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.
WE ALL WANT the good life, though we’d likely differ on what exactly that is. Still, our wish list might include things like meaningful work, a robust network of friends and family, minimal money worries, service to others, good health, a long life, and a sense of both serenity and purpose.
What stands in our way? As we strive to make the most of the limited time we’re given, it’s worth pondering how we’re constrained and what we can do to improve our lot.
THIS PANDEMIC has changed the way we live: Many people are physically distancing themselves, washing their hands more often and wearing a mask when they’re around others. But it’s also changed how I think about money—in six ways:
1. Emergency savings. Before the pandemic, I always thought a cash emergency fund equal to six months’ living expenses would be sufficient. Not anymore. The massive economic shutdown has led to millions of unemployed Americans—and it will take longer than six months for many of these folks to find work again.
I’VE BEEN MANAGING my own finances for a long time. Along the way, I did some things right that served me well and some things that didn’t—including three big blunders.
My money-management journey started when I got into a new middle school that was 12 miles from home. The daily commute involved a short bus ride to the nearest railroad station, a 20-minute trip on a suburban train and then a quick walk. To save money,
MONEY IS ONE of the most emotional issues we deal with. It can create both immense stress and moments of pleasure. I’m guessing the way each of us view money, and how we handle it, is as unique as our fingerprints.
My wife’s car of 14 years was kaput and headed for the junkyard. Fixing the wiring and computer on her 2006 Jaguar would have cost $5,000—far more than the car was worth, even though it was otherwise in very good shape.
TERM LIFE INSURANCE is popular not only because it’s a relatively cheap way to protect your family, but also it’s simple: You pay a premium for a chosen “coverage period” and, if you die during that time, your beneficiaries receive the policy’s death benefit.
Yet, despite its reputation for simplicity, term insurance comes with a surprising number of options. On top of that, there are now dozens of insurers offering the product. Yes, if you buy the cheapest 20-year term policy you can find from an insurer that’s rated A or better by AM Best,
I’VE BEEN LIVING with roommates since I graduated college two years ago. I decided it was time to buy my own place. I saved diligently and I figured I had enough for a down payment.
I also figured I could handle the monthly mortgage payment, which wouldn’t be much more than I was paying in rent. I was looking for a townhouse or condo, which might cost $250,000 to $300,000 where I live.
What I didn’t grasp,
AS AN INDIVIDUAL investor, what’s the key to success? It’s a question I hear a lot, especially in volatile times like this.
The answer, I think, is that there isn’t just one key, but rather five. The most successful investors seem to be equal parts optimist, pessimist, analyst, economist and psychologist. Together, I call these the five minds of the investor. If you can develop and balance all five, that—I believe—is the key to investment success.
THEY’VE LONG BEEN endangered, but 2020 may mark their demise: After four decades of falling interest rates, it seems safe investments offering attractive yields have finally disappeared.
At 0.7%, the payout on 10-year Treasury notes is below the 1.2% expected inflation rate for the next decade. High-quality corporate and municipal bonds offer more generous after-tax income, but hardly enough to excite investors. In the years ahead, the yield-obsessed will no doubt turn to riskier fare—high-dividend stocks,
“MONEY MAKES the world go round”—and that means we’re constantly making financial decisions. Almost inevitably, some go awry. Like everyone else, I’ve made a lot of financial mistakes over the years. Here are some I wish I could take back.
When I was age 23, I graduated from college with a history degree. It wouldn’t take long for me to realize it was a mistake. Early in my career, I was passed over three times for a promotion because I didn’t have a business degree.