Day: February 24, 2020

Personal Finance Daily: If you’re wealthy and haven’t filed your taxes, the IRS could soon be ringing your doorbell, and the Affordable Care Act is more popular now than when Obama was president

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Happy Monday, MarketWatchers. Don’t miss these top stories:

Personal Finance
My husband watches TV all day while I cook and clean. He has a monthly income of $8K and a P.O. box to hide his finances. I found his will — and it left me reeling

‘He never leaves his wallet on the table.’

A record one-quarter of $450 billion of student loans are being repaid on income-based repayment plans, DBRS

Unemployment is at a 50-year low, but nearly a quarter of student loans with U.S. government guarantees are qualifying for income-based repayment plans to help stave off borrower defaults.

My son told me that I’ve amounted to nothing and he doesn’t want anything to do with me. Should I cut him out of my will?

‘He has nothing to do with me or my side of the family.’

The Affordable Care Act is more popular now than when Obama was president

Yet partisanship has not subsided when it comes to overall views of the law, studies suggest.

Outstanding auto-loan balances just hit a new record and delinquencies are on the rise — should you be concerned?

Nearly $66 billion of the $1.33 trillion in outstanding auto loans were over 90 days delinquent in the fourth quarter of 2019, up from $57 billion for the same period last year.

‘They’re looking at where you live.’ If you’re wealthy and haven’t filed your taxes, the IRS could soon be ringing your doorbell

IRS audits have been sliding for years as the federal tax collector’s staffing has been reduced.

Morgan Stanley is paying $2,500 per customer for E-Trade. You can earn a $3,500 sign-up bonus for signing with a new broker — with one major catch

‘Moving a balance to a new brokerage can net you a nice reward.’

Mike Bloomberg said he’ll release ex-employees from NDAs. Here’s why you should think twice before signing one

The billionaire had clashed with Sen. Elizabeth Warren days earlier on nondisclosure agreements.

‘My father has lived a life of crime and drugs. He threw away every opportunity we gave him.’ Now that he’s on disability, doesn’t he owe his kids something?

‘My siblings and I got him a used car. He drove it off the lot, went for a joyride, and wasn’t heard from for three days.’

8 affordable new cars priced well below $20k

There are plenty of 2020 cars that start well below the $20,000 mark that are modern, safe and reliable.

Elsewhere on MarketWatch
Democratic debate in South Carolina likely to feature attacks on both big spender Mike Bloomberg and front-runner Bernie Sanders

Analysts say moderates can’t let Bloomberg off the hook, while Sanders “will have a target on his back” because of his bigger-than-expected win over the weekend in Nevada’s caucuses.

Fed’s Mester sees coronavirus as a risk but says she doesn’t support additional interest rate cuts

Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester says that she doesn’t support additional interest-rate cuts.

Bernie Sanders can win because this isn’t Ronald Reagan’s America any more

Supporters of Bernie Sanders see him as someone who speaks convincingly to lost hopes and who wants fundamentally to change a system that no longer offers them a credible path forward.

Warren Buffett says he’d ‘certainly vote for Mike Bloomberg as opposed to Sanders’

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett says he agrees with Democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders on some issues but disagrees on a number of others.

Spread of coronavirus lifts odds for Fed rate cut, as inaction would be ‘tone-deaf’

The chances have risen that the Federal Reserve will be forced to respond to growth concerns from the rapid spread of the coronavirus, economists said Monday.

Over $650K Worth of Tezos Moved to Binance: What to Do Now?

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Over the years, the crypto space has seen plenty of remarkable rallies, and one of the more noteworthy ones in recent times has been that of Tezos (XTZ). The token has rallied by as much as 400% over the past six months, and when an altcoin rallies so strongly over a sustained period of time, people are bound to take notice.

Key Details

Despite the strong move in the cryptocurrency over the past few days, it should be noted that a large number of XTZ tokens were recently moved to Binance. XTZ tokens worth as much as $650,000 were moved to Binance, and such a move generally comes from a big player in the market known as a whale. Additionally, such moves often prove to be a sale signal, so investors should keep an eye on Tezos over the coming hours.

Since January, XTZ has soared by as much as 225% and has continued to extend its gains progressively. At this point in time, there is no indication that the Tezos rally is going to slow down any time soon. It is now being speculated that the current rally in XTZ could have been triggered by the marketing efforts of Coinbase. More often than not, such marketing campaigns can create ‘fear of missing out’ among investors and can often lead to sustained rallies in cryptocurrencies.

The whole Tezos project is marketed as a staking platform, and this particular aspect of the project is marketed quite aggressively by Coinbase. It is important to keep in mind that Coinbase is possibly one of the world’s most influential crypto exchanges and boasts of the biggest pool of American customers. It is only natural that it has the ability to make or break cryptocurrencies.

>> How Could a Potential Ripple IPO Affect XRP’s Price This Year?

At this point in time, XTZ has managed to climb to the 10th spot in the market cap rankings of cryptocurrencies. However, with the backing of Coinbase, it could well be a matter of time before the market cap rises further in the coming months.

What do you think?

Featured image: DepositPhotos © Rawpixel

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Investors unable to access brokerage accounts as stocks fall — what you should know for your retirement accounts

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Investors are advised not to change their investment portfolios when the market is volatile — some were forced to take that advice when they couldn’t access their accounts Monday morning.

Some Fidelity Investment users tweeted Monday morning that at the start of the trading day, they couldn’t log in to their accounts, or when they did, they saw a $0 balance. This comes less than a week after Fidelity customers were unable to access their accounts, or came across with no balance for their 401(k) and other investment portfolios.

“Looks like Fidelity is trying to protect investors from themselves? Or I just lost all my monies already today,” one Twitter used posted, with a screenshot of an account with $0 balances.

The issue was resolved as of 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Fidelity told MarketWatch.

