CNBC ANCHOR Becky Quick recently summed up today’s retirement investing dilemma in one sentence: “You’re never going to make enough money if you have 40% of your money in bonds.” She, along with many pundits, believe the old standby recommendation to invest 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds—the classic balanced portfolio—is dead. Google “60/40 asset allocation” and the majority of recent articles have titles that include such words as “eulogy,” “endangered,” “dead,” “the end of” and “not good enough.”
“PERFORMANCE COMES and goes, but costs roll on forever,” said Vanguard Group’s founder, the great John Bogle. It’s been just over a year since Jack passed away.
I think he would have approved of Vanguard’s recent announcements that it had reduced fees on 56 funds and eliminated trading commissions to buy and sell stocks and ETFs. The latter followed similar announcements from other major discount brokers. All of this is good news—especially right now.
MOST PEOPLE think of their earnings as what they receive in their paycheck. But that’s not the case. Typically, it’s more—sometimes far more.
That brings me to my first topic: chief executive officers. You’ve all heard the numbers: This or that CEO was paid a salary of $30 million. Actually, no CEO was paid that sum or close to it. Those amounts represent total compensation, which might include their regular salary, stock awards and options,
ONE OF MY favorite movies of recent years was Hidden Figures. There’s a pivotal scene where the hero, Katherine Johnson, realizes they need to use an ancient numerical technique known as Euler’s Method to solve the trajectory equations for John Glenn’s mission. This involves breaking a complex problem into very small pieces, solving each part, and then summing them to get the solution.
Over my engineering career, I used various numerical integration techniques to solve complicated problems.
IF YOU’RE in your 70s or older and you are charitably inclined, it’s time to get acquainted with one of your best financial friends: the qualified charitable distribution, or QCD.
A QCD is a distribution that’s made directly from your IRA to an organization eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. A QCD counts toward your annual required minimum distribution, or RMD. But unlike a regular RMD, the QCD won’t add to your taxable income for the year—a potentially huge advantage.
TESLA FOUNDER Elon Musk is, to me, the ultimate investment Rorschach test. To his supporters, Musk is a genius without equal. As one Wall Street analyst put it, “If Thomas Edison and Henry Ford made a baby, that baby would be called Elon Musk.” But to his detractors, Musk is an erratic individual and the leader of a money-losing company whose bravado has landed him in hot water with the SEC.
Last week, Tesla’s stock encapsulated those contrasting views.
I HAVE DEVOTED my entire adult life to learning about money. That might sound like cruel-and-unusual punishment, but I’ve mostly enjoyed it. For more than three decades, I’ve spent my days perusing the business pages, reading finance books, scanning academic studies and talking to countless folks about their finances.
Yet, despite this intense financial education, it took me a decade or more to learn many of life’s most important money lessons and, indeed, some key insights have only come to me in recent years.
YEARS AGO, I spent a few days in Bangkok touring the city. A highlight of my short stopover was the temple of Wat Traimit, which houses a five-and-a-half metric ton Golden Buddha, made of approximately $250 million of gold.
Cast more than 700 years ago, the statue symbolized the prosperity and cultural heritage of Sukhothai, the first Thai kingdom. Sometime in the 18th century, the statue was completely plastered over to conceal its value from Burmese invaders.
I’M SAYING GOODBYE to an old friend I’ve known for 35 years. We had a special relationship that enriched my life in many ways. Although I’ll be moving to a new city and will never see my old friend again, I’ll always be grateful for our relationship, and how it helped me financially and emotionally.
You see, as I put my dear little friend—a one-bedroom, 789-square-foot condominium—up for sale, I’ve come to realize how important it was to have a home that helped me live below my means.
THE JAPANESE just “celebrated” the 30th anniversary of their stock market’s peak. The Nikkei 225 hit an all-time high of 38,916 in December 1989. Today, it stands at 23,320, or 40% below 1989’s level.
“But the Japanese stock market in the 1980s was the mother of all bubbles,” you might respond. Perhaps. But what about the Nasdaq bubble of the late ’90s? True, the Nasdaq Composite Index has finally returned to its 2000 peak.
THERE’S LATELY been much buzz about the FIRE—or financial independence/retire early—movement. The idea is to get yourself to the point where you don’t have to work anymore at a younger age than the traditional retiree.
There’s a wide spectrum of strategies, with a lot of the FIRE community relying on extreme frugality to supersize their savings. Others gun for something called FatFIRE: Think startup company that has a “liquidity event,” which leaves employees with millions in the bank,
AT LEAST ONCE a week, I run across the sort of portfolio I like to call a “broker’s special.” While each is different, they typically include some mix of the following:
A handful of mutual funds with names like “New Economy” or “New Discovery” or “New Perspectives.”
Some commodity funds.
10 or 20 individual stocks.
Funds with names heavy on buzzwords such as “infrastructure” and “renewable energy.”
And, in some cases, master limited partnerships,
ON THIS DAY in 1888, George Cope died at age 65. Two days later, he was buried in Anfield Cemetery in Liverpool, England, where his younger brother Thomas had been laid to rest 40 months earlier.
Together, in 1848, the two brothers had launched a successful tobacco company, which would be acquired more than a century later by Gallaher Group, then a major U.K. multinational tobacco producer. Gallaher itself would subsequently be bought by Japan Tobacco.
FROM AN EARLY AGE, I was amazed at the power of mathematics to model our world and solve real world problems. In engineering school, we studied a host of mathematical techniques that did just that. But I wish we’d spent more time on probability and statistics.
In 1989, I read a book that gave me a broader view of how probabilistic our world is and, at the same time, made me aware of how ill-prepared the general population is to understand these concepts.
EXPERTS OFTEN suggest putting bonds or bond funds in retirement accounts. I think this is kind of dumb—or, at the very least, it places the focus on the wrong thing.
It’s always a good idea to consider taxes. But my experience is that many people place too much emphasis on taxes, often to their own detriment. Municipal bonds are a great example of this: Many people who purchase them are in lower tax brackets,