I’M PONDERING whether to make my biggest transaction in four years—and it might be the trickiest financial decision I’ve ever made. My quandary: Should I take advantage of today’s low tax rates to convert a big chunk of my traditional IRA to a Roth?
This financial navel-gazing was sparked by an article by John Yeigh, one of HumbleDollar’s contributors. As John pointed out, you can now have a much higher annual income and still avoid the top federal tax brackets,
THE EARLY retirement movement has many naysayers and outright haters. My husband Jim and I can sympathize: We sometimes get strong pushback when we share our strategies for living frugally.
“That seems like a lot of work,” some people respond. “It sounds like you don’t have much fun,” others say. Some even accuse us of lying.
I readily admit it takes effort to be frugal. But then again, it takes work and sacrifice to exercise regularly,
WE STRIVE constantly for more: A bigger paycheck. A loftier job title. A larger home. A more luxurious car. New electronic toys. Higher investment returns.
Make no mistake: There can be great pleasure in this striving—but we may not be so happy with the results. Indeed, on this holiday that celebrates America’s independence, let me put in a plug for a most un-American concept: How about settling for enough—and perhaps even opting for less?
WE DON’T NORMALLY think of classical philosophy as relevant to modern money management. Perhaps it’s the perception that philosophers live humble, financially insecure lives ruminating on ethereal matters. Or, as my businessman father said when he saw I was taking a philosophy course, “That will make you interesting at parties, but how will you eat with it?”
Meet Marcus Aurelius.
If you aren’t a classics person, Marcus was born to a powerful and rich Roman family,
MY WIFE AND I take some over-the-top precautions to protect our financial accounts. Why? After 40 years of working, our life’s savings boil down to digits stored on computers. No one anymore holds stock and bond certificates, stuffs money in mattresses or buries gold in the backyard. The integrity of those digits is all important.
Here are our 11 strategies—which go way beyond the normal account and password protection recommendations:
We only deal with major institutions.
WHAT CAUGHT readers’ attention last month? Here are the seven articles on HumbleDollar that garnered the most page views:
Math vs. Emotion
Not as Advertised
Father Knew Best
Down the Drain
An Old Man’s Gripes
Out on a Lim
An article from May, Farewell Money, also continued to attract a heap of readers. What about our Saturday morning newsletters? The most widely read was Developing Story.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter @ClementsMoney and on Facebook.
JUST BEFORE Thanksgiving in 2017, a heartwarming story hit the news. A young woman from Philadelphia named Katelyn McClure had run out of gas on the highway and found herself stranded. By chance, a homeless veteran named Johnny Bobbitt was nearby and, in an act of selflessness, he gave McClure his last $20 to buy gas.
After making it home safely, McClure wanted to express her gratitude, so she set up a GoFundMe page to help Bobbitt get back on his feet.
IF I’M EVER feeling lonely, all I need to do is write about certain financial topics—and soon enough my inbox is brimming with emails, some vehemently disagreeing, others offering vigorous nods of assent.
A dozen of those topics are covered in HumbleDollar’s new chapter devoted to great debates—issues like whether money buys happiness, when to claim Social Security and whether individual bonds are superior to bond mutual funds. But those subjects aren’t the only ones that stir up readers.
UPON RETIREMENT, I picked up additional duties at home. One was cooking and the other was grocery shopping, both of which I enjoy. The shopping part furthers my ability to observe people, a favorite pastime.
I have concluded that you can tell a great deal about people’s spending and lifestyle habits simply by what’s in their shopping cart. And you can tell quite a bit about individual responsibility and personal behavior by what people do with their empty shopping cart.
ON A RECENT VISIT to the U.S. from our home in Spain, I used one of my last days to do some shopping, including purchasing a new laptop power cord to replace one that failed the night before. I have a Dell computer, so I entered the store confident I could easily buy a cord tailor-made for my brand.
“We only sell universal power cords,” the clerk told me.
“I don’t need to power the entire universe,
I VISUALIZED a retirement far different from the one I’ve experienced. Before I quit the workforce, I thought my retirement would be a carefree life where I could do what I want, when I want. I could work, travel, sleep all day. There would be few limits. Why? I had no money issues and few responsibilities.
Today, that seems like a dream. Since retiring, I realize my retirement is constantly changing. Unexpected events and expenses can derail the best-laid plans.
IT’S INTUITIVE that, the cheaper a stock is when you buy it, the greater the expected risk-adjusted return. Indeed, academic research has shown this to be true. Eugene Fama and Kenneth French demonstrated in a 1992 academic paper how, over the long term, so-called value stocks have delivered significantly higher returns than growth stocks.
Fama and French defined value stocks as those companies with a book value—the accounting difference between corporate assets and liabilities—that was high relative to their stock market value.
THE INSURANCE market for long-term-care coverage has had a checkered history—and yet there’s an increasing need for LTC insurance among aging baby boomers. My advice: Forget the original standalone insurance products and instead focus on the new hybrid policies.
What went wrong with the original standalone products? They proved to be underpriced. With policyholders living longer, insurers found themselves paying out more than anticipated. Policyholders also didn’t drop their policies as often as insurers expected—and the low lapse rate meant insurance companies had less chance to book profits while incurring no LTC expenses.
IT’S GRADUATION season. Entering the workforce? Here are five steps to help you jumpstart your financial life:
1. Manage your debt. If you’re like many graduates, you have student loans. Depending on how much you owe, you may be wondering how best to allocate your new paycheck. Should you direct every available dollar toward your loans or does it also make sense to begin saving? While everyone’s situation is unique, I have two suggestions.
AS I GROW OLDER, I find I become ever more deliberate in how I spend my time and money. How can I get maximum happiness from the dollars I have? How can I get the most from the years that remain? As I wrestle with these questions, six notions have come into much sharper focus:
1. Fewer hassles mean greater happiness. When I was in my 20s, I owned a series of clunkers that turned every trip into a nail-biter.