“Saving money is something we can control. It may not be easy…but saving money is possible.”
— Kim D. H. Butler
Many Americans struggle with their saving habits. After all, it is a natural human tendency to spend more as we earn more. Unfortunately, this approach puts us in a perpetual holding pattern, running ever faster to keep from backsliding financially.
Saving, on the other hand, is a progressive action. It is a habit that requires self-discipline to start, but one that pays long-term dividends.
The wealthiest people are often good at earning high incomes and investing money successfully. They understand how to use leverage, manage risk, diversify, and take advantage of tax code incentives. But they also understand the importance of putting first things first. And the foundation of wealth is the habit of saving.
“Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples.” — George Burns
The Early Retirement Movement
There is a growing community of people dedicated to quitting their jobs at increasingly younger ages. It goes by the FIRE acronym (financial independence, retire early) and it’s gaining significant traction amongst (typically) high-earning young adults who envision a different, more flexible lifestyle.
Who is the typical FIRE follower? Many come from the tech world, engineering, or other well-paying industries. (It’s hard to save aggressively on a less-than median wage.) Largely male in the early years of the movement, now there are plenty of women and families in the movement. Many retire in their 30’s or 40’s, but some as early as their late 20’s. Some are entrepreneurial, some are not. Some like to travel, others are homebodies. Most are attracted to simple living and time freedom.
The “rules” behind FIRE are simple, as is the basic math used by the community:
“You got to know when to hold up, know when to fold up, know when to walk away, and know when to run.”—Kenny Rogers, “The Gambler”
A few weeks ago, we gave you the good, the bad, and the ugly about universal life insurance policies. As it turns out, there isn’t a lot of “good” for aging policy owners who are seeing their premiums skyrocket. Lawsuits continue to mount from policy owners who feel they have been misled, while state regulators in New York have issued a cautionary alert to consumers about universal life insurance with this all caps, bolded warning: “YOUR PREMIUM PAYMENT AMOUNT IS PROBABLY NOT GUARANTEED AND MAY INCREASE.”
Now, warnings are great if you are shopping for life insurance. But what should you do if you already have a universal life policy that lacks guaranteed level premiums and a guaranteed death benefit? In this article, we’ll outline options and actions that can help protect you from an imploding policy.
Last year, Sylvia Bloom left $6.24 million in her will to the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a non-profit that provides social services, arts programs and health care services. Sylvia’s generous legacy donation was extraordinary in more ways than one. Not only was it the single largest gift from any individual in the 125-year history of the organization, but it was left by a legal secretary from Brooklyn who gave no clues—not even to her closest friends and family—about her wealth.
Over the last decade or so, a new type of philanthropist hero has emerged: the secret millionaire. They are ordinary people who build extraordinary wealth, often funding non-profits with enormous gifts.
If you pay attention to the dominant current cultural narratives about women and wealth in the U.S., you might think women are victims.
Victims of the wage gap.
Victims of the wealth gap.
Victims of sexism, rampant discrimination, and, of course, that dark, shadowy testosterone-driven force intent on holding women back and preventing them from reaching their potential: the patriarchy.
I’m not making light of the very real challenges women around the world face—now or in the past—including poverty and wide economic disparities. If anything, I want to raise awareness about financial realities. But let’s look at the whole truth of these matters.
“False wealth is the accumulation of finite resources in the hopes of satisfying infinite desires.”
—The Last Safe Investment, by Michael Ellsberg and Bryan Franklin
Mutual funds. A college degree. A home. These are the best vehicles to invest in for a return — so we are told. But does this typical advice have a “blind spot”? We think so. And it’s a whopper.
Not until after the dotcom bust in 2000 and the financial crash in 2008 did many Americans wake up and realize that “Financial Advice Commonly Derived,” or FACD, simply had not worked for them. You know the narrative: go to work and earn a living, scrimp and save, invest those savings in markets (where, um, you have no control), and then watch the money magically multiply (an alleged 7% annualized). Voila! After 30-40 years, you can retire and be happy—via delayed gratification.
“The plan is broken at every step,” says Michael Ellsberg, co-author, with celebrated Silicon Valley strategist Bryan Franklin, of The Last Safe Investment, a provocative game-changing book published last year. “The investing part is totally devoid of your human capital,” he points out. “It separates investing from anything you have skill or control or domain over. Which we think is a pretty big problem.
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