Boomers, Markets & Money

A Down-to-Earth Discussion of Financial and Lifestyle Information for Baby Boomers


Review of PBS Frontline’s “The Retirement Gamble”

I recommend that you watch the eye-opening PBS Frontline Special “The Retirement Gamble.” Thank you to Claire for suggesting it.

Some key points from the program:

  • Many hidden layers of fees are eroding individual investor wealth.

Jack Bogle, founder of The Vanguard Group, gave an example of how much fees cost an individual over a 50-year investing lifetime. If this consumer receives a 7% annual return and pays 2% in annual fees, fees will erode two-thirds of the investor’s gains. Bogle said you can see these results on a compound interest table.

I decided to do just that and found an investment calculator at (Please click on the image below.)  Using the same figures show that the portfolio would be reduced by 63.58%. We should all be checking the fees on our retirement plans!

Annual Fees Greatly Reduce Portfolio Results

Investment Key Calculator (Click to Enlarge)

  • Robert Hiltonsmith, a policy analyst at Devos, examined his own retirement plan to see what fees were taken out of his account. He found that about 25 fees were extracted from his account by mutual funds, fund brokers, plan adminstrators, etc.

  • Teresa Ghilarducci, economist at The New School for Social Research said:

401(k) plans were originally designed for wealthy people. Now, the advisors middle class have access to are really just sales people.

American consumers don’t know the price, quality, or dangers of their 401k plans due to strong industry lobbying.

“So we know after 30 years of this 401(k) experiment that people do worse in 401(k)s than they would have if their money was in a traditional plan or if it was in a plain vanilla retirement account.”

  • Many of the options in plans are mediocre and many people are not prepared to invest their own money.

This became clear to me when I had someone from a cable company come to my home to repair the phone. When he saw that I had the TV set to a financial news channel, he began telling me that he had all of his retirement money in marijuana stocks. Although his portfolio had lost 50% of its value at this point, he was very optimistic about his future prospects. I was very shaken when he left as I wondered how many people were investing their retirement funds this recklessly.

  • According to the Department of Labor, there are no clear standards on who can give advice to consumers of retirement plans. Also, there is no clear way for a consumer to tell who has the expertise to advise them. There was intense industry lobbying when new standards were proposed, forcing them to be withdrawn.


PBS Frontline. Videos and transcripts.

Related Posts on This Blog

“Resources to Help You Decide  When to Take Social Security”

“A Critical Step for Preparing for Retirement”

“How the Heck Do I Invest My Money?”

“Book Review -‘The Bankers’ New Clothes: What’s Wrong With Banking and What to do About It”


Resources to Help You Decide When to Take Social Security

At What Age Should I Take Social Security Benefits?

At What Age Should I Take Social Security Benefits?

Are you confused about what age you should begin taking Social Security? I came across an article that clearly and efficiently summarizes information about the pros and cons of taking Social Security benefits at various ages. At the end of the post, I include links for other resources.

The article is “When Should You Take Social Security?” by Rande Spiegelman, CPA, CFP at the Schwab Center for Financial Research. It is a bit long but I like the article because:

  • There’s a handy table letting you know “When can you get your full Social Security benefit?” by birth year. Retirees born in 1937 or earlier received full benefits at age sixty-five. If you were born in 1938 or later, the retirement age to receive full benefits gradually increases. People born in 1960 or later must wait until age 67 to receive full benefits.
  • It gives specific figures on how much you will be penalized by the amount of months you retire before your “full retirement” age. It also let you know how much your monthly benefit will increase by the amount of time you delay in taking the check later. You don’t receive additional benefit for delaying past age 70. That shouldn’t be a problem for most people because over two-thirds take their Social Security benefit early.
  • The article gives a list of factors to consider when making this decision.

Here are a couple of other links:

  • U.S. Social Security Administrations benefit estimator
  • Kiplinger’s has an index of articles on Social Security topics. “10 Things You Must Know About Social Security” covers a lot of the same information as the article above as well as some additional tips. Another short article that you might find helpful is “How to Check Your Social Security Statement Online.

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How to Keep a Second Home Fun by Realistically Planning Future Expenses (Second in a Series)

Dreaming of that ideal vacation spot? Captiva Island. (Click to Enlarge)

Dreaming of that ideal vacation spot?
Captiva Island. (Click to Enlarge)

Realistic planning of future expenses is very important to keep your second home an escape from the stress of your day-to-day life. Who needs a huge financial obligation that wrecks retirement plans or adds worry to our lives?

This post will include a list of expenses we have encountered in maintaining our home. (Yes, I can be a drag sometimes.)

Each homeowner will have different expenses depending on the part of the country they live in, whether it is a condo or single-family home, etc. But here is our list, which can help you start your planning process:

  •  Homeowner’s Insurance is a big one and can be higher than your primary home insurance. Our home in Southwest Florida requires three types of insurance: dwelling x-wind, flood insurance and wind insurance. Find out what is required in your area.

“5 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Vacation Home” by Melissa Neiman discusses factors that affect insurance rates.

  • Perhaps you want to enjoy the sun and the sea while fishing.

    Perhaps you want to enjoy the sun and the sea while fishing.

    Real Estate Taxes. Check to see if rates are different for state residents and non-resident homeowners.

  • Utilities. Telephone, cable TV, Internet, electricity, water, sewer, etc.
  • Homeowner’s Association Fees. Yard maintenance may be additional for single-family homes.
  • Furnishings. Furniture, Dishes, Linens, etc.
  • Surprises (large and small.) Appliances will need repair and replacement. Then there are the really fun ones like roof leaks and bursting pipes.

    Taking a Dip in the Beautiful Waters of Blind Pass. Between Sanibel and Captiva Islands. (Click to Enlarge.)

    Taking a Dip in the Beautiful Waters of Blind Pass. Between Sanibel and Captiva Islands. (Click to Enlarge.)

Since you won’t be occupying your second home all year, there may be expenses that you don’t have at your primary home:

  • Home watch service. A good idea and sometimes required by mortgage companies.
  • Contracts for pest control, air conditioning, and heating maintenance.
  • We choose to offset some expenses by renting our home part-time. We find it convenient to use a rental agent, which leads to a 20% commission and small monthly marketing fee.

Despite the expenses, we’ve enjoyed our new home. One way to keep expenses down is to avoid buying an expensive trophy home. After all, if you are on vacation, you want to be outside enjoying yourself anyway.

Please enjoy some photographs from Sanibel, Captiva, and Useppa Islands in Southwestern Florida.

Do you like to walk and enjoy the vegetation?  Useppa Island. (Click to Enlarge)

Do you like to walk and enjoy the vegetation? Useppa Island. (Click to Enlarge)

In our last post , we talked about the quality of life issues that Baby Boomers should consider when purchasing a second home. “Lifestyle Considerations When Buying a Second Home”

I’d like to thank my much older brother Jim for suggesting the topic of this series.
Please write in your suggestions for post topics in the comment section.