Q: I am 85 years old, happily married for more than 60 years with four grown children. Our home was paid for 30 years ago. We have no debts...
Q: I am 85 years old, happily married for more than 60 years with four grown children. Our home was paid for 30 years ago. We have no debts.
We have about $285,000 in a savings account that we do not need to touch.
Our annual income consists of a $34,000 pension with cost-of-living increases, $8,000 from Social Security, and $14,000 from an income fund IRA that I’m trying to eliminate at a rate of $1,200 a month
Our total expenses — including income taxes, property taxes and health insurance — are about $35,000. Is there anything wrong with this picture? We have never had a financial adviser (or lawyer!).
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A: I don’t think you’ll suffer from a rude awakening in the future. At your age, your assets should carry you through.
While it may take incredible achievement to become vastly wealthy in America, life is not so demanding if you simply want to live comfortably. The basic elements are in your note. Here they are as a list:
• Marry, and stay married: The first part is easy, the second is more difficult. But it’s a great measure of capacity to adapt and change. Having children teaches us to defer and to live on less because the children need more.
• Be employed, stay employed: The fact that you have a sizable pension indicates you were a reliable employee for quite a few years. It also means you benefited from having an employer who did a lot of your saving for you. So you never needed an investment adviser and you could manage your basic saving on your own.
• Live within your means: Your pension and Social Security benefits are greater than your annual expenses. You find this easy to do but, trust me, many don’t. Living within your means allowed you to build a comfortable nest egg.
Sadly, the young are not so blessed. Employment stability no longer exists. Our pension system is being dismantled. Corporations no longer take the responsibility for either saving for our future or for managing the savings. So it is a lot more difficult to lead a life of modest spending.
Q: I am diversifying my asset allocation and have been told to add global bonds, which I don’t understand.
I now have 35 percent in muni bonds and 65 percent in diversified stock index funds.
I am 62 and in a high tax bracket. My plan is to earn income until 67 or longer. What is your opinion on global bonds for my situation?
A: Like it or not, the long-term direction of our currency is down; that makes owning some foreign bonds a good idea.
Your return will be both the yield you earn and the possible increase in value of the bonds because they are in a currency that is appreciating against the dollar.
You can’t, however, just buy any global bond fund.
In addition to the usual problem of high expenses, many international bond funds hedge their currency risk and, therefore, lose much of the benefit of the declining dollar.
One simple foreign bond fund is the SPDR Lehman International Treasury Bond Index exchange-traded fund (ticker: BWX).
Another thing to note is that the dollar does not fall in a comfortable and reliable way.