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Is healthy aging the oxymoron of our generation?

Is healthy aging the oxymoron of our generation? September was Healthy Aging month , and I found it a good time to take stock of my health discipline. For those of you in denial that you are aging at all, let me harsh your buzz by saying – you are aging. But are you aging in a healthy or unhealthy way?

A study in Current Biology found clues around why females may outlive males in the animal kingdom. The study was with fruit flies – it seems their one month life is a good gauge for us. That study talked about mitochondrial DNA factors that cause men to age and die more rapidly than females. Most statistics show women are living longer than men by 7 years, and we need to make sure those seven years are good ones. We need to focus on how to age well.

In my situation, we have a household with three females, and we likely all will live into our 90s. Our daughter was born in 2003 so there is a chance she will see 2103 – the 22nd century! I believe living longer is a good thing if you are staying healthy, able to be active, able to enjoy life. There is an opportunity, and potential issue, for women related to greater longevity – we want that longevity to be a positive, not a negative.

My view of healthy aging is to live through mid-life without the need of significant drugs and surgeries that can compromise your system. Yet, staying healthy is easier said than done when we are taking care of kids, parents, work groups, nonprofits, etc. Being able to sleep enough, eat fresh foods, exercise and live moderately is an amazing challenge. I exercise each day, but I fail miserably at the other three. Just as savings discipline is critical, health discipline will be my next great area to conquer. So, is healthy aging a possibility or an oxymoron? How are you aging healthily?

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4 tips to see if downsizing your home is worth it

it’s not surprising that many people resist downsizing, because the stress of moving — everything from finding a new home to packing up to making a place for yourself in a new city or town — doesn’t seem worth it

it’s not surprising that many people resist downsizing, because the stress of moving — everything from finding a new home to packing up to making a place for yourself in a new city or town — doesn’t seem worth it

The older we get, the more likely we are to be set in our ways. And so it’s not surprising that many people resist downsizing, because the stress of moving — everything from finding a new home to packing up to making a place for yourself in a new city or town — doesn’t seem worth it. And in some cases, it’s probably not.

If you’re planning to move to an area and home that is every bit as expensive as the one you currently live in, you’re not going to save any cash and in fact, the process will end up costing you money when you factor in the expenses of relocation. But if you’re truly downsizing — in other words, trading in a more expensive home for one that cuts your monthly expenses significantly — the trouble of relocating will likely pay off. Sometimes big. So how do you know the difference?

Do the math. Downsizing can add cash to your wallet if you play your cards right — essentially, it releases savings that are tied up in your house, as long as you sell that home and buy or rent one that is less expensive. The difference, then, becomes your savings. You can do the math on your own, or use a calculator like the ones created by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Their Squared Away site can help you figure out how moving will impact your finances.

Consider all costs. It costs money to move – but how much? Figure about 10% of the sale price of your house, when all is said and done, according to the Boston College research. That includes a 5% broker fee for the sale, the costs to fix up your home to get it ready to sell, a little money to fix up the new home, and the cost of actually moving your things. On a $250,000 house, that’s $25,000.

Invest the difference. If you’re smart, you can not only shave your monthly expenses but actually earn an income from a move. The key is to put the money you’re not spending to work for you. Let’s take an example from the Squared Away site: Say you sell that $250,000 home. Subtract the aforementioned 10% for moving costs and you’ve got $225,000. Then let’s say you buy a home that costs $150,000 instead. You’ve got $75,000 to add to savings. Invest that and pull out 4% per year and you’ll have $3,000 extra a year.

Don’t delay. The sooner you make the move, the sooner the money you free up can start working for you. Plus, moving is more difficult as you age — you might continue to put it off, and adjusting to a new area will become harder. So once you’ve made the decision to make a change, jump on it.

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Are you a spender or a saver?

Take the quiz and find out if you're a spender or a saver!

Take the quiz and find out if you’re a spender or a saver!

Take the quiz and find out if you’re a spender or a saver!

