th4 150x150 How to look like a grownup.I’ve discovered the secret to maturity, or at least to the appearance of maturity. This wasn’t what I expected to learn at the Financial Blogger Conference.

Yesterday I had breakfast with the other FinCon14 volunteers. (Fun fact: We’re called “Finions.”) We ate at a place called Café Beignet, because while in New Orleans it’s not just a good idea to eat beignets – it’s the law.

Incidentally, let’s take a moment to call the beignet what it really is: a square funnel cake. Really delicious, but not the doughnut-y sort of pastry I’d expected. Besides, “funnel cake” is easier to say. Whenever I try to pronounce any French word I sound like an idiot.


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20140909 MoneyTips Fincon The retiree screen Res FINAL 207x300 Toward a care free retirement. (This post is part of the “Retiree Next Door Movement,” created by MoneyTips.com. More than 70 personal finance bloggers committed to write about a single issue on the same day to raise awareness.)

When MoneyTips.com surveyed 510 retired and semi-retired persons about their financial habits, I was surprised that just 30 percent considered themselves “frugal” before retiring, whereas 67 percent said they spent “enough to live comfortably.”

Now that they’re not working or working a lot less, the numbers haven’t changed much: 65 percent live comfortably and 35 percent live frugally.

Those numbers should give hope to people who might fear they won’t have the resources to retire. That’s because terms like “comfortably” and “frugally” can mean just about anything you want them to mean.


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th3 Should you drop collision coverage?If you’re thinking about ditching collision, don’t do it based on some imagined formula. Although most people drop it by the eighth year of ownership, there’s no hard-and-fast (fast and furious?) rule.

Or so I found out while researching “When to drop collision coverage – and risk it all” for Insurance.com.

You’re required to have collision until your auto loan is paid in full. It repairs or replaces your wheels when you’re hit by an uninsured driver or when you have an at-fault accident. (Damn you, black ice!)

Insurance.com analyzed data from half a million car insurance quotes and found that year eight is when the biggest number of owners bid adieu to collision. Some swear by “the 10 percent rule”: If the annual premium is 10 percent or more of the car’s value, better to bank those bucks against a replacement vehicle.

But it’s not always that simple. Collision coverage is another example of how those living on the margins pay more.


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th2 300x300 On the road to nowhere in particular. Last week DF and I took a four-day driving trip around rural Alaska, aka “1,200 miles’ worth of postcard views.”

Now that summer is pretty much gone, we decided to treat ourselves to the sights of our too-brief autumn. While we don’t have the scarlets and oranges of New England, the changing colors were still pretty heart-stopping.

Brilliant yellow birch and rich gold willows glimpsed against backdrops of spruce so dark they looked black. Here and there some in-between leaves that gleamed chartreuse in the nearly nonstop sun.

Splashes of red fireweed and redder berry bushes alongside the highway and also carpeting the hillsides. Mountains festooned with blindingly white new snow as well as the more somber ivory of alpine glaciers.

September is a well-kept secret in southcentral Alaska. Most of the tourists have gone home, although we did see some at Denali National Park. Buttoned up to their necks, they were, and seeming disappointed that they didn’t get to see all of Mt. McKinley (which we call “Denali” or just “The Mountain”) due to partly cloudy skies.

At least they got to see the first 10,000 feet of it. Denali is like a stripper who generally doesn’t show you all the good stuff at the same time.


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th 1 150x147 Let me buy you a coffee.It’s that odd time of the year: Sometimes chilly and sometimes balmy. Even here in Anchorage we’re feeling mood-swingy with regard to the weather: in the 40s and raining sideways one day, sunny and in the low 60s another day.

So what do we want: hot chocolate or fancy iced tea?

Whatever it is, I’m buying the next round. This week’s giveaway is $10 worth of Starbucks gift cards.


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th1 150x150 In which I reveal my paycheck.Almost four years ago I wrote a post called “I’ll show you my salary if you’ll show me yours.” In it I explained why I declined to reveal how much money I earned:

“Is there no such thing as privacy any longer? Are we required to tell everything? Myself, I’d sooner talk about my sex life than my salary – and I believe that either one would be an overshare.

“Maybe it’s because I’m in my 50s and am thus a couple of generations removed from the new tell-all culture.  I was raised not to talk about money and certainly never to brag about what you have.

“… Personal finance is exactly that: personal. No one needs to know what I earn or how much my 401(k) lost in the crash. It’s bad enough that people can Google my home address. I don’t want to give away any additional details of my private life.

Well, last week I had a piece up at Get Rich Slowly that revealed all. “Why I voluntarily slashed my salary” talked about my decision to downsize my worklife after Microsoft fired all its writers on the same day.

That decision represented a salary cut of almost 58 percent, possibly more. Would that be worth maybe eating cat food and saying “Welcome to Wal-Mart” when I’m 80? That’s all I could think of at first, but then I did the math and it’s not as scary as I’d feared.


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