I FEEL LIKE a broken record when I talk about the benefits of index funds. Indeed, index fund advocates—myself included—sometimes get a little preachy, so I won’t bore you with the same facts I’ve cited before.
Instead, I want to focus on a more subtle reason to index, which has been highlighted by the stock market’s behavior over the past year. You’ve probably heard the expression “a rising tide lifts all boats.” When it comes to the stock market,
WE HEAR ABOUT highflying stocks and hotshot money managers, and it’s easy to imagine the streets of lower Manhattan are paved with gold. But the truth is a tad more mundane.
Want some reasonable assurance of investment success? We should shun the excitement of trying to pick winners and instead focus on more prosaic portfolio tweaks. The overriding goal: ensure the compounding of our investment dollars encounters as little friction as possible.
Minimizing this friction will,
BALANCED FUNDS are a great first investment for those with a moderate risk tolerance. But which fund? Vanguard Balanced Index Fund Admiral Shares, with its incredibly low 0.07% expense ratio, $3,000 investment minimum and mix of 60% stocks and 40% bonds, is the standard by which all balanced funds should be judged—and it’s likely your best choice.
But if it isn’t one of your 401(k) options, chances are you’ll find the plan includes one or more of the other five funds in the accompanying chart.
WORDS AND PHRASES have a powerful impact. They motivate and mislead. They’re subject to perceptions and preconceived notions. They come and go in fashion. Whatever happened to the word “gobbledygook”? Okay, I admit it, I’m also a fan of “curmudgeon.”
Today, there are several words and phrases in fashion that pack an emotional punch, but sometimes they’re misunderstood or go unquestioned. When you hear the following 10 words and phrases, I’d advise you to put them under a magnifying glass:
WHEN I WAS a child growing up in Ohio in the 1950s, my two best friends were Tommy and Terry. They were brothers who taught me a lot about life. When I was nine years old, they showed me how to smoke a cigarette. They also taught me what the middle finger was all about. Okay, some of this stuff wasn’t what you’d want your child to know. But they also helped me learn an important lesson about money.
WE HIT THE renovation snooze button for years. We were put off by the hassle and the expense, plus we were concerned that as little as 50% of a remodeling project’s cost ends up reflected in a home’s value—and that assumes you sell within a year. On top of that, we rented out our house for three years, making renovations difficult.
The watershed moment: My wife indicated—very firmly—that she was through putting out pots and bowls to catch all the drips inside our house every time a heavy rain occurred.
THERE’S AN ONLINE forum where writers of articles can request “expert” opinions for pieces they’re working on. Recently, a reporter was seeking recommendations for gadgets parents can buy to keep their children amused on family vacations.
Normally, I either send what I hope is a helpful reply or I move on. In this case, however, I responded—but my answer wasn’t positive.
I first railed against the idea that children needed anything beyond the trip itself,
IN THE INVESTMENT world, there’s a lot of nonsense and a lot of hot air. But a few people are like the Shakespeare of personal finance: There’s wisdom in virtually every word. Warren Buffett is probably the dean of this group. But another leading light is Peter Lynch, who in the 1970s and ’80s stewarded Fidelity Investments’ Magellan Fund with enormous success.
Lynch is largely retired today, but his plainspoken advice is as valuable as ever.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST financial risk we face? Today, many folks would point to the possibility of a recession, a stock market plunge and perhaps both. Indeed, those are perennial perils—but perhaps they shouldn’t be our biggest worries. Looking to lose sleep? Here are 50 other dangers we face:
Really, really long-term care.
Your financial advisor turns out to be a crook.
Your spouse leaves.
Your new neighbor specializes in personal-injury lawsuits.
Your son just got his driver’s license.
I’M A DOG LOVER. I’ve had four Cardigan Welsh Corgis share their lives with me. Over the past 25 years, dog food, veterinary care and training classes have consumed a large percentage of my disposable income. By necessity, I’ve learned a few simple ways to reduce the cost of pet ownership—including these five strategies:
1. Pet insurance. One of my Corgis, Riley, needed a $5,000 orthopedic surgery when he was a puppy.
PICKING A HEALTH plan used to be easy. Not anymore. Today, whether you receive coverage through your employer, buy insurance on your own or are covered by Medicare, you likely face a slew of choices.
Problem is, just as too many investment options in a 401(k) plan can paralyze employees, the same happens with health care. Indeed, a third of employees say they either don’t understand or know nothing about their health care coverage,
MY FRIEND JIT learned the hard way that you can never be too careful when dealing with a financial advisor. Despite being a cautious and responsible investor, he made one small oversight—and ended up with his money trapped in an unsuitable product.
I’ve known Jit for more than 15 years. He’s smart and financially savvy. He saves diligently and manages his own investments. He funds his son’s 529 plan, maxes out his 401(k), uses the backdoor Roth and so on.
IF THERE’S anything to be learned from our list of last month’s seven most popular articles, it’s this: We clearly need to run more headlines that end with a question mark.
Are We There Yet?
Mercedes and Me
Leaves Me Cold
Healthy and Wealthy
Meanwhile, the two most popular newsletters were Timely Reminder and User’s Manual. The site also continued to see plenty of traffic for Terms of the Trade,
MONEY WAS ALWAYS tight when I was growing up. When my brother was age 10 and I was 12, my parents boosted our modest allowance. The difference almost doubled what we were getting—but there was a catch.
Our parents felt we drank too many sodas. It was the late ’80s, so I doubt the extra sugar was their concern. Rather, it was the extra items on the grocery receipts. We were inflating the family grocery bill with our beverage consumption.
IN RECENT WEEKS, the world met WeWork founder Adam Neumann. The meeting did not go well. WeWork had been preparing an initial public offering for its stock and things seemed on track. But the IPO was shelved and Neumann was out of a job.
The proximate cause: A Wall Street Journal profile of Neumann detailed the entrepreneur’s odd habits and fanciful notions. Among Neumann’s stated goals: to become president of the world,