On a trip to the grocery store you:

  1. Have a meal plan in your hand. You only get the items on your list and buy generic brands whenever you can.
  2. Go to the store with a loose idea of what you’ll make for dinner and get distracted by sale items.

Acorn squash?? You’ve always wanted to try that. You have no idea how to cook it or what exactly you’ll do with it, but you saw it on Iron Chef and it looked amazing!

You need a bar of soap, which is right by the makeup aisle so you take a little stroll. Whoa— there are two bottles of nail polish you must have. They are only $4 each, a bargain!

When you get home you realize you bought an acorn squash 3 weeks ago and it’s rotting in your produce drawer. That nail polish? Almost identical to two colors you already have.

When you go to dinner with friends, you:

  1. Check prices and try to stay within your weekly budget. You only allow yourself to order one cocktail because they’re $12 and you could buy a whole bottle of wine at Trader Joe’s with that money!
  2. Order whatever you want- you only live once! You earned this, you deserve it. Sure you did the same thing last weekend and have nothing in your fridge but it’s the weekend!

Who cares if the special is $40 and you’re not even sure that quail egg amuse bouche with a basil chiffonade and bison paupiette are even food items? Your server says they only have a few left and if you don’t hurry, you are going to miss out!

You’ll take that and another $15 appletini, please.

When watching television, you:

  1. Don’t even pay attention when 800-number ads promising 200% of free products. IF they are even watching TV– why pay exorbitant prices for cable when you can livestream content from so many great websites?
  2. Have possibly called a 1-800 number and ordered something because it’s “such a great deal!” Do you need 300 pieces of food storage containers? Do you have space for them in your cabinets? You don’t know and don’t care! You’re only paying for 50 pieces and the rest are FREE!!! That’s 250 food containers for zero dollars- what a steal! Laugh at the ridiculous quantities offered. Who in the world needs 300 of anything??

If you answered with 2′s— we should never, EVER go shopping together. Because, y’all— I’m a spender.

I get distracted in grocery stores, don’t look at prices as often as I should and buy nail polish even though I end up going to a nail salon to get my nails painted for $6– my five-year-old can paint nails better than I can.

I want to be a saver and if you do, here are a few tips that you may find helpful:

  • Never go to the grocery store hungry— everything looks delicious.
  • Make a meal plan once a week and a list of all the ingredients you’ll need. Google “meal plans,” there are a countless number of websites that offer meal plans for little to no charge— including a grocery list.

One of my favorite sites is The Fresh 20 . They offer weekly meal plans based on your diet. Gluten-free? Paleo? Vegetarian? No problem. There is a list of pantry staples and every week you’ll buy 20 fresh ingredients. They even save time by making meal prep simpler— cook two pounds of ground beef then divide it for two separate meals, etc.

  • Be accountable.

My husband is a saver so he is in charge of our weekly budget. We moved from me swiping my debit card at the grocery store to a cash system. I have $200 cash to buy groceries for the week. Knowing how much I can spend helps me stay focused and away from the makeup aisle. And if I have money left over at the end of the week, I might just get my nails done and order an extra cocktail at dinner.

If you don’t have a significant other, talk to a close friend about your finances and ask them to help you to think through purchases before spending freely. Just knowing someone else is aware of your spending may be enough for you to get focused.

Living within a budget isn’t as easy as it often sounds. But think how much better you’ll feel when you aren’t shoving 300 pieces of plastic containers into cabinets, drawers, the pantry, the laundry room, your son’s closet, the guest bathroom and underneath your bed!

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Should we spend money on experiences?

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Does spending money on experiences or things make more sense? Is there a correlation between money and happiness? There are things that we need, no doubt, to make our lives easier and more comfortable. There are things that we want and when we possess them, we truly enjoy them, and the money well spent. But sometimes our hard earned cash is better used when we spend money on experiences. Because, in our minds, we can relive them over and over again. So, it’s not always a question of choosing one or the other but instead a matter of spending money wisely. This is a perfect example of how to spend money.

