Happy Father’s Day! We’re giving you the gift of free financial advice!
In this week’s episode of Motley Fool Answers, hosts Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp go through the most important financial steps that fathers can take during the three big milestones of dadhood — toddler dad, teen dad, and golden dad. From squaring away your estate plan and will, to balancing retirement with your college savings, and everything in between, we’ve got you covered for making smart money moves while you dad it up.
And stay tuned for a more practical gift-giving guide for the special dad in your life. Also, find out the somewhat good, but mostly just bad, trends revealed by theFederal Reserve’s annual Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking.
A full transcript follows the video.
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This video was recorded on June 12, 2018.
Alison Southwick: This is Motley Fool Answers! I’m Alison Southwick, and I’m joined, as always, by dad Robert Brokamp. He’s also a personal finance expert here at The Motley Fool. This episode is for the dads, and also people who have dads, and those of us who know a dad, because this week, we’re offering financial advice for fathers at the big milestones of Dad-dom. We’ll also share our Father’s Day gift-giving guide. All that and more on this week’s episode of Motley Fool Answers.
So, Bro, what’s up?
Robert Brokamp: Well, Alison, on May 22nd, the Federal Reserve released the responses to the fifth annual Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking, known as the SHED.
Southwick: The Fed SHED?
Brokamp: Yes. I’ve never heard anyone refer to it as such, but why would you not? Of course you should. Anyways, responses were collected from more than 12,000 individuals completing an online questionnaire last November and December. That’s actually twice as many people as responded previously. I don’t know, I guess it’s becoming popular or something. Whatever. It’s 66 pages long, so I’m going to go through each page and highlight my three favorite points.
Southwick: Please do, yes.
Brokamp: Not really. But, here are a few of the things that at least I found interesting. The good news is, when asked about their finances, 74% of adults said they were either doing OK or living comfortably in 2017. That’s 10% higher than the first survey in 2013.
Southwick: Wow, not bad!
Brokamp: So, every year, more and more people are saying, “Yeah, I’m doing all right.” Here’s how the nation’s income shakes out. Over one-quarter of adults had less than $25,000 of family income — yeah, during 2017, and nearly two-fifths had less than $40,000. At the other end, 26% of households have income of $100,000 or more. Gives you an idea of where you fall. Nearly half of adults age 22 and older currently live within 10 miles of where they lived in high school, which I found very surprising. It called to mind an excellent Bloomberg article I read that found that, as a workforce, we’re becoming less mobile, and it’s becoming a problem, because there are all these towns that, maybe, the plant shuts down. Back in the day, it used to be that you would just sell your house or pick up and move. People are less willing to do that. So, what do you do, as a state? Do you then try to bail those people out? Or do you say, “Tough luck, that’s just what happens”? Anyways. People are less likely to move, and the people who do move tend to be happier. So, that’s something to consider.
Three in ten adults have family income that varies from month to month. One in ten adults experience hardship because of monthly changes in income. There are a lot of people out there who have to do some budgeting to figure all that out. Nearly 25% of young adults under the age of 30, and 10% of all adults, have received some form of financial support from outside the home. A lot of people not quite making it without help from Mom or Dad or somebody else.
This stat gets brought up every time the survey gets done, and it doesn’t improve all that much, and that is: four in ten adults, if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, would either not be able to cover it or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money. In other words, they don’t have a very big emergency fund.
Southwick: And yet, so many people feel like they’re doing OK.
Brokamp: Right, exactly. It’s not news that there is quite a bit of disparity in the economy these days between people who are doing very well, but there are some people who are still struggling. Over one-fifth of adults are not able to pay all their currents month’s bills in full, so they have to rely on credit cards or something else. Over one-fourth of adults skipped necessary medical care in 2017 due to being unable to afford the cost.
For a lot of these people, they might benefit by doing some sort of budgeting. So, the survey did ask, how did people track their spending and budgeting. You could choose more than one response. By far, the No. 1 response, 59%, was the good old spreadsheet, followed by 46% of people who use paper. So, that’s how most people are tracking their expenses. Coming in third was their bank’s electronic format. A lot of people are setting up automatic bill pay or tracking their spending that way. Only 16% of people use anything like Mint, Personal Capital, You Need a Budget, which I found a little surprising. I know a lot of people here at The Motley Fool rely on Quicken or something like that. But, overall, in the overall economy, it’s only 16% of people.
Rich Engdahl: What was the number of people who said, nothing?
