GET TO KNOW OUR NEW website: BraggingBucks.com. Intended as a sister site to HumbleDollar, the new website is designed for those who can’t quite shake that hankering for market-beating returns.
It’s become clear that notions like indexing, diversification and a sense of contentment have limited appeal—and that many folks want more excitement from their financial life. Perhaps an occasional flier on a hot stock. Or playing the commodities market. Or going from all-stocks to all-cash and then back again.
MY FIRST JOB AFTER college was as an officer in the U.S. Navy. I was an engineer on a nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Albuquerque. While I didn’t make the Navy a career, it left one indelible imprint on me: the need to understand how things work.
Before ever setting foot on the Albuquerque, I spent more than a year learning exactly how nuclear power propelled a submarine, everything from how to operate a valve—it isn’t as simple as you think—to how the reactor worked on a sub-atomic level.
FOLKS FORGET passwords every day, an inconvenience that can usually be quickly fixed—but not always.
In January, The New York Times wrote about a German programmer living in San Francisco. A decade ago, he had been paid 7,002 bitcoins for making a video explaining how cryptocurrencies work. He stored them in a digital wallet on a hard drive and wrote the password on a piece of paper, which he has since lost.
IN MY EARLY 30s, I was a typical blue-collar worker. The only way I invested was through my employer’s 401(k) plan. But I was a good saver, putting 25% of my income into the plan, which was the maximum allowed, plus I got a generous company match of 8%. Still, I was on the lookout for ways to increase my savings and my investment returns. That was early 2006.
I read a variety of books to further my personal finance knowledge.
WHEN I WAS GROWING up, one family in the neighborhood lived differently from all the others. In their garage was a Rolls-Royce. When each of the sons turned 16, a new BMW showed up in the driveway. Because it was so out of the ordinary, it caught my attention. It caught everyone’s attention.
Looking back, this is what I find interesting: This kind of privileged upbringing looked like a guaranteed recipe for demotivating their children.
MANY FOLKS ARE do-it-yourselfers when it comes to home improvement projects. On that score, I have no skills, so I end up paying others. In fact, in high school, I was so anxious to avoid metal shop and woodshop that I opted for typing and four semesters of bookkeeping.
It’s a different story when it comes to my finances. Yes, I use an accountant to file my taxes. But helped by both a degree in finance and the Chartered Financial Analyst designation,
MY WIFE AND I usually finish dinner by 6:30 pm. She then heads upstairs, while I stay downstairs until 7:30. You can find me walking around in circles in the living room and dining room during that time. I like to think I’m walking off my meal or regenerating new brain cells. You see, I’ve been reading a book by Sanjay Gupta, Keep Sharp, where he points out that moving is good for the brain.
IT’S BUYER BEWARE for bond fund investors. Three big risks have snuck up on today’s fund shareholders, which—taken together—mean higher volatility and lower returns.
I discussed these pitfalls with Ben Johnson, director of global exchange-traded fund research at Morningstar, the Chicago investment research firm. “In recent years, the market’s standards have loosened significantly and durations have lengthened,” Johnson told me. “People are generally willing to lend money to less creditworthy borrowers for longer terms….
SAVE 30% OF INCOME? No way.
That’s been my reaction whenever I’ve read about people saving 30% or more. I look back and think about making monthly mortgage payments, raising four children, paying for college and trying to save something to supplement my pension. For my wife and me, a 30% savings rate simply wasn’t possible. Nevertheless, people do it.
To find out more, I asked folks on a Facebook retirement planning group, “How do you save 30%?” The responses boiled down to nine key factors.
WITH STOCK PRICES so high and interest rates so low, many folks are thinking about buying gold. Tempted to take the plunge? Ponder these nine issues:
1. No income. Gold pays no interest or dividends. That means gold’s return hinges entirely on its price going up. Gold ownership also means you must forgo the interest and dividends you’d have otherwise earned on alternative investments. Still, with interest rates so low, the opportunity cost of owning gold—at least in terms of lost income—is very low right now.
THIS IS THE STORY of how I thought I’d successfully timed the market—but didn’t.
I started investing in 2007, when the stock market peaked, which wasn’t great. But then came 2009 to 2019. Stocks enjoyed the longest and one of the strongest bull markets in history, averaging some 15% a year. Thanks to that great bull market, my wife and I found ourselves with more in our taxable mutual funds than we owed on our home mortgage.
IN THE ONGOING battle between those who believe that the stock market is in a bubble and those who don’t, you may have heard mention of something called CAPE, short for cyclically adjusted price-earnings ratio. Among market indicators, it has the strongest track record in predicting future market returns.
What does the CAPE ratio say about today’s market? It’s flashing red. According to CAPE, the U.S. stock market is more overpriced today than it has been at any time since the 2000 market peak.
ARE FINANCIAL markets in a bubble? It’s a question I’ve never liked. I believe stocks and bonds are fairly valued most of the time, which means it’s extraordinarily difficult to beat the market averages and our best bet is to buy index funds.
But at the same time, during my adult life, there have been three key occasions when markets lost touch with reality: Japanese stocks and real estate in the late 1980s, technology stocks in the late 1990s and housing in the mid-2000s.
I RECEIVED A LETTER from the Social Security Administration telling me I need to apply for benefits immediately. I turn age 70 this year and there’s no advantage to delaying my benefits any longer.
How does reaching 70 feel? I know I get cold easily and don’t move as fast when I’m exercising. I’m also not as sharp mentally. But I’m actually looking forward to my 70s. It will be a decade more about living and with less thinking about money.
THERE’S SOMETHING very emotional about our homes—and how we think about their value. Take the conversation my wife and I had a couple of weeks ago.
“Did you see the house behind us went up for sale this week? They have it listed at 141% more than what we paid for our house.”
“Well, there’s no way their house is worth that much.”
“Oh really? I just talked to our neighbor—the one who’s a realtor—and he said they had five offers the first day it went up.