MANY OF US HAVE much of our wealth in stocks and bonds—and that raises some nagging questions. How safe is this money? What do I own that I can really count on? If I’m retired, how much of this portfolio can I afford to spend in the year ahead? These concerns grow when markets seem high.
How can we get some perspective on these questions? We might try calculating our “spendable net worth.” What’s that?
SERIES I SAVINGS bonds are getting a lot of attention right now because their stated yield is 3.54%, an apparently fabulous interest rate on an almost no-risk investment.
But don’t be fooled: While I bonds are a fine choice for super-conservative investors, you’ll get that 3.54% annualized yield for just six months and thereafter the yield could be far lower.
I bonds feature a variable interest rate that floats with inflation. That floating rate resets each May and November based on recent inflation.
A TEL AVIV WOMAN named Anat decided to surprise her elderly mother with a gift. Noticing that her mother had been sleeping on the same worn-out mattress for decades, Anat replaced it while her mother was away from the house. She then took the old mattress out to the curb.
It wasn’t until the next morning that her mother noticed the change and asked what had happened to the old mattress. Anat explained that she had put it out with the trash,
IF WE WANTED to design a portfolio that appeals to our worst investment instincts, we might couple a savings account with lottery tickets. Some governments have even issued bonds with just these characteristics.
What’s the attraction? The savings account ensures that part of our portfolio never loses value, while the lottery tickets let us dream of riches in return for a relatively small investment.
This year, we’ve seen the lottery-ticket mentality writ large, as investors take fliers on meme stocks,
I RECENTLY READ an interesting article about why you shouldn’t pick individual stocks. The author mentioned the classic reason: “Since most people (even the professionals) can’t beat the index, you shouldn’t bother trying.”
He also mentioned another reason: “The existential dilemma of doing so… how do you know if you are good at picking individual stocks?” The author goes on to mention that, since luck plays such a significant factor in stock-picking, it could take a very long time to determine if you’re good or just lucky and,
GROWING UP, I remember my mother telling me to save because “you never know what can happen.”
Like a pandemic?
I reference my mother because she was ahead of her time in preparedness and quite savvy about money. She bought gold when it wasn’t popular—and I think she would have bought bitcoin. Why? For the same reasons that my husband and I decided to take the plunge.
To be sure, bitcoin itself has plunged in recent weeks,
TERRY ODEAN has been studying investor behavior for decades. The University of California at Berkeley finance professor has proven again and again that everyday investors often harm their performance by trading too much.
Last year, Odean and his fellow researchers turned their attention to the Robinhood phenomenon. Result? When I spoke to Odean, he said the only thing that surprised him was the magnitude of the self-inflicted investment wounds by users of the free-and-easy trading app.
SOMETIMES OUR BEST investments can be a great guide to what not to do—even better than our worst investments. Consider three of my best:
1. Master limited partnerships. In 1999, I read an article by Paul Sturm in the much-missed SmartMoney magazine. It was a comprehensive review of a security I hadn’t previously heard about, namely master limited partnerships (MLPs).
The two decades since have made the unique commonplace.
HERE AT HUMBLEDOLLAR and in many other places, this point has been made: The best investment portfolio isn’t the one that’s theoretically or empirically superior. Rather, it’s the one that lets you sleep at night.
What I’ve found, as far as my portfolio goes, is that the necessary prerequisite for a good night’s sleep is one thing above all else: an oversized cash reserve. By that, I mean a cash hoard that can handle not only the most likely contingencies,
IT’S BEEN A GREAT stretch for many mutual funds and exchange-traded funds that buy stocks based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria. For instance, the actively managed Parnassus Core Equity Fund notched 19.3% a year over the three years through March 31, Fidelity U.S. Sustainability Index Fund has climbed 17.4% and iShares ESG Aware MSCI USA ETF 18.2%. All three funds look like winners compared to the S&P 500’s 16.8% annual total return.
ROUGHLY HALF of Americans don’t invest in the stock market. Why not?
According to a JPMorgan Chase survey, 42% say they don’t have enough money, with 63% believing you need at least $1,000 to start investing. But in fact, some financial firms have no required minimum, including the mutual funds offered by Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab.
No doubt a lack of financial literacy also plays a role. The S&P Ratings Services Global Financial Literacy Survey asked folks around the world about notions like diversification,
IN THE INVESTMENT world, inflation is the topic of the day. There are four key reasons:
Congress. Since March 2020, the federal government has dropped more than a trillion dollars of cash into the economy via stimulus checks and the Paycheck Protection Program. While many of the recipients were unemployed and needed these dollars to meet basic needs, others were not. The result: More money in people’s pockets allowed them to spend more,
IS THE STOCK MARKET too high? It’s a question I’ve heard a lot recently. Each time, I’ve offered this recommendation: It’s impossible to predict where the market will go next, so your best defense is to have an appropriate asset allocation. But how exactly can you determine an ideal allocation?
The textbook method originated in the 1950s, with the work of a PhD student named Harry Markowitz. Up until that point, investors had mostly picked stocks and bonds in a vacuum,
SCOTT ADAMS, the creator of Dilbert, has this to say about making forecasts: “There are many methods for predicting the future. For example, you can read horoscopes, tea leaves, tarot cards, or crystal balls. Collectively, these methods are known as ‘nutty methods.’ Or you can put well-researched facts into sophisticated computer models, more commonly referred to as a complete waste of time.”
This is funny but, for the most part,
WHEN WE’RE YOUNGER, we tend to focus almost exclusively on our portfolio’s performance. But as we grow older, risk becomes a bigger concern. The irony: That greater focus on risk is often the key to better long-run investment results.
Want to make wiser portfolio choices? Keep these nine notions in mind:
1. Bad results happen to good investors. Let’s start with one of the most counterintuitive notions in investing: Just because we score spectacular short-term gains doesn’t mean we made smart decisions—and just because our portfolio struggles in the short run doesn’t mean we got it badly wrong.