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.
THROUGHOUT THE DAY, we make countless snap judgments, often without realizing it. Think about navigating the grocery store. This involves a blizzard of decisions—which brand, what size, whether it’s good value, will it stay fresh—and yet we do so almost effortlessly.
Most of the time, this is a good thing. If we carefully pondered the assumptions behind every judgment we make, life would become painfully unproductive. Still, it’s helpful occasionally to question whether we’re misjudging the world,
MANAGING MONEY is ridiculously simple—and unbelievably hard.
Figuring out what we should do with our dollars is typically straightforward: We should save regularly, diversify broadly, rebalance occasionally and so on. Instead, the tough part is getting ourselves to do what we intellectually know is right.
Take the notion of buying low and selling high. Every investor knows that’s the goal—and yet, when the S&P 500 slumped 34% earlier this year, many folks just couldn’t bring themselves to buy stocks.
IT SEEMS QUAINT now, but a quarter century ago conversations would often degenerate into arguments over facts. How much do homes typically appreciate? How much does the average American have saved by retirement? What does a nursing home cost? Such questions would trigger tedious debates built on anecdotal evidence and half-remembered newspaper articles.
But as my father—who died in 2009—often remarked during the final decade of his life, there’s no point anymore in arguing over facts.
AS THE MARKET plunged earlier this year, I recalled the sage advice of billionaire investor Mark Cuban: “When you don’t know what to do, do nothing.” My wife and I are 100% in index funds, so doing nothing was easier for us than for more active investors. Still, we did take some action and, more important, learned some valuable lessons.
Examples? With the bear market apparently behind us, I decided to create a record of the steps we took,
YOU KNOW THOSE timeless financial principles? Sometimes they don’t age so well.
Since I started writing about money in 1985, all kinds of financial principles have gone out the window—and that’s continued right up until 2020. Indeed, if you’re still hewing to the financial wisdom of the 1980s, you’re likely hurting yourself today. Here are four examples:
1. Goodbye, Peter. In the late 1980s, America’s most celebrated fund manager was Fidelity Magellan’s Peter Lynch.
AS WE MAKE financial, political and other decisions, we’re bombarded with messages that supposedly offer helpful information. But as savvy consumers of news and advertising, we need to realize that we aren’t nudged just by the content of these messages. It’s also the packaging that can have a huge influence.
Below are 21 ways that information is packaged to make it more enticing. Think of this list as a follow-up to my earlier article,
THIS PANDEMIC HAS changed the way we live: Many people are physically distancing themselves, washing their hands more often and wearing a mask when they’re around others. But it’s also changed how I think about money—in six ways:
1. Emergency savings. Before the pandemic, I always thought a cash emergency fund equal to six months’ living expenses would be sufficient. Not anymore. The massive economic shutdown has led to millions of unemployed Americans—and it will take longer than six months for many of these folks to find work again.