The Boston-based investment company wasn’t the only one experiencing technical difficulties amid Monday’s market volatility. Some customers at TD Ameritrade AMTD, -5.09%  and Charles Schwab SCHW, -5.00%  also tweeted they could not access their accounts, or that the site was slow to enter. “Due to higher-than-usual volumes, some clients may have experienced delays in accessing some online features as the market opened, but our systems are fine and up and running,” a Schwab representative said. TD has not yet responded to a request for comment. Schwab and TD were responding to customer tweets Monday morning saying the issue had been resolved, and to contact the company if they still could not access their accounts.

Twitter users were complaining that lag or inaccessibility would affect their trading strategies for their investment accounts, especially amid major drops in the market, as was seen on Monday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -3.31% fell 830 points, or 2.9%, on Monday morning, and was down 997 points at its session low. The S&P 500 SPX, -3.19% fell 90 points, or 2.7%, and the Nasdaq Composite COMP, -3.72%  was down 314 points, or 3.3% during the same time frame. News about the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 may have driven these drops, experts said.

But financial advisers typically tell their clients not to worry about drops in the indexes, and not to act on market volatility. The users facing issues with account access were concerned they could not trade in their brokerage accounts, such as buying or selling individual investments, but retirement accounts should very rarely be touched during drops in the market, experts say. Retirement savers may wonder if they should change their allocation to be more conservative, or pull out of their investments altogether. Although the answer depends on personal preferences, professionals often advise to continue with business as usual.

Some financial advisers will even suggest they not look at their accounts at all, especially if they’re not retiring for another few decades. People closer to retirement — within five or 10 years — may want to talk a professional about finding the right asset allocation so that they feel comfortable with the risk in their portfolio but can still see gains from their investments at the start and duration of their retirement.

More from MarketWatch

Deep Dive: Here are the worst-performing stocks Monday as investors panic over the coronavirus

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A heightened fear of the coronavirus spread over the weekend amid reports of scores of new infections in Italy, pummeling U.S. stock indexes in early trading Monday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJX, +0.00%  fell as much as 997 points (or 3.4%) during morning trading. The S&P 500 SPX, -2.68%  was down as much as 3.2% and the Nasdaq Composite COMP, -3.20%  plunged as much as 4.4%.

Travel-related and technology stocks were hit particularly hard.

The world’s integrated supply chains have investors worried about potential disruptions among companies based far away from the areas that have been hardest-hit by the virus.

Many vulnerable people have lived in what Chris Dillon, T. Rowe Price’s investment specialist for global capital markets, calls “closed-habitat systems.” These aren’t limited to cruise lines, but include factories with dormitory housing for workers, such as Foxconn Technology 2354, -0.66% FXCOF, +0.00%, which handles the final assembly of Apple’s AAPL, -4.06%  iPhones in China. In an interview Feb. 21, Dillon said: “Foxconn has told its people not to go back” to some of the dormitories, which could hinder a return to normal assembly schedules.

Dillon said that while he and colleagues were “not understating the human tragedy,” it was important for investors to have perspective about the scale of the coronavirus. “Last year, 42 million people contracted the flu and 61,000 died” in the U.S. alone, he said.

Remember Warren Buffett’s sage advice: Don’t buy or sell on the headlines.

The Dow 30

In the first few minutes of trading Monday, all but one of the 30 components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down.

Company Ticker Price change – Feb. 24, 2020 Price change – 2020 Decline from 52-week high Price change – 2019
Microsoft Corp. MSFT, -3.28% -5.5% 7.1% -11.5% 55.3%
UnitedHealth Group Inc. UNH, -7.14% -5.2% -2.8% -6.9% 18.0%
Apple Inc. AAPL, -4.06% -5.0% 1.3% -9.3% 86.2%
Visa Inc. Class A V, -3.46% -4.4% 6.3% -6.8% 42.4%
Walt Disney Co. DIS, -5.13% -4.3% -8.1% -13.3% 31.9%
American Express Co. AXP, -4.13% -3.9% 4.1% -6.2% 30.6%
Boeing Co. BA, -3.36% -3.8% -2.4% -28.7% 1.0%
Nike Inc. Class B NKE, -3.56% -3.7% -4.7% -8.6% 36.6%
Dow Inc. DOW, -4.13% -3.5% -14.8% -23.0% #N/A
Intel Corp. INTC, -2.94% -3.4% 3.9% -10.3% 27.5%
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS, -2.22% -2.9% -2.6% -10.6% 37.6%
Caterpillar Inc. CAT, -2.58% -2.9% -9.8% -11.5% 16.2%
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. JPM, -2.36% -2.9% -5.4% -6.5% 42.8%
Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM, -3.45% -2.7% -17.6% -31.1% 2.3%
United Technologies Corp. UTX, -2.71% -2.5% -1.4% -6.8% 40.6%
Cisco Systems Inc. CSCO, -3.27% -2.4% -5.8% -22.5% 10.7%
3M Co. MMM, -2.24% -2.2% -13.0% -30.2% -7.4%
International Business Machines Corp. IBM, -1.47% -2.2% 9.4% -7.6% 17.9%
Chevron Corp. CVX, -3.10% -2.1% -11.5% -16.2% 10.8%
Home Depot Inc. HD, -0.96% -1.7% 10.5% -2.5% 27.1%
McDonald’s Corp. MCD, -0.40% -1.4% 7.7% -4.1% 11.3%
Pfizer Inc. PFE, -2.04% -1.4% -10.1% -20.9% -10.2%
Coca-Cola Co. KO, -0.93% -0.9% 7.7% -0.9% 16.9%
Travelers Companies Inc. TRV, +0.10% -0.8% -2.1% -13.5% 14.4%
Johnson & Johnson JNJ, -1.54% -0.7% 2.0% -3.7% 13.0%
Procter & Gamble Co. PG, -1.74% -0.7% 0.7% -1.8% 35.9%
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. WBA, -3.30% -0.7% -13.3% -28.9% -13.7%
Merck & Co. Inc. MRK, -0.10% -0.5% -9.9% -11.5% 19.0%
Walmart Inc. WMT, -0.70% -0.4% -0.6% -5.8% 27.6%
Verizon Communications Inc. VZ, +0.44% 0.4% -4.8% -6.1% 9.2%
Source: FactSet

You can click on the tickers for more about each company.