What is the relationship between money and happiness? Well, let me first ask you, what was the first concert you ever went to? I’ll bet you don’t have to think very long – and neither do I. I went to see James Taylor play at a theater in Pittsburgh with my best friend Susan Rosenberg. Yes, I was one of those girls – and so was she – who at 14 or 15 knew every word to You’ve Got A Friend. This is why, I suppose, it meant so much to me when my husband surprised me with tickets to see James Taylor in a wonderful open-air theater. I’ve written before about how spending money on experiences trumps spending money on things but this one I lived. We pulled off New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway, parked our car amidst the tailgaters, and headed in. We grabbed a beer to share (they were 24 oz. – who drinks beers this big?), looked over the line-up of upcoming acts, and found our way to our row.

I don’t mean to brag and I don’t want tell you how to spend your money or for you to go on a spending spree and lose sight of your goals. But, our seats were so good that I shot a few pictures and tweeted them out from the audience, like the one above. What I didn’t do was ask my husband how much the tickets cost. Quite frankly, I didn’t want to know. Over the past few days I’ve shared with friends the line-up of songs, the feel of the crowd and the amazing number of stars. I’ve had Shower the People playing on a constant loop within my head. And I’ve thought a lot about my friend Susan, who passed away this year, and how much she would have loved being there with me – and vice versa. But even if they were as expensive as a trip to Broadway, they were worth it and it was truly money well spent. It’s like I always say, Money Rule #1: Personal finance is more personal than it is finance.

What are you experiences? What do you think?

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Women are making great strides

Despite the fact that many of us feel our progress in the workforce has been glacial, women have made great strides over the last several decades.

Despite the fact that many of us feel our progress in the workforce has been glacial, women have made great strides over the last several decades.

Despite the fact that many of us feel our progress in the workforce has been glacial, women have made great strides over the last several decades. Over the years that I’ve been working, I’ve personally seen many changes firsthand, and I see the pride that many women feel in their own professional accomplishments reflected in the latest Wells Fargo Affluent Women Retirement survey. It’s good to see that these women have a great sense of pride around earning money. A majority (93%) say they “enjoy making and accumulating money” and 94% say “I’ve worked hard to create my wealth.”

I remember a conversation with my husband when our children were young. I had just returned home from the office, exhausted and as usual, worrying that I wasn’t handling either work or family very well. He told me that while he had never discussed it with me before, my ability to provide for our family was a great relief to him. He knew that if anything happened to him, I would be able to care for myself and our children. I’ll never forget how that made me feel – I was a strong and equal partner in our relationship, and in our financial life.

For many women, however, this is not the case. This survey found that women are primarily in charge of the money decisions for the household, and about eight out of 10 manage the household budget, purchasing decisions and pay the bills. But while they are doing a lot of work in seeing where their hard-earned money goes, just 46 percent are taking primary responsibility for choosing and managing investment accounts. The good news is that the younger women surveyed, those in their 40s, are managing their investments more, at a rate of 56 percent. And hopefully they will continue that trend by being involved in the investment decisions which will greatly impact their lifestyle in retirement.

While there may be skepticism about the stock market, two-thirds of affluent women credit the stock market for their wealth. More than three-fourths feel the stock market is the best way to grow savings for the long term. They even get excited watching their assets grow through good investments rather than earning it and saving it. This is an encouraging shift that’s taking place.

Some other interesting findings from affluent working women:

  • 62 percent believe that women can “have it all” when it comes to balancing their career and family; however that is the goal for only 38 percent of them
  • 58 percent are struggling with work-life balance

Over my life, I have found that you constantly have to adjust your priorities as life comes at you. I had a manager who told me that in life you will have to juggle a lot of balls, and the important thing was not to drop the glass ones. There is sacrifice involved and that’s why you have to prioritize what matters most—at the time you may be struggling with work-life balance as many women are.

What does “having it all” mean to you? Is that your goal? How are some ways you deal with work-life balance?

Stocks offer long-term growth potential, but may fluctuate more and provide less current income than other investments. An investment in the stock market should be made with an understanding of the risks associated with common stocks, including market fluctuations.

