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Save and Give First

I’VE DISCUSSED the election in my recent articles and cautioned against timing the market. But if market timing isn’t recommended, what can you do to keep your finances on track through this potentially turbulent period?
Last week, I suggested reviewing your finances through the lenses of leverage, liquidity and cash flow. This week, I’d like to share another framework—and this is one you could employ at any time and not just in times of worry.

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Don’t Play Politics

WITH THE ELECTION just a month away, many investors are worried about what lies ahead. Does it make sense to lighten up on stocks now, in advance of the election? I see at least four reasons not to sell:

Despite the polls, we can’t be sure what the result will be.
As we saw in 2016, nobody knows how the market will react to that result.
Even if the market reacts negatively, the effect may be temporary.

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High Anxiety

DO ELECTIONS AFFECT the stock market? Last week, I cited an analysis by Vanguard Group that attempted to answer this question. The study’s verdict: “It’s understandable to have concerns about the election. But as far as your portfolio and the markets are concerned, history suggests it will be a nonissue.” Specifically, Vanguard’s analysis cited evidence that investment returns are no different in election years than in non-election years.
I agree with Vanguard’s overall recommendation—to stay the course with your financial plan.

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When to Change

IN THE BOOK OF JOAN, a tribute to the comedian Joan Rivers, her daughter Melissa shares some of her late mother’s quirks. Among them: Her mother always drove 40 miles per hour. Regardless of where she was—on the highway, in a school zone, in the driveway—she always drove 40 miles per hour. Melissa’s conclusion: For passengers, this could be hair-raising, but at least her mother was consistent.
When it comes to investing,

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Just Say No

DOES WEALTH bring advantages? Yes—but it can also invite some unique challenges. Consider country music singer Kane Brown.
Shortly after moving into a new home, he went for a walk. He told his wife he’d be back in half an hour. But seven hours later, after getting lost, he ended up calling for help. What was unique about this episode is that, the entire time he was lost, Brown was on his own property.

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Eyeing the Exit

TWO WEEKS AGO, I described how to scour your portfolio for holdings that no longer fit your financial plan. At a high level, these investments fail at least one of two tests:

Risk. Some investments are just inherently unsuitable or excessively risky. Alternatively, an investment might be perfectly fine, but it represents a big risk simply because you own so much of it.
Return. You might have an investment that has chronically underperformed,

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Making Time

INVESTING IS JUST one ingredient for financial success. In fact, one of the best routes to financial security is also one of the most obvious: Increase your income.
In the middle of a pandemic, this might seem like a tall order. After all, most people’s work and home life have been turned upside down this year. But it’s for precisely that reason that I wanted to pull together the following time-tested strategies for increasing work productivity.

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Portfolio Checkup

THE STOCK MARKET hit a milestone last week, surpassing its pre-coronavirus all-time high. There’s a lot of debate about whether this is justified or sustainable. But the bottom line is, your portfolio today probably looks very different from the way it looked six months or a year ago. This may be a good time to take stock of what you own and to consider whether changes are warranted.
Back in February, I talked about the importance of asset allocation—and that’s a critical first step.

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Don’t Feel Bad

LAST SUNDAY, I discussed six strategies that could help you avoid decisions you’ll regret. But what if it’s too late—and you’ve already made a financial choice that’s left you unhappy? Now what?
Below are six notions to help you manage, and hopefully minimize, your regret over past decisions:
1. Your imagined happy ending likely wouldn’t have happened. Back in 2004, I recall seeing an iPod for the first time. A co-worker had received one for Christmas.

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Minimizing Regret

LAST WEEK, I learned the disappointing news that our next-door neighbors—possibly the nicest people in the world—have put their house on the market.
While I’m sorry to see them go, I understand their decision. With a growing family, they’re looking for more room. During the pandemic, in fact, many people are making changes of one sort or another. Will they be happy with their choices?
That brings me to a new project, developed by author Daniel Pink,

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Don’t Be That Person

THE TRICKY THING about investing is that there’s no single “right” approach. In an earlier article, I described the approach I favor—what I call the five minds of the investor, which involves being part optimist, pessimist, analyst, economist and psychologist.
But there are many other ways to be successful: You might invest in real estate, or follow a quantitative investment strategy, or invest in private companies. There are plenty of people who do very well with these approaches.

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Skewed Impression

THEY SAY A PICTURE is worth a thousand words. But what about a chart?
A few weeks back, I noted that the stock market had become unusually top-heavy, with just five companies—Alphabet (i.e. Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft—accounting for 20% of the overall value of the S&P 500. A chart that appeared online last week illustrates the impact of that imbalance. What it showed, in a nutshell, is that the overall S&P 500 is around breakeven for the year,

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What to Worry About

IN RECENT WEEKS, I’ve focused on some of the growing risks in the financial system. In the stock market, there are day trading enthusiasts and their obliging brokers. In Washington, there’s a Federal Reserve that has served up a seemingly bottomless punch bowl of new money.
Result: Despite the current recession and 11% unemployment, the stock market is close to its pre-coronavirus all-time high, fueled in part by the Fed’s policies, which have driven income-starved investors to take greater risk.

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Fed Up

LAST WEEK, I TALKED about some of the unsettling trends in the financial markets. In that article, I focused on the role of brokers and day traders, and noted that it takes two to tango. But it turns out the dance floor is quite a bit more crowded than that.
Yes, brokers and day traders are doing their part, but there’s another set of actors who are less visible but a whole lot more influential.

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Two Reasons to Worry

IN HER MOST RECENT book, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright quotes Mussolini. “If you pluck a chicken one feather at a time,” he said, “no one will notice.”
Don’t worry, I’m not veering into political commentary. But when I heard this quote, it brought to mind what we’ve been seeing in the financial markets this year. Taken individually, there’s nothing that strikes me as a clear red flag. But taken together, the current environment looks a little bit like a chicken that—all of a sudden—seems to have lost a whole lot of feathers.

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