Category Archives: Investing

Gold Investing: At Best, a Hedge – At Worst, Completely Silly

This post on gold investing is from Chelsea, the founder of Mama Fish Saves. It provides an in-depth look at the realities of investing in gold.

Gold investing was always a topic of heated debate in my house. My grandfather was a total gold bug. He was convinced that the dollar was essentially worthless since Nixon brought an end to the gold standard in 1971. No matter how often we sparred with him on the total doomsday scenario he created in his mind where we would wake up to a completely devalued US dollar, he was convinced. Gold was the only way to protect your wealth.

My grandfather passed when I was 16, but there is a vocal minority of people who still agree with him. And with markets at all-time highs, political uncertainty abounding, and low-interest rates the debate is arising yet again. So today, I wanted to share why gold should be, at most, a very small percentage of your portfolio. And why it’s 0% of mine.

Gold investing was once recommended by investment pros. But is it still wise in today's market? Stocks and bonds are a far better choice for your portfolio. Gold is artificially propped up by investors, useless in the event of a world-wide disaster, and does not generate high enough returns to warrant a place in your portfolio.

Why some people invest in gold

Overall, I think gold investing is silly and I don’t do it myself. But for fairness, let’s start with the valid reasons some people might invest in gold. Because, arguably, there actually are some. Today, gold is primarily an investment vehicle. Gold is discussed alongside interest rates and currency values, not end user demand like other commodities. But people have valued it for generations and it still could have a small spot in your investment portfolio.

Gold can be good for diversification.

When we face a recession, the US dollar weakens, or any kind of broader crisis occurs, stocks usually decline while gold rises. The point of diversification is to have different assets that don’t move in lockstep. The way gold moves opposite the market is a positive for smoothing returns.

Gold is good when you’re worried about inflation.

The core reason many investors purchase gold is because it holds its value. Gold investors like my grandfather don’t like that the Federal Reserve can “just print money whenever they want” and value gold for its scarcity. And over the past 50 years, they have largely been right. Since 1802, the value of gold has increased about 0.6% a year, on average, while the value of a dollar has declined 1.4%, according to AAII.

Over the very long term, gold has shown much weaker returns than the stock market, which we will discuss below. That has not been the case over the last 17 years, with gold up 348% since 2000. However, that is more indicative of an investment bubble than a strong track record. If you really want to invest in gold or are particularly worried about geopolitical issues, I would recommend viewing it as an alternative investment in your asset allocation. Cap your gold investments to 5% (maybe 10%) of your total investment portfolio and buy ETFs instead of gold bars and coins.

Related Reading:

Why gold investing is silly

Winston Churchill once said, “If you put two economists in a room, you get two opinions, unless one of them is Lord Keynes, in which case you get three opinions.” This is true on almost every economic issue with the exception of the gold standard.

In 2012 at the Initiative on Global Markets at the University of Chicago, a panel of economic experts were asked if they agreed that a return to the gold standard would improve life for the average American. Results were unanimous with 100% of economists disagreeing with the proposition. Chicago’s Richard Thaler went so far as to say, “Why tie to gold? Why not 1982 Bordeaux?”

It has been over a decade since I debated with my grandfather about the merits of the gold standard and investing in gold. But if anything, I think his arguments are more ridiculous today than I did then. Here’s why.

You’re giving up returns to “invest” in gold

Choosing to put your money in gold is one step above not investing at all. Stocks pay dividends, public companies grow over the long term and increase their stock value, bonds pay interest. Gold does, well, none of those things. While gold might not suffer the inflation risk of simply leaving your cash in a savings account, there is still an opportunity cost of holding it. Over the long-term you are giving up significant returns for perceived security. Below I included a publicly available chart from AAII, a nonprofit investment educator, to show the difference in historical returns adjusted for inflation. Since 1802, stocks have returned an average of 6.7% a year while gold has returned 0.6%.

Source link – http://www.aaii.com/files/images/articles/9298-figure-1.jpg

Gold pricing is propped up by investors

To me, the craziest part of gold investing is retail (personal) investors who say it is beneficial because it has intrinsic value that can be passed down through generations, unlike that ridiculous paper dollar. But gold doesn’t have intrinsic value. We don’t need it for almost anything outside of jewelry. We don’t consume it; the world wouldn’t stop without it.

Since 2000, gold prices have risen 348%. In that same time period, real demand for gold for jewelry and some other small industrial, dental and technology uses has fallen over 35% according to the World Gold Council. Demand fell and prices rose. Oops, we broke economics.

What happened was that investors stepped in. Gold ETFs (exchange traded funds) were created in the early 2000s which allowed individuals to purchase gold without having to actually bury gold bars in their backyard. Investment demand grew from 160 tons in 2000 to 1,574 tons in 2016. An increase of almost 10x! This meant that investment demand went from being 4% of total demand to 36%.

What do we think would happen to gold prices if investors suddenly decided they didn’t want to be invested in gold anymore? Or if the decline in popularity of gold jewelry continues and people start taking advantage of the high gold prices to sell old jewelry for cash? The price will plummet closer to real demand and kill any potential returns.

Gold has value because we say it has value. The same complaint gold bugs make about the US dollar and other floating currencies. The difference is, it is far easier to imagine the music stopping for gold than for the dollar.

The supply of gold is constantly increasing

When you use 15 gallons of gasoline in your car, it is gone. The world no longer has those 15 gallons and it will take the planet thousands and thousands of years to produce 15 new gallons. With gold, almost all of the gold mined in the history of the world still exists today. Whether in jewelry, gold bars, or dental fillings, the gold got processed but not consumed. Every year we mine more gold and the absolute supply grows.

We have way more gold than we actually need, which is almost ironic. The exact commodity prized for its scarcity is really quite abundant.

The doomsday preppers don’t need gold

I saved the silliest for last because it is a debate I actually had with my grandfather more than once. He would explain to me this dystopian scenario where the economy or U.S. government would collapse, the U.S. dollar would be worth nothing, and we would need gold. It is actually a relatively common argument among conspiracy theorists. They have a deep seeded distrust of the government and authorities so they hide in gold.

But in a collapse of the world as we know it, what would you possibly do with gold? If your neighbor had fresh water, and you had none, he isn’t going to give you any for all the gold bars in your basement. It would be useless to him! If some kind of global crisis is what you are preparing for, you probably aren’t reading this blog. You wouldn’t trust me. I’ve been told I don’t understand. However, if you are here, I’ve got some tips. I’m not going to try to convince you the world will be fine. I don’t know that and you wouldn’t believe me. But if you really want to prep, maybe focus on food, water, and fuel. And invest in the market, just in case everything turns out alright.

Gold investing is an inflation hedge, not a path to real returns

Overall, choosing to invest in gold is accepting that over the long-term you’re giving up returns. Gold is a hedge against inflation, and performs better than cash, but you shouldn’t have a lot of cash sitting around anyway. If you can invest through the cycle, with discipline, and for the long-term, you are almost always better off buying stocks and bonds over gold bars. But good luck convincing Grandpa.

Mama Fish Saves | Gold InvestingChelsea is a mother, wife, investment professional, and personal finance nerd.

She founded Mama Fish Saves, a personal finance blog for families to provide simple answers to all the money questions we didn’t get answered in school.

She hopes to help parents feel empowered about their finances so they can achieve their dreams and raise financially smart kids!

Subscribe to her blog and follow along here.

 


What is your take on gold investing? What percentage of your portfolio is in gold or precious metals?

gold investing | should I invest in gold? | gold

Helium Investments – Professional Advice, Low Investment Fees

Basic economics show that when you and I buy anything, we are paying for more than just the product or service. This is true of cars, groceries, landscaping services, and of course, investment services. While many of these fees are one-time hits on your wallet, the painful impact of investment fees continues for years and wears away at the size of your retirement portfolio.

