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The market’s winners trumpet their skill, the losers decry their bad luck—and we indexers watch with wry amusement.

The Aftermath

AFTER LEAVING the hospital, our family met up at a favorite neighborhood restaurant.
“What’s next?” the teenagers asked.
“Now begins the parade of covered dishes,” I answered.
For the month after my husband’s death, when preparing food hardly seemed possible, friends and neighbors made sure our refrigerator and freezer bulged. The kids experienced a variety of main meals, side dishes and desserts. There was enough for us and our many helpers, and we experimented with time and labor-saving meal shortcuts.

Read more »

So Many Benefits

SOCIAL SECURITY has come under political attack over the years. With the federal deficit ballooning, will there be another round of attacks in the run-up to 2020’s election?
I hope not. Here are 15 reasons we should all want to preserve Social Security benefits, no matter which political party we favor:

It helps many. About 63 million people get a Social Security check each month. That’s one out of six Americans.
It provides insurance.

Read more »

Few Absolutes

ALMOST 30 YEARS ago, I landed my first fulltime job. I worked at a state-run academic institution, earning $16,000 a year. The sole retirement benefit was a pension plan with a five-year vesting period. There were no investment choices to be made. There was no ability to invest additional funds, beyond what my employer contributed to the plan. It was a retirement plan requiring no participation on my part.
My second job came with the option of investing in a traditional 401(k) plan.

Read more »

Owning Oddities

TURN ON THE RADIO and, it seems, you can’t help but hear the holiday classic It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. My question: From an investor’s perspective, is this indeed the most wonderful time of the year?
Apparently, it is. According to a 2017 paper titled Holidays Financial Anomalies, three of the best days for the stock market are the days after Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

Read more »

Saving Myself

WHAT DOES IT take to succeed financially? Pundits love to parse stock market returns, dig into the minutiae of Roth conversions and debate retirement withdrawal strategies. Yet, when asked what’s the most important financial virtue, almost all give the same answer: great savings habits.
That mundane reason certainly explains my financial success. Yes, I’ve benefited from owning index funds, holding a stock-heavy portfolio and buying enthusiastically during market declines. But all of that has been gravy.

Read more »

Tending the Garden

WE HAVE a hardwired biological incentive to promote the wellbeing of our kids, so that the family line will continue. This is the selfish gene in action. Yet modern human behavior suggests that the wiring may be at least a little faulty—for three key reasons.
Environmental. Our domination of natural resources continues to create tremendous improvements in global wealth, but it sometimes comes at the expense of the only confirmed habitable space that’s practical for our species.

Read more »

Money Guide

Say This to Them

NEXT TIME YOU ALL sit down to dinner, here are seven lines to try out on your children: 1. That new toy you desperately want? Wait a week, and you’ll be desperate for something else. 2. Folks who appear rich often aren’t. 3. Just because you aren’t paying doesn’t mean it’s free. 4. Mom and Dad might earn lots of money. But financial obligations probably devour 90 cents out of every dollar. 5. If you were paying the electricity bill, you wouldn’t leave the lights on. 6. Those lottery tickets that get folks so excited? They’re a state tax on stupidity. 7. When you leave home and live on your own, you'll kill for leftovers like these. Previous: Lists Article: Nerd Gone Wild
Read more »

Archive

Nothing Better

NO DOUBT YOU would draw up a somewhat different list. But here’s what I consider life’s greatest pleasures:
  • Talking to my wife over a glass of wine at the end of the day
  • Losing myself for a few hours in an interesting piece of work
  • Walking in nature
  • Spending time with my kids
  • French fries
  • Waking up after a great night’s sleep
  • Knowing I did the right thing
  • Wrapping up work on a Friday
  • Making love
  • A raucous dinner party
  • Feeling physically spent after a good workout
  • Finally sorting out a long-simmering problem
  • People watching
  • Taking a nap
  • Ending the day with a sense of accomplishment
To me, these are among the finest things life can offer—and they have a common element: You don’t need to be rich to enjoy any of them. Not sure I'm right? Draw up your own list of great pleasures. You might even post it below. How many of the items on your list necessitate great wealth?
Read more »

Numbers

AMONG HOMEOWNERS age 80 and older, 26% had a mortgage as of 2016, up from 10% in 2007, according to an analysis by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Home Call to Action

Manifesto

NO. 41: VERY FEW of us need life insurance for our entire life. That’s why term insurance makes sense and cash-value policies are usually a mistake—despite what insurance agents say.

Truths

NO. 90: HOME improvements are money losers. Yes, homes typically climb in price over time. But the only sure source of appreciation is the land. The house itself deteriorates and requires hefty expenditures just to maintain its value. Indeed, if you remodel your home, you might recoup just 50% to 90% of the money spent—and that assumes you sell within the next year.

Act

UPDATE YOUR powers of attorney. These allow somebody to make health and financial decisions on your behalf, should you become incapacitated. Are you still happy with the person you’ve chosen? Even if you are, you may want to draw up new powers of attorney if they’re more than 10 years old. Otherwise, there’s a risk they’ll be deemed out of date.

Think

DATA MINING. By scouring financial data, researchers have uncovered a slew of “anomalies”—ways to beat the market averages by emphasizing stocks with certain characteristics. But often, the studies can’t be replicated or the anomalies have no reasonable explanation. Still, some have survived scrutiny, such as the momentum, quality and value effects.