Brokamp: Well, this was just a survey that asked how people did it. That’s a really good question. I’m sure, in this survey, there’s a question —
Southwick: There’s a very large number of people who are like, “Eh, I don’t. Other.”
Brokamp: [laughs] Exactly, other, nothing, nada. Pray, I pray every month. So, we’ve had a few discussions in recent episodes about paying for college. Here’s what the SHED has to say about that. Just over half of those who attended a for-profit institution said that they would have attended a different school if they could go back and change it, as opposed to less than one-quarter of those who attended a not-for-profit institution. Also, over half of college attendees under age 30 had some debt to pay off from their education, and among those making payments on their loans, a typical monthly payment is $200-300 a month.
Southwick: That’s pretty significant.
Brokamp: That is significant. It’s a car payment. Nearly one-fourth of borrowers who went to for-profit schools are behind on their loan payments, versus less than one-tenth of borrowers who went to public or private not-for-profit institutions. We’ve talked a lot about choosing the right school for you. It definitely looks like the people who are choosing the for-profit schools are struggling, and they regret the decision.
Now, onto one of my favorite topics, retirement. Less than two-fifths of non-retired adults think that their retirement savings are on track.
Southwick: You said less than one-fifth?
Brokamp: Less than two-fifths.
Southwick: Less than two-fifths of people are on track for retirement?
Brokamp: Well, they think. It’s just their own opinion.
Southwick: They think!
Brokamp: What do they know? Anyways, most people are concerned about their retirement. One-fourth have no retirement —
Southwick: [laughs] The rest are delusional.
Brokamp: [laughs] It’s funny, because when you dig into some of these, like, “Have you done anything to do with retirement planning?” They’ll say yes, and then you dig into it, and it’s like, “I used a retirement calculator once,” or, “I took an educated guess,” or something like that. Anyways, we do know that, at least, according to this survey, one-fourth have no retirement savings or pension whatsoever. So, they’re struggling.
Three-fifths of non-retirees with self-directed retirement savings accounts, such as 401-K, an IRA, something like that, have little or no comfort in managing their investments. We’ve talked about this before, too. To a certain degree, the whole 401-K system is reliant on people doing their jobs, coming home, and becoming an investment expert, as well.
Southwick: Right, their second job.
Brokamp: But a lot of people are not comfortable with it. Expressed comfort in financial decision-making may or may not correlate with actual knowledge about how to do so, so to assess how much people know about financial literacy, they gave a little five-question quiz. And I thought I’d give you guys this quiz to see how you do.
Southwick: Putting us on the spot, but …
Brokamp: I think it’s pretty easy.
Southwick: All right, OK.
Brokamp: We’ll see what happens. This is true or false: housing prices in the United States could never go down.
Southwick: Oh, false.
Engdahl: Hmm, I think I’ll have to go with Alison on this, false.
Brokamp: Yes. Well, 60% of people got that one right. 19% got it incorrect and 22% didn’t answer. No. 2: buying a single company’s stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund.
Engdahl: If it’s the right stock … False.
Brokamp: Yes. 46% of people got that right, which means most people didn’t get it right or they chose not to answer, or chose “don’t know.” No. 3, imagine that the interest rate on your savings account was 1% per year, and inflation was 2% per year. After year one, how much would you be able to buy with the money in the account? More than today, exactly the same, or less than today?
Southwick: Inflation is 2% and I’m getting 1%? OK, then I can afford less.
Engdahl: Less! This is an easy quiz!
Southwick: See, I was worried it was going to be like, “Your 401-K gets on a train leaving Cleveland at 40 miles an hour. At the same time, a Roth IRA … ” You know?
Brokamp: [laughs] So, 62% of people got that right.
Southwick: Maybe I spoke too soon, there’s still one more question.
Brokamp: One more question.
Southwick: Here we go.
Brokamp: Suppose you had $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2% per year. After five years, how much do you think you would have in the account if you left the money to grow? More than $102, exactly $102, or less than $102?
Southwick: Oh, more than $102.
Engdahl: Is it an African or a European savings account?
Brokamp: [laughs] Monty Python reference, right?
Engdahl: I’m with Alison once again.
Brokamp: Yes. 56% of people got that right.
Brokamp: So, total, the average score, people got 2.8 right. Only 20% of people got them all right.
Southwick: If our listeners did not get a 100% of those right, I will be very disappointed in you! I need you to stay after class!
