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As the market nosedived last year, my older brother advised me to sell. I lost $80,000. How can I ever forgive him?

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Dear Quentin,

This time last year, when the market was nosediving, my older brother advised me to get out of the market, and go to cash to conserve my assets. It was only going to get worse, he proclaimed, and he had 40 years’ experience in the market.

Granted, it was an ugly drop. Following his lead, I said hello to a $80,000 loss, while thinking I’d say goodbye to an even worse disaster. That same downturn soon ended, and the market recovered. It took me months to get back into the market.

If I’d ignored his advice and stayed the course, I’d be way ahead instead of way behind. To this day, I’m behind $55,000, so I’ve recovered some. I don’t feel good about being led down this path. Perhaps I have no one to blame for listening but myself.

Any thoughts on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

The Brother

Dear Brother,

Accountability is everything. You can start forgiving your brother by forgiving yourself. But in order to do that, you must repeat after me: “I, and I alone, was responsible for buying these stocks while the going was good, and I, and I alone, am responsible for selling them.”

Intent also matters. Your brother, whether he has four years or 40 years of experience, did not mean you harm. He may have been feeling concerned himself, and projected that worry onto you. You didn’t say whether he sold stocks too. Regardless, rinse and repeat the above quote.


‘It was a hard lesson. But the fun part is figuring out what it is you have learned.’


— The Moneyist

You are responsible for making money, you are responsible for saving money, and you are responsible for investing money. When you ask for advice and give 100% of your decision-making over to that person, you are making a choice. You are also handing over your power.

It was a hard lesson. But the fun part is figuring out what it is you have learned. 1. Don’t sell your stock during tumultuous times based on fear. 2. Don’t give up your own agency. 3. Don’t torture yourself by counting every rise and fall. That is what got you into this situation in the first place.

The situation, by the way, is temporary — so you can now choose to suffer, or you can take an action and choose NOT to suffer. Close your laptop, call your brother and ask how he is doing, stick with it for the long haul this time, and take a walk and get in some steps.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

The Moneyist: ‘Warren Buffett and Harry Potter couldn’t get those two retired early’: Our spendthrift neighbors said our adviser was ‘lousy.’ So how come WE retired early?

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My husband doesn’t get along with my son. I brought most of the wealth into our marriage. How do I split my estate?

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Dear Quentin,

How do couples typically handle their estates in a second marriage? My husband and I have been married for seven years, and it is the second marriage for both of us. I have one adult child from my previous marriage; he has no children.

I brought the majority of our wealth to our marriage, including almost $1 million in my 401(k) and a nice home that is almost paid off; otherwise, we have no debt. My husband and I bought a second home together. We work hard to fund our new 401(k)s, and own a successful business together.

I am turning 65 this year, so estate planning is long overdue. My husband is five years younger than me, and we are both in very good health. We have two issues facing us: I see our retirement as living very comfortably on the monthly income generated by our 401(k)s, pension, Social Security, etc., and leaving whatever may be left to my son.


‘The other issue is that my husband no longer gets along with my dear son at all, and feels no obligation to get along with him.’

I am not interested in scrimping, but I want to be able to have enough money to last us until age 90 (or beyond) by not touching the principal. My husband is more interested in dipping deep into our savings, and living it up in retirement while we are young enough to enjoy it.

The other issue is that my husband no longer gets along with my dear son at all, and feels no obligation to get along with him, to the point that neither one wants anything to do with the other. As far as he is concerned, my son doesn’t meet his expectations, and so deserves nothing from me and certainly nothing from him.

I want my estate planning to be fair to both my new husband and my son. How do people typically handle this type of quandary? I think that I need to create some type of trust to pass on my share of our estate to my son. My pre-marriage assets involved my son as I pursued my graduate degree through night school and worked long hours throughout his childhood.

Second Wife

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com.

Dear Second Wife,

Don’t allow your husband’s feelings toward your son to influence your estate planning.

Your relationships with your husband and your son and your own plans for retirement are all fair game when making decisions about your estate, but your husband and son’s fractured relationship is their business, not yours. You worked hard for this money, and your son is your legal heir. Any effort by your husband to spend all of your savings and fritter away any inheritance that you intended to leave to your son should be resisted at all costs.

You have worked too hard your entire life to compromise your plans for a comfortable retirement where you have money set aside for long-term medical care insurance, unforeseen emergencies and/or your son. If you jointly own your home, you can leave your half to your son in your will, and specify it can only be sold after your husband passes away.