Consider the chart below, as produced by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which illustrates the incredibly disastrous impact of investment fees over a 20 year time period.

impact of investment fees over time | fees hurt your investment portfolio
Source: SEC.gov

A quick glance reveals that even a difference of 0.25% in annual investment fees can reduce portfolio value by $10,000 over 20 years (see the gap between the blue and red lines). The $30,000 difference is even more disastrous when comparing the 1.00% annual fee portfolio to the 0.25% portfolio (blue line and green lines, respectively).

Investment fees are far from the only factors worth considering when selecting investments and choosing an adviser or service, but the graph above is proof that failure to consider investment fees is a serious and costly mistake.

Many professional advisers and services tout their reputation and experience in an attempt to justify their high investment fees, but as an investor in today’s market, it is possible to design an investment portfolio to achieve your goals AND receive personalized professional advice without sacrificing thousands upon thousands of dollars of long-term portfolio growth to investment fees.

Enter Helium Investments.

High investment fees can make or break your retirement and your family's future. In fact, did you know that high fees could rob you of thousands upon thousands of dollars over many years, even if you don't have a million dollar portfolio? Helium Investments is on a mission to change that by minimizing fees and maximizing investors' returns. You can start an account with them today and pay 0% fees on accounts under $10,000. Click to read more of our review!

What is Helium Investments?

Helium Investments logoHelium Investments has made it their mission to give average investors access to leading financial industry investment techniques at a fraction of the cost of large investment advisor firms.

Simply put, Helium offers low fee, low tax investment options to help investors maximize returns now and over the long haul.

How is Helium different?

Thanks to the internet, investors have more options than ever before. Stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs are available and accessible through a number of avenues.

However, many of these companies willingly set-up your retirement or taxable brokerage account, take your money, and then the air waves go silent. Your money is still invested, but when it comes to paying attention to your investments, you’re on your own. And if you want to make changes to your portfolio, perform periodic rebalancing, or make trades, you’re charged a fee.

Helium offers a different model built upon low fees and professional advice. When you deposit or withdraw money from your account, there are no fees. As your portfolio grows over time, Helium performs rebalancing for you based upon your goals at no cost to you. There are no fees for buying or selling securities within your portfolio, and if you want to connect with your advisor online or via phone, that is also free.

How does Helium earn a profit?

With extremely competitive low fees, Helium generates its profits based on a simple fee model.

  • Accounts valued under $10,000 are free
  • Accounts valued over $10,000 and under $250,000 are charged a 0.50% fee each year
  • Accounts valued over $250,000 are charged a 0.40% fee each year

As our opening example from the SEC above showed, investment fees can eat away at your retirement and other investment accounts in dangerous ways over time. Maximizing your returns and access to professional advice while carefully minimizing fees is one of the best ways to protect your future.

What can Helium do for you?

Helium’s mission is to help you save money while also investing your money in a manner that aligns with your goals and dreams. They achieve this by offering a rare combination of individually tailored client services, tax loss harvesting, automatic investing and rebalancing, carefully crafted portfolios, and low fees.

Helium investments portfolio offerings
An overview of a few of Helium’s tailored portfolio offerings

Whether you’re looking to build for your retirement, save money for a home or boat, or even build an emergency fund, Helium offers a variety of accounts to help you meet your goals:

Traditional IRA

A traditional IRA is a great investment account to help you save for retirement. Yearly contributions are deducted against your gross income, which you’ve most likely already paid income tax on. The IRS will typically issue you a refund for the excess income tax paid.

Taxable: No (Deposits), Yes (Withdrawals)
Maximum Contribution: $5,500 per year under 50 years old, $6,500 above
Maximum Age to Contribute: 70½
Withdrawal Must Start: April 1st after you turn 70½

Roth IRA

A Roth IRA is an excellent investment vehicle to save for retirement, but it has income limits. If you earned more than $132,000 in 2016 – you’re unable to contribute to a Roth IRA. Unlike a Traditional IRA the gains and withdrawals from a Roth IRA are generally tax-free even before age 59½

Taxable: Yes (Deposits), Typically no (Withdrawals)
Maximum Contribution: $5,500 per year under 50 years old, $6,500 above

Rollover IRA

You can move your employer based 401(k) into a Rollover IRA account and have the funds managed by Helium. You can roll up to one account per year. The contributions from a 401(k) are not taxed but still need to be reported. Most 401(k)s have management fees – the average American will pay over $138,336 in 401(k) fees.

Unregistered Accounts

Unregistered accounts are still a valuable investing tool as short term savings and when you reach your yearly IRA contribution limits. With an unregistered account the deposits are not taxed, however the gains are taxed at your capital gains tax rate. This rate varies based on your marginal rate – typically between 0% for those making $37,650 and under to 20% for those making $451,051 and over.

Taxable: No (Deposits), Yes (Withdrawals)

The Helium Advantage

A major value at Helium is helping investors start early and receive good advice from the start. They believe in a continuous cycle of getting advice, setting your goals, reaching them, and setting new goals.

Prospective investors can use their intuitive calculator to evaluate just how much money they can save with Helium compared to remaining in a portfolio of higher-fee mutual funds.

For example, I used the calculator to evaluate how much I could save in Helium’s aggressive portfolio based upon an initial $2,000 investment and $750 monthly contributions over 10 years. Based upon a reasonable estimated return of 6.5%, the calculator showed that I could save nearly $10,000.

How to get started with Helium

Registering with Helium is fast, simple, and even fun. It only took me a few minutes to work my way through the process on my laptop when testing it out.

If you prefer, you can also download the mobile app to your device and register that way. It is available on both iOs and Android devices. Users can even begin registration on one device, pause midway, and resume on another platform.

You’ll start by choosing a username and password, then proceed to entering typical identifying information, such as your name, address, and contact information.

Next you’ll be asked a series of interesting questions designed to help the Helium team get to know you better, such as:

  • If you were on a TV game show and could choose from one of the following, which would you choose?
  • If you needed $2,000 tomorrow, what would you do?

After answering approximate questions regarding income, net worth, savings goals, current debt levels, and preferred account types, all that remains is adding a beneficiary, social security numbers, and linking your preferred banking account.

The Helium Investment Dashboard

In order to help me provide maximum insight in this review, the team at Helium built a test account for me. After logging in, I was shown a centralized dashboard which highlighted my overall portfolio composition.

By navigating to the Portfolio tab, I was able to take a quicker look at the composition of each account by date by using the drop down menu. Here is a look at the test Roth IRA account as of February 5, 2017.

The Performance tab provides helpful linear graphs to help investors see performance trends over time. Here is a snapshot of the performance of the Traditional IRA within the test account.

I was pleased to see a tab for users to create and update goals within the dashboard; this is a great example of how Helium strives to live up to its mission of helping their clients achieve their goals. Establishing a goal within the test account was simple. I named the goal, established a monetary figure and target date, selected a corresponding account, and saved the goal.

Why Should I Sign-Up With Helium?

As an investor, you have several viable options when it comes to building for your retirement or other financial goals. It is important to keep in mind that your unique situation, goals, and desired level of involvement will play a big role in determining the best way to manage your investments.

For an investor who is looking for regular access to professional advice without paying high fees, Helium Investments can provide very high value. They offer a rarely seen combination of tailored advice, low fees (or no fees for accounts under $10,000), automated rebalancing, and sophisticated tax loss harvesting. And by all indications, they’ve cracked the code on leveraging technology and low-cost ETFs to maximize portfolio gains and minimize fees.

For investors who embrace the notion that what you keep is more important than how much you make, this is a perfect approach. If you’re interested in actively trading on a daily basis (which I do not recommend), Helium isn’t for you.

I recommend connecting with Helium Investments and giving their team the opportunity to review your portfolio. By simply uploading a statement, Helium can review your portfolio and analyze it for potential savings. They may be able to save you several thousand dollars.

What’s Not to Love?

To be perfectly transparent, I tried very hard to uncover “the catch” with Helium. I thought I might discover hidden fees, high set-up costs, or other red flags.

But I didn’t.

After an in-depth review, it appears that the Helium Investments team has built a client-friendly model that is also profitable for their company. As their website shows, they have a small core team and, therefore, likely have low overhead.  Some may see this is a disadvantage, but I don’t.

