Not a Good Time

Nicholas Clements  |  June 27, 2017

IT WAS APRIL 29, 2009. My 12-hour workday had already begun when, at about 4:30 a.m., I received the call from Jonathan, my younger brother. He never calls at that hour. In fact, we never phone without first texting each other to determine the best time to talk. I sensed bad news and sure enough it was. Our father had been killed 36 hours earlier while riding his bicycle. In the months that followed,

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Precautionary Measures

Jonathan Clements  |  June 24, 2017

INVESTMENT CONTRARIANS are having a good year—but not a great one. In 2016, U.S. stocks outpaced foreign shares, smaller companies outperformed their bigger brethren and value stocks beat growth stocks. In 2017, all those roles have been reversed, with foreign shares, big-cap stocks and growth companies topping the performance charts.
For those of us who like to see the mighty fall and the downtrodden lifted up, this has been quite satisfying, except for one small issue: Even as the stock market’s leadership has changed,

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Seller’s Remorse?

Zach Blattner  |  June 22, 2017

AS I PREPARE TO MOVE FROM PHILLY to Boston this summer, I’ve struggled with how to handle my home. Do I sell the place and pocket the profit—or keep it as a rental property for future income and price appreciation? A quick Google search provides plenty of good reasons to choose either option. But when making a decision of this magnitude, what really matters is your personal situation—and that prompted me to sell. Here are my five reasons:

The financial benefits of renting out the place don’t outweigh the costs.

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Leaving Home Ain’t Easy

Jonathan Clements  |  June 21, 2017

SHOULD YOU MOVE when you retire? The numbers can be compelling—especially if you’re like my wife and me, and you live in New York City or one of its surrounding suburbs, where living costs are absurdly high. This was hammered home by the cost-of-living calculator cited by Kristine Hayes in her blog yesterday.
I discovered that, by leaving New York, we could cut our living expenses by almost 60% if we moved to Bismarck,

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Quitting Early

Kristine Hayes  |  June 20, 2017

I CELEBRATED MY 50TH BIRTHDAY a few weeks ago. Since then, I’ve found myself spending a lot of time thinking about numbers. Specifically, I’ve been musing about when I might be able to retire from my current fulltime job. Age 55, 58, 62? Or will it need to be later?
Several studies suggest the age at which most people leave the workforce has been steadily rising over the past several decades. This is likely due,

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Hard Choices

Jonathan Clements  |  June 17, 2017

FINANCIAL ASSETS can seem like mere numbers on an account statement, especially at times of stock and bond market turmoil. But hard assets feel more substantial: Your home, artwork and gold coins have a comforting physical presence.
But are they good investments? I’ve been perusing Financial Market History, a collection of essays edited by David Chambers and Elroy Dimson. The paperback costs $38.95 from Amazon, but the Kindle edition is available for free.

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Playing Your Cards

George Diaz  |  June 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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Site Seeing (Part IV)

Anika Hedstrom  |  June 13, 2017

WHEN I WAS IN GRADUATE SCHOOL, racking up my fair share of student debt at 6.8% interest, I knew I needed to get serious about financial education. I was studying finance, but had yet to encounter a personal finance class. It became my mission to filter through the endless websites and blogs to find what resonated with me. Here are my five go-to sites:
Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to be Rich,

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Jonathan Clements  |  June 10, 2017

EVEN BAD FINANCIAL PRODUCTS and strategies turn out okay for some investors. If that wasn’t the case, they probably wouldn’t attract enough customers to survive, no matter how aggressively they’re peddled. Still, some are so risky or so costly that the chances of a happy outcome are slim. Want to improve your odds of financial success? Here’s how I would categorize the products and strategies on offer today:
Dangerous

Buying stocks on margin
Leveraged exchange-traded index funds
Day trading
Short selling
Writing naked call options

Dubious

Cash value life insurance
Variable annuities
Equity-indexed annuities
Hedge funds
Market timing
Options trading
Structured products
Load funds
Unit investment trusts
Closed-end funds bought at the initial public offering
Non-traded REITs
Brokers on commission
Carrying a credit card balance

Proceed with Caution

Actively managed funds
Individual stocks
Bonds bought in the secondary market
Closed-end funds at a discount
Rental properties
Vacation homes
Interest-only mortgages
Reverse mortgages
Long-term care insurance
Claiming Social Security early

Promising

Index mutual funds
Exchange-traded index funds
High-yield savings accounts
Certificates of deposit
Treasury bonds
401(k) plans
IRAs
Health Savings Accounts
Term life insurance
Rewards credit cards
Owning your primary residence
Conventional mortgages
Home-equity lines of credit
Immediate fixed annuities
Deferred income annuities
Claiming Social Security late

The bottom line: With so many products in the promising category,

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Social Insecurity

Kristine Hayes  |  June 8, 2017

I RECENTLY ATTENDED A RETIREMENT READINESS seminar sponsored by the financial firm that holds most of my retirement savings. The first question the presenter asked was, “How many of you think you’ll be able to retire comfortably living off just your Social Security benefits?” I was surprised to see how many people in the audience raised their hands. But maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised: It turns many of these same people couldn’t guess the average monthly Social Security benefit—and most thought it was far higher than it really is.

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No Contest

Jonathan Clements  |  June 7, 2017

AS A YOUNG REPORTER in the late 1980s, trying to learn about investing, I read a slim 81-page volume with an unassuming title: Investment Policy. It remains one of the best investment books I’ve ever read.
Investment Policy was later reissued with a somewhat catchier title, Winning the Loser’s Game, and it’s now widely considered to be an investment classic. Over the years, the book has also been greatly expanded and the 2017 edition runs to 286 pages.

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Site Seeing (Part III)

Adam M. Grossman  |  June 6, 2017

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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June’s Newsletter

Jonathan Clements  |  June 3, 2017

IF WE THINK ABOUT OUR FINANCES too narrowly, there’s a risk we’ll make major mistakes—spending money in ways that leave us less happy, building an unbalanced portfolio, shortchanging crucial goals because we earlier committed dollars to items that weren’t our highest priorities. How can we avoid such mistakes? In June’s newsletter, which went out to email subscribers this morning, I offer three key questions to ask before making major financial decisions.

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Opening My Wallet

Nicholas Clements  |  June 1, 2017

SPENDING DIDN’T ALWAYS COME EASY to me. As a child, I had a small weekly allowance, the spending of which I carefully controlled. In boarding school, a treat for me was a Mars bar from the school “tuck shop”—a British term for a small candy store. As I entered my mid-teens and started to earn my own money, more often than not it went into my savings account. Only when I turned 16, and had my first car,

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Site Seeing (Part II)

Kristine Hayes  |  May 29, 2017

WHEN I REACHED MY MID-40s and realized I was halfway through my working life, I figured it was time to get serious about retirement planning. A scientist by training, I began to dissect the details of my retirement accounts, including how my money was invested and at what age I could begin penalty-free withdrawals. I discovered retirement at age 55 might be a viable option, but only if I started saving a larger percentage of my income and made intelligent investment decisions.

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