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HerMoney Podcast Episode 185: Finding Life’s True Riches With Rabbi Steve Leder 

Kathryn Tuggle  |  October 30, 2019

How can we live authentic (and still rich) lives in the Instagram, instant-gratification world we live in now? 

Tune into any reality show these days (“Extreme Makeovers,” “Cribs,” “The Biggest Loser,” the list goes on) and it probably won’t be long before a certain message filters into your consciousness: If you change your outer life, it will change your inner life. But that’s a lie. What we have is not who we are, no matter how hard pop culture may drill that message into our heads. That’s just a bit of the wonderful insight shared on this week’s episode by Rabbi Steve Leder, senior Rabbi of Wilshire Temple in Los Angeles. Leder is the author of several critically acclaimed books, including “More Money Than God: Living A Rich Life Without Losing Your Soul,” and “More Beautiful Than Before: How Suffering Transforms Us.” 

Listen in as he shares why he became a Rabbi, and how the synagogue became the place where he could pursue his passion for creative, cultural, intellectual and spiritual matters. He also discusses his early work on a congressional campaign and why he decided not to pursue politics. “I realized that I cared more about the values expressed in the bible than I did about the values being expressed in political warfare, so I made the decision at 20 years old to go to Rabbinical school, and I never looked back,” he says. 

As a Rabbi, Leder says that over the years, he’s seen many people who have a disconnect between their set of professed values and their lived values — and that’s a recipe for trouble. When we have this disconnect, it can present many problems in our lives, and pose a challenge for how we raise our children. As a father, Leder knows all too well the challenges of raising kids who truly know the value of a dollar, and understand the difference between wants and needs. He and Jean share some real talk on how to raise healthy, well-grounded and decent humans in the Instagram, instant-gratification reality we live in. In today’s world, we can press a single button and have just about anything we want delivered right to the doorstep. So how do we break the cycle of shopping for sport? “For kids, you have to engage,” Leder says. 

In his most recent book, “More Beautiful Than Before: How Suffering Transforms Us,” Leder opens up about his difficult recovery from a car accident and severe back injury that changed his perspective on suffering. “I realized coming out the other end of it, that I knew very little to nothing about real pain, and this book was an apology, and an attempt to set the record straight about pain and what we can learn from it,” he says. 

Lastly, in Mailbag, Jean advises a woman who recently found herself as the primary breadwinner following her husband’s retirement, and tackles a question about the rules for exactly how much you need to have saved heading into retirement. In Thrive, Jean dishes on wedding insurance, and whether or not it’s something the happy couple should really be investing in. 

This podcast is proudly supported by Fidelity Investments. You work too hard for what you earn to let it sit on the sidelines. Let Fidelity show you how to demand more from your money. Learn more at Fidelity.com/HerMoney. Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC Member NYSE, SIPC.

Editor’s note: We maintain a strict editorial policy and a judgment-free zone for our community, and we also strive to remain transparent in everything we do. Posts may contain references and links to products from our partners. Learn more about how we make money.

Transcript

Jean Chatzky: (00:06)
HerMoney is supported by Fidelity Investments. We want you to demand more from your money. So start by knowing what you own and what you owe. We’ll help you take the next step at fidelity.com/demandmore HerMoney comes to you through PRX. Hey everybody, it’s Jean Chatzky. Welcome to HerMoney. So I had one of those experiences on my way into the studio today where I was looking at this woman walking down the street and she was looking at me and I felt like I knew her and she clearly knew me, which sometimes happens as you might expect. And she came right up to me and she took both of my hands in hers and she said, you’re Jean Chatzky and I’m from Philadelphia and I know you used to be a Sherman. Sherman is my maiden name. And this is my husband and he shops at Sherman Brothers Shoe Stores. And we just feel like we know you, which happens to me, but I felt like I knew her, which may just be a Philadelphia thing because sometimes when I meet people who are from Philadelphia, since I have so much family from Philadelphia, I do feel like I’ve known them or I’ve met them. And it’s ironic because I was remembering the first time I met today’s guest Rabbi Steve Leder, who is not from Philadelphia, and yet we had one of those moments. We were both in the greenroom at the Today Show and I just started talking to him as if I had known him forever. And granted I had an advantage, I had had lunch with Hoda Kotb, the week before she had given me Steve’s wonderful recent book, More Beautiful Than Before: How Suffering Transforms Us. I was wrapped by it and I just couldn’t believe he was right there. Steve, please tell me it was the same for you.

