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More for Your Money

AT SEVEN O’CLOCK this morning, as my wife and I tried in vain to wake our children for school, we heard a similar response as we went from room to room: “My head hurts.” Nobody wanted to get up.
I have to say, I don’t blame them. It’s the middle of winter here in Boston. The sky is gray and the thermometer seems stuck below zero. It can be hard for anyone to feel motivated,

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First Things First

IN A CLASSIC EPISODE of the sitcom 30 Rock, Tina Fey’s character, Liz Lemon, muses about the size of her nest egg: “I have money saved. Two years. Maybe four, if I cancel cable.”
Not worried about the size of your cable bill? In all likelihood, you’re fretting about one aspect of your financial life—and probably more than one. You might be wrestling with housing costs, student loans, the cost of putting your own children through school,

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Ten Principles

I RECENTLY LEARNED a new expression, TL;DR, which stands for “too long; didn’t read.” Twitter users and bloggers use it when they want to summarize an idea for readers who are short on time. It’s the modern equivalent of saying, “Here’s the executive summary.”
Coincidentally, this week, two people separately asked me what I see as the most important principles in personal finance. In other words, they wanted the TL;DR version, without too much commentary.

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Right but Wrong

I’M A BIG BELIEVER in transparency, so I’d like to tell you a little about my personal investments. As you might guess, the overwhelming majority of my money is allocated to simple, low-cost index funds—the same things I recommend in my writing and for my clients. That is true almost without exception. But today, I would like to describe one of those exceptions.
Many years ago, before I entered the investment industry, I purchased shares in a small mutual fund called the Mairs &

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Growing Up (V)

ONE OF MY FAVORITE activities as a child was to play with a tomahawk at my grandparents’ house. Yes, that was in the days before the Consumer Product Safety Commission. But in this case, it wouldn’t have made a difference: This particular tomahawk was no toy, but rather the real thing. It belonged to my grandfather. His name was Walking Buffalo, and he was a member of the Assiniboine, a Native American tribe who live on the Plains of Montana.

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By the Book

WHEN I LOOK at today’s world, I often think of Charles Dickens’s famous line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Technology, including the web and smartphones, has made life so much more convenient.
Still, one thing I really miss from the “old days” is the experience of the traditional bookstore. Shopping online is great, but sometimes it’s easier to choose from a curated set of 10 books on a shelf than to sift through an unwieldy list of a thousand choices online.

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Go Fish

WHEN AN INVENTOR goes on record stating that his invention is “a monster” that he’d like to “blow up,” you know there’s a problem.
Such is the case with Ted Benna, who back in 1980 created the first 401(k) retirement plan. Since then, his invention has grown to become the dominant retirement vehicle for millions of Americans.
Why is Benna so negative on his creation? The problem, in a word: complexity. According to Benna,

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Favorite Websites

WHAT ARE YOUR favorite financial websites? That question was put to HumbleDollar’s writers. Here’s what they came up with:

Steven Aguilar
Kristine Hayes
Adam M. Grossman
Anika Hedstrom

Previous: Lists

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Site Seeing (Part III)

IN TODAY’S POLITICAL environment, discourse has become ever more fractious. The investment world, in my view, isn’t much better. Those who disagree generally talk past—rather than listen to—one another.
That is why, in my work as an investment advisor, I maintain a “team of rivals” approach, reading and listening to diverse opinions. Behavioral scientists often talk about confirmation bias—the tendency to seek out only information that confirms our preconceived notions. To counteract this bias,

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Footing the Bill

IN MY HOMETOWN of Boston, there’s an old joke about our dismal winter weather. “February,” they say, “is the longest month of the year.” I don’t disagree and so, each year at Presidents’ Day, my family tries to get away for a warm weather vacation.
On these trips, we often stay at the same hotel and, because of that, we have noticed certain patterns. Among them: Most years, there is the same large corporate gathering.

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Trust Issues

LIKE MOST PEOPLE, I’ve made my fair share of financial blunders. I’ve also had some successes. But I definitely spend more time beating myself up over my errors than celebrating my successes.
Undoubtedly, my biggest mistake fits into the relatively obscure category of asset location. If you aren’t familiar with the term, I can explain it by way of an example. Suppose you have two investment accounts: a retirement account and a standard, taxable account.

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Contain Yourself

WE’RE USED TO SEEING money as one of life’s limiting factors. But if you receive a financial windfall, money may no longer be the limitation it once was. While that might sound liberating, it can also create anxiety. The reality is, constraints serve a useful purpose: They provide structure. Without that structure, you may find yourself feeling rudderless.
I experienced this when I received a windfall several years back. I remember walking into an Apple Store,

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Take It Slow

ONE DAY BACK IN 2012, I received a life-changing windfall. Contrary to what you might imagine, however, that day was not very different from the day before it, or the day after. It went something like this: Woke up. Went to work. Came home. Thought about ways to splurge. Ultimately gave up and went to bed.
In other words, there was no visit to the Ferrari dealership, no trip to Las Vegas,

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