EVERY GENERATION faces its own unique financial challenges—and my generation has, so far, had a particularly rough time. Consider a 2018 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, which looked at the connection between birth year and financial well-being.
Some 48,000 families were divided into six groups based on their birth decade—from the 1930s to the 1980s. I was born in 1987 and hence belong to the 1980s cohort. The Great Recession affected all generations,
I HAD the opportunity recently to attend a panel discussion that included the prominent investment manager Seth Klarman.
Not familiar with Klarman? The simplistic version of his biography has him as a hedge fund billionaire. While that’s true, it doesn’t do him justice. Klarman is more like a cult hero, at least in the investment world. Some call him the “Oracle of Boston.”
Google his name, and you’ll see him described as “the next Warren Buffett.” Search YouTube,
WE GET MORE pain from losses than pleasure from gains—which might explain why I often think back on the five major market crashes that have occurred during my investing lifetime. There’s something about the massive hemorrhaging of money that has a way of focusing the mind and sticking in the memory.
Here are those five crashes, and what I learned from each:
Black Monday. I was age 24—with no money invested in stocks—when the S&P 500 plunged 20.5% on Oct.
SOCIALISM. It’s a word that can make people on the far left swoon, as they imagine an egalitarian utopia, even while inciting those on the far right to mumble protective oaths like a medieval citizen seeing a sign of the devil. It’s also a word that Google Trends reports has had a surge in search-related interest since last December.
As competing visions of how to protect and enhance the American economic system vie for political popularity,
I DON’T WANT to pay for things that aren’t useful—and I’m not interested in wasting money. Nobody is.
For instance, over the past 15 years, 89% of actively managed U.S. stock funds failed to outperform the broad U.S. stock market, according to S&P Global. Why would people waste their money and continue to pay for something that isn’t useful? Turns out, people aren’t. We’ve seen money flooding into lower cost, passively managed index funds.
MANY AMERICANS seem to think of themselves as poor—even though they don’t come close to meeting the official definition.
Let’s start with some objective measures. One standard official measure says that, for 2019, a two-person household is in poverty with annual income of $16,910 or less. According to an MIT calculator, a two-adult household in Calhoun County, Alabama, needs to earn at least $8.54 per hour each—with both working fulltime—to support themselves. In Bergen County,
FOR AS LONG as I can recall, I’ve received unsolicited advice on what I should study in school, when I should get married, when I should pop out kid No. 1—and how I should spend my money. Regarding this last item, it seems there’s a lot of financial advice out there from people who enjoy a level of financial security I’ll likely never experience, unless I strike it lucky with the Powerball.
Many advice columnists just haven’t caught up with the soaring cost of living and student debt crisis that confront young people.
WHEN I PUT together HumbleDollar’s monthly list of the most popular blog posts, I always ask myself, “What do these articles have in common?” And almost always, there is no common theme, other than—I like to think—a combination of sprightly writing and financial insight. I hope you agree. Here are March’s seven most popular blogs:
45 Steps to Success
How to Blow It
Labor of Love
Up to You
Lighten the Load
HAVE YOU EVER struggled with a financial decision? If you’re like most people, I suspect that the math wasn’t the hard part. Instead, more often than not, what makes financial decisions a challenge is the subjective element.
Financial decisions involve lots of variables—your future income, interest rates, housing prices, tax rates and more. We can make reasonable forecasts, but ultimately these decisions require us to make judgment calls without complete information, and that can be unnerving.
WE MAKE countless decisions—financial and otherwise—with little or no thought to the dollars at stake:
We purchase items that we know are overpriced and almost guaranteed to lose value, but we do so happily, because they have a meaning for us that’s far greater than their price tag. Think of artwork and vacation souvenirs that are purchased because they remind us of moments we treasure.
We prize family possessions for their sentimental value, even though they typically have scant financial worth.
WE MOVED from a 2,700-square-foot home in the U.S. to an 850-square-foot apartment in Granada, Spain. Nothing makes you come to grips with how much stuff you have like moving to a small European apartment. We ended up taking less than a third of our clothes, along with other “necessities,” in four large pieces of luggage.
The process was both hard and liberating. As the old saying goes, they may be called “possessions,” but do we possess them or does our stuff possess us?
FOR ME and many other older baby boomers, the traditional retirement model doesn’t work. We’re healthier and living longer than prior generations. Most of us don’t want to sit in a rocking chair, gaze at the sunset, play golf continuously, eat boring lunches at the senior center or live like we’re on vacation every single day.
Instead, we want to remain relevant, with meaning and purpose in our lives, and we want to continue to learn and grow.
STICKER SHOCK is common when families begin the college search—with good reason. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), inflation-adjusted college costs have more than doubled over the past 30 years.
Annual tuition, fees, room and board for fulltime undergraduate students at four-year colleges averaged $26,100 in 2015-16, the last year for which NCES data is available. That average drops to $22,400—if you include junior colleges. On the other hand,
I’M LOOKING at my credit card statement and I have a month-end balance of $3,475. My other credit card has almost $1,200 owed on it. My property taxes, automobile insurance and home insurance are due. I have an appointment in a few days to see my lawyer about my trust. He charges $450 an hour. Rachel and I are going on two weekend getaways in the next two weeks.
But I’m not rattled about all these expenses.
FOLKS OFTEN feel that, because they’re a certain age, their time has passed and it’s too late for them to pursue new goals, whether it’s saving for retirement or starting their dream business. But I believe we can reinvent ourselves at any age.
Last year, I listened to an NPR podcast that featured an interview with Bob Moore, founder of Bob’s Red Mill. You’re probably familiar with Bob’s Red Mill: Their products are now sold in most grocery store health-food sections.