Perhaps the biggest question mark is the future direction of Helium Investments. They are a newer company competing in a saturated market. However, no market is too saturated for a new company which provides incredible value when compared to its competitors.

So far, Helium is doing exactly that.

For more information about Helium Investments, click here to visit their website.

Related Reading:

Helium Investments™ and the Helium Investments Balloon are trademarks of Helium Investments Inc, all rights reserved. Helium Investments Inc is a registered Investment Advisor with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the jurisdictions of
CA, TX, FL, NY, IL, PA, OH, GA, NC, MI. Investment accounts are free up to $10,000 USD after fees apply. Any historical returns are not indicative of future performance. Investment values will fluctuate over time. SIPC Member, Not FDIC Insured. No Bank Guarantee.

This review is sponsored by Helium Investments; however, all analysis, review, and opinions are the the product and intellectual property of FinanceSuperhero.com.


How often do you pay attention to investment fees? Are you paying high fees and getting little in return?

High investment fees can make or break your retirement and your family's future. In fact, did you know that high fees could rob you of thousands upon thousands of dollars over many years, even if you don't have a million dollar portfolio? Helium Investments is on a mission to change that by minimizing fees and maximizing investors' returns. You can start an account with them today and pay 0% fees on accounts under $10,000. Click to read more of our review!

How to Improve Your Relationship with Money

One of the keys to financial health is maintaining a purposeful and conscious relationship with money. It involves having reasonable debt (if any), spending money based on your values, having a safety net such as insurance, and saving and investing money to meet your future goals. Regardless of your relationship with money, various steps can be taken to improve it.

How exactly should you go about it? The following steps will help you develop a better relationship with money.

One of the keys to financial health is maintaining a purposeful and conscious relationship with money. The following steps will show you how to get started!

Take Note of your Money Habits

First, take time to evaluate how and where you spend money on a monthly basis. The following simple exercise will help.

List the top things you spend too much money on and then rank them in the order of what makes you happy the most and what least appeals to you.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What motivates you to spend money on certain areas?
  • What are my triggers?
  • Am I an impulsive buyer?

Note that your relationship with money is largely embedded in your character. By paying close attention to your behavior around money in terms of income streams, you can get a deeper understanding of yourself then use the knowledge to improve your financial habits.

Putting it all together

Improving your relationship with money also stems from making a fundamental change in your mindset. Having a good relationship with money is not necessarily about earning a large income or working overtime.

However, it is about placing less emphasis on decisions where money is involved. There will not be pressure to take up a job or a career where money is not the primary factor.

Adjust your Goals

Watch your budget closely and only spend what you comfortably can afford. Many people tend to spend more and more as their income increases. Rather than increasing spending, it is wise to increase savings instead. The best way to help you focus on your goals and spend less is by establishing incentives that will motivate you to watch your budget.

Focus on Saving

Credit cards are very tempting since they separate spending from the pains of payments that need to be made. The best way to do this is to set a default savings transfer your bank account or paycheck. It is wise to focus on your hard-earned money and use it invest in businesses, purchase a home, and opening savings accounts.

You can even have your pay raises directed to your retirement accounts, for example. Saving can be interpreted differently by various people; one reason it is important to create a healthy relationship with money is to ensure you pursue your long-term goals.

Invest wisely

Investing is a great way to strengthen your relationship with money. The first rule here is to invest in what you already know and understand what makes a good investment, i.e. penny stocks vs. small-cap stocks vs. large-cap stocks, etc.

The world of investing can be overwhelming and confusing, which leaves many would-be investors unsure where to start. Some of the forms of trading include:

  • Swing trading – trading here is held more than a day, but shorter than a hold and buy strategy that can be held for months. To profit from swings, the asset being traded may be held for a number of days at a time. Profits in swing trading are gained by short selling or buying an asset.
  • Value investing – this is where the market is believed to overreact to bad and good news. The trader is involved in looking for stocks that may have been undervalued and profit by buying when prices are deflated.
  • Growth investing – this is when an investor makes an investment in companies that have an above-average growth rate. This method focuses on capital appreciation.

Investing in stocks, no matter what form you choose, will require you to be ready and willing to take the risk. It is wise to ensure you research ETFs to track the performance of the industry, choose sectors to select your stocks based on your criteria, and stay informed by reading stock analysis constantly updated by CMC markets and other reputable financial news releases.

Get Started Now

Many people have an unhealthy relationship with money. For you to change your financial status, first alter your paradigm about money and then act on it. Developing a good relationship with money is vital if you want to live the best life possible now and in the future.

How to Overcome Your Fear of Investing and Build Your Dream Retirement

I’m going to hit you with the cold, hard truth: You’re probably not investing enough money to be able to afford the future of your dreams, and your fear of investing is to blame. Don’t believe me? Let’s see if any of these statistics describe you:

How many of these statistics describe you?

If not many, you’re probably in great shape with your investing.

If more than one describes your situation, you have some work to do if you’re going to retire comfortably.

The first step lies in overcoming your fear of investing.

Is fear of investing holding you back from building your dream retirement and threatening your future? These tips will help you overcome and invest wisely! We'll help you look at your current finances and budget, find out how much money you'll need for retirement, and make a solid plan to invest wisely and reach your dream retirement.

9 Stupid Reasons to Put Off Investing for Your Retirement

Life is full of many uncertainties and only a few certainties. One major certainty for nearly all of us is the fact that we will need to retire someday. Trading our time and skills for earned income can only go on for so long.

So why do you so many people live like investing is unnecessary or optional? You guessed it: a combination of the fear of investing and lack of understanding.

Consider the following reasons that may be holding you back from investing in your dreams:

1. You have too much debt

Student loans, car payments, credit cards, home equity lines, and first and second mortgages make it possible to borrow lots of money, but lots of payments come with lots of loans! As a result many people don’t have much money left to invest.

2. You don’t know where to start

Investing seems too nuanced and sophisticated to many people, so they just don’t bother to start learning the ropes.

3. You don’t understand how investments work

Similarly, many people have a desire to invest and know they should be investing, but they are paralyzed by a fear of investing and lack of basic understanding of investment options. Words like bonds, stocks, mutual funds, annual return on investment, IRAs, and index funds are SCARY!

4. You’re planning to live off Social Security 

Like Dave Ramsey sarcastically reminds us, the government is well-known for its ability to take care of money. Still, many people look to Social Security as their only source of retirement income.

5. You’re expecting an inheritance 

Inheritance money can be an incredible blessing, but relying on it instead of investing consistently is a huge risk. Long-term care costs for their elderly are always on the rise, and many nest eggs have been cracked and scrambled by these costs.

6. You’re afraid to lose money on investments 

I get it. Nobody wants to lose money. But losing money from time to time is part of the game of investing. The obvious goal is to win more than you lose, but like hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Investing isn’t a spectator sport; you have to play to earn money! If you allow the fear of investing to keep you out of the game, you’re guaranteed to lose.

7. You don’t have the knowledge to choose your own investments 

Many would be investors have excitedly signed up for an online trading account only to realize that they’re not sure what to do next. The options seem limitless and unpredictable. So they put their money away in savings accounts and CDs instead and collect a very predictable but low interest rate.

8. You’re not willing to trust someone else with your money 

Investment professionals are some of the least-trusted people in the financial world. Over the years, scandals and horror stories have legitimized these fears to some degree, though many true professionals are still out there. The sad truth is that many people aren’t willing to trust someone else with managing their investments.

9. You’re not willing to pay someone else to manage your investments

And even for those people who are willing to trust a professional with their money, management fees often scare them off in a hurry.

Is fear of investing holding you back from building your dream retirement and threatening your future? These tips will help you overcome and invest wisely! We'll help you look at your current finances and budget, find out how much money you'll need for retirement, and make a solid plan to invest wisely and reach your dream retirement.Overall, the fear of investing and the above barriers create three types of people:

  • Those who actively invest (Investor) by overcoming their fear and getting the help they need
  • Those who want to invest but fail to act (Aspiring Investor)
  • Those who ignore the importance of investing (Non-Investor)

By the end of this article, my goal is to empower you to move yourself up the top of the pyramid by providing resources and tools to boost your confidence and start investing as soon as possible.

