Consider yourself lucky if you can wrangle an invitation to Cousin Johnny Martinez’s Thanksgiving repast; it would impress Tom Smith. 

His wife, Laurie, baked pound cake for me, a treat generally from overindulgent grandmothers/great-grandmothers. The following day we hiked Crystal Cove State Park to burn off excess calories. Fortunately, Crystal Cove did not face budgetary constraints that shuttered 25 percent of California state parks (hopefully temporarily). Crystal Cove’s spectacular views should remind even the most fervent libertarian, yes Virginia, governments do provide essential services, not replicated by the private sector.

 “Gurshall”, the Georgia Bulldogs duo, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, averages more than 150 yards per game or as far as our hotel is from Pacific Life’s (PIMCO) Newport Beach headquarters. I mention PIMCO simply because prudent retirement planners heed PIMCO’s Bill Gross’ “New Normal” warning.  While no one knows what future returns will be, it is folly to base your retirement plans on historical rates of return.  I was not the only shocked Barrons’ reader who delved into Amy Feldman’s Nov. 19 retirement special and saw her touting historical returns for retirees. Shoddy reporting from some parts of News Corporation’s empire does not surprise me but Barrons usually does better.  Historical rates of return are not as meaningless as the ACC championship but close.

For Thanksgiving we visited our California son and met his in-laws in waiting. Take the pending marriage as a time to revisit beneficiary designations for retirement plans, life insurance policies and/or annuity contracts. With young people delaying marriage, it is not unreasonable for young adults to have retirement plans and is critical to make sure the beneficiary designations are appropriate. Don’t trust your memory; review the designations. A client recently inherited a life insurance death benefit an ex-husband overlooked.


The One Percent Solution

With Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror and Christmas shopping on the horizon, check out my good friend Jim Blankenship’s “Getting Your Financial Ducks in a Row” website. Ingeniously Jim enlisted a baker’s dozen bloggers on his quest to increase America’s savings rate by 1 percent in 2013. One easy way would be to avoid a Christmas gift hangover. Eliminating a “modest” $3,000 credit card balance with a 16 percent interest rate saves $480 annually. With a median U.S. salary of $50,000, 1 percent is less than $10 a week so it’s not a gargantuan task. If the New Year brings a raise, then bank part of it. 

While I applaud Jim’s challenge, America has a deeper problem. During the new millennium’s inaugural decade, the typical middle class family’s annual income shrank by almost $4,000 (New York Times, Eduardo Porter, November 21, 2012). We cannot ignore shrinking middle class wages. Contrasted with other American tycoons, Henry Ford understood his fortunes were tied to workers’ demand for his cars. He famously wanted employees to be able to buy Fords.

I can’t offer a solution to middle class wage growth.  One idea floated is the potential that increased healthcare demand will create opportunity for nurses and health care workers. These are jobs with above average pay, a low probability for outsourcing and more potential than trickle-down economics.

Buz Livingston, CFP offers hourly financial planning and fee-only investment management to clients along Florida’s Emerald Coast. He can be reached at 267-1068, or