Category Archives: Father Knows Best

I’ll Probably Forget the Card

My dad isn't one to say, "I love you." I'm sure he's said those words to me at some point in my life, but he's from southwestern Minnesota and he's just not the type of person you'd ever describe as "effusive." There was a time when I thought love was supposed to be expressed verbally, but with Father's Day fast approaching, it occurs to me that what I appreciate most about my father is how he expresses his love in the ways that are true to who he is.

Very few of you have met my dad, but he's a character. An introverted physicist, he doesn't have hobbies in the usual sense of the word--unless you count having a perfect memory for the birthdays of everyone he's ever known. He doesn't golf, he typically read books, he doesn't follow any sports. So what does he do in his retirement? He follows the stock market, plans trips for himself and my mom (and anyone else in the family who is looking for a good deal on a flight), and he takes care of those around him.

I joined a softball team the summer after third grade, and the day I got my own glove, my dad and I went to the backyard to play catch. On his first throw, he beaned me in the face, giving me a bloody nose. So much for playing catch! But my non-sports-fan dad came to every game I played and he turned out to be a great scorekeeper.

I didn't always have the coolest toys or the trendiest clothes when I was growing up and we rarely went out to eat, but thanks to good investments in the stock market, when the time came for me to go to college, there was money saved to pay for it. College was also the first time I did my own laundry . . . because my dad had always done it. He would sometimes rigidly insist on doing things "his way" rather than teaching my sister and I how to learn a skill, but hey, at least we always had clean clothes!

Fast forward to Wednesday of this week, which might best be summed up as a series of unfortunate events. Everything is all right now, but as I was driving the jalapeño to the ER shortly before 6:00 in the morning, it was clear that the day would be rocky. Mr. NaCl had a commitment in the evening, and once I got the good news that the jalapeño was going to be fine, it occurred to me that I might have trouble handling the boys on my own that evening. So I called my parents. Both of them were more than willing drop everything to come over and occupy the peperoncino so that I could focus on getting the exhausted jalapeño to bed early enough to avoid a total meltdown. What could have been a disaster of an evening went off without a hitch.

I'm terrible at getting gifts--or even remembering to pick up a card--for Mother's Day, Father's Day, and the like. But maybe that's okay. My dad doesn't need to tell me he loves me for me to know it, and with or without a card on Sunday, I bet he knows I love him too. (Actually, if I do remember a card, he'd prefer if I get the cheapest one in the store. He can't stand the thought of anyone spending $3 or even more on a card.)

There are so many kinds of fathers--and mothers--in the world, and none are without flaws. But here's to finding ways to appreciate the fathers in our lives for the things they're best at . . . whatever those things may be.

FKB: Lack of Progress

We're about two months into the great potty training adventure and . . . there are about 10 stickers total on our progress chart. The first weekend, as expected, had one success and many accidents. The second weekend had several more successes, and we thought he would be ready to take it to school and keep working at it. Instead, he had an absolute meltdown that Monday at school, so we backed off a little bit. Then we went to Germany and his grandmother, who promised to keep at it, ... did not keep at it. Since then, we've had a few successes at school and a stray one at home. He's willing to patiently sit on the training potty and read books for extended periods of time, but nothing happens.

So we bribe successes with stickers, M&Ms, and the ultimate reward of ice cream if he ever fills up his chart. We also make a really big deal any time there is a success to support him. Any other ideas?

FKB: Whistle Down the Wind

I don't often miss work, but I was out of the office for a couple of hours last month. It was March 17th, which to some might be St. Patrick's Day, but which to me is my grandfathers' birthday. Yes, both maternal & paternal; neither Papa or Gramps descended from remotely Irish stock.

I was late to work because I had gone in to see the doctor. Not my doctor, who was booked for nearly a month out, but a nurse practitioner working at the same clinic, but who I had never seen before. I was there not because I was called in for labs or an annual exam, but because I needed to know if I needed to start planning for dying.

Since January I'd had some impingement in my right armpit. I first noticed it when I kept pulling at the sleeves of my shirts & sweaters, trying to stop what felt like binding under my arm. It took me a little while to give up on the idea that it was my clothes, or because I didn't fit them anymore, that was causing the problem. I scratched my head for a day or two.

