IN HER MOST recent book, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright quotes Mussolini. “If you pluck a chicken one feather at a time,” he said, “no one will notice.”
Don’t worry, I’m not veering into political commentary. But when I heard this quote, it brought to mind what we’ve been seeing in the financial markets this year. Taken individually, there’s nothing that strikes me as a clear red flag. But taken together, the current environment looks a little bit like a chicken that—all of a sudden—seems to have lost a whole lot of feathers.
IT’S INDEPENDENCE Day. But how truly independent are we, both financially and in our thinking? The two, I believe, are inextricably entwined.
Whether it’s the TV shows we watch, the political views we hold or the investments we buy, we often take our cues from family, friends and colleagues. They, in turn, may be influenced by advertising and the media. But however ideas get spread, the result is that most of us aren’t the fiercely independent thinkers we imagine.
I’M 28 YEARS OLD. How much should I have in stocks? Some financial experts would suggest allocating 90% of my portfolio, because I have a long time horizon and a steady job. But I don’t think that would be a good idea for me.
My father has driven hundreds of thousands of kilometers over his lifetime—because he’s afraid of flying, despite the much lower risk that air travel entails. Similarly, I have a good idea of what optimal investing behavior looks like for someone of my age.
INDEXED ANNUITIES have been taking the insurance world by storm. According to industry sources, sales of indexed annuities—also known as equity-indexed annuities or fixed-indexed annuities—topped $70 billion last year and estimates for 2020 call for continued growth in the market.
On the surface, indexed annuities seem simple enough: You deposit a lump sum and earn interest based on stock market returns, with a guarantee that your annual return will never be less than zero.
THE FINANCIAL markets haven’t been calm over the past month, but they have been calmer—and that’s meant readers have been interested in articles about topics other than the stock market and the coronavirus. Here are June’s seven most popular blog posts:
Is your estate plan in order? Richard Connor, who has helped settle five estates, offers his list of seven must-haves.
Adam Grossman has written 143 earlier articles for HumbleDollar. But this may be his best: Check out the five minds of the successful investor.
A REVOLUTION in the workforce is creating an underutilized resource: workers over age 50. These workers represent more than a quarter of the U.S. labor force, and that number is expected to climb sharply as the population ages.
For these workers, it would be a boon—financially and otherwise—if they could stay in the workforce for longer. It would also be great for the economy, ensuring we continue to have enough workers to produce the goods and services that society needs.
I’VE BEEN WRONG many times, as I’ve noted in earlier articles. But the past few months have made me—and maybe you—look like an investment genius.
I’ve had some nice “wins” since March 13, when I started buying the stock market dip. Does that make me brilliant? Of course not. Was I “right”? That depends on how I made my decisions. A quick profit doesn’t necessarily mean I made the right call.
Too often, when we analyze our investment moves,
THIS PAST WEEK, I received an email from a reader—let’s call him Tom. He described his experience during this year’s unruly stock market. After the market dropped in February and March, he said, the stock side of his portfolio lost a lot of its value. He decided to rebalance—that is, to buy more stocks so his original asset allocation would be restored. That is just what I would have done. But the key question—always,
YOU KNOW THOSE timeless financial principles? Sometimes they don’t age so well.
Since I started writing about money in 1985, all kinds of financial principles have gone out the window—and that’s continued right up until 2020. Indeed, if you’re still hewing to the financial wisdom of the 1980s, you’re likely hurting yourself today. Here are four examples:
1. Goodbye, Peter. In the late 1980s, America’s most celebrated fund manager was Fidelity Magellan’s Peter Lynch.
AS MY PERSONAL and financial life gradually became more orderly in the months after my husband’s death, I found myself wrestling with one particular investment: My late husband had spent the bulk of his working life with Union Pacific and, like longtime employees at so many companies, he’d accumulated a significant number of shares. What should I do with those shares?
My husband and I occasionally discussed the dangers of overweighting company stock—something that often happens when shares are used for the employer’s 401(k) matching contribution or they’re granted as part of incentive pay packages.
MAKING CHANGES to our everyday behavior isn’t easy. Inertia is a powerful force: Our brains tend to be on autopilot, not thinking much about what we’re doing—or why we’re doing it. It’s time-consuming and takes effort to pause and reflect on our habits and behavior.
Like so many others around the world, I found myself in lockdown earlier this year. I took advantage of the time to reassess my finances. I was shocked by some of the spending patterns I spotted,
IT ISN’T HARD these days to find media stories about family financial troubles—living paycheck to paycheck, no retirement savings, no emergency money and so on. These news reports often include complaints about the limited opportunities to get ahead financially.
That got me thinking about my own work history. My memory of earning money goes back to 1953, when I was age 10. It was about then that I recall understanding that you needed money to get stuff,
I’VE BEEN INVOLVED in settling five estates. They ranged from insolvent to almost seven figures. Some were well-organized, but one took significant time and effort to settle. These experiences taught me a key lesson: An organized and easily understood estate is a gift to those you leave behind.
I’m not an estate planning attorney. I’ve dealt with a few and found them to be professional, empathetic and helpful. If you have a complicated financial life or family situation,
AS WE MAKE financial, political and other decisions, we’re bombarded with messages that supposedly offer helpful information. But as savvy consumers of news and advertising, we need to realize that we aren’t nudged just by the content of these messages. It’s also the packaging that can have a huge influence.
Below are 21 ways that information is packaged to make it more enticing. Think of this list as a follow-up to my earlier article,
I CAME ACROSS a statistic so surprising it was hard to believe: During the recent market downturn, according to Fidelity Investments, approximately 15% of investors sold all of their stock holdings. And among investors age 65 and older, nearly a third sold all their stock market investments. It was a discouraging figure, meaning that large numbers of people had picked exactly the wrong time to abandon their investments.
Fortunately, the figures were corrected a few days later.