S&P 500

Among the S&P 500, 470 stocks were down. Here are the 10 worst performers:

Company Ticker Price change – Feb. 24, 2020 Price change – 2020 Decline from 52-week high Price change – 2019
American Airlines Group Inc. AAL, -9.31% -9.1% -11.8% -31.2% -10.7%
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. AMD, -6.59% -8.6% 6.2% -17.8% 148.4%
Tapestry Inc. TPR, -8.04% -7.8% -4.3% -29.4% -20.1%
IPG Photonics Corp. IPGP, -3.64% -7.6% -13.9% -31.5% 27.9%
Ralph Lauren Corp. Class A RL, -5.95% -6.9% -6.7% -18.2% 13.3%
Micron Technology Inc. MU, -3.97% -6.8% -1.2% -13.2% 69.5%
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. NCLH, -8.34% -6.7% -24.9% -26.7% 37.8%
Capri Holdings Ltd. CPRI, -3.29% -6.7% -32.3% -48.4% 0.6%
Nvidia Corp. NVDA, -4.90% -6.6% 16.7% -13.2% 76.3%
Cimarex Energy Co. XEC, -7.74% -6.5% -24.3% -47.8% -14.9%
Source: FactSet

Here are the 10 components of the Nasdaq-100 Index NDX, -3.24%  showing the greatest declines Monday:

Company Ticker Price change – Feb. 24, 2020 Price change – 2020 Decline from 52-week high Price change – 2019
American Airlines Group Inc. AAL, -9.31% -9.1% -11.8% -31.2% -10.7%
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. AMD, -6.59% -8.6% 6.2% -17.8% 148.4%
Micron Technology Inc. MU, -3.97% -6.8% -1.2% -13.2% 69.5%
Nvidia Corp. NVDA, -4.90% -6.6% 16.7% -13.2% 76.3%
Tesla Inc. TSLA, -6.52% -6.6% 101.2% -13.1% 25.7%
Expedia Group Inc. EXPE, -6.30% -6.2% 4.1% -21.8% -4.0%
Booking Holdings Inc. BKNG, -6.67% -5.9% -11.7% -13.4% 19.2%
Lam Research Corp. LRCX, -4.13% -5.8% 2.1% -13.3% 114.7%
Lululemon Athletica Inc. LULU, -3.75% -5.5% 4.3% -9.2% 90.5%
Applied Materials Inc. AMAT, -4.42% -5.5% -0.5% -12.5% 86.4%
Source: FactSet

Create an email alert for Philip van Doorn’s Deep Dive columns here.

Outside the Box: Looking for retirement income? You may find it in closed-end funds

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Many older Americans look to their investments to produce income to meet their expenses during retirement. The need for these income-generating strategies is rising along with average life expectancy and the number of Americans in or near retirement.

However, the current, low interest-rate environment has made finding income difficult. Fixed-income investments no longer produce the reliable yields they have in the past.

Closed-end funds (CEFs) may help income-seeking investors to meet this challenge. CEFs issue a set amount of shares upon inception. They trade in the secondary market, such as on the New York Stock Exchange, and can be purchased through a brokerage account. No new shares of CEFs enter the marketplace after the initial public offering, unlike their open-end counterparts. Because CEFs trade on stock exchanges, supply and demand drive their prices. Shares may trade above their net asset value (at a premium) or below (at a discount).

CEFs may offer higher average yields than category peers, such as open-end funds and ETFs. This “closed” structure can serve as an advantage to managers seeking to generate reliable income.

While open-end funds need to keep a supply of cash on hand to meet daily redemptions, CEFs do not, since they trade on the secondary market. This single feature — freedom from daily redemptions — opens up advantages for investors.

Because they hold this cash to meet daily redemptions, open-end funds may be subject to a “cash drag,” meaning the cash is not generating returns. The manager of a closed-end fund only needs to hold cash to meet dividend payments at dates they are aware of in advance.

Additionally, CEFs provide investors with immediate exposure to the fund assets. Unlike investing in an open-end fund, with CEFs, investors immediately gain exposure to a fully invested portfolio. They do not have to wait for the manager to invest their cash.

The fixed pool of capital available to CEF managers may allow them to access a broader opportunity set and take a longer term view. For example, CEFs can offer access to private and real assets that are not readily available to individual investors in open-end funds and ETFs.

Illiquidity can be a source of higher income and returns, but is only suitable for investors who can tolerate the accompanying risk. For an open-end fund, illiquid investments can become an issue in times of market stress. During market downturns, investors may begin to pull their money out of the fund and the manager must sell assets quickly to raise the cash to meet redemptions. With CEFs, investors are still able to sell their holdings, but mangers are able to consider whether or not they believe it is an appropriate time to sell assets.

CEFs are able to use leverage to try to enhance the fund’s return, income or both. Leverage can significantly enhance portfolio income generation. It is a key reason that CEFs have by and large been able to produce more income than similar open-end funds over the long term. However, it is important to remember that leverage is not a free source of extra returns and does come with certain risks. As markets fall, leverage can amplify those losses. However, there are rules about how much leverage a CEF can use. Per the 1940 Act, leverage in CEFs is limited to two times asset cover for preferred shares or three times asset cover for bank borrowing and other forms of financing.

Because shares of CEFs trade on exchanges, they may also provide investors with intraday liquidity if necessary, similar to an ETF. This also means that the share price of a CEF will rise and fall in response to investor demand.

This may allow investors to purchase CEF shares at a discount to their underlying net asset value. If a fund is trading at a 10% discount, $100 worth of assets are available for $90. This not only provides added exposure to the assets, but also enhances the effective income yield for each dollar invested in the CEF. Buying a fund at a discount provides the potential for another source of return if that discount narrows. However, a discount also has the potential to widen further. It’s also possible that CEF shares may trade at a premium, meaning shares cost more than the underlying net asset value.

One way investors can incorporate CEFs into their investment line up is through core-satellite investing. This is a strategy to manage costs, minimize volatility, generate alpha and tailor a portfolio to an individual’s needs. The core of the account comprises a passive or beta-like exposure investments, then adding active strategy positions as satellites.