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5 benefits of charitable giving

Here’s some good news: As a country, we’re very philanthropic — over 95% of households give to charity, at an average of nearly $3,000 annually, according to statistics from the National Philanthropic Trust.

That’s great news, not only for charities, but also for ourselves. Research shows that giving back — whether with money or your time — helps us simultaneously as it helps the causes we’re supporting. How? Let me count the ways:

Giving makes us happier, according to research published in the Harvard Business Review. You’re likely to get more of a mood boost from giving money to others rather than spending it on yourself. As a bonus, the actual amount contributed doesn’t seem to matter, which means you can give as much as you can afford and still feel good about it. And although this research didn’t say so the research I conducted for my book The Ten Commandments of Financial Happiness did, giving time through volunteering provides an uptick in happiness as well.

It promotes gratitude. When you give to charity, or volunteer your time, it can highlight all of the good things going on in your own life. It gives you perspective and that shines a light on all that you should be grateful for. If you want to make the most of this, take the time every night to write down three good things that happened in your day. At the end of the week, go back and read them. You’ll start to notice a pattern of good things happening in your life and that will give you an even bigger gratitude boost.

It sparks a chain reaction, potentially causing others to up their generosity game. We’ve all heard of someone whose day has been brightened by a pay-it-forward effort — the driver in the car in front of you picks up the tab for your dinner at the drive in, or someone in line for coffee pays for the next person. These pay-it-forward sprees have gone unbroken for days, like the case of this Connecticut Starbucks that kept it up through over 1,000 customers. Generosity leads to more generosity, and that’s never a bad thing.

It keeps us healthy. According to the Cleveland Clinic , giving can lower blood pressure, decrease stress levels, help alleviate depression and increase self-esteem. I’d say much of that goes back to the happiness boost we get from giving — when we feel good mentally, we’re more likely to feel good physically.

It’s tax deductible. Okay, so this last one is a little self-serving. But if you itemize your taxes, giving to a tax-exempt charity can save you a bit of cash. You can deduct any cash donations, as well as money spent volunteering (but not the cost of your time). You can also deduct the fair market value of goods donated. Be sure to get a receipt for any property or money you donate.

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Is generosity in your genes?

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I have always assumed that the American spirit of giving to those less fortunate was a consistent bond we all share. On a recent business trip I stumbled across an article from the Chronicle of Philanthropy that was shocking. This article debunked my naive perspective. A few facts – the rich are not the most generous, the highest givers in our country earn between $50,000 -75,000. In addition there are strong regional differences. The top two states for giving are Utah (10.6%) and Mississippi (7.6%) (Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina round out the top five) and the bottom two states for giving are Maine and New Hampshire at 3.3% and 2.5% respectively. Wealthier people who live in more diverse areas give more than people who live in homogeneously wealthy neighborhoods and more religious areas of the U.S. are more generous.

In my upbringing, I did experience a weekly tithing ritual and that was how I learned to calculate 10% of any number, something that has helped me in tipping since that time – I just double the tithe amount. So, I would fall into that category of being impacted by religious upbringing. So how does our family decide on our charitable giving and the amount? We are actively trying to get to a 10% number. As our income increased, our giving did not match, so for the last several years, we have tried to be more deliberate and increase our gifts until we get to 10%. We currently are at 8% as a family. We were recently told by our advisors that we are one of the largest givers in their book of business – and I thought they were just paying us a compliment – but maybe they were being honest!

What would it mean if all of America will give 1% more to those charities that are meaningful to them? Think of the impact that would have on our country. What would it offer to the next generation? I say, let’s start a generosity movement….what do you say?

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Six tips for how to save money during the holidays

If this holiday season has your head is spinning and you're at a loss for how to save money during the holidays faster than the Sugar Plum Fairy can pirouette, you’re not alone

If this holiday season has your head is spinning and you’re at a loss for how to save money during the holidays faster than the Sugar Plum Fairy can pirouette, you’re not alone

If this holiday season has your head is spinning and you’re at a loss for how to save money during the holidays faster than the Sugar Plum Fairy can pirouette, you’re not alone. We’re all at a loss when it comes the latest holiday gifts. Between the iPad 2, Kindle Fire and Wii Fit, toys seem more high-tech and high-priced than ever and many families are still reeling from the recession. “How can I afford to fulfill my kids’ wish lists if I couldn’t even take a vacation this year?” you might be wondering.