The Best Resources to Overcome Your Fear of Investing 

The first step toward overcoming your fear of investing and getting on track toward your dream retirement is evaluating your current financial situation. You need to create a one page summary of your current debts, investments, and other assets. The best way to do this job only once is to  sign-up for Personal Capital. With Personal Capital, you can monitor all of your financial accounts in one place, analyze your portfolio, and track your net worth all from your mobile device.

You’ll also need to create a budget – think of it as a map that will take you to your retirement dreams by keeping you on track every month – if you don’t have one. Even if you’ve never lived on a budget before, this is the time to start.

Read: Budgeting for People Who Suck With Money

Next, you need to estimate your overall retirement needs. One of my favorite financial writers, Chris Hogan, has created a FREE tool to help you calculate the amount of money you’ll need to save to retire; he calls it your R:IQ. Take a few minutes and get your number – it’s free, and you won’t get bombarded with SPAM.

Now that you have a clear picture of your current situation and what you want to achieve, it’s time to make a plan to get there. Depending upon your knowledge, interest, and available time, you can take on full responsibility of your retirement portfolio, manage only some aspects on your own, or work with a dedicated adviser who can help you reach your goals.

If you want to spend many hours learning the nuances of buying and selling stocks, TradeKing is a good option for you. TradeKing provides a powerful platform for investors to discover, research, and purchase stocks, options, and ETFs.  They also offer access to knowledgeable brokers who will answer questions or even manage your portfolio at a cost to you. If you open a new account and start with a minimum balance of $500, you’ll receive $5,000 in free trades if you sign-up using this link for FinanceSuperhero readers.

Looking for more guidance and support? TD Ameritrade offers the next level in investment services with no investment minimums to open your account. Investors can choose the Build It Yourself option, receive a managed portfolio recommendation from TD Ameritrade Investment Management, LLC, or get connected with an independent Registered Investment Advisor. Check out your options with TD Ameritrade here.

And if you’re looking for a simpler approach that is more hands-off, the popular robo-adviser Betterment is the best choice for you. Why approach investing the Betterment way? The Betterment portfolio is designed to achieve optimal returns at every level of risk. Through diversification, automated rebalancing, better behavior, Tax Loss Harvesting (selling a security that has experienced a loss to offset other gains), and lower fees, the Betterment approach to investing can help generate 2.9% higher returns than a typical DIY investor. And they still offer investors access to a licensed adviser over the phone. You can open a Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, or complete a rollover 7 days per week.

Note: If you have an old 401k from a previous employer still hanging around, Betterment will help you with your rollover and make the process as painless as possible.

As mentioned earlier, Personal Capital is the best FREE resource available for tracking all of your financial accounts, monitoring spending, and tracking your net worth all in one place. But they’re also one of the premier wealth managers today due to their integrated approach built upon a combination of innovative tools and the personal touch of a licensed adviser.

If you already have a sizable portfolio ($100,000 or more), I cannot recommend enough that you take advantage of Personal Capital's free consultation offer to analyze your portfolio. Yes, it’s really free, and if you don’t like the advice you’re given, you can continue to use the Personal Capital Dashboard to monitor your financial picture at no cost. If you’re impressed enough and convinced that Personal Capital will better manage your investment dreams better than they’re currently being managed, it’s also a win, as they will almost undoubtedly reduce your fees and improve your returns.

Get Started Now

Of course, these tools aren’t the only options available to help you overcome your fear of investing. You could visit a local brick-and-mortar adviser, read dozens of investment books for free at the library, or ask one of your connections for his best advice. You could search for the latest robo-adviser to pop up overnight. Any of these options is better than doing nothing, even if they’re incredibly risky.

My point is this: Don’t allow yourself to go another week without taking the steps to crush your fears and start investing in your future. Your family’s future is way too important to allow anything – lack of time, fear of investing, or uncertainty – to stop you from building a secure nest egg. Get started now!

Is fear of investing holding you back from building your dream retirement and threatening your future? These tips will help you overcome and invest wisely! We'll help you overcome 9 reasons you may be delaying investing, look at your current finances and budget, find out how much money you'll need for retirement, and make a solid plan to invest wisely and reach your dream retirement.

Is fear of investing holding you back from building your dream retirement and threatening your future? These tips will help you overcome and invest wisely! We'll help you look at your current finances and budget, find out how much money you'll need for retirement, and make a solid plan to invest wisely and reach your dream retirement.

The Easy Way to Become Rich

My uncle loves to tell the story of his friend from church. This man was unassuming – he worked a blue-collar job as a machinist in town and remained with that company throughout his entire working career until he retired in his sixties. His wife never worked – they felt it would be more valuable for her to remain home and raise their children. Last year, this old man passed away, and his wife followed just a few months later.  They had been married for more than 50 years and still lived in the tiny home which they had purchased shortly after getting married.   And nobody knew that they had discovered the easy way to become rich.

Is there really an easy way to become rich? The answer is shocking. See what two numbers you should be paying attention to if you want to become wealthy!The machinist and his wife were a model of frugality. They owned only one vehicle and preferred to drive well-maintained used cars. My uncle couldn’t recall a time in which the couple owned a vehicle newer than five years old. A true story-teller, my uncle saved the best for last in the tale of his friend, and what he told me was most-unexpected:

The elderly gentleman and his wife had amassed a nest egg worth over $1 million and willed half of their estate to the church.

You may know a similar couple. I know a few, too, and their secret is simpler than you may think.

THE SHOCKINGLY EASY WAY TO BECOME RICH SLOWLY

In The Millionaire Next Door, the late Thomas Stanley identified the common traits of PAWs, or Prodigious Accumulators of Wealth. My uncle’s friend was a PAW. He spent far less than he earned for several decades, avoided spending money on status symbols, and did not tie up his money in depreciating assets.

Some financial experts say that personal finance is 80 percent behavioral and 20 percent head knowledge. I believe that the simple approach of the machinist illustrates this principle very well. In fact, if we could interview the gentleman today, he would probably attribute his success to common sense, basic arithmetic, and compound interest.

I believe he would also talk about two very important numbers.

THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT NUMBERS TO WINNING WITH MONEY

As my uncle’s friend knew, the biggest elements contributing to financial success are not fees, return on investment, tax savings, or even time in the market. The most important factors are numbers: net income and net expenses.

The easy way to become rich is to increase the difference between these two numbers. Most financial experts call this “the gap.” How you do that is up to you. You can choose to increase your income by seeking a new job, asking for a raise, or starting a profitable side hustle. Or you can cut out wasteful expenses that do little to increase your happiness.

I will always remember the day that I read how simple it is to become wealthy. I calculated that I could retire after working only 22 years if I simply saved 40 percent of my net income. Even better, if I could save 75 percent of my net income I could retire in approximately 7 years. That short and sweet article from Mr. Money Mustache redefined my vision of what a reasonable retirement timetable looked like for me and my wife. Suddenly, working until 65 only seemed acceptable to me if it was by choice.

GROWING MY GAP

Our plan to grow our gap is constantly evolving. My wife and I do not yet have children, so our current plan is focused on growing our income as much as possible. We both are full-time public school music teachers. After school, my wife teaches piano, flute, and voice lessons in her private music studio. She built her business from the ground up. I am a realtor 24/7 and 365. Sometimes that means I work early hours before school, during my lunch break, in the few spare seconds that most teachers run to the restroom, and all other hours that my clients need me. Somewhere in between, I make time to write 2-3 articles per week on this site. My wife and I do all of this because we sincerely love helping other people grow and find solutions to their problems.

Maybe increasing your income is the best way for you to grow your gap. Maybe you’re wasting money buying things that you don’t really want to impress people you don’t even like. If you’re married, maybe you and your spouse aren’t on the same page financially speaking. In that case, a zero-based budget may be exactly what you need to turn the corner and begin saving more money.

