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Grossman’s Eleven

I AM AMAZED OUR schools don’t require kids to learn three important life skills: the basics of nutrition, a thing or two about parenting, and how to handle money. I’m no expert on nutrition and my parenting is a work in progress. But I do have a background in personal finance: When folks ask me what to read to deepen their financial knowledge, I have a ready list of titles.
Recently, however, someone asked me for a more advanced list—a “201”

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Ask the Question

THERE’S NOTHING that deters financial planning like a scarily large price tag.
We should ask ourselves all kinds of tough financial questions. But many of the toughest never get asked—because we know answering them will involve agonizing choices, difficult conversations and unthinkable amounts of dollars. Consider these four:
1. How would you cope if you were out of work for six months? As I’ve noted in earlier articles, the big financial emergency isn’t replacing the roof or the air-conditioning system,

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Why We Struggle

TODAY MARKS MY 200th article for HumbleDollar. Looking back, one recurring theme stands out: Managing our finances is, in a lot of ways, like managing our health.
Ask any doctor the recipe for good health and you’ll hear the same things: Exercise regularly, eat right, don’t smoke. It isn’t complicated—and yet it isn’t so simple. Environmental factors, genetics and bad luck conspire against us. Result: Even the most disciplined person isn’t guaranteed perfect health.

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June’s Hits

WHAT GRABBED readers’ attention last month? Here are the seven most popular articles published by HumbleDollar in June:

“Among the unhappy retirees I’ve talked to, most are bored,” writes Joe Kesler. “That can usually be fixed. Think about old interests you weren’t able to pursue in the past.”
Dick Quinn considers himself thrifty. But even he balks at the frugality embraced by some followers of the financial independence/retire early (FIRE) movement.
Suppose you pay 1% in annual fund expenses and 1% for financial advice.

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Our Report Card

I TURN AGE 58 today—and, a few days ago, HumbleDollar turned four. The good news: Only one of us is slowing down.
In 2020, HumbleDollar garnered 3.6 million pageviews, up from 2.6 million in 2019, 1.7 million in 2018 and 900,000 in 2017, which was our first year. Here’s a closer look at those numbers and what’s been happening here at HumbleDollar:

Earlier this week, I posted a list of the 20 most widely read articles from the past four years.

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Boredwalk

I AM THE FIRST to admit that I’m no star when it comes to math. I was so enthralled with calculus in college that I took it twice. To make matters worse, math keeps changing. Just ask a 10-year-old to show you how to multiply.
I am not alone. At the high school from which I graduated in 1961, the current math proficiency rate is 2% The national average is 46%. The lowest ranked state is at 22%.

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Paradise Lost

BACK IN AUGUST, Adam Grossman wrote a thought-provoking article about regret. He offered six strategies to minimize the chances you’ll end up kicking yourself for a choice you made. That got me thinking about the financial decision I most regret.
I bought a timeshare.
I know this admission will generate strong reactions in the personal finance community. I’d like to claim the ignorance of youth, but I was in my early 50s. I’d like to blame my wife,

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Four Questions

AFTER YEARS of handwringing, you finally concede that it’s all but impossible to beat the market over the long haul, so you shift your portfolio into index funds. Next up: the truly tough decisions.
Almost every writer for—and reader of—HumbleDollar is a fan of indexing, and there’s no doubt that index funds are a wonderful financial tool. But how will you use that tool? Let the bickering begin.
The differences of opinion show up among the articles we run on HumbleDollar.

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Weight Problem

MICHAEL BURRY waited years to be rewarded for his bet against subprime mortgages. Actor Christian Bale, in the movie version of Michael Lewis’s book, The Big Short, portrays Burry curled up in the fetal position on the floor of his office. When the financial crisis finally hit in 2008, he made $100 million.
I’m no Michael Burry and the chance I’ll ever see $100 million is about 100 million to one.

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China Syndrome

INDEX DESIGNERS FTSE Russell and MSCI are jumping on China’s A train this year—and index-fund investors should watch out. There’s a $6 trillion wild-and-woolly domestic Chinese stock market slowly chugging your way, whether you like it or not. Yes, it may bring riches—and it’ll definitely bring huge risks.
In fact, your emerging markets index fund may already have 34% in Chinese stocks, and it could exceed 50% in years to come. Sound unnerving? For those with a position in an emerging markets index fund—or are considering one—good alternatives are hard to come by.

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Get a Life

IN MY ROLE AS a financial planner, I hear a lot of stories. By far the most appalling and upsetting relate to life insurance. All too often, insurance salespeople leave clients with policies that are simultaneously overpriced, inadequate and inappropriate.
Are you evaluating a policy? Here’s a quick summary of the most important considerations:
What type of coverage should I have? Life insurance comes in two primary flavors: term and permanent. Term insurance,

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How to Lose Less

IF THERE’S ONE STORY that seems to have captured the investing public’s imagination this summer, it’s the revelation that venture capitalist Peter Thiel has managed to accumulate more than $5 billion in his Roth IRA—where it will be entirely tax-free to him.

In its reporting, ProPublica, the news outlet that carried the story, focused mostly on the tax aspects—the fact that Thiel was able to use his Roth IRA in such unusual ways. In my opinion,

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How to Choose

A FEW WEEKS BACK, I discussed some of the challenges with traditional long-term-care (LTC) insurance: In addition to steep and rising premiums, these policies are complex. Many policyholders have to contend with an annual renewal letter that presents a mind-numbing matrix of options.
But there’s more to it than that. Long-term care is also an emotional topic. There’s the expression that personal finance is more personal than it is finance. I’ve been reminded of that over the past few weeks,

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Their Loss, Your Gain

LONG-TERM-CARE insurance policies are, in my opinion, both a blessing and a curse. They’re a blessing because they can help cover critical and costly care when a family might have no other financial options.
But they can also feel like a curse. That’s because of what many owners of traditional long-term-care (LTC) insurance refer to as “the letter.” This is the renewal letter that policyholders receive each year. These letters provide a menu of renewal options,

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Taking Precautions

THE FEDERAL RESERVE caught the market by surprise this past week. In fact, it seemed like Fed policymakers caught even themselves by surprise.

Previously, they had been forecasting that interest rates would stay near zero through 2023, on the assumption that inflation would remain manageable. But as the country has emerged from hibernation, inflation has run much hotter than expected. As a result, an increasing number of Fed officials now expect they’ll have to raise rates much sooner.

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