If you own the home, you can give your husband a life estate. Your son would pay capital-gains tax on the value of your home when he sells it, and not when you bought it. You could also make your son the beneficiary on your life-insurance policy, and/or gift him a certain amount of money per year to see how he manages and spends that money.

Figure out what is fair to yourself first before moving on to what is fair to your husband and your son. It’s OK to put your needs first. I caution against your dipping into savings at a rate that is beyond your own risk tolerance.

Ultimately, you are entitled to leave all other separate property to your son when you die — and, along with a financial adviser, set up a trust with that in mind for you, your husband and your son. Not necessarily in that order.

The Moneyist: ‘I cut his hair because he won’t pay for a haircut’: My multimillionaire husband is 90. I’ve looked after him for 41 years, but he won’t help my son

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These money and investing tips can help you make a place for crypto in your portfolio

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Don’t miss these top money and investing features:

These money and investing stories, popular with MarketWatch readers over the past week, can give you a better understanding of bitcoin and other cyrptocurrency, and help you figure out if digital currency has a place in your portfolio alongside stocks, bonds and other traditional assets.

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I’m 30. My wife is 34. We saved $350K and I have $325K saved for retirement. Should we pay cash for a home — or take out a mortgage and invest it?

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Dear Quentin,

After finishing graduate school, my wife and I decided to pay off all our debt before buying a home, or anything for that matter.

We have been cheaply renting for the last three years, and living as if I were still a very poor graduate student. During this time, we paid off all of our debts, and even went as far as to save around $350,000 in cash.

My wife is 30, I am 34, and we are ready to take the next step. We now have two children under two who have over $20,000 and growing in each of their 529s. We are both covered by ample term life insurance, and I have an own occupation disability policy. I make about $250,000 per year.

I am very fortunate in that my employer contributes about $40,000 into my 401(k) while I contribute up to the remaining Internal Revenue Service maximum of approximately $57,000 per year. Our family HSA contribution is maxed out and grows every year.

My spouse stays home with the children now. We have a combined retirement portfolio of around $325,000. At this point, should we put a cash offer on a home, or take out a loan and invest the difference? Not having a mortgage in our 30s seems awfully nice.

Conversely, investing could bring greater long-term returns.

Sincerely,

At A Crossroads

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com.

Dear Crossroads,

Congratulations, paying off that debt and saving so aggressively is quite an achievement, and it’s something that few people your age get to do.

The clue is often in the question. You are already edging closer to the house. As a rule, it’s never recommended to put all of your money in one place. So if I was to suggest anything — and it’s only a suggestion, NOT a recommendation — you could also split the difference and pay 25% to 50% down on a new home, and keep the remainder for investing, saving and a rainy day. Everything in moderation, even spending your hard-earned savings.

Of course, you get to live in a home of your choice in the neighborhood of your choice, and you get to enjoy that every day, as do your children. Having kids may also influence how much you are willing to spend on a home and where you are prepared to live based on the schools and the amenities in that district. It’s not just an investment, it’s a qualify-of-life choice, perhaps one of the most important choice outside of choosing a life partner.

MarketWatch Retirement columnist and CPA Riley Adams recently dealt with your very question, breaking down the pros/cons of both. The upside of stocks: “Stocks are liquid. Proven track record of success. Earn dividends. Easy to diversify your portfolio.” The downsides of stocks: “An emotional roller coaster. Short-term volatility. Capital-gains taxes.” That depends on your and your wife’s risk tolerance, and how much time you are willing and able to devote to investing.

The upside of real estate, per Adams’ advice: “A hedge against market volatility. Tax advantages. Cash flow.” And, like I said, you enjoy it every day. The downsides: “Real estate requires time and money. Your money is tied up. Tons of fees. Not easy to diversify.” And, if you are paying a mortgage, you also have to pay interest on top of the principal, which is tax deductible. Ditto property taxes. But paying that interest allows you to free up that extra cash.

Indeed, a recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York looked at consumer preferences toward being a homeowner and how their attitudes have changed over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Survey participants were asked to rate which was the better investment — a home or financial assets such as a stocks — and what factors contributed to their choice. Some 90% of those polled said they preferred owning their primary residence to investing in the market.

Sit down with your wife, and a financial adviser and look at your options. The adviser, like a good therapist, should ask you questions — and you should hold all the answers.

The Moneyist:My multimillionaire husband is 90. I’ve looked after him for 41 years, but he won’t help my son

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