Chasing Points

Steven Aguiar  |  July 18, 2017

I HAVE BOOKED eight one-way domestic flights this year, as well as multiple hotel nights—and I’ve done it all with the rewards points from my three Chase credit cards.
For those interested in earning rewards, you can’t go wrong with the dependable duo of Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Freedom Unlimited. Small business owners might also pick up Chase Ink Business Preferred.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve, the “premium” card of the trio, first made waves in August 2016 when it offered a 100,000-point signup bonus for those who spent $4,000 in the first three months.

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Fooled You

Jonathan Clements  |  July 15, 2017

WANT TO EARN the derision of the so-called smart money? Here are 12 ways to get yourself labeled a financial rube:

Express optimism about the stock market.
Stick with capitalization-weighted total market index funds.
Pay off your mortgage early.
 “Arnott vs. Asness? Missed that one. Was it on pay per view?”
Shun alternative investments.
Buy and hold.
Have no opinion on the economy and market valuations.
Dollar-cost average.
Own a target-date retirement fund.
Never cite Ben Graham,

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Retiring: 10 Questions

Jonathan Clements  |  July 13, 2017

SAVING ENOUGH for retirement, and then turning those savings into a reliable stream of retirement income, together constitute our life’s great financial task. Want to make sure you’re on track? Here are 10 questions to ask:

Are you shortchanging your retirement by devoting too much of your income to other goals? For instance, can you truly afford private school for the kids? Do you really have the financial wherewithal to buy a second home?

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Getting Schooled

Anika Hedstrom  |  July 11, 2017

SETTING OUT into the business world, I was age 27 with a negative net worth. Among life lessons, there are many strong contenders, but nothing introduced me to “adulting” like debt. For that, I had undergraduate and graduate school expenses to thank.
Having secured a good job out of business school, I started to rebuild my finances. My grad loans had a relatively high principal amount and an interest rate of 6.8%, so I prioritized that debt over my undergrad loans,

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Stocking Up

Jonathan Clements  |  July 8, 2017

IT’S ANECDOTAL evidence, so take it with a grain of salt. Still, I’m once again hearing a dangerous argument—that you should always carry the largest mortgage possible, so you have extra money to stash in stocks.
During the roaring bull market of the late 1990s, and during the booming market for stocks and real estate in 2005 and 2006, readers regularly wrote to me, making the same argument. The strategy isn’t without logic—and it isn’t necessarily a sign that stocks are about to crash.

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Go Fish

Adam M. Grossman  |  July 7, 2017

WHEN AN INVENTOR goes on record stating that his invention is “a monster” that he’d like to “blow up,” you know there’s a problem.
Such is the case with Ted Benna, who back in 1980 created the first 401(k) retirement plan. Since then, his invention has grown to become the dominant retirement vehicle for millions of Americans.
Why is Benna so negative on his creation? The problem, in a word: complexity. According to Benna,

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Baby Steps

Amy Charlene Reed  |  July 5, 2017

SHORTLY BEFORE my first child was born some two decades ago, I read a newspaper column urging parents to begin saving for college early in their children’s lives. Today, my son is not far from getting his bachelor’s degree in engineering, debt-free and (fingers crossed) with a bit in the bank for his master’s degree. My daughter starts college this fall and is on track for the same outcome.
I feel like we’ve been a real life middle-class experiment,

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Past Perfect

Jonathan Clements  |  July 1, 2017

OVER THE 50 years through year-end 2016, the per-share profits of the S&P 500 companies rose a cumulative 1,604%, equal to 5.8% a year, while inflation ran at 4.1%. If share prices had climbed in lockstep with corporate earnings, $1,000 invested at year-end 1966 would have been worth some $17,000 at year-end 2016. On top of that price appreciation, investors would also have collected dividends.
But in fact, over this 50-year stretch, investors fared far better.

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To Buy or Not?

Kristine Hayes  |  June 29, 2017

FOR MORE THAN 20 years, I was a homeowner. Like most people, I had a love-hate relationship with the houses I owned. I loved building home equity in the two fixer-uppers I lived in. I loved knowing my mortgage payment would stay relatively constant from year to year. But I never enjoyed yardwork and I hated dealing with unexpected repairs, including replacing an aging sewer line in one house—to the tune of $10,000.
After I got divorced,

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Not a Good Time

Nicholas Clements  |  June 27, 2017

IT WAS APRIL 29, 2009. My 12-hour workday had already begun when, at about 4:30 a.m., I received the call from Jonathan, my younger brother. He never calls at that hour. In fact, we never phone without first texting each other to determine the best time to talk. I sensed bad news and sure enough it was. Our father had been killed 36 hours earlier while riding his bicycle. In the months that followed,

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Taking Precautions

Jonathan Clements  |  June 24, 2017

INVESTMENT contrarians are having a good year—but not a great one. In 2016, U.S. stocks outpaced foreign shares, smaller companies outperformed their bigger brethren and value stocks beat growth stocks. In 2017, all those roles have been reversed, with foreign shares, big-cap stocks and growth companies topping the performance charts.
For those of us who like to see the mighty fall and the downtrodden lifted up, this has been quite satisfying, except for one small issue: Even as the stock market’s leadership has changed,

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Seller’s Remorse?

Zach Blattner  |  June 22, 2017

AS I PREPARE to move from Philly to Boston this summer, I’ve struggled with how to handle my home. Do I sell the place and pocket the profit—or keep it as a rental property for future income and price appreciation? A quick Google search provides plenty of good reasons to choose either option. But when making a decision of this magnitude, what really matters is your personal situation—and that prompted me to sell. Here are my five reasons:

The financial benefits of renting out the place don’t outweigh the costs.

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Leaving Home

Jonathan Clements  |  June 21, 2017

SHOULD YOU MOVE when you retire? The numbers can be compelling—especially if you’re like my wife and me, and you live in New York City or one of its surrounding suburbs, where living costs are absurdly high. This was hammered home by the cost-of-living calculator cited by Kristine Hayes in her article yesterday.
I discovered that, by leaving New York, we could cut our living expenses by almost 60% if we moved to Bismarck,

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Quitting Early

Kristine Hayes  |  June 20, 2017

I CELEBRATED my 50th birthday a few weeks ago. Since then, I’ve found myself spending a lot of time thinking about numbers. Specifically, I’ve been musing about when I might be able to retire from my current fulltime job. Age 55, 58, 62? Or will it need to be later?
Several studies suggest the age at which most people leave the workforce has been steadily rising over the past several decades. This is likely due,

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Hard Choices

Jonathan Clements  |  June 17, 2017

FINANCIAL ASSETS can seem like mere numbers on an account statement, especially at times of stock and bond market turmoil. But hard assets feel more substantial: Your home, artwork and gold coins have a comforting physical presence.
But are they good investments? I’ve been perusing Financial Market History, a collection of essays edited by David Chambers and Elroy Dimson. The paperback costs $38.95 from Amazon, but the Kindle edition is available for free.

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