New Social Security Rules: Do You Need a Calculator?

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The only constant is change. Do a little retirement planning, and you’ll soon bump into that truth. Earlier this month the U.S. government gave us another reminder: The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 made some of the most significant changes to Social Security benefits in years. Lawmakers unexpectedly tacked the changes onto an emergency measure to avoid a U.S. debt default, catching many observers by surprise. Though, since Social Security is a primary driver of U.S. debt, maybe we should be grateful our contentious government could muster some progress on its longstanding financial issues….

So, what has changed? The “file and suspend” and “restricted application” claiming strategies, obscure and complex options once available to two-earner couples, will soon belong to the past. These strategies were an unintended consequence of a law passed in 2000 to encourage working during retirement. They might have remained vague technicalities but for the introduction of software and books aimed at “getting what’s yours” out of Social Security. The loopholes grew in popularity.

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Are You Feeling Lucky? The Two Schools of Retirement Income…

Golden dice

Are you feeling lucky? That's how the debate between the two schools of retirement income often shapes up. Do you keep your retirement assets in the stock market, where you'll have more flexibility and better odds for long-term financial … [Continue reading]

A Short Course in Investing

Empty chalkboard and supplies

You can commit a large chunk of your life to becoming a better investor, if you want. You can read articles, devour books, and enroll in classes. Some people, myself included, will take that full plunge. But in the end, most experienced investors … [Continue reading]

Running Low in Retirement: Income Strategies

Gas pump pumping gold dollars

Running out of money before you run out of life. It's the biggest fear many retirees face. And, for baby boomers and succeeding generations without guaranteed pensions, it's not just a night terror -- it's a realistic concern. Without adequate … [Continue reading]

Running Low in Retirement: Expense Strategies

Fuel pump nozzle

What can you do if you're running out of money in retirement? Even those fortunate enough to have a comfortable nest egg could find themselves feeling financially squeezed at some point. If that happens, what should you do? At the simplest … [Continue reading]

What to Do When the Market Tanks

Downward arrow

It was a Monday morning in the fall of 1987. I was young software engineer immersed in a technical project. The older guys in the office were talking about a crash in the stock market. It would become known as "Black Monday" -- the largest one-day … [Continue reading]

Traveling in a Small RV


Travel is a key part of retirement for many. And traveling in a small RV can be a fun, flexible, and economical solution. Our Class B camper van has been fundamental to our retirement lifestyle. We’ve spent hundreds of nights in it, and can’t imagine … [Continue reading]

Summer Vacation: Retirement Towns, Adversity and Longevity


Though I no longer work a regular job, it still feels like a vacation when I break from the usual routine. And, for the past four weeks, we've enjoyed a major break from our regular routine. In late July, we left Santa Fe for an extended road trip to … [Continue reading]

Is Early Retirement Irresponsible?

Hang gliding into sunset

Retirement is an invention of the last half century. Thanks to social welfare programs and longer life spans, more people could look forward to life after a career. But now it's possible for some dedicated and fortunate workers to put together the … [Continue reading]

The Ideal Retirement Location – Will we stay in Santa Fe?

La Piedra

I awake at dawn and glance out our bedroom window. A rosy glow, mixed with a scattering of monsoon clouds, is taking shape over Santa Fe Baldy to our east. The rocky peak rises to 12,622 feet, anchoring the Sangre de Cristo range in our backyard. … [Continue reading]

Why You Need Multiple Sources of Retirement Income

Jicarita peak

The weather is unpredictable in the high mountains. We carry special clothing for sun, bugs, wind, rain, and cold. There is no single garment that works for all conditions. In generating retirement income, you need diversity too. There is no … [Continue reading]

Socially Responsible Investing: Worth the Price?

Bicycle spokes

Most of us want to be "socially responsible" -- however we define that. We don't want to trash the planet for our children and grandchildren. We don't think corporations should exploit their workers or their communities. And we don't intend to profit … [Continue reading]

Long-Term Care Insurance: Why We Aren’t Buying It

Insurance keyboard button

For us, the debate over long-term care insurance (LTCI) is finished. We aren't buying it. In my last article on LTCI, I explored the pros and many cons of this complex product pitched at baby boomers. LTCI does leverage your money in some … [Continue reading]

Long-Term Care Insurance: Beyond the Sales Pitch

Long Term Care

The long-term care insurance (LTCI) debate is chock-full of misinformation. Frightening statistics on nursing home care abound: The costs are huge, the odds are high. It apparently adds up to one conclusion: The long-term care decision is critical to … [Continue reading]

Financial Security in an Uncertain World: Protecting Your Wealth

Knight sword

If your savings are growing, you tend to feel safe. And if they're declining, you tend to worry. That's truer than ever as you get older, and the options for replacing wealth via a job disappear. But your money lives in a fickle financial world, … [Continue reading]

Financial Security in an Uncertain World: Assessing the Risks

Cloud and moon

If you are retired or on your way to financial independence, then you have assets. You've stockpiled wealth in some form. But that wealth is embedded in an always fickle, sometimes hazardous world. To preserve your assets, you need to … [Continue reading]

Does Owning a Vacation Home Make Sense?

Log home

It was a crisp, cloudless autumn day in 2004. My son and I set off on mountain bikes from a trailhead in rugged north Georgia. We climbed gradually on an abandoned logging road. It led up through beautiful old hardwood forest to near the summit of a … [Continue reading]

The 6 Crucial Questions to Answer Before You Retire

Piggy bank and calculator

Readers and friends often ask me about the retirement decision-making "process." How do you prepare, a year out, 6 months out, 3 months out? Do you need a written plan in advance? What about contingencies? Do you just pull the plug, or is there a … [Continue reading]

Financial Simplicity: What is Your Time Worth?

Zen garden stones

"Is the oil spilled? Is a little wine stolen? Say on the occasion, at such price is sold freedom from perturbation; at such price is sold tranquility…" --Epictetus Money is a stepping stone to more important things. If you're on track to your … [Continue reading]

Shopping Obamacare: Comparing Plans / Awaiting a Verdict

Caduceus symbol as scales

Much of my journey to early retirement was carefully planned. I saved a lot, invested carefully, read extensively. But in one area -- health care -- I was just plain lucky. Health insurance is one of the most critical issues in retirement: To live … [Continue reading]

Financial Freedom on a Shoestring

Old sneakers with laces

I'll admit it. I've led a life of some privilege. Maybe I didn't have it easy. But I didn't have it hard either. Simply by virtue of birth, I inherited most of the essential assets for my journey to financial independence…. No, my parents … [Continue reading]