Richard Quinn  |  December 11, 2020

I AM THE FIRST to admit that I’m no star when it comes to math. I was so enthralled with calculus in college that I took it twice. To make matters worse, math keeps changing. Just ask a 10-year-old to show you how to multiply.
I am not alone. At the high school from which I graduated in 1961, the current math proficiency rate is 2% The national average is 46%. The lowest ranked state is at 22%.

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Going Soft

Anika Hedstrom  |  December 10, 2020

MORGAN HOUSEL’S new book, The Psychology of Money, covers a host of topics related to money and emotion. I was especially drawn to his notion that “how you behave is more important than what you know.” I’ve been a student of behavioral finance for some time and know this to be true academically—but it also made me think of my father, Ole.
My father was born in 1948 into extreme poverty.

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Better Than Nothing

Tom Welsh  |  December 9, 2020

MONEY MARKET funds and other cash investments are paying interest rates close to zero. This is at a time of turmoil in society and in the economy. This is at a time when both stock and bond markets are at high prices. It seems like we have to choose between collecting very low yields on cash or buying investments with far greater risk.
An alternative to these extremes: How about a “short-term barbell” to hold money you don’t currently want to invest or don’t yet need to spend?

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Making the Call

Michael Flack  |  December 8, 2020

WHEN I NOTICED my iPhone 3—that’s not a typo—had a small black spot on its screen, I started thinking that maybe I needed to replace it. Maybe. It was a difficult decision. It was the first smartphone I’d ever owned and, since 2010, it had served me well.
I liked it because it was small. It had a cool retro steampunk vibe that occasionally turned heads. “Is that an iPhone? That’s the smallest phone I….” Best of all,

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Lucky Strikes

Richard Connor  |  December 7, 2020

WHEN OPPORTUNITY knocks, will you be ready? In the past 15 months, my wife and I have had two attractive but completely unexpected opportunities presented to us.
On Labor Day 2019, a neighbor at our New Jersey shore house told us they were selling their home. They had bought a lot nearby and were planning to build a larger house to accommodate their growing brood of grandchildren. They knew my wife and I had a third grandson on the way,

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Split the Difference

Adam M. Grossman  |  December 6, 2020

IT’S THAT TIME of year again, when Wall Street strategists begin publishing their market forecasts for next year. If you’re wondering whether to put any stock in those glossy publications, here’s my recommendation: Think back a year to the forecasts issued at the end of 2019. Did any of them predict that a virus would come out of left field, throwing the economy into recession, triggering a bear market and killing more than a million people worldwide?

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Next Year Foretold

Jonathan Clements  |  December 5, 2020

THE MARKETS AREN’T predictable—but the talking heads sure are. Like a dog with a favorite fire hydrant, financial commentators return to the same themes again and again.
The silver lining: There’s no need to waste hundreds of hours in 2021 reading the business section and watching financial news channels, because we already know what the pundits will be saying next year—and probably the year after that and the year after that. Look for these seven stories in 2021:

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Screening Choices

Jannette Collins  |  December 4, 2020

I STREAM, you stream, we all stream. Okay, not all of us. But 74% of U.S. homes had a video streaming service in 2019, up from 52% in 2015. Odds are you live in one of those homes. At the beginning of the pandemic, as Americans sheltered in place, consumption of all forms of in-home media shot up.
For a long time, the streaming choices were fairly limited, but not anymore. Giants such as Amazon Prime,

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Behind Closed Doors

Sanjib Saha  |  December 3, 2020

IF YOU OWN an actively managed mutual fund, you expect the fund’s managers to buy and sell stocks and bonds as they see fit—and yet all that trading isn’t necessarily driven by their investment decisions.
Why not? Imagine the fund has had a few years of underperformance. That might prompt impatient investors to take their money elsewhere. This exodus can create headaches for the shareholders who still have faith in the fund. How so?

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About Tomorrow

Joe Kesler  |  December 2, 2020

I’M NOT MUCH of a bartender. But when my wife and I hosted an art show in Missoula for a friend, I got the chance to serve wine while meeting a whole new group of people. Bankers—my usual social circle—tend to be strait-laced analytical types, so it was entertaining to spend an evening meeting creative folks from our thriving arts community.
One young couple, who sported an array of tattoos and piercings, had a story that caught my attention.

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Rate Debate

Richard Connor  |  November 30, 2020

THE 4% RULE HAS almost mythic status in the financial planning world. Originally suggested by Bill Bengen in a 1994 article, the rule provides a simple way for retirees to figure out how much they can withdraw from their portfolio without running out of money. In a recent article, Bengen updated his rule.
The rule defines the maximum amount retirees should withdraw from their portfolio in the first year of retirement. Got a $500,000 nest egg?

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Game Theory

Adam M. Grossman  |  November 29, 2020

WHEN I WAS A KID, I never liked the game Monopoly. I found it slow and uninteresting. But now, as a parent, I see its value. I’ve tried a lot of things to teach my children about money, but nothing comes close to Monopoly in its ability to convey important personal finance lessons.
Sure, it helps kids practice basics like addition and subtraction—but there’s a lot more to it. If you’ll be spending time with children over the holidays,

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Dialed In

Jonathan Clements  |  November 28, 2020

HOW DO WE GET from here to retirement? Amid the financial markets’ daily turmoil, it might seem like one big crapshoot.
But in truth, navigating this journey is pretty straightforward, because there are just five key variables—our time horizon, current nest egg, savings rate, target nest egg and investment return. With a few tweaks to these “dials,” we may discover it’s far easier to reach our retirement goal. Which dials are most effective? Much depends on how close we are to retirement age.

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Live It Up

Dennis Friedman  |  November 27, 2020

THE HOLIDAY SEASON is here—and retailers will be looking to make up for the sales they lost during the pandemic. Let me offer some advice you won’t hear elsewhere: Go ahead and splurge.
What do I want for Christmas? To be honest, not much. But then again, my wife and I have been spending money in 2020 as if Christmas were a year-long event. We remodeled the house, filled it with new furniture and bought a new car.

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Ain’t Everything

Jonathan Clements  |  November 26, 2020

MONEY IS IMPORTANT. But how do we ensure it has the right importance in our life—and no more? Here are 11 signs we’ve got it about right:

We aren’t jealous of others or lust after the things they have.
We borrow when we must—but we never borrow so much that we stress ourselves out today or put our future self at risk.
We consciously spend a little less today so we enjoy the long-run happiness that comes with money in the bank and the knowledge that we can cope with financial adversity.

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