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Why We Collect

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.

Why We Collect

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 27, 2022

IT SEEMS ONE IS NEVER enough. I’ve known folks who collect handbags, wine, Mark Twain first editions, pennies, vintage posters, Pez dispensers, old cars, British royal family memorabilia, antique furniture, lunch boxes, motorcycles, Beanie Babies, Portmeirion china and more.
Near where I live is the Barnes Foundation, which houses Albert Barnes’s art collection, with its 181 paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Doesn’t that seem a tad obsessive? Most of us, I suspect, would be content with just three or four Renoirs.

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Made to Measure

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 20, 2022

TO MEASURE IS TO improve. Businesses, investors, athletes and others embrace this notion, and it undoubtedly has value. Still, earlier this year, when my bicycle’s decade-old computer—which measured speed, distance and cadence—finally quit on me, I didn’t replace it.
These days, when I go out for my morning 20-mile bike ride, I like to think I’m going reasonably fast and I’m not happy if another cyclist passes me. But I also know that, when I occasionally use the Strava app on my phone to clock my average speed,

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A Night on the Town

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 17, 2022

AS I’VE GROWN OLDER, I have become more willing to open my wallet and splurge. But I still get a thrill from what feels like a bargain. One example: I’ve long been a fan of restaurant happy hours, when you can often get a glass of wine and some appetizers at a cut-rate price.
But I have a new favorite low-cost indulgence. Elaine and I will grab a bottle of vino out of the basement—screw top preferred,

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What They Believed

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 13, 2022

I MOVED FROM LONDON to New York in 1986. For the next three-plus years, I worked as a lowly reporter (read: fact checker) and then staff writer at Forbes magazine, before I was hired away by The Wall Street Journal. During those three years, I set out to educate myself on U.S.-style personal finance.
Forbes was a great place to do that. The magazine’s Greenwich Village offices had a well-stocked library of financial books and company reports,

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We All Want an A

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 10, 2022

IN THE WEEKS BEFORE my annual physical, I made a concerted effort to lose a few pounds, drink more water, skip my evening glass of wine, eat more fiber, and avoid red meat, French fries and cheese. The happy result: My blood pressure was low. My weight was down slightly from my previous checkup. My cholesterol count was good. My A1C level suggests my prediabetic condition hasn’t got any worse. All in all, last month’s physical found that I had little reason to worry.

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Check on Yourself

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 6, 2022

MEET THE LATEST feature added to HumbleDollar—as well as the website’s first calculator: the Two-Minute Checkup.
How does it work? All you need to do is input up to nine pieces of information, the sort of stuff most of us know off the top of our head. There’s no need to create an account or link to your brokerage firm or bank, and none of your information is saved on HumbleDollar or anywhere else. 

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Keep the Faith

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 20, 2022

INDEXING IS A GREAT strategy—and yet there’s also a constant temptation to stray.
When stocks soar, so does our self-confidence, as we attribute our investment gains to our own brilliance. At such times, there’s a risk that even hardcore indexers will start dabbling in individual stocks, actively managed funds, cryptocurrencies and goodness knows what else. Meanwhile, amid market slumps, index funds suffer just as much as the market averages, and some indexers may look to sidestep the pain—by “temporarily”

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Neglected Ideas

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 13, 2022

THE MOST POWERFUL financial ideas are those that help us make better money decisions—by providing a lens through which to understand ourselves and the world around us. Examples? Think about notions like loss aversion, diversification and market efficiency, all ideas frequently mentioned in HumbleDollar articles. Every investor, I believe, should understand such concepts.
To that list of key ideas, I’d favor adding five others—all underappreciated, I’d argue, but all central to how I think about the financial world.

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Take a Bow

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 10, 2022

AS WE WATCH OUR portfolios get pummeled by 2022’s imploding financial markets, this might not seem like the time for self-congratulation. After all, Vanguard Total Stock Market Index ETF (symbol: VTI) is down 19% in 2022, while Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (BND) has lost almost 11%.
But ponder this: If you’d been less sensible with your money, your results could have been far, far worse. In particular, take a bow if you:

Didn’t buy cryptocurrencies.

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Changed by the Trip

Jonathan Clements  |  Jul 6, 2022

THE LONGER WE LIVE, the more perspective we have—and the more foolish many of our earlier beliefs seem. We start our adult journey confident that we’ll make our mark on the world and that the financial rewards we collect will greatly enhance our life. By the time we reach retirement, things look quite different. Here are five things I’ve learned along the way:
1. Fame is fleeting. How many entertainers, sports stars and politicians have each of us forgotten?

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Self-Inflicted

Jonathan Clements  |  Jun 29, 2022

I’M NOT IN THE HABIT of celebrating half-birthdays, but my next one has me thinking. In a few days, I’ll turn age 59½.
That, of course, is the age at which you can tap your retirement accounts without paying the 10% early withdrawal penalty. Though I don’t currently need to pull spending money from my retirement accounts, I like the feeling that I can now do so penalty-free.
Even without that 10% penalty, however,

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Time for a Pep Talk

Jonathan Clements  |  Jun 25, 2022

ARE WE HAVING FUN yet? I take no pleasure in seeing my portfolio shrink, but I love buying stock index funds at discount prices and I’m always amused by the hand-wringing in the financial media.
Two years ago, we were hiding out in our homes, fretting over a global pandemic and worrying about an economic collapse. Today, COVID is still spreading like wildfire, but vaccines have helped slash the number of hospitalizations and deaths,

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A Dirty Business

Jonathan Clements  |  Jun 18, 2022

ON MONDAY, MAY 2, I logged onto my Chase bank account—and discovered my balance was $992.43, many thousands of dollars less than I expected. My first thought: I’m going to get hit with a low-balance fee.
That, alas, should have been the least of my worries.
I clicked through to see the account details, and discovered that check No. 1126 had been made out to Milton Cherry for $7,000. But none of the writing on the check was mine,

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Like Edith Sang

Jonathan Clements  |  Jun 15, 2022

WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE, late in the evening and usually after a few drinks, someone would often play Edith Piaf’s Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien, her stirring and defiant 1960 song about regretting nothing.
It’s a sentiment worth recalling as we look back on our financial life. Here are four things we shouldn’t regret:
Saving too much. Is that really something to regret? It’s undoubtedly better than the alternative: saving too little.

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Divide and Rule

Jonathan Clements  |  Jun 11, 2022

EACH OF US TAKES our monthly income and then makes countless decisions—some big, some small—about how to use those dollars. How can we get the most from the money that flows through our hands? I find it helpful to look at this “income allocation” through three prisms.
Divvying it up. We can use our income for three main purposes: spending it today, saving it for tomorrow or giving it to others. Our instinct is to spend today,

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