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Steve Leder: (02:10)
Exactly the same. In fact, after talking with each other for just a few minutes about where we both had been at certain times in our lives, and we’re close to the same age, I’m pretty certain, Jean, that you and I crossed paths without realizing it when we were teenagers or campers at summer camp or something. I have little doubt of that. So we were born and raised in very similar circumstances and our experiences in our teen years were similar and I felt like you were an old new friend.

Jean Chatzky: (02:44)
Exactly, exactly. Let me just tell everybody else a little bit more about you so that they can feel the same way. Steve Leder, who many of you have probably seen on the Today Show, he’s done a number of segments now, mostly in the fourth hour. He is the senior rabbi of Wilshire Temple in Los Angeles. He’s the author of several critically acclaimed books, including More Money Than God: Living a Rich Life Without Losing Your Soul. He has been a rabbi for decades, which has given him the opportunity to travel the world and to inspire millions and millions of people, including me. And I am pretty sure we crossed paths at summer camp in Wisconsin many, many moons ago. When people meet you and learn that you’re a rabbi, if that’s something that they didn’t know before, do you get asked the question why? What drew you to become a rabbi?

Steve Leder: (03:44)
I do. The first thing people say is, well, gee, you don’t look like a rabbi, which I consider to be a supreme compliment in many ways, you know, because it’s their way of saying, well that’s interesting. I never would have guessed, you know, so I think that’s a positive in. And yes, I’m often asked, you know, why did you become a rabbi? And obviously there’s a long answer and a short answer.

Jean Chatzky: (04:09)
Give us the in between.

Steve Leder: (04:11)
The in between answer is that when I was 15 years old, I went to this Jewish summer camp at Oconomowoc, Wisconsin that you and I both went to as kids and it changed my life. You know, I was at that age when I was impressionable and I decided I want to be like these people. These people seem happy. They have meaning in their lives. They are doing the right thing and not the wrong thing. And I felt that I belonged there. I would say that, to go a little deeper, I did not grow up in a religious family, but I grew up in a family that was culturally very Jewish. There was a lot of what I call Yiddishkeit in my family and I grew up in a working class family. My dad and my uncle owned a junk yard called Leder Brothers Metal. And every creative pursuit in my childhood was summarily dismissed as frivolous by my father. Really, you know, you want to be a writer, forget it. You want to be an actor, forget it. My two career choices were go to law school and take over Leder Brothers or don’t go to law school and take over Leder Brothers. Those were my two choices and the one exception, the one creative exception was the synagogue. That was always a place where it was acceptable to go and to evolve and grow and expand. And so the synagogue became the place where I could pursue interesting, creative, cultural, intellectual, spiritual matters that mattered to me. So I think that, you know, it was this combination of things. I worked on a congressional campaign when I was 20 because I thought about going into politics and when I realized that that was just not for me, you know, and was with a bunch of guys who went on to run the Clinton white. So, you know, it was a passionate and aggressive environment and I realized that I cared more about the values expressed in the Bible than I did about the values being expressed in, you know, political warfare. And so I made the decision at 20 years old to go to rabbinical school and I’ve never looked back.

Jean Chatzky: (06:17)
Amazing. Amazing. There are many people who are happy that you went down that road, myself included. Let’s talk about your book More Money Than God because you really explore the relationship between money and spirituality and how the two are not mutually exclusive. Why did you dig into this topic?