GROW YOUR GAP

Is there really an easy way to become rich? The answer is shocking. See what two numbers you should be paying attention to if you want to become wealthy!By now, I hope you believe that the shockingly easy way to become rich isn’t so shocking after all. It is largely built upon common sense. The problem is that everything in today’s world flies in the face of common sense. We are constantly told to spend more, live for today, and seize the moment. This is one of the biggest lies marketers have ever gotten away with telling – they have softened our sensibilities and led us to believe that we’ll always find a way to make it all work as long as we can pay our minimum payments.

The only way to become wealthy and live the life you desperately desire is to drown out the noise, roll up your sleeves, and get to work. Imagine what life would be like if you had no debt? What if you had a paid-for home? What if you had six months of living expenses in the bank? What if you never needed to trade your time for money ever again?

Those are the questions that keep me motivated on the tough days.

What motivates you?

RECOMMENDED TOOLS TO MONITOR AND GROW YOUR GAP

Personal Capital is the best tool to keep track of all of your liabilities (debts) and assets in one central location. With a few clicks, you can monitor your net worth picture and also dive into specific performance of your investments. I check my account a few times each week using the Personal Capital app. You can sign up for FREE using this link!

Today’s technological advances have made investing easier than ever before. Betterment is better than your average robo-adviser. Whether you are a beginning investor or a seasoned do-it-yourself-investor, Betterment can help you achieve optimal returns based on your risk preferences. Through a combination of lower fees, smarter behavior, diversification, and automated rebalancing, Betterment can help your out earn the typical DIY investor by 2.9%. You can roll over an existing 401k or IRA or open a new IRA in minutes.

My favorite tool to grow the gap, Digit, isn’t an investing tool and it alone won’t make you rich. But its algorithms will transfer money from your checking account to a Digit savings account and ensure that you don’t have easy opportunities to waste money. You can pause savings and transfer money back to your checking account at any time. Sign up for free here.

And if you’re looking to increase your income, consider driving for Uber. My friend is a school band teacher and earns a good salary. He takes advantage of his spare evenings and weekends and drives for Uber. He meets interesting people and often earns over $500 per week. If you enjoy driving and want to tap into the unlimited earning potential of Uber, Uber.


Readers, is there really an easy way to become rich? Have you identified your current gap, or difference between net income and expenses? What is your plan to grow your gap?

Make the Most of Your Tax Refund in 2017

Tax refund. Next to the words “pay day” and “debt free,” these are my two favorite finance-related words. Whether my annual tax refund is a modest sum or a mid-size windfall, I am always happy to see my refund directly-deposited into my checking account. Once you know it is on its way, knowing how to make the most of your tax refund can be a daunting task.

Still haven’t submitted your 2016 tax returns? If you have a simple return, such as a 1040-EZ, I recommend completing your simple return with E-File.com today. You can complete your Federal return for FREE and receive free support along the way. And FinanceSuperhero readers can receive a discount on state returns by using this link – $6 Off State Filings With Coupon Code “6OFFSTATE”.

If you’re planning to complete a 1040A or require additional schedules, the team at Liberty Tax has local offices in your area to help you every step of the way. Other tax preparation services come and go, but LibertyTax has been helping people file their taxes the easy way since 1997.

Receiving a tax refund is a great opportunity to improve your financial outlook. Follow these 9 pro tips to make the most of your tax refund in 2017!

The FinanceSuperhero Guide to Taxes – Make the Most of Your Tax Refund

Assuming you have a tax refund coming your way, you could be on the verge of changing your financial picture.  With great opportunity comes great responsibility! The following advice will help you to make the most of your tax refund and make significant progress on your financial journey. I recommend following the steps in numerical order.

1. Give a Portion of Your Tax Refund to a Charitable Organization

Longtime readers will not be surprised that I am suggesting giving as the first step to make the most of your tax refund. As previously mentioned, Mrs. Superhero and I have placed Giving at the top of our monthly budget. Giving aligns with our values, and helping others provides us with much more satisfaction and enjoyment than buying more stuff or eating delicious food.

I strongly believe that giving 10% is the best way that we can make a charitable contribution prior to reaching financial independence (at which time we will significantly increase our giving). We have always done this, dating back to the time when we faced a mountain of debt, and we continue to do so today, even though we are only a few months away from carrying no debt other than our mortgage.

Why? As I mentioned, we believe helping others is both a calling and the most satisfying use of our money. Giving is also a strong reminder that money is not something to be hoarded out of greed. We want to value money and practice good stewardship, but we also want to remain far removed from the love of money.

Many people reject giving in favor of keeping their money strictly to themselves. Ironically, it is usually these same people who senselessly give their money to big banks and other financiers in the form of outlandish interest payments on cars, boats, and other stuff.

Personally, I would rather give in a meaningful way. Even if you give 1% of your tax refund, you will help others and begin to change the way you view money.

2. Increase Your Savings and/or Emergency Fund

When looking to make the most of your tax return, simply saving money can be a wise choice.
When looking to make the most of your tax return, simply saving money can be a wise choice.

After supporting societal progress by giving, use your tax refund proceeds to improve your liquid savings. Unless you are an extremely high income earner or have a stable passive income stream, you absolutely must have an Emergency Fund. If you do not have one, consider this a full-blown, alarm-sounding crisis that must be addressed immediately! Statistically-speaking, there is close to a 100% chance that you will experience some form of an emergency within the next decade, so be ready!

While I recommend maintaining an Emergency Fund of at least 3-6 months of minimum living expenses, you may also wish to establish an additional Opportunity Fund. I do not specifically recommend amounts or figures for this fund, and you may wish to skip it entirely in favor of moving onto Step 3. However, an Opportunity Fund could allow you to make a fun, somewhat impulsive decision without any accompanying feelings of guilt or regret.

3. Get out of Debt – Once and For All!

After you have given and increased your security via your Emergency Fund, you are fully-prepared to take on the primary barrier standing in the way of Financial Independence: Debt.

The sooner you eliminate your non-mortgage debts, the sooner you free a significant portion of your monthly income and simultaneously gain the freedom to invest in tax-advantaged retirement accounts. Both the Snowball and Avalanche methods are valid means to achieve debt freedom. For the purposes of this post, I am less-concerned with the method you implement to eliminate your debt; just get it done. You may get the push you need if you make the most of your tax refund in this way!

4. Invest in Tax-Advantaged Investments

The real fun begins when you no longer have non-mortgage debt. If you are free from the shackles of debt, the next optimal use for your tax refund is to maximize your retirement contributions. For the purposes of this limited space, ensure you are maximizing employer-offered plans, specifically if they offer a match, and then move onto your Roth IRA.

Want to make the most of your tax refund? Opening an IRA or taxable brokerage account with Betterment is a smart way to maximize the impact of your refund.
Betterment returns vs. US Market and Typical Investor Returns (Credit: Betterment)

If you’re looking for an easy to use platform for investing, Fundrise offers real estate investment options with low financial barriers for entry.. Their Tax-Coordinated Portfolio works to maximize your earnings and minimize tax burdens across all types of accounts, including taxable accounts, Roth IRAs, and traditional IRAs. It is simple to sign-up or rollover an account, select a portfolio of ETFs, and be on your way toward earning better returns right away.

Compared to other platforms, the Betterment portfolio is designed to achieve optimal returns at every level of risk. Through diversification, automated rebalancing, better behavior, and lower fees, the Betterment approach to investing can help you generate 2.9% higher returns than a typical DIY investor.

Make the most of your tax refund and start investing with Betterment by signing up today!

5. Contribute to Your Children’s College Funds

If you do not have children, skip ahead to Step 6. If you have children, you need to learn the nuances of the Coverdell ESA (Education Savings Account, also nicknamed the Education IRA) and 429 plan. The ESA has income and contribution limits (currently $2,000 per year), but I recommend you start with the ESA in most circumstances, if eligible.

The important thing to understand is that minimal contributions to these vehicles will place you in a position to send your children to college without the burden of student loans if you begin early.

