Resolved: Learn Again

Sanjib Saha

Sanjib is a software engineer by profession, but he's now transitioning to early retirement. Self-taught in investments, he passed the Series 65 licensing exam as a non-industry candidate. Sanjib is passionate about raising financial literacy and enjoys helping others with their finances.

Resolved: Learn Again

Sanjib Saha  |  Jan 13, 2022

I DEVOTE A GOOD amount of time to learning, not because I worry about cognitive decline—though that’s a worthy reason—but because I enjoy sampling a host of subjects, everything from meditation to music theories.
Before online courses became popular, my self-directed learning involved watching lecture DVDs. I later discovered many free online offerings from reputed universities, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, MIT and Princeton.
When the pandemic forced me to spend more time at home,

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Taking Shelter

Sanjib Saha  |  Dec 20, 2021

EARLIER THIS YEAR, I swapped the Vanguard Short-Term Bond Index Fund (symbol: VBIPX) in my 401(k) for an inflation-indexed Treasury ETF (VTIP). The trade worked out well: The replacement fund has since fared better, thanks to this year’s accelerating inflation.
To buy the inflation-indexed ETF, I had to open a brokerage subaccount within my company’s retirement plan—a feature some 401(k)s offer, though these “brokerage windows” typically aren’t heavily promoted for fear employees will end up trading too much.

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Less Funds More Gain

Sanjib Saha  |  Dec 11, 2021

READERS MAY RECALL Laura, my acquaintance who didn’t need life insurance but was sold a policy anyway. Alarmed by her ignorance, she vowed to manage her own money. As a first step, she parted ways with her financial advisor.
The advisor had her invested in 35 funds. She never fully understood what these funds owned or why she needed them. She had previously thought that investing had to be complicated and was best left to the professionals.

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Inflation Bites

Sanjib Saha  |  Dec 4, 2021

FINANCIAL PLANNERS often ask new clients about their first money memory. Mine was about an early encounter with inflation. It involved a favorite childhood snack named fuchka, a popular street food in Kolkata, where I grew up.
The snack is a ball-shaped flatbread, filled with spicy potato mash and topped with tamarind water. As you crunch its crispy shell, the magical flavors burst in your mouth and take your tastebuds on a rollercoaster ride.

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My Favorite Store

Sanjib Saha  |  Dec 2, 2021

WHEN I MOVED to the U.S. for work, a friend graciously helped me settle in. He shared many useful tips, one of which was to become a Costco member. I’m glad I heeded my friend’s advice. I’ve saved thousands of dollars over the years and found the store’s service to be exceptional.
In recent years, my Costco shopping has expanded to include not just everyday purchases, but also luxury items, gas, tires, electronics and vacations.

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Four or Less

Sanjib Saha  |  Nov 21, 2021

A RECENT ARTICLE from Morningstar suggested that the 4% rule for sustainable retirement withdrawals should be revised downward to 3.3%. This lower rate, the researchers argued, is safer given today’s rich stock market valuations and low bond yields.
The article also recommended being flexible with withdrawals, by taking larger amounts in good markets and smaller withdrawals during down periods. This strategy could provide more lifetime income than fixing a withdrawal amount in the first year and then automatically increasing that sum each year with inflation.

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Simply Works

Sanjib Saha  |  Oct 25, 2021

I THANK MURTHY, a friend at college, for teaching me guitar. Instead of theories, he taught me five easy chords. I could soon play a few songs and that fueled my motivation to learn more.
The same strategy can help beginner investors. Novices often find the stock market intimidating and mysterious. Result? Inaction and opportunity cost. Solution? Simple steps.
A former coworker comes to my mind. He was uninterested in stocks, including the company shares he received as part of his pay.

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Six Seasons

Sanjib Saha  |  Sep 28, 2021

AS A CHILD GROWING up in India, I was taught about the six seasons of Bengal: summer, monsoons, autumn, late autumn, winter and spring. From my recollection, some seasons felt distinct, while others were subtle and transitory. Still, each season had unique characteristics, making it different from the others.
A HumbleDollar Voices question—if you could live your financial life again, what would you do differently?—reminded me of the six seasons. How so?

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Diminished Value

Sanjib Saha  |  Sep 18, 2021

A CRUCIAL STEP WHEN buying a preowned car is to scrutinize its Carfax report. A single-owner car with a regular maintenance history and which was driven solely for personal use should be a safe bet, while an accident record gives most people pause. All things being equal, a car that was in an accident, however minor, ought to cost less than a similar one with a clean history.
Some bargain hunters don’t mind taking a chance on a car with an accident history as long as it drives well.

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Life Sentence

Sanjib Saha  |  Aug 28, 2021

WOULD YOU ADVISE someone—who doesn’t drive, doesn’t need a car and doesn’t plan to get one in the foreseeable future—to buy car insurance? I wouldn’t. But it seems some financial advisors think otherwise. That, at least, is the impression I got when an acquaintance, whom I’ll call Laura, mentioned her variable universal life insurance policy to me.
A single woman in her mid-40s, Laura has a decent income and lives on her own. She has no one other than herself to support financially.

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Million Dollar Dream

Sanjib Saha  |  Aug 21, 2021

WHEN I TOLD MY WIFE a few years ago that I wanted to retire by age 50, she was supportive from the get-go. The memories of her dad passing away soon after his 52nd birthday played a role in her snap approval. But it took us a while to sort through the full financial implications.
I figured that our lifestyle, including our foreign travels and occasional splurges, would be the same even if my paychecks stopped prematurely.

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Summer Relief

Sanjib Saha  |  Aug 2, 2021

LIVING IN THE PACIFIC Northwest, my favorite time of year is summer. I love the extra daylight and relief from the nagging rain. In recent years, there’s been an additional reason to look forward to summer: I get to see my paycheck again.
Some background: A few years ago, in an online investment forum, another participant—I’ll call him Dave—gave me a tip for early retirement. He suggested that I practice living off my investment portfolio even while working.

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Inflated Anxiety

Sanjib Saha  |  Jul 26, 2021

MY EMPLOYER’S 401(K) plan is great, with a generous matching contribution and lots of investment options. Those looking for even more choice can open a brokerage subaccount within the 401(k), allowing them to buy thousands of securities.
I’ve stayed away from the brokerage option, in part because I feared the extra choice might affect my investment discipline. But my growing anxiety about inflation forced me to reconsider.
I want a predictable cash reserve to cover my expenses for the next 10 years,

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Best Buys

Sanjib Saha  |  Jun 22, 2021

MY SPRING CLEANING this year was less eventful than last year’s, except I found my fanny pack. I bought it in the early 1990s but misplaced it some years ago. It was so handy for air travel, especially international trips, that I ignored all fashion worries.
I forgot what I paid for the fanny pack, but it was certainly one of my best buys. Frankly, only a few such purchases stand out. Here’s my list of half-a-dozen similar items.

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The Art of Spending

Sanjib Saha  |  Apr 17, 2021

I GREW UP IN a middle-class family in Kolkata, India. Like most folks, my relationship with money was shaped by my parents’ financial habits. They were on different sides of the saver-spender continuum. My homemaking mother strove to live beneath our family’s means and never seemed to feel deprived. By contrast, my father—even with a modest salary from his government job—was focused on the art of spending.
At my mother’s insistence, my father bought most of our household supplies from wholesalers and cooperative stores,

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