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Summer Lull

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.

Summer Lull

Mike Zaccardi  |  Aug 15, 2021

REMEMBER 2020’S BIG market swings? Financial markets have been more boring of late. But are things too quiet?
The VIX is the most  commonly cited indicator of market volatility. Turn on CNBC or flip through The Wall Street Journal and you’ll likely learn the latest reading for the “fear gauge.” Last Friday’s close was among the lowest of the year, with the VIX at a little more than 15, versus an historical average closer to 20.

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It’s Always Different

Mike Zaccardi  |  Aug 10, 2021

FINANCE NERD THAT I am, I gleefully dug into the 2021 Capital Markets Fact Book that was just published by SIFMA. I was particularly humbled by a chart showing the breakdown of the global stock and bond markets. Why humbled? The data show just how great we U.S. investors have had it in the past decade.
The Fact Book first displays the $58 trillion global stock market’s composition in 2010.

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Enjoy the Show

Mike Zaccardi  |  Aug 8, 2021

EARNINGS SEASON is wrapping up on Wall Street. Analysts’ predictions and companies’ profit guidance is a bit of a dog-and-pony show, as HumbleDollar contributor Kyle Mcintosh recently described. Still, there’s some useful information to be gleaned from second-quarter results and from executives’ comments.
In particular, I look forward to the FactSet weekly earnings season update to see which pockets of the stock market have the best and worst figures. According to last Friday’s report,

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Unexpected Bonus

Mike Zaccardi  |  Aug 3, 2021

FRUGALITY GETS A BAD rap these days. It seems today’s standard advice is to “go ahead and buy your darn daily latte.” Instead, we’re told to worry about bigger financial issues.
That’s probably good advice. Small purchases here and there will likely boost our mood, while clipping coupons probably won’t move the net worth needle. Still, I’ve adopted a cheapskate practice that can be lucrative: brokerage firm retention bonuses.
To snag these bonuses, you typically need a sizable IRA or taxable account.

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Submerging Markets

Mike Zaccardi  |  Aug 1, 2021

JULY WAS ANOTHER positive month for U.S. stocks, which gained 1.7%. But overseas markets were down 1.4%, with emerging markets faring even worse, tumbling 5.9%.
Last week, the Chinese government clamped down on its education and technology industries, sparking a sharp selloff. The return of Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (symbol: VWO), which is 40% Chinese stocks, briefly turned negative for the year, while U.S. stocks continue to sport year-to-date gains of more than 15%.

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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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