Dolla, Dolla Bills

I recently saw a question posted on Facebook about investing. The gist was: people recommend putting money into the stock market and letting it ride for the long term, but what happens if you invest (specifically in an index fund) and then there’s such a big crash that you lose all of the money because you hadn’t invested much?

For readers that are experienced investors this may just seem like a beginner’s misunderstanding, (which, sure, it is) but it also underlines a very common problem that even experienced investors have in how they think about their portfolio. So, let’s talk about both!

Continue reading Shares, not Dollars

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Anchor

When I think about the world of Sales, the first place my mind usually goes is the classic Alec Baldwin scene from Glengarry Glen Ross. Like probably a lot of people I’ve actually never even seen the rest of the movie, just these couple minutes of intense berating that Alec Baldwin’s character delivers to a room of salesmen. It seems like everyone reacts one of two ways to this clip (and the reality that it’s meant to represent): Group A is inspired by his tough love approach and the motto “Always Be Closing” that says your success is determined solely by your desire and your drive to make things happen; Group B feels disgust at the treatment of the salesmen and the focus on maximizing money at the expense of all else in life. I’m not here to tell you how to feel, you could even be in both camps. I’m here to talk about how not only is this scene grounded in reality, but the attitude it represents isn’t limited to just some sleazy salesman trying to scam you into a big purchase. For better or worse, sales tactics are baked into the core of our capitalist society and the more you realize that, the less likely you are to fall victim to them.

Continue reading Price Anchoring- a Weight on your Budget

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Snowball

When I’m left up to my own devices (like when the wife is out of town or back in my bachelor days), I could go a few days without ever really picking up the house. There are a few things that always grab my attention, like dishes in a sink, but other things I could probably leave indefinitely, like clothes on the floor. I think everyone probably has their own little things like that and we all seem to exist somewhere along the spectrum from super messy to “neat freak”.

Now, while the house is in that messy, ignored state I may not feel like anything is off or really that bad about it. However, when it is actually clean, there is a huge difference in how the space feels and how I feel. I’m sure you’ve experienced this yourself- when you’re going about your life in a neat and tidy space, your mind feels neat and tidy too. It’s easier to get things done that you want to do and life feels generally less stressful. For some reason though, we tend to get accustomed to a messy environment and not notice the subtle negative influence that it exerts. (It seems the same with diet too: if you’re eating junk all the time you may not even notice how sub-optimal you feel until you clean it up and get real food in your body and then “Oh my god, I feel amazing!”) Continue reading The Snowballing Effect of Small Lifestyle Changes

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Brackets

In the last installment, we ran through the basics of how marginal income tax brackets work in the US and the way that many people misunderstand the concept. Today, we’ll cover the related concepts of tax brackets for capital gains and dividend income. Many people I know don’t really ever deal with these two concepts because their income comes from a W-2 (a.k.a. paid by their employer), but for the wealthy these are often their primary forms of income. Many people aspire to be able to afford to shop like the wealthy, but really we should start by aspiring to earn the way that they do. Continue reading Tax Brackets 102

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Brackets

Today we take a crack at simplifying a concept that I’ve found is misunderstood by a pretty large portion of the population. As always, this has nothing to do with people being “smart” or not, but is more about the sort of common knowledge that gets passed around in our society and the lack of any real formal education taking place in matters related to personal finance. So, I don’t want anyone to ever feel like this stuff is too hard or to feel bad for not already knowing it. The goal here is to build and expand your base of knowledge so you can then apply it to your own life and then just win all over the place. Continue reading Tax Brackets 101

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