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Money Talk articles from Joel Dresang

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Separating self from true value

If I’m to be objective, I have to weigh our stuff’s value – either actual or perceived – against the cost of keeping it. […]

Handling wealth: Age-old questions

Out of curiosity, I started looking for a convenient do-it-yourself cognitive test I could take. […]

Learning to unpack, unleash legacy

It’s not just vanity. It’s natural to think more about legacy as we age. […]

A glimpse at retirement down the road

As we plan the changes we face in retirement, we have to look at the price tags and think about how we’ll pay for them. […]

What is up with inflation?

Our insurance agent emailed us last month to explain why our homeowner premium jumped 20% from a year ago. Part of his explanation: “the rapidly increasing inflation rate.” […]

Retirement: The matter of saying when

“Think about retirement as a privilege. One that we shouldn’t waste.”

Social Security benefits not going away

As a rule, it pays to delay claiming Social Security benefits. There can be good reasons to file earlier, but one of them is not inaction over the Social Security trust fund. […]

Retirement spending to the rescue?

Besides showing the strongest inclination among age groups to increase spending, seniors also tend to be wealthier.  […]

Vigilance alone will not protect you

I had given the credit union advance notice of our trip to South America. When they saw someone using my debit card in North America, they figured something was up. […]

Guarding wealth against elusive decline

In Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” the title character decides to abdicate and divide his kingdom among his three daughters before he loses his reasoning. The tragedy is he’s too late. […]

Do you need to worry about retirement?

Confidence is comforting, but I equate overconfidence with cockiness – like the hare that raced the tortoise. Remember how that ended. […]

Heaven can wait: Early inheritance

Giving-while-living legacies offer wealth through which grown children can invest for their own long-term financial plans. […]

It pays to volunteer in retirement

I don’t remember Dad talking about volunteering, but his example showed me it was consequential to him. It turns out he was onto something. […]

Moving the goal posts to full retirement

The trickier question raised by governments extending the retirement age is the non-financial quandary of when should we call it quits and begin the next phase of our lives? […]

Inoculating to protect against scams 

Research based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that consumers can develop a prevention mindset by seeing examples of scams. […]

Finding a better place for our cash

Of course, we still need money in checking to pay bills. But we didn’t need as much there as we had. So the questions became 1) How much do we need? and 2) Where do we put the rest? […]

Make plans, don’t keep them a secret

The thought that startled me was that if something happened to my wife and me on our drive, our children might not know how to access our plans for how our assets should be distributed. […]

Like pulling teeth: Scrutinize your bills

I’ll spare you the details of my misadventures with dental billing. The bottom line: Review your account statements regularly, and speak up about anything amiss. […]

Gratitude is an enriching attitude

Research attests that gratitude can help us be healthier, calmer, better rested, more accomplished — even richer.

Knowing your age, colas, doing the math

Everyone likes a sure thing, and I’m pretty sure I’ve found one.

Longer living afterthought to retirement

Imagine her fairy godmother extending Cinderella’s curfew by an hour. Then consider her folly if she still leaves the ball at midnight. That’s what’s happening with retirement.

Retirement risk concerns out of order

It turns out we generally misplace priorities when assessing what to expect in retirement.

Rust in retirement can affect finances

When we retire, we leave behind more than a job. It turns out many of us leave a bit of our minds. “Retiring is associated with increased risk of cognitive decline,” says a report from the American Psychological Association.

Good things come to investors who wait

It occurred to me that the patience I felt in the snarl of cars on Capitol Drive could help me in thinking about my investment portfolio.

How part of portfolio can act as pension

No one is predicting a comeback for defined-benefit plans. That means retirees need to rely on Social Security and the bond portion of their investments to cover their spending needs so they can keep a cool head when the stock portion is volatile.

Unretirement: Part of retirement planning

Unretiring is not uncommon, as Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady more recently reminded us. Longer lives and varied employment opportunities offer more options beyond middle age.

Credit yourself by staying vigilant

My credit card issuer texted me to say it declined a $23.65 charge with my card at Aldo shoes. “Was this you? Reply YES or NO.” I replied NO and braced myself.

