I HAVE READ THAT confession is good for the soul. I suspect it’s also good for our financial health—or, at least, I hope so. I have a confession to make as a usually loyal fan, regular reader and occasional contributor to HumbleDollar.
I’ve read less than a dozen of the site’s articles in 2022, and I’ve checked my portfolio just as infrequently. This is a new practice for me. I share it somewhat reluctantly because it may or may not be healthy.
HOW WE THINK ABOUT money affects almost every aspect of our lives. All the landmark decisions we make have a thread of money influence running through them. I’m talking about college, career, marriage, kids, the people and places we associate with—even how we spend our time. If we don’t make these decisions intentionally, we’ll drift downstream, carried by the current of the most popular money management ideas.
That brings me to a study recently published by the Journal of Retirement and entitled,
EVERY DECEMBER, I watch two Christmas movies—movies I’ve been watching for as long as I can remember.
My favorite is A Christmas Carol, based on the novel by Charles Dickens. It’s about the mean and miserable Ebenezer Scrooge, a money lender who constantly bullies his poor clerk, Bob Cratchit, and rejects his nephew Fred’s wishes for a merry Christmas.
Scrooge lives only for money. He has no real friends or family, and cares only about his own well-being.
IN BEHAVIORAL FINANCE, there’s an important concept that doesn’t get a lot of attention: It’s called temporal discounting. The idea is that we view our current and future selves, to some degree, as different people—and there’s a tendency to discount the needs of the “other” person. It’s an interesting idea because, even for the most diligent planners and savers, there’s an inherent tension between the financial needs of today and those of tomorrow.
Take the “latte factor,” which argues that a young person could accumulate nearly $1 million in savings simply by forgoing a daily coffee and muffin.
IT’S BEEN A TUMULTUOUS year for diversified investors. Usually, when stocks are down, bonds are up. Not this year. The U.S. stock and bond markets have both suffered double-digit losses. That includes the Treasury bond market, widely considered to be a secure and low-risk place to invest.
A widely accepted measure of risk is a portfolio’s stock-to-bond ratio. More in stocks usually means more risk. But in 2022, whatever an investor’s stock-to-bond mix, investment results have likely been painful.
YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT your future self will want. This is the tantalizing hypothesis of Hidden Brain podcast host Shankar Vedantam, who argues that we’re constantly becoming new people.
Vedantam offers the example of a hospice nurse who, having witnessed so much misery in her dying patients, made her husband promise never to extend her life if she became terminally ill. Yet, when her body was ravaged by ALS, often called Lou Gehrig’s disease,
THE TWO-MINUTE CHECKUP is, I like to think, a unique financial tool: It aims to offer feedback across someone’s entire financial life based on no more than nine pieces of information. That’s an ambitious goal and—perhaps no surprise—some users have found the calculator wanting.
Meet Checkup 2.0.
Sanjib Saha, who writes for HumbleDollar when he isn’t busy writing software, and I went through all the comments that the calculator had received and made a host of changes.
I FLUNKED MY FIRST two interviews for an academic job. Fifty years ago, I didn’t make the grade at the University of California, Los Angeles, or the University of California, Berkeley, either of which would have made a fitting classroom for an unseasoned but game New Yorker.
Instead, I prevailed at the University of California, Davis, the agricultural mecca of the statewide system. I was sold when I looked at one of those old gas station maps and saw that I’d be close to San Francisco.
MY WIFE AND I ARE expecting our first baby in March. In preparation, we’re converting what used to be an office into a nursery. We’ve bought a crib, glider chair, curtains and dresser for the new room. But we also needed to find a place to put the desk and furniture that was in the office. We decided to move the office into what is currently a quasi-sunroom.
When we bought the home, our inspector disclosed that the sunroom was likely built by the homeowner and wasn’t up to code.
AT A VULNERABLE TIME in my life, I went to a “quantum healer” who said my deceased mother was trying to ask me, “What do you want?”
I kept saying “I don’t know” to the healer and she kept repeating the question, until the answer popped out unexpectedly, “I just want to be alone right now.” The healer said my mother was clapping. That was exactly what I needed to hear to help me clarify my thinking.
AS ANYONE WHO HAS spent time around kids can attest, emotions often run high when things don’t go according to plan. Recently, my three-year-old daughter, Carter Rose, refused to brush her teeth, wear clothes or go to school.
Rather than going head-to-head with an emotional toddler, I took the approach of listening, compassion and empathy to get things back on track. What was wrong—and what could make things better?
We could all use a little more empathy these days.
AT THE FIRST Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting I attended, Charlie Munger was explaining an investment that the company had made. He said it was likely to provide satisfactory returns.
At the time, that seemed like an odd statement. Satisfactory? Not great returns. Not market-beating results. Not returns of 10% or 15% per year. Not even market average performance. Just satisfactory.
Since that meeting, I’ve come to appreciate satisfactory returns. Satisfactory covers a wide range,
THERE ARE USUALLY TWO answers to every personal-finance question: There’s what the calculator says—and then there’s how you feel about it. What does that mean in practice? Let’s look at an example.
Suppose you’re considering when to claim Social Security. Many retirees struggle with this question. On the one hand, the government offers a strong incentive to wait: For each year you forgo Social Security—up to age 70—your future benefit will grow by some 8%.
NETFLIX ISSUED ITS third-quarter earnings report last month—and it was stellar. Just when everyone thought its growth was done, the streaming service added 2.4 million new subscribers. Quarterly revenue increased 5.9% year over year to $7.93 billion.
More important, cash from operations and free cash flow grew rapidly, up 261% and 14% respectively. For long-term investors, these are the metrics that matter most because they show the business is making money.
Netflix wanted us to know this,
“WE BEHAVE BETTER when we know others are watching—so be sure to tell friends if you’re aiming to exercise more, lose weight or save more.” I love the pithy sayings that appear each day at the top of HumbleDollar’s homepage. This statement appeared Oct. 19.
A few years ago, when I was still working fulltime, some colleagues and I adopted this philosophy. Suppose one of us had a goal, such as losing five pounds by the end of the month.