FOR AS LONG AS I’VE been writing about investing—37 years now—grumpy old men have been declaring that the stock market’s party will soon end with a world-class hangover.
Is it time to stock up on Tylenol?
I, of course, don’t have the slightest clue. But when the S&P 500 rises 3% on Wednesday and then plunges 3.6% on Thursday, you sure get the sense that investors are a tad uncertain about the future. That brings me to two questions I’ve been pondering.
TWO YEARS AGO, during the early days of the pandemic, there were fears we’d see deflation. Today, the big fear is inflation—which helps explain last month’s two most popular articles on HumbleDollar:
If you buy Series I savings bonds, you could earn 8.5% over the next year. John Lim offers five intriguing ways to take advantage of that mouth-watering yield.
This year, John Lim has slashed his portfolio’s allocation to bonds from 15% to 5.5%.
BETWEEN 1972 AND 2018, the percentage of Americans who described themselves as very happy ranged from 29% to 38%. The number for 2021 was recently released: Just 19% of us said we’re very happy—10 percentage points lower than any prior survey.
Our happiness, it seems, is another victim of the pandemic. Indeed, COVID-19 and the resulting social isolation has delivered a bigger blow to our collective happiness than 2008-09’s Great Recession, 2001’s terrorist attacks and countless other distressing events from the past half-century.
SINCE EARLY JANUARY, this site has published a series of essays every Saturday, each from a different HumbleDollar writer. The theme: my money journey. The essays, 30 in all, will appear in a book of the same name, which will be published by Harriman House in March 2023. With this blog post, you get a sneak peak at the book’s cover.
As you might imagine, the book has meant a lot of work for the writers involved—and a ton of editing for me,
THIS IS A TEST. This is only a test. This is a test of our stock market resolve. Remember how you told yourself you’d stand pat during the next stock market decline, that you wouldn’t get rattled like you did in 2008-09 and early 2020? That moment has arrived.
Like any person with an ounce of decency, I’m appalled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the unnecessary death and suffering that will result. But I’m also confident that the Russians will come to regret their actions.
ROUGHLY A QUARTER of my investment portfolio sits in three Roth retirement accounts. Ever since I first funded a Roth a dozen years ago, I’ve thought of this as money I’d avoid spending for as long as possible, so I milk maximum gain from the tax-free growth. But lately, it’s dawned on me that it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever dip into these accounts—and that realization has triggered a slew of investment decisions.
My three Roth accounts are all at Vanguard Group.
WHEN WRITERS SUBMIT their latest article or blog post, I often thank them for “feeding the beast.” While tiny by internet standards, HumbleDollar has indeed become something of a beast, larger and more time-consuming than I ever imagined, but also—I like to think—occupying a unique place in the financial world’s ongoing conversation. This, I tell people, is the place where money grows up.
Here’s a look at what happened at HumbleDollar in 2021,
READERS HAVE CAST an eye on more than 13 million HumbleDollar pages over the past five years. Not surprisingly, many of those pageviews were garnered by the homepage, the latest articles page and the main money guide page. But what about the site’s articles? Here are the 30 best-read pieces since the site’s launch on Dec. 31, 2016:
Terms of the Trade (2019) by Jim Wasserman
Nobody Told Me (2020) by Jonathan Clements
Farewell Money (2019) by Richard Quinn
IT’S NEVER GOOD to be self-indulgent, and that’s doubly true on a day like this. Still, while the rest of you relish the gifts that came your way this holiday season, let me offer a guided tour of my most prized possessions.
I now have a firm idea of what they are, thanks to a ruthless process of subtraction. I’ve spent the past four months throwing out and selling countless things I don’t greatly care about.
TIME TO PLAY MARKET strategist. Trying to figure out what sort of U.S. stock returns we can expect over the next 10 years? Nobody knows for sure, of course. But we can at least think about it in a reasonably logical way—by using what some folks call the Bogle method.
What’s that? In a 1991 article for the Journal of Portfolio Management, Vanguard Group founder John Bogle—who died in January 2019—laid out a relatively straightforward method for estimating stock returns.
MY PORTFOLIO HAS evolved over my 35 years as an investor, as I’ve learned more and as new funds have become available. A total stock market index fund? Sure, I’ll consolidate money in that. An emerging markets index fund? Yeah, a modest stake looks promising. How about a small-cap value index fund? The academic literature says that makes sense.
Today, I own a dozen different Vanguard Group mutual funds, each giving me exposure to a different part of the global financial markets.
MILLIONS OF RETIRED baby boomers struggle financially, and yet they don’t eat avocado toast, don’t have a daily Starbucks habit and didn’t graduate college with a degree in women’s studies.
What’s my point? In the comments section of HumbleDollar, there are two recurring themes—that young adults spend recklessly and that college is of questionable value. I understand these concerns and even share them to some extent. But I’d favor a more nuanced view.
WHAT SEEMS OBVIOUS isn’t always true. Here are seven examples from the financial world:
Just because an investment has performed well doesn’t mean that’s a good guide to the future. This is usually mentioned with regard to stocks. But today, my bigger concern is folks who are extrapolating past bond fund returns. Their strong past performance was driven by a huge drop in interest rates over the past four decades—something that can’t be repeated starting from 2021’s tiny yields.
HOW DO WE KNOW we’re ready to retire? When I posted a link to Mike Drak’s recent article on HumbleDollar’s Facebook page, one commenter offered three questions that those approaching retirement should ask themselves:
1. Do I have enough? This, of course, is the question that gets asked most often. Do we have the financial wherewithal to carry us through a long and comfortable retirement?
2. Have I had enough? This may be easy to answer for folks who are lukewarm about their work,
THE S&P 500 STOCKS are up roughly 100% since March 2020’s market low. I’m 100% clueless about how much longer this remarkable run will last. But I’m 100% confident that, when the next downturn comes, many investors will rush for the exit, fearful that their stock holdings will soon be worth little or nothing.
Which brings me to one of the most important investment concepts: intrinsic value.
No, intrinsic value isn’t a simple notion and,