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Where It Goes

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 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 in Philadelphia, just a few blocks from his daughter, son-in-law and grandson.

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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March’s Hits

Jonathan Clements  |  Apr 2, 2024

WHAT WERE FOLKS reading on HumbleDollar last month? Here are the 10 articles and blog posts that garnered the most pageviews during March:

“During our working years, the usual goal is to minimize our tax bill each year,” notes Adam Grossman. “But in retirement, the objective is different: It’s to minimize our total lifetime tax bill.”
“Perhaps the key to my happy retirement was not planning what I’d do in retirement,” says Dick Quinn.

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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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Next Meetup

Jonathan Clements  |  Mar 30, 2024

HUMBLEDOLLAR HELD its inaugural meetup on March 4 in Philadelphia. I initially expected half-a-dozen attendees. We had 25. One couple came all the way from Virginia, while another gentleman traveled down from Long Island, New York.
Lots of pizza, beer and wine were consumed, and folks seemed to enjoy meeting their fellow readers. I spent a little time with everybody in attendance and, by the end, was hoarse after three hours of talking.

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Matters of Principal

Jonathan Clements  |  Mar 22, 2024

HAVE YOU EVER HAD one of those debates where you come up with the winning argument—hours later, long after everybody has gone home?
Among the many financial topics that cause confusion, extra-principal payments on a mortgage deserve a special mention. For decades, I feel like I’ve been trying to stamp out the nonsense that’s spouted on this topic, and I think I finally have the answer. Maybe.
The chief reason for all the confusion is a mortgage’s shifting mix of principal and interest.

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Asking Myself

Jonathan Clements  |  Mar 16, 2024

WHAT’S THE BETTER choice? This is the perennial question for all of us, as we ponder how best to use our time, how to invest our savings and how to get the most out of the dollars we spend.
Want to lead a more thoughtful financial life? As I try to make better choices, here are five questions I find particularly useful.
1. Why would I stray from the global stock market’s weights?

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Comfort Has a Cost

Jonathan Clements  |  Mar 2, 2024

INVESTING IS MESSY. Get used to it.
In the financial markets, you’ll typically pay a high price for certainty. That price is paid in lower investment returns, and sometimes also in greater financial hassles. Yet I see investors paying that price again and again.
Consider equity-indexed annuities. Investors imagine they’re getting stock market returns without any downside risk. But in truth, what they’re buying is an overhyped investment that captures only a portion of the stock market’s gain,

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What Lies Beneath

Jonathan Clements  |  Feb 24, 2024

MONEY IS A TOOL. But a tool for what? We might imagine it’s simply a way to purchase the goods and services we need or want. But in truth, there are all kinds of things that money can do for us—some worthy, some not so much.
Want to use your wealth more wisely? I think all of us should spend time pondering what money represents to us, how we use it and why we like to have it.

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Forget Me Not

Jonathan Clements  |  Feb 17, 2024

WHAT WILL BE YOUR legacy? It’s a question many of us ponder as we get older. My conclusion: It’s the wrong question to ask.
The fact is, the whole notion of a legacy is a tad delusional, and very likely a trick played on us by our genes, which want us to care deeply about future generations. The reality: Most of us will leave scant mark on the world and we won’t be remembered for very long after we’re gone.

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Fire Meets Ice

Jonathan Clements  |  Feb 10, 2024

HAVE WE GOT IT ALL wrong? “It” is our relentless, lifelong focus on socking away great wads of money, so we don’t have to worry about earning another penny once we reach our 60s.
In fact, adherents of the FIRE—financial independence-retire early—movement aim to reach this blissful state far earlier, perhaps even in their 30s. This, of course, involves saving voraciously, with all the financial sacrifice that’s entailed. Even retiring in our 60s can seem like a Herculean task,

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Drawn From Memory

Jonathan Clements  |  Feb 3, 2024

WE’RE ALL CAPTIVES of our own experiences. Want to behave more rationally? We should set aside our life’s anecdotal evidence and instead make decisions using the best information we can find. Yet our experiences—especially those during childhood and that involve family—tend to triumph, shaping our world view and potentially setting us up for costly financial mistakes.
What drives your behavior, financially and otherwise? A little introspection could help you better understand your financial choices—a crucial first step to behaving better.

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Called to Account

Jonathan Clements  |  Jan 27, 2024

MY FAMILY HAS BEEN regularly visiting a remote corner of southwest England since 1968, when I was five years old. My maternal grandparents retired to the area, and for a while my parents owned a holiday house nearby. It is, to me, the world’s most beautiful place.
Decades ago, while walking the country lanes, I came across the ruins of a church that was under the protection of a group called Friends of Friendless Churches,

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Pizza, Anyone?

Jonathan Clements  |  Jan 27, 2024

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING completely different: I’d like to try a HumbleDollar meetup on Monday, March 4, at 5 p.m. at Pizzeria Vetri, 1615 Chancellor Street, Philadelphia.
All attendees will be responsible for their own bill, but it shouldn’t be wildly expensive, not least because happy hour runs through 6 p.m. I believe Vetri has the best pizza in Philly. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, but the manager assures me that things should be quiet at that time.

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Our Money Pit

Jonathan Clements  |  Jan 20, 2024

CALCULATING THE RETURN from homeownership typically involves some mix of delusion and dubious math—and that’s never truer than when it comes to remodeling projects. On the numbers alone, it’s all but impossible to justify a major renovation. Trust me, I’ve tried.
We just finished a project that proved so expensive that, if I revealed the cost, my reputation for frugality would be in tatters. The cost was comfortably—or perhaps uncomfortably—into six figures. What if we sold our Philadelphia townhome tomorrow?

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