I RECENTLY STARTED reading Think Again, the new book by Adam Grant. Subtitled The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, Grant’s book got me thinking about all the ways that, over the years, conversations with clients have led me to look at things through different lenses. Below are eight such topics:
1. There’s one important financial question that stumps most everyone—for good reason. In building a financial plan,
AS A CHILD GROWING up in India, I was taught about the six seasons of Bengal: summer, monsoons, autumn, late autumn, winter and spring. From my recollection, some seasons felt distinct, while others were subtle and transitory. Still, each season had unique characteristics, making it different from the others.
A HumbleDollar Voices question—if you could live your financial life again, what would you do differently?—reminded me of the six seasons. How so?
I’M NOT A RULE breaker. In the nearly 40 years I’ve had a driver’s license, I’ve received just one traffic citation. I follow all the laboratory safety rules when I’m at work. When I fly, I’m the person who removes the card from the seatback pocket and follows along with the flight attendants as they do their safety briefing.
But when it comes to finances, I don’t always follow the rules laid down by accountants,
WHEN WE CHOOSE to do one thing with our time and money, we’re also choosing not to do countless other things. The purchases made and the possibilities forgone sometimes turn into lasting regrets.
That is, to a degree, unavoidable. We often misjudge not only what we want today, but also the wants of our future self. Still, I firmly believe we can all do better—if we avoid impulsive decisions and instead spend time thinking through life’s key tradeoffs.
A WHILE BACK, I assembled two personal finance reading lists—what I called 101 and 201 level titles. But time doesn’t stand still. Below is a list of newer books, along with a few classics that didn’t fit on the earlier lists. They’re organized into three categories: retirement planning, investing and behavioral finance.
Can I Retire? by Mike Piper. There’s no shortage of retirement books. But if you want a straightforward guide that covers the most critical topics in an easy-to-read format,
I’VE NEVER BEEN a fan of financial planning rules of thumb. To understand why, consider a common shortcut for choosing an asset allocation: The allocation to bonds in a portfolio, according to this rule of thumb, should equal an investor’s age.
For example, if an investor is 65 years old, his or her allocation to bonds should be 65%. That sounds reasonable—until you realize that Microsoft founder Bill Gates is 65. Should he have the same asset allocation as everyone else his age?
IT’S RISKY TO LAY down hard-and-fast rules for money management because, for every rule, there will almost inevitably be exceptions.
Still, as they say, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Below you’ll find 18 rules. Want to quibble? Hey, that’s why HumbleDollar allows readers to comment on articles.
1. Minimize cash. With short-term interest rates so low, keeping money in savings accounts and money market funds seems especially grim right now. But the truth is,
IF YOU WANT TO SEE your fellow citizens at their least appealing, look no further than online discussion forums. All too often, they’re a repugnant cesspool of anger, bullying and boastfulness. The comments posted on HumbleDollar are typically fairly civil, though even they occasionally veer toward the unnecessary nastiness that’s rampant everywhere else.
But here’s what these virulent commenters miss: Their postings reveal far more about themselves than about the subject they’re opining upon.
THERE’S NOTHING that deters financial planning like a scarily large price tag.
We should ask ourselves all kinds of tough financial questions. But many of the toughest never get asked—because we know answering them will involve agonizing choices, difficult conversations and unthinkable amounts of dollars. Consider these four:
1. How would you cope if you were out of work for six months? As I’ve noted in earlier articles, the big financial emergency isn’t replacing the roof or the air-conditioning system,
TODAY MARKS MY 200th article for HumbleDollar. Looking back, one recurring theme stands out: Managing our finances is, in a lot of ways, like managing our health.
Ask any doctor the recipe for good health and you’ll hear the same things: Exercise regularly, eat right, don’t smoke. It isn’t complicated—and yet it isn’t so simple. Environmental factors, genetics and bad luck conspire against us. Result: Even the most disciplined person isn’t guaranteed perfect health.
THE FEDERAL RESERVE caught the market by surprise this past week. In fact, it seemed like Fed policymakers caught even themselves by surprise.
Previously, they had been forecasting that interest rates would stay near zero through 2023, on the assumption that inflation would remain manageable. But as the country has emerged from hibernation, inflation has run much hotter than expected. As a result, an increasing number of Fed officials now expect they’ll have to raise rates much sooner.
WHEN IT COMES to financial questions, there are two common reasons people disagree. Sometimes, they disagree about the facts—whether, say, interest rates are headed higher. But sometimes, people disagree for another reason: They see the world through different lenses.
Last week, I mentioned that Ray Dalio, a prominent hedge fund manager, had recently said that bonds “have become stupid.” I disagreed, but not because of the facts. There’s no disputing the impact of today’s low rates.
ONE HALLOWEEN, some of my teenage buddies and I were having a great time throwing water balloons at trick-or-treaters. It was a lot of fun—until we got caught. After getting hauled down to the police station for a lecture, and then receiving another one when I got home, I’ve been pretty much on the straight and narrow ever since, including when it comes to money.
Over the years, I’ve discovered various tried-and-true rules of investing and those have been the keys to my success.
TWO DECADES AGO, we witnessed the bursting of one of history’s biggest stock market bubbles. Many investors were left burned and bewildered. At the time, I was chief executive of Vanguard and saw the need for a practical, back-to-basics guide to help investors navigate the financial markets. My 2002 book Straight Talk on Investing was born.
Since then, we’ve endured a few more market shocks, plus the investing landscape has changed considerably—mostly for the better.
COVID-19 WILL SOON, I hope, be in the rearview mirror. But as Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Here are five lessons I’m taking away from the pandemic:
1. Government spending. Some folks tell me they’re claiming Social Security retirement benefits as soon as they’re eligible because the system’s trust fund will be depleted within the next decade or so, at which point benefits could get cut.