PROTECTING YOUR PARENTS' MONEY

THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO HELPING MOM AND DAD NAVIGATE THE FINANCES OF RETIREMENT

Talking to elderly parents about managing their finances can be an emotionally charged task—especially if they are hesitant to relinquish information and control—but Opdyke (Piggybanking, 2010, etc.) offers sensitive, user-friendly advice for adjusting to those stressful parent-child role reversals.

The author, the man behind the Wall Street Journal column “Love & Money,” guides adult children through the many issues involved with juggling an additional household budget, from accessing bank accounts and safe-deposit boxes to obtaining forgotten CDs or pensions. Making parents’ money increase through investments or by finding banks/credit unions with higher interest yields is beneficial. For times when withdrawing from their nest egg becomes necessary, Opdyke discusses several scenarios—e.g., a Prudential Insurance study showing how, because of tax rates, it is cheaper over time to draw on an IRA instead of taking early Social Security. The author also digs into the morass of Medicare and Medicaid, including explanations of terms, such as the simple “benefit period” or the more complex “Medigap coverage,” detailed in simple language and illustrated with an intelligible table. Opdyke also provides a variety of resources and information for those debating home care versus assisted living or nursing homes—and suggestions for how to navigate the tricky terrain of that conversation. Regardless of the issue at hand, the author provides several respectful conversation starters for each step of this difficult process. He’s also wise enough to caution readers against what they shouldn't say. Phrases like “you don’t understand” and "if you had listened to me instead of..." have offensive implications and can only complicate an already overwhelming process. A solid, informative reference.

 

Pub Date: June 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-135820-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2011

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to...

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CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

A French academic serves up a long, rigorous critique, dense with historical data, of American-style predatory capitalism—and offers remedies that Karl Marx might applaud.

Economist Piketty considers capital, in the monetary sense, from the vantage of what he considers the capital of the world, namely Paris; at times, his discussions of how capital works, and especially public capital, befit Locke-ian France and not Hobbesian America, a source of some controversy in the wide discussion surrounding his book. At heart, though, his argument turns on well-founded economic principles, notably r > g, meaning that the “rate of return on capital significantly exceeds the growth rate of the economy,” in Piketty’s gloss. It logically follows that when such conditions prevail, then wealth will accumulate in a few hands faster than it can be broadly distributed. By the author’s reckoning, the United States is one of the leading nations in the “high inequality” camp, though it was not always so. In the colonial era, Piketty likens the inequality quotient in New England to be about that of Scandinavia today, with few abject poor and few mega-rich. The difference is that the rich now—who are mostly the “supermanagers” of business rather than the “superstars” of sports and entertainment—have surrounded themselves with political shields that keep them safe from the specter of paying more in taxes and adding to the fund of public wealth. The author’s data is unassailable. His policy recommendations are considerably more controversial, including his call for a global tax on wealth. From start to finish, the discussion is written in plainspoken prose that, though punctuated by formulas, also draws on a wide range of cultural references.

Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to work explaining the most complex of ideas, foremost among them the fact that economic inequality is at an all-time high—and is only bound to grow worse.

Pub Date: March 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-674-43000-6

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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