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Getting A Handle On Your Debt

by Pete on October 3, 2015, no comments

gahoydWhen readers write, these are the main things on their minds. Below, typical questions and where to look for help.

I want to save for my retirement but have no idea how much I’m going to need. What would be a reasonable goal?

There’s a wonderful tool called Ballpark Estimate, developed by the American Savings Education Council (ASEC). It’s a simple worksheet that shows you roughly how much you should save to retire at your current standard of living.

The sheet has only 11 blanks to fill in, takes just a few minutes, and requires no math skills other than multiplication. I ran the Ballpark Estimate past two experienced financial planners, who tested it against their own retirement-planning software. They found that Ballpark figures usually came within 10 percent of their own recommendations. That’s good enough for me.

The planners did find a few things to quibble with. Ballpark assumes a life expectancy of 87 (maybe you’ll live longer). It’s …

The Harvest Always Comes…

by Pete on October 2, 2015, no comments

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers,” said Tennyson. Especially wisdom gathered in the garden.

Ripe tomatoes are popping out like measles across the green face of our garden: Early Girl, Willamette, Oregon Spring, Little Boy, Fat Man, and Tomato Glut. I planted too many, partly because The seed catalogue seduced me, partly because there was clearly a simpler solution. Joy and I have already done this stoop labor for hours without making a dent and it’s going to be dark soon. I’m curious: “When are we going to stop doing tomatoes, honey?”

“If you remember,” my wife says, “someone said we couldn’t possibly have too many tomatoes. So that’s how many we planted.” What a fantastic memory she has. That’s what I said, verbatim. It seemed true then, but not now. With our kitchen buried in crimson and the pressure cooker oozing love-apple sauce around the clock, I finally understand the concept of infinity squared. If they want children to learn