Hits 2017-21

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.

Hits 2017-21

Jonathan Clements  |  Dec 27, 2021

READERS HAVE CAST an eye on more than 13 million HumbleDollar pages over the past five years. Not surprisingly, many of those pageviews were garnered by the homepage, the latest articles page and the main money guide page. But what about the site’s articles? Here are the 30 best-read pieces since the site’s launch on Dec. 31, 2016:

Terms of the Trade (2019) by Jim Wasserman
Nobody Told Me (2020) by Jonathan Clements
Farewell Money (2019) by Richard Quinn
He Gets,

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A Man Possessed

Jonathan Clements  |  Dec 25, 2021

IT’S NEVER GOOD TO be self-indulgent, and that’s doubly true on a day like this. Still, while the rest of you relish the gifts that came your way this holiday season, let me offer a guided tour of my most prized possessions.
I now have a firm idea of what they are, thanks to a ruthless process of subtraction. I’ve spent the past four months throwing out and selling countless things I don’t greatly care about. 

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The Bogle Method

Jonathan Clements  |  Dec 11, 2021

TIME TO PLAY MARKET strategist. Trying to figure out what sort of U.S. stock returns we can expect over the next 10 years? Nobody knows for sure, of course. But we can at least think about it in a reasonably logical way—by using what some folks call the Bogle method.
What’s that? In a 1991 article for the Journal of Portfolio Management, Vanguard Group founder John Bogle—who died in January 2019—laid out a relatively straightforward method for estimating stock returns.

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Mix and Match

Jonathan Clements  |  Dec 4, 2021

MY PORTFOLIO HAS evolved over my 35 years as an investor, as I’ve learned more and as new funds have become available. A total stock market index fund? Sure, I’ll consolidate money in that. An emerging markets index fund? Yeah, a modest stake looks promising. How about a small-cap value index fund? The academic literature says that makes sense.
Today, I own a dozen different Vanguard Group mutual funds, each giving me exposure to a different part of the global financial markets.

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Who We Were

Jonathan Clements  |  Nov 27, 2021

MILLIONS OF RETIRED baby boomers struggle financially, and yet they don’t eat avocado toast, don’t have a daily Starbucks habit and didn’t graduate college with a degree in women’s studies.
What’s my point? In the comments section of HumbleDollar, there are two recurring themes—that young adults spend recklessly and that college is of questionable value. I understand these concerns and even share them to some extent. But I’d favor a more nuanced view.

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Just Because

Jonathan Clements  |  Nov 5, 2021

WHAT SEEMS OBVIOUS isn’t always true. Here are seven examples from the financial world:

Just because an investment has performed well doesn’t mean that’s a good guide to the future. This is usually mentioned with regard to stocks. But today, my bigger concern is folks who are extrapolating past bond fund returns. Their strong past performance was driven by a huge drop in interest rates over the past four decades—something that can’t be repeated starting from 2021’s tiny yields.

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Three Questions

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 30, 2021

HOW DO WE KNOW we’re ready to retire? When I posted a link to Mike Drak’s recent article on HumbleDollar’s Facebook page, one commenter offered three questions that those approaching retirement should ask themselves:
1. Do I have enough? This, of course, is the question that gets asked most often. Do we have the financial wherewithal to carry us through a long and comfortable retirement?
2. Have I had enough? This may be easy to answer for folks who are lukewarm about their work,

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Calculated Courage

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 23, 2021

THE S&P 500 STOCKS are up roughly 100% since March 2020’s market low. I’m 100% clueless about how much longer this remarkable run will last. But I’m 100% confident that, when the next downturn comes, many investors will rush for the exit, fearful that their stock holdings will soon be worth little or nothing.
Which brings me to one of the most important investment concepts: intrinsic value.
No, intrinsic value isn’t a simple notion and,

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Reading Tea Leaves

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 9, 2021

BURTON MALKIEL, in his bestseller A Random Walk Down Wall Street, recounts showing a stock chart to a friend who was a devotee of technical analysis.
“What is this company?” the friend asked Malkiel. “We’ve got to buy immediately. This pattern’s a classic. There’s no question the stock will be up 15 points next week.”
Problem is, the chart that Malkiel shared wasn’t that of an actual stock. Instead, it was the result of flipping a coin and then assuming the share price rose or fell each day depending on whether the coin came up heads or tails.

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Going Mental

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 2, 2021

WE ALL TEND TO VIEW our money as a series of distinct financial buckets. Economists consider such “mental accounting” to be irrational, and perhaps it is. But it’s also mighty useful. Consider some recent articles from HumbleDollar’s writers:

Bill Ehart talked about the separate savings accounts he has for financial emergencies, a new car and his daughter’s wedding. Sure, it would be simpler and perhaps more rational to have a single savings account.

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Eating Our Feelings

Jonathan Clements  |  Sep 29, 2021

PANDEMICS MAKE US hungry and thirsty, or so say the monthly spending data from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.
In March 2020, as the pandemic hit with full fury, our collective spending on groceries jumped 23% from a month earlier. We can chalk that up to hoarding. Since then, monthly spending on groceries has never matched March 2020. Still, it also hasn’t fallen back to pre-pandemic levels, no doubt partly because of food price increases.

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Growing Cheap

Jonathan Clements  |  Sep 27, 2021

SUPPOSE THE S&P 500 ended the year at Friday’s close of 4455.48. Let’s also assume that the analysts at S&P Dow Jones are correct, and the S&P 500 companies have 2021 reported earnings equal to an index-adjusted $185.32. That would put the S&P 500 at 24 times earnings, versus today’s 34.8.
That would be considered high by historical standards, though it isn’t outrageous given today’s low interest rates. But what would it take for stocks to look like a compelling investment?

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Behaving Badly

Jonathan Clements  |  Sep 18, 2021

OTHERS MIGHT BE hoping to add to their wealth by picking the next hot stock. But here at HumbleDollar, we’re much more concerned about subtraction.
The goal: Keep more of whatever the financial markets deliver by minimizing investment costs and avoiding unnecessarily large tax bills. This is a reason to favor index funds. But even if we index, we need to be alert to another threat—that posed by the person in the mirror.

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Twenty Years Ago

Jonathan Clements  |  Sep 11, 2021

ON SEPT. 11, 2001, I spent an hour and a half standing on a crowded subway train two blocks from the World Trade Center. During that time, both towers collapsed. No smoke came shooting down the subway tunnel. The earth didn’t noticeably shake. There were no deafening noises. Instead, we were just another subway car packed with disgruntled passengers, muttering about the perils of public transport.
It was only when the train backed up to Penn Station in midtown Manhattan that we learned what had happened that day.

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Similar but Not

Jonathan Clements  |  Sep 6, 2021

U.S. AND FOREIGN STOCKS are highly correlated, with monthly returns that move in the same direction almost all the time. Because of this, some have argued that there’s scant reason to diversify internationally.
But there’s a small problem with this argument: Just because investments move in the same direction doesn’t mean they generate the same return. For proof, consider the past 20 calendar years.
Over that stretch, there were only three years when U.S.

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