January 29, 2019 — Perhaps you have heard of the FIRE movement, which stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early. The idea is to retire in one’s late 30s or early 40s by a combination of aggressively cutting down on spending and amassing retirement savings. There are hundreds of thousands of millenials, many of them in the hi-tech sector, who are enthralled with this idea. In many ways the movement is an outgrowth of the old “What is your number” question – as in how much money do you have to have in the bank before you think you can tell your boss to take this and sh*ve it! But for all of its devotees, there are many financial experts who warn that FIRE is not either feasible or safe. Here is what that smoke is all about.
One expert believes that is just not possible to accumulate a large enough pile of savings to be able to safely pull off an early retirement. Suze Orman, the popular financial guru, thinks you need $5 million to be able to pull off retirement. She thinks FIRE could be “the biggest (financial) mistake” of a lifetime. Mitch Tutman dismisses her figure as too high, saying you can do it with $1 million. Either way, it is the rare person who can scrimp and save enough to get to any one of those levels by the age of 40.
Note: This is Module 2 in our Online Retirement Planning 101 Series. See end of article for full list.
January 26, 2019 — The overwhelming #1 suggestion for our Retirement 101 series was “How to Retire on Less than $1 million” (smaller numbers were suggested to). Certainly most retirees find themselves in this predicament. Living on Social Security plus maybe some small savings is not a recipe for a happy retirement – unless you take drastic steps!
Over the years in many articles we have outlined some of the tactics you can apply to make the best of this situation. But even if you fortunate to be well fixed financially in retirement, you still might be able to profit from a few of these ideas.
Exercise #1: Figure Out Your budget (this applies to everyone!).
Until you have a good idea of what your retirement expenses will be and how they match up to your income, you can’t really start planning. While not difficult to do, it is a critical step to head off what could be a disaster – running out of money way before you are ready to check out. This budget worksheet in csv format contains most of the items you need to consider when developing a budget – just input them into a spreadsheet, by hand or on a computer.
We had proposed 17 different potential modules for the course. The idea was that people could take as many as they felt they needed for their retirement planning preparation. The comments contained solid endorsement and/or additional ideas on six of our seventeen. But even better, you suggested seven topics we hadn’t thought of, and all of them were interesting. Another way to look at these suggestions is that they are a great reflection of people’s concerns about retirement – the topics that keep people up at night!
The new topics that got the most interest were “retiring without a lot of money”, “being single in retirement”, “loneliness and social relationships in retirement”, and “the family bind/sandwich/family relationships”. Interesting that so many have to do with the social aspect of retirement, a topic that gets overlooked in retirement planning. We have selected some of the representative suggestions below (and as you will see, they were great!). Of course, we welcome more ideas for the series too!
January 18, 2019 – The good news is that the vast majority (90%) of Facebook users do not pass along articles that represent fake news. But the bad news is that people over 65 are seven times more likely than younger people to post about articles that are not factual.
The study was done by a group at Princeton University who studied the 2016 election campaign. They found that the Facebook users who shared the most fake stories were much more likely to be over the age of 65, and to be self-declared Republicans.
The authors of the study concluded that, just as older people are more likely to fall for financial scams, so they are open to manipulation by groups that publish stories on the web that are just not true.
What can you do? Regardless of party, the vast majority of people do not want to encourage or pass along false information, whether it comes from Russia, China, hate groups, or political partisans. We encourage you to have a critical eye towards everything you read online. Ask yourself, is this published by a media outlet that employs trained journalists committed to the truth, or on a website with little or no editorial oversight? Just about every news organization has some degree of bias, but bias is a lot different than publishing false information. So if you read something that seems sensational, give it the sniff test. You can use fact checking websites like snopes.com and factcheck.org to help you detect if something is true or not.
January 16, 2018 — Late in 2018 we published a series of Best Places to Retire lists for four U.S. regions. They were based on popularity – the 20 towns and cities in each region that had the most online visits at Topretirements. To kick off the new year we are picking the “2019 best of the best” from those 80 – the 10 retirement towns that we think are the best places to retire. While the original 80 made it because of popularity, these 10 represent our subjective best places selections. Some of the factors we weighed were cultural and recreational opportunities, climate, expense, taxes, the quality of the downtowns, and beauty. Obviously, your personal criteria might make for a different list. (Note that we did not include active adult communities on this list, which meant that places like The Villages did not get included).
1. Asheville, NC Asheville is a prosperous small city of just over 75,000 in the Blue Ridge mountains of western North Carolina. The downtown is filled with cafes, restaurants, and art deco buildings. Because it is in the mountainous part of the state it tends to have 4 seasons. The surrounding area has other towns popular with retirees, along with a huge number of 55+ and active adult communities.
2. Sarasota, FL. Some consider this thriving city midway down the Gulf Coast to be the cultural capital of Florida, after Miami. Sarasota has a great downtown with many interesting neighborhoods. An impressive array of cultural facilities is available in Sarasota. Barrier islands like Siesta offer great beaches and developments where retirees can put their feet up.
(Note: this is the first of a 2 part series on Costa Rica. The second will focus on expat retirement in the country. ) January 13, 2019 — Does your retirement include a bucket list trip to Costa Rica, one of the world’s greatest ecotourism destinations? This Central American country, situated north of Panama and south of Nicaragua, has an incredible array of attractions that bring in tourists from all over the world. But unlike more traditional vacation spots where the places to visit are fairly obvious (think Paris or Normandy in France) Costa Rican tourism is complex. The choices of where to visit can be difficult to figure out. This article will tell you what to expect if you go, what your options are, and how to plan and book your trip.
Costa Rica snapshot Costa Rica (CR) has long coastlines on two sides – the Pacific on the west and the Caribbean to the east. The country has a very stable democratic government and a prosperous economy based mainly on tourism, technology, and agriculture. It has no army; that was abolished in 1948. The climate is tropical with a rainy season from mid-September through December. The terrain is quite mountainous with peaks over 10,000′; it can get quite cool in those areas. The terrain goes from very dry areas on the west coast to cloud and rain forests further east.
January 1, 2018 – What better time of the year to think about this project than the first day of a New Year. Josh Walker over at NextAvenue.org wrote about their 2016 Facebook challenge to create a very short memoir. The challenge was to write down in six words or less a phrase that summarizes your life or philosophy. While a touch narcissistic, is a very good way to reflect on who you are right now, what you have accomplished, what and who you care about. Better than that, it is a chance to mindfully consider how you want to change.