Southwick: Was that too harsh? I’m sorry. I’m sorry! No, you’re fine!
Engdahl: We have very elite listeners here.
Southwick: We’re here to learn together!
Brokamp: That’s right. Anyways, the point is, as a country, we could step up our financial literacy.
Southwick: You think? [laughs]
Brokamp: Yeah, you think? [laughs] And there’s no question that it’s good for your bottom line. Basically, my key takeaways from the Fed SHED are these. No. 1, the economy’s actually in pretty good shape right now. Unemployment is low, tax rates are low, wage growth has actually ticked up, and banks are actually paying interest on savings, so now is a great time to improve your situation, start building an emergency fund, and start saving for retirement.
No. 2, it’s always a good idea to become smarter about managing your money. Generally speaking, studies show that people who know more about money have more money and they’re less prone to make financial mistakes. So, pick up some good books, read some financial websites, and, I don’t know, maybe listen to a good financial podcast.
[Paul Simon — Father & Daughter]
Southwick: Hey! Happy early Father’s Day, Bro!
Brokamp: Thanks, Alison! You’re right, it’s almost Father’s Day. On this Sunday, dads from across the country will be opening gifts that, on average, will be worth $133.
Southwick: Wow, really?!
Brokamp: Yes! That’s according to the National Retail Federation. However, I will say that’s a little down from last year, and less than the $180 people generally spend on Mother’s Day.
Southwick: Well, I think we know why.
Brokamp: We know why. You deserve every penny.
Southwick: Yes, we do!
Brokamp: That’s right. So, for all the dads out there in Motley Fool Answers land, we also have a gift — free financial education!
Southwick: It’s always the right size! But you can’t return it, sorry.
Brokamp: That’s right. It’s worth every penny you paid.
Southwick: Actually, I would say, this is probably a good episode for any of our listeners out there, this might be a good episode to pass along to any dads in your life, as well. This is a very shareable episode.
Brokamp: Absolutely. Specifically in this episode, we’re going to offer tips for what fathers should be doing at three different stages of dadhood: No. 1, the toddler dad; No. 2, the teen dad; and No. 3, the golden dad. Are you ready?
Southwick: I feel like you’re all three at once, kind of. You have so many kids.
Brokamp: And those are just the ones I know of! Anyways, ready? Here we go!
The toddler dad, what is the profile of the typical father of toddlers? According to Stanford, the average age of a first-time father in the U.S. is 30.9 years old, so we’re talking about people generally in their late 20s, early 30s. Financially, actually, it’s a tough time of life, especially for this generation, the kids born in the 1980s. According to the Federal Reserve, men between the ages of 25 and 34 have a median income of $44,148. Kids born in the 80s have net worths that are 34% behind where previous generations were at this age. Yeah. And the reason isn’t because they don’t save enough. They actually have higher savings rates than Gen Xers and the Boomers at this age. The main problems are, No. 1, school debt, much more school debt; No. 2, they were entering the workforce at the time of the Great Recession; and, they were not benefiting as much as older folks from the recovery because they didn’t own a house and they didn’t have huge stakes in the stock market. So, they’re already starting behind. Now, of course, if they want to go and buy the house, they have to contend with higher mortgage rates, higher home prices, and, depending on where you live, pretty low inventory.
Southwick: Yes, if you live in the D.C. area, that’s going to strike a chord.
Brokamp: Then, of course, there’s the cost of raising a kid, which is an average $233,000 per head, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Southwick: [laughs] I feel like we’ve already spent that, and Anna’s only five.
Engdahl: Was that per year?
Southwick: [laughs] Yeah, per year!
Brokamp: [laughs] Well, that’s high, and it does not include the cost of college. It’s a lot of money. But take heart, young fathers! You’re in the midst of the greatest income growth of your life. This is the time in your career where people tend to see the most career advancement and the accompanying raises. Plus, unemployment is very low, which means job prospects are pretty good right now. So, now is the perfect time to get your financial ducks in a row.
So, what should you do? Here are a few things. No. 1, let’s get the morbid stuff out of the way, you need to take steps to protect your family in case you pass away prematurely. That is, you need to get life insurance and an estate plan.
Life insurance, a good standard rule of thumb is 10X your salary, which I’ve mentioned previously. But I read recently, someone suggested it should be 10X your salary plus $100,000 for each kid to cover the cost of college, which I think is actually a really good idea. Stick with term insurance. You want to have insurance at least up until they’re in college and maybe beyond college, which means a 25-year policy would be a good idea. They are available. Unfortunately, they’re not as available as 20-year and 30-year policies, so you just have to judge for yourself which one is right for you. But, that’s what you want to shoot for.
