Friday, August 16, 2013

Life Goes On. But this Blog Doesn't.

I realized the other day that I haven't written a post for this blog in months.

More importantly, while I still read the blogs in my blogroll, I'm actually reading far more 'mommy' blogs these days than finance blogs.

I started this blog six years ago because I was utterly panicked at my lack of retirement plans, either financial plans or emotional ones. I thought exposing my finances, albeit anonymously, would help keep me honest and would garner me support as well as help me face reality.

I have to say it has worked out exactly that way. You have all been wonderful, even or maybe, especially, when critical.

It's been an amazing six years. I got my youngest child educated and out the door. I survived a quadruple by-pass. I saved for my retirement. And I cut my debt, though not nearly to the extent I might have wished.

I'm not giving up on any of my goals. Some are going better than others. My retirement funds went into the black hole of the recession but I kept contributing throughout. They have now fully recovered, and at this point, I have nearly reached my goal of $400,000. According to projections, I am actually on target to have $450,000 at age 69. But that retirement age is a moving target. Given that my grandson will not graduate high school until I'm 71, I'm strongly considering working until then.

My car is now paid off. My house has less than a year to go.

My debt is reduced some but this blog has charted the ups and downs of that. There are days when it seems to me I've made Murphy a permanent house guest. I should have paid off all my debt by now but it's no use whining. My job is to keep whittling away at it.

I'll leave the blog up for awhile, but eventually, it will disappear into the ether.

It's been a grand six years. I thank you and so does my budget.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Playing Catch-Up

I have been neglecting my blog lately. In fact, I've been neglecting everyone's blogs, so now I'm playing catch up on the lives of everyone else I follow.

I'll try to do better. But I'm now seeing why we have children in our pre-age fifty years--cuz parenting at 63 is downright exhausting! Plus I'm remembering what it was that I hated about coordinating childcare, school activities, doctor's appointments, IEP meetings and the like. Is it me, or do all school deliberately schedule in-service days and late starts just to make childcare impossible? There was a time when I grumbled about this constantly, but I haven't had to think about it for the past decade.

Bear with me, and I'll work on limiting the whines.

In the meantime, February went OK financially, especially given that various insurance and tax payments came due. I reduced my overall indebtedness by $989.00.

Also, there's good news on the retirement front. Not only are my 401K and 403B funds at an all time high but my employer is reinstating the 1.5% reduction in retirement contributions that our union agreed to in order to preserve jobs last year. My agency is affected by sequestration, but not to the extent we originally thought.

I promise to be better about posting--have you heard this before from me?

To quote my newest son--"But this time, I really mean it."

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mything Information

So who's a gal (or guy?) to believe?

All I want is some expert advice in managing my retirement funds in the way best to insure maximum funds that will last as long as I do? Is that too much to ask?


Forbes Magazine has a set of "10 Terrible Pieces of Retirement Advice" online.

Mark, at Go To Retirement, disagrees with many of them, as do I. In fact, I find a couple of them to be insane--check out Number 9. I understand that some retirees may wind up still owing monies when they retire but to deliberately court debt? Totally bonkers in my humble opinion.

I also disagree with Forbes, but agree with Mark that there is never a good reason to withdraw 401(k) funds prior to retirement. Well, Mark has an exception if bankruptcy is on the horizon. I disagree with him since 401 (k) funds survive a bankruptcy intact.

My real point is where do those of us who are less than financially savvy, particularly when it comes to investing, go for accurate and understandable information?

I suppose I started wondering about Forbes when one of their examples was a guy with five million in his retirement accounts. Hmm--that would be about four and a half million more than Grace will ever have.

But can I trust Mark to give me better advice? Or my broker? Or Money magazine? Or my retired banker sister?

I have no idea, but what I can do in the meantime is keep searching, keep reading and keep asking.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Nearing Retirement With Lots of Debt

The current issue of Money magazine spotlights several families that are nearing retirement. This couple's situation hits home for me.

Larry and Lynn live in the Pacific NW, as do I. They earn double what I make but there's two of them.

They have family obligations, not all of which are mandatory but for which they feel responsible. Tell me about it! I can empathize.

Their retirement savings are comparable with mine given that I have only myself to save for but I'm several years further down the road to retirement than they are.

