My 2023 Forecast

Greg Spears

Greg is HumbleDollar's deputy editor. Earlier in his career, he worked as a reporter for the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. After leaving journalism, Greg spent 23 years as a senior editor at Vanguard Group on the 401(k) side, where he implored people to save more for retirement. He currently teaches behavioral economics at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia as an adjunct professor. The subject helps shed light on why so many Americans save less than they might. Greg is also a Certified Financial Planner certificate holder.

My 2023 Forecast

Greg Spears  |  Jan 8, 2023

AROUND THE TURN of the year, investment experts issue their forecasts for the next 12 months. Bloomberg says it has gathered more than 500 market predictions for 2023, with many forecasting a rough year for the financial markets.
I’ve done my research as well, and I’m now prepared to offer my forecast: There’s an 80% chance that the S&P 500 will return between -10% and 30% in 2023.
I can’t claim this as original work.

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11 Retirement Changes

Greg Spears  |  Dec 23, 2022

JUST IN TIME FOR Christmas, a sweeping new retirement law has passed both houses of Congress, and should be signed into law this weekend. Dubbed the SECURE Act 2.0, it makes dozens of significant changes to the employer-based savings systems that millions of workers depend on for retirement.
Under the new law, some workers will be able to save far larger catch-up contributions during the home stretch of their working years. Meanwhile, retirees can delay taking required minimum distributions until age 73 starting in 2023.

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Yellen About Taxes

Greg Spears  |  Dec 19, 2022

WHEN JANET YELLEN was nominated to be Secretary of the Treasury, the Senate Finance Committee staff went over her tax returns with a magnifying glass. Yellen, an economics PhD who taught at Harvard, always prepared the returns for herself and her husband, economics Nobel laureate George A. Akerlof.
“She discovered to her surprise that she had been doing the family taxes wrong for years,” reports Owen Ullmann in his excellent new biography of Yellen,

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Making Lemonade

Greg Spears  |  Nov 21, 2022

YOU KNOW IT’S BEEN a rotten year for investors when it’s time to brush up on the rules for tax-loss harvesting. It’s one way to turn negative returns to your advantage, provided you act before year-end.
If you have taxable investments that have lost value this year—and who doesn’t? —the basic idea is to sell them in 2022 to lower the taxes you owe. Realized losses can be used to offset any investment gains you’ve realized this year.

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Made You Look

Greg Spears  |  Nov 18, 2022

I LOOKED UP OUR investment account balance recently. It’s something I’d avoided doing for months. My wife, the voice of reason, said we might bounce a check if we didn’t know how much was in the money market fund. Confession: I don’t balance our checkbook manually.
I waited to log on until after the Dow Jones Industrial Average shot up 14% in October, its best month since 1976. I don’t know why the bear lost its grip on the Dow last month,

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Worst Year Ever

Greg Spears  |  Nov 8, 2022

BONDS ARE ON PACE to have their worst year on record. To be sure, once interest rates stop rising—perhaps early next year—they may win back their place as a worthwhile investment for retired investors. But right now, that feels like wishful thinking.
As the Federal Reserve has hastily raised short-term interest rates in big steps to fight inflation, bond prices have fallen down the cellar stairs. Bloomberg’s broad U.S. aggregate bond index is down 16% in 2022.

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Own It All

Greg Spears  |  Nov 2, 2022

ONLY CASH IS SHOWING a positive return this year, while most parts of the stock and bond market have suffered double-digit losses. And with inflation spiking, even cash investments have been a losing proposition in 2022. With nowhere to hide, perhaps it’s time to renounce active management and consider the three-fund portfolio.
Long championed on the Bogleheads forum, the three-fund portfolio is an indexing approach that drives down costs, feasts on diversification and ends investment selection errors by sticking with just three funds:

Total U.S.

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Under the Tree?

Greg Spears  |  Oct 31, 2022

A VANGUARD FINANCIAL planner once told me his clients’ biggest problem was that they didn’t want to withdraw money from their accounts during retirement. They lived beneath their means because they just couldn’t overcome their desire to continue seeing their assets grow.
If this describes you, too, you might be pleased to learn that required minimum distributions (RMDs) would be delayed a year or more if legislation, which currently sits before Congress, can slip through the crowded legislative calendar and pass before year-end.

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Four Signs of Slowing

Greg Spears  |  Oct 25, 2022

WHEN I WAS A KID, I remember being puzzled by all the newspaper stories devoted to a recession. First, the articles said that one might be ahead. Then they said it had arrived. Immediately afterward, the stories shifted to, “Is the recession lifting?”
The same loop is starting in my newsfeed now, with daily stories asking if a recession is ahead. It’s a definite maybe, according to the experts, but it hasn’t arrived yet.

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The Way to Wealth

Greg Spears  |  Oct 19, 2022

BEN FRANKLIN WROTE the most popular personal finance text of the 18th century. Originally published in 1758 as an essay in his Poor Richard’s Almanack, it became a perennial bestseller when printed separately under the title The Way to Wealth.
You can read the 1810 version printed in London at no charge, thanks to Project Gutenberg. I assign it to students in my behavioral economics class, and it sparks a discussion about whether thrift and hard work are still the routes to financial security.

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Make More Money

Greg Spears  |  Oct 17, 2022

STEVE MARTIN HAD a joke on “how to become a millionaire” during his 1970s stand-up routine. “First,” he would say with a mock-serious glare at the audience, “get a million dollars.”
There are piles of books written about how to invest your money. Far fewer explain how to make money in the first place. To balance the scales, I’ll offer this suggestion: If you’re still working, this would be a great time to interview for a new job.

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Ripoff Royalty

Greg Spears  |  Oct 5, 2022

WHEN I WORKED FOR a personal finance magazine in the mid-1990s, I wrote a story about conmen who met their marks in internet chat rooms devoted to stock investing. One of the slickest tricksters went by the name of Josef von Habsburg. He told people he was descended from Austrian royalty.
In researching the story, I called the police in von Habsburg’s hometown of Birmingham, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. The local police knew him as Josef Meyers and said he was about as royal as you or me.

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The Lobster Pinch

Greg Spears  |  Sep 23, 2022

WE BUY LOBSTERS from the backdoor of a fisherman who we know here in Maine. On Tuesday, my wife texted him to say she’d left $35 in cash for the four lobsters he’d set aside for us in a cooler. He texted back to say $25 was more than enough.
In a year of spiking inflation, I have a morsel of good news. The wholesale price of lobster has crashed since March, down 45% according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St.

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The Winner’s Curse

Greg Spears  |  Sep 21, 2022

I RECENTLY LEFT A BID for a set of old, dusty chairs at a country auction. The next morning when I called the auctioneer, he told me I was the high bidder and the chairs’ new owner. As an economist, I immediately thought, “Wait—am I the winner or the loser here?”
The auction was held at the Elks Lodge in Rockland, Maine, where old furniture tends to go for a song. I had been drawn there by a picture of six Chippendale dining chairs supposedly made in Philadelphia in the 18th century.

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Games Colleges Play

Greg Spears  |  Sep 13, 2022

WHEN OUR KIDS applied to colleges, the smallest detail of each campus visit mattered a lot. If our daughter admired the student leading our tour, the school skyrocketed in her estimation. If the class our son attended to “get a feel for the place” turned out to be a test period, Grandpa’s alma mater was forever struck from consideration.
In economic terms, the college decision features asymmetric information. Colleges know a lot about us from our detailed personal and financial applications.

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