MONEY Money Heroes

Who’s Your Hero?

Father Tom Hagan in Haiti, February 2014

Who’s your hero? Derek Jeter doesn’t count. Let me ask the question another way: Who among the people you know do you most admire for what they’ve done for others?

That’s an easy pick for me: the Rev. Tom Hagan. Back at North Catholic High School in the 1970s, he pushed students like me to get involved in nearby rough-and-tumble Philadelphia neighborhoods. In 1997, by then a chaplain at Princeton, he left his post to devote himself full-time to Hands Together (handstogether.org), a nonprofit he founded to help residents of one of the roughest and tumblest places on earth, Cité Soleil in Haiti, build the infrastructure for a functioning society.

I thought about Father Tom recently, as MONEY started prepping for our third year of honoring unsung heroes who improve the financial lives of others. Now, our heroes won’t journey to faraway lands to tackle Herculean tasks; they have jobs and families and responsibilities to balance even as they help their neighbors, co-workers, and communities. But as Father Tom said to me via email, “All of us should think small. We need not go off to Haiti. We should simply resolve to make the first person we meet walk away feeling a little bit better. Then, move on to the next person.”

One hero from each state will be featured in our July issue, and we’ll continue online after that. And since these heroes are unsung, we need your help locating them. So if you know someone teaching financial skills, helping people cut red tape, or assisting on other money-related matters, tell us at heroes@moneymail.com. Or fill out the form at money.com/heroes, where you can also view an archive of the dozens of other heroes we’ve written about. And check our Facebook page and the Twitter hashtag #MoneyHeroes for more as we develop this year’s program.

Should our heroes inspire you to use your money smarts to help others, don’t be daunted by the scope of financial illiteracy or the headlines about scammers separating the unsuspecting from their cash. Remember Father Tom’s advice: “Think small.”

Craig Matters
Managing Editor
MONEY

@craigmatters


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MONEY retirement planning

Retirement Plan? It’s Going to the Dogs

A few weeks back, I read the retirement readiness quiz for couples that ran in the March issue of MONEY. (A modified version appears online as “Do your retirement dreams match your partner’s?“) Taking the quiz led to the following conversation at home:

Me: We need to go over where we are with our retirement money.

Sara, my wife: We just did that.

Me: Eh, that was over two years ago.

Sara (an animal trainer and ASPCA volunteer): Fine, but I’d rather talk about whether we can help a rescue group that just took in a bunch of border collies.

So goes retirement planning chez Matters. Given my job, this should not be. But as I read the quiz, it became clear that a dutiful look at the numbers is, for Sara and me, just a small part of what we have to tackle. Probably the same goes for you.

There’s timing. My wife and I are about the same age, but we’re at different points in our careers. She’s finishing a master’s degree and ramping up her dog-training business, and she may want to work at a big zoo. Me, I can start to make out the finish line. Yet research shows that when the husband retires first, both spouses are likely to be unhappier than if they quit together or the wife retires earlier.

There’s location. I like to imagine how we’ll reconfigure our little log cabin in Vermont into a full-time home. Sara may need to be near a city. Family further complicates things. Ours is spread out, and we’ll probably be among the growing number of retirees who have both elderly parents and grandchildren to take into account.

Then, yes, there’s money. We’ll easily swing retirement in small-town Vermont. Could we afford the standard of living we want in a big city? That’s a closer call.

In the end, the quiz made me realize how much about retirement you can’t know until the reality is near, and that perhaps the best you can do is talk about possibilities so you’re not springing a surprise on your partner.

Sara and I did do that review of our finances — and also figured out which charities we’ll be supporting this year. Yes, some of our money will go to the dogs.

Craig Matters
Managing Editor
MONEY
@craigmatters


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