As for the estate plan, the first thing you want to do is update all your beneficiary designations on your investment accounts, any life insurance policies you already have, anything you have related to work. If you were not married when you filled those out, you didn’t put anyone down, then maybe you got married and put your spouse down, well, now that you have kids, you should put down the kids as not the primary beneficiaries but the secondary beneficiaries, because it’s always better for an account to go to a named person rather than just the estate.
Then, of course, there’s the will. We generally think you should go and see a qualified attorney to get your will and all that done. That said, it will cost probably over $1,000 to get that done. People are stretched. So, if your finances are not complicated, I don’t think it’s a horrible idea to go ahead and get one of the various online services that will do a will for you. Just know that it should only be temporary until you have the resources to see an attorney. Generally, the stickiest point with young parents when they do their estate plan is deciding who will get the kids if something happens to them.
Southwick: Oh, sure, yeah.
Brokamp: The parents don’t always agree, so they argue about it, and then they don’t get an estate plan. The solution there is to either name a collection of people that you are willing to have, because the bottom line is, if something does happen to you and you just named one couple, for example, it may turn out that they don’t want the job once they’re actually confronted with the reality. So, you just want to name a group of people, and hopefully they can work it out.
Southwick: Oh, I didn’t know you could do that.
Brokamp: Yeah. Some people will say that’s not the best. The best way to do it is, decide on one couple and make sure that couple has agreed to do it. But, what if something happens to that couple? What if they change their mind?
Southwick: What if they get divorced between now and then? What are you going to do?
Brokamp: Right, exactly. And the other thing about that is, who should raise the kids and who should handle the money, those aren’t always the same people who could do the best jobs. So, sometimes you’ll name, “I want these people to raise the kids. I want these people to manage the assets.” Of course, they have to get along, because they have to communicate a lot. So, that’s No. 1.
No. 2, of course, whenever you read articles about once you have kids, what you should do, they always say you should save for college. I say, you have to make sure you’re saving enough for retirement first. Generally speaking, you want to have had already started saving a little bit, and you’re saving 15% of your household income, that includes a match you’re going to receive. Do that first. If you then can do a 529 or something on top of that, that’s awesome. But don’t compromise your retirement to be saving for college.
No. 3, get very strategic about your career. Your job is going to determine so much about the quality of life for your family. It’s going to determine your benefits, including the type of healthcare you’re going to have for your family; obviously, your income; the amount of vacation time you can take; the flexibility you have to stay home with sick kids or go see their game in the afternoon; all kinds of ways. So, you want to make sure that you’re strategic in terms of getting the right job for you to be the best dad you can be.
I’ve said before that I think career management is a neglected aspect of financial planning. I think that’s changing. Over the last year, listening to regular old financial planning podcasts, I’ve heard more and more career coaches coming on as guests of the show. Sometimes, I listen to the career coach and I’m like, “Mm, not sure I learned anything new.” But there have been a couple of times when I’m like, “Hey, maybe I need a career coach, too.” You want to look out for what resources, it might be just a mentor at wherever you work, but it’s a good idea to get some professional help on that, if you need it.
Southwick: All right, let’s move on to the next phase of dadness, and that is teenager.
Brokamp: The father of teenagers.
Southwick: This is a fun time for them.
Brokamp: [laughs] Oh, it is.
Southwick: A very fun time.
Brokamp: Let me tell you, as a father of three teenagers. The typical dad of teenagers is at the height of his money-making powers. Income peaks between the ages of 45 and 54. The median income for such men is $59,800. But, if you have a college degree, a post-graduate degree, you’re making 25-50% even more than that. So, you are at the height of your income.
According to studies by both Fidelity and T. Rowe Price, people in the mid to late 40s should have about four to six times their household income already saved for retirement. Unfortunately, the average person that age seems to be a little bit behind. According to the Federal Reserve, the median net worth of households led by folks in that 45-54 age range, their net worth was just $124,000 in 2016. 2017 was a good year for the stock market, so hopefully it’s gone up a little bit, but a lot of people are behind.
