EBAY CAN BE a fantastic teacher of basic economic principles. I’ve been an active buyer recently, and enjoy watching the interaction among supply, demand and price.
Take the market for business attire. Demand has declined for suits, blazers and jackets. This has happened at the same time that supply has risen, so prices are cheap.
Suits were once the everyday uniform for both men and women. When I started working, I owned six suits in shades of blue and gray: a winter suit,
LIKE MANY PEOPLE who read HumbleDollar, I greatly respect Warren Buffett’s opinions and insights. I’ve even attended Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting in Omaha. Now that it’s broadcast, I reserve the Saturday of the meeting to watch it on the web.
Seeing it from a distance means I miss out on the terrific deals various Berkshire companies offer shareholders who attend in person. By attending virtually, however, I don’t have to navigate the crowds or spend six hours driving to Omaha and another six hours returning home.
AS I WAS PREPARING to retire last year, I spoke with a number of friends who were also about to leave the workforce. One of the main topics of discussion: How could we best arrange a stream of income for the next three decades or so?
Among my friends, a common refrain was that they planned to spend more in their first decade of retirement. They thought their spending would fall during the second decade,
CONSUMER REPORTS and other authorities will tell you that you get the greatest value for your car-buying dollar by purchasing a two- or three-year-old vehicle. They also often recommend selling your current car after you’ve owned it for about seven years.
We favor a different strategy—one that suits our family but certainly isn’t for everybody.
My wife’s No. 1 priority is that her vehicle be reliable. She insists that every time she gets in the car,
WHILE VISITING MY mother, I walked along my old paper route. It made me wonder: Which customer am I?
It helps to have a little background on these long-ago entrepreneurs. Paper carriers were independent contractors with the local newspaper. We were given a territory—the route. We purchased the papers from the newspaper company and then delivered them to our customers. Every other week, we would also go around to our customers and ask for payment for the preceding two weeks.
IN A RECENT BLOG post, I mentioned a coworker’s Lexus. One commenter—none other than fellow HumbleDollar contributor Dick Quinn—noted that, while “there is no logical reason” the coworker needed a Lexus, he might have motivations I didn’t know about.
I didn’t mean to imply my coworker had made an imprudent choice. I spent my career working with engineers and scientists. As a group, we were well paid. We could afford pretty much anything we wanted—just not everything we wanted.
A FRIEND ASKED ME if I was buying cryptocurrencies or nonfungible tokens. When I replied that I was not, my friend asked if I was afraid that I was missing out on the investment of a lifetime. That got me thinking about three great investments where I did indeed miss out.
First, in 1981, some young engineers were sitting around talking about what we should invest in. One fellow said he was going to buy a share of Berkshire Hathaway,
BEHAVIORAL ECONOMISTS tell us that we’ll get more satisfaction if we spend our dollars on experiences rather than on purchasing possessions. But what if the purchase allows us to have an experience? Buying a bike, for instance, allows me to take a ride with my sons.
That raises the question: How much do we need to spend on equipment to get the maximum benefit from an experience? I got a glimpse of the answer to that question several years ago as I was walking out of the office on a Friday.
THE LATE JOHN BOGLE, in his book Enough, tells a wonderful story about Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller. At a dinner party, Vonnegut asks Heller what it was like knowing that another guest made more in a day than Heller had ever made from his bestselling book Catch-22. Heller replied that he had something that the other guest would never have—enough.
I had forgotten my own story of enough,
ONE OF MY DREAMS for retirement was to take four months and hike the Continental Divide Trail. It runs along the backbone of our country, from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. It’s 3,028 miles of beautiful scenery.
Alas, my wonderful wife worries about me hiking alone for months. What if I got hurt? What if I got sick? Our son uses a satellite phone on his treks to keep us up-to-date on his location.
WE ALL LIVE IN the same economy, but we experience it differently. How we react to today’s economic developments is heavily influenced by our upbringing and world events at that time. This is a key insight from the first chapter of Morgan Housel’s wonderful book The Psychology of Money.
I can think of three things that have shaped my outlook—and lead me to a very different outlook from my children. First,
REMEMBER THE OLD joke about the efficient markets theory? An economics professor and a student are walking across campus, when the student says, “Look, there’s a $100 bill on the path,” to which the professor replies, “That can’t be true, because somebody would’ve already picked it up.”
I’ve been thinking about that joke not because of the efficient markets theory, but because I’m amazed at how many smart people walk by a $100 bill every day.
MY SON AND HIS fiancée recently purchased their first home. They’ve asked me about things like how to fix a leaky faucet, but they haven’t asked me for financial advice—which is a good thing, because I’ve had very limited experience buying houses.
You see, my wife and I bought our first and only home in 1986. We paid $89,000, putting down $20,000 and taking out a $72,000 mortgage by the time we added in points,