Steve Leder: (06:39)
I wrote that book just after the dotcom bubble burst. And you know, I’m the rabbi of a very, very large congregation in Los Angeles and was engaged with a lot of people who were engaged in that world who made a lot of money, lost a lot of money. And I’ve also been on the inside of many people’s lives, doctors, lawyers, accountants, we’re on the inside of people’s lives and we see where their values are versus their professed values. So I clearly saw that many people had a certain set of professed values. These are the things they said they believed in. But then if you actually look at how they live, where they spent their money, how they made their money, you saw that there’s a lack of alignment between their professed values and their lived values. And that’s a recipe for trouble.

Jean Chatzky: (07:31)
I see that so often today.

Steve Leder: (07:33)
Exactly. And I also was raising children in this environment we call Los Angeles. And watching them watch TV, watching these shows that are produced here. They all have different titles, Jean, but the subtext is identical. The subtext for all of these shows is, if you change your outer life, it will change your inner life. And that’s a lie. You know, my kids were watching shows like Extreme Makeover, Pimp My Ride, Cribs, Biggest Loser, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and all of these pop culture products are along, by the way, with every ad in every magazine at every checkout counter, at every grocery store and every TV commercial. They’re all trying to get us to believe that our outer material lives, that what we have is who we are and that is a road to disaster. I say in that book that it’s like trying to eat a picture of food.

Jean Chatzky: (08:39)
Well, look at Instagram, right? I mean all you see are pictures of food and pictures of stuff that you can press a button and then you can have instantaneously. How do we, for ourselves and also for our kids who are so impressionable, how do we break this cycle?

Steve Leder: (09:00)
Well, for kids particularly, you have to engage. You cannot rely on popular culture to raise your children and give them values. You cannot do it. They only have you to weigh in. So, you know, I’ve always been amazed that if a parent hears a child saying something sexist, they’ll weigh in and say, that’s wrong. That’s not what our family believes. I don’t want to hear it again. If they hear their child come home with a racist remark, they’ll say the same thing. Here’s why that’s wrong. That’s not what our family stands for, etc. But when their child comes home and talks about being exposed to absolute over the top crass materialism or coveting, somehow that’s seen as an “ism” about which parents should not opine. And that’s a terrible mistake. I talked to my kids when they were teenagers about what is this ad really trying to sell you? Do you believe that’s really true? You know, I talked with my daughter about the name True Religion jeans. Why did they call it that? What do you think they were trying to get you to believe? You know, these are all forms of idolatry, you know, and isn’t it odd that we write in God we trust on a dollar bill? Think about that for a moment. So part of it is about helping your children interpret the messages that are coming at them. Another step, very important step, is to help your children understand the difference between I want it and I need it. That’s a very important conversation because most people who get into serious trouble with money have a serious problem. They’re confusing, want and need. I had a guy who went to prison for kiting checks tell me, rabbi instant gratification wasn’t quick enough for me.

Jean Chatzky: (10:48)
Wow.

Steve Leder: (10:49)
That is a chilling, chilling comment. And if you don’t help your children understand the difference between want and need, they’re headed for an adulthood in which instant gratification isn’t quick enough.

Jean Chatzky: (11:00)
When you realized that parents were not getting in the way of these wants, when the children were bringing them home or coveting or you call it money lust in your book, do you think that’s because parents are aspiring, too, I mean, do you think it’s because we all, or not all, but many of us are just aiming to make life a little better for our kids than we feel we have it ourselves?

Steve Leder: (11:31)
Yes, absolutely. And I also think that parents fear being considered to be judgmental by their peers. You know, and this is a big problem. I very often point out to parents, you know, I’ve spent a lot of time speaking at schools and elementary schools all over the country about the money book and I pointed out countless times that you wouldn’t hesitate to weigh in on other moral issues. Why are you hesitating to weigh in about this materialism? And you know, I also think that this plays out in in many marriages too, Jean, if we can take this to the adult level.

