. James McGlynn digs into the details.
Did you claim Social Security, only to discover you don’t need the extra income right now?
WHEN I THINK BACK to Finance 101, what I recall—more than anything—is a whole lot of formulas. First came the calculation for present value, then formulas for valuing bonds, stocks, options, futures, forwards and all sorts of other financial instruments.
This was interesting. But with each passing year, I’ve come to realize that this introduction to finance was also incomplete. It was incomplete because—to state the obvious—the real world doesn’t always adhere to formulas.
I TURN AGE 58 today—and, a few days ago, HumbleDollar turned four. The good news: Only one of us is slowing down.
In 2020, HumbleDollar garnered 3.6 million pageviews, up from 2.6 million in 2019, 1.7 million in 2018 and 900,000 in 2017, which was our first year. Here’s a closer look at those numbers and what’s been happening here at HumbleDollar:
Earlier this week, I posted a list of the 20 most widely read articles from the past four years.