Related PostEscape From Student Loans: How Two Educators Paid Off $17,831.65 in 54 Days

6. Destroy Your Mortgage Debt

Pause with me for a moment and imagine a life without a mortgage payment. If you can’t image it, check out the FREE E-book, How to Hack Your Mortgage and Save Thousands, written by my friend Andrew at FamilyMoneyPlan. This is the plan he and his wife used to wipe out their $320,000 mortgage in 6 years.

What could you do with an extra $1,000 per month? $2,500? $5,000? I just felt an overwhelming sense of excitement  and peace typing these words. The next time I visit my doctor and have my blood-pressure checked, I am going to visualize the wonders of a mortgage-free life to improve my numbers.

For the average family, mortgage interest represents the second-largest expense that they will pay in their entire lifetime. In some cases, total mortgage interest paid on a 30 year mortgage can be approximately 75-80% of total principal, even at today’s advantageous interest rates! Make the most of your tax refund to accomplish progress on an annual basis and you could shave several years off your mortgage, especially if you are already paying extra on principal on a monthly basis.

7. Invest in Non-Retirement Funds and/or Real Estate

If you have made it to Step 7, please allow me to offer my congratulations. With no debt whatsoever, healthy savings, and kids’ college covered, you are poised to generate significant wealth. At this stage, you may have achieved Financial Independence, depending upon your lifestyle.

I recommend using tax refund money to invest in simple index funds at this stage. A modest tax refund sum is enough to get you started with many index funds. Adopt a long-term approach, relax, and watch your money grow.

Similarly, this is the time to invest in real estate, if interested. Becoming a landlord isn’t for everyone, and paying a property manager could eat into your net profit from owning a rental property. However, a rental property can yield some of the highest annual investment returns if managed well and purchased at prices below market value.

Want to make the most of your tax refund? Investing in real estate with Fundrise is an exciting option for investors in 2017.Fortunately, today’s investors can invest in real estate without the hassle of becoming a landlord or hiring a property manager. Fundrise offers real estate investment options with low entry costs.. As of February 2017, they offer three eREITs for new investors: the West Cost eREIT, the Heartland eREIT, and the East Cost eREIT. It is amazing that technology has brought common investors like you and me the opportunity to invest in multi-million dollar buildings half way around the country!

Even if you’re on the fence about real estate investing or just not quite ready to dip your toe in the water, I recommend signing-up with Fundrise today – it is 100% FREE, with no obligation, and in doing so, you’ll position yourself to learn more and possibly avoid wait lists.

8. Improve the Value of Your Primary Home

At this stage, true fun begins. When you are financially well-poised for the future, a tax refund represents an opportunity to both invest and add joy to your life simultaneously. This is the time to make improvements around your home which increase your happiness and feature a high return on investment.

Good Investments: new front door, landscaping, deck or patio, kitchen or bath remodel, walkway lighting

Bad Investments: swimming pools, utility sheds

9. Build Sinking Funds for Bucket List Items

Last, but not least, comes additional saving for specific purchases. If you make it down to Step 9 when determining how to implement your tax refund, you are an authentic Superhero. I recommend establishing separate sinking funds for a variety of priorities, such as vacations, new car purchases, secondary homes, or major home additions.

The purpose of a sinking fund is to plan for future purchases which are far off in the future. At this stage, you do not want to be fooled into getting back into debt or be caught off guard by large, necessary expenses. With a sinking fund, you won’t be financially caught off guard when your house needs a new roof, your furnace fails, or your vehicle sputters and dies.

Are You Ready to Make the Most of Your Tax Refund?

A tax refund is a great opportunity to get ahead in your finances. I am confident that you will not fail to cover all of your bases by following these steps. Depending upon where you are in your journey toward Restoring Order to Your World of Finances, you may wish to skip steps or modify the order. For example, renters may wish to place saving for a home down payment in the Steps.

If you haven’t yet filed your 2016 tax returns, be sure to check out E-File.com or LibertyTax today. Either way, careful consideration of your circumstances will put you on the path to make the most of your tax refund this year!


Readers, did you receive a tax refund this year? Are you currently awaiting a refund? How do you plan to make the most of your tax refund?

Investing is a Marathon – A Personal Training Guide to Win

Investing is a marathon, not a sprint.

Aesop’s parable of the tortoise and the hare is a timeless, yet somewhat ambiguous tale. It chronicles a race between the slow-and-steady tortoise and the overconfident-and-lazy hare. The tortoise paces himself appropriately, while the hare opts to enjoy a mid-race nap. When the hare awakens, he discovers that his competitor has already won the race.

Investing is a marathon, not a sprint.

I appreciate this wise lesson, but an alternative version of Aesop’s tale provides deeper wisdom.

In this iteration, the hare decides to provide the tortoise a head start. Throughout the race, the tortoise grows stronger and faster, a development which was unforeseen by the hare. Despite the hare’s eventual efforts to work harder and run at much faster speeds than the tortoise could ever imagine, the tortoise wins the race handily. In fact, the result is far from a photo finish.

As investors, many people are like the hare. They are always waiting and preparing for tomorrow. Others are like the tortoise. They invest slowly and boringly over time and maintain remarkable consistency.

When it comes to investing, the average investor would be wise to learn from both the slow-and-steady approach of the tortoise and the speed and intensity of the hare.

Investing is a marathon, not a sprint.

Investing is a marathon, not a sprint. Unlike running, you only get one chance to live and save. Will you be more like the tortoise or the hare?

Marathon Training

Following my first half marathon in 2010, I began training for my first full marathon in January 2011. The days are cold and nights even colder during Illinois winters, which made the beginning of my training extremely brutal, both physically and mentally. To make matters worse, I was still trying to master the fundamentals of distance running: proper form, hydration, nutrition, and the all-important techniques to avoid chafing.

However, I established a regimented schedule for both training and rest, learned to listen to the signs and signals of my body, and improved as a runner. Despite many mistakes and a few minor aches and pains, I pressed onward and completed my training.

Exploring the Parallels – Investing IS a Marathon!

Race day arrived much faster than I ever thought possible. Though I had prepared as well as I could have expected, as I stood at the start line with hundreds of other people, a thought played over and over in mind:

What did you just get yourself into?!

Getting Started is Hard

The race director fired his gun, and we were off and running.  The first mile was absolutely awful. I dodged slower runners left and right, expounding a lot of wasted energy in the process, and experienced my first doubts. I’m so far from the finish line, I thought.

Many people have these same doubts when they begin investing. They know they are beginning a long journey which requires patience and diligence, yet it is not uncommon for many beginning investors to experience waves of discouragement and doubt. So they work harder, save more, do more research, and re-read investment prospectuses. At first, their efforts barely move the needle.

As I approached the first aid station near mile 4, I felt satisfied. My body had finally warmed up, my doubts had dissipated, and my confidence was restored.

Achieving a positive net worth is much like a marathon’s first aid station. It is a milestone worth celebrating. This checkpoint is not achieved without hard work and sacrifice, yet it is only the beginning of a long journey.

Setting the Pace, Focusing on Your Goals

I settled down even more after the first aid station and found a comfortable pace. At times, running felt effortless during this stretch. Around mile 10, I passed by family and friends who were out to support me. They cheered me on and said I looked “very fresh.”

Investing is a marathon, not a sprint. Unlike running, you only get one chance to live and save. Will you be more like the tortoise or the hare?
Feeling great at Mile 10 of the 2011 Wisconsin Marathon

As I approached the midway point of the race, I noticed that many other runners were picking up their pace. I joined them for a moment, but wisely pulled back after a few minutes, as the pace felt unsustainable.

Moments later, I witnessed the jubilation of those same runners as they crossed the half marathon finish line. Unbeknownst to me, they had selected a different goal and adjusted their pace accordingly. As they crossed their finish line and celebrated the fruits of their labor, I began to feel sorry for myself. I still had 13.1 miles to go.

It is tempting for an investor to lose sight of the plan and pace and adopt someone else’s approach. However, their pace and goals don’t matter! Your pace and goals are important. Investing is a marathon, so be sure to run the race at your pace and aim for your goals.

