Inflation Insurance

John Lim  |  Aug 23, 2021

ON AUG. 15, 1971, President Richard Nixon made the weighty decision to end the convertibility of the U.S. dollar into gold. By doing so, he drove a stake through the heart of the gold standard, a monetary system which fixed the worth of a unit of money to a specific amount of physical gold. Before that day, foreign central banks were able to exchange $35 for one ounce of gold from the vaults of the U.S.

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Vive La Difference

Mike Zaccardi  |  Aug 23, 2021

THERE’S A LOT of handwringing right now about U.S. stock market valuations. Prof. Robert Shiller’s cyclically adjusted price-earnings ratio, or CAPE, has rarely been more famous—or perhaps infamous. It’s currently perched near 39, meaning buyers of the S&P 500 are paying almost 39 times average inflation-adjusted corporate earnings for the past 10 years. That number might mean little to many without proper context. It was around five at the worst of the Great Depression,

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Walking the Talk?

Mike Zaccardi  |  Aug 22, 2021

BANK OF AMERICA’S monthly fund manager survey takes the pulse of portfolio managers around the world. The latest survey was released last week—and some of the results weren’t so rosy.
Despite a record-breaking quarter for corporate profits, which blew past analysts’ predictions, money managers have turned more bearish. Perhaps recent market volatility, especially among foreign stocks, has caused jitters. Also casting an ominous cloud is the Delta variant’s global spread. On top of that,

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Got to Help Yourself

Richard Quinn  |  Aug 22, 2021

AT THE END OF EACH month, my pension arrives in my bank account. I can count on the same amount every month. It’s comforting.

In the old days, nearly 50% of working Americans had pension benefits. But it was never more than that. For most workers, the three-legged stool really only had two legs, Social Security and personal savings. Today, 76% of state and local government workers have a pension plan, versus just 12% of private sector workers.

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Million Dollar Dream

Sanjib Saha  |  Aug 21, 2021

WHEN I TOLD MY WIFE a few years ago that I wanted to retire by age 50, she was supportive from the get-go. The memories of her dad passing away soon after his 52nd birthday played a role in her snap approval. But it took us a while to sort through the full financial implications.
I figured that our lifestyle, including our foreign travels and occasional splurges, would be the same even if my paychecks stopped prematurely.

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Mixed Bag

Kyle McIntosh  |  Aug 21, 2021

WHEN DESIGNING a portfolio, a critical decision is how to allocate your money across stocks, bonds and other investments. Within stocks, you’ll need to make an additional choice: How to split money between U.S. and international. A quick survey of finance-related websites turns up recommendations of 25% to 40% for an investor’s foreign stock allocation.
While I agree that investors should have a meaningful percentage of their portfolio in overseas stocks, I don’t think investors should lose sleep over whether they’re at the high or low end of this range.

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It Takes a Village

Richard Connor  |  Aug 20, 2021

FINDING HIGH-QUALITY, affordable childcare has always been a challenge, but it became especially so during the pandemic. Suddenly, thousands of parents were working from home. Many childcare centers closed or restricted new enrollment. Our small South Jersey town saw an influx of families fleeing New York and Philadelphia. That put a strain on limited local resources, and spots for the summer have been hard to find.
I know a little about this because my youngest son and daughter-in-law have been struggling to find consistent childcare for their 17-month-old son James.

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Less Is More

Jiab Wasserman  |  Aug 20, 2021

I RECENTLY INJURED my lower back playing tennis. I rested for a day and then decided I was well enough to resume my usual activities. But my haste worsened the pain, extending my recuperation to more than a week. Every move—even sneezing—hurt. Putting on my pants was a major struggle. I was forced to do nothing except rest.
Doing nothing was the one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Ironically, at the time of my injury,

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Neighborly Advice

Mike Zaccardi  |  Aug 19, 2021

NOW MORE THAN EVER, people are hungry for yield or, failing that, a reliable return that doesn’t hinge on the performance of the stock and bond markets. Those puny money market and “high yield” savings account rates may suffice for your emergency fund. But after factoring in inflation, keeping too much in cash investments is a losing proposition.
Last week, a 50-something neighbor asked me for investment ideas to help him bridge the gap between now and retirement.

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Six That Count

Dennis Friedman  |  Aug 19, 2021

WANT A LONG and prosperous retirement? Here are six numbers to pay attention to:
No. 1: Retirement savings. Add up all your retirement account balances and divide by 25. This will give you an estimate of what you can safely withdraw from savings in your first year of retirement.
No. 2: Social Security benefit. To your projected income from your nest egg, add your estimated Social Security benefit and any other retirement income you’ll likely receive.

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Quaint at a Cost

Greg Spears  |  Aug 18, 2021

WE OWN AN OLD WHITE farmhouse in Mid-Coast Maine. When I have work done, I tell contractors to make it look exactly the same, as if the house were sealed in a snow globe.
Up here, the rural past seems close at hand. The artist Andrew Wyeth painted one peninsula over. His depiction of the Olson farm perfectly captured the rustic ideal. Christina Olson and her brother Alvaro sold vegetables out of their kitchen door.

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Quick and Easy

Richard Quinn  |  Aug 18, 2021

DON’T YOU LOVE those online calculators that, with just a touch of your screen, will tell you whether your retirement plan will be successful or not? I especially like it when I can pick the rate of return on my investments. Who knew that, if you assume an annual return of 40%, you could save less and retire sooner?

I just tried a FIRE (financial independence/retire early) calculator, designed for those who want to save aggressively and retire at a young age.

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Three Thoughts

John Lim  |  Aug 17, 2021

“THE UNEXAMINED LIFE is not worth living,” warned the Greek philosopher Socrates. What has my examination turned up? Here are three recent thoughts on life and how money fits in:
1. What’s measurable isn’t always meaningful. It’s easy to get tunnel vision when it comes to our personal finances. We—along with our financial advisors—tend to focus on the size of our 401(k) or our net worth, in part because these are easy to measure.

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Catastrophic Care

Jim Wasserman  |  Aug 17, 2021

YOUR PETS CAN’T TELL you when they don’t feel well, and yet somehow they do.
One of our cats, Sangria, seemed to have no energy for several days. Part Siamese, she’s usually a loud crier. But lately she’d taken to quietly hiding in a closet. My wife Jiab—the cat attendant responsible for intake—reported her eating as normal. I, in charge of the litter box, noticed that outflow was a bit irregular. We thought it would pass.

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Doesn’t Apply to Me

Sonja Haggert  |  Aug 16, 2021

DURING A HEATED discussion, the chairman at my old employer grew exasperated with me. “Rules are meant for other people, not me,” he snapped.
I had no idea how prevalent that attitude was—until recently. It seems some hospitals and drug companies also feel that the rules don’t apply to them.
There have been articles in The Wall Street JournaI about a new rule that went into effect requiring hospitals to show how much they charge for procedures.

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