MY FATHER-IN-LAW William retired from Duke University after teaching there for more than 30 years. He had a good pension, which—along with Social Security—covered all his expenses at the continuing care retirement community (CCRC) where he spent most of his retirement. Almost to the end, he was mentally sharp. I saw no need to inquire about his finances. I was mistaken.
In summer 2014, my wife noticed that William, then age 96, had left a large check for a matured life insurance policy on his desk for a couple of months.
I GREW UP IN a small apartment. Truth be told, I was never enthusiastic about maintaining a house, but I did so for 45 years. Eight years after I retired in 2010, the house and its stairs became too much for my wife and me.
We considered moving to a smaller one-story house and briefly flirted with a continuing care community. We even looked at one community and found it too expensive, especially having to hand over a partially refundable $900,000 upfront fee,
DEAR FAMILY, you know I don’t typically give unsolicited investment advice. But today, I’m breaking that rule, because I don’t want you to get hurt financially.
I can’t promise that, by following my advice, you’ll be better off in the short run. But I firmly believe that you’ll be better off in the long run, by which I mean in the next five to 10 years. Please take this letter for what it is,
CONGRATULATIONS are in order for Jay and Kateri Schwandt, a Michigan couple who recently welcomed a new baby girl. This might not seem like an event that’s worthy of national news, except this is the Schwandt’s 15th child—and the first 14 are all boys. In an interview, Jay Schwandt said he didn’t think a girl was even possible: “You know after 14 boys, we just assumed perhaps medically it just wasn’t meant to be.”
The Schwandt’s new baby illustrates a point that’s often debated in the world of personal finance: When you see a pattern,
KEEP AN EYE on the neighbors. They could be the reason you’re poor and unhappy.
We all like to think we’re independent thinkers who weigh the evidence and reach our own conclusions—and yet there’s ample evidence that our views are heavily influenced by those around us, whether we’re choosing presidential candidates, bottled water or mayonnaise. This extends to financial matters, sometimes with grim consequences.
Stocking up. Studies have found that those who live near one another tend to invest in a similar fashion.
AS YOU STRIVE to do well, should you also strive to do good?
We’re seeing a boom in environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing. For instance, according to a recent Morningstar report, there are now 534 index mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) around the world that screen their holdings using ESG criteria. Together, these funds have almost $250 billion in assets—more than twice the sum they had three years earlier.
ESG investing offers a way to invest in funds that consider issues such as the use of natural resources,
WHEN I THINK about investment advisors selling high-fee products, it brings to mind the story of two politicians who were shouting at each other. One of them stands up and screams, “You’re lying!” The other one answers, “Yes, I am, but hear me out!”
In my 40 years of investing, I’ve bought into some questionable sales pitches. You’ve heard them: “The easy money’s been made. It’s going to be a stock picker’s market going forward.” Or: “Only losers are satisfied with just earning the market averages,
I’M GOING TO BE 70 next year and I think I’m in pretty good shape. I do 25 pushups before bed, along with some stretching. I usually go for a long walk in the morning and, once in a while, I might head out for a hike. On top of that, I do strengthening exercises three times a week.
I don’t take medication or have any chronic ailments. Of course, you can never be sure what’s going on with your body,
I’VE BEEN INVOLVED in retirement planning for more than 50 years. Back in the day, my job was to calculate the pensions for 20 to 30 workers each month by hand, using multiplication and long division. Many of those new retirees were poorly prepared, but they did have a pension.
Here we are in the 21st century and I see little has changed. Lack of planning, lack of savings, widespread misinformation and reliance on inaccurate assumptions still plague Americans.
ONCE UPON A TIME, I thought it was a little unseemly to pay a lot of attention to costs. My father grew up in a farm family with little money. He was the first to attend college and, indeed, went on to law school from there. He did well in his profession and, when I was growing up, we lived a comfortable—though far from luxurious—life.
Maybe because he’d spent his youth worried about money,
I’D LIKE TO TELL you about a unique new book. How I Invest My Money is a compilation of personal money stories shared by 25 investment professionals. The book takes its title and inspiration from a 2019 blog post by investment advisor Josh Brown, a widely followed author and TV commentator.
Brown’s motivation: After years of on-air commentary, discussing every conceivable financial topic, it occurred to him that no one ever asks investment people how they invest their own money.
THROUGHOUT THE DAY, we make countless snap judgments, often without realizing it. Think about navigating the grocery store. This involves a blizzard of decisions—which brand, what size, whether it’s good value, will it stay fresh—and yet we do so almost effortlessly.
Most of the time, this is a good thing. If we carefully pondered the assumptions behind every judgment we make, life would become painfully unproductive. Still, it’s helpful occasionally to question whether we’re misjudging the world,
MUCH OF THE MEDIA commentary about investing positions the individual as a heroic figure. We are, it seems, all supposed to deploy our expertise in a battle to beat the market, with bragging rights going to the winners.
Problem is, this framing is based on three myths.
Myth No. 1: Your job is to outwit the financial markets.
Underlying this is the notion that the key to investment success is to have rare insights and expertise not shared by anyone else,
SOCIAL SECURITY is the most important source of income for many retirees. Yet there’s also a lot of confusion, especially when it comes to how benefits are reduced if you continue working and how benefits are taxed. In fact, I’ve heard many folks confuse and conflate these two separate issues.
Want a refresher? Here’s a look at both topics:
Working while collecting. If you start Social Security benefits before you reach your full retirement age (FRA),
HOW MUCH WOULD you pay for $10? Taking my cues from a game developed by economist Martin Shubik, I’d offer to auction off a $10 bill to my high school students. There were three rules:
Students could only offer bids. No commentary, cooperation or deal-making were allowed.
The highest bidder paid me the money and received the $10.
The second-highest bidder had to pay me their final bid but got nothing.
I ran such auctions for 20 years and it almost always had three stages.