Well, my first piece of advice is to stop worrying. There are several tricks to save money to things you can do get through the holiday season without breaking the bank or abusing the eggnog. Here are some of my favorite holiday-savings tips on how to save money on holiday spending:

Create a holiday budget and stick to it. I normally suggest spending no more than 1.5% of your annual take-home pay on holiday gifts purchases. If you’re using credit cards to pay for everything, this is an amount that can be easily paid off by February. This also means that if you allot yourself $100 dollars per recipient but spend $150 on Mom’s cashmere sweater, your dad or brother might have to get that $50 DVD set instead of that $100 golf set. Over-spending on each person is the easiest way to break your budget.

Make a holiday gift list; check it twice. You should know what you’re buying, who the recipient is, and how much you want to spend per item well before you walk into the store. This will help you stick to your budget (see above) and prevent impulse purchases!

Treat holiday gift giving it like a research project. It may not sound fun, but do your homework, and give yourself enough time to do the work. If you rush, you’ll make hasty decisions that will cost you. Find out which stores are running promotions, and don’t be afraid to go to multiple stores to get the best deal on a certain item. If you don’t see what you’re looking for while you’re out, don’t force yourself to buy something just because you’re in a store. Wait, brainstorm some more, and get it next trip.

Don’t shop if you feel like Scrooge. If you’re in a bad mood, you are more likely to use retail therapy to feel better. Don’t do this! Remind yourself of your long term savings goals and that retail therapy is just a feeling. When I feel grumpy while shopping, I just leave and do some holiday cooking. The stores will still be there when I feel better the next day.

Use gift-cards to your advantage. If you’re like me and have a small stockpile of gift-cards left over from birthdays and other holidays, now is the perfect time to use them. It’s like bonus cash, and no one will ever know you bought their gift using a gift card.

Team up. If you’re looking to save money, talk to your siblings or cousins about doing a group gift for someone. An LCD TV may be outside your price range, but divided amongst your seven cousins, it suddenly becomes reasonable — and Grandpa will be thrilled. EBay Group Gifts makes it even easier to do this: it digitizes the process so you’re not running around collecting money from everyone.

Do you have tips for saving money how to save money during the holidays? We’d love to know! Share them.

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3 steps on how to be grateful when life gives you lemons

Trust me, I’ve always been an advocate for finding gratitude even when life gives you lemons, but I’m willing to admit that there are situations when it feels near impossible to turn on the holly-jolly.

Trust me, I’ve always been an advocate for finding gratitude even when life gives you lemons, but I’m willing to admit that there are situations when it feels near impossible to turn on the holly-jolly.

Growing up, we were all taught to be grateful. During the holidays it’s hard not to be bombarded with overly jolly messages of giving thanks. Trust me, I’ve always been an advocate for finding gratitude even when life gives you lemons, but I’m willing to admit that there are situations when it feels near impossible to turn on the holly-jolly. Emotions like heartache, dissatisfaction and grief can be overwhelmingly large walls blocking out the light in the dark that would allow you to see the path to gratefulness.

For most Millennials, money is an emotionally charged subject that holds us back from feeling positive and free. Dissatisfaction with entry-level salaries, stress from our mountain of student debt and resentment for having to turn down dinner offers from friends, all create a depressing storyline that never seems to change. We’re just not sure how to be grateful for that.

But here’s the thing. We are all in control of our own stories. It’s up to you to figure out how to be grateful in every situation. You’re the author who decides how you feel, and how you feel effects what you do, and that outcome reveals a new feeling for you to take action on, and so the cycle keeps evolving.

When you’re in the throws of a difficult situation it’s imperative that you break the bad feeling cycle in order for the condition to improve. Of course this isn’t easy to do, but if you follow these three simple steps you will be given the tools you need to start tearing down the emotional blockages to find the light in the dark.

