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Measure for Measure

Jonathan Clements  |  Aug 12, 2017

THIS BULL MARKET is more than eight years old, U.S. stocks are undoubtedly expensive and there’s even talk of war. Tempted to sell? Problem is, there was also ample reason to be worried three years ago and yet here we are, with shares both higher and more richly valued.
What to do? I fall back on my standard advice: Forget trying to forecast the market’s short-term direction and instead focus on taking the right amount of risk.

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Playing Your Cards

George Diaz  |  Jun 15, 2017

YOU’VE PROBABLY already asked yourself this question: Is it better for my credit score to have just one credit card—or many?
There’s no magic number, because it isn’t really about how many credit cards you have. Rather, what matters is your financial situation and how you handle your cards. For example, if you are just beginning to build a credit history, it’s best to have a single card. Try to follow three rules:

Pay your bills on time—and avoid late payments at all costs.

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Value for Money?

Dan Danford  |  May 11, 2017

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST challenge facing investors? Forget politics, low interest rates or high stock market valuations. I would argue there’s an even bigger challenge: How do you find financial advisors who are worth their fee?
On offer are brokerage firms, insurance companies, banks, mutual funds, accountants and independent advisory firms, all of them employing charming people who would love to help you. Problem is, there isn’t a lot of uniformity in the products and services they offer,

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Lessons Learned

Dennis Friedman  |  Apr 27, 2017

I HAVE MADE SOME glaring investment mistakes over the years. For instance, in my 20s, I was too conservative. I opened an individual retirement account and regularly invested the maximum annual contribution in a mortgage-backed bond fund. I still think about how much further ahead I would have been, if I had invested more of the money in stocks.
In my 30s, I received a $5,000 performance award from my employer. I wanted to invest the money,

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Wising Up

Kristine Hayes  |  Apr 25, 2017

IN THE 1990S, WHEN I started working fulltime, conventional wisdom suggested two possible routes to a comfortable retirement: Find a public sector job that offered a traditional pension plan or, alternatively, join the private sector and set aside 10% of my salary each year in my employer’s 401(k) plan. I was led to believe that if I followed either recommendation, I could sit back, let compound interest do its magic and achieve a financially secure retirement.

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Ten Commandments

Jonathan Clements  |  Apr 22, 2017

IMAGINE YOU HAD ONE shot at offering financial advice to a high school or college graduate. Your mission: Come up with 10 rules that’ll help your graduate succeed financially in the years ahead. What would you recommend? Here’s my list:
1. Question yourself. No doubt you’re entering the adult world with a slew of strong opinions—about what you want from life, what will make you happy, what you’re good at, what constitutes success and how to achieve it.

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Courtside Seat

Robert C. Port  |  Jan 16, 2017

EVERYTHING I KNOW about investing I learned in court. As part of my litigation practice, I represent investors harmed by the misconduct of stockbrokers, investment advisors and financial planners. Some cases can be brought in court. Most have to be arbitrated before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Many of these cases have common themes that teach important lessons about investing.
Lesson No. 1: Wall Street Doesn’t Have a Crystal Ball. We all know predicting the future is impossible.

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Buck Stops There

Jonathan Clements  |  Jan 4, 2017

A READER FROM Europe writes, “In your book, How to Think About Money, you suggest a U.S. investor might have 40% in U.S. stocks and 20% in non-U.S. stocks [plus 40% in U.S. bonds]. I understand that this tilt toward U.S. stocks reflects the fact that U.S. readers should keep most of their portfolio in dollar-denominated investments to avoid currency exchange risk. Since I live in Europe and I will retire in Euroland,

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Books

SINCE THE EARLY 1990s, Jonathan has written a novel and eight personal finance books—or nine, if you count the two editions of the Jonathan Clements Money Guide. All can be found on Amazon. But his latest book isn’t a solo effort, but rather a collaboration with 29 others. My Money Journey: How 30 People Found Financial Freedom—And You Can Too will be published by Harriman House in April 2023.

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Don’t Read This

Jonathan Clements  |  Nov 18, 2016

THE MARKET FOR intelligent financial writing is, alas, surprisingly small. Why? I believe there are three culprits.
First, many of us don’t care enough about our future selves. Sure, we care somewhat—but not so much that we’ll spend less today, let alone educate ourselves about how to prepare for retirement and other distant goals. Just check out the most popular personal-finance blogs. They focus on topics like coupons, credit cards and juggling debt. Most of us,

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Lemons to Lemonade

Jonathan Clements  |  Nov 16, 2016

AROUND THIS TIME of year financial advisors and the media start talking about taking tax losses. The notion: You sell underwater investments in your taxable account, and then use those realized capital losses to offset realized capital gains and up to $3,000 in ordinary income.
There’s nothing wrong with taking tax losses, though I think the notion is oversold. Unless you’re an active trader or a really bad investor, you probably won’t have any losses to take.

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Two Numbers

Jonathan Clements  |  Nov 12, 2016

WHAT’S THE STATE of your financial health? Forget your credit score, the past year’s handsome increase in your home’s value or how your salary compares to your brother-in-law’s. In the end, financial fitness comes down to two key numbers.
First, there’s your net worth, which is the value of your assets minus your debts. There’s some debate about what should be included. The easy answer: Don’t delude yourself by counting the value of your car,

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Keep the Faith

Jonathan Clements  |  Nov 5, 2016

FOREIGN STOCKS have become the investment that folks love to hate—and it’s easy to understand why. In the current decade’s first six full calendar years, foreign shares trailed the S&P 500 by almost nine percentage points a year—and they’re on track to lag behind the U.S. again in 2016.
But is this recent performance a good guide to the future? Almost certainly not. Foreign stocks are far less expensive than U.S. shares. On top of that,

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Don’t Be Yourself

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 22, 2016

WE’RE OFTEN encouraged to follow our instincts. But if we did that, many of us would sit on the couch drinking margaritas, eating Cheez Doodles and cruising online shopping sites, when we should be eating less, saving more and heading to the gym. Often, the key to a better life—financially and otherwise—is to get ourselves to take action we instinctively resist.
This is obvious advice if we’re overweight, rarely exercise, panic when the stock market declines and find our credit-card balances balloon with every passing month.

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Sobering Thoughts

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 15, 2016

IF YOU DROVE DRUNK but got home unscathed, you wouldn’t wake up the next morning and think, “I guess it’s okay to get behind the wheel after 13 beers.” Yet, when handling our finances, we do that all the time.
“Markets generate a lot of data, but they don’t generate a lot of clear feedback,” writes academic Terrance Odean in his foreword to Michael Ervolini’s thoughtful book, Managing Equity Portfolios. “Outcomes are noisy.

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