Don’t Tinker

Adam M. Grossman  |  February 23, 2020

“FOLLOWING the market’s recent banner year, should we just sell everything and get out?” I got that question recently, and it’s entirely understandable. Since hitting bottom in 2009, U.S. share prices are up fivefold, including the S&P 500’s 31.5% total return in 2019. 
Individual investors aren’t alone in asking this question. A few weeks back, at an industry conference, James Montier delivered a presentation in which he compared the U.S. stock market to “Wile E.

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Four Questions

Jonathan Clements  |  February 22, 2020

AFTER YEARS of handwringing, you finally concede that it’s all but impossible to beat the market over the long haul, so you shift your portfolio into index funds. Next up: the truly tough decisions.
Almost every writer for—and reader of—HumbleDollar is a fan of indexing, and there’s no doubt that index funds are a wonderful financial tool. But how will you use that tool? Let the bickering begin.
The differences of opinion show up among the articles we run on HumbleDollar.

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Bankrolling Roth

John Yeigh  |  February 21, 2020

IN EIGHT YEARS, my wife and I will be age 72—and we’ll be locked into required minimum distributions from our retirement accounts for the rest of our lives. Nearly all of our savings are in tax-deferred accounts.
At that juncture, we’ll also have begun Social Security payments. The upshot: Our tax rate will jump significantly and, thanks to the combination of required minimum distributions (RMDs) and Social Security, our income will easily exceed our expenses.

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Brain Meets Money

Richard Quinn  |  February 20, 2020

HOW OFTEN DO you think about money? Hey, you just did. Seriously, we think about money every day and sometimes every hour. Some studies say we ponder financial matters even more often than the old standby: sex.
We’ve been thinking about the stuff for a long time. Money goes back about 3,000 years. Paper currency can be traced to China in 700 BC. They didn’t fool around: Their currency stated that all counterfeiters would be decapitated.

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Keep On Keepin’ On

Mike Zaccardi  |  February 19, 2020

A NATIVE CHICAGOAN, I bailed out and am now a Southerner. Or at least a Florida Man. So I attend church each Sunday. If you attend church in the south, you will inevitably hear someone respond to a “how are ya?” with “well, I just keep on keepin’ on.”
With all the fanfare about this bull market, and especially large-cap technology stocks, it can be tough to keep on keepin’ on and stick to your long-term plan.

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Choosing Life

Richard Connor  |  February 18, 2020

NONE OF US wants to contemplate our own mortality. But we all need to think about it—including thinking about life insurance.
I was lucky enough to have a long tenure with a large company that provided term insurance at reasonable prices. My employer provided two times our salary in coverage and we had the option to purchase additional coverage equal to eight times salary. I was also able to buy insurance on my wife’s life equal to three times my salary.

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Garbage Time

John Goodell  |  February 17, 2020

MANY PARENTS assume that what counts are the big events, such as graduations or elaborately planned vacations. But I’ve always found that the best moments in life weren’t necessarily the ones circled on the calendar.
The stock market is a lot like family life. Forget trying to figure out the ideal moment to get in or out of the market. Instead, what really matters is the time spent sitting around in stocks.
Jerry Seinfeld affectionately calls his mundane interactions with his kids “garbage time.” He prefers that label to what most parents aim for—the impossible-to-meet “quality time” standard.

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Adding the Minuses

Adam M. Grossman  |  February 16, 2020

IT’S NO SECRET that mutual fund costs are critically important. In fact, when it comes to the performance of funds in the same category, they’re the single most important differentiator. In the words of Morningstar, the investment research firm, “If there’s anything in the whole world of mutual funds that you can take to the bank, it’s that expense ratios help you make a better decision.”
But how do you go about totaling up a mutual fund’s costs?

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Rule the Roost

Jonathan Clements  |  February 15, 2020

I AM AGE 57 and I’m planning to move, so you might imagine I’d be interested in the best states to retire. On that score, there’s plenty of advice available.
Bankrate says the best option for retirees is Nebraska, followed by Iowa, Missouri, South Dakota and Florida. Meanwhile, WalletHub gives the nod to Florida, with Colorado, New Hampshire, Utah and Wyoming rounding out the top five. Want a third opinion? Blacktower Financial Management puts Iowa at No.

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Losing My Balance

John Yeigh  |  February 14, 2020

CNBC ANCHOR Becky Quick recently summed up today’s retirement investing dilemma in one sentence: “You’re never going to make enough money if you have 40% of your money in bonds.” She, along with many pundits, believe the old standby recommendation to invest 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds—the classic balanced portfolio—is dead. Google “60/40 asset allocation” and the majority of recent articles have titles that include such words as “eulogy,” “endangered,” “dead,” “the end of” and “not good enough.”

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Make Less Keep More

Gary Karz  |  February 13, 2020

“PERFORMANCE COMES and goes, but costs roll on forever,” said Vanguard Group’s founder, the great John Bogle. It’s been just over a year since Jack passed away.
I think he would have approved of Vanguard’s recent announcements that it had reduced fees on 56 funds and eliminated trading commissions to buy and sell stocks and ETFs. The latter followed similar announcements from other major discount brokers. All of this is good news—especially right now.

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Count the Noncash

Richard Quinn  |  February 12, 2020

MOST PEOPLE think of their earnings as what they receive in their paycheck. But that’s not the case. Typically, it’s more—sometimes far more.
That brings me to my first topic: chief executive officers. You’ve all heard the numbers: This or that CEO was paid a salary of $30 million. Actually, no CEO was paid that sum or close to it. Those amounts represent total compensation, which might include their regular salary, stock awards and options,

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Step by Step

Richard Connor  |  February 11, 2020

ONE OF MY favorite movies of recent years was Hidden Figures. There’s a pivotal scene where the hero, Katherine Johnson, realizes they need to use an ancient numerical technique known as Euler’s Method to solve the trajectory equations for John Glenn’s mission. This involves breaking a complex problem into very small pieces, solving each part, and then summing them to get the solution.
Over my engineering career, I used various numerical integration techniques to solve complicated problems.

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Gifts That Give Back

James McGlynn  |  February 10, 2020

IF YOU’RE in your 70s or older and you are charitably inclined, it’s time to get acquainted with one of your best financial friends: the qualified charitable distribution, or QCD.
A QCD is a distribution that’s made directly from your IRA to an organization eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. A QCD counts toward your annual required minimum distribution, or RMD. But unlike a regular RMD, the QCD won’t add to your taxable income for the year—a potentially huge advantage.

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Believe It or Not

Adam M. Grossman  |  February 9, 2020

TESLA FOUNDER Elon Musk is, to me, the ultimate investment Rorschach test. To his supporters, Musk is a genius without equal. As one Wall Street analyst put it, “If Thomas Edison and Henry Ford made a baby, that baby would be called Elon Musk.” But to his detractors, Musk is an erratic individual and the leader of a money-losing company whose bravado has landed him in hot water with the SEC. 
Last week, Tesla’s stock encapsulated those contrasting views.

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