Jean Chatzky: (12:07)
Sure.

Steve Leder: (12:07)
I think a more nuanced answer to your question, many, many, many marriages have a kind of unspoken agreement, which is, you ignore my workaholism and I’ll ignore your materialism. It’s never said, but it’s lived. And that reality prevents parents from engaging with their own children about these matters because the children know they’re being entirely hypocritical when they do it.

Jean Chatzky: (12:37)
Right. In my book, Women With Money, I wrote a sentence about how hypocritical we’re being telling our kids that they shouldn’t be consumed with things when we are constantly, and I’m including myself, coming into the house with shopping bags.

Steve Leder: (12:53)
Yes. Or there are a dozen Amazon packages at the front door every time you walk in. These kids, they know this. They see it. And you know, I remember when my daughter first day came back from kindergarten, first day, came back and said to me, daddy, I’m going to change the name here, daddy, Julie’s daddy has 15 cars. Now I had some choices, Jean, I could have said, really? That’s amazing. Wow, I wish we had 15 cars. What are they? A. Choice B? I could’ve said nothing. You know, been benign. That’s nice. Or C. A conversation that goes something like, Hannah, how many cars can one person drive? One daddy. Okay, let’s count how much money, 14 cars, the other 14 cars add up to, and how many people we could feed at the temple’s food pantry for a year with that money. You know, and maybe Hannah’s going to roll her eyes at me, but I don’t care. I’m her parent. It’s my obligation to raise her as I see proper. But what’s preventing this conversation is the larger fear that Hannah’s going to go back to kindergarten on the second day and say to her friend, Julie, my daddy thinks your daddy has bad values. And that’s the risk many parents are unwilling to take. But we take those risks in other areas, drugs, you know, racism, sexism. Why won’t we take it when it comes to this crass materialism? I don’t understand it. You know, I sit down every six months, I meet with groups of parents whose children are going to have their bar or bat mitzvahs within the next year. And I draw a line down the middle of a whiteboard and on one side I put what are the values that are expressed at a morning prayer service at a bar or bat mitzvah. And then I ask them to list what are the values that are expressed at an evening bar or bat mitzvah party.

Jean Chatzky: (14:52)
Oh boy.

Steve Leder: (14:54)
And now let’s look at the tension between these two sides of the board and who are we at our best. Now, most rabbis think I’m crazy to do that because most rabbis don’t want to engage in this conversation because they’re afraid of alienating the rich because we need them to fund our institutions. A friend of mine joked about the money book that I should have called it Rabbi Bites Hand That Feeds Him, but, but to be honest, it hasn’t turned out that way. It’s to the contrary. All people at all economic levels, including people of means, welcome the conversation because they’re as confused as anyone about how to raise healthy, well-grounded, decent, humane human beings. In this crazy as you so well pointed out, Instagram instant gratification, one and two dimensional reality we’ve created.

Jean Chatzky: (15:51)
So what happens as a result of the whiteboard exercise?

Steve Leder: (15:55)
Well, on my best day, what I hope, or my most optimistic day, what I hope is that people are really then going home and having a different kind of conversation with their children about what’s appropriate and what their family believes is right and how we’re going to do things. But, that’s my optimistic side. But even at my most pessimistic, what I hope I’m doing is at least giving the people who are going to do the right thing anyway, a little more encouragement and support to do the right thing.

Jean Chatzky: (16:26)
I love that. I want to make sure that we have enough time to talk about More Beautiful Than Before because it made such an impact on me. But before we do that, let me just remind everybody that HerMoney and conversations like these is sponsored by Fidelity Investments. What if you could demand more from your money? What if you could make your savings work as hard as you do? And what if that helped you reach your financial goals a little bit faster. It all starts with a financial checkup and an understanding of what you own and what you owe. And from there the folks at Fidelity will work with you to evaluate your investment options and different ways to grow your savings. You can get started today at fidelity.com/demandmore. I am talking with Rabbi Steve Leder whose latest book More Beautiful Than Before is a very personal introspection and lesson about finding meaning in suffering. And one of the things you wrote was that pain cracks us open, it breaks us, but in the breaking there is a new kind of wholeness. Can you talk about what led you to this realization and what drove you to write this book?

