Comfort Has a Cost

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.

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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Business Schooled

Jonathan Clements  |  Jan 6, 2024

HUMBLEDOLLAR JUST marked its seventh birthday. I didn’t set out to launch a site that would devour endless hours of my time and derail my plans for something that looked like a normal retirement. But I have no regrets.
The site hasn’t been a huge success. Still, I find running it to be hugely satisfying. It’s the reason I typically crawl out of bed before 5 a.m., and do so happily. Here are five key lessons I’ve learned from my first seven years running HumbleDollar—lessons that I suspect may be useful to others,

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24 Rules for 2024

Jonathan Clements  |  Dec 30, 2023

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO with your money next year? The same things you should have done this year, and the year before, and the year before that.
The rules for a successful life—financially and otherwise—are, I believe, pretty timeless. What rules? Here are 24 of my favorites.
1. Ask why. If you don’t know where you’re going with your finances, you’ll likely end up somewhere you don’t like. What are your money goals for 2024 and beyond?

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Lean Against the Wind

Jonathan Clements  |  Dec 23, 2023

AT THE RISK OF CAUSING readers to think too much on a Saturday morning, let me start by offering a pair of seemingly contradictory statements:

The financial markets are efficient, but occasionally go stark, raving mad.
Nobody knows what stocks are worth, but they have fundamental value.

My contention: There’s a payoff to be had from grappling with these two apparent contradictions—a payoff that takes the form of greater calm in the face of market turmoil and improved long-run portfolio performance.

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Happily Ever After

Jonathan Clements  |  Dec 16, 2023

INVESTING IS ABOUT finding a strategy that’ll allow us to meet our life’s goals—and which we can live with along the way. That brings me to a major portfolio change I made two years ago, and a series of changes I’m planning for the years ahead.
In late 2021, I split my portfolio in two. One part I’ll use to fund my retirement, while the other part I’ll leave to my two kids. This “bequest” portion consists of my three Roth accounts,

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Better and Better

Jonathan Clements  |  Dec 9, 2023

PROGRESS IN RECENT decades has been remarkable. We no longer do math using slide rules, talk on phones attached to walls, choose from just a handful of TV channels or drive clutching an unfolded map.
Less obvious—but arguably just as important—has been the progress in our financial thinking. Looking back over the post-World War II period, I see five key phases in our thinking about money, and those phases roughly parallel the needs and wants of the baby boomers,

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Messing Us Up

Jonathan Clements  |  Dec 2, 2023

I BELIEVE MANAGING money should be kept as simple as possible. That’s usually the route to lower costs, fewer mistakes and greater financial peace of mind. But, alas, three crucial areas of our financial life defy simplicity: health insurance, taxes and paying for college.
This is hardly an original insight. Folks have complained for decades about the maddening complexity involved with all three. All are ripe for a total revamp, but there’s no sign that’ll happen any time soon.

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Retirement Roulette

Jonathan Clements  |  Nov 25, 2023

IT’S HARD TO OVERSTATE how challenging it is to generate retirement income: We need our money to last at least as long as we do, and yet we don’t know how financial markets will perform, what the inflation rate will be, whether we’ll get hit with hefty long-term-care costs and how long we’ll live.
Moreover, the generic advice offered inevitably doesn’t work for many—and perhaps most—folks because we all start retirement with different attitudes,

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