The Aftermath

AFTER LEAVING the hospital, our family met up at a favorite neighborhood restaurant.
“What’s next?” the teenagers asked.
“Now begins the parade of covered dishes,” I answered.
For the month after my husband’s death, when preparing food hardly seemed possible, friends and neighbors made sure our refrigerator and freezer bulged. The kids experienced a variety of main meals, side dishes and desserts. There was enough for us and our many helpers, and we experimented with time and labor-saving meal shortcuts.

Read more »

So Many Benefits

SOCIAL SECURITY has come under political attack over the years. With the federal deficit ballooning, will there be another round of attacks in the run-up to 2020’s election?
I hope not. Here are 15 reasons we should all want to preserve Social Security benefits, no matter which political party we favor:

It helps many. About 63 million people get a Social Security check each month. That’s one out of six Americans.
It provides insurance.

Read more »

Few Absolutes

ALMOST 30 YEARS ago, I landed my first fulltime job. I worked at a state-run academic institution, earning $16,000 a year. The sole retirement benefit was a pension plan with a five-year vesting period. There were no investment choices to be made. There was no ability to invest additional funds, beyond what my employer contributed to the plan. It was a retirement plan requiring no participation on my part.
My second job came with the option of investing in a traditional 401(k) plan.

Read more »

Owning Oddities

TURN ON THE RADIO and, it seems, you can’t help but hear the holiday classic It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. My question: From an investor’s perspective, is this indeed the most wonderful time of the year?
Apparently, it is. According to a 2017 paper titled Holidays Financial Anomalies, three of the best days for the stock market are the days after Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

Read more »

Saving Myself

WHAT DOES IT take to succeed financially? Pundits love to parse stock market returns, dig into the minutiae of Roth conversions and debate retirement withdrawal strategies. Yet, when asked what’s the most important financial virtue, almost all give the same answer: great savings habits.
That mundane reason certainly explains my financial success. Yes, I’ve benefited from owning index funds, holding a stock-heavy portfolio and buying enthusiastically during market declines. But all of that has been gravy.

Read more »

Tending the Garden

WE HAVE a hardwired biological incentive to promote the wellbeing of our kids, so that the family line will continue. This is the selfish gene in action. Yet modern human behavior suggests that the wiring may be at least a little faulty—for three key reasons.
Environmental. Our domination of natural resources continues to create tremendous improvements in global wealth, but it sometimes comes at the expense of the only confirmed habitable space that’s practical for our species.

Read more »

Free Newsletter

Numbers

AMONG HOMEOWNERS age 80 and older, 26% had a mortgage as of 2016, up from 10% in 2007, according to an analysis by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Manifesto

NO. 41: VERY FEW of us need life insurance for our entire life. That’s why term insurance makes sense and cash-value policies are usually a mistake—despite what insurance agents say.

Home Call to Action

Act

UPDATE YOUR powers of attorney. These allow somebody to make health and financial decisions on your behalf, should you become incapacitated. Are you still happy with the person you’ve chosen? Even if you are, you may want to draw up new powers of attorney if they’re more than 10 years old. Otherwise, there’s a risk they’ll be deemed out of date.

Truths

NO. 90: HOME improvements are money losers. Yes, homes typically climb in price over time. But the only sure source of appreciation is the land. The house itself deteriorates and requires hefty expenditures just to maintain its value. Indeed, if you remodel your home, you might recoup just 50% to 90% of the money spent—and that assumes you sell within the next year.

Think

DATA MINING. By scouring financial data, researchers have uncovered a slew of “anomalies”—ways to beat the market averages by emphasizing stocks with certain characteristics. But often, the studies can’t be replicated or the anomalies have no reasonable explanation. Still, some have survived scrutiny, such as the momentum, quality and value effects.

Money Guide

Start Here

Say This to Them

NEXT TIME YOU ALL sit down to dinner, here are seven lines to try out on your children: 1. That new toy you desperately want? Wait a week, and you’ll be desperate for something else. 2. Folks who appear rich often aren’t. 3. Just because you aren’t paying doesn’t mean it’s free. 4. Mom and Dad might earn lots of money. But financial obligations probably devour 90 cents out of every dollar. 5. If you were paying the electricity bill, you wouldn’t leave the lights on. 6. Those lottery tickets that get folks so excited? They’re a state tax on stupidity. 7. When you leave home and live on your own, you'll kill for leftovers like these. Previous: Lists Article: Nerd Gone Wild
Read more »

Archive

Nothing Better

NO DOUBT YOU would draw up a somewhat different list. But here’s what I consider life’s greatest pleasures:
  • Talking to my wife over a glass of wine at the end of the day
  • Losing myself for a few hours in an interesting piece of work
  • Walking in nature
  • Spending time with my kids
  • French fries
  • Waking up after a great night’s sleep
  • Knowing I did the right thing
  • Wrapping up work on a Friday
  • Making love
  • A raucous dinner party
  • Feeling physically spent after a good workout
  • Finally sorting out a long-simmering problem
  • People watching
  • Taking a nap
  • Ending the day with a sense of accomplishment
To me, these are among the finest things life can offer—and they have a common element: You don’t need to be rich to enjoy any of them. Not sure I'm right? Draw up your own list of great pleasures. You might even post it below. How many of the items on your list necessitate great wealth?
Read more »