WOULDA, COULDA, SHOULDA are part of every retiree’s investment vocabulary. I’ve certainly had my share of bloopers.
Too often, we writers stand up here and pontificate about our exploits, leaving readers feeling they couldn’t possibly do the same. With an eye toward leveling the playing field, I thought I’d divulge two of my biggest blunders.
Error of commission. Using the royalties from her husband’s high school Spanish textbooks, my mother-in-law Rose began to accumulate municipal bonds in the late 1970s.
MOST OF US HAVE TOO much stuff, and we’re apt to joke about it. But clutter, if allowed to spiral out of control, can turn into hoarding.
Hoarders are people who acquire an excessive number of items, some with little or no value, and yet they continue to add to their chaotic overflow. Unable to manage the clutter but unwilling to let any of it go, they become upset and anxious when others offer to help clear it up.
I GOT CAUGHT UP IN some weird investment fads during the recent era of 0% interest rates. With cash investments and bonds yielding almost nothing, I instead sought to pad my investment returns by opening new brokerage accounts to snag promotion cash, and by dabbling in digital currencies and newfangled alternative investments.
Result? I ended up with far too many financial accounts—and it became a burden to keep track of everything. Just a year ago,
WHEN I WAS ASSIGNED a high school essay on business morals, I asked my dad if he knew of any books on the topic.
“No, Stevie, I don’t. From what I’ve seen in New York real estate, it would be a very thin book.”
For more than 40 years, that cynical quip has haunted me, coloring my view of rental real estate. I’m not emotionally suited to being a landlord. But I wanted real estate as a stock market diversifier—and I was drawn to the benefits of combining rental income with stock market dividends.
IN MY LAST ARTICLE, I wrote about how Harvard and other colleges are offering programs to help growth-oriented retirees find new meaning and purpose. Having a sense of purpose improves our quality of life and provides a sense of well-being.
But most of us, including this writer, can’t afford Harvard’s program. That’s why I’m going to show you how to find your main reason for being within the comfort of your own home—using the ikigai method.
I RECENTLY LISTENED to an interesting Hidden Brain podcast discussing different ways of bringing about behavior change. The guest on the podcast was Loran Nordgren, a professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and coauthor of a book entitled The Human Element. The discussion centered on two related concepts: fuel and friction.
Fuel is the stuff we use to motivate ourselves and the people in our lives. It can be positive or negative.
THE PROLIFIC MR. QUINN recently wrote that people who were irresponsible in one area of their life, such as failing to return shopping carts, also tend to be irresponsible in other areas, like managing their finances. He’s probably right. Still, I’ve had times when, even though I’m a “responsible person”—I’ve had a successful career, my kids lived to grow up, and so forth—I nonetheless had pockets of disorder in my life.
For me, the two biggest areas of chaos were managing money and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen.
AS I WROTE THIS STORY, the word count kept climbing and climbing because it has more twists and turns than a detective novel. It was so long I was afraid no one would read it, not even my mother. So, here is a condensed version of what I wanted to say.
The hardest transition for some folks as they reach retirement is to go from a saver to a spender of what they’ve saved.
AROUND 2,800 YEARS ago, Homer’s Odysseus decided that the whole Trojan war enterprise, in which all of Greece would go to war and destroy an entire city because a woman ran off with a guy she liked, was crazy, so he tried to get out of going by pretending to be crazy himself. The Greek allies were suspicious that their cleverest leader was really crazy, so they sent an emissary to find out.
When the emissary arrived at Odysseus’s small city state,
ACCORDING TO OXFORD Languages, the word invest means to “expend money with the expectation of achieving a profit.”
I like this definition better than some others because it includes the word “expectation,” which therefore should exclude casino gambling and sports betting. But what if you have an expectation of winning? Couldn’t casino gambling and sports betting both be considered investments? As Zach Galifianakis’s character said in The Hangover, “It’s not gambling if you know you’re going to win.”
How can one create this expectation?
I DREAD THOSE RED down votes on my HumbleDollar comments. Perhaps at times I come across as less than empathetic, but that’s not really me. I have sincere empathy for anyone who honestly struggles to make life decisions, including financial decisions. I also realize that adhering to good financial practices is made hard by the problems that arise with the ups and downs of daily life.
I spent my working life, which spanned nearly 50 years,
MY DAYS WRITING for HumbleDollar may be numbered. I recently started playing with Google’s Bard, OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s version of the ChatGPT artificial intelligence (AI) platform, and was curious to see how they might perform in providing basic financial guidance. Their answers were generally sensible and aligned with HumbleDollar’s approach—though also occasionally flawed.
You might think that AI can’t possibly replace articles penned by contributors, since the charm of HumbleDollar is the contributors’ personal stories.
I JUST FINISHED rereading a book every serious investor needs to reread: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. It was written by Michael Lewis in 2003, but it’s still quite relevant to baseball—and to investing.
It’s the story of the Oakland A’s general manager, Billy Beane, and his struggle to create a competitive baseball team on a limited budget. How does this relate to personal finance? Well, first let me explain my connection to Moneyball.
I KNOW I’M NOT WISE. Still, I’ve picked up enough wisdom to realize I didn’t have much of it when I was younger. At the very least, 60 years of stubbed toes, slips and falls have shown me that some paths shouldn’t be trod, while a few are worth traveling.
I try to refrain from offering unsolicited advice. But I’ve lately had a growing desire to steer young adults toward choices that escaped my notice when I was their age—with a focus on three areas:
Think about who came before us.
I’M ONE OF THE 30 writers who contributed an essay to My Money Journey. As the book’s publication drew closer, I found myself worrying about how readers would react to my story.
Will they see me as someone who saved a lot of money because I was thrifty—or because I was cheap? As I mention in the book, I was embarrassed about my spartan lifestyle, including the crummy apartments I lived in and the cars I drove.