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Saving Smarter

Mike Zaccardi

Mike is a freelance writer for financial advisors and investment firms. He's a CFA® charterholder and Chartered Market Technician®, and has passed the coursework for the Certified Financial Planner program. Mike is also a finance instructor at the University of North Florida.

Saving Smarter

Mike Zaccardi  |  Jul 29, 2021

VANGUARD GROUP released its latest How America Saves report last month. The survey details the behavior of participants in Vanguard-managed 401(k) and similar retirement plans.
Wall Street likes to depict everyday investors as fools. But the Vanguard report paints a very different picture: Employees are getting smarter. They’re saving more, trading less and aren’t so inclined to take big positions in their employer’s stock.
As I flipped through the numbers and charts with a cup of coffee on a recent Saturday morning,

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Far From Middling

Mike Zaccardi  |  Jun 25, 2021

YOU MIGHT RECALL Malcolm in the Middle, a turn-of-the-century TV sitcom in which the middle child often feels ignored. That’s kind of what goes on with midsized stocks.
Large-capitalization growth shares and small-cap value stocks seem to get all the attention these days. The former feature the FAAMG companies (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google) and other 2020 winners, while the latter are the darling of investors who embrace academic research showing strong long-term outperformance by small-cap value shares.

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Good Not Great

Mike Zaccardi  |  Jun 9, 2021

SERIES I SAVINGS bonds are getting a lot of attention right now because their stated yield is 3.54%, an apparently fabulous interest rate on an almost no-risk investment.
But don’t be fooled: While I bonds are a fine choice for super-conservative investors, you’ll get that 3.54% annualized yield for just six months and thereafter the yield could be far lower.
I bonds feature a variable interest rate that floats with inflation. That floating rate resets each May and November based on recent inflation.

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Through the Roof

Mike Zaccardi  |  May 12, 2021

STOP LUSTING AFTER homes on Zillow. It’s time to get serious about the property market—and ask whether houses today are a good value.
Make no mistake: Real estate is red hot. Bloomberg recently reported that demand is so strong that almost half of U.S. homes sell within a week of coming to market. The S&P Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index surged 12% over the 12 months through February, with the Phoenix and San Diego markets leading the way with 17% gains.

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Don’t Get Burned

Mike Zaccardi  |  Mar 17, 2021

WANT TO RUFFLE some feathers? All you have to do is utter “FIRE movement” on social media or in a crowded room of financial advisors. FIRE—short for financial independence/retire early—has grown ever more controversial as rising stock prices have fattened the portfolios of super-savers and brought their early retirement dreams closer to reality.
I fit the mold of the super-saver. I’ve saved 90% or more of my after-tax income over the past few years.

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Which Road?

Mike Zaccardi  |  Feb 19, 2021

I RECENTLY LEFT my fulltime position at an energy trading company. I had a good run and enjoyed the job. It was mainly the people, both my coworkers and our clients.
I also liked the business travel. It broke up the daily routine and put faces to names, plus there were the awesome ribeye steak dinners with clients. Speaking at conferences was fun, too.
But things evolve. To quote Rocky, “If I can change and you can change,

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High Times

Mike Zaccardi  |  Sep 14, 2020

READERS KNOW I love my baseball. There’s an old unwritten rule that, when a pitcher is working a perfect game, nobody talks to him. The position players leave the hurler alone since he needs to be “in the zone.” Fans grow more nervous as the game progresses and the ninth inning draws near. With each passing out, the prized perfect game comes closer into view.
I’m getting the same antsy feeling when it comes to highflying tech stocks.

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Ripple Effects

Mike Zaccardi  |  Aug 28, 2020

I STILL CONSIDER myself one of the younger folks at the energy trading firm where I work. The more tenured employees will sometimes talk about the early 1980s, when mortgage rates were north of 10%. “Try paying that down quickly,” they’ll quip, as we watch the 10-year Treasury note yield scroll by on the ticker—at around 0.7%.
I never thought interest rates would stay this low, especially given the recovery since March by both the stock market and many economic indicators.

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Raw Deal

Mike Zaccardi  |  Aug 6, 2020

THE MID-2000s were my introduction to the investment world—and even today my thinking is heavily influenced by what was happening then.
Take a moment to recall the 2004-07 period. Stock prices were marching higher, foreign shares were crushing U.S. stocks, small caps were doing all right and you could get a decent interest rate on your savings account. Good times. Another feature of the mid-2000s market: a big bull run in commodities.
Back then,

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Cooking Up a Story

Mike Zaccardi  |  Jul 28, 2020

I’VE PREPARED countless meals over the past few months—a result of COVID-19, which continues to have a big impact on daily life, especially here in Florida. Still, I’ve come to enjoy cooking and eating at home has saved me a ton of money.
But not all coronavirus habits have been good for our financial health. That brings me to the (supposed) rise of the Robinhood trader. By now, we’ve all seen the headlines and read the stories.

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Please Ignore This

Mike Zaccardi  |  Jul 20, 2020

I RECENTLY WROTE about the market indicators I pay attention to. As a long-term, buy-and-hold investor focused on gradually building wealth, I downplay the importance of day-to-day market gyrations. Nevertheless, I can’t deny my fascination with charts and big market moves.
Back in college, I used to watch CNBC all the time. Now, I rarely have it on. The talking heads are constantly discussing matters that I believe are distractions. There’s a set of indicators that make headlines and are great fodder for financial journalists,

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Reading the Signs

Mike Zaccardi  |  Jul 14, 2020

I MISS BASEBALL. I love the strategy and the moments of excitement that come in the later innings. I also like to attend games, watching the interaction among the players and coaches. The third base coach plays a big role, relaying signals from the manager to the baserunners and the batter. If you’re a player, and you miss a signal, it can ruin the next play.
While the stock market has signals, they aren’t as black and white as those in baseball.

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Inflection Point?

Mike Zaccardi  |  Jun 8, 2020

MEGA-CAP TECHNOLOGY growth stocks were huge winners during the last bull market and even during this year’s coronavirus crash. But recently, they’ve lagged, while small-cap value companies have posted robust gains.
Indeed, after a decade of lackluster performance, diversified portfolios that contain sizable holdings of foreign, small cap and value stocks have started to perk up. Could mean reversion finally be taking place? Are we at an inflection point?
It could be—or it could be just another twitch in the market,

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Getting Back In

Mike Zaccardi  |  May 18, 2020

WORKING ON a trading floor has its perks—or, at least, it did back when we were all in the office, instead of toiling away from home. The trading floor where I work is small, but it still houses perhaps 50 people.
As you’d expect, we have TVs all around, tuned to CNBC, Bloomberg and—my personal favorite—The Weather Channel. My colleagues often talk stocks and portfolios. What’s neat is you get a good sense of investor sentiment being out on the floor and among finance folks who are geared to day-to-day market movements.

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Riding the Bear

Mike Zaccardi  |  Apr 21, 2020

THE GREAT RECESSION and accompanying stock market plunge didn’t seem so bad to me. At the time, I was a 20-year-old college student with a little money in a Roth IRA that I’d opened and funded since my high school days. Sure, it was no fun losing half my investment account, but it wasn’t a lot of money—at least compared to today.
In the years since, I’ve fallen squarely into the super-saver category, socking away a large portion of my income.

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