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Don’t Read This

Jonathan Clements  |  November 18, 2016

THE MARKET for intelligent financial writing is, alas, surprisingly small. Why? I believe there are three culprits.
First, many of us don’t care enough about our future selves. Sure, we care somewhat—but not so much that we’ll spend less today, let alone educate ourselves about how to prepare for retirement and other distant goals. Just check out the most popular personal-finance blogs. They focus on topics like coupons, credit cards and juggling debt. Most of us,

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Lemons Into Lemonade

Jonathan Clements  |  November 16, 2016

AROUND THIS TIME of year financial advisors and the media start talking about taking tax losses. The notion: You sell underwater investments in your taxable account, and then use those realized capital losses to offset realized capital gains and up to $3,000 in ordinary income.
There’s nothing wrong with taking tax losses, though I think the notion is oversold. Unless you’re an active trader or a really bad investor, you probably won’t have any losses to take.

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Two Numbers

Jonathan Clements  |  November 12, 2016

WHAT’S THE STATE of your financial health? Forget your credit score, the past year’s handsome increase in your home’s value or how your salary compares to your brother-in-law’s. In the end, financial fitness comes down to two key numbers.
First, there’s your net worth, which is the value of your assets minus your debts. There’s some debate about what should be included. The easy answer: Don’t delude yourself by counting the value of your car,

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Keep the Faith

Jonathan Clements  |  November 5, 2016

FOREIGN STOCKS have become the investment that folks love to hate—and it’s easy to understand why. In the current decade’s first six full calendar years, foreign shares trailed the S&P 500 by almost nine percentage points a year—and they’re on track to lag behind the U.S. again in 2016.
But is this recent performance a good guide to the future? Almost certainly not. Foreign stocks are far less expensive than U.S. shares, as you’ll discover at StarCapital.de.

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Reflect Pause Focus

Jonathan Clements  |  October 28, 2016

WANT TO GET more out of your money? Whether you’re spending or investing, try this three-pronged strategy:
1. Reflect
There’s ample evidence that most of us aren’t good at investing or figuring out what will make us happy. Looking to improve? Spend a little time pondering the past.
When during your life were you happiest—and what were you doing? This may help you figure out whether you should change careers and what you might do with your spare time or with your retirement.

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Don’t Be Yourself

Jonathan Clements  |  October 22, 2016

WE’RE OFTEN encouraged to follow our instincts. But if we did that, many of us would sit on the couch drinking margaritas, eating Cheez Doodles and cruising online shopping sites, when we should be eating less, saving more and heading to the gym. Often, the key to a better life—financially and otherwise—is to get ourselves to take action we instinctively resist.
This is obvious advice if we’re overweight, rarely exercise, panic when the stock market declines and find our credit-card balances balloon with every passing month.

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Sobering Thoughts

Jonathan Clements  |  October 15, 2016

IF YOU DROVE drunk but got home unscathed, you wouldn’t wake up the next morning and think, “I guess it’s okay to get behind the wheel after 13 beers.” Yet, when handling our finances, we do that all the time.
“Markets generate a lot of data, but they don’t generate a lot of clear feedback,” writes academic Terrance Odean in his foreword to Michael Ervolini’s thoughtful book, Managing Equity Portfolios. “Outcomes are noisy.

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Not So Wise

Jonathan Clements  |  October 1, 2016

“PRACTICAL MEN, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist,” wrote John Maynard Keynes in his 1936 classic, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.
The same can be said of U.S. investors. We grow up repeatedly hearing the same standard financial advice—and often we never question it. Yet, as I argue in How to Think About Money,

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Expect Less

Jonathan Clements  |  September 24, 2016

WE’RE IN A WORLD of low investment returns. Bond yields are tiny—and bond investors can’t reasonably expect to earn anything more than those yields. Money market funds, savings accounts and other cash investments are even worse.
Meanwhile, economic growth is muted and stock valuations are rich, suggesting lackluster stock returns. My best guess: Over the next decade, a globally diversified stock portfolio might return 5% to 6% a year and a mix of high-quality corporate and government bonds could clock 2% to 2½%,

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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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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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