I AM AMAZED OUR schools don’t require kids to learn three important life skills: the basics of nutrition, a thing or two about parenting, and how to handle money. I’m no expert on nutrition and my parenting is a work in progress. But I do have a background in personal finance: When folks ask me what to read to deepen their financial knowledge, I have a ready list of titles.
Recently, however, someone asked me for a more advanced list—a “201”
IT MIGHT SEEM LIKE an obscure academic question: Do stocks truly follow a random walk or can we count on them reverting to the mean? Depending on which side we favor in this debate, it can make a huge difference to how we invest—and to our confidence as investors.
Like me, many HumbleDollar readers have most or all their investment dollars in index funds. A key reason we invest this way: It’s impossible to predict which stocks will shine because they follow a random walk.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE to manage money prudently? Yes, we should save diligently, favor stocks, diversify broadly, hold down investment costs, buy the right insurance and so on. But all these smart financial moves stem from key assumptions we make about our lives and the world around us.
What assumptions? I believe prudent money management starts with five core notions—which, as you’ll discover below, sometimes contradict one another:
1. We’ll live a long life.
FORGET THE PANDEMIC, bitcoin, inflation and other topics that were supposedly on the minds of investors. Last month, it seems HumbleDollar’s readers were more interested in the nuts and bolts of personal finance—buying the right insurance, managing taxes, getting organized, investing cash. Here are May’s seven most popular articles:
“I typically keep enough cash to finance our normal expenditures for at least six years,” writes Andrew Forsythe. “In fact, with the current bubbly stock market,
I TURN AGE 58 today—and, a few days ago, HumbleDollar turned four. The good news: Only one of us is slowing down.
In 2020, HumbleDollar garnered 3.6 million pageviews, up from 2.6 million in 2019, 1.7 million in 2018 and 900,000 in 2017, which was our first year. Here’s a closer look at those numbers and what’s been happening here at HumbleDollar:
Earlier this week, I posted a list of the 20 most widely read articles from the past four years.
I AM THE FIRST to admit that I’m no star when it comes to math. I was so enthralled with calculus in college that I took it twice. To make matters worse, math keeps changing. Just ask a 10-year-old to show you how to multiply.
I am not alone. At the high school from which I graduated in 1961, the current math proficiency rate is 2% The national average is 46%. The lowest ranked state is at 22%.
BACK IN AUGUST, Adam Grossman wrote a thought-provoking article about regret. He offered six strategies to minimize the chances you’ll end up kicking yourself for a choice you made. That got me thinking about the financial decision I most regret.
I bought a timeshare.
I know this admission will generate strong reactions in the personal finance community. I’d like to claim the ignorance of youth, but I was in my early 50s. I’d like to blame my wife,
AFTER YEARS of handwringing, you finally concede that it’s all but impossible to beat the market over the long haul, so you shift your portfolio into index funds. Next up: the truly tough decisions.
Almost every writer for—and reader of—HumbleDollar is a fan of indexing, and there’s no doubt that index funds are a wonderful financial tool. But how will you use that tool? Let the bickering begin.
The differences of opinion show up among the articles we run on HumbleDollar.
MICHAEL BURRY waited years to be rewarded for his bet against subprime mortgages. Actor Christian Bale, in the movie version of Michael Lewis’s book, The Big Short, portrays Burry curled up in the fetal position on the floor of his office. When the financial crisis finally hit in 2008, he made $100 million.
I’m no Michael Burry and the chance I’ll ever see $100 million is about 100 million to one.
INDEX DESIGNERS FTSE Russell and MSCI are jumping on China’s A train this year—and index-fund investors should watch out. There’s a $6 trillion wild-and-woolly domestic Chinese stock market slowly chugging your way, whether you like it or not. Yes, it may bring riches—and it’ll definitely bring huge risks.
In fact, your emerging markets index fund may already have 34% in Chinese stocks, and it could exceed 50% in years to come. Sound unnerving? For those with a position in an emerging markets index fund—or are considering one—good alternatives are hard to come by.
IN MY ROLE AS a financial planner, I hear a lot of stories. By far the most appalling and upsetting relate to life insurance. All too often, insurance salespeople leave clients with policies that are simultaneously overpriced, inadequate and inappropriate.
Are you evaluating a policy? Here’s a quick summary of the most important considerations:
What type of coverage should I have? Life insurance comes in two primary flavors: term and permanent. Term insurance,
THE FEDERAL RESERVE caught the market by surprise this past week. In fact, it seemed like Fed policymakers caught even themselves by surprise.
Previously, they had been forecasting that interest rates would stay near zero through 2023, on the assumption that inflation would remain manageable. But as the country has emerged from hibernation, inflation has run much hotter than expected. As a result, an increasing number of Fed officials now expect they’ll have to raise rates much sooner.
TYPE THE WORDS “safe withdrawal rate” into Google and it’ll return more than a million results. I’m not surprised by this. People debate practically everything in personal finance, but the debate around this question is particularly intense.
For at least 25 years, the conventional wisdom has been that it’s safe for retirees to base portfolio withdrawals on the 4% rule. But not everyone agrees. Some feel that percentage should be higher, while others feel it ought to be lower.
WHEN IT COMES to financial questions, there are two common reasons people disagree. Sometimes, they disagree about the facts—whether, say, interest rates are headed higher. But sometimes, people disagree for another reason: They see the world through different lenses.
Last week, I mentioned that Ray Dalio, a prominent hedge fund manager, had recently said that bonds “have become stupid.” I disagreed, but not because of the facts. There’s no disputing the impact of today’s low rates.
A TEL AVIV WOMAN named Anat decided to surprise her elderly mother with a gift. Noticing that her mother had been sleeping on the same worn-out mattress for decades, Anat replaced it while her mother was away from the house. She then took the old mattress out to the curb.
It wasn’t until the next morning that her mother noticed the change and asked what had happened to the old mattress. Anat explained that she had put it out with the trash,