Investors can implement a core-satellite strategy by combining both passive and active strategies. To do this, they can use investment vehicles like individual securities, separately managed accounts, open-end mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and particularly closed-end funds.

As with all investment decisions, conducting proper due diligence is essential. However, as part of a balanced portfolio, CEFs may provide an attractive solution for those looking for extra income in their retirement.

Christian Pittard is group head of product opportunities at Aberdeen Standard Investments. He does not personally benefit from the sale of financial products discussed in this article.

Disclosure: Closed-end funds are traded on the secondary market through one of the stock exchanges. The Fund’s investment return and principal value will fluctuate so that an investor’s shares may be worth more or less than the original cost. Shares of closed-end funds may trade above (a premium) or below (a discount) the net asset value (NAV) of the fund’s portfolio. There is no assurance that the Fund will achieve its investment objective. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

The use of leverage will also increase market exposure and magnify risk.

Closed-end funds are similar to mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in that they professionally manage portfolios of stocks, bonds or other investments. Unlike mutual funds and ETFs, which continuously sell newly issued shares and redeem outstanding shares, most closed-end funds offer a fixed number of shares in an initial public offering (IPO) that are then traded on an exchange. Open-end funds can be bought or sold at the end of each trading day at their net asset values (NAVs). Because closed-end funds and ETFs trade throughout the day on an exchange, the supply and demand for the shares determine their market price; closed-end funds’ and ETFs’ market prices may fluctuate through the trading day and those prices may be higher or lower than their NAVs. Closed-end funds, mutual funds and ETFs charge investors annual fees and expenses. All of these products may use leverage to enhance their returns, which can magnify a fund’s gains as well as its losses. Closed-end funds typically do not have sales-based share classes with different commission rates and annual fees. All three vehicles seek to deliver returns based on their investment objectives, but none of them are FDIC insured. The Revenue Act of 1936 established guidelines for the taxation of funds, while the Investment Company Act of 1940 governs their structure. Aberdeen Standard Investments does not provide tax or legal advice; please consult your tax and/or legal advisor.

In the United States, Aberdeen Standard Investments is the marketing name for the following affiliated, registered investment advisers: Aberdeen Standard Investments Inc., Aberdeen Asset Managers Ltd., Aberdeen Standard Investments Australia Ltd., Aberdeen Standard Investments (Asia) Ltd., Aberdeen Capital Management LLC, Aberdeen Standard Investments ETFs Advisors LLC and Standard Life Investments (Corporate Funds) Ltd.

Next Avenue: Why having a bucket list can be a big mistake

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This article is reprinted by permission from

A recent Stanford University School of Medicine survey of 3,056 people found that 91% of them had a bucket list — things they want to do before they die. But I think the whole idea of a bucket list is disheartening.

I say that because items on a “bucket list” often mean: Maybe I will get around to it, but right now, I’m too busy with day-to-day life. Problem is, unless you pay attention to your goals and take action to achieve them, a bucket list risks becoming a place where dreams go to die.

I’m not against bucket lists as a concept. When used properly, a bucket list can help you focus your priorities. But, if you say “It’s on my list” and forget about doing what’s necessary to make it happen, your bucket list becomes a graveyard of lost potential.

Amazing adventures not on my bucket list

When I retired from my job as an air-traffic controller at 50 a decade ago, and began my globe-trotting travel adventures, I never imagined the things I would be able to do and witness. None of them were on a bucket list, but I’m profoundly grateful that I’ve experienced them. Things like these:

  • I was the guest of honor at a Baci ceremony in northern Laos, where the hill tribe villages sacrificed a pig in my honor.
  • I hiked 50 miles through the wilderness of Myanmar from Kalaw to Inle Lake.
  • I witnessed clouds drifting below me in the valleys as I faced narrow trails with 3,000-foot drop-offs while trekking in China’s Tiger Leaping Gorge.

By opening my mind to what was possible and willingly operating outside my comfort zone, new experiences and opportunities began flooding in. Sure, I had some things I wanted to do. But after a somewhat structured life, my motivation was to live life more free-form and not limit my experiences in deference to a preset list.

In truth, I am very fortunate not to have accomplished some of my more youthful bucket-list items. I would probably still be paying the price for them, and possibly the bills.

A unique take on bucket lists

One of the wisest and most adventurous people I know, Luc Ducharme (a Canadian friend in Mexico), has a unique take on the whole bucket-list idea.

When he retired early from his job as a miner in his mid-50s, Ducharme found himself with more interests on his plate than he could reasonably deal with. To deal with that problem, he began metaphorically putting items he found compelling, but too much of a distraction, on what he colorfully calls his “F*** It List,” a kind of reverse bucket list.

It’s not that he isn’t ambitious. One day Ducharme decided to go to Portugal and walk over 370 miles on the Camino Portugues from Lisbon to Spain. He immediately put a plan into action and soon found himself walking through the beautiful scenery of the Iberian Peninsula. After finishing the Camino Portugues in northern Spain, Ducharme decided to keep going and walk to Rome, over 1,000 miles away.

Also read: Save time and money when you travel with these tips from the experts

Because Ducharme wasn’t bothered by a massive list of things he wasn’t going to get to do, he was able to take the time, take advantage of the opportunity and continue walking without feeling he was neglecting his goals.

What to put on a bucket list?

Another problem with bucket lists: What do you put on them?

Does a bucket list need to contain everything you might like to do someday or only the big stuff? Having a list that is over 1,000 items long and filled with insignificant follies is, to me, the same as not having one.

Having a long bucket list is not a virtue. Endeavoring to expand your universe and learn about the world is.

Do you remember how the term “bucket list” became popular? It was the eponymously named 2008 movie, “The Bucket List,” starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. After recently seeing it again, I had a quibble with the premise.

In one scene, the two main characters — elderly strangers with terminal illnesses — become unlikely friends and form a joint bucket list. One of the items on their list is to “witness something truly majestic,” and they choose a visit to the Himalayas. I can attest that the Himalayas are truly majestic. But using something as nonspecific as seeing something majestic points to a problem with bucket lists. They can wring serendipity out of life and cause you to miss the beauty in everyday simple things.

