This week’s picks for the best in personal finance from around the web.

How your personality affects your investment choices (Morningstar). Take the test and find out.

Parents, the children will be fine. Spend their inheritance now. (NY Times). There are far more parents who intend to leave an inheritance than there are kids who expect to receive one.

Now is a tough time to retire (Financial Advisor). When you’re on the cusp of retirement, historical stock market returns matter least of all.

Financial simplicity should be a retirement priority (US News). Now’s the time for a little financial house cleaning.

Reverse mortgages no fast ticket to retirement easy street (Washington Post). Even a mortgage that pays you could lead to foreclosure.

And from the blogosphere…

Enduring lessons from the financial crisis (A Wealth of Common Sense). Never let a crisis go to waste. At very least, learn from it.

The top secrets of successful retirees (PT Money). Real retirees on what they did well and wish they had done better.

A fireside chat with Charlie Munger (Money Beat – a Wall Street Journal blog). Buffett’s right hand man on the importance of knowing what you don’t know and why Benjamin Graham wasn’t all he was cracked up to be.

Retirement – a luxury good (The Aleph Blog). Why modern retirement is an exercise in compromise.

Must, should, and financial freedom (My Money Blog). How money can be a bridge to the life you must live.

We’d love to hear your responses to any of the above. To weigh in, just meet us in the comments section.

Matt Bell

By Matt Bell

Matt Bell is Sound Mind Investing’s Associate Editor. He is the author of three personal finance books published by NavPress, leads workshops at churches and universities throughout the country, and has been quoted in USA TODAY, U.S. News & World Report, and many other media outlets.

I know, I really should be writing about investing. After all, Janet Yellen is speaking today! When are interest rates likely to go up? What will it mean for the markets? What else could possibly matter?

But I keep thinking about gratitude. In part, that’s because in the small group my wife and I are part of we were just talking about ways to foster hearts of gratitude in our kids.

It’s also because of some good news I received today. On the heels of some shocking news earlier this year that a good friend of ours has cancer came word today that treatments over the summer have been successful and she is cancer-free. I’ve been so happy and thankful that it’s been hard to concentrate.

Of course, it’s easy to be thankful when things are going well.

Today also brought some difficult news from other friends. Their health-related journey appears to be headed in a very different direction. And yet, throughout their experience, what’s been evident is the depth of their faith, the strength of their marriage, and their heartfelt gratitude for the gift of each day.

At a time when so many others might want to draw inward, they’ve wanted to move outward—toward relationships and encouraging others. At a time when so many others might feel the need mostly to receive, they’ve been motivated to give. At a time when so many others might be tempted to doubt, they’ve been moved to trust.

Their story has been amazingly inspiring. I’m so thankful to know them.

Thinking about gratitude reminded me of a story told by the Reverend Dr. John Westerhoff in a booklet called “Grateful and Generous Hearts.”

Writer Fulton Oursler had vivid memories of an old woman named Anna who helped care for him as a child. When she sat down to eat she would say, “Much obliged, dear Lord, for my vittles.”  Oursler wondered why she thanked God since she would get the food regardless of whether she gave thanks or not.

“It makes everything taste better to be thankful,” Anna said. “You know, it’s a game an old preacher taught me to play. It’s about looking for things to be thankful for. Like one day I was walking to the store to buy a loaf of bread. I look in all the windows. There are so many pretty clothes.”

“But Anna, you can’t afford to buy any of them!” he interjected.

“Oh, I know, but I can play dolls with them. I can imagine your mom and sister all dressed up in them and I’m thankful. Much obliged, dear Lord, for playing in an old lady’s mind.”

Many years later, when Anna was dying, Oursler remembered standing by her bedside.  Deep in pain, her old hands were knotted together in a desperate clutch. “Poor old woman,” he thought. “What had she to be thankful for now?”  Just then, she opened her eyes and looked at him and said, “Much obliged, dear Lord, for such fine friends.”

Dr. Westerhoff believes we can all learn much from Anna, who viewed life as a gift. “Taking nothing for granted, demanding nothing as her due, she recognized that we come into this world with nothing, we go out with nothing, and in between we are given all we have.”

While the busyness, responsibilities, and news of the day can easily obstruct our view, none of us has to look very far to find a reason to be thankful. Living with an attitude of thankfulness is honoring to God, good for the soul, and infectious.

What are you thankful for?  Try making a list of ten things—the first ten that come to mind.  Then give Anna’s prayer a try: “Much obliged, dear Lord.  Much Obliged.”

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Matt Bell

By Matt Bell

Matt Bell is Sound Mind Investing’s Associate Editor. He is the author of three personal finance books published by NavPress, leads workshops at churches and universities throughout the country, and has been quoted in USA TODAY, U.S. News & World Report, and many other media outlets.

This week’s picks for the best in personal finance from around the web.

