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By the Numbers

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.

By the Numbers

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 24, 2023

WHAT’S THE STATE of America’s family finances? The Federal Reserve just released its once-every-three-year look, in the guise of the 2022 Survey of Consumer Finances, which is based on in-depth interviews with some 4,600 families.
You can read the Fed’s analysis here. Below are some key insights from the latest survey:
Net worth. The typical (or “median”) net worth—meaning the value of all assets minus all debt for those American families halfway down the wealth spectrum—was $192,700 in 2022. 

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Taking Charge

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 21, 2023

“GOD, GRANT ME THE serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
No matter what our religious beliefs, we’re constantly bombarded with reasons to invoke the serenity prayer. There are so many things we can’t control: what our bosses decide, what acquaintances say behind our back, how stocks and interest rates perform. This lack of control can be a source of endless anxiety,

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House of Cards

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 7, 2023

I’VE KNOWN AT LEAST half-a-dozen folks who regularly carried five-figure credit card balances. In fact, I was once friends with a woman who had $100,000 in card debt—not just a staggering sum, but also a warning sign about her spending habits that I should have heeded far earlier than I did.
Folks who flock to HumbleDollar tend to be financially disciplined, so this sort of behavior will no doubt spark tut-tutting among some readers.

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Growing Pains

Jonathan Clements  |  Sep 30, 2023

AS WE GET OLDER, the financial hits often grow far larger, for two reasons. First, we’re typically wealthier, which means the potential dollar losses are bigger. Second, as we age, there’s greater risk of hefty health-care costs, notably long-term-care expenses.
Almost everybody endures at least a few big financial hits during their lifetime. Perhaps you lose your job, and it then takes many months to find work. Maybe your parents need nursing-home care and you end up footing part of the tab.

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Absolutely Fine

Jonathan Clements  |  Sep 23, 2023

I’M DOING RELATIVELY well—and therein lies the problem. No, it isn’t the “doing well” part that’s the issue. Rather, the problem lies with that all-corrupting word “relatively.”
We’re constantly reminded of how we stack up against others. Early in life, that can be useful. If we aren’t cut out to be professional athletes, effective leaders, academic stars or market-beating investors—this last one would include almost all of us—it’s good to find that out, so we don’t spend countless years pursuing goals we’re unlikely to achieve.

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On Second Thought

Jonathan Clements  |  Sep 9, 2023

WE ALL LIKE TO THINK we’re consistent in our views. I certainly do. Yet, as I recall how I thought about the financial world two decades ago and how I think about it today, I’m amazed at how much my views have changed.
Here are five pieces of advice that I give now—but which I wouldn’t have given two decades ago:
1. Don’t waste time on investing. In the early 2000s, I thought endlessly about how to structure a portfolio,

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What We Lose

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 26, 2023

WHEN WE RETIRE, we win back control over our daily life. Gone is the boss, the expectation that we’ll be at work at a certain hour, the worry about what the next office email will bring. We have a degree of freedom that, in many cases, we last knew when we were students contemplating a long summer vacation.
But even as we gain that freedom, there’s also much that we lose. If we’re to be happy retirees,

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Financial Superpowers

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 19, 2023

THERE ARE ALL KINDS of financial talents that seem desirable. Who wouldn’t want a knack for finding undervalued stocks, identifying star fund managers, and figuring out which way the stock and bond markets are headed? The problem: While some folks may briefly appear to possess these talents, it usually turns out that their apparent prescience was nothing more than dumb luck.
Where does that leave us? Forget the obvious but elusive financial superpowers, and focus on those that—with a little work—are available to all of us.

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Not a Financial Loss

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 17, 2023

DON’T CONFUSE THREATS to your happiness with financial threats.
For instance, it would be devastating if one of your children died at a young age, and no doubt that’s why some folks buy life insurance on their children’s lives. But while the death of a child is a threat to your happiness, is it a threat to your finances? It’s terrible to say it, but just the opposite is true: You’d probably be better off financially.

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Don’t Mess Around

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 12, 2023

THERE ARE CERTAIN things I did right during my financial journey, notably saving like crazy, tilting heavily toward stocks and favoring index funds. But if only all my doing had stopped there.
Looking back over almost four decades of investing, what I see is far too much tinkering. At various times, I’ve owned funds devoted to precious metals, global real estate, commodities, emerging market bonds and more. I know this tinkering devoured precious time—and I strongly suspect it hurt my investment results.

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What’s Your Story?

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 5, 2023

AS SOMEONE WHO HAS marched through life—and made money along the way—by putting one word in front of another, maybe it’s no great surprise that I’m a big fan of writing things down.
My challenge to you: Follow the example of the 30 HumbleDollar writers who contributed essays to the book My Money Journey, and devote a few thousand words to detailing your financial journey, including your mistakes, triumphs and the lessons you learned along the way.

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When to Give

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 29, 2023

WANT TO DONATE TO charity? It usually makes sense to give now rather than upon death. You’ll get the pleasure of helping a cause you care about, and your generosity may also earn you an immediate tax deduction.
But what about giving money to your children or other heirs? This is a much trickier question, one I’ve thought about a lot ever since my first child was born almost 35 years ago.
Giving now.

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Looking Up and Down

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 15, 2023

THE STOCK MARKET offers limited downside and unlimited upside. That might not seem like a big deal. But this asymmetry has huge implications for how we manage our money—and, for prudent investors, it should be a great comfort. How so? Consider five key implications.
No. 1: The most a stock can lose is 100% of its value. Sound grim? There’s a silver lining. Assuming you own your stocks outright, your potential loss is limited to the sum you invested.

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No Right Way

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 8, 2023

WE LIVE IN A WORLD rife with intolerance—and that intolerance, alas, has infected the once-civilized world of index-fund investors.
Back in the 1990s, we indexers were such a small minority that simply owning index funds was a common bond. But now that more than half the fund market is given over to index funds, internecine skirmishes regularly erupt, with folks debating what’s the right way to index and belittling those who take a different approach.

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Look Inside

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 1, 2023

AS WE MANAGE OUR financial life, we’re compelled to cope with heaps of uncertainty—which way the stock and bond markets will head, what financial misfortunes will strike, how long we’ll live and so much more.
But there are also ways we can exert a measure of control: spend thoughtfully, save diligently, keep a close eye on risk, hold down investment costs and manage our annual tax bill. To this list, I’d add one other key way to reclaim the advantage: have a good handle on who we are.

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