Pause and greet the situation. When a negative event aggravates your money story it’s natural to want to moan, complain, get angry and lash out. When these emotions bubble up, freeze and acknowledge them with respect and curiosity, like you would a stranger. Then talk aloud about what’s going on in order to prevent yourself from getting swept down the emotional river.

I thought I had enough money to make it this month, but my eye doctor visit was way more than I thought it would be. This is stressing me out because now I don’t think I can go out to dinner with my friend.

Surrender in order to make room for what can be. Surrendering is not a weakness. Rather it’s the brave thing to do when you realize your resources are low and you know you can’t win the battle, but that doesn’t mean that the war is over. Acceptance allows you to let go of the pain from the past, freeing up your mind to think creatively and productively about your next move.

I recognize I can’t afford to go out for dinner, but I don’t want to miss my friend because of that. Maybe she would be up to coming over and cooking with me. We could even choose a recipe together out of that cookbook I rarely get to use.

Use your tools and start excavating the light. Now that you’ve stopped yourself from floating down the emotion river, and accepted your situation, you’re in a better frame of mind to write the next scene of your story. When you choose an action that gets you closer to happiness, or even just hopefulness, giving thanks is easier to do.

I’m excited that my friend is coming over; it will be much easier to talk to her in a quiet and more intimate place.

From now on, when life gives you lemons, acknowledge your emotions, accept the situation and make some lemonade. Then, take time be grateful.

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Tips on charitable giving that won’t hurt your bottom line

When you find a cause you wholeheartedly support, it’s easy to jump in with both feet and your wallet open. But the key is to give as much as you can, without sabotaging your own financial needs — or your long-term goals, like retirement.

When you find a cause you wholeheartedly support, it’s easy to jump in with both feet and your wallet open. But the key is to give as much as you can, without sabotaging your own financial needs — or your long-term goals, like retirement.

Giving to a charity you believe in is an investment of sorts — not the kind you put in your portfolio, but the kind you make in your psyche. People who give back have been shown to sleep better and exercise more. Giving back has been known to make us healthier and happier. And that means, in a round about way, that giving back can improve your bank account balance — happy people earn more money, according to a recent piece of research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

When you find a cause you wholeheartedly support, it’s easy to jump in with both feet and your wallet open. But the key is to give as much as you can, without sabotaging your own financial needs — or your long-term goals, like retirement. Here, how to strike a balance:

Work it into your budget. Research from Giving USA suggests that those who give generally hand over an average of 2% of their disposable income. To settle on an amount you feel comfortable with, you first have to know what your disposable income is — and many people don’t. That means creating a budget and including charitable donations as a line item. Start by listing out your monthly take-home pay, then subtracting all of your monthly expenses (it’s okay to estimate, but when in doubt, round up). Include savings as an expense, and aim to save 10% of your income. That exercise will give you a feel for how much you can afford to give to a cause you support without sabotaging your own savings.

Make it automatic. Once you’ve decided where you want your money to go, and how much you want to give, make your contributions automatic. That way, you can be sure the money gets where it is supposed to go each month. Giving monthly will also help you stay on track. Otherwise, you may wind up with little left to contribute at the end of the year. A site like JustGive.org can help you do that through automatic deductions to the charity you choose, and many charities now accept automatic contributions as well by charging your credit card or debiting your bank account on a regular basis.

Give your time. If you can’t afford to give as much as you want to, you can always give of yourself. Talk to your favorite causes about what you might be able to offer. And if you have special skills — say in accounting or public relations — be sure to mention them. The same, too, goes for giving items. While cash is king, many charities will take donations of clothing, canned goods, even old cars.

Don’t forget the tax advantages. The fact that your donations are deductible (assuming you itemize on your tax return) can help you give more. Charity Navigator has a helpful calculator on its website that can help you determine the net cost of your donation, as well as the tax savings, based on your tax bracket. Let’s say your tax rate is 25%. A $100 donation actually ends up costing you only $75, after the tax deduction. Perhaps that means you can bump your donation up a notch.

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