Stay Strong, Finish Well

During the long stretch from mile 13 to mile 20, I found myself running alone much of the time. I was fatigued, yet I felt OK. I had experienced my fair share of emotional ups and downs by this point, but I trusted myself. I trusted my training. I continued to take one step at a time.

At the same time, I felt oddly apathetic. I didn’t feel much like drinking or eating gels, so I skipped an aid station. Instinctively, I knew this was a bad idea, but I just didn’t care anymore. I stopped thinking about the successful things I had done to get to this point.

The average investor is similarly susceptible to ups and downs, doubts, and apathy. When you have made sizeable progress toward achieving your goals yet still remain far from your nest egg target figure, it can be tempting to stop caring. It can be easy to rely on feelings and allow them to guide your choices and actions. You must remain consistent and continue to take the steps which helped your investments grow to this point! Investing is a marathon!

My experience from miles 20-26 was in direct contrast to the earlier stretches of the marathon. Up until this point, I was on pace to finish the race in 3 hours and 30 minutes. Everything changed at mile 20. While others whom I had passed earlier seemed to grow stronger, I was battling crippling nausea. I shouldn’t have skipped that aid station, I ruminated.

While this stretch was a slow crawl toward the finish line, it was a victory lap for one elderly gentleman. As this man who was old enough to be my grandfather passed me, he shared some sagely advice:

Just keep going. Keep your eyes on the finish line. Don’t give up.

For many investors, we experience the true ramifications of our mistakes during the home stretch. We wish we had started saving early, experienced more years of the wonder that is compound interest, and maintained greater consistency over the years. Yet the finish line of retirement is visible on the horizon.

As I passed the 26th mile marker and rounded a bend in the road, I saw the finish line for the first time in nearly two hours. I forgot about my nausea and soreness and began sprinting. I’m quite certain I must have looked like a geriatric patient gallivanting down the road, but I felt as quick as Usain Bolt as I crossed the finish line and received my medal.

Like an idiot, I awoke early the morning after the race and crawled out of bed to go for a short run. As I lumbered along under the light of the morning sun, I reflected on my training and race mistakes. Naturally, I was grateful to have learned many lessons. I was also eager to do better next time.

Recommendations to Win the Investment Marathon

However, there is no next time for investors. We all have only a single life to live, so it is important to act with wisdom the first time if we are to achieve the retirement of our dreams. Win the investment marathon by following these four recommendations.

  1. Start early! If you foolishly begin later, as did the hare, and think you can catch up, you are mistaken. Compound interest functions at its finest over long periods of time. Remember, as Warren Buffet said, “You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine different women pregnant.”
  2. Follow a plan. Remember, if you fail to plan, you should plan to fail.
  3. Keep it SIMPLE.
  4. Invest based upon your goals and desires, not those of anyone else. Your keys to happiness are not the same as those of others.

If you are looking to begin your investment race toward retirement, a number of routes can help you get started.

Disclosure: FinanceSuperhero recommends the following services and maintains an affiliate relationship with each. However, we only recommend services which we have reviewed and deemed helpful to readers.

I recommend opening an IRA (Roth, if eligible) with Betterment. At the time of publication of this article, over 175,000 investors have contributed more than $5 billion into their Betterment accounts and taken advantage of tax-efficient investing in low-cost index funds. You can even roll over an existing 401k. Open an IRA with Betterment today!

 

If you’re just getting started and desire a method to keep better track of your finances and investments in general, I recommend opening a free Personal Capital account. I trust Personal Capital to monitor all of my financial accounts in a central location, which allows me to see the big picture with a few simple clicks. Their instant calculations help me to ensure that I am on pace to meet my goals. If you desire, Personal Capital also offers advisory services should you wish to adopt a hands-off approach toward investing.


Do you believe that investing is a marathon? On a lighter note, have you ever ran a half marathon, marathon, or ultra-marathon? What other parallels do you see?

 

 

 

A Guaranteed Stock Market Prediction

Over the past several weeks, the stock market has gone for a wild ride. Following Great Britain’s decision to leave the EU on June 23, the “Brexit,” the S&P 500 fell 5.3% leading up to the close on June 27. This past week, the S&P continued its rebound and recorded its fourth consecutive record close at 2,163.75, an increase of 2.3% from June 23 and an 8% increase from the post-Brexit decline.

Meanwhile, further chaos has unfolded abroad, this time in Turkey and France. According to a CNN report dated July 16, the Turkish Lira, the Turkish national currency, has declined by 5% in value compared to the US dollar in the wake of an attempted coup. In France, terrorism has negatively impacted the travel and airline stocks.

While there is no such thing as a “certain time” for investors, the current market certainly qualifies as a time of great unpredictability.

In the midst of such uncertainty, I feel prepared to make a stock market guarantee.

For the details, head over to DistilledDollar and read the rest of this article.

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While you’re there, check out some of my favorite articles written by Matt, a Chicago-based CPA and the Master Distiller behind DistilledDollar:

How One Dress Shirt Set Me Back $300

Ben Franklin: The First Early Retiree?

Four Phases of Financial Independence

Check back here on Friday for an entire article, entirely here in one place, as I touch on the cultural phenomenon known as “FOMO.”

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Dollarlogic: A Six-Day Plan to Achieve Higher Investment Returns By Conquering Risk

In today’s post, I will be reviewing the book Dollarlogic: A Six-Day Plan to Achieve Higher Investment Returns by Conquering Risk by Andy Martin.

Disclosure: This book review is not sponsored by Career Press, Inc., the publisher of Dollarlogic, nor by the author. As a result, the thoughts expressed in this review are unfiltered and unbiased. However, FinanceSuperhero was fortunate to receive a signed and dedicated copy of the book from the author.

Dollarlogic is available for purchase now via a variety of outlets; all links to the book contained within this review are Amazon affiliate links.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy MartinAs an active investment advisor and mutual fund manager, Andy Martin boasts a unique combination of hands-on advisor/investor experience and a deep research base of novel investment ideas. He began his investment career with Merrill Lynch and is cofounder and president of 7Twelve Advisors, LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor, and registered representative, general securities principal with FINRA member firm, Girard Securities, Inc. Martin has worked in virtually every part of the securities industry, including operations, sales, management, product development, research, and compliance. His research has been published or reviewed in a wide variety of journals and publications. He is Series 7, 24, 53, and 65 licensed, is a graduate of Belmont University (BBA in economics), and Vanderbilt University (MLAS), and lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

For more information about Martin and 7Twelve Advisors, LLC, visit the 7Twelve website. You can also follow him on Twitter.

THE REVIEW

If the stock market was up 12% in a given year, what would you expect the return on your portfolio to be? If the stock market was down 12% in a given year, what would you expect the loss on your portfolio to be?

 

The above questions are just two shining examples of the critical questions Andy Martin poses in his quest to redefine the popular notion of investment risk while guiding the average investor toward greater introspection, wiser investing habits, and greater wealth.

As the title suggests, Martin, a 30 year industry veteran, lays out a six-day plan to achieving higher investment returns. This plan hinges upon one key fundamental: the minimization of risk, or what Martin calls dollarlogic. Explains Martin

You have heard it your entire life, and it is wrong. Risk does not equal reward. If it did, why would you wear a seat belt?

Many readers may initially be shaken by such a sudden challenge to their investment paradigm, but Martin’s evidence is compelling.

On Day 1, he leads readers to THINK about the fundamentals of risk and develop a healthy aversion to risk. By presenting a variety of statistics, financial and otherwise, Martin demonstrates several surprising truths about risk:

  • Acting in supposed “less-risky” ways can actually put you at more risk
  • A majority of successful entrepreneurs, while they may appear to be risk-takers, are actually risk-averse
  • The media perpetuates countless risk myths by misrepresenting statistics through sensationalist language (i.e. “The DOW plunged 45 points today”)

On Day 2, Martin makes a compelling argument, backed by decades of market statistics, that stocks are actually less risky than bonds. How could that be possible? As the chapter subheading states, “Your objectives, not the investment, determine the investment’s risk.”