Facing fears or falling to them

Besides individual circumstances, low financial literacy is a chief contributor to people’s common fear of finances. In other words, when it comes to money, what you don’t know can hurt you.

Holiday shopping with inflation

 Although I recall complaints about prices, I didn’t hear conversations about purchases that weren’t made because of high costs. Indeed, early indicators suggest 40-year high inflation didn’t dent holiday sales.

Knowing when to tap Social Security

Timing retirement involves so much more than when to take Social Security. Still, those benefits play a bigger role than most people realize.

Yuletide logjams: Economy hits holidays

Repeated messages of “Buy-now-or-else!” have made me wonder how economic circumstances affect holiday traditions.

Taking care of both health and wealth

Good health is crucial to good retirement. Of course, being healthy lets us enjoy retirement more (and probably longer), but it also has financial repercussions.

Wealth effects: Spend, invest, retire

The wealth effect usually is mentioned as a factor in spending, but it also plays a role in investing and retiring. Of the three, I feel it affecting me the most as an investor.

Not your parents’ investment plan

On a personal level, having smaller families has been affecting how we try to accumulate wealth and what we do with it.

Wake-up call: Protect against cyberfraud

In the 14 minutes we were on the phone, Mark saved me $441.36. That was the good news. The bad news was all the other rigmarole still ahead for me — and the dreaded reality that this probably will happen again.

Retirement investing: Consider Roth

I know that snow’s a likelihood Up North in late March. I know too that it can get unseasonably warm. By considering the possibilities, I packed footwear for both occasions. Similarly, my wife and I have been funding a diversity of accounts for our retirement.

Pandemic-inspired retirement rehearsal

Rehearsal helps performance. It conditions us. It informs our expectations. It lets us anticipate how we’ll handle a situation. Even improvisers rehearse. Research suggests rehearsal can help retirement, too.

Taking risks, fearing the wrong thing

It’s easy to be afraid of the wrong things. Life is full of risks, and as we try to assess how to handle them, it’s common to misjudge which risks to fear the most.

Embracing (at least facing) uncertainty

I’m always hearing how investors don’t like uncertainty, how ambiguity, unpredictability and the unexpected can scare skittish stockholders into selling or buying when they should be staying put. But more researchers are finding reasons to make peace with uncertainty.

Relearning peekaboo in the pandemic

Many of us are behaving as if we have no memory of life before COVID-19, no vision beyond our current confinement. And it may be affecting how we deal with our retirement investments.

Don’t underestimate how much you’ll change

My father’s life—all 88 years of it—was one of a kind. Just like him, though, all of us change over time. That shouldn’t be news to anyone. And yet, when we’re looking ahead—including planning for retirement and beyond, our expectation is that we’ll continue to be who we are now. We fail to acknowledge that change in our lives is constant.

Recovery: Work in progress

Knowing what I know now, as a father speaking to a grownup child, I try to imagine how I would have advised myself at age 24.

Don’t believe everything I read

My mix-up on the trail reminded me of research that suggests baby boomers should be more concerned than previous generations about cognitive impairment.

Being open to technological enrichment

Regardless of age, technology is playing an increasing role in keeping track of and communicating about our investments.

Separating politics from portfolios

The pageantry and rhetoric of another presidential election stir my civic pride. But new research reminds me to keep my interests in perspective.

Pandemic spending: Can you spare a dime?

Spare change, it turns out, is another unintended casualty of the coronavirus.

Mortgage debt in retirement: Worth a talk

A new study on retirement affordability remind us that we’d be better off not carrying our mortgage payments into retirement.

Spend to save the economy

An email from the credit union notified me that the Economic Impact Payment was in our checking account. Now it’s our patriotic duty to put it to use.

Staying ready for uncertainty

Like news editors, investors can plan and prepare with the best information available at the time, but they cannot foresee every possible cataclysm.

Checklist for circumstances beyond control

What I can do about dengue or COVID-19 or the financial markets is frustratingly peripheral. I know that it’s only human to want to do something, though, so here are some actions I have taken, with specifics on investments.

