Fact vs. Fantasy

Adam M. Grossman  |  July 21, 2019

FRAUD WEARS many faces. But depending on who you believe, potentially the most unusual is that of Jeanne Louise Calment. For years, the French-born Calment, who claimed to have been born in 1875, was celebrated as the world’s oldest person. By the time she died in 1997, she would have been 122— if she’d been telling the truth. New research, however, casts doubt on Calment’s claim. 
The real story, it turns out, may be that Calment actually died many decades earlier—in the 1930s.

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Balancing Act

Jonathan Clements  |  July 20, 2019

STOCKS MARCH ever higher, portfolios get ever fatter and yet the conundrum facing investors remains the same. We have no idea what will happen next to share prices—and no reliable way of figuring it out. Consider:

Valuations are rich, but they have been for much of the past three decades. Indeed, if above-average valuations were your signal to sell, you likely would have dumped stocks long ago and missed out on substantial gains. The reality: Valuations don’t predict short-term returns,

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Pay to Play

Tom Welsh  |  July 19, 2019

OUR WEALTH is usually measured by net worth, which is total assets minus all debt. But there’s an alternative measure—which is to assign our wealth to the purposes it serves. What purposes? Two come to mind: physical and social.
Let’s start with physical wealth. We’re talking here about a family’s ability to maintain basic physical comforts, such as enjoying decent food, a comfortable home, a reliable car and access to good health care.
You don’t have to be rich to afford these.

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Getting Used?

Sonja Haggert  |  July 18, 2019

IN THE PAST, we’ve always bought certified preowned cars. We know new cars lose a big chunk of their value when you drive them off the lot, so we had our eye on a used car when we started our search earlier this year.
Our goal was a Mercedes Benz GLC 300 AWD 4MATIC. My husband enjoys the negotiating and drama that comes with buying a car, so he investigated choices, checked out prices at dealerships and was ready to start his usual two-to-three-month car hunt.

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Solomon on Money

John Lim  |  July 17, 2019

THE MOST WIDELY read book of all time, the Bible, has a lot to say about money. According to biblical scholars, money and wealth are mentioned more than 2,000 times. Out of the roughly 40 parables Jesus told, nearly half speak of money.
Why does the Bible make such a big deal about money? The answer belongs in a Sunday sermon, not here. Still, I believe there’s a great deal to be learned from what the Bible says about money.

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Bet Your Life

Dennis Ho  |  July 16, 2019

INCOME ANNUITIES are a simple, cost-efficient way to generate guaranteed retirement income, and yet they account for just 5% of overall annuity sales. My contention: They can play a unique role in a portfolio—and deserve serious consideration by anyone planning for retirement.
Full disclosure: I’m co-founder of Saturday Insurance, an online company that offers income annuities and other insurance products directly to consumers. I also know that, when most people hear the word “annuity,” they cringe,

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Under Attack

Jim Wasserman  |  July 15, 2019

THE FINANCIAL site MarketWatch has been running a series about the lives and budgets of Americans who retire abroad. My wife Jiab and I—who moved from Texas to Spain—were one of the first couples featured, along with a husband and wife who now live in Chile. Both articles made clear there were plusses and minuses to such a move—experiencing new things, but also being away from family—and that we weren’t advocating this for everyone.

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Out of Stock

Adam M. Grossman  |  July 14, 2019

A NEW FIRM called Life + Liberty Indexes has created what it calls the Freedom 100 index of emerging markets stocks. Unlike other indexes, which typically weight stocks by their market value, the Freedom 100 weights countries by measures of freedom. These include freedom of religion, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly, among others. In short, the Freedom 100 looks like it could have been created by the authors of our Declaration of Independence.

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A Penny Saved

Jonathan Clements  |  July 13, 2019

CALL IT THE NEW conventional wisdom: Forget trying to spend less—and instead focus on earning more.
This change in thinking is no great surprise. We have endless opportunities to make an extra buck, thanks to all the “side hustles” available in our “gig economy.” Meanwhile, many folks bristle at the admonitions to spend less on lattes, happy hours and avocado toast. Let’s face it, will eliminating such expenses really put us on the fast track to financial freedom?

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Get Me a Margarita

David Powell  |  July 12, 2019

I HAVE LONG admired my good friend Nick for his generosity with friends—but also for his inspiring ability to pinch a penny. The man can pinch so hard he makes Lincoln cry, so I knew the world was changing fast when he installed a Ring video doorbell. Really? Pinch me.
A decade ago, new technologies inspired fantasies of living in a Jetsons-style “smart home.” There was a nascent market for internet-connected products,

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Got You Covered

John Yeigh  |  July 11, 2019

EMPLOYEES WHO accumulate significant company stock can end up with a problem, though not necessarily a bad one: concentrated stock holdings. When these employees retire, their challenge is to sell those shares in a way that maximizes their value—taking into account the share price, dividends and taxes. One strategy: Utilize covered calls.
Selling a concentrated stock position can take many years because of tax considerations or restrictions on selling. For example, if appreciated shares are held in a regular taxable account,

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Terms of the Trade

Jim Wasserman  |  July 10, 2019

CONSUMER economics and media literacy have evolved to become important fields of study, analyzing the way consumers make decisions—and how those decisions can be nudged. Here are 20 of the tricks and techniques used by marketers and others:
Aspirational buying. When consumers are encouraged to live like those they admire, even if they can’t afford it.
Bandwagon appeal. The psychological nudge to do—or consume—something because others are doing it. Also known as FOMO,

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No A for Effort

William Ehart  |  July 9, 2019

LESS IS MORE when it comes to investing. Less effort. Fewer transactions. Lower costs. Less worry. Lower taxes. Less ego. Less clickbait.
We’re wired to try hard. To do well. Especially if you’ve had some success in your life, and built up some money to invest, you probably got there by working harder than others. Problem is, the same rule doesn’t apply to investing. There is no A for effort. But there is an F for frenetic.

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Rand Spero  |  July 8, 2019

OUR EGOS CAN torpedo our investment decisions. Here are four examples, plus some suggestions for how to avoid these pitfalls:
1. Confirmation bias. People often support their strong financial opinions by only seeking out confirming information. One of my financial-planning clients worried about inflation and its potential impact on his savings. He only read articles that stated inflation and interest rates would soon be going through the roof. But this economic prediction didn’t come to pass.

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Say No to Mo

Adam M. Grossman  |  July 7, 2019

A FEW WEEKS back, a reader—let’s call him Karl—challenged me with a question. Why, he asked, don’t I recommend momentum investment strategies?
If you aren’t familiar with the term, momentum strategies seek to buy stocks that have done well in the past, with the hope that they will continue rising, while also selling stocks that have done poorly, with the expectation that they will keep falling.
Karl asked why, in a recent article, I had dismissed momentum investing as the sort of thing that would turn your portfolio into an “unpredictable stew,” even though research has found that it can be profitable.

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