What is an investor to do? On Day 3, Martin recommends surprising advice:

Seek lower returns.

While this sounds like nonsense at first, Martin makes a compelling argument that minimizing losses is far more valuable than maximizing returns. He provides an example of just how devastating losses can be based upon one year losses of 25% and 50% on a $10,000 investment:

  • If you lose 25%, or $2,500, you have to make 33.5% on your remaining $7,500 in the following year in order to break even.
  • If you lose 50%, or $5,000, you have to make 100% on your remaining $5,000 in the following year in order to break even.

Martin also proves that higher average returns, while a worthwhile statistic, are not always indicative of greater portfolio value due to the principles of geometric average and compound returns.

Average returns can be misleading (Graph credit to Andy Martin (@dollarlogic) and Career Press, Inc.)
Average returns can be misleading (Graph credit to Andy Martin (@dollarlogic) and Career Press, Inc.)

On Day 4, Martin exhorts readers to predict themselves, not the market. He reasons that an understanding of your goals and desired outcomes is much more valuable than an attempt to predict the market based upon past results. With poignant simplicity, he advises readers to consider where they are going instead of dwelling on where the market is going.

Days 5 and 6 are focused on the nuts and bolts of a wealth management plan. To the dismay of do-it-yourself investors, Martin recommends hiring a trustworthy, well-credentialed financial advisor who is a good fit with your personal temperament and objectives to manage a diversified portfolio which aligns with your objectives; his reasons are compelling, to say the least.

In my opinion, the one flaw contained in Dollarlogic may be information overload; for a book written for the average investor, many of the graphs and figures require a great deal of mental gymnastics for the non-investment professional to decipher.

In the end, it is ultimately the witty humor, Martin’s personal anecdotes, and the countless memorable and decisively true statements that drive Dollarlogic. As Martin states in his Introduction, Dollarlogic is not a book, per se, but a six-day investment management plan. While that kind of description might serve to turn away many readers, Martin expertly interweaves stories and investment principles in entertaining fashion. He concludes the Epilogue by quoting philosopher William James, who said

The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.

In one blogger’s opinion, Andy Martin has written an investment management plan designed to help the average investor do exactly that.

If you haven’t yet read Dollarlogic, order your copy from Amazon today. Don’t forget to follow Andy Martin on Twitter (@dollarlogic).


Readers, do you think the statement “Risk ≠ Reward” is accurate? Do you structure your investments to maximize returns or minimize losses? Do you have an accurate view of your own future?

Tracking Your Net Worth

Super Millennial LogoToday’s guest post is from a fellow superhero. Michael is the creator of Super Millennial. He teaches people how to evaluate their financial situation, simplify money management & automate their investments to reach their financial goals. Subscribe for his personal finance “Keys To Success” and blog updates here. Make sure to follow him on Twitter as well.

Note from FinanceSuperhero: This post greatly influenced me to begin tracking my own net worth in earnest. Ironically, when I started tracking my net worth for the first time in earnest rather than simply maintaining awareness of a ballpark figure, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was much higher than I had previously thought.

 

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Everyone wants to be a millionaire or billionaire, but to most people it’s just a dream and will stay that way forever…UNLESS you decide to make your dream a GOAL & work hard to achieve it.

If you’ve read “Think & Grow Rich” or Millionaire Next Door it should be evident how important goal setting is in all aspects of life, including finances. Wanting something is one thing, planning & going after it is another…one way to start focusing on becoming a millionaire (so you can ball out like DJ Khaled in any of his 80 music videos) is tracking your net worth. Even though I don’t think he has mentioned/screamed it yet, it’s a major key to financial success (trust me).

Do you know or track your net worth? I’d be pretty surprised/impressed if you are. Whenever I ask someone if they are I tend to hear the same few excuses:

  • “Why should I track it? Seems time consuming & doubt it’ll matter ”
  • “But I don’t have that much money…”
  • “What’s the point of tracking a few thousand dollars?”
  • “I’m way too in debt to want to see exactly how much”


It doesn’t matter if you have $1,000 or $1 million dollars, it’s amazing how helpful it is to track your overall net worth…and it takes five minutes a month!

I started tracking my net worth after reading J Money’s “Budgets Are Sexy” …. over the past eight years he’s been able to go from 50K to now 500K and shows exactly how. Needless to say I was very inspired to start…

I REALLY wish I would have started this earlier in life, I’ll be honest and admit I just started in late 2015 (around 9 months now) and within a few pay periods I was amazed at how much it factors into my financial decisions (& how good I was at saving). Don’t worry I’m not asking you to track every single penny you spend, because I know you won’t (nor would I), let Mint automatically do that for you.

I’m only asking that you do this once a month, not daily or weekly to really see your progression and how easy it become to get “richer” by paying attention to your finances.

Here are the top benefits of tracking:

Main Benefits:

  • Financial Progress: We all want to evolve & progress in anything in life, its human nature. It’s even better when you grow your $$$ & can look back to the month or year previous and see how far you’ve come. Progress is impossible without change! 
  • Confidence Builder: For example if you saved an extra $1,000 in your emergency fund or watch your 401K increase due to a bigger contribution. It will make you feel proud of what you’ve been able to accomplish (and want to do more)…..do you think millionaires just got there by luck? No they made a conscious effort to earn, save & repeat! 
  • Avoids focusing on just assets: If you have 200K in assets but 100K in debt you’re just lying to yourself, it’s important to factor both into the calculation.
  • Loans: Your net worth can be a factor if you plan on applying for a loan in the near future (i.e. banks feel more comfortable giving you a loan when you have good credit & money in the bank).


How should you track it? There isn’t one specific way but here’s how I do it and takes up 5-10 minutes each month. I pull up my Personal Capital account for most of my accounts and then add to a google doc (not all of my accounts sync w/PC). 

It doesn’t matter if you use it or a different version, it’s just important to get in the habit of tracking your progress. Make sure to include all accounts and a comments section so you can notate when there are major +/- changes (i.e. 401K increase, stock market drop 5%, tax refund, inheritance, etc).

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You’ll spend 5-10 minutes a month entering the information for assets & liabilities and it will caclulate your net worth.
Here’s what you should include:Assets

  • 401K – You have a 401K and contribute AT LEAST to your employer match right?
  • IRA – Roth IRA’s are amazing, if you need to learn more check this out.
  • Checking Account:  I personally use Chase, but where’ve you bank make sure you don’t have a monthly “convenience” fee and low ATM fees if you bank at another ATM. 
  • Savings Account: I love Ally bank – no fees & 1% interest is better than nothing
  • Brokerage Account: If you have one…
  • Additional Accounts: Any other investment, CD, money market, etc….

 

Liabilities

  • Auto Loans: This is an asset and a liability, if your car is valued at 25K and you have 15K left on the loan add the 25K to assets & 15K to liabilities.
  • Student Debt: Yes they suck but you gotta include them too…..
  • House: Same as the car example…this is an asset and a liability, if your house is valued at 250K and you have 150K left on the loan add the 250K to assets & 150K to liabilities.


Regardless of where you are financially, knowing your net worth can help you evaluate where you are and plan for your financial future. Once you understand your situation you become more aware of your spending/budgeting and can achieve both your short and long term goals.  

On top of planning and reaching goals it will also help you stay motivated and can be a huge confidence booster. It can also make you aware of your current investments and how they are fit for different market conditions. For example in February the stock market dropped but my net worth barely moved, I had such good asset allocation that the loss was minor in comparison to the market.

If you are not watching your personal net worth on a regular basis, you are skipping an important step in preparing for retirement (or EARLY retirement if you do it right). As always save early so you can thank yourself later. Once you have your tracking system setup hold yourself accountable to spend five to ten minutes to update monthly (use a calendar reminder or choose a specific day of the month).


Readers, don’t forget to head over to SuperMillennial to check out more of Michael’s superhero advice and follow him on Twitter.

Do you track your net worth? Have you found a better way? Let us know in the comments section below.