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Grossman’s Eleven

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”

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Get a Life

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,

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Got to Believe

AS I’VE BUILT out HumbleDollar.com over the past few years, I’ve come to view the site not merely as a place where folks can learn about financial issues, but as a community that thinks about money in a unique way.
This shows up repeatedly in articles from guest contributors, with their focus on topics like spending thoughtfully, helping family, behavioral finance, indexing and achieving financial freedom. It’s a community where folks are trying to be rational about money,

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Mixing It Up

LOOKING TO BUILD an investment portfolio—or rethink the mix you already own? Check out HumbleDollar’s new portfolio-building guide.
The guide takes the most important advice from the site’s chapters on investing, markets and taxes, and turns it into nine simple steps that should help you build a sensible, low-cost portfolio of index funds. I’ve included step No. 1 below. If you like what you read, I encourage you to peruse the other eight steps.

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Out of the Swamp

WE CAN MEASURE our financial progress by the size of our net worth. But that’s hardly the only gauge. Equally important, I’d argue, is the evolution in how we think about money—and how we use it to improve our lives.
What does this journey look like? I picture it as having five stages:
1. Head above water. This is when you emerge from the primordial financial swamp and begin to walk upright.

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House Rules

FOLKS USED to say, “You can’t go wrong with real estate.” They sure don’t say that anymore. It’s been a rollercoaster dozen years for home prices—and some experts think another rough patch is in the offing.
Since mid-2006, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index first tumbled 27.4% and then bounced back 53.6%, for a cumulative 12-plus year gain of 11.5%, equal to 0.9% a year. Could we be facing another dip?

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Choosing Our Future

WHEN FOLKS have financial questions, they go hunting for the right answer. But what if there’s no right answer to be found?
To be sure, in retrospect, the correct answer is often crystal clear. Looking back at 2018, we should have owned growth stocks until September and then gone to 100% cash. If our home didn’t burn down and our health was good, we shouldn’t have bothered with homeowner’s and health insurance. If we kept our job and survived the year,

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Beyond Cheap

WHEN I STARTED writing my column for The Wall Street Journal in 1994, active money managers dominated the investment scene and index funds were struggling to get noticed. A quarter century later, most money remains actively managed, rather than indexed. The triumph of indexing is not yet complete.
Still, everybody knows which way the wind is blowing. Over the decade through 2017, index funds focused on U.S. stocks—both the mutual-fund and the exchange-traded varieties—attracted $1.6 trillion in new money,

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Seven Ideas

WHAT DO YOU consider the important financial ideas? No doubt we’d all come up with a different list—sometimes radically different—and what we deem important likely says a lot about how we handle our money.
For my own list, I think less about practical financial concepts—things like indexing and asset location—and more about the big ideas that should guide our financial decision-making. Here are seven of those ideas, all of which heavily influence how I manage my own money:
1.

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No Kidding

DO CHILDREN BRING happiness? As someone who has invested heavily in small people over the years—I have two children and two stepchildren—I want to believe the answer is “yes.” But the evidence suggests otherwise.
This, I realize, is a touchy subject, so let me offer a few crucial caveats before you fire off that fiery email. The studies cited here offer conclusions based on broad averages. Your experience could be entirely different. Moreover, it may be that children give special meaning to our lives,

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The View From Here

HOW THINGS LOOK depend on where you stand. Trying to figure out how to respond to the market drop? After the initial slump, a brief rally and then another decline, the S&P 500 is down 10% from its September all-time closing high of 2930.75.
History suggests that, five years from now, share prices will be no lower than they are today, and 10 years from now they’ll be handsomely higher. But at times like this,

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Fanning the Flames

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY be wrong with saving like crazy, so you can retire early? That’s the notion behind the Financial Independence/Retire Early, or FIRE, movement. Yet lately, I’ve read a lot of carping about FIRE, both in articles and in the emails I receive.
Just last week, those complaints got yet another airing in The Wall Street Journal. Earlier, Suze Orman weighed in, arguing you need at least $5 million to retire early.

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Warning Shot

RECENT MARKET turbulence, including today’s sharp stock market drop, has been a wakeup call for many investors. Feeling queasy? It isn’t too late to make portfolio changes: The S&P 500 may be down 9% from its all-time high, but it’s still up an eye-popping 293% since March 2009.
Here are three quick calculations that might spur you to action—or help ease your mind:
1. How much cash do you need from your portfolio over the next five years?

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Thinking About Money

I HAVE SPENT 33 years writing and thinking about money. I’m not sure it’s the most uplifting way to spend one’s life, but it’s kept me busy and—for the most part—out of trouble.
Two years ago, I took some of the financial ideas that have especially intrigued me over the past three decades, and I brought them together in a slim volume called How to Think About Money. The book proved surprisingly popular,

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A Good Life

IS THIS A MOMENT of cultural change? I see glimpses of a new way of thinking. The New York Times recently ran articles on both the cult of thrift and the financial independence/retire early—or FIRE—movement. Words like mindfulness, purpose and meaning have gained new currency. U.S. household debt is growing, but it’s still barely higher than a decade ago. The national savings rate even shows signs of improving.
Maybe this is yet another reverberation from the Great Recession.

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