If you’re in your mid-40s or late 40s and you’re feeling a little beaten down by life, know that you’re not alone. Several studies have found that lifetime happiness is actually U-shaped. When we’re kids, we’re pretty happy. Then, it begins to decline in early adulthood, reaching its low point at about 46. This is a global phenomenon, by the way. In some countries, it’s a little earlier, like Sweden. In some countries, it’s later, like the Ukraine. But, globally, people in their mid-40s are reaching the low point in their lives in terms of happiness.
Southwick: Really?! I’ve yelled at you guys to watch this, probably, did you ever watch Up documentary series?
Engdahl: It’s about the kids who were tracked as they were young and they’re older now?
Southwick: Yeah! It’s this series that was started way back in the 60s, where every seven years, they check in on this group of a dozen British kids to see how they are going in life. And, as you watch it, at least on camera, peak not-happiness is at, like, 14 and 21.
Brokamp: Oh, really?
Southwick: Right around there, they don’t want to look at the camera, they’re annoyed. And then, right around in the 30s, then they’re actually really happy, because they’re married and their life has evened out. But, you’re telling me that, no, the worst is ahead?
Brokamp: The worst is ahead, on average. You’re above-average, Alison. Let’s make that clear.
Southwick: Thank you. [laughs]
Brokamp: But the good news for the teen dad is, it just goes uphill from here! Generally speaking, 70 year olds are actually just as happy as 30 year olds. Generally speaking. That’s good.
The other good news is that while you have some financial hurdles ahead of you, at some point, the kids are going to be out of the house, college is going to be paid for, and you’re going to have a lot of disposable income. According to a study from the Center for Retirement Research from Boston College, they found that a theoretical couple with two kids, once those kids are out of the house, that couple could afford to save an additional 12% toward their retirement.
Southwick: And should!
Brokamp: And should! So, for those of you who are behind, just know that that opportunity is coming down the road. But, until that day, here are your top few financial priorities.
No. 1, begin preparing for college. In our April 10th episode, we discussed paying for college with Brock and Tim from the thecollegefundingcoach.org. As we explained then, you don’t want to wait until they’re juniors and seniors in high school to begin preparing for that. You need to start thinking about it in 8th grade, freshman year, arranging your finances for financial aid, and start thinking about, how much do we have, what can we afford, what kinds of schools do we want to limit it to. You don’t want your kids going after all the private Ivy Leagues, and then you find out that you actually can’t afford those.
No. 2, protect yourself from your teenage driver. Expect that your auto insurance is going to double once you get a teenage driver.
Southwick: Does it then triple if you have two teenage drivers in the house?
Brokamp: I suppose it does. I’ll find out here in another year, as my 16 year old, she has her permit. By the way, generally speaking, you don’t have to get more insurance once they get the permit. But once they’re licensed, you have to put them on the policy. So, be prepared for that.
Talk to your insurer about discounts. There are grades, there are different things now. They can track the car and track the speed that the kid is driving to make sure that they’re obeying the laws. Another thing you want to do is get a bigger umbrella liability policy. You have one of these already with your homeowner’s insurance and renter’s insurance. The basic coverage is just $100,000, sometimes $250,000. You want to move that up to at least a million dollars. I’ve been saying that for years, but it wasn’t until my son started driving that I finally did it. [laughs] And it’ll cost you another $250-300 a year to do it, but it’s worth it. And just know that, once the kid moves away to college, you still have to cover him or her, but you can adjust the coverage. Once they do move out of the house, you should call the insurance company and say, “They’re no longer a primary driver in the car. What can we do about that?”
No. 3, make your kid’s first job a learning opportunity. This is when kids start working at McDonald’s, or in my son’s case, as a lifeguard. This is the first time that you can talk to them about a work ethic. I remember, when I was a teenager, I cut lawns in the neighborhood. I made a little flyer, handed it out to everyone in the neighborhood. I misspelled maintenance. But I still got plenty of people calling me, asking me to do odd jobs, or I had a few steady, weekly mowing jobs. And my dad sat me down and said, “This is what you do, you go there and you don’t just do that job. If you see that their garbage cans need to be brought in, you bring those in. If it looks like they need some weeding done, you do that. You do more than what’s expected of you.” Kids start getting their paychecks, they’re going to see taxes being taken out, so it’s a great opportunity to start talking about taxes. Then, once they’ve earned income, you can open up an IRA, like we did for our son. So, you can then start talking about saving for retirement and investing.