Then I noticed that I had lost some range of motion, and that it felt like there was something in my armpit that was limiting my movement. I couldn't put my finger on what it might be, and examining my axilla just reminded me that I had to look up the technical name for "armpit." The anatomy that lay underneath was mostly a mystery, save for one very worrying set of organs. I puzzled on the motion problem for a couple more weeks. When my forearm started hurting below the elbow, I knew I had to do something.

The first thing I did was tell Mrs. Hayes that I needed to see the doc, and why. Then I told her what was scaring me – the sensation that there was something, possibly swollen, in my armpit that was causing some problems with my arm. And that my paternal grandmother had died of lymphoma at 61. I didn't need to remind Mrs. Hayes that cancer claimed Pops at 52, or that one of Pops' sons, my half-brother, is a leukemia survivor. So I made the an appointment with a stranger possessing a medical license to find out if I was dying.

Her answer was pretty definitive. She could not find any sign that my lymph nodes were inflamed in a way that might be causing the impingement. No signs of lymphoma, she said. She prescribed self-directed PT, figuring I had strained some connective tissues and was experiencing referred problems in my forearm as a result of compensating. She observed I had a toddler at home who I likely lifted with improper technique a few times too many. I didn't need her to tell me I had a kid at home, because that kid was the thing I was most afraid of losing.

Later, in an unguarded moment, I told my bosses about my "scare." (Does it really count as a scare? I dunno, but I can tell you I was more scared than I've been in a long time.) One of them told me the story of a serious car accident she'd survived. A bystander observed to her, after it was evident she'd escaped without a scratch, that it was "probably a birthday of sorts" for her. Indeed.

What do you do when life reminds you that the endless treadmill of waking up, getting out the door, working, commuting, daycare pick-up, supper, and evening chores will end one day, possibly abruptly? What do you do when you are reminded that your time with the people you care most about is running out at a mostly imperceptible rate? What do you do to make sure that the treadmill and other distractions don't steal special moments that you can't get back or replace? I thought a lot about these questions while I was waiting to find out if arriving at some concrete answers was a matter of urgent necessity.

Thankfully, I am not in immediate danger. The genetic IEDs inside my body are, at least for now, armed but un-detonated. Still, I could be hit by a Mack truck tomorrow. I could swallow a fly. I could get shot by a man in Reno. (This last seems somewhat avoidable.) But I realize I haven't done a good enough job about thinking who in my life (apart from my wife) I would want to entrust with the most precious person I've ever met if I'm not going to be around. I need to find an answer to that question while I'm still around to answer it myself.

Some questions for the new or recent parents out there: If you're a new or recent parent, how much planning for the worst have you done? What did you find helpful or comforting in that process?

For the seasoned parents/parents of adult children: How did your planning change as your children grew up? How are you planning now?

For all: How did you interrupt the treadmill of everyday life to enjoy the fleeting moments of being with your kids? What would you do over again? What do you want to change about what you're doing now?

FKB: Father of the Freakin’ Year

I've made some pretty boneheaded parenting moves over the last month.

First: I left the baby sleeping on the bed while I went downstairs to get breakfast for the other kids. She seemed completely out. Of course she woke up a short time later, and didn't make a sound until she fell onto the floor. I think she probably had a mild concussion, given the way she was acting for the first half hour or so after the fall. I had a thing scheduled at work and I made plans to take her to the doctor after I got back from it, but she was back to her old self by the time I got home. Still, it was kind of horrifying.

Second: It took me more than a month to really respond to Aquinas' complaints of bullying before I took action. And it seems like that action was much needed, and has gone a long way towards correcting the problem (thank goodness for the fact that they're first graders, and still open to being good kids instead of blaming the one who told on them). My fear of ruffling feathers was too strong and my kid paid the price.

Third: And yet, in communicating about this issue, I may have inadvertently sent some signals that didn't exactly endear us or my kid to the teacher. I'm not quite sure why we can accurately observe that one kid is faster or stronger than a different one, but we can't observe that one is smarter than another? (I didn't straight up say anything like that, but I fear some unintended implications were taken (look, the class isn't particularly rigorous, and there is some classic "things are going too slow for him" stuff going on (I don't say this to brag about Aquinas, only to observe that this class is moving really slow. Halfway through the year and he's still doing math work that he did at this point in Kindergarten.)(also, he's absolutely going to keep getting 90% on everything you teach, no matter the difficulty, let's not act like 100% is needed to move on...))).