And both of our families have accumulated too much debt, a lot of it the result of what we feel we owe our families. Whether this is cultural (Larry is from Guam) or social (my children were adopted as older children and came to me with physical and emotional issues), we both have to deal with the financial fall-out.

I note that the article says Larry and Lynn will have their debt be paid off in 5 years, but that doesn't seem to cover their house, which is apparently upside down. I'm glad not to be in that position. The one thing I'm grateful for is the refinance I did in 1999 changing my 30 year mortgage to 15 years and simultaneously lowering the interest rate. Even though the 5.5% interest now looks high, I will own my home in another 15 months, and can then put most of the mortgage payment (currently $1235 a month for the payment, taxes and insurance) toward my consumer debt beginning in June, 2014.

I don't know that I would take the financial advice to cut back on retirement savings. In the article, Lynn has been very consistent with her contributions and at age 54, I wouldn't feel it prudent to lower them. Still, I have thought about it for myself. What stops me is the fear of not reaching my retirement goal of at least $400,00 in retirement funds by the time I leave the workforce. That, plus my social security should give me plenty for my day-to-day expenses as well as a cushion for traveling and other retirement desires.

Also, it would be nice to have a $14,000 windfall coming.

I don't see any of those on my personal horizon!

I hope, in five years, both of our families find ourselves free of our consumer debt.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Assessing the Damage

So much for my New Year's Resolution to blog more often.

And so much for all those resolutions concerning debt in 2012.

I ended the year having reduced my total indebtedness by a not-so-whopping $1530. For those who've been following Grace's adventures in debt, this means I was doing OK until November and December of 2012 when I suddenly added nearly $4000 to the pile.

Ah well, it's a brand new year. January has started off better, with a further reduction of $1346. I don't know that I can sustain that momentum, but that's definitely my goal.

On the Net Worth front, things are definitely looking up. My retirement funds are up a whopping $56,000, only $16,000 of which came from my contributions and those of my employer. To celebrate, I added $10 per month to my regular 401(c) contributions for 2013. I realize that doesn't sound like much, but my income has been static for the past five years. I get the same pay now that I got in 2008 plus a bonus check of $800. Unfortunately, with the return of the full payroll tax, each paycheck is now about $35 less.

More good news is that housing prices are on the rebound in the Pacific NW, so both my residence and my coastal rental have increased in value. Overall, my net worth increased over $100,000 during 2012, and now stands at $659,439. I try to keep that figure in mind when I'm bemoaning my day-to-day finances.

I've never been much for Dave Ramsey's "gazelle intensity," but clearly I'm going to have to pay more attention to my expenses. And I'm going to have to put more money on my debts, particularly in the early months of the year since I can expect a decreased ability to do so later in the year. The past five blogging years have, at least, taught me that. The reasons vary, but the results do not--December is NEVER kind to my financial health.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Starting Over

A new year is always a time of starting over. For myself, never more so than 2013.

Not only am I starting over as a parent (of a boy, yet! The whole point of adoption was to insure that I had only girls). But I feel like I'm starting over financially as well.

I have no one to blame but myself.

At some point near Christmas, I simply threw the budget away and hauled out the credit cards from the ice tray in the back of the refrigerator. Hmm--maybe Dave Ramsey is on to something when he tells us to cut the darn things up!

I paid for a number of things including transportation and hotels so my grandson could be surrounded by his half-siblings at Christmas. I overspent on the clothes and toys, perhaps to make up to him all the things that were going wrong in his life. And then, to reassure my adult daughters that they had not been replaced, I overspent on them, too.

All in all, not a good financial ending to the year.

So I am now surveying the financial damage, and struggling to get back on track.

2013 promises to be an interesting year. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Congratulations! It's a Boy!

Well, changes keep happening--emotionally, financially, and within my family.

Somewhere in the middle of it, I became the parent of a bouncing nine-year-old boy! He is legally my grandson, but with a mother in prison for the next 14 years and an unknown father, he is in desperate need of a mother. A placement with half-siblings did not work out, through no fault of his. So enter, Grace!

In keeping with the fact that this is a financial blog, I'm going to pretty much stick with reporting the financial repercussions of adding a fourth grader to one's family.