7 lessons from my Social Security Statement

Several weeks before my birthday, Social Security emails me a reminder to review my individualized online statement. It’s easy to give such financial notices a cursory glance, but I turn 62 this year, which motivated me to give my statement more than a casual once-over.

Unraveling the role of paper

Each year, I weigh whether we’re better off staying stuck on paper or giving in to all-digital documents.

Diversification surpasses manufacturing

Sometimes my understanding of how the world works is corrupted by my past experience. By several measures, the U.S. is now in a manufacturing recession, but apparently, it’s not as bad as I would have thought.

Investing for the long run can vary

Whether we want to consume as much as we can while we’re able or to leave a legacy to our heirs, we don’t want to run out of money before we run out of time. Of course, how much time we have is both unknown and peculiar.

Investments consider more stakeholders

Although the Business Roundtable’s about-face seems remarkable, it is part of a trend suggesting that businesses—and their shareholders—can benefit from being more mindful of a broader array of stakeholders. In turn, it’s possible for investors to uphold their values without abandoning the value of their portfolios.

No more Money in my mailbox

The real news is that yet another personal finance publication has folded. And that can’t be good.

Celebrate nationally, think globally

On the day devoted to celebrating America, I noticed how small the world is. My discovery was meaningful in light of ongoing financial developments.

Plan affordable vacations or avoid Facebook

Vacations seem a bigger deal now, with bigger bills. They can upset the spending plans of retirees. They can divert workers’ earnings from retirement savings. They can contribute to family debts.

Social Security and my future

Not only do I plan on Social Security being there for my wife and me when we retire, but I’m getting an idea of how much to expect and how that fits in with the rest of our plans.

Measured steps toward education, retirement

Saving for college has helped my wife and me learn to save for retirement, too. Both require a plan that’s better implemented over time. Both demand making priorities and having discipline. Both involve balancing investments.

Providing for your digital survivors

I don’t want to leave a lot of connections dangling after I’m gone. My legacy shouldn’t include loose ends.

Retirement gifts: A matter of timing

As more of my cohort reach retirement age, I wonder how to send them off. How will our retirements be different from those of our parents or older siblings?

Counting steps vs. watching portfolio

There is a growing body of research in behavioral economics that warns investors against checking their investments too frequently.

Considering the value of Forever

No-brainer, right? If you know for certain the cost of something is about to rise, you snatch it up at the lower cost.

Wishes for sharing, safekeeping

My wife and I have a gift for our children, and I just got a box to put it in. The box is fireproof, waterproof and weighs 40 pounds. And while we have informed our daughters about it, so it’s no surprise, we also have warned them not to be eager to open it. They shouldn’t get into it until we’re gone.

A testament to update before you’re late

I was digging through some old boxes in the basement when I found a blue three-ring binder labeled, “Estate Planning Documents.” It was another reminder that my wife and I should update our plans.

Where I’ve been since the financial crisis

Reflecting on where I was back when Lehman Brothers failed and how much has changed since has made me grateful and mindful.

Where to retire: A flight of fancy

We consider ourselves years from retirement, but we have begun talking about where we will live next.

Inevitable as taxes, yet rarely planned for

Two of my brothers died in the last year. Neither gave the family much direction about what to do afterward.

Trying to transition off a treadmill

Many retirees would rather be working. It seems the world of work isn’t keeping up.

Retirement confidence or ignorant bliss?

So why are workers so confident of their retirement when they’ve done so little to prepare for it?

Emergency lessons from a 40-year-old deuce

A numismatic anniversary has reminded me of a long-forgotten gift from my father. Now that I think of it, the gift is worth remembering.

Procrastinate your way to retirement ruin

Procrastination is more than just a punch line. The Center for Financial Literacy, at Boston College, calls procrastination “the number one barrier to making retirement more secure.”

Retirement plan: Working longer (or not)

Increasingly, Americans reaching retirement age aren’t retiring. I wonder if I’ll be one of them.

