December 2019 Best of the Web

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I put together this month’s “Best of ” post a little early and with a few more items than usual to help you start the new year (and decade!) off on the right foot.

We start with news of new legislation out of Washington that will substantially change retirement planning.

Next we explore a few ideas that tend to be front of mind as we celebrate the holiday season and transition to a new year: giving, taxes and getting healthier.

A few articles dive into the math of retirement taxes and market returns, and the results may surprise you. We also test your retirement planning assumptions.

Other articles look at behavioral finance issues. Finally we close out by sharing some big ideas about how the world is changing, and some small ideas to keep your world fun and interesting.

Happy holidays!


Elizabeth O’Brien writes Congress Just Passed the Biggest Retirement Bill in More Than a Decade. Here’s What You Need to Know

‘Tis the Season

The end of the year is a time that many of us are thinking about giving. . . and taxes.

Christine Benz gives ideas for addressing both at once, writing These Charitable Investment Strategies Deliver a ‘Three-fer’. They provide the satisfaction of giving, a tax benefit and as an added bonus they may improve your portfolio.

Andy Hill gives ideas for How to Make Charitable Giving a Family Tradition.

Jeremy provides A Simple Year-End Tax Checklist from the blog Go Curry Cracker.

Staying Healthy

Health and fitness tend to be front of mind as many of us are thinking about New Year’s resolutions.

Earlier this year, I wrote about the importance of staying strong and mobile in retirement. I shared that, in theory, I am a proponent of yoga. In practice. . . well I don’t regularly make time to practice yoga. Until this past month when I completed 30 Days of Yoga With Adrienne. It’s free and accessible anywhere through YouTube, most of the videos are 30 minutes or less, and it’s very beginner friendly. This allowed me to overcome the biggest obstacles that have stopped me from practicing yoga regularly in the past. And I feel great! Check it out.

Tim Ferriss interviewed Peter Attia M.D. Check out at least the first 30 minutes of this long and wide ranging conversation. Attia introduces the idea of the ‘Centenarian Olympics.’ It’s a fascinating framework to approach fitness, function and health as you age.

This month I read the outstanding book The Price We Pay: What Broke American Healthcare – and How to Fix It by Marty Makary M.D. The book gives great insights on incentives in our medical system to over treat illness, surprise billing and collections practices that can cause financial harm to even those with “good” insurance, and wellness programs gone awry. The lessons in this book will help you to protect your health and wealth.

Before leaving the topic of health, it’s important to remember that health is not entirely under our control. The challenge of finding affordable health insurance is always front of mind for those planning for early retirement. Dan Weissman writes It’s Not Just You: Picking Health Insurance Is Hard. Here’s How To Be Smart About It.

Making a List, Checking It Twice

Charles Schwab’s website provides a list of 7 Faulty Planning Assumptions to Avoid. Everyone’s situation is different, but these are generally good rules to check out and give some thought.

Digging Into the Data

Darrow has been writing for years that taxes should not be a big concern for most retirees. Karsten “Big ERN” Jeske backed that up with detailed analysis when he answered the question How much can we earn in retirement without paying federal income taxes?

I recently wrote about a common fear among readers, investing at the top of a stock market. There are many hypotheses about what is driving returns and how the market is being propped up. Ben Carlson asked Where Have All The Stock Market Returns Come From This Decade? The answers he found may surprise you.

Psychology of Money

I’m fascinated by behavioral finance. Of particular interest to me at this point in life is the challenge of making the transition from saving for retirement to spending those savings.

James Turner writes about The Fear of Spending Money from the perspective of a frugal physician who by all measures is doing quite well.

Another struggle many retirees face that Darrow has written about is finding purpose and meaning in life when your time isn’t dominated by a job. Brad Beckstrom asks Are We Happier When We’re Uncomfortable?

Big (and not so big) Ideas

Retirement planning requires projecting decades into the future, which is impossible to do with any accuracy. Still it is worth thinking about what the biggest drivers of change will be. Morgan Housel does that with Three Big Things: The Most Important Forces Shaping the World.

And for those that would prefer to end on a lighter note, it’s important to remember to live in the moment. At this season of life and season of the year, the easiest place for me to be moment is in the mountains on a powder day. So from Brendan Leonard here are 31 Things Skiing Can Teach Us About Life.

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[Chris Mamula used principles of traditional retirement planning, combined with creative lifestyle design, to retire from a career as a physical therapist at age 41. After poor experiences with the financial industry early in his professional life, he educated himself on investing and tax planning. After achieving financial independence, Chris began writing about wealth building, DIY investing, financial planning, early retirement, and lifestyle design at Can I Retire Yet? He is also the primary author of the book Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence. Chris also does financial planning with individuals and couples at Abundo Wealth, a low-cost, advice-only financial planning firm with the mission of making quality financial advice available to populations for whom it was previously inaccessible. Chris has been featured on MarketWatch, Morningstar, U.S. News & World Report, and Business Insider. He has spoken at events including the Bogleheads and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants annual conferences. Blog inquiries can be sent to Financial planning inquiries can be sent to]

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  1. Chris! Happy holidays, my friend! I hope you’ve been well. Good post, as usual. Your content is always useful. I would like to read the “cliff’s notes” on Dr. Makary’s book. Can you provide anymore of a summary on this?

    Also, do you have any real estate-related articles forthcoming? Just curious. Cheers!

    1. Hello Dave. Happy holidays back at you and yours!

      As someone who works in the system and shares my distaste for it, you’ll probably spend most of your time nodding your head in agreement with things that Makary writes about. The things I most enjoyed were his honest tips that will help protect patients who go in blindly trusting medical providers to be aware of perverse incentives that lead to over screening, over diagnosis and over treatment. He also provides insights to help people protect themselves from financial harm inflicted by the system. While I’m still skeptical of any major improvements to our system, it was encouraging to at least read his reports of work being done to reform health care from the inside by doctors and other medical professionals. If nothing else, I think you’ll find it an interesting look at our system. For those who don’t have much knowledge or experience other than what they see as patients, I would imagine the book will be pretty startling.

      Judging by the clicks on that link, there is a good deal of interest in this topic among our readers. Stay tuned, I may do a full review of the book or reach out to the author for a Q&A.


  2. Studies show that yoga can increase the risk of mental illness. One isn’t just doing the exercise…

    1. Sandy,

      I am not a yoga expert and haven’t done any research into it. As a physical therapist who has dabbled in it, I think it provides an excellent combination of core strengthening, flexibility, balance training and functional movement. I’ve never heard of yoga increasing mental illness and don’t understand why it would. Do you have resources that back this up?


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