Also see: Need a break? Try a weekend getaway in San Luis Obispo, California

In the end, the movie’s characters didn’t get to see the Himalayas; the weather didn’t cooperate. I found that sad, not just because they were disappointed about not seeing “their mountains,” but because majestic things surround us every day; their bucket list could have caused them to overlook this.

Our alternative to a bucket list

I don’t have a bucket list. When my partner Sarah and I decide we want to do something, we usually say, “That sounds like a great idea” and get out a calendar or start planning. We prefer to be open to opportunity, and when something catches our eyes, instead of putting it on a someday list, we begin making things happen.

For instance, last year, the lease on our Portugal home was expiring and we needed to find a new place to live. We figured we’d find another home nearby with ocean views, close to activities and with a yard for Angel, our adopted Thai street dog. But, after a few months of looking, we couldn’t find the right one. During this time, however, we visited friends from Thailand who had moved to Malta and we were charmed by their tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean.

Long story short, we hadn’t planned to move to Malta, but because we weren’t rigidly adhered to a set plan or a bucket list of places to live, we packed up and moved within a month.

Another example: A few months ago, Sarah and I saw some fantastic, cheap airfares to Skopje, North Macdeonia. Visiting the area in the former Yugoslavia affectionately known as “The Capital of Kitsch” wasn’t on either of our lists. In fact, after we booked the tickets, we both looked at each other and said: “Uh, where is North Macedonia?”

Don’t miss: I retired at 35 by following these principles — it’s not that hard

If we’d been limiting our travels only to places we put on a bucket list, we wouldn’t have had that fun experience in Macedonia.

What if you complete your bucket list?

And one more thing about a bucket list: What happens if you get everything checked off? A list by definition is limiting; life should be about a limitless number of experiences.

I realize that not everyone would want to live the way Sarah and I do. If you’re intent on having a bucket list, you should have one. Just remember: A good life encompasses many things — such as friends, health and a sense of belonging. A bucket list that doesn’t include the vital things we tend to take for granted isn’t worth a dime.

At age 50, Jonathan Look Jr., sold everything he owned, took early retirement and began exploring the world. When he is not away exploring the world, he lives overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Malta with his partner, Sarah, and their Thai rescue dog, Angel. He shares his unique philosophy and stories of his adventures on his website, @Jonathan_Look

This article is reprinted by permission from, © 2020 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

More from Next Avenue:

The Affordable Care Act is more popular now than when Obama was president

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AFP via Getty Images
A majority of Americans have favorable views of the Affordable Care Act, according a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation. But does that mean they are fans of the original requirements of act when it was introduced in 2010?

Obamacare appears to have become more popular since Barack Obama left office.

Some 55% of Americans support the ACA, a record high since the law went into effect a decade ago, according to a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, while 37% of the 130,000 respondents in the nationally representative poll hold unfavorable views.

In 2010, when Obamacare was enacted, 46% of the public had a favorable opinion of it and 40% had an unfavorable view. Kaiser, a San Francisco-based nonprofit focused on health policy; it has conducted monthly public opinion polls on the ACA since it was enacted in March 2010.

Ahead of the ACA’s ten-year anniversary, three researchers from the foundation’s public opinion team also published an in-depth analysis of the 102 polls conducted that was published in Health Affairs, a peer-reviewed journal. (That did not include this latest poll released on Friday.)

“People who felt that the law had helped them were more likely to say that it had allowed someone in their family to get or keep insurance or made it easier to get health care,” the report said. “While those who felt hurt by the law were more likely to say that it had increased their health care costs.”

After President Trump was elected in 2016, “the threat of repeal became so real,” said Mollyann Brodie, the lead author of the report. “It was easy for Democrats to say, ‘Look at this president he’s trying to take your health insurance away from you.”

Also see: As recovery continues, fears that ACA would cause employers to shift to part-time work don’t materialize

Others credit Obamacare’s popularity with the effective repeal of the individual mandate. Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul removed the tax penalty on the individual mandate, the requirement that those who don’t qualify for an exemption obtain health-insurance coverage.

“The future increase in the number of uninsured caused by repealing the mandate may not be exactly the same as the reduction in the number of uninsured caused by the mandate in 2016,” according to the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit think tank based in Washington, D.C.

The number of uninsured non-elderly Americans fell from more than 46.5 million in 2010 to just below 27 million in 2016. “However, for the second year in a row, the number of uninsured people increased from 2017 to 2018 by nearly 500,000 people,” a separate report by Kaiser found.

In the most recent Democratic debate among candidates seeking that party’s nomination for president, health care was in the spotlight. Both Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts reiterated their plans to enact “Medicare for All.”

That would replace the current health-insurance system with a single-payer national health-insurance program. While Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg pledged support for variations of the ACA.

If passed, Sanders’ plan would prevent 153 million Americans from obtaining employer-sponsored health insurance, an earlier Kaiser study found. Since 2009, average family premiums have increased 54% and cost $20,576 a year in 2019.

“Partisanship has not subsided when it comes to overall views of the law,” the study states. Given how divided lawmakers and voters are when it comes to “health-care arrangements it would be even harder to get bipartisan support for a Medicare for All plan,” Brodie said.

Autotrader: 8 affordable new cars priced well below $20k

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Sometimes it’s easy to think that new cars are just too expensive. You may hear that the average new car transaction price is in the mid- to high-$30,000 range and get discouraged at the thought of not being able to afford a new car, but remember that these figures factor in expensive vehicles like luxury cars and fancy trucks. There are still plenty of new cars that start well below the $20,000 mark that are modern, safe and reliable.

Here are the eight most affordable new cars of 2020. The prices listed below include destination charges to give you an idea of the actual, out-the-door price.

Chevrolet Sonic — $17,595

The Chevrolet Sonic is a subcompact car that’s roomier and more fun than you might expect. Available as a sedan or a hatchback (with the sedan being more affordable by $800 when optioned with the same trim as the hatchback), the Sonic offers comfortable seats, a good amount of cargo space for such a small car and one of the best infotainment systems in this class. We also like the pep from the Sonic’s standard turbocharged engine and surprisingly sporty handling, which make it a good value in affordable new cars. 