Steve Leder: (17:44)
Yes. Let’s do that in reverse order. What led me to write the book was that I was a rabbi for 27 years before I wrote the book and obviously had dealt with thousands of people in incredibly painful situations. You know, I’ve helped parents bury children in coffins the size of a shoe box. I’ve helped, you know, people who’ve gone to prison and suffered terrible public shame. I’ve seen so many different permutations of pain. And I thought during those 27 years I was doing a pretty good job of helping people. And then I, about six years ago now, was in a very frightening car accident. And to make that long story short, it resulted in a pretty serious injury to my spine. Enormous pain couldn’t walk, steroids, opioids, steroids, opioids, depression, surgery, more steroids, more opioids, more depression. And I realized coming out the other end of that, that despite my best intentions and efforts for those 27 years, I actually knew very little to nothing about real pain. And this book was a sort of apology and an attempt to set the record straight about pain and what we can learn from it. So that’s really why I wrote the book. Now only about, I don’t know, 10% of the book is about me, but that was the catalyst for the book. Now, this realization that when we’re broken, we’re actually more whole, for me, it came as the result of a very quick conversation. I was at a think tank in New Jersey with a bunch of rabbis and Jewish leaders. And one of the rabbis turned to me. I was working on the book at the time and he said, well, what have you, what did you learn from what you went through? You know, what’s the end result of what you went through? And I immediately, almost without thinking, I just said to him, well, I’m a lot nicer person. Now, I wasn’t a bad guy before, Jean. But going through what I went through created in me a much, much deeper sense of empathy and kinship for fellow sufferers. And I respond much differently now to people who come to me, you know, broken and afraid. And I could not have grown in this way, any other way, than having gone through terrible pain. You know, Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian philosopher, said, I don’t know who discovered water, but it wasn’t the fish. And what McLuhan meant was that we’re so much a part of our own reality, we’re really not aware of it. And it’s only pain that disrupts us, that jerks us out of that reality and gives us a new perspective on our own lives. I’ll share a very beautiful thought with you that applies to all of us, I believe, but it comes directly from the rabbis of the Talmud. There’s this verse in the book of Deuteronomy that says, God puts God’s words upon our hearts, and the sages ask why upon our hearts and in our hearts? Surely God has the power to put words in our hearts. Why does God put words upon our hearts? And the answer the sages give is, God puts words upon our heart and it isn’t until our hearts are broken that the words can enter.

Jean Chatzky: (21:03)
Oh wow.

Steve Leder: (21:04)
That is a profound and beautiful and powerful thought. And so these are the ways in which we are more whole when broken. Now, in no way is this book an attempt to idealize pain or justify it. You know, I have a friend who died several years ago. His name was Paul Miller, an amazing guy, was actually, was one of the five chairman of the EEOC at one point. And Paul had cancer three different times in his life and the third cancer was fatal. And I remember visiting him when he was dying of that third cancer and he looked up at me and from his hospital bed and he said, you know, Steve, this much character, I don’t need. So, you know, I’m not saying that this suffering we endure is worth it. But what I am saying is neither is it worthless.

Jean Chatzky: (22:02)
And I think no matter where you are in life, if you are struggling to any degree, these lessons are a great help in building resilience, the sort of resilience that we need to get through tough times in your own life, but also tough times at work and tough times financially and just…

Steve Leder: (22:28)
And resiliance, Jean, for me, because I was always such a strong and independent person, it’s very important to realize that resilience includes the capacity to reach out for help. The person who reaches out for help is a resilient person. The person who tries to tough it out alone is not necessarily resilient. No one, no one suffers pain better alone. Tthe Talmud says the prisoner cannot free himself. You have to reach out.

