There are thousands of sites that do everything from hype investment picks to regurgitate the day’s financial news. But only a few offer something far more valuable: deeper insights into the world of money so you can make better financial decisions. Here are three faves of mine that do just that.
1. American Institute for Economic Research’s Daily Economy blog. What I like about this blog is that it can help you think more like the hedgehog than the fox in philosopher Isaiah Berlin’s famous essay—that is, understand the big picture of how the economy and financial markets work and how you might reap their benefits, rather than get bogged down in the weeds and waste your time and money on the costly and ineffective strategies.
For example, a recent post titled “A Zen Approach to Long-Term Investing” advises investors to focus on factors they can control and let go of those they can’t, and lays out examples of each type in a clever little chart. Another column puts January’s market turbulence in historical perspective, a nice counterpoint to the hysterical approach to market volatility you typically see. Other highlights of AIER’s site include research briefs and columns on a variety of topics (including how to create a retirement spending plan) and a worthwhile retirement withdrawal calculator.
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2. Nerd’s Eye View. Geared as it is toward financial advisers and other investment pros, this blog by financial planner Michael Kitces may be a little “inside baseball” even for nonprofessionals who regularly follow the financial news. But I still think it’s a worthwhile read because Kitces’ deep digs into a broad array of planning and investing issues can provide much-needed context on issues that are often portrayed too simplistically elsewhere.
For example, Kitces has written extensively about the ins and outs of the 4% rule, including a recent piece that looks at how the rule has held up since the tech bubble and financial crisis and makes the counterintuitive case that, far from revealing the weakness of the 4% rule, these downturns show how how often it can succeed even under extreme periods of duress. And if you’re even thinking of doing a Roth IRA or 401(k), that alone is reason to check out this site, as Kitces weighed in authoritatively on virtually every aspect of Roth accounts, from conversions to back-door Roths to the factors that determine whether one should do a traditional vs. a Roth IRA.
If after visiting this site you decide that it goes into more detail than you’re comfortable dealing with, fine. But at the very least you should come away with a better appreciation of the many factors that go into making astute financial decisions, which should you make you more judicious about the investing and planning choices you make in the future.
3. Newfound Research’s Flirting With Models blog. I’m not a fan of most of the market commentary (or the jabber that passes for it) spewed by investing pros. It all just seems to blend into one amorphous blob. Occasionally, however, something piques my interest, which is the case with this blog from investment firm Newfound Research.
The posts can sometimes get a a bit technical for the average investor, such as a recent one that delves into the nitty-gritty of mean reversion. But many others, like a column on diversifying risks that explains how shielding yourself from one risk exposes you to another, are accessible to informed investors. What I like most about many of the posts is a contrarian sensibility that I find refreshing. One recent column, for example, challenged the oft-expressed notion these days that oil and energy prices are driving the stock market more than ever before.
I don’t agree with everything I read on this site, and I’m sure you won’t either. And in no way should you consider this any sort of an endorsement of the company or a recommendation of its products or services. It is not. Rather, I’m merely suggesting that from time to time you may want to check out some of Newfound’s blog posts. If nothing else, doing so can be a good way to remind yourself that no one has cornered the market on financial wisdom, and that considering a variety of viewpoints can help you make more informed investing and planning decisions.
If you’re looking for a quick “do this, not that” approach to financial advice, you won’t find it at these blogs. But if you want to gain a richer perspective and an appreciation of some of the subtleties involved in making good financial decisions (and avoiding bad ones), you won’t be disappointed.
Walter Updegrave is the editor of RealDealRetirement. If you have a question on retirement or investing that you would like Walter to answer online, send it to him at [email protected]. You can tweet Walter at @RealDealRetire.