For some, ’tis a gift to be simple (NY Times). Michelangelo once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Some of the happiest retirees are those who take that wisdom to heart.

Parallels to 1937 (Project Syndicate). Shiller’s view of the world is as dismal as the science for which he won the Nobel Prize.

Financial schemes against the elderly are increasing (NY Times). Power of attorney often gives caregivers the power to steal.

Student debt over $50k is on the rise (MoneyCNN). Almost as disturbing: Some 2 million Americans age 60 and older have student loan debt.

It’s all gift (Christianity Today). Rethinking stewardship at work.

And from the blogosphere…

Buying stocks based on how other people feel (Bloomberg View). Why Barry Ritholtz frowns on using sentiment to guide investment decisions.

Be humble, become wealthy (The Psy-Fi Blog). Our culture may not value humility, but the markets do.

Beguiled by narrative (Above the Markets). On this 9/11 anniversary week, a fitting reminder about the dangers of seeing what we want to see.

Never delegate understanding (The Research Puzzle). Each of us is ultimately responsible for how well we manage what’s been entrusted to us. How well do you know what’s in your portfolio and why?

Ron Blue on perpetual generosity (Acton.org). An hour’s worth of wisdom from one of the greatest teachers of biblical money management. Well worth watching.

We’d love to hear your responses to any of the above. To weigh in, just meet us in the comments section.

 

Matt Bell

By Matt Bell

Matt Bell is Sound Mind Investing’s Associate Editor. He is the author of three personal finance books published by NavPress, leads workshops at churches and universities throughout the country, and has been quoted in USA TODAY, U.S. News & World Report, and many other media outlets.

Today’s workplace retirement plan of choice, the 401(k) plan (or 403(b) if you work for a non-profit) offers several key benefits. But participants also face a dizzying array of critically important decisions that will impact how much they end up accumulating for retirement.

I talked about these decisions recently with Howard Dayton and Steve Moore of Compass—Finances God’s Way on their radio program, “Money Wise.” To listen to the discussion, just click the link below.

If your 401(k) plan provides access to a brokerage window, as discussed on the program, SMI members should be able to use any SMI investment strategy to manage their investments. Even if you only have access to a small set of funds, the SMI Personal Portfolio Tracker can help you apply our Fund Upgrading strategy to those funds.

For more information on this topic, read 8 Steps to Make the Most of Your 401(k).

To ask a question for use on a future episode of Money Wise, call 800-525-7000.

Matt Bell

By Matt Bell

Matt Bell is Sound Mind Investing’s Associate Editor. He is the author of three personal finance books published by NavPress, leads workshops at churches and universities throughout the country, and has been quoted in USA TODAY, U.S. News & World Report, and many other media outlets.

September and October are known for being “historically volatile” months for stocks. In the chart below, which comes from Bespoke Investment Group via this Wall Street Journal article, you can see that while August has been the worst month on average over the past 20 years, only September has averaged losses over the past 20-, 50-, and 100-year periods. October, despite its reputation as the crash-inducer (1929, 1987), has actually been net positive over all three of those time periods.

The WSJ article goes on to quote a number of strategists as to why they’re nervous heading into September. They rattle off the same list of reasons everyone has been discussing for months, if not longer. There’s nothing new there.

I continue to think there’s a decent chance we’ll see a short-term correction over the next two months, simply because we haven’t had one in three years. (But I thought the same thing last summer and it never came, so take that for what it’s worth. I didn’t advocate making any changes to your investment portfolio in either case.) However, the stock market has navigated two-thirds of its historically “weak” seasonality period without any major pullbacks. So it also wouldn’t be a big shock if the correction fails to materialize for the second year in a row, despite all the conditions seemingly having been lined up for a dip.

The article also makes a point we’ve raised a few times recently, that it’s hard to imagine a deep decline when so many people are calling for one:

Moreover, major market collapses usually come when investors are overly optimistic, not when so many are bracing for a pullback. That leads analysts to expect a decline but not a disaster. Some contrarians said that with so many people hunkering down, the stock market could continue rising, confounding the skeptics once again.

As for September, Mr. Koesterich and others, including analysts at research firm Bespoke Investment Group, note that the most significant September declines have followed stock weakness in the first eight months.

We definitely haven’t had stock weakness during the first eight months of the year. So the bottom-line seems to be this: sure a correction could happen in September or October this year. But there’s no particular pressing reason why it will. And if it does, it doesn’t mean much in terms of whether this bull market is ending or just going through a run-of-the-mill correction.

Ignore any scary stuff you may hear or see about September/October being bad for stocks. Stick with your plan instead.

Mark Biller

By Mark Biller

Mark Biller is Sound Mind Investing’s Executive Editor. His writings on a broad range of financial topics have been featured in a variety of national print and electronic media, and he has appeared as a financial commentator for various national and local radio programs. Mark is also the Senior Portfolio Manager of the SMI Funds.