Jean Chatzky: (22:59)
That’s the ethos behind why we do this podcast.

Steve Leder: (23:03)
Exactly. And why you do the work you do.

Jean Chatzky: (23:03)
Thank you so much for this conversation. Thank you for being here. I know that you’re working on another book called The Beauty of What Remains and I hope that you’ll come back and talk about it when it launches.

Steve Leder: (23:16)
I would be honored to. Thank you, Jean. Thank you so much.

Jean Chatzky: (23:19)
And we will be right back with Kathryn and your mailbag. Kathryn Tuggle from HerMoney.com has joined me in this studio. Hey Kathryn.

Kathryn Tuggle: (23:30)
Hi.

Jean Chatzky: (23:31)
How are you?

Kathryn Tuggle: (23:32)
Doing good. How are you?

Jean Chatzky: (23:33)
I am good. I feel really good about that conversation.

Kathryn Tuggle: (23:36)
I feel really inspired. He’s the kind of guy who you could just talk to you about anything for any amount of time and walk away feeling enlightened.

Jean Chatzky: (23:44)
I think so. And I was a little concerned about this show going into it because we don’t do a lot of religion. I don’t think we do any religion. I mean I’ve talked in the past about how my best friend from college is a rabbi and I’d like to get her on the show someday, but more because she’s my best friend then because she’s a rabbi. But I had written a question about, I know there are people in our audience who don’t believe in God. So what then? And I didn’t even ask it because I felt like what he was saying was so universal, you could take God completely out of that equation and it just wouldn’t matter.

Kathryn Tuggle: (24:26)
Right.

Jean Chatzky: (24:26)
And his lessons on materialism. I God, I feel guilty about that. I mean I wrote about feeling guilty about it in the book, too, because I am that person sometimes who shops for sport and I do shop to blow off steam. I mean I like it. I’m not gonna am I gonna apologize for liking it? Not really. I’m not going to apologize for liking it. I work hard. I don’t do it excessively, but I do really enjoy it. And I have wondered about the effect that it had on my daughter. Not so much on my son because he wasn’t my shopping partner in crime, but you know, we would go for fun to the outlet mall, like what is wrong with me?

Kathryn Tuggle: (25:06)
Every mother daughter does that. And I was in college I think when it hit me the high that my mom, when I would get when we would go shopping, because we would always just have the best day when we were out shopping and I felt bad that we couldn’t just have the best day sitting around at home. Like the fact that we had to be out buying things and walking around with shopping bags. I was like, we’re not those people, but this is really fun.

Jean Chatzky: (25:35)
It’s really fun. But I think and as Julia has gotten older, we’ve started to look for other things that we can do together to get that sort of fun. We’ve run some races together, we cook together. I think you do have to make it a point if you are a leisure shopper to get away from that a little bit.

Kathryn Tuggle: (25:58)
Right.

Jean Chatzky: (25:59)
Yeah. Interesting. But I’m glad to know that it wasn’t just us.

Kathryn Tuggle: (26:02)
Not just to you, but I am going to reevaluate my True Religion jeans now.

Jean Chatzky: (26:06)
Exactly. I don’t think I’ve worn True Religion jeans and about a decade. What do you have?

Kathryn Tuggle: (26:13)
So our first letter today comes to us from an anonymous listener who writes, my husband retired earlier this year and is having some difficulty adjusting to my being the primary earner. We can easily live comfortable on my salary, but he is missing having that steady paycheck coming in. He’s 62 but I think it’s too early for him to file for his social security benefits. Should I give him a monthly allowance to ease his transition from retirement? Other suggestions?

