No Kidding

Jonathan Clements  |  December 8, 2018

DO CHILDREN BRING happiness? As someone who has invested heavily in small people over the years—I have two children and two stepchildren—I want to believe the answer is “yes.” But the evidence suggests otherwise.
This, I realize, is a touchy subject, so let me offer a few crucial caveats before you fire off that fiery email. The studies cited here offer conclusions based on broad averages. Your experience could be entirely different. Moreover, it may be that children give special meaning to our lives,

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The View From Here

Jonathan Clements  |  November 24, 2018

HOW THINGS LOOK depend on where you stand. Trying to figure out how to respond to the market drop? After the initial slump, a brief rally and then another decline, the S&P 500 is down 10% from its September all-time closing high of 2930.75.
History suggests that, five years from now, share prices will be no lower than they are today, and 10 years from now they’ll be handsomely higher. But at times like this,

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Fanning the Flames

Jonathan Clements  |  November 10, 2018

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY be wrong with saving like crazy, so you can retire early? That’s the notion behind the Financial Independence/Retire Early, or FIRE, movement. Yet lately, I’ve read a lot of carping about FIRE, both in articles and in the emails I receive.
Just last week, those complaints got yet another airing in The Wall Street Journal. Earlier, Suze Orman weighed in, arguing you need at least $5 million to retire early.

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Warning Shot

Jonathan Clements  |  October 26, 2018

RECENT MARKET turbulence, including today’s sharp stock market drop, has been a wakeup call for many investors. Feeling queasy? It isn’t too late to make portfolio changes: The S&P 500 may be down 9% from its all-time high, but it’s still up an eye-popping 293% since March 2009.
Here are three quick calculations that might spur you to action—or help ease your mind:
1. How much cash do you need from your portfolio over the next five years?

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Thinking About Money

Jonathan Clements  |  October 20, 2018

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,

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A Good Life

Jonathan Clements  |  October 6, 2018

IS THIS A MOMENT of cultural change? I see glimpses of a new way of thinking. The New York Times recently ran articles on both the cult of thrift and the financial independence/retire early—or FIRE—movement. Words like mindfulness, purpose and meaning have gained new currency. U.S. household debt is growing, but it’s still barely higher than a decade ago. The national savings rate even shows signs of improving.
Maybe this is yet another reverberation from the Great Recession.

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My Favorite Questions

Jonathan Clements  |  September 15, 2018

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.

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Tell Us a Story

Jonathan Clements  |  September 1, 2018

YOU MENTION to a colleague that longtime smokers shorten their life expectancy by an average of 10 years. Your colleague responds by talking about his grandmother who smoked a pack every day until she died at age 98. We all know that the statistic should trump the anecdote. But on the conversational scoreboard, it’s one point for both sides—and, three weeks later, you can’t help but recall the grandmother’s story.
The same thing happens with personal finance all the time.

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No Place Like Home?

Jonathan Clements  |  August 18, 2018

WE CAN’T CONTROL the financial markets. But we can pretty much guarantee we’ll pocket whatever the stock and bond markets deliver—by buying index funds. So why do I hear so much grousing from indexers?
At issue isn’t a failure of index funds, but rather a failure of investors’ expectations. Over the past few months, I’ve heard from countless hardcore indexers who have done the sensible thing and built globally diversified portfolios. Often, they own some variation of the classic three-fund portfolio: a total U.S.

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Try This at Home

Jonathan Clements  |  August 4, 2018

FOR THE PAST MONTH, I’ve been inviting readers to test a rough-and-ready financial tool called the Two-Minute Checkup. The tool is designed to provide a quick initial financial assessment.
The hope: It’ll eventually be one component of a larger website and app that help folks figure out what financial steps they need to take and then nudges them to follow through. This reflects a notion that’s been much on my mind in recent years: Improving America’s personal finances is partly about education—but it’s also partly about finding ways to change behavior.

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My One and Only

Jonathan Clements  |  July 7, 2018

IS IT TIME TO STOP messing around with our portfolios—and go for radical simplicity? I’ve been asking myself that question in recent months, as I eye the growing list of funds that offer broadly diversified “one-stop shopping” portfolios built solely with low-cost index funds.
Take Vanguard Target Retirement 2050 Fund, which invests its assets in four Vanguard index funds and is geared toward those retiring in 2050 or thereabouts. The 2050 fund has a $1,000 investment minimum and charges just 0.15% a year,

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Getting Up There

Jonathan Clements  |  June 2, 2018

DEPENDING ON WHO you talk to, we have a major problem in the U.S. with productivity growth, economic growth, the trade deficit, the budget deficit, public sector pensions, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid—or, if folks are feeling especially gloomy, perhaps all of the above. But the reality is, these issues are, at least in part, merely symptoms of a far larger problem.
What’s that? We’re rapidly approaching the point where we don’t have enough workers producing the goods and services that society needs.

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Where Money Grows Up

Jonathan Clements  |  May 5, 2018

HUMBLEDOLLAR ISN’T THE FINANCIAL website for everybody. Instead, it’s the place that folks end up after they have made their fair share of youthful financial mistakes—and they’re ready to settle down and get serious about money. I even briefly toyed with adding a tagline to the site: “Where Money Grows Up.”
What does grown-up money look like? It’s less about the size of your nest egg—and more about attitude. Here are 21 signs you’re a HumbleDollar reader:

When your neighbors show off their remodeled kitchen,

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Jonathan Clements  |  April 1, 2018

THERE ARE MANY FINANCIAL DEBATES that shouldn’t be debates at all. Folks strike strident poses, but often their positions don’t reflect a careful weighing of the arguments. Rather, they either have a vested interest or their ego is invested. Think of commission-hungry insurance agents who pound the table for cash-value life insurance, or retirees who took Social Security early and then insist that early is always best.
In most of these cases, if we marshal the facts and apply some reasoning,

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Making a Difference

Jonathan Clements  |  March 3, 2018

TRYING TO BEAT THE MARKET isn’t just a risky endeavor that will almost certainly end in failure. It’s also unnecessary and, arguably, an astonishing waste of money and time.
As I grow older, the clock ticks ever more loudly in my head. I hate to be kept waiting. I keep chores to a minimum. I try to eliminate activities from my day that bring little pleasure and have no purpose. I think hard before acquiring new possessions,

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