Fourth: Here's the biggie... I forgot my kid. I usually pick up Aquinas from school. If I can't, I arrange for him to take the bus to daycare. Well, I had a hearing out of town and... I forgot. So he walked to my office, per usual, only I wasn't there and the door was locked. So he started walking to the daycare, which is about a mile out of town. On the way there someone - a stranger to him (and us, but not other relatives) - stopped and offered a ride. He happily accepted because, as he put it, "he was tired of walking." The stranger brought him right to daycare (and apparently has done the same for other kids), so in a way it's a "no harm, no foul" situation. Except that my kid accepted a ride from a stranger. So... big time foul.

Anyway, I'm working at this parent thing. This morning I built a huge pillow barrier around the baby as she slept on the bed, and still went up and checked on her just about every other minute, and caught her just as she was waking up 6 minutes into me leaving her there... And I remembered to have Aquinas take the bus when I was gone on Tuesday. And I bribed him, so he got 100% on his spelling test last week. Maybe by the time they leave home I'll feel like I'm on the right track.

Father Knows Best: Boredom

Things have been rough lately, mostly because at least two people at any given time have been sick in this household--sometimes all four of us--since at least Thanksgiving. It's exhausting. But at least it's fairly simple to figure out what you need to do to get through each day. I think about when Henry was a baby. I was tired constantly; some days I could barely keep my eyes open. But while I was by no means confident in what I was doing, I knew pretty much every decision was around eating, pooping, or sleeping. Not that complex.

I'm not nearly as exhausted these days, which I won't complain about. But I'm more frequently being faced with probably the hardest part about being a parent so far, which is boredom. That sounds harsh, but I don't know how else to explain that agonizing feeling when Henry wants to read the same book 12 times in a row, or play the same game (in the wrong way, of course) for an hour straight (and I only barely tolerated it the first time because he was being adorable), or the same routine day after day after day because with his autism it takes tremendous effort to talk him into deviating from original plans. I've learned that sometimes the only way to get him to do something I want to do is to just do it without asking, which works okay if we're going to a new park, but usually not well when it's playing with a new toy.

I know that in six or seven years he might barely ever want to play with me at all. He certainly won't want to hang on my leg or beg me to pay attention to him. Nor will he say, "I love you Daddy," genuinely but with an ulterior motive of getting a cookie. So I want to enjoy every second. But too many nights I just can't wait until he goes to bed so I can do something interesting. And I feel horrible about it.

So, what advice say you guys? How do you keep focused and interested in toddler time night after night after night?

Father Knows Best: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

The terrible twos have come a few months early!

Now, normally, this is actually not that bad a thing. As long as he's happy and content, watching him run around like a hellion and play toys and body slam his giant plush BB-8 is actually a joy to behold.

I'm just wondering how well that energy is going to work when we have to contain it for three hours on a plane.

Continue reading Father Knows Best: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

And Then I Stuck the Sidecutters in Her Mouth

It was Friday evening about 5:30 and I was in the kitchen when I heard my daughter scream.

She was in the next room and when first cried out, I thought it was nothing, but her next breath brought more urgent and louder screams. I moved to the dining room to check her out. My heart sank. She was laying on the floor and blood was everywhere and pouring out of her mouth. She had slipped and fallen, my beautiful baby girl with impeccable balance on the ice had fallen on the wood floor and hit her mouth on the edge of our dining room table.

At first, I was confused. What happened? How could she possibly be bleeding like this? Did she lose her teeth? All I could see through the blood was that her braces were dislodged. My mind was blank, but I soon was able to think. I screamed to my wife, we're going to the emergency room! I had divined that at this time of day, no dentist would be available and the volume of blood was such that we needed to get her to the hospital.

Damn it. I worked from home after a ten day trip and I hadn't showered. Hadn't even dressed, I was still in my pajamas. I raced to my bedroom, shucked off the pajamas bottoms, grabbed a pair of jeans and socks and was dressed in 20 seconds. It was snowing like crazy, but I got Miss SBG to the car, with her mother in back and we took off.

