MONEY MAY SEEM important—and it is. But it isn’t nearly as important as we imagine. Want a little perspective on your money? First, think about your net worth or how much you earn. Then ask yourself these eight questions. How much would you give:
To have your current life, but be 10 years younger?
To have a deceased friend or family member back in your life?
To avoid the parts of your job you dislike?
SEVERAL MILLION households every year deal with a crucial decision involving their teenage children. Will their kids head to college, enter the labor force, join the military or perhaps do something different entirely? Often, this involves weighing the costs and benefits of a college education vs. the immediate income from getting a job.
About two-thirds of high school graduates end up being college freshmen. The remaining third defer or never go to college, but they can still end up earning above-average incomes.
WE’VE ALL GOT stuff. Too much stuff. George Carlin was among the first to highlight our obsession with stuff in his 1980s standup comedy routines. I hadn’t thought much about Carlin or stuff for decades—until 2015, when I inherited my parents’ stuff.
Not only did I inherit their stuff, I inherited some of their parents’ stuff and their grandparents’ stuff. Boxes, drawers and shelves full of unlabeled stuff. I wouldn’t call my parents hoarders.
IT ISN’T EASY sticking to a budget. I get it. Surprise expenses pop up all the time. How can you possibly be expected to live on a strict dollar amount each and every month?
The answer is, you don’t. But the key is to make sure you have enough financial breathing room, so you aren’t living paycheck to paycheck. That brings me to three common budget busters. These areas of your financial life, if ignored,
WE LIKE TO THINK we’re rational, especially when it comes to spending and investing. But in truth, all of us are susceptible to impulsive decision-making and unconscious persuasion. Result? We often end up wasting our hard-earned money.
According to traditional economics—which depicts humans as conscious, rational decision-makers—this shouldn’t happen. But this traditional view has been under attack since the late 1800s, when Thorstein Veblen explored conscious irrational decisions, such as buying items simply to impress others.
I SUBSCRIBE to a number of financial magazines, as well as a daily newspaper. Lately, they’ve been piling up in my garage unread. I scan the front cover of the magazines and the headlines of the newspaper, but I’m not that interested. I don’t care about “Where to Invest Your Money in 2019” or “The Best Stocks for the Long Run.”
I guess it’s because I’m no longer in charge of my investment portfolio.
IN SUMMER 2000, the Art Institute of Chicago fell under the spell of a young hedge fund manager named Conrad Seghers. The allure? Seghers claimed that his funds, called Integral, offered “the highest Sharpe ratios in the industry.” The Sharpe ratio is supposed to measure an investment’s risk relative to its returns and is popular in the world of hedge funds. Convinced by this pitch, the Art Institute committed more than $40 million of its endowment to Seghers’s funds.
WE CAN MEASURE our financial progress by the size of our net worth. But that’s hardly the only gauge. Equally important, I’d argue, is the evolution in how we think about money—and how we use it to improve our lives.
What does this journey look like? I picture it as having five stages:
1. Head above water. This is when you emerge from the primordial financial swamp and begin to walk upright.
AFTER THE MARKET turbulence of recent months, the idea of a 100% stock portfolio would strike many folks as crazy. Yet, when I was in the workforce, that’s pretty much what I owned.
I never felt my all-stock portfolio was particularly risky. My wife and I had solid paychecks to rely on. We always maxed out our retirement plans, while also adding to other accounts, and then lived on whatever remained.
While the stock market’s volatility and the occasional downturns may have been disconcerting,
I’VE DISCOVERED the solution for young people looking to save for retirement.
The typical engagement ring costs more than $6,300. Why so much? I recently learned there’s a rule that you should spend two months’ salary on an engagement ring. That means a guy earning $48,000 a year is expected to spend $8,000. Where did such a rule come from? Turns out it was started by the De Beers company. Need I say more?
INVESTORS OFTEN think of their portfolio as conservative or aggressive. More conservative investors put a larger percentage of their portfolio in bonds, while aggressive investors favor stocks. But there’s a different meaning of the word “conservative”—what I think of as behavioral conservatism.
Conservatism means you lean toward the safe side. You favor things that are familiar, preferring them to the new and uncommon. The dictionary definition of conservatism is this: commitment to traditional values and ideas,
I’VE BEEN RETIRED for a decade. During that time, I have often wondered what it would be like to live somewhere else. Europe, with its rich history, seems like an exciting option. If not Europe, why not move to another part of the country, like Old Town Alexandria in Virginia? Rachel has a son and sister living in the area. We’d be close to Washington, D.C., and other interesting new places.
As I ponder that question,
HAVE YOU EVER played a round of golf? If so, how many holes-in-one do you have? I’ve been playing since age four and have yet to make one. Even the best players in the world know how difficult it is to make a tiny ball go into a 4¼-inch hole that’s 200 yards away.
I got close once. It was a windier than normal day in Iowa, when I hit my first shot on a par three.
IMAGINE YOU’RE trying to guess the winner of a basketball or ice hockey game. Which of these methods do you think would work best?
Flip a coin.
Make an educated guess.
Gather data and conduct an informed analysis.
In a classic study, researchers Paul Slovic and Bernard Corrigan attempted to answer this question. Instead of basketball or ice hockey, they looked at horse racing, but the results are equally applicable.
In their study, Slovic and Corrigan asked expert handicappers to make predictions using varying amounts of data about the horses in a race.
WE NEED FOLKS to stay in the workforce longer—for their sake and the sake of the economy. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing.
I’ve written in the past about the demographic challenges facing the U.S. and other developed nations. The 10-second recap: Many of the economic issues we fret about—soaring federal government debt, lower long-run GDP growth, a shrinking Social Security Trust Fund—can all be traced to the same root cause. We’re rapidly approaching the point where we don’t have enough workers producing the goods and services that society needs.