Honda Fit — $17,145
The Honda Fit

If you’re looking for a lot of room in a little car, then look no further than the Honda HMC, -1.02%   Fit. The Fit is an exercise in space efficiency and clever packaging, which come together in a subcompact hatchback with a shockingly roomy interior. Back seat passengers are treated to plenty of legroom in the Fit, and the interior is flexible, so you can customize it to optimize cargo space, passenger space or some combination of both. Some impressive safety tech becomes available in the upper trims if you have a little more room in your budget. 

Kia Rio — $16,815
The Kia Rio

In decades past, Kia was a bargain-basement brand for folks who couldn’t afford a better Japanese car. However, the Korean brand has really gotten its act together since its American debut and now offers very strong offerings like the Kia Rio. The Rio gets a new engine and transmission for 2020, making it great on gas, as well as a seven-in infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay becomes standard on every trim. There’s also a Rio 5-door hatchback available with a starting price about $1,000 higher than the sedan’s.

Toyota Yaris — $16,605
The Toyota Yaris

The Toyota Yaris is technically a Mazda2 wearing a Toyota disguise, but that’s a good thing. The Mazda2 is a solid subcompact that isn’t sold as a Mazda MZDAY, -0.25%   in the U.S. A few things we like about the Yaris are its stylish interior with no shortage of features, its agile handling and its great fuel economy. A hatchback version of the Yaris became available for 2020, but the sedan is the more affordable option. Despite the fact that it wasn’t built by Toyota, TM, -0.05%   you can still count on Toyota-like reliability from this little car. 

See: This car could be Toyota’s best-kept secret

Hyundai Accent — $16,250

The Hyundai Accent is the cousin of the Kia Rio, with the Hyundai HYMTF, +0.00%   version being slightly more affordable. A few differences: The Rio is available as a hatchback, and the Accent is only available as a sedan. The Accent has a standard manual transmission, and Kia no longer offers a manual in the Rio. Another thing to keep in mind is the standard 7-in touchscreen in the Kia, which is optional in the Accent with its standard 5-in unit. Other than that, these are essentially the same car riding on the same platform powered by the same engine. 

Also read: The pros and cons of buying a certified used car

Nissan Versa — $15,655

The Nissan Versa got a major and long-overdue update for 2020, making it an all-new car. The new Versa speaks Nissan’s new design language, which results in an affordable subcompact that has some attractive visual similarities to bigger, more expensive cars in the Nissan NSANY, -0.50%   lineup, like the Altima and the Maxima. On top of the sharp new look, the new Versa gives you plenty of standard feature content plus a nicer interior than you might expect— all while remaining extremely affordable. 

Mitsubishi Mirage — $14,990

The Mitsubishi Mirage is great if you just want a car to get you from point A to point B that costs less than $15,000 brand new. Further adding to its value proposition is the outstanding fuel economy from its humble 3-cylinder engine. Normally with subcompact cars, the sedan is more affordable than the hatchback, but in the case of the Mirage, the sedan (dubbed the Mirage G4) has a starting price $1,000 higher than the base hatchback. A nice perk of the 2020 model is the newly standard automatic climate control on every trim. 

Be sure to read: The best times to buy a new car

Chevrolet Spark — $14,095

The most affordable new car in America for the 2020 model year is the Chevrolet Spark. The Spark is a subcompact hatchback that is a pretty tiny city car, so it’s not great for anyone with frequent back seat passengers. However, despite its small dimensions, it’s a surprisingly comfortable car from the front seats, and it comes well-equipped at the base level with lots of standard features. It’s also a very easy car to maneuver, partly thanks to its short wheelbase, which makes it an ideal city commuter that can squeeze in and out of tight parking spots with ease.

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NerdWallet: Your 50s are a dangerous decade: Why you need a plan

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This article is reprinted by permission from NerdWallet.

Losing a job is almost always traumatic. In your 50s, job loss can be devastating — and devastatingly common.

More than half the workers who entered their 50s with stable, full-time jobs were laid off or pushed out at least once by age 65, according to an analysis of employment data from 1990 to 2016 by the nonprofit newsroom ProPublica and the Urban Institute, a nonprofit think tank. Only 10% of those who lost a job ever found another that paid as much, and most never recovered financially.

Such concerns might seem remote in a booming economy, when the official unemployment rate is 3.5% overall and just 2.4% for those 55 and over. But recessions are inevitable, and even in good times older workers can be more vulnerable to involuntary job loss because of age discrimination.

These realities make it important to have a plan for navigating what could be your most dangerous decade.

Step up

It can be tempting after decades of work to think you can coast to retirement. But older workers who aren’t proactively adding skills are more likely to be laid off, says Susan Weinstock, vice president, financial resilience programming at AARP.

“If the economy tanks, they’ll be the first to go,” Weinstock says. “Staying current in your field is really important.”

Weinstock recommends that older people take advantage of any training opportunities their employers offer, volunteer for new assignments and become both “a mentor and mentee.” A younger co-worker could help you stay up-to-date with the latest technologies used by your office, for example.

Also see: Watch out for this sudden health problem in your 50s

“This is a great way for you to learn from someone else and to build more relationships,” Weinstock says.

And when it comes to relationships, more is better. Weinstock urges older workers to keep growing their networks, since most new jobs are found through someone you know.

Save more, save earlier

“Catch up” provisions were created to help workers supercharge their savings in the years before retirement. In 2020, for example, employees 50 and older can contribute up to $26,000 to workplace retirement plans such as 401(k)s, compared with the limit of $19,500 for younger workers. If you can take advantage of these provisions, great, but it’s risky to put off saving for retirement expecting to make up for it later. A better plan is to start saving as soon as possible and to increase your savings rate whenever you can.

You also probably need to beef up that emergency fund. The average length of unemployment for people 45 to 54 is a little over five months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For people 55 to 64, it’s just shy of six months. In a recession, those durations likely will grow.

