Written by Trent Hamm, The Simple Dollar is a popular personal finance blog that chronicle's one man's road back from overwhelming debt to financial security. Hamm declared the contents of the blog to be in the Public Domain in 2008 and available for sharing when attributed properly. We will share a couple of posts a week.
One aspect of buy-and-hold investing in low-cost index funds that has always attracted me is that there is an extremely low time cost. Once you have the initial investments in place, there is virtually no time cost at all. All you have to do is invest maybe half an hour a year rebalancing the investments - and that’s it.
That strategy pretty much matches the stock market. In fact, if you choose to just invest in the Vanguard 500, it almost exactly matches the ups and downs of the S&P 500 stock index.
Eventually, every homeowner finds a sizable home improvement project that they’d like to tackle. Perhaps the project is rebuilding a deck. Maybe it involves putting new concrete in the driveway.
Whatever it is, it’s big. You could tackle it yourself, but you’d be working on it after work for weeks, losing many, many hours that could be spent on other activities. So you either dig into the drudgery yourself, put it off, or, worst of all, hire someone to do it.
I suggest a different route.
My biggest criteria for most of my purchases is simply price. What’s the best deal I can get on an ear of corn or on a book? The answer to that question usually pushes me towards the checkout line.
Yet, quite often, I find myself not always going for the rock-bottom price on specific items. I’ll pay a bit of a premium at a farmers’ market, for example. I’ll stop at the tiny market in my town for a few items quite regularly.
Why would I regularly abandon the lowest possible price? For me, there are a number of factors at work.
Ada writes in:
Like you, I think the stock market is near the bottom right now and will go up greatly in the next three to five years. I have some extra cash (about $10K) but I don’t know exactly what to do with it to get on board. How would you do it?
In fact, I’m already doing it. My wife and I made the decision to start investing much of our long-term savings for a home into stocks because we both feel that the market is at the bottom right now and is poised for a big rebound in the next five to ten years.
Here are a few recent emails I’ve received. From Connie:
Over the last few years, I’ve taught myself to play acoustic guitar and lately I’ve started writing a lot of songs. I’d like to record them and share them with others and maybe eventually start playing concerts, but every time I think about it, I want to do something else. It just seems so big.
Every month, I spend some time on a personal finance statement. I’m careful to include the current balances on all of my debts and assets, then I add up the assets, subtract the debts off the top, and wind up with a number that, in one single value, represents my financial standing in the world.
I often wish that, when I look at my balance sheet at the end of the month, the difference between my assets and my debts was substantially larger. I would love for that number to be big enough for me to declare true financial independence.
Spend less than you earn doesn’t just mean cut back on your spending. It also means striving to earn more income when you can, because the real goal is to maximize the gap between your income and your spending and then use that for a greater purpose (saving for your goals).
When the economy is good, there are a lot of ways to increase your income: hunting for a new job, asking for a raise, switching careers, starting a side business, and so on.
Carl writes in:
I am 21 years old and am still in college earning my degree. As of lately I have begun thinking about my future and what I will do with my money. I understand saving is a crucial part of living a successful financial life, but I am confused on how to attack such an issue. I have decided that I will definitely get a Roth IRA, but outside of that I don’t know what else to do with my money. I want to invest in the stock market in the long term most likely a index fund or a portfolio of low risk companies, would that be a form a saving?
A few days ago, I was being interviewed by a local newspaper when the interviewer, after asking a ton of questions about frugality and my ideas on personal finance, simply asked me the titular question.
Do you want to be rich?
I thought about it for a moment and realized the question - and the answer - isn’t as easy as it sounds.