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Best Senior Discount

Richard Connor  |  May 15, 2022

FIVE YEARS AGO, there was a big increase in the price of the “America the Beautiful: National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass.” For a one-time fee, the pass gives people age 62 and older free lifetime access to many of America’s most popular vacation and day-trip spots.
How big was the increase? In 2017, the price of the senior pass went from $10 to $80. I tipped off some older relatives about the looming price increase,

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To the Dump

Kyle McIntosh  |  May 13, 2022

LOOKING FOR A FIELD trip that’ll inspire you? It may sound strange, but I suggest visiting your local landfill. I just went to mine to discard a rug. I returned with a commitment to change my behavior.
The landfill was a surprisingly busy place. This was my first visit, so I was confused about where and how to drop off my rug. Dozens of more-seasoned visitors sped past me to drop off their loads.

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Memories All Round

Dennis Friedman  |  May 12, 2022

MY WIFE AND I ARE traveling to the U.K. This will be my first time in England, Wales and Scotland. We’ll spend a week in London before taking a train to Cambridge, where we’ll rent a car for the balance of the vacation.
My wife planned the trip, doing an enormous amount of research. It took her a couple of months to put this adventure together. I thought we’d be staying mostly in major cities with well-known attractions.

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Details, Details

Sonja Haggert  |  May 11, 2022

DO YOU SKIM OVER the fine print? Two recent incidents involving insurance coverage made me rethink my tendency to do just that. One incident alerted me to a major problem. The other saved me money.
Let’s start with the problem. It was time to renew our homeowner’s insurance. In looking over the policy, something didn’t look right. In the section for dwelling, which is defined in our policy as alterations and other improvements, we had $5,000 worth of coverage.

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Tax Bites

Sanjib Saha  |  May 10, 2022

MY TAXES ROSE 50% in 2021. I’ve never paid so much before, not even during my peak earning years. I’m not upset about having to pay my fair share, but the extent of the increase puzzled me. After examining my tax return, I came away with a handful of insights.
To be sure, I wasn’t expecting a large refund. The reason: I suspected that a onetime employment windfall would cause me to owe money,

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Whipping Inflation

Mike Zaccardi  |  May 9, 2022

HAS THE ECONOMY reached peak inflation? That might be the biggest question in financial markets right now. Economists at several Wall Street firms, including Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, say the highest pace of consumer price increases may now be in the rearview mirror.
Inflation is typically measured as a percent change from a year ago. From here, prices for goods and services may still go up, but at a slower pace. That’s the hope.

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Rant Ahead

Richard Quinn  |  May 8, 2022

WARNING: WHAT YOU read next may be interpreted as a rant—because it is.

I’m tired of hearing about how Americans are unprepared for retirement or even minor financial emergencies. A few years back, it was the inability of 40% to 50% of us to come up with $400 for an emergency. The $400 figure has been used to prove everything from the extent of inequality to how Americans struggle to manage money.

Other studies set the hurdle at $1,000.

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Fries With That?

Larry Sayler  |  May 7, 2022

MY MCDONALD’S INDEX is the way I keep track of long-term inflation. I worked at McDonald’s in 1971 and 1972, while in high school. The menu was much simpler back then: hamburger, cheeseburger, Big Mac, fish sandwich, small and large fries, coffee, small and large soda, and shakes—one size only.
We didn’t have Quarter Pounders, chicken sandwiches, salads, lattes, mochas, frappes, smoothies, sundaes, McFlurries, super-sized drinks, meal combinations or Happy Meals. The food was not made fresh.

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Still No Alternative

Jonathan Clements  |  May 6, 2022

FOR AS LONG AS I’VE been writing about investing—37 years now—grumpy old men have been declaring that the stock market’s party will soon end with a world-class hangover.
Is it time to stock up on Tylenol?
I, of course, don’t have the slightest clue. But when the S&P 500 rises 3% on Wednesday and then plunges 3.6% on Thursday, you sure get the sense that investors are a tad uncertain about the future. That brings me to two questions I’ve been pondering.

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Funny Money

John Lim  |  May 5, 2022

DO YOU SEE THINGS clearly when it comes to money? Here’s a test to find out. Which of the following scenarios would you prefer?

A 5% raise, but the inflation rate is 10%.
A 3% salary cut, but the inflation rate is 0%.

If you chose the 5% pay raise, you’ve fallen victim to a “money illusion.” This term describes our tendency to view money in nominal terms instead of inflation-adjusted “real” terms.
In the first scenario,

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Not Digging It

John Goodell  |  May 4, 2022

BEFORE I BECAME a devotee of index funds, I began my investing journey in commodities, with a focus on commodity miners and producers. These firms extract a variety of goods from the earth, including precious metals like gold and silver, as well as energy-related commodities like oil, natural gas and uranium.
As a college student first studying the markets, I was drawn to the outsized returns that can occur in a commodity bull market.

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Not in the Plan

Richard Quinn  |  May 3, 2022

HAVE YOU EVER MADE a plan and then had it go awry? Like the car breaking down on the highway when you’re driving to Christmas dinner, as happened to me several years ago.

Stuff happens. That’s why I can’t understand why many people preparing for retirement seem to have unwavering confidence in their planned budget—one that’s often generated using software or a spreadsheet.

Hiring a financial advisor may help. But for that advice to bolster your chances of success,

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Prices Down, Value Up

Mike Zaccardi  |  May 2, 2022

EVERY MARKET DECLINE is different, but all of them can feel unnerving, even for the most steadfast of investors. Spooked by 2022’s financial market turmoil? There’s good news: Stock and bond values today look much more compelling than at the turn of the year.
Thanks to 2022’s 14% drop, the S&P 500 now trades below its five-year average price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, based on expected profits. On top of that, corporate earnings rose impressively in this year’s first quarter.

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More Isn’t the Answer

John Lim  |  Apr 29, 2022

“ENOUGH” IS a powerful notion. Unfortunately, it’s largely absent from financial conversations.
The concept is rooted in deep self-awareness. It asks the question, how much do I really need to be happy? I believe we should ask this more often because, if we don’t, culture will fill in the blank—and the default answer will be “more.”
Enough has two dimensions. The first dimension is about spending. Too often, we succumb to the hedonic treadmill—the endless pursuit of the next thrilling purchase,

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Lack of Trust

Larry Sayler  |  Apr 28, 2022

RULES OF THUMB and conventional wisdom often serve us well. But we should make sure they’re truly applicable to our situation.
Like many parents, my wife and I prepared our first estate planning documents when our children were young. The estate planning lawyer suggested a so-called AB trust. If we’d taken his advice, when one of us passed away, half of our joint assets would have gone into an irrevocable trust. The surviving spouse would get the income from that trust,

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