LIKE MANY READING this article, index funds constitute the lion’s share of my family’s investments. But I also own small positions in two individual stocks: Boston Omaha and Markel.
Why have I strayed from a 100% indexing approach? Both companies are conglomerates—multiple businesses that function as a single entity. Conglomerates should—in theory—be able to deliver slightly higher returns, thanks to the business efficiencies and synergies they realize. On top of that, they can offer some of the strengths of a mutual fund: diversification plus intelligent capital allocation.
THE MOST FAMOUS market-timing (mis)statement may be that of Irving Fisher, who—as a result—ultimately suffered a fate similar to that of President Herbert Hoover. Both men are inextricably linked to the Great Depression, despite a lifetime of achievement and their positive work to improve the lives of humans everywhere. Fisher, whose theories on capital, interest rates and lifecycle investing are still relied on by economists today, will likely continue to be remembered for his statement nine days before the 1929 market crash that,
AFTER 20 YEARS, the U.S. military has withdrawn from Afghanistan. The news brought back memories of the year I spent deployed there—and a crucial financial lesson I learned. Perhaps that lesson resonates even more today given the past year’s pandemic and the role deferred gratification has lately played in many of our lives.
When you’re deployed to a combat zone, the government doesn’t tax your wages. Consequently, most soldiers can sock away a lot of money.
OFTEN WRONG, never in doubt. That describes many economic prognosticators. A rational response: Treat their predictions like hazardous waste—handle with caution, or better yet, don’t handle at all.
Among the countless examples, consider newsletter writer Harry Dent. Armed with a Harvard MBA, Dent makes market predictions that are fantastic and frequently wrong. In late April and more recently in June, he predicted that the market would crash, adding that if he’s wrong, he would quit his job.
MUCH IS WRITTEN about whether it’s better to rent or own your home. Not nearly enough ink is devoted to the issue of renting from a bad landlord.
Perhaps personal finance writers avoid the topic because they’re wary of providing legal advice when discussing potential remedies. On top of that, landlord-tenant law varies greatly from state to state, with some states offering greater protection to tenants and others affording landlords wider latitude.
I know a fair amount about this because I not only spent 14 years as an active-duty Army servicemember who had to move frequently,
A LOT OF INVESTMENT math focuses on how money grows over time. But as an attorney who’s worked with many clients hoping to retire in comfort, I find myself thinking more about risk—and how the math can work against us. Consider five sets of numbers:
Inflation’s toll: 0.98
Got cash? If you multiply that sum by 0.98, you’ll see your money’s purchasing power a year from now. This assumes 2% inflation, which is the Federal Reserve’s stated target.
AFTER 14 YEARS on active duty with the U.S. Army, I recently walked away from being a fulltime soldier. At age 39, it’s the only professional life I’ve known. I plan to complete my 20 years of service in the U.S. Army Reserve, which will earn me a reduced pension.
It would be hard to argue this was a smart financial decision. While defined benefit plans have mostly been replaced by defined contribution plans such as 401(k),
LIKE SO MANY OTHERS, I’ll be working from home for the foreseeable future. But I know in my soul that we’re all going back—and I’m mostly okay with that. There are things I miss about the office: colleagues who have become friends, the collaboration, the access to ideas and creativity.
The biggest thing I don’t miss? Traffic. Nothing even comes close.
I live in Austin, Texas, which ranks tenth in America in terms of worst commute.
MANY MEMBERS of the military live in a crisis-like state. They’re frequently deployed to dangerous places. Their families often have to move every few years.
Today, that sense of crisis is shared by many others. In fact, with 23.1 million Americans unemployed as of April, a government paycheck seems stable by comparison. How can families prep their finances for ongoing economic instability? Here are five of the money principles I advocate in my work counseling soldiers,
I REMEMBER the first time we met. Josh—not his real name—and I went to rival high schools in the Washington, D.C., area. During our senior year, we competed in a track meet. Someone mentioned that we would be going to the same college in the fall, so I went over to introduce myself—a little awkwardly, as he had just annihilated me in a race. A few months later, knowing few people on campus, we were happy to discover that we’d both enrolled in the college’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program.
MY WIFE AND I recently read The Ant and the Grasshopper, from Aesop’s Fables, to our youngest daughter. If you recall, the grasshopper mocks the ant for spending all his free time amassing food. But when winter comes, the starving grasshopper begs for assistance—and the ant refuses.
Lately, I’ve been struck by the irony of this parable. As we celebrate the role of physicians in keeping us all safe from a virus,
I RECENTLY DISCUSSED retirement plans with my old college roommate, Joe, who now runs his own business. As we wrapped up the conversation, Joe asked if I had any book recommendations.
I told him I was about to start Good to Great, the management book by Jim Collins. It’s been a huge bestseller, with four million copies sold. Joe immediately shot back, “John, that book demonstrates precisely why low-cost index funds have to be the answer for most retirement plans.
MANY PARENTS assume that what counts are the big events, such as graduations or elaborately planned vacations. But I’ve always found that the best moments in life weren’t necessarily the ones circled on the calendar.
The stock market is a lot like family life. Forget trying to figure out the ideal moment to get in or out of the market. Instead, what really matters is the time spent sitting around in stocks.
Jerry Seinfeld affectionately calls his mundane interactions with his kids “garbage time.” He prefers that label to what most parents aim for—the impossible-to-meet “quality time” standard.