Jean Chatzky: (26:41)
So I love this question on so many levels. I really, really love the fact that it gets into what happens when somebody has been the primary earner in the family and that shifts. And this happened in my first marriage and it was very, very difficult to adjust to. I had been such a minor earner in our overall scheme of wages when we first got married. And as my career grew, I grew into an equal earner and that was the shift, that was really, really difficult. And so I think this is an important question and I also think that you’re right, it probably is too early for him to file for social security benefits if you don’t need the money and it doesn’t sound like you do. We know that for every year that you wait from age 62 to age 70 it works out to about an 8% jump in annual benefits. That is a huge amount of money and it’s a guaranteed return that you really can’t get in any other way. I don’t know that he’s going to like the word allowance, but I do think that you may want to consider building some pile of money that is just his, and call it whatever you want. Call it a fun fund, call it his own account. Just he needs some money that he can count on where he doesn’t have to ask permission from you because if you flip the switch and look at the equation from the perspective of women who have been home for a long time, we hear this from them over and over and over again. I need autonomy, otherwise it’s too parental and he’s been your husband for such a long time that you do not want to become his mother. So I would say that’s the way to go.

Kathryn Tuggle: (28:41)
Right. Do you think that that is where the conflict around having your spouse be, the primary earner comes from that you don’t feel like you have autonomy? Is that the root of it?

Jean Chatzky: (28:51)
Not necessarily. I feel like there are some women who want to earn money. There’s something about earning a paycheck that feels really good and feels really important to some women who don’t want to give that up. I also think that there is a power element when it’s one person earning all the money and you’ve got to do something to equalize the power in the relationship and yours, mine and ours accounts can, even if they’re funded by the same account from a primary breadwinner, go a long way to do that. One of the interesting things in Women With Money, and I don’t usually talk about the book that much during the podcast, but I wrote about a dozen different ways couples manage money in their families successfully. And I did it just to show there’s no right way and there’s no wrong way. There’s just a way that feels okay to you and you’ve got to figure out how to get there.

Kathryn Tuggle: (29:59)
That’s great feedback.

Jean Chatzky: (30:00)
Okay.

Kathryn Tuggle: (30:01)
Our next listener note comes to us from Rose who writes, hello Jean. Thank you for this amazing podcast. I’ve been bingeing on it since I discovered it until everyone about it.

Jean Chatzky: (30:10)
Thank you, Rose.

Kathryn Tuggle: (30:12)
My question is about the rules for exactly how much one needs to have saved in retirement. I’ve heard more than once that you need to have at least 25 times your annual salary saved in order to retire comfortably. My husband and I are in retirement now and did not have nearly that much saved. With that said, we’re pretty comfortable and we haven’t even started taking social security yet, but my husband has a pension. , I’m wondering is the 25 times the best rule for everyone or does it depend on the other investments that you have? Should your debt also be factored into how much you save? Thanks for all that you do Rose.

Jean Chatzky: (30:45)
So Rose is getting a little confused between the FIRE math and the regular retirement math. FIRE is a movement. We’ve talked about it many times on the show. It stands for financial independence, retire early and proponents of the fire movement work on this formula that if you’ve saved 25 times, not your last salary, but your expenses, then you should be able to retire on that money and the math there underlying that 25 times, is that they’re banking on about 4% growth and being able to withdraw 4% from the portfolio each year. And it’s a moving 4%. If your portfolio is down a little bit, you take a little less. If it’s up a little bit, you take a little more. The benchmarks that our sponsor, fidelity and other financial institutions use based around income say that you should have 10 times your last salary put away for retirement before you retire. Ten and 25 that that’s a huge, huge difference and if you have a pension you can reduce that 10 times by the amount that that pension is going to cover. So Rose, I am not at all surprised that you are living comfortably on less, but I love that you asked the question because it really opened the door to an explanation that I think a lot of people are confused about, so thank you for that.

Kathryn Tuggle: (32:23)
There are so many figures out there.

Jean Chatzky: (32:24)
There are so many figures. Yeah, and I think the big thing that people need to remember, no matter how much they’ve got set aside for retirement is that people make it work in all of ways. People get really resilient and they decide, I’m going to work a year longer, I’m going to retire six months later, I’m going to do some work while I’m retired. I’m going to shift and move someplace where the taxes are lower or the cost of living is lower and all of those things allow you to work with the money that you have in order to find your way to a life that’s more comfortable.

