That Darn Mortgage

Should I pay off my mortgage before retiring? This is a common question for folks planning to retire, and for others who would prefer to not have any debt. While I've written about this previously, the recent tax law created some new wrinkles to consider.

I'm a firm believer that there's no one right answer to questions like this. What's right should always be based on one's own situation. But the new higher standard deduction will crowd out the ability for many to see their mortgage as a tool to save on taxes. For these folks, starting this year, owing money on their house could seem to have no benefit.

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The Third Rail

Thanks to the wonder of the internet, I recently learned the meaning of the "third rail of politics" metaphor so often used to describe verboten government programs like Social Security.

According to Wikipedia, the third rail is a high-voltage rail used to power trains in some electric railway systems and, being electrified, would likely kill anyone who touched it. This seems an appropriate metaphor since no major politician wants to tackle the funding problems associated with Social Security, even though there are some relatively simple fixes. Ultimately, the third rail goes untouched for fear of the outcome.

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Seeing the Curve

Hitters in baseball love fastballs. Give them a steady diet of fastballs in the strike zone and good hitters are in heaven. But they can get into a rhythm and start looking for the next fastball. A common trick for crafty pitchers is to make hitters "think fastball" and then freeze the hitter with a nasty curveball that dives past, leaving them feeling surprised by the change of pace.

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Rickety Rails

Following the theme of last week's post, one of the things I find interesting about the Social Security program is how similar the fundamental funding issues are to those faced by folks planning for, and living in, retirement. Even the methods used for long-term analysis are similar. So, let's dig a little deeper into the Social Security funding conundrum and look at some of the key issues from a retirement planning perspective.

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Staying Focused Amid the Noise

If having information leads to knowledge and, as Benjamin Franklin once said, "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest", where do you get your information? It can be very, very hard today to get the information you need without all the other "stuff" that often comes with it.

We are under a constant bombardment of information and most of it is, frankly, extraneous. But with the flow seeming to get stronger as time goes by, how do we limit the amount of information we take in? How do we ensure the information we consume is accurate and worthwhile?

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E+R=O

Sometimes as I'm thinking about subjects to cover each week I'll come across an article that seems to take the words right out of my mouth.

If I bang a drum about anything investment and planning-related it's that we need to focus intently on controlling what can be controlled while trying to not get too worked up about the rest. There can and will be (and are) any number of issues that could get in the way of achieving our goals, so how we react when confronted with these challenges often dictates outcomes, whether we realize it at the time or not.

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