First is the frantic shopping to set up a boy's bedroom. I reared five daughters. What do I know about boys? Apparently young male decor consists of posters (cars, The Avengers, and monster trucks). Two hundred dollars and several posters, bedspreads, curtains and rugs later, he has a 'boy's room.'

Then there is the eight-hour round trip to go get him, meet with caseworkers, teachers and foster parents, stay overnight at a motel with an indoor pool (It's November in the Pacific NW--of course it is raining!) so he can share a fun activity with his half-siblings, and dinner for fourteen people (I was the only one with money, so guess who paid.)

But I did have some financial luck. Orbitz had sent me 10% off coupon if I booked through them. I not only did that, but I signed on to Orbitz using the My Points website so I picked up points there. Then my age worked in my favor because the motel had a senior rate. And gas prices are coming down. It's sad to think that $3.29 a gallon looks cheap to me, but it does. This will be a foster care placement in the beginning, so I will get foster care payments. This is a darn good thing because virtually all of it will go to after-school/summer daycare.

Not only are the times a-changing, but so is my budget.

I'm also having to rethink my retirement plans.

I will be 71 when he turns 18. My goal was to retire at age 69. I'm sticking with that for the moment, but it will not be a surprise if changes are in store for the plan.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Finances--A Definitely Scary Story

I am back on track reducing my total indebtedness after a slight slip-up last month wherein I actually increased my debts by $5.97. But even subtracting out that $5.97, I managed to lessen my debts by $606.18.

Still, the rest of the year is going to be tricky--I have property tax payments, birthdays for three kids, not to mention Thanksgiving and Christmas all coming up in the next two months.

Halloween is not nearly as scary as my finances!

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Ah, the cushy life of a blogger, even a non-monetized blogger like Grace. We write our gems and put them out into the blogosphere where we wait to see what comments we get back from our reading public.

So why is it that far too many of those comments are in languages most of us don't speak or in gibberish that no one understands? And why do all of them contain links that are entirely unrelated to the blog post itself? (My personal favorites are the links to fashionista websites--obviously these folks have no idea what a middle-class, overweight 63-year-old wears, especially Grace!)

It's not a new question. Bob at Satisfying Retirement asked the same thing awhile ago. His issue was moderation. I long ago realized that I was going to have to moderate the comments coming into my blog. This wasn't necessarily to prevent nasty comments. (Not that I've gotten those, anyway. Disagreement is always fine by me.)

But I find myself wondering what the spam is supposed to accomplish. I can't imagine that anyone would click on a link buried in a lot of nonsense words.

In searching for the answers, I learned a lot--more, actually, than I wanted to know--about comment-spam. Apparently there IS a reason for it, especially for those who monetize their blogs and want to attract traffic. Since I'm not blogging for money, I don't particularly care how or where my blog comes up in a search though I do want potential readers to find me. Sure, I like knowing who comes to my blog, but I don't worry about my numbers--I'm not looking to be first in any search engine exploration.

Still, when Google or some other search engine, decides which websites to place at the top of a list of search results, one of the factors it considers is the number of links pointing to the site. A page that has many inbound links from other places on the web generally ranks higher in the search results than a page that has only a few links. As far as Google can tell, web pages with many inbound links are more popular, so Google concludes that those pages are more likely to have the information that a user is looking for.

Ergo, spammers don't really care if readers of GRACEful Retirement read the comment, click on the links or buy anything. The simple fact of getting the comment published creates a link that a search engine will count. That's also why a lot of the comments are on posts from the past rather than current ones--maybe we bloggers won't notice a new spam comment in an old post and it will be more likely to remain there untouched.

Even more amazing to me was the discovery that there are people, particularly in third world countries who will sit around and comment for seriously small amounts of money, as low as $1.11 an hour. I guess, for that kind of money, a decent command of the language in which the blog is written is not necessary.

On the flip side, there is software that allows you and I to send out random spam with a link to our blog to everyone else, so we can say a lot of folks out there linked back to us, and, we hope, get us up to the top of search engine lists.

See how wonderful technology is! And it must be getting better because I have seen an increase in the number of spam comments to my blog--fortunately, mostly caught by my spam filter, but still. . .

