BACK IN THE 1980s, Michael Milken earned notoriety as “the junk bond king.” With his swagger—and his toupee—Milken was an outsized personality in a normally staid industry. But that was four decades ago. It may have been the last time that bonds were truly interesting.
On most days, bonds are about as dull a topic in finance as you can find. But here’s the challenge for investors: While bonds might be boring, they’re important—and they can be tricky.
I OUTLINED 10 REASONS everybody should have an estate plan in a 2018 article—and what was true then remains true today, especially for those whose assets could be subject to estate taxes.
Under today’s rules, the federal estate tax applies to individuals with assets over $12.9 million. That might sound like a high number. But in 2026, the limit is set to be cut in half. In addition, many states impose their own estate tax,
“YOUR CHECKING ACCOUNT balance is low.” It’s an alert none of us wants to receive, especially if we’ve just been paid. But that was the message that a friend—let’s call him Ron—got recently. A hacker had gained control of his account and started bleeding it dry.
Ron, it turns out, was lucky to have received that alert. Another friend—let’s call him Arthur—received no such alert when his account was also taken over by hackers this summer.
THE CENTRAL Intelligence Agency knows a thing or two about gathering information. That’s why a CIA publication titled The Psychology of Intelligence Analysis is, in my opinion, a valuable resource for investors.
Of particular note is a section titled, “Do You Really Need More Information?” It offers this counterintuitive finding: To make sound judgments, some amount of information is necessary. But beyond a certain point, gathering more data doesn’t always lead to better decisions.
SOMEONE ASKED ME this week if he should own pork bellies in his portfolio. While he was kidding, this does get at a real question: Should you own commodities like cattle futures, gold, oil, lumber, soybeans and more?
Those who favor investing in commodities typically cite two benefits. First, commodities are seen as a bulwark against inflation. This is obviously a timely concern. Second, because commodities don’t move in lockstep with stocks or bonds,
NO QUESTION, MANAGING an investment portfolio is tricky. On the one hand, you want stock market exposure to help drive your portfolio’s performance. But on the other, it’s agonizing when the market drops 30% or 50%—or more—as it’s done on several occasions.
How can investors strike the right balance? Like most things in personal finance, there isn’t one right answer. In general, investors can choose one of five approaches when building a portfolio.
IN THE WORLD OF personal finance, there’s no shortage of formulas and frameworks for making financial decisions. But it’s also important, I think, to see these as guidelines rather than as rules. Consider the textbook view of money and happiness.
What the research says is that, all else being equal, we should opt to spend money on experiences rather than things. Let’s say the choice is between spending $1,000 on a new watch or on a weekend away.
LOOK UP THE WORD “nit” in the dictionary and you’ll find a few definitions—none of them particularly positive. Perhaps, then, it’s no surprise that the tax commonly known as NIIT can be a bit of an annoyance.
NIIT is short for net investment income tax. It originated back in 2013 to help pay for the new health care law. The net investment income tax rate is relatively innocuous at 3.8%, and it’s already been on the books for 10 years,
ON FEB. 7, 1910, AN ODD event occurred in the English town of Weymouth. A group of five arrived for a tour of HMS Dreadnought, a battleship that was the pride of Britain’s navy. The five were welcomed with fanfare, their staff having communicated in advance that they were members of the Abyssinian royal family. Their appearance was impressive: flowing robes, great jewels and turbans. Through an interpreter, the Abyssinian emperor offered military honors to the ship’s crew.
MARK ZUCKERBERG and Elon Musk have been trading barbs in recent months, going as far as discussing a “cage match”—a literal fight.
This has followed a volatile few years for their respective companies. In October of last year, Musk took over Twitter and immediately started making changes. He fired 80% of its staff, causing an uptick in technical issues, and has made other spur-of-the-moment changes to the service. This has scared away advertisers, prompting a 50% drop in revenue.
HARRY MARKOWITZ, the Nobel Prize-winning economist who passed away recently, invented a new approach to investing. Known as modern portfolio theory, it offered investors, for the first time, a logical approach to building portfolios. How much should you hold in stocks vs. bonds? Markowitz could tell you precisely.
But Markowitz also knew math wasn’t the only driver of investment decisions. In a frequently cited interview, Markowitz recalled how he decided what to hold in his own retirement plan early in his career.
NEW YORK ATTORNEY Steven Schwartz recently found himself in hot water. Schwartz was representing a passenger injured on board an Avianca Airlines flight. In a filing with the court, Schwartz cited several precedents that appeared to support his case, including Martinez v. Delta Air Lines, Zicherman v. Korean Air Lines and Varghese v. China Southern Airlines. The only problem? These cases are all fictional—made up not by Schwartz, but by ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence (AI) “chatbot.”
The judge was not pleased,
THOSE WHO LIVE VERY long lives sometimes face an unfair irony: The accomplishments of even towering figures can lose their luster over time—not because they’re proven wrong, but because the ideas they developed become so widely accepted that we forget they were once innovations. The investment world lost one such towering figure last week: the economist Harry Markowitz, who was age 95.
Markowitz first came to prominence in the early 1950s, when his PhD thesis,
IN 2014, AN INVESTOR asked Charlie Munger—Warren Buffett’s second-in-command—why he wasn’t investing in Apple. Munger responded that, “No matter what their financial statements showed,” he’d never have a high degree of confidence in the company. “It’s just too hard.”
Buffett agreed. But things changed. Today, Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is Apple’s third-largest shareholder, with holdings valued at more than $150 billion.
What should we conclude from Buffett’s about-face? In recent weeks, I’ve referenced studies on market timing and trading.
WHAT DO WALL STREET analysts, magazine editors, economists and academics have in common? They’ve all found it virtually impossible to make accurate market forecasts. That’s why Vanguard Group founder Jack Bogle gave this advice to investors: When markets go haywire, “Don’t do something. Just stand there.”
Warren Buffett has given the same advice. In 2008, here’s how he explained it: “In the 20th century, the United States endured two world wars and other traumatic and expensive military conflicts;