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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.

Check Again

Jonathan Clements  |  Dec 3, 2022

THE TWO-MINUTE CHECKUP is, I like to think, a unique financial tool: It aims to offer feedback across someone’s entire financial life based on no more than nine pieces of information. That’s an ambitious goal and—perhaps no surprise—some users have found the calculator wanting.
Meet Checkup 2.0.
Sanjib Saha, who writes for HumbleDollar when he isn’t busy writing software, and I went through all the comments that the calculator had received and made a host of changes.

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New Rules for Success

Jonathan Clements  |  Nov 26, 2022

FOUR DECADES OF falling inflation and declining interest rates have come to an abrupt halt—and that’s changed the calculus on a fistful of financial decisions.
Want to make smarter money choices in the months and years ahead? Here are seven new rules for financial success:
1. Carrying debt is less foolish—in some cases. Thanks to inflation, families can now repay the money they’ve borrowed with depreciated dollars. That won’t help you with credit card debt,

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Maximum Thinking

Jonathan Clements  |  Nov 20, 2022

WHEN I PICK HEALTH insurance each year, my focus is twofold: What’s the monthly premium—and what’s the out-of-pocket maximum?
Sure, I want to stay with my primary care physician. But my doctor just announced that she’s leaving Philadelphia to return to her native Massachusetts, so that became a non-issue for 2023.
Meanwhile, I’ve long wanted a high-deductible health plan so I could fund a health savings account (HSA). But since 2014, when I started working for myself and had to buy individual coverage,

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Happy Talk

Jonathan Clements  |  Nov 19, 2022

PESSIMISTS SEEM LIKE they’re clever and sophisticated, but—if you want to make money—take my advice: Invest like an optimist.
I’m not talking wild-eyed optimists who are over-enthused about meme stocks and nonfungible tokens. Instead, I’m talking about a fundamental belief that economic setbacks are temporary and the future will be better than the past. Struggling to stay cheery amid 2022’s rotten financial markets? Here are five reasons for optimism.
1. The news is terrible.

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Read Before Jumping

Jonathan Clements  |  Nov 12, 2022

WHEN MARKETS PLUNGE, investors start questioning whether they have the right mix of stocks, bonds and cash. That’s no great surprise: Bear markets hammer home the investment risks we’re taking—and many folks discover their portfolio is too aggressive for their taste.
That’s a useful insight for the future. But it’s hardly one you want to act upon when, even after Thursday’s rally, the broad stock market remains down some 16% for the year-to-date and the bond market is off 14%.

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Can’t Compare

Jonathan Clements  |  Nov 5, 2022

COMPARISONS ARE the death knell of happiness—and they aren’t good for our wallets, either.
If we’re to get the most out of our time and money, we need to devote those two precious resources to things we consider meaningful. But how do we figure out whether something is indeed meaningful to us, and not a reflection of the influence of others?
For “meaningful,” dictionaries offer synonyms such as “important” and “significant.” What we’re talking about are things that have some special emotional resonance,

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Should Have Waited

Jonathan Clements  |  Nov 3, 2022

BILLIONS OF DOLLARS poured into Series I savings bonds toward the end of October, as investors rushed to snag the 9.62% annualized rate then on offer, which was guaranteed for the first six months. But it turns out these folks were a tad too hasty.
How so? Buyers of I bonds are promised a pretax return equal to the inflation rate, plus they sometimes also get an additional fixed rate of interest, over and above inflation,

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News You Can’t Use

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 29, 2022

THE COLUMN I WROTE for The Wall Street Journal for more than 13 years was popular with readers—which was just as well, because it wasn’t always popular with Journal editors.
As best I could tell, top management appreciated the column, as did most of the editors I reported to directly. But others were critical. One editor, during his annual review of my performance, even demanded that I change my approach to writing the column.

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Budgeting Time

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 22, 2022

FIVE YEARS AGO, I realized I’d spent my adult life doing something that was totally unnecessary—drying my hair with a hair dryer. I’m not sure why I got into the habit, but one day I realized it made zero difference to my appearance. I’m not saying using a hair dryer is a bad use of time for others. But for me, it was a minute or so each day that was completely wasted.
And it isn’t just the hair dryer that I’ve ditched.

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Hooray for Inflation?

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 16, 2022

IF YOU’RE AN OWNER of financial assets, inflation doesn’t offer much reason to cheer. Lost 16% on your bonds this year? Once you factor in inflation, the hit to your bond portfolio’s real, inflation-adjusted value would be more than 20%.
By contrast, if you’re a borrower, inflation is a bonanza. Suppose you owe $2,000 every month to the mortgage company on your fixed-rate loan. As inflation climbs, your mortgage payment stays the same—but, if your income rises with inflation,

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My Investment Sin

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 15, 2022

I’LL CONCEDE IT’S HARD to justify—but I don’t believe it’s 100% unjustifiable. At issue: my strategy of overweighting stocks during big market declines. I did so in 2007-09 and early 2020, and I’m doing so today.
“Market timer,” cry the critics. That, in financial circles, ranks as pretty much the nastiest insult you can hurl, even worse than calling someone an “annuity salesman.”
Today, if I ignore the money I’ve set aside for a big home remodeling project,

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Back to Fundamentals

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 1, 2022

WHAT DO ALL BEAR markets have in common? By definition, stock prices must fall at least 20%. But often, that’s pretty much where the similarity ends.
For instance, ponder the differences between 2020’s one-month, 34% plunge in the S&P 500 and this year’s grinding nine-month descent, which saw the S&P 500 yesterday close 25% below its early January high.
The 2020 slump had folks fretting about the economic shutdown and possible deflation, while this year’s big worry is surging inflation amid a 53-year low in unemployment.

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Retiring Right

Jonathan Clements  |  Sep 24, 2022

THE CLOSER IT GETS, the more attention I pay.
“It,” in this case, is retirement. In January, I’ll celebrate my 60th birthday. I have no intention of fully retiring, but I am thinking about how to work less, travel more and prep my finances for the years ahead. As I sketch out my plans, I’m drawing not only on a lifetime of writing and thinking about personal finance, but also on an even more valuable resource: you.

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Tiresome Debates

Jonathan Clements  |  Sep 17, 2022

WHEN I WORKED at The Wall Street Journal, editors used to quip that, “There are no new stories, just new reporters.” I don’t know whether that’s the case with politics, sports and technology articles, but it sure rings true for personal finance and investing stories. All too often, the latest hot topic just seems like a rehash of something I’ve witnessed—and often written about—before.
That brings me to three financial arguments that never seem to end.

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Choosing Happiness

Jonathan Clements  |  Sep 3, 2022

WE ALL WANT TO LEAD happier lives, but that’s no easy task. Our first stumbling block: Most of us aren’t even sure how to define happiness.
Fortunately, philosophers and psychologists have come to the rescue, suggesting that there are two different types of happiness. First up: hedonic happiness. Think of a wonderful party with delicious food, sparkling conversation and all your favorite people in attendance. There’s great momentary pleasure and—fingers crossed—scant pain involved.
Meanwhile,

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