Raising the Bar

Adam M. Grossman  |  Jun 23, 2024

BACK IN 1987, Nassim Nicholas Taleb was a trader on Wall Street. But unlike most of his peers, Taleb wasn’t pinning his hopes on a market rally. Instead, he’d positioned himself to benefit from a market meltdown. On Oct. 19, just such an event occurred. For no apparent reason—in the midst of an otherwise strong market—the S&P 500 dropped 23% in a single day. The result: Taleb made a fortune—enough to retire at age 27.

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Should We Worry?

Adam M. Grossman  |  Jun 16, 2024

BACK IN 2021, Keith Gill wasn’t well known. A video game enthusiast, he liked to spend time in his basement, day-trading and making videos. But with his online persona, Roaring Kitty, Gill drew a following that reached into the millions. He used that platform to direct attention to the shares of video game retailer GameStop, which was nearing insolvency. 

Gill’s videos drew enough attention in 2021 to cause a “short squeeze” in GameStop shares. The result: At least one hedge fund,

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Invested in My Opinion

Jamie Seckington  |  Jun 14, 2024

AS THE SAYING GOES, “Never ask a barber if it’s time for a haircut.”

This isn’t to suggest that barbers lack integrity. Rather, the point is that—when faced with a question with no definitive answer—business people often offer an answer that reflects their own best interest. For a barber, it’s always a good time for a haircut. The barber is neither wrong nor correct. It’s a judgment call. But the barber is undoubtedly invested in his opinion,

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Missing Out? Maybe Not

Adam M. Grossman  |  Jun 9, 2024

ARE HEDGE FUNDS a good investment? To answer this question, let’s take a look at three well-known funds. The first is Renaissance Technologies.
Renaissance was founded in 1982 by academic James Simons, who’d been chair of the math department at Stony Brook University and, before that, a code-breaker for the U.S. military. Because he didn’t have a background in finance, Simons instead relied on mathematics, developing the first purely computer-driven trading system.
The result: As his biographer put it,

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Don’t Be a Hero

Jamie Seckington  |  Jun 3, 2024

WHEN I WAS A KID, my father would take me trout fishing at the many small lakes of California’s Eastern Sierra mountains. We’d usually “fish off the bottom” using a wad of floating bait attached to a weighted line. We’d then sit on a rock or in our little rowboat, and wait for a fish to come along and take the bait.

It seemed to me that some mornings we waited an awful long time.

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Life’s Potholes

Adam M. Grossman  |  May 29, 2024

PEOPLE DEBATE JUST about everything in personal finance. Among these arguments: how best to measure risk. Partisans on this topic tend to fall into one of two camps.
In the first group are those who believe risk can be distilled down to a single number. For these folks, the most common numerical yardstick is portfolio volatility—that is, the degree to which a portfolio’s price bounces around from year to year. Portfolios exhibiting lower volatility are deemed safer.

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Where’s the Value?

Jamie Seckington  |  May 24, 2024

I’VE NEVER BEEN MUCH of a collector. As a kid, I tried collecting comic books for a short time. I found that, after I read them, I had little use for them. I stored the comic books in an open box in my closet, where their translucent sleeves attracted a thick blanket of dust but little interest.
Later in life, I started a small wine collection. I didn’t get too far. It turns out I drank the wine at a rate far quicker than I acquired new vintages.

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Waiting It Out

Tony Wilson  |  May 23, 2024

THOSE WHO REGULARLY read posts on—and I’m guessing a good chunk of HumbleDollar readers do—know that the Bogleheads’ philosophy is to:

Never time the markets.
Buy only broad-market index funds via either mutual funds or exchange-traded funds.
Invest 25% to 75% of a portfolio in stocks using such funds, with the rest in bonds, and thereafter rebalance as needed. How big a percentage should you put in stocks? That’s based on risk tolerance.

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What the Data Say

Adam M. Grossman  |  May 19, 2024

IN THE INVESTMENT world, there’s no shortage of data. But how useful is all that data? To help get to an answer, let’s consider four questions:
1. When the economy is strong, is that good for stocks? The simple answer is “yes.” According to textbook finance, the value of any company should represent the sum total of its future profits. When the economy is strong and profits are higher, that should be good for stocks.

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Gardeners Needed

William Housley  |  May 16, 2024

“SOME PEOPLE automatically sell the ‘winners’—stocks that go up—and hold on to their ‘losers’—stocks that go down—which is about as sensible as pulling out the flowers and watering the weeds,” argued Peter Lynch in his 1989 book One Up on Wall Street.
My father worked for Sears for 30 years, delivering washers, freezers and other appliances. Sears rewarded employees with stock, even delivery men like my dad. Over time, through splits and spin-offs,

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No Big Loss

Adam M. Grossman  |  Apr 28, 2024

AMONG THE MORE notable studies published in recent years is a paper by Hendrik Bessembinder titled “Do Stocks Outperform Treasury Bills?” His key finding: Between 1926 and 2016, just 4% of stocks accounted for all of the U.S. market’s net gain. As a group, the other 96% delivered returns that were no better than Treasury bills, which returned just 2% a year over the period.

It was a surprising result. The implication: Diversification is even more important than most investors realized,

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Surprised Again

Adam M. Grossman  |  Apr 21, 2024

“IT’S TOUGH TO MAKE predictions, especially about the future.” That’s one of the more amusing quotes attributed to Yogi Berra, but there’s also a lot of truth to it. When it comes to financial markets, the track record of those making forecasts is not good.
That’s why a rational approach to decision making is to avoid predictions, and instead base choices only on an assessment of where things currently stand. But even that approach can be fraught: Financial trends have a habit of reversing when least expected.

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My Newest Nemesis

Steve Abramowitz  |  Apr 16, 2024

YOGI BERRA IS MY favorite guru. His quip, “It ain’t over till it’s over,” pretty much sums up my losing battle with technology stocks.
The saga all began with an upbringing that bred a need for achievement that could never be satisfied, coupled with a prohibitive anxiety over risk-taking and failure. This family tape has played over and over again in my head as I’ve struggled to steer a course as a mutual and exchange-traded fund investor.

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French Connection

Andy Clarke  |  Apr 15, 2024

IN APRIL 1985, SENIORS in my high-school French program returned from a week in Paris and two in a La Rochelle lycée. They shared photos of the class in front of the Eiffel Tower. They detailed differences between French and American high schools. And they rhapsodized about the mighty U.S. dollar.
“France is dirt cheap.” The speaker extracted a Sony Walkman from her backpack. “This cost $30 less than it does here.”
I sat up.

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Testing My Faith

Jamie Seckington  |  Apr 11, 2024

THOU SHALL NOT TIME the market. Thou shall not consider macroeconomic trends when allocating capital. Thou shall not listen to pundits on CNBC. Thou shall not engage in security analysis. Thou shall not dabble in options or individual stocks. Thou shall not shoot for the moon.

These are just some of the commandments sent down from on high to today’s index-fund investors.

As one of those investors, I assume that financial markets are more or less efficient,

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