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Being vs. Doing

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.

Being vs. Doing

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 30, 2016

WE’RE SPENDING THE final two weeks before Labor Day on Cape Cod, staying with my in-laws. Everywhere we turn, there’s another delightful home with a wonderful water view. “Wouldn’t it be great to live there?” my wife and I muse, as we imagine how much happier we’d be if we lived in this place of apparently permanent vacation.
We are, of course, completely delusional.
Being in a beautiful spot can be a great joy for a week or two.

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Looking Long

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 27, 2016

STOCK INVESTORS this year are fretting over Brexit, tighter monetary policy and lackluster economic growth. But every year, there’s another compelling reason to bail out of the stock market.
Think about the past half-century: We’ve had wars, political crises, financial crises, double-digit inflation, a double-dip recession, terrorist attacks and more. And yet, if you had stashed $10,000 in a global stock portfolio at year-end 1969 and sat tight through all the subsequent turmoil, you would have more than $450,000 today.

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Staying Put

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 20, 2016

TEN YEARS AGO, the real estate market peaked. Today, prices remain 2.1% below their mid-2006 high—though they’re also 34.8% above their 2012 low, as measured by the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index.
As property prices have recovered, homes have become less affordable. The impact, however, has been softened somewhat by modestly rising incomes and slightly lower mortgage rates, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. The upshot: If you have the U.S.

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Playing the Spread

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 13, 2016

HOW LONG WILL YOU live? A recent study from Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research noted that, “A healthy 65-year old man in an employer pension plan has a 25% chance of dying by age 78, or of living to age 91 or beyond.”
Think about the dilemma this creates if you’re retiring at age 65. Even if you are in the middle 50% of the male population—neither among the 25% who die early in retirement nor among the 25% who live well into their 90s—your retirement could last just 13 years or it could be double that,

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Terrible Twenties

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 6, 2016

WHEN I WAS IN MY 20s, with two young children to provide for, I had neither an emergency fund nor nearly enough life insurance. I knew both were important—but I simply didn’t have the money to spare.
Make no mistake: Launching a financial life is daunting. Most twentysomethings have modest incomes, and yet they’re supposed to save for retirement, buy a car, build up an emergency reserve and put aside money for a house down payment,

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Moving and Shaking

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 23, 2016

THE CLEMENTS household has been in turmoil since May. After weeks of shoehorning our life’s possessions into endless cardboard boxes, we moved home and then, three days later, headed off for 10 days of vacation. My wife and I aren’t quite sure how we settled on this crazy schedule (though we’re pretty sure the other spouse is responsible). But we’re painfully aware of the result: It’s been months since we’ve had anything that felt like an ordinary day.

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Acquiring Wisdom

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 16, 2016

WHAT EXPLAINS America’s miserably low savings rate? There’s no shortage of suspects. You could finger our lack of self-control, as well as our tendency to favor today’s spending and shortchange tomorrow’s goals. You can cite seven decades of post-war prosperity, which has made Americans confident they can weather financial storms, despite skimpy savings and hefty debts. You could blame rising aspirations amid increasing income inequality, which have left low-income families spending ever more as they seek to keep up with the Joneses.

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Committed

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 9, 2016

I PROMISE TO BEHAVE better tomorrow. What happens when tomorrow becomes today? All bets are off.
Our broken promises might involve money, such as committing to spend less, save more and pay down debt. Or they might involve some other aspect of our life, such as committing to eat healthier, exercise more and drink less.
All this highlights our irrationality. We may not be experts in nutrition, physical education and money management. But we have a pretty good idea of how we ought to behave.

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So Sensitive

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 5, 2016

WALL STREET’S inhabitants have many unpleasant qualities: greed, arrogance, disdain for customers, inflated self-importance, a sense of entitlement. But all this is made worse by another unappealing trait: They’re so damn prickly.
The degree of prickliness is closely correlated with the outrageousness of the fees they charge. I saw this again and again during my decades as a financial journalist. I can’t recall an index-fund manager ever throwing a king-size snit, and it was rare that I got a nasty letter or email from a fee-only financial planner.

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Taxing Matters

Jonathan Clements  |  Jun 25, 2016

IF YOUR GOAL IS lower investment costs, the financial world has never been friendlier. Let’s say you want to buy the broad U.S. stock market. You can choose between a Schwab exchange-traded index fund that charges 0.03% of assets per year, an iShares ETF that levies 0.03% or a Vanguard mutual fund that costs 0.05%.
Those expense ratios are truly astonishing: If you had $100,000 to invest in the broad U.S. market, your annual fund expenses would be just $30 or $50.

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Yes, We Must

Jonathan Clements  |  Jun 21, 2016

MONEY ISN’T AN END in itself. Rather, it’s a means to other ends. But what ends? Some people have a good handle on what they want from their financial life. But for others, it’s a lifelong struggle. They purchase endless possessions that bring only fleeting pleasure. They pursue goals that they belatedly discover aren’t all that important to them. Result: money worries, excessive spending, mountains of debt and fierce family arguments.
How can we avoid this mess?

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Three Traits

Jonathan Clements  |  Jun 11, 2016

PEOPLE LOVE TO TALK about themselves. Today’s subject: me. Over my three decades of investing, I have tried to cultivate three traits. In other circumstances, none would be especially endearing. But as an investor, they’re my best friends.
1. I’m clueless. Occasionally, I forget how ignorant I am. I might convince myself that I know where interest rates are headed or that I’ve found a stock market sector that’s truly undervalued. Fortunately,

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Losing Interest

Jonathan Clements  |  Jun 4, 2016

“ONLY BORROW TO BUY things that’ll appreciate in value.” This was a popular piece of financial wisdom in the 1980s, when I started writing about personal finance. But I can’t recall anyone saying it in recent years. Does that mean this wisdom is no longer wise?
Financial habits have obviously changed. I might make just a single cash machine withdrawal each month, because I put almost every expenditure on my two credit cards, which I use to buy groceries,

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Choosing Less

Jonathan Clements  |  May 29, 2016

TOO MUCH CHOICE CAN be paralyzing. This is the reason many 401(k) plans have winnowed the list of funds they offer: Thanks to the smaller selection, participants are less likely to feel overwhelmed—and more likely to make an investment decision, rather than leaving their cash to languish in the plan’s money market fund.
I think this is a good strategy for other areas of our finances. For instance, you may make smarter investment decisions if you limit your choice by,

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Avoiding Indigestion

Jonathan Clements  |  May 26, 2016

RESTAURANT MEALS are my biggest discretionary expense. Want me as one of your customers? Here are my seven rules for restaurants:

If I made a reservation, don’t make me wait 10 minutes for a table.
Dim the goddamn lights. I look better in the dark. So does your restaurant.
Never sell a wine I can find in the liquor store. It’s one thing to suspect you’ve marked up the bottle by 300%. It’s another thing to know with absolute certainty.

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