Borrow less

Many people find their ability to save is hampered by the amount of debt they have. Federal Reserve statistics show that households headed by people 45 to 54 years old owed more than twice as much in 2016 as similar households in 1989.

Limiting how much you owe as you age can give you more financial flexibility. If you’re refinancing a mortgage, for example, consider choosing a loan term that allows you to be debt free by retirement, if not before. Be cautious about borrowing money for education, either for yourself or a child, since the loans typically can’t be discharged in bankruptcy and could be tough to pay back if you lose your job.

Wean the kids

Many parents provide their adult children with some financial support, and it’s typically for household expenses rather than emergencies. But ongoing handouts could jeopardize your financial health and theirs. Setting clear financial boundaries can help you wean them off the family dole.

React fast

You may find another job quickly if you lose your current one, but it’s best to act as if you won’t by cutting nonessential spending, asking lenders about possible forbearance or hardship programs and staying in touch with your network.

Also see: Divorce after 50: What I wish I had known beforehand

“If you see this coming, start looking immediately,” Weinstock says. “And actually I would say, always keep your eye out. There’s no reason not to, because you never know what could happen.”

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Liz Weston is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @lizweston.

Next Avenue: The 22 best cities for LGBTQ retirees

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It seems like every few weeks or so, someone publishes a new list of The Best Places to Retire. Dave Hughes’ new book, “The Quest for Retirement Utopia,” will help you clarify which criteria are most important to you in deciding where to retire and provide resources to help find the spot that’s right for you. In a special section for LGBTQ people, Hughes has compiled The Best U.S. Cities for LGBTQ Retirees, which includes some places that may surprise you. Hughes, a 2017 Next Avenue Influencer in Aging who retired at 56, writes the blog and is an authority on retirement lifestyle planning. He lives with his husband in a Phoenix suburb. The following is an excerpt from his book’s chapter on Best Cities for LGBTQ Retirees.

When it comes to choosing a place to live during retirement, LGBTQ people want the same things that everyone else wants — safety, reasonable prices, agreeable climate, cultural and recreational amenities and good health care. However, LGBTQ people have a few additional factors to consider.

Those include how tolerant an area is, the presence of a gay community, and health care providers that are welcoming toward LGBTQ people. In addition to considerations such as low cost of living and low taxes, LGBTQ people tend to value cities with strong LGBTQ communities, higher levels of acceptance and the presence of non-discrimination laws.

Cities famous for their prominent LGBTQ communities, such as New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. are also very expensive, though.

In the not-too-distant past, there weren’t many other places that could be considered LGBTQ-friendly. Most places everyone else flocked to for retirement were definitely not places where LGBTQ people could live openly and comfortably.

Today, there is a much broader range of choices to live. In researching the LGBTQ friendliness of communities all over the country, I have learned that most cities (even smaller ones) have pride festivals, LGBTQ film festivals and other hallmarks of an LGBTQ community.

For LGBTQ retirees, larger cities usually have the most to offer and provide more options for medical care and senior support services than smaller or medium-size ones. But if you prefer the more relaxed pace of small-town living and still hope to find an inclusive and welcoming community with a fun, artsy ambience, there are several smaller LGBTQ-friendly towns with big personalities that are worth your consideration.

Here are 24 large, small and medium-size cities that offer an excellent combination of affordability, culture, community and LGBTQ friendliness. They are presented alphabetically.

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville is artsy, progressive, scenic and one of the most gay-friendly cities in the southeast. If you love the mountains and milder weather, Asheville is worth a look.


Most areas of the Deep South aren’t particularly welcoming of LGBTQ people, but Atlanta and neighboring DeKalb County offer a cosmopolitan environment with plenty of art, music and culture. Several neighborhoods, such as Midtown and Avondale Estates, have numerous businesses that serve the LGBTQ community.

Austin, Texas

Austin is a diverse, liberal oasis in an otherwise politically conservative state. Austin is famous for its live music scene, with more music venues per capita than any other U.S. city. Austin is one of the most rapidly growing cities in the country, but many residents hope to preserve its quirky and artsy culture with the motto, “Keep Austin Weird.” Winters are mild, but summers are very hot and often humid. According to a recent Gallup poll, Austin has the third-largest percentage of LGBTQ residents in the country.

Bisbee, Arizona

This town of 5,575 in the southeast corner of Arizona has transformed into a vibrant, quirky town with interesting shops, a thriving arts and music scene, and remarkably well-preserved 1900-era architecture. You’ll see plenty of rainbow decals in the windows. Real estate prices and an overall cost of living are well below national averages; temperatures are moderate year-round. One downside: Bisbee is hilly.

Bloomington, Indiana

Bloomington scores a perfect 100 on the Municipal Equality Index (MEI), which examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies and services are of LGBTQ people who live and work there. And Indiana University, located there, offers many cultural opportunities. Bloomington has a good gay community with an annual Pridefest and an LGBTQ film festival. The surrounding area is beautiful, with mountains, forests, lakes, and the large Brown County State park for outdoor recreation.

Columbus, Ohio

Home to one of the largest universities in the country (Ohio State), Columbus is well-educated, open-minded, cultured and definitely LGBT-friendly. German Village, just south of downtown, is a quaint neighborhood that is popular with gays and lesbians, while the Short North area just north of downtown is home to numerous galleries. The winters can be harsh, but the low cost of living and real estate make the area easily affordable.

Dallas, Texas

For many years, Dallas has had a strong, vibrant LGBTQ community centered around the Oak Lawn neighborhood and, more recently, the Bishop Arts District. Dallas is also home to the Cathedral of Hope, the largest LGBTQ church in the world. The cost of living, house prices and taxes are all relatively affordable in Dallas.

iStock/Getty Images

The Denver area is home to the nation’s ninth largest per-capita LGBTQ population, as well as a thriving LGBTQ and cultural scene. If you enjoy the mountains for hiking, skiing or breathtaking beauty, the Denver area is hard to beat. Since real estate in Denver itself is a bit pricey, you may wish to consider nearby Aurora, where the cost of living is slightly lower, and the median house price is significantly less than in Denver.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas offers lots of sunshine and warm temperatures in a desert environment very similar to Phoenix. Las Vegas isn’t for everyone, but if the retirement lifestyle you desire includes lots of entertainment and shows, this may be the place. Las Vegas has several nice suburbs to the south.

