WANT TO MAKE your dollars work harder? Here are 11 of my favorite strategies. In each case, you can find additional information by clicking through to HumbleDollar’s online money guide.
1. Fund a Roth IRA—and let it double as your emergency fund. Ideally, you want to leave your Roth untouched, so you milk as much tax-free growth from the account as possible. But if you need to repair the car or replace the roof,
ONE DAY BACK in 2012 I received a life-changing windfall. Contrary to what you might imagine, however, that day was not very different from the day before it, or the day after. It went something like this: Woke up. Went to work. Came home. Thought about ways to splurge. Ultimately gave up and went to bed.
In other words, there was no visit to the Ferrari dealership, no trip to Las Vegas, really no dramatic change at all.
FOUR YEARS AGO, at age 45, I got divorced. These days, divorces are equal-opportunity proceedings. Since our income streams had been roughly the same, and we didn’t have children, our assets were split 50-50. For me, that meant losing half my state pension. Along with that loss came the realization that my retirement dream was just that—a dream.
Following the divorce, my lifestyle underwent a huge upheaval. Living on my own for the first time in my adult life,
EARLY IN OUR ADULT life, we get involved with all kinds of dubious financial types. There are the actively managed funds that quickly lose their charm, the insurance salespeople who try to force their policies on us, the market strategists who take us to all the wrong places and the hot stocks that let us down none too gently.
By the time folks get to HumbleDollar, however, I figure they’ve finished playing the field.
YOU COULD SAY I have graduated summa cum laude from the school of hard knocks—for first-time homebuyers.
From a financial standpoint, I did everything by the book. Over two years, my husband and I saved enough to put down 20% and cover closing costs. To ensure we didn’t buy more house than we could comfortably afford, we kept our purchase price to less than half of what some lenders pre-qualified us for. I aggressively analyzed and pursued the best financing options.
FRUGALITY: I DON’T know whether it’s inherited or learned. I do know that I am frugal—and have been since I was a boy. My grandmothers were both frugal. One had to be out of necessity, while the other just was. My siblings all have the frugality trait. When asked who is the most frugal, fingers tend to point toward me. I could argue with that. But then again, being frugal is good, right?
I am not materialistic.
IF YOU’RE READING the business section, you need to read between the lines. Here are 14 things financial journalists won’t tell you:
That unbelievably telling anecdote at the top of my article? I scoured the country for three weeks to find that schmuck.
The Dow industrials fell 263 points today. Why? By the time deadline arrives, I’ll have cooked up a reason.
What qualifications do I possess? An ability to dial a telephone.
ADULT MONEY HABITS are set by age seven, according to a 2013 Cambridge University study. Want to get your kids on the right track? Three things should scare the hell out of you.
First, parents teach kids about money all the time, often without knowing it. “Turn off the lights.” “Let’s go shopping.” “We will save if we have something left over.” It’s unavoidable. The subject of money is as omnipresent as the air we breathe.
EVERYTHING I KNOW about investing I learned in court. As part of my litigation practice, I represent investors harmed by the misconduct of stockbrokers, investment advisors and financial planners. Some cases can be brought in court. Most have to be arbitrated before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Many of these cases have common themes that teach important lessons about investing.
Lesson No. 1: Wall Street Doesn’t Have a Crystal Ball. We all know predicting the future is impossible.
IS IT POSSIBLE to have too much money? This falls firmly into the “nice problems to have” category. Still, imagine you’re the lucky recipient of a winning Powerball ticket or a rich aunt’s bequest. You might find yourself grappling with three threats to your happiness.
First, you could quickly get used to the finest things in life, with no prospect of ever enjoying anything better. If you’re occasionally upgraded to first class, it’s a treat,
WHEN THE AXLE of my 2006 Honda broke in the middle of a North Philly thoroughfare in December and I needed $500 to fix it, I knew where to turn: my family’s “life reserve” fund.
Every year, there are articles about how most Americans have little or no emergency money. Whether the unexpected cost is a car bill or an unanticipated job layoff, it’s critical to save for expenses that aren’t accounted for in your normal budget.
IF YOU WANT intellectual investment stimulation, you’d be hard pressed to do better than ResearchAffiliates.com, the site for Rob Arnott’s money management firm. Rob is one of the smartest guys I’ve met during my three decades bouncing around the financial world. Over the years, he’s offered intriguing insights on topics such as tax management, share dilution and indexing.
Are you confident U.S. stocks will continue to shine? Check out Research Affiliates’ 10-year expected returns.
IN AUGUST, I began a PhD in history at Yale. My scholarship falls just short of $30,000 a year. While not exactly commensurate with the university’s $25 billion endowment, it’s a generous stipend compared to those at similar programs. Compare it to what most of my friends are making, however, and my financial situation looks somewhat less favorable.
I graduated two-and-a-half years ago from Washington University in St. Louis. Many of my friends are now working in New York City,
LAST YEAR, I read Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance, a book where he explores millennials’ experience with finding love. Ansari writes: “In 1932 a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania named James Bossard looked through five thousand consecutive marriage licenses on file for people who lived in the city of Philadelphia. Whoa: One-third of the couples who got married had lived within a five-block radius of each other before they got married. One out of six had lived within the same block.
ALGORITHMS, those fancy computer calculations that can help you find the closest slice of pizza, are upending entire industries, including money management: They have given rise to a new generation of robo-advisors such as Wealthfront—the company I use to manage my investments.
Why do I trust a computer with my savings? The truth is, humans aren’t very good at choosing investments. Exchange traded funds (ETFs)—low-cost passive funds that own a broad collection of stocks—have emerged as an attractive alternative to actively managed mutual funds.