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Jonathan Clements

Jonathan Clements

Jonathan founded HumbleDollar at year-end 2016. He also sits on the advisory board of Creative Planning, one of the country’s largest independent financial advisors, and is the author of nine 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 with his wife Elaine in Philadelphia, just a few blocks from his daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons.

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The Risks We Miss

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 13, 2024

TODAY’S FINANCIAL lesson: We can manage risk—but terrible stuff can still happen. This thought, of course, was prompted by my recent cancer diagnosis. But the notion is also all too relevant to money management.
But let’s start with health matters. In 1995, I began training for my first marathon, which I ran in May 1996 in Pittsburgh and finished in just under three hours. Ever since, I’ve been a bit of an exercise nut.

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Looking Different

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 6, 2024

I’VE ALWAYS ASSUMED my financial life wasn’t so different from that of others—and that made writing personal-finance articles a whole lot easier. I, too, wanted to own a home, buy the right insurance, pay for the kids’ college, and amass enough for a long and comfortable retirement.
On top of that, I wasn’t some financial minority—a highly paid executive, or a successful business owner, or the recipient of a hefty inheritance. Instead, I was like most everybody else,

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June’s Hits

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 2, 2024

WHAT CAUGHT THE EYE of readers last month? Below are June’s 10 most popular articles and blog posts:

Planning your retirement? As Dick Quinn notes, there’s little agreement on the big financial questions—and most of the answers are too complicated for the typical American.
Faced with so many unknowns and some crazy market behavior, should investors worry? Adam Grossman’s advice: Avoid market forecasts—and hedge your bets.
You might have heard that retirement savings socked away before age 30 are as valuable as all the money saved thereafter.

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Raise Your Voice

Jonathan Clements  |  Jun 22, 2024

OVER THE PAST SEVEN years, HumbleDollar has become my professional life’s passion. Cancer means I have maybe another year in me—and then it’ll be up to you. My hope: The site will have a life beyond me.
On the site’s homepage, just below the latest articles, you’ll find a new feature dubbed Forum. Will HumbleDollar have a lively future, rather than fading into a dusty collection of old articles? That all depends on whether readers and writers embrace the Forum,

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The C Word

Jonathan Clements  |  Jun 15, 2024

ON SUNDAY MORNING, May 19, I was enjoying croissants and coffee with Elaine at the kitchen table, while watching the neighborhood sparrows, finches, cardinals and squirrels have their way with the bird feeder. All was right in our little world, except I was a little wobbly when walking—the result, I suspected, of balance issues caused by an ear infection.
It was going to be a busy week, and I figured that it would be smart to get some antibiotics inside me,

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Buying Freedom

Jonathan Clements  |  Jun 1, 2024

IF 20-SOMETHINGS ASK me for financial advice, I suggest getting a job right out of college and saving like crazy, so they quickly get themselves on the fast track to financial freedom.
If 60-somethings ask me for advice, I advocate a phased retirement, seeking part-time work in their initial retirement years and, if they enjoy it, perhaps keeping it up into their 70s.
Yeah, I know, I sound like a real killjoy. My advice raises an obvious question: Is there ever a time when we should cut ourselves some slack and not have a job?

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Man vs. Machine

Jonathan Clements  |  May 25, 2024

COULD HUMBLEDOLLAR be replaced by a website chock-full of articles created using artificial intelligence? The short answer: It would be remarkably easy—and I fear readers wouldn’t object, especially if they didn’t know how the articles were generated.
To show what’s possible, I requested eight personal-finance articles from three freely available artificial intelligence (AI) tools, ChatGPT, Google’s Gemini and Microsoft’s Copilot. The first of those articles is published today, with the other seven appearing over the next four days.

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Playing Their Part

Jonathan Clements  |  May 18, 2024

OUR RETIREMENT INCOME is built on a slew of financial products and strategies. But we should think less about the gory details of each—and more about the role they play in our overall retirement finances.
The fact is, while each of us comes to retirement with different levels of wealth and different desires, we all want both a sense of financial security today and confidence about our financial future. How can we best meet those twin goals?

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Paying to Avoid Pain

Jonathan Clements  |  May 11, 2024

IN RECENT YEARS, I’ve confronted a choice: I could fund my solo Roth 401(k)—or I could use the dollars to cover the tax bill on a large Roth conversion. I wish I could do both. But after using my earned income to pay living expenses and make financial gifts, I don’t have the necessary cash.
My choice: Go for the big Roth conversion.
Why? In part, it’s because I’m focused on shrinking my traditional IRA before I turn age 75 and have to start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs),

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Long Odds

Jonathan Clements  |  May 4, 2024

SUPPOSE YOU KNEW you’d live until at least age 90. How would that change your thinking about retirement?
It seems most of us focus less on the possibility of a long life and more on the risk of an early death. This grim view is buttressed by endless anecdotal evidence—celebrities who pass away in their 40s and 50s, terrible accidents that take multiple lives, old classmates and colleagues who die at tragically young ages.

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Not Scared of Bears

Jonathan Clements  |  Apr 27, 2024

I HAVE NO IDEA HOW stocks will perform this year or next. But I have full confidence that a globally diversified stock portfolio will fare just fine over the decades ahead.
My optimism, it seems, isn’t shared by many HumbleDollar readers, who fear we’re facing some rough years for the economy and the stock market. How do I justify my optimism about the long term? Here are five reasons.
1. Heads I win,

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Fully Committed

Jonathan Clements  |  Apr 20, 2024

IF YOU THINK IT’S irritating to debate an issue with folks who have already made up their mind, there’s one situation that’s even worse: debating an issue with those who have not only made up their mind, but also gone ahead and acted on their decision—especially if that decision is irreversible.
And, yes, many retirement decisions are irreversible.
Take issues such as when to claim Social Security, whether to take pension payments or a lump sum,

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Where It Goes

Jonathan Clements  |  Apr 13, 2024

I HAVE ONLY A VAGUE idea of how much I spend. I figured it was time to find out.
I’ve never budgeted because I’ve never seen the need. From my early 20s until three-plus years ago, I kept an iron grip on my wallet, spending with the utmost care and saving great heaps of money. Over those 35 years of fierce frugality, I don’t feel like I deprived myself, but I do feel like I thought about money far too much—and tracking my spending would only have made that worse.

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What Our Dollars Buy

Jonathan Clements  |  Apr 6, 2024

WHEN WE SPEND MONEY, we’re looking to get something in return. But what? Forget classic budgeting categories like housing, food, utilities, insurance and entertainment. Instead, suppose we used a completely different classification system—one that reflected the physical, social and emotional benefits we garner.
The list below is, I suspect, far from complete, especially when I compare it to the 16 basic desires developed by psychologist Steven Reiss. Moreover, as you’ll see, while an expenditure might fall predominantly into one category,

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Totally Your Choice

Jonathan Clements  |  Mar 30, 2024

LET’S START WITH a contention that’ll get nods of agreement from the vast majority of HumbleDollar readers: Your portfolio’s core holdings should be total market index funds.
But which funds?
Frankly, the differences among the most popular total market index funds are modest and perhaps not worth worrying about. Still, worry we do. As I see it, which ones you choose depend on what you’re most focused on. Here are four key considerations:
Low cost.

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