skip navigation

What We're Reading




The Life Cycle of Wealth
Sequence of return risk exists not only in the financial markets but also everyone’s own personal finances. When you were born can have an outsized impact on where certain generations stand financially.

Shocked by Your Tax Refund? Next Year Could Be Worse Unless You Act Now
Conor Barnes, an accountant in New York, decided to stop telling her clients to “have a nice day” at the end of their meetings. Often she delivered news that had, in fact, ruined their day: They owed the government money, sometimes a painfully large amount. The overhaul of the tax code — the first in three decades — caused much confusion this tax season, which was only worsened by the monthlong government shutdown. Many taxpayers were upset when they found out that they owed money to the federal government, even if their tax burden was lower.

'I've Earned it.' Or Have They? Are Senior Discounts Deserved?
For a frugal tribe of bargain-hunting seniors, scarfing up the potpourri of newly available discounts can take some of the sting out of a milestone birthday. Turning 50 means activating an AARP member card to save 15 percent at Denny’s. The big six- oh shaves 30 percent off tickets at AMC movie theaters. And octogenarians ski for free at Bretton Woods, a New Hampshire resort dubbed “Medicare Mountain” by its grizzled regulars.

The Power of Raw, Honest Stories About Money
Personal finance professionals live too often in the realm of tools and tactics, optimization and automation. All too frequently, their advice — our advice — is utterly bloodless. Gaby Dunn, Chanel Reynolds and Vicki Robin are not everyday personal finance practitioners. Ms. Dunn and Ms. Reynolds use vulgarities in the subtitles of their new money books, and Ms. Robin speaks openly of dropping acid, mental illness and the cancer scars on her stomach.

You Know the FAANGs, Now Meet the DANGs
Nowhere were the market gyrations of 2018 felt more acutely than among shares of leading technology companies ― including the “FAANG” stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google owner Alphabet). Technology shares led the market both up and down. Thus far in 2019 market-leading tech and consumer companies ― and the broader market ― have recovered meaningfully.

Your Grandchildren Are Already in Debt
Medicare for All. The Green New Deal. Free college tuition. With each new entrant into the Democratic presidential sweepstakes comes a fresh cascade of ambitious social programs to entice and excite would-be supporters. The list of “payfors,” to use a bit of Washington jargon, grows more slowly. They’ll pay for this how, again? Tax the rich, tax the rich — or take cover behind a convenient bit of progressive dogma: Don’t worry about the fiscal impact because America’s rising budget deficits and debt levels don’t much matter.

Millions of Americans Could Be Stunned as Their Tax Refunds Shrink
Millions of Americans filling out their 2018 taxes will probably be surprised to learn that their refunds will be less than expected or that they owe money to the Internal Revenue Service after years of receiving refunds.People have already taken to social media, using the hashtag #GOPTaxScam, to vent their anger. Many blame President Trump and the Republicans for shrinking refunds. Some on Twitter even said they wouldn’t vote for Trump again after seeing their refunds slashed.

If You Do Medicare Sign-Up Wrong, It Will Cost You
Tony Farrell turned 65 four years ago — the age when most people shift their health coverage to Medicare. But he was still employed and covered by his company’s group insurance. When his birthday came around, he began researching whether he needed to move to Medicare, and determined he could stick with his employer’s plan, said Mr. Farrell, a marketing and merchandising executive for specialty retailers. At the time, he was working for a company that makes infomercials in San Francisco.

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.

Chilling Davos: A Bleak Warning on Global Division and Debt
As business and political leaders arrive in the Swiss Alps for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, a surprisingly alarming letter from an influential investor who studiously eschews attention has already emerged as a talking point. The letter, written by Seth A. Klarman, a billionaire investor known for his sober and meticulous analysis of the investing world, is a huge red flag about global social tensions, rising debt levels and receding American leadership.

The Year in Charts
By any measure, 2018 was another Year of Trump. From his efforts to remake the American economy to his go-it-alone trade war to his curious pro-Putin foreign policy to the at least 17 investigations underway into his various activities, President Trump dominated the news as few of his predecessors have done. But by the end of his second year, the prospects that he would achieve his economic goals were in grave doubt as growth slowed and the stock market swooned.

Sorry About the Whole 401(k) Mess
In the nondescript world of public policy, oopsies don’t get any bigger than this. In a remarkable story in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, several early champions of 401(k)s, the now-ubiquitous tax-deferred plans that help workers sock away retirement funds, expressed regrets for what their efforts later yielded: Private pensions have withered. Individual workers now shoulder risks that large corporations once bore. Investment fees chip away at account owners’ returns. The typical American worker is badly underprepared for old age.