We got out of our subdivision and neared the county road when Miss SBG said she wasn't bleeding. I asked if she had all her teeth. She said yes. We decided since she wasn't bleeding to go back home and re-evaluate before heading to the hospital. I took her up to the bathroom. Only one of the four brackets of her braces was in place. The wires were lodged in the inside of her cheek and her mouth and gums were battered. I went to the basement and grabbed my sidecutters. I cane back up, pulled the wire out of her cheek. She screamed and fell to the floor. I raised my voice to get her attention. She calmed and opened up. And then I stuck the sidecutters in her mouth and cut the wires. She screamed and said she needed to go to sleep. I reached in again and cut off the other side. No more wires in her cheek, at least.

We took her to urgency care. The teeth looked good but three were loose. We needed to get her to a dentist within 24 hours for an evaluation. It was possible that the teeth and/or bones in which the teeth sat were broken. She might need oral surgery.

Poor Miss SBG had a fitful night. She was in considerable pain. I stayed with her all night. She woke in the middle of the night and I spent about an hour awake with her as she suffered.

This morning, I called her dentist office and got the answering service, who put in a call into the on-call dentist. She called and my wife answered (I was out shoveling snow) and she indicated that we didn't need to come in today. My wife let her get away with that. I called her back and told her that I was told by a doctor that she needed to be seen and that I'm going to trust someone who has actually seen her over someone who hasn't. In other words, if her face was broken, I wasn't waiting until sometime on Monday to find out. She said, I can see her by 10:30. We had to drive 45 minutes to get there because of the snow-pocalypse (I think we got almost a foot).

She got some x-rays and the news was good. Structurally, there was no damage. She told us that it was like a sprain. She also said that the braces might have saved her teeth -- a sentiment that Miss SBG herself echoed on Friday night. Of course, they may darken and she might even need root canals. We will have to wait and see. But, for now, she's got a sore mouth and two of the fattest lips you will ever see.

I realized, again, that I'm like a mama bear. The instinct to protect her is as strong as any instinct I have. I may not have made a friend with that dentist -- and my wife thought I was too mean -- but when my daughter is threatened, I'm not aiming to make friends. Protecting her is the only consideration. It's no fun to see her suffer, but at the same time, the basic drive to protect is a profound and awesome drive.

A Series of Questions on Parenting


Here's the situation. I will soon have a 16 and 14 year old. It feels like we've hit a point where parenting strategy has to shift. Less telling them what to do and more picking them up after they fall. This doesn't seem as obvious as parenting younger kids. I didn't have to think much when a toddler was grabbing an electrical cord. It was pretty obvious what I should do.

Should I monitor digital communications with her friends?

Should I let her use social media?

Should I tell her I know she has a second "secret" Instagram account?

How much input should I give her on classes she chooses?

How much input should I have on college?

Do I encourage her to start looking at colleges or just sit back and wait?

Do I suggest any schools she should visit? What if I think she's going down the wrong road? Do I really know the wrong road for her?

Should I give any advice on her major? What if she thinks she wants to go on to get a PhD?

If she's watching Netflix on her Kindle after she's gone to bed, do I punish her or just explain why it's a bad idea?

Should she have a bed time?

Should I push her to get her driver's license?

We haven't gotten to the dating thing. What do I do then? I picture myself like the coach on Friday Night Lights where I say and do the wrong thing most of the time.

How much do I "warn" her about boys?

How much do I talk about safety and avoiding bad situations? (I have a pretty cautious daughter. The hesitance to get her driver's license comes from a Driver's Ed course that focused on car crashes as a "Scared Straight" strategy. It scared her straight out of the vehicle.)

Thanks for reading and any suggestions!

FKB: Financial Planning for Idiots

Not sure if this is a Father Knows Best post, or if it belongs under whatever we called the Nation's recommendations (like what kind of refrigerator, cell phone, pocket knife, stereo system, etc. we use or recommend... we had that, didn't we? [updated! thanks sean]), whatever, I digress. I owed the basement a FKB post in July and didn't make time to do it. This is about midway between Philo's Oct. posting and Nibbs' November posting timeframe, so I'm dropping it here.

