Boomers, Markets & Money

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


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Book Review: “What if…Workbook: Give the Gift of Preparedness to Your Loved Ones

Now that fall is here, many of us are dusting off our neglected to-do lists. For those interested in organizing their financial information, Gwen Morgan has put together a handy fill-in-the-blank guide to “putting your affairs in order.”

A ceramic mother mallard duck followed by two ducklings

PUT YOUR DUCKS IN A ROW! (Click to Enlarge)

The workbook guides an individual or family as they assemble their important information in one place. This helps us by:

  • Making it easier to find information when we need it
  • Helps someone forced to take over in an emergency

After losing her mother to Alzheimer’s, Morgan realized she didn’t really know how her mother wanted her to handle many decisions, including planning her funeral service. She thought a guide would help loved ones carry out a person’s last wishes.

I like the workbook and think it has value even if a person isn’t ready to record all of his or her “last wishes.” Even people who are more organized than usual will appreciate the prompts for information.

A Ceramic Mallard Duckling Sitting on Grass

Take Care of the Little Ones (Click to Enlarge)

Space is provided for:

  •  A page to rip out to send to two people to tell them where your workbook is.
  • Personal Information
  • Contact information for loved ones
  • Contact information for household matters such as utilities, attorneys, medical and friends. There’s even a section for important information on dependent children.
  • There are pages for financial accounts such as banking, brokerage, mortgages and other loans, insurance, document storage.
  • Family medical history. This is helpful to an individual in an emergency. But it also can be helpful for the rest of the extended family to have a record of medical conditions that run in the family.
  • Personal Last Wishes.  A lot of space and suggestions are given for detailed instructions.
  • Gifts for loved ones. This can save a lot of family arguments!
A Ceramic Mother Mallard Duck with a Duckling on Each Side

Gathering Together Important Information Helps the Whole Family (Click to Enlarge)

You can find information on the guide at http://www.whatifworkbook.com


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How The Heck Do I Invest My Money?

The crazy, bizarre events of the last few years have had me scratching my head as I tried to figure out how to invest our money.

The older we get, the scarier these decisions become because we have less time to make up for our mistakes. And who has the time to keep up with each new crisis and every speech politicians make? Not to mention the volatility caused by high-frequency trading.

Barry Ritholtz’s article “Keep it simple, avoid the pitfalls” has good suggestions for simplifying investment decisions. These strategies help tame some of the emotions that are involved with investing money.

Ways to Avoid Portfolio Mistakes

Avoid Investment Pitfalls

  •  Use passive investing versus active investing. In other words, instead of investing in individual stocks or hiring an active manager, use index ETFs (Exchange-Traded Funds). My post “Resources to Help Boomers Decide if ETFs are Right for Their Portfolios” details a list of reasons investors choose to use these securities. It suggests articles that give basic information about Exchange-Traded Funds and helpful websites.
  •   Diversify across asset classes and keep expenses low. You hear this advice all the time but it is important—and hard to follow. We all want to pile into to the latest hot investment as the price is rising.
  • The suggestions of dollar cost averaging and “be mindful of valuation” seem to be contradictory but can be used in combination. I try to make myself add a little bit of exposure to an asset class that is underweighted in my portfolio as markets are dropping. I don’t try to buy at the very bottom since who knows when that will happen. I just figure, if a sector is down substantially, on average, I should be OK in five to seven years.
reduce stress of portfolio decisions

Tame Emotions

  • A few suggestions are particularly important for beginning investors:

Avoid venture capital and private equity

“Most IPOs are a sucker play.”

“Avoid new financial products”

Really, do you think the big money is going to give us individual investors a good deal?! These complex products are meant to humble, confuse, and separate us from our money. Warren Buffet is right when he repeatedly says that he only buys what he understands.

I recommend Ritholtz’s easy-to-read article. “Keep it simple, avoid the pitfalls” The Big Picture

Tightwad Tips: Small Recurring Savings Add Up

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I’m into saving with the least amount of work.  I just don’t have the patience for coupon clipping or other time-consuming money-saving habits.

Still, as we transition into a new stage of life, what is important to us evolves; our spending patterns should evolve as well.  Take the time to review spending to make sure that money isn’t leaking out of the budget unnoticed.  The way I look at it, if we take the time to do this, we increase our chances of securing what we need and of having the resources to do what we most value with our time.

For example, like many other baby boomers, my husband and I decided to buy a vacation home on the west coast of Florida in 2009.  I know, I know, I can already hear the jokes.  Florida–God’s waiting room.  But anyway, it’s been fun and a great place to stay active in the cold weather months.

But it’s not cheap supporting a second home and we need to save more for our retirement years.  So we had to be creative.  We rent out the house part-time. We combed through our routine expenses to see if we could shave a bit off each one.  Pruning expenses helps with saving now, but also helps us to get used to living on less. Looking at credit card and bank statements for bills enrolled in automatic payment plans was a good place to start. They have a way of getting more expensive, and it’s easy not to notice the increases when we have them on “set it and forget it.”  Here are a few of the items we were able to cut:

  • The cable bill. Like some lucky pre-retirees our kids are out on their own and self-sufficient now. (Whew!)  But we were still paying for premium channels that we rarely watched. I dropped the channels and now every month we save a bit.
  • You may be enrolled in a Web or print subscription that you no longer read. Cancelling those is an easy way to cut spending.
  • Call your wireless carrier. They may have a cheaper plan that fits your current calling patterns.  The company is not going to call you up to suggest that.

If you manage to save $75 a month, that adds up to $900 a year.  After five years, that’s $4,500—serious savings without a lot of work.

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