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Just Asking

Jonathan Clements  |  August 31, 2019

IT’S THE LABOR DAY weekend, which is hardly the time for a nerdy article on the finer points of personal finance. Instead, I’ll leave you to spend the weekend pondering 11 great unanswered financial questions:

Who does more financial damage, stockbrokers or life insurance agents?
Is taking Social Security early and then assuming you’ll make double-digit gains by investing the money a brilliant strategy—or utterly delusional?
Is a home the best investment you’ll ever make or a money-sucking pile of bricks?

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Quiet Heroism

Richard Connor  |  August 30, 2019

MY FATHER-IN-LAW Jim was born in January 1927, the sixth of eight children, to an Irish-American couple in Philadelphia. During the Second World War, his three older brothers were in the armed services. That meant that Jim, barely age 16, had to quit high school and enter the work world, so he could earn an adult’s wage. His salary must have been critical to the family’s economic stability.
Jim’s brother Bill was killed in an accident at sea during ship maintenance in 1944,

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Cost of Living

Sanjib Saha  |  August 29, 2019

I TUTOR MY 10-year-old niece once a week in math and science. After the study sessions, we often talk about other things—mostly kid stuff. Recently, her treasured piggybank got a nice boost on her birthday and we discussed what she might do with the money.
That’s when my niece asked, “How much money will I need when I grow up?” I guess she was trying to figure out if she did indeed have to study hard and get a job—or whether her current savings would be enough.

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After You

Dennis Friedman  |  August 28, 2019

I HAD AN AUNT who did everything for her husband. She paid the bills, invested their money and oversaw the family budget, plus she did all the household chores.
They both liked this arrangement. It worked for them. But as they grew older, people were concerned about what would happen to Uncle Bob if he outlived my aunt. He depended on her for everything. How could he take care of himself?
My uncle could not operate a washing machine,

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Not My Guru

William Ehart  |  August 27, 2019

A LOT OF INVESTORS have spent a lot of time, hope and energy trying to emulate guru portfolios. I’m no different.
When I read Unconventional Success by Yale University’s chief investment officer, David Swensen, I felt like The Truth was being revealed. Here was the wisdom of the country’s top endowment manager with, at the time of publication, a benchmark-crushing 20-year record of 16.1% a year. This wasn’t an attention-seeking fund manager or TV host,

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When Brokers Fail

Phil Dawson  |  August 26, 2019

A RECENT ARTICLE by HumbleDollar’s fearless editor got me thinking about the potential risk of having most or all of my investments with a single brokerage firm or fund company. What happens if the company collapses? I was surprised at how little I knew about these matters after investing for nearly 30 years.
The Securities Investor Protection Act of 1970 was passed by Congress in response to some turbulence in the markets that caused a number of brokerage firms to fail.

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Three Risks

Adam M. Grossman  |  August 25, 2019

ON DEC. 17, 2002, Harry Markopolos walked out of his Boston office wearing an oversized trench coat and a pair of white cotton gloves. His destination: the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. 
A quiet figure, Markopolos worked as the chief investment officer at a small firm that specialized in trading stock options. He had heard about a New York-based competitor that was apparently doing similar work, but with much greater success. Following his boss’s recommendation,

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No Worries

Jonathan Clements  |  August 24, 2019

ONE OF MY GOALS is not to think about money. This might sound odd coming from someone who has written about money for 34 years, runs a financial website and, indeed, wrote a book entitled How to Think About Money. So let me clarify: I’m happy to think about money in general. I’m even happy to think about your money. I just don’t want to think about my own.
I used to think about my finances all the time.

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Policy Decisions

Dennis Ho  |  August 23, 2019

HAVE YOU protected your paycheck? As I discussed in my article last week, becoming disabled is a serious financial risk—and typically the best way to get coverage is through your employer. What if you don’t have long-term disability insurance through work or if coverage isn’t sufficient? An individual long-term disability policy can fill the gap.
Disability insurance is one of the more complicated products to price, because insurers need to assess two dimensions of risk.

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Sharing the Wealth

Richard Quinn  |  August 22, 2019

SHOULD THOSE of us who are better off financially feel guilty? When I read about income inequality, folks living paycheck to paycheck and the like, I occasionally feel a twinge of guilt. But it quickly passes.
This lack of guilt doesn’t imply a lack of empathy on my part or that of others who have been financially successful. Indeed, wealth is frequently used to help others. Society has benefited greatly not just from the jobs created by the Rockefellers,

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Improving With Age

Dennis Friedman  |  August 21, 2019

WHEN IT COMES to retirement planning, many Americans focus primarily on their portfolio’s size. That’s understandable. But there are other issues you should also think about, so you get your retirement on the right track and keep it there. Here are 11 steps to a better retirement:

Housing. As you get older, you become less mobile. Climbing stairs and getting up from a chair become more difficult. Keep this in mind when thinking about what house you’ll live in during retirement.

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Writing Wrongs

Robin Powell  |  August 20, 2019

“JOURNALISM is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.” It’s a quote that should be framed on the wall of every newsroom.
Of course, every journalist knows this. We call PR—public relations—the dark side. But most of us journalists stray into it far more often than we like to admit.
As a reporter, I cut my teeth at a group of regional newspapers in a prosperous part of England in 1989.

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Monthly Affliction

Rand Spero  |  August 19, 2019

MY ELDERLY mother’s credit card was recently compromised. This required her to move all her automatic payments to a new credit card.
That, in turn, prompted her to reevaluate these various charges. Her cable bill, for instance, had gone up more than 15% over the past two years. My mother complained that, while she gets many channels, she only watches broadcast TV. She dropped the cable package.
As she added the autopay information to her new credit card,

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Room to Disagree

Adam M. Grossman  |  August 18, 2019

IN DECEMBER 1954, 23-year-old John Neff hitchhiked from Ohio to New York in search of work. A Navy veteran, Neff had recently graduated college near the top of his class, with a degree in finance. His hope: to land a job as a stockbroker. But despite these qualifications, Neff was turned down. Why? According to a biographer, the brokerage firm felt “his voice didn’t carry enough authority.”
It didn’t take long for Neff to recover from this setback.

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Pay It Down

Jonathan Clements  |  August 17, 2019

DECIDING WHETHER to buy bonds or pay down the mortgage used to be a tricky decision. Not anymore: Paying extra on your home loan will almost always be the right choice.
This takes some explaining—because it involves wrapping your head around the standard vs. itemized deduction, investment taxes, and a mortgage’s shifting mix of principal and interest.
First, let’s dispense with the obvious objection: Yes, if you’re inclined to buy stocks rather than pay down the mortgage,

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