An Unkind Act

Adam M. Grossman  |  December 29, 2019

AS IF ON CUE, Ebenezer Scrooge recently showed up in Washington, DC. The result wasn’t pretty.
A bill known as the SECURE Act, a favorite of the insurance industry, had been stuck in Congress all year. But suddenly, on Dec. 20, it got tacked onto another bill and signed into law. As far as I can tell, the primary beneficiaries of this new law, which heavily impacts retirement plans, will be the IRS and the insurance industry—but probably not you.

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He Can Be Taught

Jonathan Clements  |  December 28, 2019

DEAR READER, I may write for you. But I also write for myself. Many of my articles grow out of intriguing ideas I stumble across or half-baked notions I want to explore further. The next thing I know, I’m scouring the internet for additional information and typing furiously on my laptop, all because I’m interested—and I hope you will be, too.
The good news is, after 34 years of writing about finance, I’m still learning things and still tripping across topics I’m curious about.

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Hits 2017-19

Jonathan Clements  |  December 27, 2019

IT’S BEEN THREE years since I launched this site—and I’m still not very good at guessing which articles will attract readers and which will go largely unnoticed. Partly, it’s the nature of the internet: The articles that rack up the most page views are often those that get promoted on other sites, and I have no control over that.
Still, I think the top 20 articles from HumbleDollar’s first three years make an intriguing list,

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Early and Often

James McGlynn  |  December 26, 2019

FUNDING A ROTH—and enjoying tax-free growth—may not have been an option for many high-income baby boomers when they were working. But these folks can still get money into a Roth IRA by converting their traditional retirement accounts—and often there’s a great opportunity to do so if they retire early and find themselves in a lower tax bracket.
The first thing to know: Converting from traditional tax-deferred accounts to a Roth IRA will generate ordinary income equal to the taxable sum converted.

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Just Do It

Jonathan Clements  |  December 25, 2019

WANT TO TAKE some simple steps to improve your life, as well as that of those around you? Here are 11 things to do today:

Look somebody in the eye and say, “Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.”
Stop talking about yourself and, instead, ask folks about their life.
Throw out something you’ve been meaning to get rid of.
Read an article by somebody you disagree with—and think hard about whether he or she might be at least partially right.

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Bearing Gifts

Rand Spero  |  December 24, 2019

GIVING GIFTS delivers significant emotional and health benefits, or so says the research. But I find much depends on how the actual giving takes place.
My best giving lesson occurred many years ago. At a rural busstop on the island of Crete, off the coast of Greece, I sat next to an old local woman dressed in ragged clothing and torn shoes. Neither of us spoke the other’s language. She carried with her a small bag of fresh peaches and motioned for me to take one.

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Journey’s End

Dennis Friedman  |  December 23, 2019

A FEW MONTHS ago, I received an early morning phone call from a nurse, notifying me that my mother had passed away. Even though she was age 96 and recovering from a mild heart attack, it was still a shock.
Up to the time of her death, she was mentally alert and determined to show everyone that she belonged at home, not at a strange nursing and rehabilitation facility. She gave it her best,

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The REIT Stuff?

Adam M. Grossman  |  December 22, 2019

WHEN BUILDING portfolios, why don’t I include real estate investment trusts? REITs are large, diversified real estate companies. Some own office buildings, while others own apartments, hotels, shopping centers or other kinds of property. An example is Simon Property Group, which owns more than 200 shopping malls across the country.
A REIT is, on the surface, just like any other company, but with one unique feature: Dividends aren’t optional. REITs are required to pay out virtually all of their income,

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Eyes Forward

Jonathan Clements  |  December 21, 2019

“DON’T STOP thinking about tomorrow,” sang Fleetwood Mac. It’s a shame they weren’t financial advisors.
We save money today so that we—or our heirs—can spend at some point in the future. A good tradeoff? I strongly believe that it is, and you wouldn’t be a HumbleDollar reader if you disagreed. Still, during this season of holiday shopping joy, it’s worth reminding ourselves that, yes, we should indeed think about tomorrow.
Living for Today.

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Getting Catty

Richard Quinn  |  December 20, 2019

CATS ARE NOT my favorite animal. They don’t like me, either. I’m allergic to them. If I go into a house with cats, within minutes I have trouble breathing. I once saw Cats on Broadway. Even the actors dressed like cats rubbing against my leg creeped me out.
Recently, I was in a restaurant. In the booth opposite were two young women, probably in their mid-to-late 20s. They were chatting away between texts.

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When It Rains

Catherine Horiuchi  |  December 19, 2019

TWO WEEKS AFTER my husband’s death, we held a memorial service for local friends and family. Days later, after a reasonable amount of online research, I visited a car dealer.
It’s my experience that bringing at least one youngster along speeds up dealmaking, plus a parent can get unvarnished opinions about life in the backseat. So I brought along my 13-year-old. The two of us test drove two used cars and bought one of them.

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Three Life Lessons

Michael Falk  |  December 18, 2019

IT WAS 1989 and I was living at home with my parents after obtaining my finance degree. I still harbored dreams of playing professional baseball, but let’s just say I also embraced learning about the financial-planning trade.
A year later, my why—my purpose—was born. In 1990, my father’s employer went bankrupt. As my 59-year-old dad looked for a new job, I felt the stress level in the house rise. My mother didn’t understand why it took so long for him to find work,

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Blessing in Disguise

Sanjib Saha  |  December 17, 2019

IN OCTOBER, while I was visiting family in California, I got a text from an old friend, Tass. He had lost his job.
Tass and I were close buddies in college, but we lost touch. After completing our undergraduate degrees in computer science, I started working, while Tass pursued a business degree. We soon ended up in different parts of the globe. Many years later, we bumped into each other at an airport. I learned that Tass had moved abroad to start his own offshore business.

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Death and Taxes

John Yeigh  |  December 16, 2019

TAX-DEFERRED accounts are great, until they aren’t—when we have to pay taxes on our withdrawals. Millions of Americans have tax-deferred accounts, pundits laud them, companies help fund them, institutions service them and markets help them grow. But when it comes time to empty them, often the only person to guide us is Uncle Sam, who’s patiently awaiting his cut.
Efficiently managing 30 years of retirement withdrawals from a 401(k), 403(b), IRA or other tax-deferred account is just as important as the 40 years of accumulation.

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Candy Land

Adam M. Grossman  |  December 15, 2019

ACCLAIMED AUTHOR Malcolm Gladwell talks about the importance of adding “candy” to his writing. By this, he’s referring to the asides, trivia and factoids that he uses to hold readers’ interest. Gladwell is quick to note, however, that writing can’t be all candy, with no main course, just as it can’t be all main course with no candy. To be effective, he includes both substance and entertainment.
When it comes to your investment portfolio,

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