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What’s Your Answer?

Jonathan Clements

COMMENTS FROM READERS are one of HumbleDollar’s greatest strengths. Just finished perusing an article? If you don’t scan the comments posted below, you’re often missing out on some savvy financial insights and eye-opening personal stories.

With an eye to tapping into this strength, I launched the Voices section two years ago. My hope: The questions—now 133 in total—would offer a way to organize readers’ collective wisdom and become a go-to resource for those seeking help on a particular financial topic.

To be honest, the Voices questions haven’t garnered as much reader participation as I’d hoped. Still, I find the answers fascinating and, fingers crossed, perhaps the section will eventually catch fire with readers. Meanwhile, here—in order—are the nine questions that have so far generated the most responses:

1. What’s the best financial book you’ve ever read? Among the 45 comments, there’s a wide array of books and authors listed. But perhaps the most mentioned are The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko, John Bogle’s books, Burton Malkiel’s A Random Walk Down Wall Street and William Bernstein’s books.

Incidentally, Bill has a new edition of The Four Pillars of Investing coming out in July. I had the privilege of writing the foreword. Bill also contributed an essay to My Money Journey, the HumbleDollar book that’ll be published later this month.

2. What percentage of a stock portfolio should be invested abroad? This has long been a raging debate among investors, and the responses reflect that, with folks suggesting foreign-stock allocations ranging from 0% to 50%. After strong U.S. stock returns over the past decade, maybe it isn’t surprising that many folks are content to have no money invested abroad. But if foreign markets have the edge in the decade ahead, will they feel differently? I, for one, would be happier. As I’ve mentioned before, my single biggest fund holding is Vanguard Total World Stock Index Fund (symbol: VTWAX), which has 41% allocated to foreign markets.

3. What’s your favorite financial quote? This question generated a slew of entertaining and thought-provoking responses. Among those offered, my favorite—given today’s inflation—originated with comedian Henny Youngman: “Americans are getting stronger. Twenty years ago, it took two people to carry $10 worth of groceries. Today, a five-year-old can do it.”

4. What costs are you most loath to pay? While some readers cited significant costs—financial advisory fees, car repairs, insurance premiums—it seems it’s small expenses that rankle the most, especially those unexpected fees that get tacked on to things like car rental costs, cable bills, concert tickets and hotel bills.

5. When does it make sense to buy the extended warranty, if ever? A majority of readers advised against ever paying for the warranty. Still, there were a few intriguing exceptions, notably phones and laptops bought for children.

6. What stock would you happily hold for the next 10 years? The enthusiasm for Apple and Berkshire Hathaway isn’t terribly surprising. Instead, I’d give kudos to the folks who mentioned Waste Management. As one reader wrote, “Everyone has trash. It’s Amazon proof. It has multiple moats. Pays a dividend. Essentially recession proof.”

7. What aspect of the tax code do you hate the most? So far, there have been 26 responses to this question and—amazingly—there’s almost no overlap among the answers. If folks can find so many different things to hate, doesn’t that tell us that the U.S. tax code is indeed an abomination?

8. What’s your No. 1 goal for retirement? The most amusing answer: “To become a major actuarial loss for my employer’s pension fund and enjoy every minute of it.” That, of course, was posted by the inimitable Dick Quinn.

9. What are the smartest financial moves you’ve ever made? Many folks wrote about their good savings habits. But I was also struck by the number of answers that mentioned homeownership. Maybe that reflects the nature of real estate: It’s a big, undiversified bet and—when it works out—it often works out very well.

Meanwhile, with just three responses, the least answered question is this one: What should you look for when buying a home? The three answers are all helpful. But come on, people, I’ve got to imagine there’s more to be said on this topic.

What Voices questions would you like to see asked? That, too, is among the 133 questions. You can post your suggestions here. Not sure how to comment? Check out this page.

Jonathan Clements is the founder and editor of HumbleDollar. Follow him on Twitter @ClementsMoney and on Facebook, and check out his earlier articles.

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