My wife and I have been working through some of the adulting items recently highlighted by hj and others. Over the past 2-3 years, we've managed to knock out quite a few major items (started 529's, got the life insurance and retirement accounts up and running and last week we finalized our estate planning (will and health care directives). I've found the citizenry's conversations about kids & college, aging parents, home purchasing and personal finances in general here to be very useful. The conversations, coupled with the encouragement to tackle these now rather than later (by those further along in the process of growing up) has been a catalyst to my willingness to actually get started (so thank you).

I consolidated and shared that most recent discussion with my wife. For clarity, I eliminated attributions, unrelated/side-bar lte's, and the spoilered FZ stuff and made some minor edits and deletions. (Any mistakes/errors or misrepresentations are mine.) She had trouble following the conversation (doesn't know how conversations work in the basement) so I set it so that each new indent represents a response to the previous comment, and those aligned left represent a "new" piece of input.

She responded with her notes from a financial planner presentation her employer brought in. I'm sharing both here for posterity.


Important #1: if your company has a 401(k), start putting money into it now, especially if there is matching. Every time you get a raise, kick it up another 1%

Important #2: pay off your credit cards and don't use more than you can pay off each month

RE: #1. The only thing I'd caution is that, if there isn't matching, sometimes it can be more valuable to pay down debt now first. If you can afford to do both, do. But if interest on debt > rate of return on 401(k) (or even less, depending on credit score effects and desire for future borrowing, i.e. mortgage), then it makes sense to pay down debt first.

Agreed. but don't put off 401(k) long -- the earlier you start, the better.

That's one thing I did do, though I only contribute the minimum to get the maximum match from my employer.

Right, and if there's an employer match, that's always the better way to go.

Index funds are your friend. They are the closest thing to following "the market" there is and have incredibly low fees. I can't comment on which one to pick as my expertise is very limited.

401(k)s are generally your friend, at least to the point that ostensibly your company is helping you. Or maybe it sucks and you're screwed. John Oliver featured them a few months ago on his show. You can skip to the end for his (swearing!) video containing tips. Another option would be Roth IRAs.

That's all I've got.


If you have high-interest debt, pay it off first. This is a low-interest environment. If you are carrying balances on your credit cards, pay them off ASAP and pay in full every month. Brown bag your lunch.

Then, what sean and others have said. If you have a match on a 401K, that's free money. Take as much of it as you can and put it into no-load index funds. If a Roth 401K is an option at your work, take advantage when you are young and your marginal tax rate is lowest. Dollar-cost averaging is your friend. Ditto on 529 accounts for the kids. Start now. If you have loose change left over after these things, then Roth IRA.

Being a quasi- government employee, I'm paying into a state retirement system. The required contribution is 13.2% of gross earnings (6.6% contributed by employee & employer). The employee percentage is deducted pre-tax. Assuming my state retirement system still exists when I retire (shakier than I want to admit given who runs the state right now), should I still consider other sources of retirement income (401k, IRA)? There is a TSA program , but it doesn't have an employer match. I guess what I'm really asking is, should I be thinking about socking away additional resources for retirement, or putting things away for the Poissonnier's education?

I don't know if you have the option for a 401(k) because I recall they are employer sponsored. I could be wrong. That leaves you IRAs. Roth is a popular option but you're limited to $5,500 of contributions a year (this applies to traditional IRAs too but there are still differences). Looks like a primary difference between the two is that an IRA can have tax benefits for that year but you get taxed when you withdraw while a Roth has no tax benefits that year but withdrawal is tax-free (broadly speaking, limitations still apply). You can convert a traditional IRA to a Roth but not the reverse. You do get taxed but you can do it at a time that is advantageous to you. I recall either now or recently there were some tax breaks about that. If you think your tax rate today will be lower than the future, a Roth makes more sense. If you think your tax rate in the future will be lower, then a traditional makes more sense.

Note, I am not a fiduciary and only play one on the internet. If it were me, I think I would opt for a Roth IRA and a 529. How much goes into either is up to you. I think I would bias it to the IRA.

There's a lot of really helpful thought in that answer. I can understand why biasing toward the IRA makes sense. Unless I move into an administrative position my earnings are going to max out at a level where some financial aid is still pretty likely, which perhaps lowers the pressure to put more into a 529 to offset the hit from our expected contribution at a higher income level.

