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Look Under the Hood

Adam M. Grossman  |  October 25, 2020

TESLA JUST REPORTED financial results for its most recent quarter. For the fifth time in a row, it announced a profit. This was notable for a few reasons. Among them: Tesla’s increasingly strong performance again raises the question of why it’s been excluded from the S&P 500-stock index.
By way of background, the S&P 500 includes almost all of the 500 most valuable publicly traded companies in the U.S. But Tesla’s stock isn’t included,

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Irksome Adversaries

Jonathan Clements  |  October 24, 2020

WE FIGHT ABOUT money all the time. Politicians argue over how to spend the stuff and who should pay. Couples argue about why there isn’t enough and who’s to blame. And nerdy folks—that would include me—bicker over which investments to buy, when to claim Social Security, the virtues of homeownership and countless other topics.
These debates may amuse others, but I often find them frustrating—because they’re never just about facts and logic. Instead, far too many people come to these arguments with baggage that borders on cargo.

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The Taxman Cometh

James McGlynn  |  October 23, 2020

LATE LAST YEAR, Congress voted to kill off the so-called stretch IRA, which had allowed those who inherited retirement accounts to draw them down slowly over their lifetime. Many folks were surprised by the stretch IRA’s demise, but they shouldn’t have been.
When a tax break or some other government provision benefits only a few folks, Congress often changes the law. Think back to 2015. That year, Congress eliminated the ability to “file and suspend” Social Security—another strategy that tended to be exploited only by a privileged few.

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Easy Street

Kristine Hayes  |  October 22, 2020

A FEW YEARS AGO, my future husband and I took a trip to southern Utah to participate in a pistol shooting competition. We were taken by the area’s beauty and easy access to outdoor recreational activities. While there, we looked at a few homes and were pleasantly surprised to find the prices quite reasonable. We decided Utah would be high on our list of places to relocate to once I retired from my job.

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State of Taxation

Richard Connor  |  October 21, 2020

ONE OF MY FAVORITE things to do is sit on our local beach with a cold beverage on a beautiful day, and talk finance with interested friends and family members. This past Labor Day weekend, I did just that with a soon-to-be retiree.
One of the big issues facing him and his wife: where to live. He had been relocated to New York by his employer. But he and his wife are natives of the Philadelphia region,

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Make the Connection

Anika Hedstrom  |  October 20, 2020

FOR A LIFE to be meaningful, it doesn’t need to be unique—and yet many of us believe that’s necessary. We’re convinced we lack something special, and that paralyzes us. This is a mistake, says the philosopher Iddo Landau, who argues that everybody already possesses what they need for a meaningful existence. We just need to look harder.
I’ve spent years researching and educating myself on how to find and cultivate purpose. This helped me to develop a process to guide clients,

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Shooting Stars

William Ehart  |  October 19, 2020

THEY WERE GURUS and gunslingers. Market mavens. Stock pickers and sector bettors. Over in the bond market, there was even a king. They were star fund managers—but most were shooting stars, destined to crash.
Yes, we’ve had managers like Peter Lynch, Will Danoff and Bill Gross, whose long-term returns did indeed beat the indexes. But for every winner like them, there have been—statistically speaking—seven who failed. Between 74% and 93% of funds in a variety of broad categories—small-cap,

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Follow the Fed

Adam M. Grossman  |  October 18, 2020

STOCKS WENT INTO a freefall earlier this year, as I’m sure you recall. But all of a sudden, on March 23, everything changed. The market turned around and, just as quickly as it had dropped, it rebounded. Remarkably, the U.S. stock market is now in positive territory for the year.
What happened on March 23? The situation with the virus didn’t get any better. And it wasn’t Congress or the White House. What happened was that the Federal Reserve issued a statement.

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Where We Stand

Jonathan Clements  |  October 17, 2020

THIS YEAR’S PANDEMIC has unleashed financial turmoil for many American families, so data from last year might seem irrelevant. Still, there’s one set of 2019 data that deserves our attention—the Federal Reserve’s latest Survey of Consumer Finances, which was released last month.
Conducted every three years, the survey is perhaps the most in-depth look we get at the state of America’s personal finances. For the 2019 survey, 5,783 families (who may be individuals living alone) were interviewed at length about their income,

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No Need to Guess

Robin Powell  |  October 16, 2020

IT SEEMS EVERYONE has an opinion about the markets—and they are, of course, entitled to those opinions. But here’s the irony: Some of the most successful investors have also been among the least dogmatic in expressing their views.
Perhaps it’s the humility gained from repeatedly trying and failing to second-guess the financial markets. These veteran observers of markets are a stark contrast to the swashbuckling managers who flaunt their confidence about the likely direction of stocks and bonds—a sales strategy they use to encourage people to buy products they don’t need.

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Helping Out

John Yeigh  |  October 15, 2020

SOME FAMILY members recently asked me to help them find a financial advisor. As luck would have it, soon after, Barron’s published a perfectly timed article, “America’s Best RIA Firms,” which listed 100 highly ranked registered investment advisors (RIAs). Similar lists are available from CNBC and the Financial Times.
It was time for me to get to work. Who wouldn’t want to recommend a “top” firm to his or her family?

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Go Long

Dennis Friedman  |  October 14, 2020

WHEN I WAS growing up, I don’t remember my parents talking about the stock market. In fact, I’m not sure when they started buying stocks. It could have been sometime after I graduated from high school in 1969.
When I was a junior in high school, however, I do remember a conversation about stocks between two of my classmates. Brandon was telling Brian that he could buy a motorcycle if he sold some of his shares.

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A Seat at the Slots

Richard Quinn  |  October 13, 2020

WHAT DO HIGHER corporate profits truly mean to investors? Or, put another way, this 77-year-old neophyte wants to know, “How is investing in stocks different from gambling?”
Don’t get me wrong, I invest in stocks and I understand they’re the best way for most of us to grow wealthy over time. What I don’t get is, “Why? What causes a stock to increase in value?”
I’ve researched the question and what I find is a lot of talk about earnings per share,

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Trading Places

Michael Flack  |  October 12, 2020

MY WIFE AND I decided at the end of 2016 to sell our house. Selling a home is the biggest transaction most of us will ever make, and yet—in my experience—almost all home sellers spend too little time trying to find the right real estate agent.
Folks might interview two agents at most and many interview none at all, instead hiring based on a friend’s recommendation. I realized there must be a better way.

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Save and Give First

Adam M. Grossman  |  October 11, 2020

I’VE DISCUSSED the election in my recent articles and cautioned against timing the market. But if market timing isn’t recommended, what can you do to keep your finances on track through this potentially turbulent period?
Last week, I suggested reviewing your finances through the lenses of leverage, liquidity and cash flow. This week, I’d like to share another framework—and this is one you could employ at any time and not just in times of worry.

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