FORCED TO SHELTER in place, I’ve used the time at home to organize my finances. I’d already read Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up. But I needed her new book, Joy at Work, to motivate me to organize my digital life. Sometimes, it helps to have a step-by-step guide to prod you to deal with such drudgery. Here are four tips I used to get myself organized:
1. Consolidate fixed costs.
AS STOCKS RALLIED last month, readers remained intensely interested in the financial markets—or so it seems from the articles they were reading. Here are May’s seven most popular blog posts:
The formula for investment success is very simple: Buy stocks. Diversify broadly. Wait patiently.
“Since the fall of 2018, the stock market has dropped 20%, gained 30%, dropped 35% and then gained 30% again,” notes Adam Grossman. Result? Ample opportunity for investor regret.
Sitting in cash but wanting to buy stocks?
IF YOU HAVE a surplus in your household budget, what’s the best use for it? Does it make more sense to pay down debt or to invest those extra funds? With interest rates at such low levels, this is a question I’ve been hearing with increasing frequency.
Suppose your mortgage rate is 3.5%. If you pay down that debt, it’s like earning 3.5%. By contrast, if you invested in the stock market, your annual return would be uncertain.
WHEN I WAS a teenager and bathroom walls were the equivalent of today’s Twitter, you’d often read that “100,000 lemmings can’t be wrong.”
It turns out that the bathroom scribblers were misinformed and that lemmings aren’t, in fact, given to mass suicide. Still, the scribblers’ confidence in the wisdom of crowds was spot on. If 100,000 lemmings did indeed commit mass suicide, there would likely be a good reason.
Which brings us to today’s stock market.
“TAKE FIVE” is jazz great Dave Brubeck’s most popular and enduring number—but it’s also a darn good piece of decision-making advice.
A few weeks ago, my son was struggling with exams and papers ahead of his graduation from the University of Pennsylvania. Though he would go on to graduate magna cum laude, he was in a dark place. I said, “Imagine a time two weeks from now when you’re back home and can relax,
EARLY RETIREMENT isn’t a common goal among my friends. When I talk about my semi-retirement, many assume I either made a quick buck in the stock market or benefitted from some sort of financial windfall. I counter this misconception by narrating the magic formula: Financial freedom is frugality, multiplied by simplicity, compounded by patience.
My response often seems mysterious until I explain the two basic math concepts behind it. We learn them in school,
TOTAL STOCK market index funds have 3% or 4% of their money in real estate investment trusts, or REITs. That means many investors—including many HumbleDollar readers—already have some exposure to REITs. But is it enough? For many, I think not.
I’m talking here about publicly traded U.S. equity REITs, not mortgage REITs or non-publicly traded REITs. Yes, the right allocation to real estate can be complicated by whether you own your home or have other real estate holdings.
EARLIER THIS YEAR, before the coronavirus hit, my family visited an amusement park. Everyone had fun—except my nine-year-old, who complained about the injustice of the rigged “down the clown” game.
You have probably seen this sort of thing: You’re given a handful of baseballs. Then, standing from about 10 feet away, the challenge is to knock down as many mechanical clowns as possible for a chance to win a prize. It doesn’t appear difficult—you aren’t that far away and the clowns are tightly spaced—but most people walk away empty-handed.
I REMEMBER the first time we met. Josh—not his real name—and I went to rival high schools in the Washington, D.C., area. During our senior year, we competed in a track meet. Someone mentioned that we would be going to the same college in the fall, so I went over to introduce myself—a little awkwardly, as he had just annihilated me in a race. A few months later, knowing few people on campus, we were happy to discover that we’d both enrolled in the college’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program.
CONVERSATIONS on Twitter aren’t known for their civility. Still, it came as a surprise last week when, out of the blue, author Nassim Nicholas Taleb launched a broadside against investor Clifford Asness, calling his work “crap,” along with other insults.
Asness wasted no time firing back, calling Taleb “very wrong and clearly both nuts and a world class terrible person.”
From there, the insults escalated: nasty, overrated, unoriginal, illogical, pretentious, emetic. That last one I had to look up in the dictionary.
IT’S BEEN AN UNHAPPY few months. Stepping outside means risking our health. One out of six U.S. workers is unemployed or soon will be. The stock market has suffered its worst decline since 2007-09. And while we can take steps to help ourselves, the situation is largely out of our control.
Feeling glum? One of my abiding interests is happiness research, and that research offers ideas that can make our current situation a little cheerier.
WHEN THE COLLEGE where I work switched to a remote learning platform for the remainder of the academic year, I suddenly found myself out of work. The majority of my job responsibilities revolve around preparing laboratory classes for students—students who are no longer on campus.
Thankfully, I’m still receiving a paycheck, but only time will tell whether I’ll be furloughed or have my hours cut back like so many other employees at colleges and universities.
ARE YOU PLANNING to withdraw funds from your Roth IRA? If you aren’t careful, you could owe both taxes and penalties, even though you’ve already paid taxes on the money that went into the Roth. At issue: the IRS’s five-year rule. How do you sidestep its unpleasant consequences? Bear with me while I explain.
First, a word of caution: You don’t have to take distributions from your Roth IRA during your lifetime. Withdrawals are strictly up to you.
DID I GET SPOOKED? Or did I respond rationally? Possibly a little of both. After buying as the stock market plunged from its Feb. 19 peak, I sold shares into the rally from the March 23 low, though my portfolio remains strongly tilted toward stocks.
Waving the caution flag may even turn out to be the right call over the short term. Still, most of us—me included—shouldn’t be in the business of making market calls,
DUTCH DISEASE. Sound like something that might devastate your garden? In truth, it’s an economic term coined in by The Economist magazine in 1977—and it refers to the economic fallout that followed the 1959 discovery in the Netherlands of Europe’s largest natural gas field.
The natural resource was initially a great boon to the economy, causing the value of the Dutch currency—then the guilder—to rise sharply in the foreign exchange market. All good?