As a government employee, I view my pension (and corresponding university pension, since I am a former member of the liberal elite) as a highly stable baseline of retirement income, similar to Social Security (which I also will have). So my allocations to other investments should be read in light of that low-risk baseline. I'm pretty much 100 percent in stocks via index funds, using the pensions and social security as my asset type diversification in my portfolio (I own several different kinds of index funds).

Your mileage may vary on the risks associated with government pensions. For example, last year I extracted all of my money from the Illinois university retirement system and put it into an IRA, because I was worried about bankruptcy in that state.

I have a 401k (no match) and my wife and I both have Roth IRAs, in addition to my traditional IRA. I expect that our retirement income will not dip all that much from our current income, so the Roth makes more sense than a traditional. Plus, you don't have to draw on it at all if you don't want to in retirement (and thus can use it in estate planning). I will probably look to roll over chunks of that traditional IRA once the Girl is done with college and off the dole.

We invested heavily in 529s for the kids. Both went/are going to Fancy Pants schools, and our income is too high for Pell Grants. 529s are the best vehicle for someone like us to minimize the product of portfolio management headaches, fiscal discipline and tax exposure in planning for college. Whatever you do, try to avoid putting any money in UGMA/UTMA accounts for the kiddies. That is a recipe for minimizing financial aid. Just keep those assets in your own name until they are college seniors, then gift them startup funds if that's what you want to accomplish.

more on 529s vs UGMA/UTMA for saving for college.

You can't go wrong with 529s when there is any doubt. In MO, we even got a state tax break

The 529 contributions are deductible in Wisconsin as well. I have money taken out once a month for each kid automatically, which makes it easier to get it in there.

I think even the earnings were state tax deductible on withdrawal, too

From my reading of this article it seems like you can recharacterize from a Roth to a traditional only for a limited time after recharacterizing the traditional to a Roth. And, the always correct Wikipedia lists an advantage of traditional IRAs as recharacterization to a Roth. But I could be wrong!

Yea, I think you are right. Recharacterization is basically an "undo" of a conversion from traditional to Roth. Thanks for clarifying.

Or. Or.

Through a Roth recharacterization, you either change a contribution from a Roth IRA to another type of IRA or nullify a previous Roth conversion. It's as if the contribution or conversion never occurred in the Roth IRA.

Vanguard reports a recharacterization on Form 1099-R as a distribution from the Roth IRA and on Form 5498 as a contribution to the non-Roth IRA. In Box 7 of Form 1099-R, you'll see an "R" for a contribution or conversion made for 2015 and recharacterized in 2016 or an "N" for a contribution or conversion made for 2016 and recharacterized in 2016. Contributions and conversions for 2015 that are recharacterized in 2016 will be reported on 2016 tax forms, which will be distributed in 2017.

You can still recharacterize contributions or conversions for a tax year on or before your federal tax return filing deadline for that tax year, including extensions, even if you already filed your tax return. However, you may need to file an amended return for the tax year in which the original contribution or conversion was made.

Towards my original question though, any thoughts/tips on using professionals?

There may be some value in seeing a financial planner once, to get some general analysis and advice. But brokerage fees and management fees from actively managing your portfolio? Not so much.

The best advice you can probably get: (1) start investing as early as you can, even if small. (2) dollar-cost average. Don't get caught up in short-term market fluctuations unless you like to entertain yourself that way. (3) focus on no-load index funds. (4) don't frick with your investment strategy. More people lose more money by buying and selling too frequently than they do by letting investments ride.

Here's some sage advice from Time's Money Magazine:

Shop locally. As long as you have at least $250,000 to invest—a typical minimum—see what a local financial planner charges. That face-to-face help may be less or no more than what you’d pay for a fund investment advice program. By the end of 2015, Vanguard’s Personal Advisor Services, which costs 0.3% plus costs of underlying investments, should be widely available.

Pay for advice once. If all you need is guidance at the starting gate, you can hire an adviser by the hour instead of spending 1% to 2% a year. You might pay $800 to $1,500 for a one-time plan.

But the scale there should tell you a bit about when it might be worth having such an advisor. IMO.

Agreed. Financial advice early on is good; financial advice later on is a necessity

We absolutely have a financial advisor, and have for over fifteen years now, although we use them more actively the past few years. Of course I'm 10 years or so from thinking of retirement. You don't necessarily need one early on, but keep socking that retirement/college money so that when time comes to start thinking retirement your financial advisor will have something to work with.