Then, finally, as you may guess, I’m going to say that you should get a thorough retirement checkup. You are now, at this point, within 15-20 years of retirement, definitely on the other side of your career. If you’re not on top of these things yourself, you want to get professional help. Even if you are a do-it-yourselfer, I think there’s value to getting that second opinion. As we’ve said before, we’re big fans of fee-only advisors. You can find one at the Garrett Planning Network, at NAPFA, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, as well as our sister company here at Motley Fool Wealth Management. Just get some objective help to make sure that you’re on the right track.
Southwick: All right! And finally, what’s your advice for the golden dad? Is this the empty nester?
Brokamp: This is the empty nester. It could be anyone from their mid-50s all the way up into their 80s or 90s. But, basically the dad that is still a dad, but no longer has the kids at home. They may be retired or close to it, certainly within the home stretch there. For these folks, at least according to the Federal Reserve, the median income of people in the age range of 55-64 is $57,876. So, it is down from the previous age group. The median net worth is $187,000. These are folks who are getting close to retirement and, for many of, they really haven’t saved enough.
So, what should you do? Let’s start with retirement, of course. It’s time to get that professional retirement checkup, again. But part of it, too, is also deciding what you want to do with the rest of your life. Do you want to retire? Do you want to try a second job? The fastest-growing segment of the population that’s starting their own businesses is people over 50. Do you want to go back to school? That has to be all part of the retirement plan, not just whether you’ve saved enough.
Southwick: And that requires soul-searching, not just a sit-down with a financial advisor.
Brokamp: Exactly. A good discussion with your spouse, maybe a career coach, something like that.
N0. 2, get professional tax help to understand how your tax bill is affected by the new tax law, and how it will or has been affected by retirement. Tax rates are down, the new tax law has made a few changes in terms of what you can deduct. It’s really good advice for anybody to sit down with, maybe, a good tax pro — especially at this time of year, they’re not so busy, they have some time — just to understand that.
But it’s particularly important for people who are getting close to retirement, because the whole tax scheme changes. When you’re working, you get your paycheck. That’s by far the No. 1 source of your income, and you pay ordinary income taxes on that. You can’t get around that. You can take some deductions here and there, but that’s it. When you’re retired, everything changes. You have Social Security, which could either be free of taxes or only partially taxed. You have different accounts, taxable account, traditional Roth. You determine where you’re going to take your money from, and each one has a different tax consequence. You’re selling investments, that has tax consequences. You could buy bonds like municipals, treasuries, and corporates. Each one of those are taxed differently. It gets more complicated. Plus, when you’re working, you’re used to your employer taking money out of your paycheck and doing the withholding thing. When you’re retired, you can do that or not. You can have some taxes withheld from Social Security, or you can do quarterly taxes, which is actually probably better for most people, but they’ve never done it before.
So, I definitely think, for those who are retired or getting close to retirement, they should see a tax pro to understand how all that changes. Taxes are just like every other expense. You want to lower them, and you have more opportunity and flexibility in retirement, so understanding that beforehand is a good idea.
No. 3, consider downsizing and what the Swedish call dostadning. I don’t have a good Swedish accent.
Southwick: Oh, Engdahl is the one who’s going to bring the Swedish.
Brokamp: [laughs] Well, it means death cleaning.
Southwick: Oh, really!
Brokamp: Yes. It’s the process of radically decluttering your home so your children don’t have to deal with it when you pass away.
Southwick: Actually, we’re going to do an upcoming episode on death cleaning.
Brokamp: We are?!
Brokamp: Based on the book that came out in January?
Southwick: No, based Lacey coming on the show, and her experience. I just talked her into it today.
Brokamp: Oh, excellent! Well, so, a book came out earlier this year, “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.” Basically, let’s face it, you’ve had this house, probably a bigger house. You’ve raised the kids, they’ve moved out. You’ve accumulated all kinds of junk over 20, 30, 40 years. It’s a good idea to start going through that. No. 1, you can donate a lot, you can do something with that, do some good for the world. One thing you’ll often hear is that you want to be able to give things to your friends and relatives with a warm hand rather than a cold hand.
Southwick: [laughs] Oh, wow! OK.
Brokamp: Meaning, if you’re going to be passing along heirlooms —
Southwick: Oh, no, I got what it means! I got what it means!