I personally found most of the explanations of spam and why we have it, way too technical. But here is one of the more succinct and helpful posts on the subject.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pizza, Beer & The Queen of Versailles

Some things have definitely improved over time, one of which is the movie-going experience. While I have no memories of the screen palaces of old, I grew up in small-town theaters replete with sticky floors, screaming kids and spilled popcorn. Over time, and yes, even in my very small hometown, I watched theaters morph into small-screened cineplexes which might as well be home television sets for all the thrill they gave me.

But somewhere along the way, movies theaters continued to change, and this time in a really good way--with couches, alcohol,big screens and adults-only showings. What's not to like about sharing a couch, a pizza and a pitcher of beer with friends while watching a (albeit, second-run) movie?

And thus, my friends, is how Grace came to be watching the documentary "Queen of Versailles" last week-end.

Ya gotta see this movie!

It is, by turns, funny and thought-provoking and even a bit sad. It is also maddening--I dare you to see it with someone and not come out of the theater arguing.

Briefly, this is a documentary that was intended to show a billionaire family throwing money around on, among other things, a 90,000 square foot home in Florida. But part way into the filming, enter the recession. Money tightened up and disaster beckoned.

Let's face it. Disaster for a billionaire's family is NOT like disaster for you and me. Having to travel by commercial airline because the family jets have been sold is SO not an issue for me. Nor have I ever asked the bewildered clerk at a Rent-A-Car outlet, "What's the name of the driver?"

David Siegal, now in his '70's, made his money in timeshares. To be specific, he made it by encouraging middle and lower-class families to spend money they didn't have for vacations they couldn't afford and probably wouldn't use even if they could afford them. His sales staff encouraged prospects to "stretch" their financing to come up with money for his products. In the meantime, he did a lot of 'stretching' of his own to finance his ever-expanding global empire. That is, until the time came when banks refused to be 'stretched' any further.

His third wife, the much-younger Jackie, has impressive boobs as befits the trophy wife that she is. But she defies stereotypes. She has an engineering degree that she threw over when modeling proved more lucrative. She has seven children by David and is raising an eighth child, a teen-age niece. From the evidence onscreen, the children have a surprising amount of common sense. When Jackie says she'd live in an apartment if it comes to that, one believes her, even while imagining a lot of unintentional laughs along the way.

The financial choices made by this couple as they tighten their belts made me wince. Private schools for the kids were out, but limo trips to McDonald's remained, as did their commitment to their monstrosity of a new home. Never mind that they were already living in a 23-room Orlando mansion. David gets pouty because no one turns off the lights. Yet the amazing amount of money he is spending in a futile attempt to keep control of one Las Vegas skyscraper doesn't seem to faze him.

They went from a staff of 19 household workers to 4, and still the dog poop never gets cleaned up from the floors? Go figure.

The rich, at least the superrich, really ARE a lot different from the rest of us.

At any rate, it's a great movie. Made even better in a great theater with lots of beer and pizza.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

September Wrap-Up

My quarterly Net Worth statement is way up--$23,708 up to be exact. Everything contributed. My 401(k) is up by $19,000. My home value is up by $4000. Even my coastal rental is up--OK, so only $300 but hey, it's the right direction.

My net worth is now at 646,801, about which I am feeling very good.

I can't say the same for my monthly debt reduction.

Probably because there wasn't any for September.

In fact, my overall debt increased by $5.97. School clothes, grandchildren's college tuitions and chimney repairs were the cause. Actually, I feel good that the damage wasn't worse.

Onward through October!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Too Late for Early Retirement

First of all, let me admit that I'm envious of Syd at Retirement: A Fulltime Job. That's not just because she sends a lot of readers my way, though she does.

Let's face it, I'd be jealous of anyone who gets to retire in their forties with enough resources to travel, a cute & loving partner to travel with, and their health intact.

A young friend of mine, an auto mechanic who is in his late thirties, is busy buying up rental real estate, desperate to leave the work world behind by age 50. He doesn't want to spend the rest of his life under cars, nor does he want to retrain for some other career. If he has to work, he tells me, then fixing autos is the way to go. But he believes that fixing up and maintaining rentals will suit him better and leave him with more time to pursue the hiking and rock climbing that he also loves.