Also read: We get $2,470 a month from Social Security and want a warm, friendly city near the ocean. Where should we retire?

Madison, Wisconsin

Madison was the No. 1 retirement city in the Milken Institute’s extensive Best Cities for Successful Aging report. It scored 100 on the Municipal Equality Index and is highly rated for health care, but gets very cold in winter.

Moab, Utah

Moab is a small, isolated town in eastern Utah, situated between the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, both renowned for their stunning natural beauty. The area thrives on outdoor adventure and is popular with mountain bikers, hikers and whitewater rafters. The town began to establish its reputation as an LGBTQ-welcoming place several years ago when over 500 of its 5,000 residents turned out to participate in Moab’s first-ever Pride parade and festival. Now, the town stages annual events — A Day in the Park, the Visibility March — and Gay Adventure Week. Since Moab is in an arid high desert region, it experiences chilly winters and warm summers with light annual precipitation and snowfall. However, Moab is remote. The nearest large city, Salt Lake City, is over 230 miles away.

Northampton, Massachusetts

This town in western Massachusetts has long been a welcoming, inclusive place for LGBTQ people. The area has a thriving creative community with arts and film festivals throughout the year.


This central Florida city may be best known for Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld and other tourist attractions. But there is much more to Orlando than just its theme parks. Orlando has a well-established gay community and several popular gentrified neighborhoods such as Thornton Park, Lake Eola Heights and Colonialtown. The cost of living, house prices and tax rates are particularly low in Orlando. And if you are hoping that many of your friends will visit after you retire, the proximity to the ubiquitous theme parks can’t hurt.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Most areas of Phoenix are quite welcoming of LGBTQ people. The Valley of the Sun’s plentiful 55-and-older active adult communities are clustered around the outskirts of town, but LGBTQ retirees will probably prefer some of Phoenix’s well-preserved historic neighborhoods or the nearby suburbs of Tempe, Chandler or Ahwatukee. Phoenix has grown rapidly over the past several decades, and so has its gay community, foodie scene and cultural options. Winters are delightful, but you’ll want to have access to a pool to enjoy the hot summers.


Pittsburgh has been working hard for the past couple of decades to modernize and revitalize itself as a great place to live, and the results are starting to show. While still not a gay mecca (it suffers with regard to LGBT-friendly hospitals), it scores better than average in cost of living, real estate, health care and crime rate.

Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington
Getty Images
Portland, Oregon.

In the past couple of decades, Portland has become one of the trendiest destinations in the U.S., both for the millennial generation and for the LGBTQ community, which is the second largest per-capita in the country. Portland has mild winters and beautiful summers, but it’s rainy throughout most of the year. Portland also has expensive real estate and Oregon has a relatively high tax burden, so a more economical option would be to settle across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Wash., where the median house price is significantly lower. This option allows you to live in Washington, where there is no state income tax, and shop in Oregon, where there is no sales tax.

Also read: I’m 53, have $1.4 million in my 401(k), $150,000 in savings and my home is paid off — can I afford to retire?

Salt Lake City

It may seem surprising that the same city that is home to the world headquarters of the Mormon Church is also home to the seventh largest per-capita LGBTQ population in the U.S., according to a recent Gallup poll. But Salt Lake City, which elected a lesbian mayor in 2016, is an island of liberal, progressive thinking with a thriving gay community. Winters are cold, but there is world-class skiing nearby as well as the famous Sundance Film Festival in nearby Park City.

Saugatuck and Douglas, Michigan

Saugatuck and Douglas, on the shore of Lake Michigan, have a combined year-round population of about 2,000. But these towns can swell to three times that size during the summer. Between the two towns, there are over 140 LGBTQ-owned or friendly shops, galleries, restaurants and lodging options. While Saugatuck and Douglas thrive during the summer months, winters are cold and annual snowfall is over 6 feet.

Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida

When you think of popular gay destinations in Florida, Fort Lauderdale, Wilton Manors and Key West may be the first to come to mind. But they’re expensive. Tampa and nearby St. Petersburg offer larger-city amenities at a much lower cost. The Ybor City neighborhood in Tampa, a National Historic Landmark District, is growing as a gay neighborhood. South Tampa hosts the Tampa Pride festival and is home to numerous LGBTQ venues and businesses. St. Petersburg hosts the largest LGBTQ pride festival in the state as well as world-class museums and a growing art scene.

Tucson, Arizona

If the Phoenix metro area is too large and spread out for your tastes, consider Tucson. This metro area of 700,000 has plenty of arts and culture thanks to the University of Arizona, a somewhat slower pace and beautiful mountains on all four sides. Tucson, and much of southern Arizona, is more liberal than most other areas in the state.

Walla Walla, Washington

Walla Walla offers an LGBTQ-friendly, welcoming college-town vibe. The Walla Walla Valley is famous for its vineyards, and there are about a dozen small breweries and distilleries in the area. The weather is sunny and dry, and there are beautiful mountains nearby.

Yellow Springs, Ohio

This small, woody town about 20 miles east of Dayton earned its reputation as a liberal oasis during the hippie movement of the 1960s. Today, its small downtown is lined with shops, galleries and a tiny long-standing art film theater, many of which sport rainbow flags and decals. Homes are inexpensive, the cost of living is low, and there’s plenty of hiking to enjoy in nearby Glen Helen and John Bryan State Park. Yellow Springs experiences typical Ohio winters with below-freezing temperatures and an average annual snowfall of over two feet.

Dave Hughes, a 2017 Next Avenue Influencer in Aging is the founder of RetireFabulously! and creator of the site where he writes about the retirement journey from the perspective of the LGBTQ community. He is also the author of “The Quest for Retirement Utopia,” “Design Your Dream Retirement” and “Smooth Sailing Into Retirement.”

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