Brokamp: [laughs] Why not do it now? You could sell stuff on Craigslist, eBay, whatever else, raise money that way. But, it really is, you don’t want to be doing that when you’re 90, you don’t want to be doing that if your spouse has passed away and you’re all alone doing it, and you don’t want to leave that to your kids. So, now is a good time of life to be thinking about that. And if you have that big four-bedroom house, maybe it is time to downsize to a two-bedroom house. You’ll probably pocket some money, as well as lower property taxes, lower utilities. It’s something to consider.
Then, finally, No. 4, and this is probably more for older folks than people in their 50s, but, begin sharing your financial management, whether it’s with a financial planner or a trusted relative. More and more research is coming out about, basically, how we age, how our brains age, and how that affects our ability to manage our finances as we get older. There’s a research article by Michael Finke, John Howe, and Sandra Huston called “Old Age and the Decline in Financial Literacy.” They basically gave a financial literacy test to people of various ages over a course of years, and they found, essentially, that financial literacy goes down about 1% per year after age 60. David […] of Harvard has found that it affects about half the people by the time they’re age 80.
Here’s the thing, though. While financial literacy does go down, and cognitive decline starts to impair our ability to manage money, our financial confidence remains the same. People are very reluctant to acknowledge the fact that maybe they’re unable to handle their money the way they used to.
So, while I don’t think that this will happen to everybody, I think everyone should incorporate it into their retirement plan that this is a possibility, and you start building in safeguards into it now. That is, you start hiring a financial planner, start working with someone. Often, it’s financial planners or relatives who notice some sort of change in financial management. All of the sudden, this 95 year old person calls in and says, “I want to cash out my IRA because I have this great idea to invest my money.”
Southwick: “There’s this guy in Nigeria, he’s very trustworthy, and I’m very excited.”
Brokamp: Exactly. Or, a trusted relative, and you give them power of attorney over the accounts, or something like that, just to build that in. Also, the other aspect of this, too, is — and, it’s often the husband, in this case, the father, who manages the broader financial planning things. What happens if something happens to you and your wife survives? Who’s she going to turn to for financial help? It’s better to build that relationship now rather than after you’re gone and she’s on her own and she has to figure that out. Of course, the flip side is also true. It could be that the wife is the one who does most of the financial planning and financial management, and she should do the same thing for her husband, because she could predecease him.
Southwick: So, there you have it! Bro’s gift of financial advice to fathers everywhere. What if some of our listeners want to give a financially inclined gift to a father in their life?
Brokamp: If they’re feeling very generous, first of all, I think the gift of time is important. I’ve talked about the importance of finding a good financial planner, a good tax pro, a good attorney. You think of a young dad trying to build his career, raise his family, he may not have time to even locate someone. You could be a big help just finding and vetting some people, and saying, “Listen, I looked at the people in your area. Here are some people to call.” It will cost $1,000-2,000, so if you’re feeling really generous, offer to pay for it. Hire the pro and cover the cost. It would be a huge help to most families.
Southwick: And if you want to give a cheaper gift, hang around for our next segment, [laughs] where I have many less expensive ideas. But, that was good. If you really love a father in your life, you’ll give him what Bro said. If you just want to get through this Sunday, stick around. I have some ideas.
[The Coasters- Yakety Yak]
Dads everywhere are sick of getting ties for Father’s Day! Right, Bro?
Brokamp: Absolutely. Look at this tie! I’m not wearing a tie.
Southwick: When was the last time you even wore a tie?
Brokamp: That’s a good question.
Southwick: FoolFest, maybe? No, you don’t even dress like an adult for that.
Brokamp: No, no. But I did when I was a financial advisor. I’d wear a suit every day. And, when I was a teacher, I had to wear a tie every day, so I do have plenty of ties.
Southwick: Well, you certainly don’t need any more!
Brokamp: I certainly do not!
Southwick: And if you, like other dads, are frustrated with getting ties, it’s tough, because you’ve been dropping hints all year about the presents you really want. So, for example, when your dad says something like …
Brokamp: “Who keeps leaving the lights on?” [laughs] That’s my dad voice. Do you like my dad voice?
Southwick: [laughs] That almost went to a Jimmy Stewart sort of space. “Oh, who keeps leaving the lights on!” [laughs]
Brokamp: [laughs] “Clarence!”
Southwick: [laughs] Yes, when your dad says that, what he’s really saying is, “I want someone to buy me the Lutron Caseta Wireless Smart Lighting system,” which is a 2018 pick by CNET. It works with Alexa for voice control, so you can say, “Alexa, turn off the lights!” It’s easy to set up and schedule lights so your family will always come back to a well-lit home. Lights can automatically adjust with changing seasons. And, with the smart away feature, it will randomly turn on and off your lights when you’re traveling. Again, you can use it with your voice assistant and just yell at Alexa when you want to make sure the lights are on or off. It’s $160 for a two dimmer switch starter kit on Amazon.
