By various statistical measures, financial inequality among Americans is increasing. In short, research indicates rich Americans are getting richer, while the poor and middle class Americans are losing ground. Since the recession, rising economic tides are not floating all boats. On a macro leave, the apparently increasing divergence between rich and poor prompts many questions. On a personal level, the questions are much simpler: Financially, am I where I want to be?
Digital storage has many advantages. The format is paperless, accessible at any time from a multitude of devices, and very hard to misplace or destroy. But in order for digital storage to be secure, it requires passwords. Yet documenting a password - on a piece of paper, in another computer file - compromises its security. So how do you maintain security, yet allow appropriate parties access in the event you are incapacitated or deceased?
This is one of the basic questions at the heart of every insurance discussion. In this case, the odds involve the likelihood of being sued. Here are some numbers provided by IFG Trust Services Inc., an international investment firm specializing in asset protection: "Americans have a 10 percent chance of being sued in any given year and a 33 percent chance of being sued in their lifetime." Do you like those odds?
Since about 2010, renowned investment manager Warren Buffett has been telling a “Pile A - Pile B” story to explain his opinion on gold. Because market conditions affect the numbers, each retelling of this anecdote has featured slightly different values, but the basics are the same. Here’s a synthesized version, drawn from columns published over the past four years.
In the “old days” of lifetime employment followed by a lifetime pension, retirees didn’t need to do much more than sign a form and collect a check. They didn’t contribute to the plan, and didn’t really “own” their benefits – even if they were vested, they couldn’t demand a lump-sum payment in lieu of a monthly payment. For those who now find themselves wondering if the check will be there because the plan’s guarantees cannot be met, there aren’t many alternatives; they are stuck with whatever a judge decides and the pension can afford. For guarantees to be credible, they must be based on realistic assumptions. When people rely on implausible (or impossible) guarantees, disappointment will likely follow. This can especially be true with financial guarantees.
Almost every survey and statistic says Americans don’t save enough. Economic experts and financial behaviorists can provide any number of explanations for this shortcoming, from higher prices to an unwillingness to delay gratification. But really, saving is a matter of habit, not a result of circumstances. And habits, both good and bad, have cumulative effects. The difference between a lifetime of saving and a lifetime of not saving? It might look a little like this: