Connecting the Dots

Jonathan Clements  |  September 10, 2016

MANY OF US ENGAGE in mental accounting, thinking of our mortgage as separate from our savings account and our job as unrelated to our portfolio. But these are all pieces of our sprawling financial life—and, as I discuss in my new book, it’s important to understand how everything fits together. Here are 12 examples:
1. If you have plenty of cash in the bank, you can probably raise the deductibles on your auto and homeowner’s insurance.

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Three Articles

Jonathan Clements  |  September 8, 2016

HOW SHOULD YOU think about money? Check out three articles that have appeared in the wake of my new book’s publication. ran an extensive Q&A with me. reviewed How to Think About Money. The review also appeared on Finally, picked up the main article from my latest newsletter.

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Negative Bonds

Jonathan Clements  |  September 7, 2016

MANY PARTS of our financial life look like bonds, with their steady stream of income. For instance, you can think of receiving a regular paycheck as similar to collecting interest from a bond portfolio. Ditto for the income you might collect from Social Security, a traditional pension plan or an immediate fixed annuity. If you receive a lot of income from these bond lookalikes, that can free you up to invest more heavily in stocks.

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Simply Happy

Jonathan Clements  |  September 3, 2016

LOOKING TO GET more happiness from your dollars? That’s a subject I tackle in my new book, How to Think About Money. Here are nine super-simple strategies that you can put into practice today:
1. Buy a gift for somebody else. Research says we get more pleasure from spending on others than spending on ourselves. Want extra credit? Give a gift when it isn’t expected. The recipient will be especially happy—which means you’ll be,

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By the Book

Jonathan Clements  |  September 1, 2016

TODAY MARKS the launch of my new book, How to Think About Money. It’s a small book—just 41,000 words—but I like to think it contains some big ideas. My hope: How to Think About Money will change the way folks view their financial life, so they worry less about money, make smarter financial choices and squeeze more happiness out of the dollars that they have.
I’m anxious for the book to garner a large readership and have priced it accordingly.

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Being vs. Doing

Jonathan Clements  |  August 30, 2016

WE’RE SPENDING the final two weeks before Labor Day on Cape Cod, staying with my in-laws. Everywhere we turn, there’s another delightful home with a wonderful water view. “Wouldn’t it be great to live there?” my wife and I muse, as we imagine how much happier we’d be if we lived in this place of apparently permanent vacation.
We are, of course, completely delusional.
Being in a beautiful spot can be a great joy for a week or two.

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Looking Long

Jonathan Clements  |  August 27, 2016

STOCK INVESTORS this year are fretting over Brexit, tighter monetary policy and lackluster economic growth. But every year, there’s another compelling reason to bail out of the stock market. Think about the past half-century: We’ve had wars, political crises, financial crises, double-digit inflation, a double-dip recession, terrorist attacks and more. And yet, if you had stashed $10,000 in a global stock portfolio at year-end 1969 and sat tight through all the subsequent turmoil, you would have more than $450,000 today.

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Staying Put

Jonathan Clements  |  August 20, 2016

TEN YEARS AGO, the real estate market peaked. Today, prices remain 2.1% below their mid-2006 high—though they’re also 34.8% above their 2012 low, as measured by the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index.
As property prices have recovered, homes have become less affordable. The impact, however, has been softened somewhat by modestly rising incomes and slightly lower mortgage rates, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. The upshot: If you have the U.S.

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Playing the Spread

Jonathan Clements  |  August 13, 2016

HOW LONG WILL you live? A recent study from Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research noted that, “A healthy 65-year old man in an employer pension plan has a 25% chance of dying by age 78, or of living to age 91 or beyond.”
Think about the dilemma this creates if you’re retiring at age 65. Even if you are in the middle 50% of the male population—neither among the 25% who die early in retirement nor among the 25% who live well into their 90s—your retirement could last just 13 years or it could be double that,

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Terrible Twenties

Jonathan Clements  |  August 6, 2016

WHEN I WAS in my 20s, with two young children to provide for, I had neither an emergency fund nor nearly enough life insurance. I knew both were important—but I simply didn’t have the money to spare.
Make no mistake: Launching a financial life is daunting. Most twentysomethings have modest incomes, and yet they’re supposed to save for retirement, buy a car, build up an emergency reserve and put aside money for a house down payment,

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Moving and Shaking

Jonathan Clements  |  July 23, 2016

THE CLEMENTS household has been in turmoil since May. After weeks of shoehorning our life’s possessions into endless cardboard boxes, we moved home and then, three days later, headed off for 10 days of vacation. My wife and I aren’t quite sure how we settled on this crazy schedule (though we’re pretty sure the other spouse is responsible). But we’re painfully aware of the result: It’s been months since we’ve had anything that felt like an ordinary day.

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Acquiring Wisdom

Jonathan Clements  |  July 16, 2016

WHAT EXPLAINS America’s miserably low savings rate? There’s no shortage of suspects. You could finger our lack of self-control, as well as our tendency to favor today’s spending and shortchange tomorrow’s goals. You can cite seven decades of post-war prosperity, which has made Americans confident they can weather financial storms, despite skimpy savings and hefty debts. You could blame rising aspirations amid increasing income inequality, which have left low-income families spending ever more as they seek to keep up with the Joneses.

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Jonathan Clements  |  July 9, 2016

I PROMISE to behave better tomorrow. What happens when tomorrow becomes today? All bets are off.
Our broken promises might involve money, such as committing to spend less, save more and pay down debt. Or they might involve some other aspect of our life, such as committing to eat healthier, exercise more and drink less.
All this highlights our irrationality. We may not be experts in nutrition, physical education and money management. But we have a pretty good idea of how we ought to behave.

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So Sensitive

Jonathan Clements  |  July 5, 2016

WALL STREET’S inhabitants have many unpleasant qualities: greed, arrogance, disdain for customers, inflated self-importance, a sense of entitlement. But all this is made worse by another unappealing trait: They’re so damn prickly.
The degree of prickliness is closely correlated with the outrageousness of the fees they charge. I saw this again and again during my decades as a financial journalist. I can’t recall an index-fund manager ever throwing a king-size snit, and it was rare that I got a nasty letter or email from a fee-only financial planner.

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Taxing Matters

Jonathan Clements  |  June 25, 2016

IF YOUR GOAL is lower investment costs, the financial world has never been friendlier. Let’s say you want to buy the broad U.S. stock market. You can choose between a Schwab exchange-traded index fund that charges 0.03% of assets per year, an iShares ETF that levies 0.03% or a Vanguard mutual fund that costs 0.05%.
Those expense ratios are truly astonishing: If you had $100,000 to invest in the broad U.S. market, your annual fund expenses would be just $30 or $50.

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