But, what about if your dad is always saying …
Brokamp: “The AC is on! Close the dang door, I’m not made of money!”
Southwick: Then maybe think about the Ecobee4! It’s CNET’s pick for the best smart thermostat. It has tons of smart integrations, including a built-in Alexa speaker, and CNET declares it unmatched on the market. It goes for about $180 on Amazon.
But, what about if your dad is always — I know Bro is always saying this one.
Brokamp: [laughs] I don’t even have to change my voice. “Put your device down. Also, where are you going?”
Southwick: OurPact is a screen time parental control app, app blocker, GPS locator, kid tracker and family locator that enables parents to manage their family’s screen time and also locate them. It’s free, so the real gift is to stop arguing about screen time and then go off together and do something fun.
Brokamp: Very nice.
Southwick: Which is all Bro wants.
Brokamp: [laughs] Oh, my gosh!
Southwick: That’s all you want. All right, well, what if you’re a dad that’s always saying …
Brokamp: “You’re the one that wanted a dog! You take care of it!”
Southwick: Well, then, how about the Petcube pet camera with treat dispenser? It has an HD 1080p video camera for pet monitoring — yes, that means you can look on your phone and watch your dog. It even has night vision, and, two-way audio, so you can actually talk to your dog through this device!
Brokamp: What? [laughs]
Southwick: And then, you can also give it a treat through the device! So, you can say, “Sit!” And the dog will sit, and you can see that it sat, and then you can hit a button and give it a treat, all from the comfort of wherever you are, so long as you have your phone, of course. It’s $200 on Amazon. [laughs] Oy. And, for the grandads out there who like to holler at the neighborhood kids …
Brokamp: Get off my lawn!
Southwick: It’s the Rachio Smart Lawn Sprinkler. You can care for your lawn remotely with your smartphone, tablet or laptop, just use a connected home system like Alexa or Google Home. So, when those pesky neighborhood kids are around, you can turn the hose on them without leaving your BarcaLounger! Just tell Alexa to fire up the sprinklers. Wirecutter named it the best smart lawn sprinkler you can get, and it’s on Amazon for $169.
So, there you go! The gift for every whinging dad.
Brokamp: [laughs] Those are actually some good ideas.
Southwick: Thanks! [laughs] Thanks!
Brokamp: I mean, not that I’m surprised! [laughs]
Southwick: You’re not the only one with ideas, Bro!
Hey, it’s officially summer, I think, right?
Brokamp: Yeah. Sure, why not?
Southwick: Even though you guys have continued to send postcards even without me asking you for them, guess what? I’m going to start asking for them again!
Engdahl: Ramp it up!
Southwick: Ramp it up, people, it’s summer! We love getting your postcards! So, while you are traveling … and, again, also, I’m fine with you buying a coast guard — a postcard —
Brokamp: A coast guard?
Southwick: [laughs] A postcard from the Coast Guard! I’m fine with you buying a postcard and then mailing it once you get back to the U.S. I’m fine with that. Rick is not fine with that. I’m fine with that.
Engdahl: I’m fine with that. I was just thinking that a postcard from the Coast Guard is something you should really target.
Southwick: So, while you’re off seeing the world — because I know that’s what you guys do — we would love to get a card from you. Our address is 2000 Duke St. Of course, it’s The Motley Fool. If you want to say the second floor, you can do that, but it’ll probably just get to us if you just say 2000 Duke St., Alexandria, Virginia, 22314. We look forward to getting even more postcards this summer. Thanks, everybody!
Brokamp: Thank you!
Southwick: The show is edited fatheringly … I don’t know, patriarchally?
Southwick: Paternally. Paternally! The show is edited paternally by Rick Engdahl.
Brokamp: Y-chromosomingly. I don’t know. [laughs]
Southwick: You have your job on this show, and I have mine!
Brokamp: OK, I’ll shut up now.
Southwick: [laughs] All right! Happy Father’s Day! For Robert Brokamp, I’m Alison Southwick. Stay Foolish, everybody!
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Alison Southwick has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Rick Engdahl owns shares of Amazon. Robert Brokamp, CFP has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool recommends eBay. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.