Think Bigger

Jonathan Clements  |  June 3, 2017

To be prudent managers of our own money, we need to read the small print—but we also need to keep an eye on the big picture.
To that end, whenever we make a financial decision, we should ponder three key questions: What’s the tradeoff, does the choice make sense given our broader financial life, and will we feel as good about the decision tomorrow as we do today?
Trading Off. Suppose we remodel the bathroom,

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Risky Business

Jonathan Clements  |  May 6, 2017

Is “smart beta” truly smarter and better?
The world of smart beta, sometimes called factor investing, used to be fairly easy to grasp. In 1981, academic Rolf Banz noted that small-company stocks didn’t just outperform their larger brethren. Rather, they outperformed by more than could be explained by their extra risk, as reflected in greater share price volatility. Similarly, in 1992, finance professors Eugene Fama and Kenneth French documented the strong performance of bargain-priced value stocks—and noted that this couldn’t be explained by volatility,

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No, We Can’t

Jonathan Clements  |  April 1, 2017

Most of us will never be fabulously wealthy and we’ll never earn huge incomes. Self-help authors, get-rich-quick seminars and motivational speakers might try to convince us otherwise. But if we turn to these folks for assistance, they’re the ones who typically make heaps of money—at our expense.
Such hucksterism doesn’t just carry a short-term cost, however. It also causes us to think about our lives in the wrong way, leaving us with an unwarranted sense of failure and distracting us from the right path forward.

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Wall Street Story

Jonathan Clements  |  March 4, 2017

We’re a nation divided, two camps clinging fervently to their own unshakeable beliefs and baffled at the nonsense that the other camp accepts as truth.
Yes, you guessed it: We’re talking about money management. Let’s call the two camps the Sharks and the Jets. What divides them? Here are seven fault lines:
1. Get Rich vs. Meet Goals. The Jets have one overriding goal—they want to make heaps of money—and they’ll hop any investment train that can get them there.

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More from Your Money

Jonathan Clements  |  February 4, 2017

Want to make your dollars work harder? Here are 11 of my favorite strategies. In each case, you can find additional information by clicking through to HumbleDollar’s online money guide.
1. Fund a Roth IRA—and let it double as your emergency fund. Ideally, you want to leave your Roth untouched, so you milk as much tax-free growth from the account as possible. But if you need to repair the car or replace the roof,

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Messing With Our Heads

Jonathan Clements  |  January 1, 2017

It’s a new year—and with it comes our new address: HumbleDollar.com. Why the change? If you spend some time on the site, you’ll discover I have made some big changes:

The entire contents of the Jonathan Clements Money Guide, my annual financial guide, are now housed on HumbleDollar and available at no charge. HumbleDollar is, I like to think, the internet’s best organized, most comprehensive source of personal finance information.

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Reflect, Pause and Focus

Jonathan Clements  |  October 28, 2016

Want to get more out of your money? Whether you’re spending or investing, try this three-pronged strategy:
1. Reflect
There’s ample evidence that most of us aren’t good at investing or figuring out what will make us happy. Looking to improve? Spend a little time pondering the past.
When during your life were you happiest—and what were you doing? This may help you figure out whether you should change careers and what you might do with your spare time or with your retirement.

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By the Book

Jonathan Clements  |  September 1, 2016

Today marks the launch of my new book, How to Think About Money. It’s a small book—just 41,000 words—but I like to think it contains some big ideas. My hope: How to Think About Money will change the way folks view their financial life, so they worry less about money, make smarter financial choices and squeeze more happiness out of the dollars that they have.
I’m anxious for the book to garner a large readership and have priced it accordingly.

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Taxing Matters

Jonathan Clements  |  June 25, 2016

We’re seeing a backlash against globalization—and Brexit is just the latest example. Across the developed world, the free movement of trade and people is being called into question. The big concern for investors: If trade and migration are curtailed, will economic growth suffer, hurting corporate profits?
After yesterday’s market decline, the S&P 500 is sitting 4% below its May 2015 all-time high. This lackluster performance has no doubt disappointed many investors. But arguably, we should be grateful we haven’t been hit with a brutal market decline.

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Foreign Affairs

Jonathan Clements  |  May 1, 2016

I have never been to Japan and can’t claim any special knowledge of the country—and yet lately it’s been much on my mind. Japan is today’s poster child not only for wretched long-run stock market performance, but also for what happens to economic growth when the workforce contracts. Still, Japan’s troubles make me an even bigger advocate of investing abroad. Below, I explain why.
Never Going Back
In late 2008 and early 2009,

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Muddling Along

Jonathan Clements  |  March 4, 2016

Ten-year Treasury notes are currently yielding 1.9%. That means today’s buyers will likely lose money, once inflation and taxes are figured in—and yet demand remains robust, as evidenced by 2016’s rise in Treasury bond prices. The healthy appetite for Treasurys partly reflects the vast amount of excess capital sloshing around the global financial markets, as well as the tiny payouts on alternatives such as money-market funds and savings accounts. But it also reflects the current fear engendered by both stocks and lower-quality bonds.

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Special Edition

Jonathan Clements  |  January 20, 2016

Welcome to this special edition of my newsletter. I hadn’t planned to put out another of these free newsletters until March. But with the S&P 500-stock index down 13% from its May 2015 high, it seems like an apt time to address market valuations and discuss what folks ought to do with their portfolio.
What’s Happening
Stocks started 2016 with a thud—and there’s been almost nowhere to hide.

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Doing Better

Jonathan Clements  |  January 1, 2016

It’s January 1—a day of great hope. Those New Year’s resolutions to save more still seem achievable. Nobody’s investment results have yet fallen behind the market averages. Market pundits can still fantasize that this year they’ll be proven right. In this spirit of optimism, check out my 16 ways to improve your life in 2016. Below, you’ll also find some thoughts on bond-market risk.
16 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2016
1.

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Sprechen Sie Dividend?

Jonathan Clements  |  December 1, 2015

I don’t trade very often, let alone buy new funds. But there’s a good chance I’ll purchase the no-load Vanguard International High Dividend Yield Index Fund, which is slated to be launched this month. It will charge 0.3% in annual expenses for the Admiral Shares, which require a $10,000 minimum investment, and 0.4% for the Investor Shares, which will have a $3,000 minimum.
In theory, it shouldn’t matter whether a stock pays a dividend.

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Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

Jonathan Clements  |  September 11, 2015

As I watch the recent market turmoil, three thoughts come to mind—and one great hope. First, I feel like a shopper waiting for the next sale. As of yesterday’s market close, the S&P 500 was down a relatively modest 8% from its May high. If this drags on, without any further decline, I’ll eventually do a little buying and selling, to bring my holdings back into line with my target portfolio percentages. But to get enthusiastic about stocks,

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