I sort of envy him as well (except for the repairing rentals, hiking and rock climbing part!).

But would I have retired in my forties, even if it had been financially feasible? And assuming I hadn't been busy adding children to my family during that time?

Somehow, I suspect not.

The decision to retire, when not dictated by job loss or health concerns, is so very personal.

It seems to me that some people, like Syd and my mechanic friend, do leisure well. I don't count myself in that number. Left to my own devices, I tend to hole up with my books, the remote control and a full supply of Ben & Jerry's. I don't even bother to answer the phone much of the time when I'm home alone.

Work provides structure and social interaction, whether we need it or want it. People like me need both. In fact, as I plan for my eventual retirement, part of my plans involve thinking of ways to maintain structure and interaction (while still managing to sleep in on weekdays, travel, read, and hit movie matinees).

When I retire, I want to RETIRE--all caps! I don't want to change careers--I love the one I have; I don't want to become an entrepreneur--contrary to the Dave Ramsay mantra, not everyone is cut out for self-employment. I know I'm not.

But I also don't want to vegetate into a hermit. I want to volunteer; I want to travel; I want to have way more time for myself.

And of course, I want to be in a financial position to do all of the above.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I'm Going to Live How Long?

Whenever I (or anyone, for that matter) estimate how much money will be needed in retirement, the bigger question is "How many years will I need the money" or, put more succinctly, "How long am I going to live?"

Good question, but a vexing one as well, given the rapid advances being made in medicine. My mother died at age 78 during a heart by-pass operation. I had a by-pass at age 60 and came through it with flying colors. My father died at age 68, seven months after a stroke. I've been treated for high blood pressure since I was in my 40's. With medication, my blood pressure has been stable and normal for years.

I don't smoke and I drink only occasionally. That's good. I don't really exercise much, so that's bad. My parental history is against me, but I have grandparents that lived into their 90's.

What does any of this mean for my retirement?

Or for my life?

These questions explain why, on this lovely late-summer Sunday afternoon, I was busy running life expectancy calculations.

I started with the Social Security Calculator which simply compares me with the general American population. According to the Social Security Administration, on average, I should make it to 85.7 years of age.

Naturally, I don't think of myself as 'average' so I looked around for a calculator that would get more specific.

That may have been a mistake.

This Calculator asked a lot of lifestyle questions and promptly reduced the estimate to 84 years.

The Wharton School has even worse news. Their calculator thinks I'll be lucky to make it to 82 years, seven months.

Fortunately, there is another calculator that bounces me back up to age 85.

Still, I'm hanging onto the memory of my maternal grandparents who were in their 90's when they died.

I wanna be like them!

Financially, I'd better assume that I will. I don't want to be 90 and broke.

Monday, September 10, 2012

When Buying Quality Doesn't Make Sense

It rained this morning. In fact, it poured. In doing so, it rinsed away the 90 degree temperatures of the past week, and felt more like the glorious Pacific NW that I love.

Time to buy an umbrella.

Time for my umpteenth argument with my sister as to what sort of umbrella to buy. She is the kind of person who buys expensive, spring-loaded folding umbrellas that open and close smoothly with nary a pinched finger, with sturdy ribs that won't turn inside out in the wind, that fits neatly into her purse.

I get mine at the dollar store. That's right, for a dollar. Usually, I get two or three at once.

Here's the thing--I am notorious for leaving umbrellas wherever I go. On the bus. At the office. At someone else's office. And that's only when I can actually track the umbrella down. Many have disappeared into black holes of the universe, never to be seen again.

I lose expensive umbrellas just as easily as my el cheapo ones.

So in my financially astute opinion, it makes no sense for me to shop around for a "great" umbrella when the cheap one keeps me dry, is easily replaced, and only turns inside out in the worst windstorms.

My sister has taken to putting a good umbrella into my Christmas stocking (Yes, we exchange stockings each year. We'll stop when we grow up. In the meantime, I love it--both the giving and the getting.) In 2012, I hung onto mine almost to Valentine's day.

Somewhere out there in the city, a bus driver has a really nice, expensive umbrella.

In the meantime, Grace has had four or five of the dollar variety.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

August? Who Needs August, Anyway!

