No Need to Guess

Adam M. Grossman

Adam is the founder of Mayport, a fixed-fee wealth management firm. He advocates an evidence-based approach to personal finance. Adam has written 300 articles for HumbleDollar.

No Need to Guess

Adam M. Grossman  |  Feb 26, 2023

IN FORT LAUDERDALE, an unusual property sits wedged in among a row of waterfront mansions. It’s a 35-acre patch of wooded wilderness with just a single home, called Bonnet House. It was for many decades the winter residence of a woman named Evelyn Bartlett.
She first began spending winters at Bonnet House in the 1930s, and she continued to live there following her husband’s death in the 1950s. By the 1980s, however, the property’s assessed value had reached $30 million,

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No Simple Stories

Adam M. Grossman  |  Feb 19, 2023

I’VE OFTEN COMPARED the stock market to a Rorschach test. Depending on your perspective, what’s happening can look very different. But even in a market full of Rorschach tests, one company’s stock stands out: Tesla. Some people see it as a world-class company that’s changing the world. Others see it as a company led by an erratic genius that one day will inevitably fade—like MySpace or Polaroid.
Recently, a blogger named Alex Voigt wrote that Tesla’s head start in electric vehicles “will soon make Toyota look like what it is—a loser.” He then added for emphasis: “Dead man walking.”
Is Voigt right or wrong?

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What’s in It for Me?

Adam M. Grossman  |  Feb 12, 2023

IN THE WANING DAYS of 2019, Congress passed the SECURE Act, a law that delivered a mixed bag of changes for retirement savers. Well, Congress has been busy again. At the tail end of 2022, a follow-up law—known as SECURE 2.0—was signed into law.
The good news: There’s a whole lot included in this new law. The bad news? There’s a whole lot included in this new law. SECURE 2.0 presents a number of new planning opportunities but,

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Kicking the Tires

Adam M. Grossman  |  Feb 5, 2023

IT’S HUMAN NATURE to be impressed by things that sound sophisticated or seem complex. In the world of personal finance, this certainly applies to the planning tool known as Monte Carlo analysis.
Its roots go back to the 1940s, when it was developed by Stanislaw Ulam, a physicist working on the Manhattan Project. Today, it’s a popular way to assess the strength of a proposed retirement plan. If you’ve seen presentations indicating that a financial plan has a particular probability of success,

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Grossman’s Favorites

Adam M. Grossman  |  Jan 29, 2023

ONE WINTER DAY IN 2016, I jotted down a few comments about the financial markets and emailed them to a group of clients. I received a few responses—some of them positive—so I did the same thing the following week, and I’ve continued that practice every week since.
For better or worse, when it comes to investment markets, there’s always something new to discuss. But it can also be helpful to pause and revisit key investment principles from time to time.

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Not So Gloomy

Adam M. Grossman  |  Jan 22, 2023

IS THE STOCK MARKET headed for a sea change? That’s the argument money manager and author Howard Marks makes in his most recent memo.
The sea change Marks is referring to: For four decades, the federal funds rate declined steadily—from a peak of 20% in 1980 to 0% in 2020. The result, Marks argues, was a steady tailwind for the stock market.
In January 1980, the S&P 500 index stood at 108. At its peak early last year,

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Don’t Bet the Bank

Adam M. Grossman  |  Jan 15, 2023

LAST WEEK, I TALKED about Carveth Read, the English philosopher who’s famous for saying, “It is better to be vaguely right than exactly wrong.” This, in my view, is one of the most important ideas in personal finance.
My focus last week was on the “vaguely right” part of Read’s statement. But what about the second part—the importance of not being “exactly wrong”? Below are seven situations in which trying to be exactly right might,

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Vaguely Right

Adam M. Grossman  |  Jan 8, 2023

ONE OF THE MOST important ideas in personal finance comes not from a financial expert but from a 20th century English philosopher named Carveth Read. “It is better to be vaguely right,” he wrote, “than exactly wrong.”
Why is this idea important? It gets to the heart of why financial planning can be so tricky. For starters, few people—if any—can claim to be perfectly rational when it comes to money decisions. But more to the point,

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Ten Steps for 2023

Adam M. Grossman  |  Jan 1, 2023

I’M NOT BIG ON MAKING New Year’s resolutions. Still, January is a good time to conduct some financial housekeeping. Below are 10 ideas to consider as the calendar turns over.
1. Portfolio cleanup. I sometimes feel like a broken record when I talk about the disadvantages of actively managed mutual funds. Among other issues, they tend to underperform and are tax-inefficient. But here’s the challenge: Even after factoring in 2022’s decline, the S&P 500 has risen more than 600% since 2009’s market bottom.

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Same Old Same Old

Adam M. Grossman  |  Dec 25, 2022

IN THE INVESTMENT world, every year is unique. This year certainly has been.
But in some ways, every year is also the same. The specific events change, but many of the underlying themes and challenges don’t change a whole lot. As 2022 winds down, it’s a good time to take a closer look at six of those themes, as well as the steps investors might take to navigate them when, invariably, they present themselves again in 2023.

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Help Yourself

Adam M. Grossman  |  Dec 18, 2022

IN BEHAVIORAL FINANCE, there’s an important concept that doesn’t get a lot of attention: It’s called temporal discounting. The idea is that we view our current and future selves, to some degree, as different people—and there’s a tendency to discount the needs of the “other” person. It’s an interesting idea because, even for the most diligent planners and savers, there’s an inherent tension between the financial needs of today and those of tomorrow.

Take the “latte factor,” which argues that a young person could accumulate nearly $1 million in savings simply by forgoing a daily coffee and muffin.

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Clipping Coupons

Adam M. Grossman  |  Dec 11, 2022

IN A TYPICAL YEAR, the bond market doesn’t attract much interest. That’s by design. The role of bonds in a portfolio is to serve as a bulwark against the unpredictability of stocks. They’re supposed to be boring.

All that changed this year. Thanks to rising interest rates, the most common total bond market index, the Bloomberg Aggregate, has lost about 11%. To put that in perspective, this index has delivered a negative return in only three of the past 25 years.

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Worth a Read

Adam M. Grossman  |  Dec 4, 2022

PERSONAL FINANCE books don’t exactly rank as the most sought-after holiday gifts. Still, if there’s a money nerd in your life—or someone who aspires to be one—below are 10 personal finance book recommendations.
Why Does the Stock Market Go Up? by Brian Feroldi. This book seeks to answer 60 of the most commonly asked questions in personal finance. In so doing, it demystifies many of the concepts, terms and acronyms that we often ​hear but may not fully understand.

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Never Simple

Adam M. Grossman  |  Nov 27, 2022

WHEN ROSS PEROT RAN for president in 1992, a pillar of his campaign was tax reform. Federal tax rules, he pointed out, had grown to more than 80,000 pages. His proposal: Start over and replace everything with a simple flat tax.

Perot’s campaign for tax reform didn’t make much progress, but many can sympathize with his frustration. Because of the complexity of tax rules, financial planning often ends up feeling like the children’s game Operation—with penalties for even the slightest misstep and confusion around every corner.

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The Next Buffett—Not

Adam M. Grossman  |  Nov 20, 2022

A UNIVERSAL TRUTH about market bubbles is that they’re​ masters of disguise. Each new bubble appears different enough, at least on the surface, to reel in unsuspecting investors. While bubbles are almost as old as the market itself, the latest example—centered around the cryptocurrency exchange FTX—is particularly impressive. At this point, no one is 100% sure what happened, but this is what we know so far.
Back in 2017, a 25-year-old MIT graduate named Sam Bankman-Fried started a hedge fund to trade cryptocurrencies.

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