Investing Basics Everyone Should Understand

When I graduated from college, I felt like I was on my way to knowing everything about investing. I had taken several courses teaching deep investment analysis; crunching data in large, complex spreadsheets.

As I’ve continued to learn, I have realized (and extensive, academic research has confirmed) smart investing isn’t nearly as complex as it’s made out to be. Anyone can do it themselves, if they learn a few guiding principles.

When a Ponzi Scheme Hits Home

Shortly after returning from my missionary service in 2001, I was approached by a man who said he was experiencing some car troubles and needed a ride. I truly learned to love people on my mission, so I happily offered to help.

While I was driving, the man revealed his true “story.” What he really wanted was money. He needed a certain part to fix his car and he knew how much it was, he just didn’t have the money to get it done. I was reluctant but he was insistent, showing me his ID and giving me his address; begging and pleading. So I stopped at an ATM, took out some cash, and gave it to him along with my number to call once he could pay me back. I think it was around $180. No small sum for a broke, college-bound returned missionary.

3 Things Not to Do During a Stock Market Decline

If you’ve seen any financial news lately, you’re aware of some of the ups and downs the stock market has experienced. Stock market volatility is not uncommon, but that doesn’t make it any less scary to stomach.

However, periods of uncertainty present some of the biggest opportunities for investors to sabotage their financial plans. Here are three things you should avoid doing during a stock market decline.

Understanding the Tax Game, Part 1 - The Cashflow Quadrant

I love the film Hoosiers. Not just because it’s a great Cinderella story, but because it has so many great lessons to be learned. Lessons about the values of fundamentals.

The basketball coach in the film is a relentless fundamentalist of the game. For example, he obsesses over his players making “three passes!” before anyone takes a shot. This is initially met with outcry from the fans and rebellion from the team, but as the film progresses the coaches commitment to the fundamentals wins his team over…all the way to the championship.

I’ve been thinking recently about some of the fundamentals of another game—the tax game. Few of us actually look at taxes as a game (rather, a complete headache), but the game becomes much easier—perhaps even fun—when the principal rules are understood.

Should I Pay Off Debt or Save?

If there’s any question more common in the personal finance world, it’s this one: Should I pay off debt or save that money instead?

I love this question, because it’s addressing a financial topic that I wish were on the forefront of more minds. Paying off debt and saving are two great ways to utilize our money that we should all be thinking more about. Your situation isn’t as cheery if you’re having to decide between paying off debt, saving, purchasing a new sports car, or buying a bigger home you can’t afford.