Hmm--the summer kinda got away from me. That's what having six grandkids, ranging from 2 to 15 will do, especially when back in May, I made the silly statement: "Sure! I'd love to have the grandkids! August is good."

Dang, if the parents didn't take me up on that!

But I did survive.

Sort of.

Emotionally, it was fun. Financially, not so much.

But the good news is, notwithstanding six voracious mouths to feed for most of the month (and don't even talk to me about school clothes), I still managed to reduce my overall debt by $560.13 during August. For that, I am grateful.

Just another $84,370.37 to go!

I did take a look at my blogroll (especially after I got eliminated from "Blogging Away Debt" for just a one-month hiatus. Really?? ONE month away, and I'm history?). I'm hanging in there with most folks, but Judy seems to have finally left the building, so I removed "Finally Frugal." "Budgeting with the Bushmans" ended just as I discovered their blog. I took that one off, too.

If you know of a good financial blog I'm missing, let me know.

I think of September as a month in which to 'start over.' That's probably a left-over from my mommy-years when September marked the beginning of a new school year. But no sooner had I made all kinds of financial resolutions when I remembered that this is the month I need to buy heating oil. Then my twenty-two year old daughter was hospitalized for a week (she's fine, and her stay was mostly covered under my medical insurance--Thank you Obamacare) which ran out my medical FLEX program so now I have to make all the co-pays with after-tax dollars until next March. Then my grandson decided to join his sister in community college so that's TWO tuition payments to make. The end result is, my resolutions are fast fading away.

But I'm back, and I promise to be more attentive.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Two Summer Months Down, One to go

OK, Grace is on a roll, here!

In June, I put a net amount of $704.39 against my debt (net because the previous month I'd actually increased my indebtedness).

July has been even better. My debts are down another $1489.96.

I now owe a grand total of $84,930.50 which is a lot, but it's coming down.

August will be harder because I will be having four of my grandkids for the month, but I've got every free children's event in my city calendared.

I can't wait until my house is paid off (1.5 years) so I can throw my entire mortgage payment at the rest of the debt. That's when real progress will be made!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Geezer Tech

I read an interesting article on U.S. News' "Planning To Retire" blog regarding how seniors use technology.

The most entertaining finding (and one that is certainly true for me) is that seniors are less likely to use the internet (53% of us compared to 82% of younger adults). But once we get with the program, 70% of us are on the internet on any given day.

Yep! Definitely moi! If my house caught on fire, I'd grab my computer first.

As seniors, we are also late to the cell phone party. I suspect (based not on any studies, but on my own use) that we are less likely to have fancy smart-phones. I still use a tracfone, which works just fine, and costs me a lot less than the cells my daughters insist on using. But I do feel safer having access to mobile technology and at this point, I wouldn't want to be without it. On the other hand, I haven't given up my landline.

I was surprised to see that seniors are less likely to use e-readers. Personally, I love my Kindle Fire. It hasn't replaced books in my home by any means, but it works great for commuting to and from work. Plus, there's the ever-addictive "Angry Birds!"

But I fit right in with my age group in that Facebook isn't really my thing. I check out my daughters' pages, and those of my grandchildren. Yet I rarely check my own page and the only updates tend to come from pictures my kids share.

I think the bottom line is not that most seniors are anti-technology, but we are less likely to need all the new toys the day they come out. That could explain why so many of us are still on our desktops instead of laptops or tablets.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

When Your Retirement Plan Depends on Your Parents Dying

One of my colleagues (she's an attorney married to a chef) admitted to me that her retirement plan consists solely of expected inheritances from both her and her husband's family. I was a bit taken aback, but when I've told that story to other people, they have been less shocked. And some have admitted that their parents' money figures heavily into their own retirement plans.

Maybe I'm just jealous--both of my parents are deceased. They never thought of themselves as poor, especially in their comfortable retirement. Upon our mother's death, my sister and I split the $95,000 (including the family home) estate. I'm grateful for what I got, especially since it became the down payment on my current residence. It also saved me from having to sell my first home, which has been paid off for years and which I now use as a rental. But retire on $47,500? Even with 26 more years to grow it? I think not! I wouldn't have done it then even without foreknowledge of the recession to follow. I can't imagine doing it now.

