THOMAS JEFFERSON said, “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
It’s well known that we tend to believe what we want or what fits our preconceived notions. But this is getting out of control. Here’s what drives me nuts on the misinformation superhighway:
1. “Health care is unaffordable.” There’s no denying health care is expensive and insurance premiums can be a heavy financial burden. And, yes, surveys find that Americans think health care is unaffordable.
I’M LOOKING AT MY credit card statement and I have a month-end balance of $3,475. My other credit card has almost $1,200 owed on it. My property taxes, automobile insurance and home insurance are due. I have an appointment in a few days to see my lawyer about my trust. He charges $450 an hour. Rachel and I are going on two weekend getaways in the next two weeks.
But I’m not rattled about all these expenses.
WHAT DOES A GOOD financial life look like? Here’s a quixotic roadmap—comprised of 45 steps:
Stuff part of your babysitting or lawn mowing money in a Roth IRA. Suggest to your parents that they should encourage this sort of behavior—by subsidizing your contributions.
Get a credit card when you head off to college, charge $5 every month and always pay off the balance in full and on time. You’ll soon have an impressive credit score.
AS I’VE BUILT out HumbleDollar over the past few years, I’ve come to view the site not merely as a place where folks can learn about financial issues, but as a community that thinks about money in a unique way.
This shows up repeatedly in articles from guest contributors, with their focus on topics like spending thoughtfully, helping family, behavioral finance, indexing and achieving financial freedom. It’s a community where folks are trying to be rational about money,
WHEN I TAUGHT economics, I would present students with the financial misunderstandings that people often have—and which the study of economics can help them avoid. Examples? Here are five widespread misconceptions:
Mistake No. 1: The rarer something is, the more valuable it is. Economics really doesn’t care about rare things—meaning those things that are few in number. Instead, economics deals with scarce things, which are things for which there’s greater demand than current ways to fulfill that demand.
WHEN WALL STREET builds a better mousetrap, investors are generally the mouse. Want to avoid getting caught by the Street’s costly, fad-driven selling machine? Here are a dozen principles that have served me well as I’ve helped folks manage their money:
Accept that markets are generally efficient. This means that, at any given moment, individual securities are priced correctly and incurring additional costs in hopes of finding a mispricing is wasteful—though apparent mispricings will often seem obvious in retrospect.
MONEY MAY SEEM important—and it is. But it isn’t nearly as important as we imagine. Want a little perspective on your money? First, think about your net worth or how much you earn. Then ask yourself these eight questions. How much would you give:
To have your current life, but be 10 years younger?
To have a deceased friend or family member back in your life?
To avoid the parts of your job you dislike?
WHAT DO YOU consider the important financial ideas? No doubt we’d all come up with a different list—sometimes radically different—and what we deem important likely says a lot about how we handle our money.
For my own list, I think less about practical financial concepts—things like indexing and asset location—and more about the big ideas that should guide our financial decision-making. Here are seven of those ideas, all of which heavily influence how I manage my own money:
IT’S FIVE WEEKS until the end of the year—which is five weeks during which you can do some valuable financial housekeeping. Here are seven recommendations:
1. Give tax efficiently. In the past, charitable contributions were a direct and easy way to lower your tax bill. But with the recent tax law changes, which include a big hike in the standard deduction and limits on some itemized deductions, this strategy doesn’t work as well.
I HAVE SPENT 33 years writing and thinking about money. I’m not sure it’s the most uplifting way to spend one’s life, but it’s kept me busy and—for the most part—out of trouble.
Two years ago, I took some of the financial ideas that have especially intrigued me over the past three decades, and I brought them together in a slim volume called How to Think About Money. The book proved surprisingly popular,
JORDAN PETERSON, a Canadian clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto, has thundered onto the cultural scene, thanks in large part to his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. I began reading with healthy skepticism, but quickly became a fan.
Not that the doctor and I agree on all points. But the book immediately confronted my intellectual laziness in a careful but unavoidable way.
YOU’RE UNLIKELY to get the right answers—unless you ask the right questions.
That’s especially true when it comes to managing money. We have answers thrust in our faces all the time, as marketers and salespeople exhort us to buy this mutual fund, that car, this stock, that home and this insurance policy.
But are these really what we want or need? It’s hard to know unless we ask the right questions. There’s ample evidence that many folks end up with financial products they don’t need and spend money in ways that bring little or no happiness.
WE CAN GATHER financial facts and research issues. But what we learn will always be tainted by what we’ve experienced.
As I mentioned last week, anecdotal evidence often proves more powerful than statistics. I’m talking here about the same phenomenon—but writ larger. What we read in articles and books is scant competition for the informational scraps we collect throughout our lives: the comments our parents made, the milieu we grew up in, the stories we hear from colleagues,
A CURIOUS THING happened in Stockholm in 2013. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prize in economics to three academics who had developed theories about stock prices. What was odd was that two of the recipients—Eugene Fama and Robert Shiller—couldn’t have been more opposed in their viewpoints.
Fama believes that stock prices are always rational and that there’s no such thing as a market bubble. Shiller believes that stock prices are often irrational and that bubbles do occur.
AS WE AGE, OUR perspective on money slowly shifts. How so? Below are 11 changes I see in myself and my contemporaries, those also in their 50s and 60s. Admittedly, some of these changes are more aspirational than actual. We don’t behave quite as wisely as we imagine—but we are, at least, trying to be wise.
We’re less confident we can beat the market, but more confident we know what we’re doing.
We are freer with our money—but more calculating with our time.