With Retirement, Many Are Making it Up as They Go
Roslindale social worker Edy Rees said she and her husband, software engineer Mark Katz, “had this great plan” for retirement: She would garden and volunteer. He’d build furniture at his woodworking bench. They’d travel to visit friends in the British Isles.But outside forces intervened. Katz, now 70, took early retirement when his company was sold, becoming an on-and-off consultant. Budget cuts forced Rees, 76, to leave her job at a charity, though she continued for a time as an unpaid volunteer. After her daughter had a baby girl, Rees was pressed into grandmother duties. Katz jumped into helping on political campaigns. There’s been little time for travel.

Capital Group Outlook for 2019
If you are feeling particularly uncertain about investing heading into 2019, you’re not alone. With major economies entering late-cycle territory, volatility rising, monetary policy tightening and a trade war brewing, you may be wondering how to position your portfolio. This outlook can help you navigate through near-term challenges toward long-term investment success.

The Stock Market Has Wiped Out Its 2018 Gains. But if You Step Back, It's Still Riding High
The S&P 500-stock index has entered what the financial world calls a correction, technically defined by a decline of at least 10 percent from the market’s peak. It’s a relatively arbitrary threshold, but it’s often seen as a symbol of souring investor sentiment. Lately, the markets have been rattled by the prospect that a protracted trade war with China could begin to take an economic toll at a time when global growth is slowing. Viewed over a longer period, however, corrections often begin to look less severe.

The Housing Boom is Already Gigantic. How Long Can it Last?
We are, once again, experiencing one of the greatest housing booms in United States history. How long this will last and where it is heading next are impossible to know now. But it is time to take notice: My data shows that this is the United States’ third biggest housing boom in the modern era.

Enrolling in Medicare Can Be Confusing. Here's How To Do It. 
Dr. Marsha Lavoie, a family medicine specialist at Harrington Memorial Hospital in Southbridge, knows more about Medicare than most people because she routinely bills the federal health insurance program on behalf of her older and disabled patients. But when it came time to sign up for the program herself this year, Lavoie, 65, faced the same concerns and uncertainties as anyone else navigating the maze of Medicare options, regulations, supplemental plans, and potential land mines.

Milennials Are the Misfits of Modern Capitalism. Here's Why It's Not Their Fault.
Policymakers haven’t yet come to see millennials as an entire generation under siege. Yet today’s young adults have become misfits of modern capitalism, increasingly poorer and more vulnerable to the ups and downs of the economy. “It’s a scary issue,” says Harvard economist Nathaniel Hendren, a co-author of the 2016 report. In this age of massive income inequality, it’s easy to take shots at the legitimacy of the American Dream, the credo that as long as you work hard and stay out of trouble you’ll do just fine. Even still, Hendren and his fellow researchers revealed something few had spotted: That a significant rich/poor gap is emerging across generational lines, too.

'Stress Brain' Can Lead to Bad Financial Decisions
If investors really want to safeguard or drive gains with those financial portfolios, it's key to pay attention to how stress caused by everyday life affects our financial decision-making. Few of us are immune to chronic stress. In fact, according to the Global Organization of Stress, 75 percent of the U.S. adult population is living with it. This condition of chronic stress, or what I call "stress brain," is the culprit for not only mental and physical illness, but also for poor judgment when it comes to financial decision-making.

The Market's Been Falling. I'm Putting My Money In Stocks Anyways.
The stock market has been plummeting and my own retirement portfolio has been shrinking. Am I worried? Sure. But I’m still buying stocks.

Why You Shouldn't Wait to Sign Up for Medicare Part B
Twenty years ago, George Zeppenfeldt-Cestero left his job as a hospital administrator in New York to open a one-person health care consulting firm. Since he was losing his employee medical coverage, he shopped around and bought a private health insurance plan through Aetna. But several years ago, Aetna informed him that it was discontinuing that plan, sending him scrambling for another insurer. That’s when, applying for coverage through the state marketplace under the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Zeppenfeldt-Cestero learned that he (and, he argues, Aetna) had made a serious error.

Yellen Says Rising US Deficit Unsustainable: 'If I Had a Magic Wand, I Would Raise Taxes'
The United States is taking on too much debt right now, a problem that is will only worsen moving forward, former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Tuesday.

Hello! May I Assist You in Taking on a Lifetime of Debt?
But I wasn’t working at the Gap and our callers weren’t asking about the return policy on a frayed sweater. I was an employee of the University Helpline at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and my callers were students and parents, who were often trying to reach the financial aid office and the bursar.

The New American Dream Home is One You Never Have to Leave
In the southwest corner of Elk Grove, Calif., about 15 miles outside of Sacramento, there’s a shell of a shopping center that was partially built during the peak of the real estate bubble, then abandoned when the market crashed. Locals have taken to calling it the Ghost Mall. Look in one direction from the Ghost Mall and you’ll see farmland. Turn the other way and you’ll see what looks like a brand-new town being built from scratch.

Forget Tantrums, Emerging Markets Are the Haven Now
Just as the Federal Reserve steadily picks up the pace of rate increases, Wall Street’s quantitative strategists are telling clients to sell U.S. stocks and buy into emerging markets.