If you can find a good financial advisor (when the time comes), definitely do it. It can make a big difference when it comes to when to draw SS or from your IRA/401(k), etc., as well as balancing your investments for the long haul.

I have used a professional for the last seven or eight years (we set up a retirement account for her and rolled over my 401k from my old employer in the beginning, we've added on some other accounts since then: rainy day fund, potential college fund, etc). We've been happy with it, in that our guy (don't know cost, I'm afraid) has kept an eye on things so that our actual interaction with it can be relatively minimal (twice yearly appointments and reading the balance sheets when they come to us). We're good with basic finances, but actual capital 'I' investing is something that neither of us want to put in the time to being good at.

B: Jack Bogle might have some useful things to say about basic investing.

Yes you should use a professional financial planner. Do your parents? Siblings? In-laws? Ask who they use. That's a place to start. Do some research on fees and ask them questions. Find one you feel comfortable with, and hopefully through recommendations, feel like you can trust.

NOTES MY WIFE TOOK (yes ... this is how she actually takes notes. In this regard, I'm proud that she puts me to shame).

Personal Finance Philosophy – 5 things

  1. Earn a decent living
    1. This equates to the ability to cover your mortgage, car and vacations
    2. Once you reach that tipping point, making more money will not make you happier
    3. Making less money will make you less happy
  2. Spend Less than You Make
  3. Take Money you don’t spend , save and invest à make your $ work for you
    1. Avoid being ‘Financially Fragile’ (i.e. not having enough liquid savings to cover large unplanned expenses)
    2. Max out your 401K (match)
    3. Save more when you can (e.g. years with larger bonuses)
  4. Protect financial Work (or was it worth)
    1. Life Insurance (not when single, but when married and/or with kids)
    2. Disability Insurance (especially when single and/or when sole earner)
    3. Basic Estate Plan (again, critical with kids. . . should cost $1000 or less) – includes:
      1. Will
      2. Healthcare Proxy
      3. Durable Power of Attorney
      4. Healthcare Directive
  5. Give Back
    1. Volunteer, Donations etc.


  1. Control what you can control
    1. Investment Expense (i.e. “Fees)
      1. Index Funds and/or ETFS
    2. Amount of Risk you’re taking
      1. Reduce your risk over time. . . . . especially close to the life event (e.g. retirement/collected)
      2. If you invest in “Target Date” funds (e.g. Lifepath Funds) invest all or none – don’t go halfsies

Term vs. Permanent (aka Cash Value) Life Insurance

  1. Start with “Term” Life Insurance
    1. Covers your bases until you accrue enough in retirement accounts to cover your bases
    2. Or Covers your family until they are independent
    3. Max out the Group Term Benefit (e.g. Target allows you to add up to 6X salary, do that – it’s cheap)
    4. Look at Life Insurance Worksheet online to determine “How Much)
  2. Permanent
    1. Use when your need for Life Insurance won’t end (e.g. when you have a disabled/dependent child)
    2. Jean is not a fan of Permanent Life Insurance as an investment vehicle
      1. Exception = Immediate Annuity – e.g. to manage income during retirement

Savings for College

  1. Retirement should come first
  2. 529s generally better than Roth IRAs (for this purpose)
    1. 529s can save more $
    2. Roth IRA – can choose to use for college OR retirement
    3. Both grow tax free
  3. Research 529s à find the best one
    1. - - ranks 529 plans
  4. In general better to ‘Divide and Conquer’ your savings
    1. You are more likely to meet your goals if you have different savings buckets for different goals

More on Retirement Savings - Steps

  1. Emergency fund – always have a minimum of $2000 liquid
    1. Save 3X monthly expenses for Dual Income
    2. Save 6X monthly expenses for Single Income
  2. Max out your 401K first – at the “Match”
  3. Pay down debt that has an interest rate higher than your savings returns
  4. Invest everything else in the future
    1. Max out total 401K to Yearly Limit (in 2015 = $18K)
    2. And/Or invest in Roth
  5. Automate everything you can (savings, investments, debt payments)
  6. Guidelines for how much you should have saved (per “Fidelity)
    1. Age 35 = 1X current salary
    2. Age 45 = 3X
    3. Age 55 = 5X
    4. Age 65 = 8X
  7. Other:
    1. Longevity rates are going up
      1. Plan on Living to 95
      2. Plan on needing 85% of Pre-Retirement Income

Pros and Cons of EDCP (Executive Deferred Compensation Plan)

  1. More than $18K allowed and not eligible for IRA
  2. Longevity rates are going up


Financial Planning – When and How Often?

  1. 1X year – basic financial physical
    1. What you earn, vs. Own. Vs. Owe – review that these are all moving in the right direction
    2. Progress on Retirement Goals (calculate)
  2. 3X year – check credit report
    1. Look for Identity Theft and take action ASAP
      2. Read/review your statements
    2. Know your credit score (but don’t need to check as often) 720 = Good; 760+ = Great


Saving for College – Should Kids take the Loans or Parents

  1. Have the kids borrow some of the money (if you haven’t saved enough already and/or financial aid doesn’t cover)
    1. Have them borrow no more in total than what they expect to make in their first year
    2. Borrow w/ Federal Loans when possible
    3. You can help repay their loans.

Aging Parents

  1. Unlike Kids/College, - ‘We’ help b/c there is no other choice (e.g. ‘Financial Aid’)
  2. Important to understand their ‘need’
    1. Open and Honest Communication
  3. Have a Social Security Strategy
    1. Delay tapping into Social Security as long as Possible
      1. Grows @ 8% from age 62 to 70
    2. This is a point where it makes sense to pay for advice
      1. Review:
      2. There are social security estimators available; seek them out

Risk Adverse? Where else to save

  1. Credit Unions à interest bearing accounts
  2. Government Bonds
  3. Note: Regular savings accounts equate to losing money after inflation/taxes, etc.


Using 401K or Personal Investments for Debt Reduction

  1. BAD – have to pay $ back within 60 days if leave company (whether by choice or not) – otherwise pay tax penalty
  2. Better to ‘pull back’ on regular contributions and pay back debt that way

What to do if I’m a Named Guardian

  1. Understand financial responsibility; Do the Parents have life Insurance?

Kids, Finances and Allowance – when to start, how to structure and how much?

  1. Start at age 5
  2. $1 (week)
  3. Add $1 every year
    1. Think of things you want them to start buying themselves
  4. Help them with “Give, Save, Spend” parameters
    1. Always save 10% - get them in this habit early

Buying and Selling Stock – when?

  1. The advisor doesn’t manage $ this way - -- - she invests in diversified funds
    1. Other investors sell when stock price drops 10-15%
      1. Exception is when price is affected by an exaggerated news story
      2. And/or the Entire Market drops

When do you go to a Financial Advisor?

  1. When do you go to a Financial Advisor?
    1. When your financial life gets more complicated
      1. Kids, homes, raises/promotions,

She Works Hard For The Money

This post is partially about parenting, partially about work. In this case, they are intertwined.

My wife has always had a pretty good job and has always been pretty career-motivated. We talked a little about having me stay home when we first had kids. In the end, we decided that it wouldn't work for us. I wouldn't like it (or be good at it) and she would have been jealous of my time at home. She ended up going part-time down to a 3-day per week schedule. She worked downtown at the time and would go in early so I'd be the one to get the kids ready for daycare three days per week. We did that while we had two children.

When we had the third, she switched jobs to a small firm that was five miles from our house. It was still 20-24 hours per week but she went to an hourly wage. She could come-and-go without a ton of guilt. When the kids were in daycare, she'd work three full days. Once they were in school, she'd work four 6-hour days.

It was the perfect job for our family. She would go in to work after the kids got on the bus and would get home right before they got home from school.

Now she has decided to stay home full time with a 15, 13, and 10-year old. From the outside, it looks a little insane. She's worked all this time to get to the point that the kids are old enough to be a little more independent and now is the time she's decided to stay home? If you're going to stay home, why not do it when the kids are young? But I think she made the right decision.

A few things factored into the decision. My mom passing away last year at the age of 67, my wife's lingering affects from a concussion suffered last fall, and my daughter's rehab from a broken leg all played a part in it.

We only have three more years of all of them under one roof. Life is short and the clock is ticking.