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Falling Short

Howard Rohleder  |  Sep 6, 2021

I SERVED ON a scholarship committee for a local foundation. We offered awards to college students entering their sophomore year. Our coordinator had the unhappy job of explaining to some students and parents that, even though their students had a full freshman schedule and passed all their classes, they didn’t actually have sophomore standing. How can this be? The answer is remediation.
Almost 24% of entering college freshmen at Ohio universities required remediation in English or math and 6% needed both.

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All That Glitters

Mike Zaccardi  |  Sep 5, 2021

TEN YEARS AGO, I recall sitting in a meeting at a local financial planning firm. We hadn’t heard of cryptocurrencies. The term “FAANG stocks” hadn’t yet been coined. On the minds of many individual investors was a different hot asset: gold.
Gold is the butt of many jokes in the financial blogosphere these days. Who can blame them? The shiny metal is flat over the past decade—and, of course, has produced no dividends in that time—while the S&P 500’s total return is more than 370%.

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No Point Shouting

Jim Wasserman  |  Sep 5, 2021

TEACHERS SHARE space with people who aren’t as knowledgeable or understanding of a subject as they are. Sometimes, students will display incredible depths of ignorance. Most students try, but there are some who are unwilling to meet a teacher even halfway. Worst of all are the insolent ones. Proud of their ignorance, they dismiss the subject—and the teacher—with not-so-veiled disrespect.
You know what a good teacher does in the face of all this? She takes a moment,

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Never Better

William Ehart  |  Sep 4, 2021

BECAUSE WE’RE HUMAN, we always find something to complain about. But I’ve come to believe there’s never been a better time to be a regular, everyday investor.
No, I’m not suggesting stocks are some great once-in-a-lifetime bargain. Rather, I mean the choices available to investors have never been greater, thanks in part to the growth of exchange-traded funds and the disappearance of brokerage commissions. On top of that, the costs of fund investing have never been lower.

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Can’t Stop Looking

Richard Quinn  |  Sep 4, 2021

LIKE MANY RETIREES, I have a 401(k), a brokerage account and a couple of modest rollover IRAs, plus a small—very small—annuity purchased 35 years ago in my more naive days.

Unlike most retirees, I also have a pension. My pension and our Social Security benefits comprise the income that covers our ongoing spending.

Why then am I addicted to checking my investment performance every day? Ask me and I’ll know my 401(k) balance. In fact,

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Look Before You Leap

Kyle McIntosh  |  Sep 3, 2021

A FEW WEEKS AGO, fellow contributor Dennis Friedman discussed how he’ll remain in California for retirement, despite the lower cost of living elsewhere. Dennis’s post got me thinking about the conversations I hear at my local dog park in Newbury Park, California.
A local realtor regularly talks about the many longtime homeowners who are moving out of state. Within days of listing their home, sellers receive multiple offers above asking price. The sellers then move to places like Arizona,

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Self-Dealing

Rand Spero  |  Sep 3, 2021

ARE THERE TIMES when we waste too much energy in pursuit of a good deal? I have clients who get so caught up in proving they’re smart consumers that they can neglect their own needs.
One client runs a successful business. She’s saved more than enough to retire early, should that become her goal. She’s an outstanding negotiator. The problem is, her diligence can sometimes cause her stress.
She and her husband have young kids.

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Parents Know Best

Mike Zaccardi  |  Sep 2, 2021

A DECADE AGO, I was sure I knew everything. I scrimped and saved as much as I could to fully fund my retirement accounts. My goal was to retire early. All that was fine for me.
My error: casting my credos on others. I gave my parents grief for what I considered to be their excessive spending and insufficient regard for long-term planning. I was wrong.
While it’s imperative for those in their 40s and 50s to have their retirement plan on track,

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Running on Empty

Greg Spears  |  Sep 2, 2021

THE GOVERNMENT will be able to pay full Social Security benefits only until 2033, according to the latest trustees’ report on the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. After that, Social Security’s trust fund will be depleted—and it could only cover 76% of scheduled benefits with the money it collects in payroll taxes.
The timetable is even worse for Medicare Part A, which pays for inpatient hospital care. Its trust fund will be empty in 2026.

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Lounging About

James McGlynn  |  Sep 1, 2021

AIRLINE TRAVEL during the pandemic can be frustrating. There’s mask-wearing on all trips, and COVID test results are required before boarding international flights. Then there’s the spate of last-minute cancellations, leaving passengers unhappily stranded at the gate.
On that score, Spirit Airlines has recently made headlines. I’ve also personally endured last-minute cancellations by British Airways and American Airlines. Even when you finally board a flight, many domestic airlines have suspended serving alcoholic beverages, except to first-class passengers.

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New and Improved

Richard Quinn  |  Sep 1, 2021

THE KITCHEN REMODEL is complete. It’s so new that we’re still trying to remember where we put the can opener. Truth be told, we haven’t quite learned how to work all the appliances, either.

Ready or not, our remodeled kitchen was recently put to the test by the visit of two of our children’s families—including five teenagers. There were ongoing warnings like “be careful how you close that drawer” and “don’t put that there,

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On the House

Howard Rohleder  |  Aug 31, 2021

WANT A CONSERVATIVE strategy that can help you prepare for college costs? Consider prepaying your mortgage.
In 1992, when my oldest was 10 years old, we moved to a new home. We opted for a 15-year mortgage at 7.625% with 33% down. With our son’s graduation set for 2000, we began to prepay the mortgage so the last payment would coincide with the month before he began his freshman year. Thereafter, the payments previously sent to the mortgage company were instead directed to the college.

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Running the Numbers

John Lim  |  Aug 31, 2021

I RECENTLY LISTENED to a podcast featuring Richard Thaler, the Nobel prize-winning economist. To say I’m a huge fan of his work is an understatement. Thaler has that rare ability to communicate a complex topic—behavioral economics—to a lay audience in a way that’s both accessible and enjoyable. His book Misbehaving offers a fascinating historical account of behavioral economics, a field he played a major role in developing.
But it was a casual comment that Thaler made toward the end of the interview that really caught my attention.

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The Kindest Cut

Dennis Friedman  |  Aug 30, 2021

MY WIFE AND I are planning a cross-country trip next year, and we need a new vehicle for the journey. The dealer we visited didn’t have a lot of SUVs to choose from because of the global semiconductor shortage. The SUVs in stock had dealer add-ons, such as a $1,900 alarm system and $1,500 for paint sealant. My thought: The dealer was trying to take advantage of the vehicle shortage by adding more options to drive up the price.

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Hotels Over Coffee

Kyle McIntosh  |  Aug 30, 2021

WHEN I MATCHED UP our monthly spending with the terms of the Starbucks Rewards Visa card, I calculated that I could potentially get a free drip coffee every day of the year. Given the proliferation of Starbucks in our Los Angeles suburb—including one within 400 yards of my office—it’s tempting to cover my caffeination by swiping my credit card.
After some deliberation, however, I’m going to focus instead on amassing travel rewards points. For the past five years,

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