Seniors Are Losing Billions Of Dollars A Year To Fraud. What Can We Do About It?
American seniors are being duped out of billions of dollars a year, and con artists are getting more sophisticated all the time.  We're looking at what types of scams are on the rise, why prosecution of these cases can be difficult, and how best to prevent them. 

Buying Emerging Markets During a Disaster
Earlier this week I wrote a short history (because there really is no long history) of corrections and bear markets in emerging market stocks. 

What to Do When You're Bad at Money
It was only a few years ago I started learning how money works. Like a lot of Americans I was very late to the game, in large part because there’s no formal system in place to teach us how to manage our money. There are tons of invisible forces working against us, and the end result is that being good or bad at money is sometimes viewed in moralistic terms or as a measure of someone’s character.

How We Sent Our Children to College Debt-Free
My husband and I have been sneaking high-fives because, come this fall, all three of our children will be in college. And here’s the sweetest part: They’re all going to school with no debt. We don't come from money. We didn't inherit cash because a relative died. There were no lottery winnings or strike-it-rich stock picks. My husband and I were raised in low-income households. We're first-generation college graduates. But as important as college was in pushing us up economically, we felt strongly about avoiding student loans for our children. Debt is a cuss word in our house.

Capital Group Midyear Outlook
Midway through 2018, virtually all countries find themselves in the midst of an economic upswing. But the specter of tighter monetary policy, trade skirmishes, rising volatility and rich valuations may leave investors wondering, "What's next?"

Trying to Keep Up With the Kardashians? Here's How to Stop Money Envy.
There are folks so rich that they have never had to repack two suitcases while checking into a flight to avoid paying $50 for an overweight bag. They have their own plane, and they can buy a new wardrobe whenever they vacation. Some people are so wealthy they can change houses like others change shoes.

Decade After Crisis, a $600 Trillion Market Remains Murky to Regulators
In the maze of subsidiaries that make up Goldman Sachs Group, two in London have nearly identical names: Goldman Sachs International and Goldman Sachs International Bank. Both trade financial instruments known as derivatives with hedge funds, insurers, governments and other clients. United States regulators, however, get detailed information only about the derivatives traded by Goldman Sachs International. Thanks to a loophole in laws enacted in response to the financial crisis, trades by Goldman Sachs International Bank don’t have to be reported.

Americans Are Having Fewer Babies. They Told Us Why.
Americans are having fewer babies. At first, researchers thought the declining fertility rate was because of the recession, but it kept falling even as the economy recovered. Now it has reached a record low for the second consecutive year. Because the fertility rate subtly shapes many major issues of the day — including immigration, education, housing, the labor supply, the social safety net and support for working families — there’s a lot of concern about why today’s young adults aren’t having as many children. So we asked them. 

Countdown to Retirement: A Five-Year Plan
For most of your working life, it wasn’t exactly a pressing concern. You might have pondered it for a few minutes as you skimmed your company’s benefits handout, checking to see if your new glasses were covered or if you’ll be reimbursed for your gym membership. Retirement was more like a vague, distant concept rather than something that would actually happen one day. Then, suddenly, you hit your late 50s or early 60s and you realize, almost without being aware of it, that you’ve begun paying closer attention to those commercials about annuities, reverse mortgages and Medicare Part B, and you’re no longer reflexively tossing those AARP mailings straight into the trash.

Demystifying the Blockchain
This is bonkers. A new so-called blockchain company is selling virtual real estate online with prices as high as $120,000 for a 10-meter by 10-meter piece of virtual land. You can buy a plot of virtual land in a virtual city, with certain neighborhoods costing more than others, like in a real city. Except that it isn’t a real city. It is all virtual. Follow? Me neither.

How to Talk About Moving to a Retirement Home: 'It's a Journey'
Dawn and John Strumsky agree about most things, a tendency that has served them well in 45 years of marriage. But there was one subject where they did not see eye to eye for the longest time: their retirement future.

Stock Market Volatility is Back, and it is Leaving Older Investors Anxious About Their Retirement Plans
For investors who value peace of mind, financial markets have been quite accommodating over the past decade: stocks rising steadily, interest rates at historic lows, few gut-wrenching sell-offs. Until now.

Why You Should Hire a Financial Planner, Even if You're Not Rich
If the very idea of financial planning makes you break out in hives, you’re not alone. A new study found that perceived financial well-being — feeling secure about not only the state of your current situation but how well you’ve planned for the future — holds the key to your overall well-being. Your financial security can affect you as strongly as job satisfaction, relationship stability, and physical health combined.

A $76,000.00 Monthly Pension: Why States and Cities Are Short on Cash
A public university president in Oregon gives new meaning to the idea of a pensioner. Joseph Robertson, an eye surgeon who retired as head of the Oregon Health & Science University last fall, receives the state’s largest government pension. It is $76,111. Per month. That is considerably more than the average Oregon family earns in a year.


Leave this empty: