Save Yourself

You’ll need more than piggy-bank savings for the rest of your life. Some sound advice on investing and holiday parties


John D. Spooner is an investment adviser, author and novelist. His most recent book is No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Lessons for Young Adults. Here, he responds to queries from advice seekers of all ages. Send your conundrums to

I probably should have addressed this issue a long time ago, but it’s weighing on me lately, and now I’m having trouble sleeping. I am a happily married woman and I love my husband. We live a good life—the issue is how good. My husband handles the finances, and I’ve been happy to let him. We don’t have kids. We both work and make a decent living. The salaries aren’t great—middle income—but the work is steady. For years, we’ve rented an apartment, never thinking about buying a house or condo since my husband feels it’s not a good idea for us. We go out to great restaurants, enjoy fine wine and buy expensive toys. We travel and we entertain. We have fun and live a good life. But I’m starting to become anxious because we spend all our money. I mean all of it. The apartment is almost $3,000 a month, plus utilities. We save very little. Now I’m approaching 50 and starting to worry. What if one of us gets sick or loses a job? My husband doesn’t seem too concerned about the future, and right now we have all we need. He doesn’t know that I feel this way. I don’t want him to think I don’t trust his plan—or lack of a plan. Am I worrying for nothing? No. You’re worrying about real things. Retirement plans, specifically 401(k)s, were invented so you can save financially for when—and if—you retire. They took the place of traditional pensions, which paid a set amount when you left your job. Pensions, except for certain professions (union jobs, mostly), have gone the way of the dinosaurs.

If you’ve both got jobs that you can go to forever, and you can guarantee that you’ll always have good health, keep dancing and doing what you’re doing. If not—and you’re not waiting for a big inheritance from family—then start saving, and start doing it now. Contribute as much as you can to retirement plans. Max them out for growth with income.

Stay home and read. Listen to music. Give each other tough love.

I’m the manager of a sales organization. The office employs about 100 people, and this is the first time that I have to coordinate our holiday party. I’m a little nervous about things getting out of control, especially with everyone posting on social media. How do I make sure everyone has fun without encouraging behavior that can cost me my job? Your concerns are real. Let’s assume that your party will have alcohol. Over the years, I’ve witnessed behavior that includes a visiting corporate officer at one of my firms biting the ear of our manager. The offender was fired the next day. Of course, romance flourished at many of these gatherings that were almost all held at restaurants that would dim the lights after the first drinks. I remember one party where a recent rookie to the office took out a pair of scissors and began to cut the ties of many of the men, including that of the biggest business producer in the firm. I never saw that rookie again. At least you won’t have to fret about that problem. Now, almost no one wears ties to the office; and I wear bow ties. It’s tough to cut mine in half without severing the carotid artery.

Nowadays, holiday parties reflect a good time, but not a great time. Keep your party simple: Include wine and beer, but no hard stuff. Don’t worry as you can still get plenty of loose behavior on vino and suds. Make sure you move around constantly, touching base with everyone during the course of the evening. Make all your people feel good about themselves. Give them pats on the back and positive reinforcement. Mention some job they did that you can praise them for. People respond to honey much more than they do to vinegar. It’s a great chance to build your own support base.

Make sure that after the first hour and a half, you bang on a glass with a spoon and offer a toast to your employees. Tell two stories that make them laugh. That’s key and it makes them know you’re one of them. Then thank them and say something to tug on their memories of when they were little. All of them will flash to their pasts. And then tell them, “We’re a family, too. Happiest of holidays. I hope you look back on these days and drink a toast to us all.” 

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