Calculated Courage

Jonathan Clements

Jonathan is the founder and editor of HumbleDollar. He also sits on the advisory board of Creative Planning, one of the country’s largest independent financial advisors, and is the author of eight personal finance books. Earlier in his career, Jonathan spent almost 20 years at The Wall Street Journal, where he was the newspaper's personal finance columnist, and six years at Citigroup, where he was director of financial education for the bank's U.S. wealth management arm. Born in England and educated at Cambridge University, Jonathan now lives in Philadelphia, just a few blocks from his daughter, son-in-law and grandson.

Calculated Courage

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 23, 2021

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,

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Reading Tea Leaves

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 9, 2021

BURTON MALKIEL, in his bestseller A Random Walk Down Wall Street, recounts showing a stock chart to a friend who was a devotee of technical analysis.
“What is this company?” the friend asked Malkiel. “We’ve got to buy immediately. This pattern’s a classic. There’s no question the stock will be up 15 points next week.”
Problem is, the chart that Malkiel shared wasn’t that of an actual stock. Instead, it was the result of flipping a coin and then assuming the share price rose or fell each day depending on whether the coin came up heads or tails.

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Going Mental

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 2, 2021

WE ALL TEND TO VIEW our money as a series of distinct financial buckets. Economists consider such “mental accounting” to be irrational, and perhaps it is. But it’s also mighty useful. Consider some recent articles from HumbleDollar’s writers:

Bill Ehart talked about the separate savings accounts he has for financial emergencies, a new car and his daughter’s wedding. Sure, it would be simpler and perhaps more rational to have a single savings account.

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September’s Hits

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 1, 2021

READERS DEVOURED articles about retirement last month, helping to propel HumbleDollar to its best month ever for readership. Here were September’s seven most popular articles:

If you delay Social Security by a year and instead dip into savings to cover the missed benefits, you’re effectively buying an annuity with an 8% payout. That’s a deal that’s hard to beat, as Rick Connor explains.
As you build your retirement plan, don’t just focus on your portfolio’s withdrawal rate.

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Eating Our Feelings

Jonathan Clements  |  Sep 29, 2021

PANDEMICS MAKE US hungry and thirsty, or so say the monthly spending data from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.
In March 2020, as the pandemic hit with full fury, our collective spending on groceries jumped 23% from a month earlier. We can chalk that up to hoarding. Since then, monthly spending on groceries has never matched March 2020. Still, it also hasn’t fallen back to pre-pandemic levels, no doubt partly because of food price increases.

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Growing Cheap

Jonathan Clements  |  Sep 27, 2021

SUPPOSE THE S&P 500 ended the year at Friday’s close of 4455.48. Let’s also assume that the analysts at S&P Dow Jones are correct, and the S&P 500 companies have 2021 reported earnings equal to an index-adjusted $185.32. That would put the S&P 500 at 24 times earnings, versus today’s 34.8.
That would be considered high by historical standards, though it isn’t outrageous given today’s low interest rates. But what would it take for stocks to look like a compelling investment?

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Behaving Badly

Jonathan Clements  |  Sep 18, 2021

OTHERS MIGHT BE hoping to add to their wealth by picking the next hot stock. But here at HumbleDollar, we’re much more concerned about subtraction.
The goal: Keep more of whatever the financial markets deliver by minimizing investment costs and avoiding unnecessarily large tax bills. This is a reason to favor index funds. But even if we index, we need to be alert to another threat—that posed by the person in the mirror.

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Twenty Years Ago

Jonathan Clements  |  Sep 11, 2021

ON SEPT. 11, 2001, I spent an hour and a half standing on a crowded subway train two blocks from the World Trade Center. During that time, both towers collapsed. No smoke came shooting down the subway tunnel. The earth didn’t noticeably shake. There were no deafening noises. Instead, we were just another subway car packed with disgruntled passengers, muttering about the perils of public transport.
It was only when the train backed up to Penn Station in midtown Manhattan that we learned what had happened that day.

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Similar but Not

Jonathan Clements  |  Sep 6, 2021

U.S. AND FOREIGN STOCKS are highly correlated, with monthly returns that move in the same direction almost all the time. Because of this, some have argued that there’s scant reason to diversify internationally.
But there’s a small problem with this argument: Just because investments move in the same direction doesn’t mean they generate the same return. For proof, consider the past 20 calendar years.
Over that stretch, there were only three years when U.S.

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Trading Off

Jonathan Clements  |  Sep 4, 2021

WHEN WE CHOOSE to do one thing with our time and money, we’re also choosing not to do countless other things. The purchases made and the possibilities forgone sometimes turn into lasting regrets.
That is, to a degree, unavoidable. We often misjudge not only what we want today, but also the wants of our future self. Still, I firmly believe we can all do better—if we avoid impulsive decisions and instead spend time thinking through life’s key tradeoffs.

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Seeing Visions

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 28, 2021

WE SAVE TOO LITTLE, spend too much and what we buy often disappoints. Is there an antidote for this financially self-destructive behavior? One intriguing possibility: visualization.
If you’re like me, the word itself makes you a little queasy. It conjures up images of both self-absorbed, navel-gazing yuppies (not something I aspire to be) and Olympic athletes getting in the zone (not something I’ll ever be). Still, I think there’s value in spending serious time pondering our financial goals.

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Senior Class

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 14, 2021

FORGET BUYING a home or paying for college. In terms of complexity and cost, nothing comes close to retirement—a topic that encompasses saving, investing, taxes, Social Security, health care expenses and countless other financial issues.
Fortunately, there’s a growing body of research to guide us, and some of the best studies come from Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research (CRR). Here are just some of the insights I’ve lately garnered from CRR studies:
Valuing annuities.

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Go to Extremes

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 31, 2021

IT’S RISKY TO LAY down hard-and-fast rules for money management because, for every rule, there will almost inevitably be exceptions.
Still, as they say, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Below you’ll find 18 rules. Want to quibble? Hey, that’s why HumbleDollar allows readers to comment on articles.
1. Minimize cash. With short-term interest rates so low, keeping money in savings accounts and money market funds seems especially grim right now. But the truth is,

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Curb Your Enthusiasm

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 27, 2021

SERIES I SAVINGS bonds have lately garnered a lot of investor interest because—if you buy during the current six-month purchase period—your initial annualized interest rate will be 3.54%. You’ll only earn that for the first six months. Thereafter, your yield will match the inflation rate. For bonds purchased between May and October, there’s no additional interest paid, over and above the inflation rate.
Still, the higher inflation climbs, the more interest your I bonds will earn.

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Getting Short

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 23, 2021

WE JUST LAUNCHED our newest feature: A blog that’ll be updated two or three times a day with new posts that typically run some 300 words. These posts will, I hope, complement the site’s longer articles, which we’ll continue to publish, though perhaps less frequently.
Why introduce a blog? It’ll allow HumbleDollar to be more timely. It’ll be a way to tackle topics that don’t require full-length articles. And it’ll be another opportunity to highlight the financial philosophy that drives much of what we write—and what makes HumbleDollar different from most other financial sites:

We think harping on the stock market’s daily action is foolish and that the forecasts of Wall Street’s chattering class aren’t just worthless,

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