I’VE LATELY BEEN having a hard time sleeping—and I have a pretty good idea why. It has to do with two words that keep bouncing around inside my head. If you let them, those two words will also keep you up at night. They’re powerful because there’s no end to them. You ask, “What are the two terrible words?” The answer: what if.
What ifs are about what could happen in the future and,
A LOT OF INVESTMENT math focuses on how money grows over time. But as an attorney who’s worked with many clients hoping to retire in comfort, I find myself thinking more about risk—and how the math can work against us. Consider five sets of numbers:
Inflation’s toll: 0.98
Got cash? If you multiply that sum by 0.98, you’ll see your money’s purchasing power a year from now. This assumes 2% inflation, which is the Federal Reserve’s stated target.
AT LEAST ONCE A DAY, I find myself saying, “Another truism of financial planning is….” To be honest, I don’t know whether the 12 concepts below meet the strict definition of “truism,” but I’ve found them hugely helpful in navigating the world of personal finance:
1. There are always two answers to every question. There’s the mathematical answer and there’s the “how do you feel about it” answer. It’s okay—and, in fact,
DURING MY SCHOOL days growing up in India, my exposure to English literature was confined to textbooks that reprinted essays and short stories, or portions thereof. One of them was a humorous piece by Stephen Leacock from his book Winnowed Wisdom.
The excerpt was titled “Old Proverbs Made New” and it seemed funny even to a middle-schooler with a limited grasp of the English language. It argued, with examples, that proverbs get outdated and need to be rewritten.
THERE ARE MANY WAYS to fritter away our wealth. Pay high investment costs. Day trade stocks. Buy timeshares. Marry a spender. Purchase variable annuities. Retire too early. Buy leveraged exchange-traded funds. Mimic the spending of our wealthy friends. The list goes on and on.
But anybody can ruin themselves slowly—and plenty of people do. What’s really attention grabbing is when it happens quickly. Want to blow up your financial life? Here are nine ways to ruin yourself in a hurry:
BEING A BOOKWORM, I’ve read countless tomes on investing and personal finance. Many were helpful, but my favorite isn’t even about finance. Instead, my vote goes to Stephen Covey’s masterpiece, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Surprised? What does a self-improvement book about character development have to do with finance? The connection between the two didn’t occur to me until I recently listened to a podcast on personal finance books.
IT’S GETTING TO THAT time when New Year’s resolutions start falling by the wayside. Most people don’t worry too much about this. But it would be nice if there were a way to give resolutions more of a shelf life.
Todd Herman, a performance coach who has trained dozens of Olympic athletes, offers one possible solution. He calls it the “90-day year.” The premise is that a year is just too long a timeframe.
IF YOU SAW $20 on the sidewalk, you’d pick it up, right? Unfortunately, when we buy stocks and stock funds, there are no guarantees we’ll emerge a winner. But elsewhere in our financial life, $20 bills abound—and it often takes little effort and scant risk to grab this free money.
Looking for some easy financial wins? Here are 15 of them:
If you’re eligible for a Roth IRA and you have the spare cash to fund the account,
‘TIS THE SEASON for making predictions and financial recommendations for the year ahead. Since everyone else is doing it, I figured I’d hop on the bandwagon. Here are my 10 predictions and recommendations for 2021:
1. The stock market will fluctuate, but company dividends will be relatively stable.
John Pierpont Morgan was asked what the stock market would do next. According to legend, he answered, “It will fluctuate.” If only financial experts were so truthful today.
OVER THE PAST FOUR years, readers have a cast an eye on almost 8.8 million of HumbleDollar’s pages. But which have they looked at most often? Below are the 20 most widely read articles since HumbleDollar’s launch at year-end 2016:
Terms of the Trade (2019) by Jim Wasserman
Nobody Told Me (2020) by Jonathan Clements
Farewell Money (2019) by Richard Quinn
He Gets, She Gets (2020) by James McGlynn
Don’t Delay (2020) by Dennis Friedman
The Taxman Cometh (2020) by James McGlynn
Still Learning (2019) by Richard Quinn
Don’t Get an F (2019) by James McGlynn
My Four Goals (2020) by Jonathan Clements
27 Things to Do Now (2020) by Jonathan Clements
Farewell Yield (2020) by Jonathan Clements
Ten Commandments (2018) by Richard Quinn
Enough Already (2017) by Jonathan Clements
Flunking the Test (2020) by Richard Connor
The Tipping Point (2018) by Jonathan Clements
12 Investment Sins (2020) by John Lim
This Too Shall Pass (2020) by Richard Connor
Unanswered (2018) by Jonathan Clements
45 Steps to Success (2019) by Jonathan Clements
The $121,500 Room (2018) by Joel M.
YES, MONEY BUYS STUFF—and we all need some stuff. But that’s probably its most prosaic use. Want to make the most of the dollars that pass through your hands? Here are a dozen other things that money can buy:
The warm glow that comes from helping those who are less financially fortunate.
The extra time you purchase by hiring someone to do chores you dislike.
The fun of daydreaming about all the experiences and possessions you might buy.
SO MUCH OF PERSONAL finance is focused on our future self—and that’s a challenge. Think about the standard prescriptions: Open an IRA. Maximize your 401(k). Save for college. Save for retirement. Build an estate plan.
These are all about the future—often the very distant future. An enormous amount of time and energy is spent planning for “someday.” But it’s equally important to focus on things that can be done to benefit you today.
IF MONEY ISSUES had the urgency of a broken air-conditioning system on a 100-degree day, we’d all be in great financial shape.
But all too often, financial troubles are years in the making. We bumble along, vaguely aware that things aren’t quite right. Sure enough, one day, the red lights are flashing and the alarm bells are ringing. But by then, it’s usually way too late to fix the problem—because the fix required taking action years earlier.
THE MARKETS AREN’T predictable—but the talking heads sure are. Like a dog with a favorite fire hydrant, financial commentators return to the same themes again and again.
The silver lining: There’s no need to waste hundreds of hours in 2021 reading the business section and watching financial news channels, because we already know what the pundits will be saying next year—and probably the year after that and the year after that. Look for these seven stories in 2021:
MONEY IS IMPORTANT. But how do we ensure it has the right importance in our life—and no more? Here are 11 signs we’ve got it about right:
We aren’t jealous of others or lust after the things they have.
We borrow when we must—but we never borrow so much that we stress ourselves out today or put our future self at risk.
We consciously spend a little less today so we enjoy the long-run happiness that comes with money in the bank and the knowledge that we can cope with financial adversity.