Before writing, family history passed from generation to generation through complex storytelling. Thousands of years ago it was easy enough to tell your children not to throw stones at the lion. Much more effective was the passionate telling of a story, around a camp fire, of what terrible things happened to the little boy who threw stones at the lion. Through storytelling not only would the child understand the cause and effect of such behavior, he would also be provided a tool to instruct his own children when the time came. In current times we have plenty of opportunity to learn through books and film that a certain behavior will have consequences. Yet, storytelling remains an important part of passing a family’s culture and experience through the ages.
One Christmas during the time our family was living in Japan my father bought two handmade porcelain china dolls for his brother’s two pre-teen daughters. The dolls were fairly expensive and unique. He lovingly packed them in shipping boxes and mailed them to his brother’s home in Oregon along with a letter to each niece. My parents were excited about the gifts they had sent their nieces for Christmas and hoped the girls would appreciate and enjoy them.
During the 1980s I was visiting my aunt and uncle in the LA area. My uncle told me about his fiftieth reunion which had taken place a couple of weeks prior to my visit. He said, “Betty and I got all dressed up and headed toward the nearby hotel where the reunion was being held, but as we turned into the parking lot I looked at her and told her I didn’t want to see those people. I wanted to remember them the way they were, not the way they are now. We turned out of the parking lot and went to a restaurant and had a quiet dinner.” This was surprising to me as they had been a power couple in high school and had attended all prior reunions – and enjoyed the events.
Yet, that’s how I feel about my class. In the early 1970s we were young, fresh, full of life, and the opportunities lying before us were unlimited. I want my memories to be of a bunch of fresh-faced seventeen-year-olds graduating from a brand-new high school. When speaking to my wife I still refer to that building as the new high school. My memories of the school are stuck in 1973 and perhaps it’s best for me to keep its people confined there as well. Continue reading →
I can’t think of a greater gift from a parent to a child than the gift of an education. By gift what I mean is helping to matriculate a child through college; coming out the other end debt free. Continue reading →
Can you save too much in your tax deferred retirement accounts? The short answer is, yes. The longer answer is perhaps, but most Boomers will never have to worry about it. The press is full of stories detailing the sad state of retirement funding for the Boomer generation and how they are woefully unprepared for what once was a distant retirement and is now upon them. Only recently have I started picking up on articles dealing with the equally serious problem of families who have saved too much, or at least too much in tax deferred accounts. Continue reading →
My previous post demonstrated how a young guy named Rich got out of school, worked 40 years and saved enough to retire with an income equal to his final year salary from actually working. The key assumptions I discussed were that he would need to save 21% of his income for all 40 years and get a modest salary increase every year. What I did not discuss was the probability that he would be able to earn a steady 8% rate-of-return (ROR) on his 401k year in and year out.
I should note that his discussion is for your entertainment and designed to get you thinking about the future. Implementation of any concepts described should be reviewed with a professional financial planner beforehand.
As any student of personal finance, you should readily ascertain, the actual ROR you earn may jump around considerably. I’ve been an active investor for over thirty years and I have had years with double digit gains and years with double digit losses. On balance, I am far ahead for having been in the market of stocks and bonds since the early ‘80s. Continue reading →
As a CPA and a former financial advisor, it seems people are always asking me one of two questions: 1) how much should I be saving and 2) what do you think my number is? My usual answer is 15 to 20 percent and more than you think! The people asking the questions are usually looking for free advice and, after I give them the advice they seek, I add the simple disclaimer, “It’s worth every penny you paid.” All kidding aside, the financial discussions on this blog are to entertain and to get you thinking. When it comes time that you actually want to take action you should meet face to face with a qualified advisor, who should take the time to understand your individual situation. Continue reading →
With summer’s end, come the merchandise sales at the lake. Over the weekend I purchased a ball cap that I had my eye on for some time. That morning the $19.95 hat was in a large bin of hats offered for $5.00. As the young woman at the counter is checking us out she tells my wife Sue, “That will be $8.33.” Sue says, “That seems kind of high”, to which the sales clerk replies, “Well there’s sales tax”.
Mildly amused up to this point, I jump into the conversation. “ Do you agree the hat is five dollars?” “Yes”, she replies. “Is the Idaho sales tax rate still 6%?” Again, “Yes.” “Well then, the tax would be thirty cents and the total is $5.30.” At this point she presents us with a printed receipt and says, “But it says $8.33!” I offer, “Maybe if you tell it that the hat is $5.00 it will print the correct receipt.” She says, “Okay, I can override the price”. Me, “Really, they let you do that?” Oh my. Continue reading →
We first met her on a crisp Colorado fall day in 1999, around the time when golf clubs are being stored for the winter and skis are being readied for the season. From the moment we met, there was never a doubt we would be taking her home that afternoon. And it wasn’t long until she found her place in our family. It has been over fourteen years and our girls are now in their twenties, yet the memories of them with Molly when they were younger are still fresh. When she first joined our lives, the girls were in second and fifth grade. That first Christmas we purchased a permit to go into the forest to a cut a tree. And of course Molly went with us. I still smile when I see the pictures we took with the girls and Molly next to our fresh cut tree. She has accompanied us on countless ski trips, softball tournaments and birthday parties. She even spent a semester with my younger daughter at the University of Colorado! Later in life Molly visited a number of western states with us, with the family’s favorite being trips to the shores of Priest Lake in northern Idaho. Continue reading →