Kathryn Tuggle: (33:07)
Absolutely. Our last note today is from Candida in Washington D.C. She writes, I’ve been a renter for a long time and more recently I’ve noticed that rental properties are requiring proof of renter’s insurance at the time of the lease signing. I realized I’ve never done any due diligence in this area. I’ve simply called up my car insurance provider and tacked a renter’s insurance policy onto what I’m already paying just to check the box that shows I’ve got it. But my question is, is this a mistake? Should I be shopping around for different policies that cover more or are more affordable or are more ideal for my specific situation? Maybe just snagging a generic renter’s policy is a bad move. Thanks so much for your help. I love the podcast.

Jean Chatzky: (33:48)
So Candida, I am just as guilty. I just looked into renter’s policies with my daughter for her apartment. We just snagged the one from our current insurer. But your question made me think about the fact that shopping around is probably a really good idea. The thing about renter’s insurance policies is that they are all fairly reasonable, so you’re not going to save a huge amount of money by jumping from one to the next, but you do want to make sure if you’ve got a lot of electronics or a lot of jewelry, that those things are covered under the policy. In other words, that you’ve got enough coverage to replace whatever you would need to replace if something were to happen to you. So you gave me something to put on my to do list. Thank you so much for that. And thank you Kathryn for the mailbag. Where should people write?

Kathryn Tuggle: (34:42)
Mailbag@hermoney.com.

Jean Chatzky: (34:44)
Excellent. In today’s Thrive, we’re going to continue on the topic of insurance. We all know about the importance of insurance for things like homes and cars and our health, but what about weddings? Yes, weddings. Wedding insurance is kind of a big thing now, and with the average price tag for a wedding hovering at around $34,000 I’m not surprised. These policies can be used to cover a postponement or cancellations due to illness or weather as well as lost deposits, unplanned venue closings. This actually by the way, happened to my son in law and his new wife, the place that they were supposed to get married, it just closed. There was a fire. Yeah, so they had to very, very quickly regroup and find a new place and they didn’t have wedding insurance, but if they hadn’t able to scramble and get their deposits back, they would’ve been in big trouble. Anyway, I digress. These policies also cover medical emergencies. They cover lost or stolen wedding gifts that talks the dress. Other things. Here’s the thing, like most insurance, not everyone needs it. If you are, for example, getting hitched during hurricane season in a hurricane prone place, get it. Likewise, if the venue that you’ve chosen says they’ll have renovations completed the day before your wedding, it’s probably a wise bet, too, but if you’re doing your wedding on the cheap or in a friend’s backyard, you can probably skip it. And where any insurance product is concerned, my money rule number 79 comes to mind. If you can’t afford to replace it, insure it. If you can afford to replace it, don’t. The most common claims on wedding insurance policies were due to issues with a venue or a vendor like a shattered banquet hall or a no show caterer and severe weather, and if these factors seem likely to throw a wrench into your celebration, then take a look at the policies that might be right for you. The cost varies widely, but it does range between about 200 bucks for basic coverage, for a basic wedding to $1,500 for full coverage on a pricier ceremony. If you’re going to say I do to one of these policies, treat it just like you would any other form of insurance. Do your homework, make sure you’re going with an established company that will have your back if things fall apart and come to think about it, those are pretty good guidelines for choosing a spouse, too. Thanks so much for being with me on today’s show. If you like what you hear, I hope you’ll subscribe to our show at Apple Podcasts. Leave us a review because we really do like hearing what you think. We’d also like to thank our sponsor Fidelity. We record this podcast out of CDM Sound Studios. Our music is provided by Track Tribe, and our show comes to you through PRX. Join us next week. We will be sitting down with another fabulous guest and we’ll talk soon.


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