Rebalancing: Better safe than sorry

I get it. Rebalancing was wise. Still, the process was a bit unnerving for me. And it didn’t help that I did the math.

Watch your language: Attention to details

I grew up in a large family in a small town during the Cold War. Following the rules wasn’t how you got ahead but how you got along. Compliance was compulsory.

What’s in your wallet: Family talks

In most families, money talk is taboo. Yet, as we dream and plan and make decisions in life, it helps to have a sense of what we can afford. Part of that context involves having a handle on our family’s finances. That involves communication.

Overstuffed: You cant take it with you

Emptying our kitchen cabinets got me to thinking. What will become of all the stuff we have been accumulating when we’re done with it – which, for many of us, is when we’re done? If you ever have been involved with clearing someone’s residence because of a death or downsizing, you know you don’t want to impose that burden on anyone you love.

Don’t let ID thieves get your money too

My own experiences with identity theft can offer warnings and reassurances to consumers worried about the latest massive compromise of personal financial information.

Minimizing losses away from home

I traveled abroad with my wife and our youngest daughter. We visited South Africa, where we encountered wildlife, learned about apartheid and suffered theft and fraud initially exceeding $3,500.

Kids: Why can’t they be like we were?

Only 37% of Americans believe the next generation will be better off. That puzzles me. And it turns out that I am party to the pessimism.

Look (and scrutinize) before you leap

Scrutinizing is important, but sitting on your hands is more the point.

Gender gaps in financial literacy

Even with a greater role in family finances, women collectively have shown less confidence and lower scores in financial literacy.

Retirement: Thinking about spending

“Retirement is the most expensive purchase you’re ever going to make. It makes sense to figure out what it’s really going to cost.” …

Putting housing in its place

Housing economists at Harvard estimate that home equity makes up 42% of the median net wealth of Americans 50 and older. “Having housing equity be the primary source of net wealth poses risks for older homeowners,” they note. …

8 steps to better widowhood

“Of all the factors associated with poverty in old age, the most critical is to be a woman without a husband.” …

Securing elder finances

Various reports call elder financial abuse “an epidemic” and “the crime of the 21st century.” Like most personal financial crimes, though, these can be prevented through common sense and vigilance. …

Advancing age, declining capacity

Our accumulated knowledge and familiarity with finances can help offset some of the declines, but typically our abilities to process information and to reason start going downhill about the time we are ready to retire. That raises concerns in a retirement system increasingly relying on individuals to make their own decisions. …

When it’s time to retire

It’s not a scientific study, but my chance survey of classmates supports what I have surmised about planning for retirement: Most of us don’t. Most of us stumble along. Then at some point, we look up and realize that we are approaching some sort of finish line – or it is approaching us – and we’re not sure what to do once we’re past it. …

Not my father’s retirement

Researchers show how unprepared workers are, even for their own expectations. But some of their findings suggest how to be more successful in providing for our retirements. …

Freeze: Chilling effect on ID theft

The good news – especially if you have been the victim of ID theft or are afraid of being one – is there’s a relatively simple alternative to hiring a credit monitoring company: Freezing your credit.

For nominal one-time fees to the three credit reporting bureaus, you can make it discouragingly difficult for an ID thief to apply for credit in your name. Lenders check with the bureaus before issuing credit. So by telling the bureaus to withhold your information from any new inquiries, you can deter would-be ID crooks. …

Cleaning up after identity theft

The bill I got in the mail totaled $2,838 for three robotic vacuum cleaners. The problem was they weren’t mine.

My identity was stolen. I didn’t order those vacuum cleaners. I don’t even have an Amazon card. Someone assuming my identity opened a card in my name. Someone who now has criminally clean floors. And I’m left to clean up the mess. …

Crash test dummies

When I covered the market crash in 1987, I was reporting at an afternoon newspaper in upstate New York that published five days a week. That paper since has been swallowed into its morning rival, which now reports around the clock through updates on its own websites as well as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn and more.

The point is that the news media are exceedingly harder to avoid, and they have an undue negative influence on investors’ expectations, which could impair behavior. …


Joel Dresang is vice president-communications at Landaas & Company.

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