Rite of Spring

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 has also taught as a finance instructor at the University of North Florida. He's written more than 100 articles and blog posts for HumbleDollar.

Rite of Spring

Mike Zaccardi  |  Feb 17, 2022

TAX SEASON IS HERE. You’ve probably received your W-2 and, if they haven’t arrived already, your investment tax forms may be just days away. If you’re like me, your email inbox has been inundated with tax-filing services pitching their latest deal. I’m no expert on which tax-prep provider is best, but each year I check this page for reviews of the major sites.
I have two other tips that might save you a few bucks.

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Not So Terrible

Mike Zaccardi  |  Feb 14, 2022

THERE WAS MUCH hoopla last week about high inflation, surging interest rates and geopolitical turmoil. Sure, these are important macro conditions. Still, stocks took things in stride. If you only pay attention to once-highflying growth companies, especially tech stocks, the market appears dire. Broaden your perspective, though, and things haven’t been all that terrible of late.
Yes, the S&P 500 lost 1.8% last week. Small-caps, however, were up 1.5%. Foreign shares were about unchanged.

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Motion Sickness

Mike Zaccardi  |  Feb 7, 2022

JUST HOW CRAZY WERE some of last week’s market moves? The Wall Street Journal detailed how (symbol: AMZN) recorded the biggest-ever one-day market cap gain in stock market history. The largest company in the consumer discretionary sector was valued $191.3 billion higher after posting better-than-expected earnings Thursday evening.
Amazon’s monster move came just a day after Meta Platforms (FB) notched the single-biggest market cap decrease in market history. More widely known as Facebook,

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Bonus Round

Mike Zaccardi  |  Feb 4, 2022

LAST AUGUST, I wrote about the retention bonuses I scored by simply initiating a transfer of assets from one brokerage firm to another. Back then, I said I’d wait six months and then try again to capture this free money.
This time around, one broker offered me a promotion simply to stay put, but two others wouldn’t. I did some quick Google searches and found offers elsewhere, so I initiated the transfers and collected those bonuses.

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Out of Reach

Mike Zaccardi  |  Feb 2, 2022

HOME AFFORDABILITY is finally taking a hit now that mortgage rates have ticked higher. Last May, I wrote that property prices were through the roof but homes were still affordable. The reason: Historically low borrowing rates, coupled with record high median family income, had offset robust home prices.
The National Association of Realtors’ latest figures show housing affordability rivals that of last May. But the figures don’t yet reflect higher interest rates. Freddie Mac posts the latest set of mortgage rates each Thursday.

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Wrestling With Rates

Mike Zaccardi  |  Jan 31, 2022

THE S&P 500 WAS UP 0.8% last week. It was a wild ride, with the Volatility Index climbing to almost 40—the highest level in 15 months—as investors grappled with the threat of rising interest rates. The Federal Reserve is steadfast in its plans to aggressively raise short-term interest rates. Bank of America Global Research was the buzz of Wall Street on Friday morning, with its economic team saying it now expects the Fed to hike rates by a quarter-point at all seven remaining meetings this year.

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All Fall Down

Mike Zaccardi  |  Jan 24, 2022

THE S&P 500 JUST HAD its worst week since March 2020’s COVID-19 crash. Ironically, the decline happened as coronavirus cases were finally dropping after the December surge. Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (symbol: VOO) fell 5.7%, while Vanguard Small-Cap ETF (VB) lost 7.3%.
Returns were not as bad overseas. Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-U.S. ETF (VEU) dropped 3.1%. Coming as a surprise to some index fund investors, Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO) is actually positive so far in 2022.

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Taking Their Chances

Mike Zaccardi  |  Jan 20, 2022

QUICK FINANCIAL scores can be thrilling. The idea of plopping down a few bucks to hit it big with a lottery ticket or the roulette wheel is alluring to many. Even folks who know the odds are stacked in favor of the house engage in these gambles.
That brings me to a recent M1 Finance survey of more than 2,000 investors. A particularly sobering stat involved alternative assets: 73% of those who described their situation as “struggling to survive financially” planned to invest in some form of alternative asset,

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Winners and Sinners

Mike Zaccardi  |  Jan 17, 2022

LAST WEEK SAW additional gains for value stocks, while shares of once highflying growth companies continued to struggle. Meanwhile, foreign markets again rallied. Vanguard FTSE All-World ex-U.S. ETF (symbol: VEU) rose more than 1% last week, even as Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI) slipped 0.5%.
Let’s further unpack these trends.
The Nasdaq Composite has endured its worst start to a year since 2009. At the same time, blue chip stocks and some of last year’s losers are suddenly in favor.

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Call of the Wild

Mike Zaccardi  |  Jan 16, 2022

CRYPTOCURRENCIES have come under selling pressure over the past few months. That might have some readers thinking about buying the dip in, say, bitcoin or ethereum. Those two cryptos, the largest by market capitalization, are off more than 30% from their all-time highs.
I’ve been dabbling in digital assets, but not in the way you might imagine. I put about 3% of my portfolio into stablecoins. Stablecoins differ from the well-known cryptocurrencies we often hear about.

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Goodbye Upside

Mike Zaccardi  |  Jan 12, 2022

SELLING COVERED calls can sound like a winning investment strategy, especially to yield-hungry investors frustrated by today’s low interest rates. Wouldn’t you know it? There are exchange-traded funds (ETFs) designed to mimic the strategy.
For background, covered calls are a yield-enhancement play that involve selling call options against stocks that you own. The call option gives you extra income, but—during the life of the option—your gains are capped at the call option’s strike price.

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New Year New Trends

Mike Zaccardi  |  Jan 10, 2022

ARE LONG-SUFFERING value investors and those with a large allocation to foreign stocks finally about to get some relief? The new year has seen significant relative strength by both areas of the market. Meanwhile, after peaking in the first half of 2021, highflying small- and mid-cap growth companies continue to get hammered. Mega-cap tech shares have also lately succumbed to selling pressure.
What’s worked thus far in 2022 are the boring old large-cap blue chip names.

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Resolved: Automate

Mike Zaccardi  |  Jan 8, 2022

WHEN I WAS WORKING fulltime, my 401(k) and health savings account contributions were automatically pulled from my biweekly paycheck and dumped into the respective accounts. But when I left the nine-to-five world a year ago, the onus fell on me to invest the profits from my small business. I sent off money to some low-cost funds a few times during 2021, but it wasn’t as regular as it should have been.
My resolution: Make my taxable account investing more automated this year.

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No Comparison

Mike Zaccardi  |  Jan 5, 2022

TARGET-DATE FUNDS from Vanguard Group are, I believe, fantastic products. My first investment was a $3,000 purchase of Vanguard Target Date 2045 Fund (symbol: VTIVX) in late December 2005, shortly after I turned age 18. That was also my first Roth IRA contribution.
A target-date fund is an off-the-shelf globally diversified portfolio that automatically becomes more conservative over time. You don’t have to do any fiddling with the allocation, such as rebalancing or adjusting down your portfolio’s risk level.

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The Year That Was

Mike Zaccardi  |  Jan 2, 2022

DECEMBER WAS a month to remember for the stock market. The S&P 500 returned 4.5%, while small caps were up a slightly weaker 3.4%. Foreign stocks rallied 3.7%, but emerging markets continued to lag, eking out a 1.5% return.
It was a stellar year for the bulls. The U.S. stock market posted a 25.7% return, as measured by Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (symbol: VTI). Vanguard Small-Cap ETF (VB) started the year hot, handily beating large-company stocks,

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