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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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,
DURING MY SCHOOL days growing up in India, my exposure to English literature was confined to textbooks that reprinted essays and short stories, or portions thereof. One of them was a humorous piece by Stephen Leacock from his book Winnowed Wisdom.
The excerpt was titled “Old Proverbs Made New” and it seemed funny even to a middle-schooler with a limited grasp of the English language. It argued, with examples, that proverbs get outdated and need to be rewritten.
I SPEND WAY TOO much time analyzing what went wrong and how to do better. Instead, I should probably focus more on what went right and how to do it again.
This tip came from a close friend, when I told him about my money mistakes. My friend’s logic? Despite my missteps, I must have done a few things right to offset the damage.
He had a good point. There are three things I did that paved my path to financial freedom.
BEING A BOOKWORM, I’ve read countless tomes on investing and personal finance. Many were helpful, but my favorite isn’t even about finance. Instead, my vote goes to Stephen Covey’s masterpiece, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Surprised? What does a self-improvement book about character development have to do with finance? The connection between the two didn’t occur to me until I recently listened to a podcast on personal finance books.
ARE JUNK BONDS risky? That was the question from a friend in his late 20s, whom I’ll call Josh. I answered that they were probably risky for him, but quite safe for me. Josh looked puzzled—until I explained that risk is in the eye of the beholder.
Josh has a stable career that pays well, but he doesn’t plan to stick with it forever. Instead, he wants a job that relates to his passion for outdoor activities.
IF YOU OWN an actively managed mutual fund, you expect the fund’s managers to buy and sell stocks and bonds as they see fit—and yet all that trading isn’t necessarily driven by their investment decisions.
Why not? Imagine the fund has had a few years of underperformance. That might prompt impatient investors to take their money elsewhere. This exodus can create headaches for the shareholders who still have faith in the fund. How so?
I GREW UP IN INDIA, where I worked for a few years before venturing overseas and finally emigrating to the U.S. In our culture, most parents feel responsible for their children until their offspring are fully settled in their career and their life, which is often well into adulthood. In turn, the children feel dutybound to support their parents in old age, financially and otherwise.
This cultural tradition is mutually beneficial when both parents and children can fulfill their respective responsibilities.
HOW WOULD YOU feel about a stock market strategy that routinely invests more after prices go up and sells when prices drop? As someone who invests for the long haul, I’m skeptical—which is why the increasing popularity of leveraged exchange-traded funds (ETFs) puzzles me.
A leveraged ETF aims to amplify the daily return of its stated benchmark. The fund’s benchmark might be a widely followed stock or bond index, a particular market sector, a single industry or one country.
MAY 18, 2020, STARTED as an ordinary Monday. I was busy with office work. An email from our human resources department hit my inbox. It said something about fraudulent unemployment benefits. I couldn’t pay attention right away, so I saved it to read later.
That evening, I found five letters from our state’s unemployment claims department in the mail. I’d never heard of such a department, but it reminded me about the email I got earlier.