I wonder if my colleagues have read the latest issue of Money Magazine, which reports that only 14% of baby boomers' parents--down from 22% in 2005--even believe they owe their children an inheritance. Most are intent on spending the money they have acquired, some for health care and many for "good times." It's their money, and it is not up to us to begrudge our parents' use of what belongs to them.

Money Magazine advises boomers to substantially lower their expectations. While around 50% of parents do plan to leave at least $100,000 to their adult children (not exactly enough for a well-funded retirement), life may intervene. Not just market returns, but extended long-term care could make a mockery of good intentions.

For myself, I do plan to leave money for my five children. It's certainly NOT going to be enough to fund a retirement plan, but I'd like to get their retirement monies off the ground. Then again, I won't be around to direct how they spend whatever I DO leave them.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Life As a Cheapskate

I picked up Jeff Yeager's "The Cheapskate Next Door" at a library book sale a couple of months ago. I finally got around to reading it this week. The author would have been proud of me even if I did him out of his royalties on the $12.99 original price. While I am far from the kind of person he describes fondly as a cheapskate, I do have my miserly tendencies. Not paying full price for a book is just one of them.

Yeager's book was published in 2010, and the material is clearly informed by our ongoing recession. The book is modeled on "The Millionaire Next Door" though without the rigorous research to back it up. What this means for the reader is that the book is less about savings tips and more about the lifestyle and personal biases of the "average" cheapskate. I found this fascinating, even if it proves to me yet again that I may be broke and trying to recover but I don't qualify as a genuine cheapskate.

Yeager's cheapskates have a lot in common with the true millionaires Thomas J.Danko and William D. Stanley studied (meaning, people who really have a million, not just stuff and debts). To some extent, being a cheapskate appears to be a trait that begins in childhood. It has more to do with one's inner sense of self, one's self-reliance, and one's immunity to desiring what their neighbor has. At base, it comes down to getting the job done rather than worrying about what one looks like doing the job.

Most of the cheapskates Yeager interviewed are not adverse to comfort nor do they forgo quality when they make a purchase. But neither do they see the point in upgrading if what they already have works fine. They don't all drive junkers, but they do drive their vehicles until the cars are no longer safe. The millionaires tended to do the same. Both the cheapskates and the millionaires live in homes that are smaller than what they can afford and both are usually still with their first spouses.

It appears to me that both Yeager's cheapskates and the millionaires in the Danko/Stanley book have a degree of ingenuity and self-confidence that many of us lack. I know I don't have these particular traits. While I like the idea of making do, of saving, of always searching for the best value, there are times (way too many times!) when I am tired, cranky, impatient or envious, all of which lead me spend money NOW rather than waiting.

Ultimately, that's the average cheapskate's point: delayed gratification and the ability to adopt that as a mantra leads to cheaper products, more money and a better all-round life.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Rich: Disinterested in the Rest of Us or Just Plain Mean

I haven't lived in New York City since 1977, but it's a measure of that city's impact on me that I still (and continuously) have subscribed to New York Magazine.

An article in their most recent issue caught my eye. It asks the all important question, "Are the Rich Meaner Than The Rest of Us?" It's a long and fascinating article, which seems to conclude that the rich are not necessarily meaner but they are not much interested in the plight of the rest of us. We recede into the background and take a distant second to the main concern of the rich--which is maintaining and increasing their wealth.

In my workplace, we once had a daylong workshop presented by Dr. Donna M. Beegle, author of "See Poverty. Be the Difference." Part of the book details her personal struggles as a poor white woman, teen mom, and eventual Ph.D candidate. She also speaks of the characteristics of those mired in poverty that are admirable but ultimately less than helpful as one moves out poverty. She is clear that many, many of her relatives and friends who had little themselves gave generously as she worked and studied her way into the middle class. But she also writes about how hard it is for her to now save money, when that is not a shared value. In fact, it is expected that she will "give back" by loaning or giving money to others in her family/community. The poor, she writes, don't always see the value of saving money over time. And her need to save now that she is in the middle class makes her seem unkind and ungrateful in her former community.

I am discouraged by the research outlined in the New York article. I'd like to think that if I had more money, I'd give more, and I'd be happier doing it.

Apparently, NOT.