Secret Sauce

Joe Kesler

Joe is the author of "Smart Money with Purpose." He spent 40 years in community banking, assisting small businesses and consumers. Joe served as chief executive of banks in Illinois and Montana. He currently lives with his wife in Missoula, Montana, spending his time writing on personal finance, serving on two bank boards and hiking in the Rocky Mountains.

Secret Sauce

Joe Kesler  |  April 26, 2021

I’VE READ A LOT of retirement books touting the “keys to a successful retirement.” Some have great ideas. But I think they miss a key ingredient. My contention: To have a successful retirement, we need to start with a proper understanding of work.
Admittedly, it’s a counterintuitive way of looking at retirement. But sometimes looking at a problem backward can help us find creative solutions. In other words, examine the opposite of retirement for lessons about retirement.

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Five Lessons

Joe Kesler  |  April 14, 2021

COVID-19 WILL SOON, I hope, be in the rearview mirror. But as Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Here are five lessons I’m taking away from the pandemic:
1. Government spending. Some folks tell me they’re claiming Social Security retirement benefits as soon as they’re eligible because the system’s trust fund will be depleted within the next decade or so, at which point benefits could get cut.

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Housing Gone Wild

Joe Kesler  |  March 18, 2021

THERE’S SOMETHING very emotional about our homes—and how we think about their value. Take the conversation my wife and I had a couple of weeks ago.
“Did you see the house behind us went up for sale this week? They have it listed at 141% more than what we paid for our house.”
“Well, there’s no way their house is worth that much.”
“Oh really? I just talked to our neighbor—the one who’s a realtor—and he said they had five offers the first day it went up.

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Watch Your Wallet

Joe Kesler  |  March 13, 2021

AS A BANKER, I got a ringside seat from which to watch the many ways that people are separated from their hard-earned money. Some are illegal. Some are legal, but unethical. And many, while legal and ethical, would be unnecessary with a little more knowledge about managing money.
For me, the most disturbing experiences were when scammers extracted money from the naïve and innocent. I’ve seen the pain of customers who found out that their elderly mother had given her life savings to a manipulative TV preacher.

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Say No to FOMO

Joe Kesler  |  February 11, 2021

I’VE LATELY FACED one of the investment world’s greatest dangers: It’s called FOMO, or fear of missing out. If you pay attention to the financial news, you may be wrestling with this one, too.
Let’s start with bitcoin. I’ve studied it, but never invested. I’ve got friends who own the digital currency. I’m thrilled they’ve been wildly successful. But you know how awkward you feel when somebody tells an inside joke that you don’t get?

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The Case for Kids

Joe Kesler  |  February 5, 2021

I RECENTLY HIT the “pay now” button on what I believe will be the last of 20 years of college tuition bills. That’s right, we have five kids. All went to college. None took out student loans.
Was it worth it—not just paying the tuition bills, but the decision to have children in the first place? It’s a pressing question. A birth dearth is hitting the U.S. and other countries around the world, as many adults opt to go childless.

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Whole New Game

Joe Kesler  |  January 19, 2021

BASEBALL USED TO BE a game where managers would go with their “gut.” But Brad Pitt changed everything. In the movie Moneyball, Pitt played Billy Beane, the first baseball general manager to use data analytics to great success—and suddenly it was all the rage.
Today, from a typical game, seven terabytes of data are gathered, everything from the arm angle of every single pitch to the exit velocity of hit balls.

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Silver Lining

Joe Kesler  |  January 8, 2021

“IT WAS THE MOST stressful time of my career, but also the most rewarding.” I heard that comment, as well as variations on it, from many bankers over the past few months as they talked about PPP, or Paycheck Protection Program, the federal loan program launched to help ease the financial distress caused by the pandemic.
PPP has been criticized because not all the money has ended up with companies it was intended to help.

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About Tomorrow

Joe Kesler  |  December 2, 2020

I’M NOT MUCH of a bartender. But when my wife and I hosted an art show in Missoula for a friend, I got the chance to serve wine while meeting a whole new group of people. Bankers—my usual social circle—tend to be strait-laced analytical types, so it was entertaining to spend an evening meeting creative folks from our thriving arts community.
One young couple, who sported an array of tattoos and piercings, had a story that caught my attention.

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Prepare for Pain

Joe Kesler  |  November 19, 2020

WHEN I THINK about investment advisors selling high-fee products, it brings to mind the story of two politicians who were shouting at each other. One of them stands up and screams, “You’re lying!” The other one answers, “Yes, I am, but hear me out!”
In my 40 years of investing, I’ve bought into some questionable sales pitches. You’ve heard them: “The easy money’s been made. It’s going to be a stock picker’s market going forward.” Or: “Only losers are satisfied with just earning the market averages,

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Doing Good

Joe Kesler  |  October 27, 2020

DANIEL SUELO is one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever met. At dinner with him and some friends almost a decade ago, I spent the evening trying to understand his view of money—or, to be more accurate, his refusal to believe in money at all.
Suelo was in Montana to talk about a book that had been written about him, The Man Who Quit Money. As the title implies, Suelo—a well-educated and articulate man—made a decision in 2000 to stop using money.

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True Wealth

Joe Kesler  |  September 28, 2020

YOU NO DOUBT remember Peter Lynch, the celebrated manager of Fidelity Magellan Fund. He quit Magellan’s helm when he was just 46 years old. His comment at the time: “You remind yourself that nobody on his deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office’.”
Nothing brings more clarity to money’s limitations than consideration of our mortality. A few weeks ago, I thought about this truth as I lay awake all night,

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Life as a Loan Shark

Joe Kesler  |  August 18, 2020

THE SPEAKER was passionate. “You bankers need to understand our culture is not like your culture. In our community, we don’t expect bills to be paid on time. If you’re really interested in serving our community, you need to adjust your expectations and not be asking us to change our culture in order to qualify for your loans.”
Wow, did I get an education some years ago, when my bank attempted to reach out to the town’s minority community.

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