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This Week In Your Wallet: Luxury Matters

Jean Chatzky  |  April 9, 2019

“The thing you come, ultimately, to realize is that the biggest luxury is feeling safe and not worrying about money. It is the only luxury that really matters.” —  Ruth Reichl, former editor of Gourmet Magazine, and author of the new memoir Save Me The Plums, which was featured in the L.A. Times on Sunday.

I was struck by Reichl’s words this weekend. They inspired me to start thinking more about how I define “luxury” in my own life. What comes to mind for you when you hear the word? For me — and perhaps being in LA while reading her story had something to do with this — I’m embarrassed to say my mind first drifted to images of shopping for designer duds on Rodeo Drive — a close second was relaxing at a hotel spa for a few hours. The exercise reminded me how easy it can be to forget that the most precious luxury we could ever have is enough money to relax and enjoy our lives now and in retirement. There is so much luxury — the priceless luxury of peace of mind — in never having to feel as though an unexpected medical bill or a new fridge is going to send us into a tailspin of debt and worry. This week, I challenge you to think about how you define “luxury” — really think about it. What adjustments can you make in your daily life that will allow you to visualize it — and achieve it — in its purest form? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me at

Stopping Spam Calls, Once And For All

Lately I’ve been wondering — does anyone just answer their phone anymore? I don’t know a single person who doesn’t first analyze the incoming number, and then debate whether or not it might be a robocall or scam. Belarus = bad. A number similar to your own = bad. But you can’t screen everything. For example, if you’re waiting for an important call back from a doctor’s office or from work, you have to pick up. In March, Americans got more than 5.2 billion automated calls — that’s a record of about 16 for every man, woman and child in the country, writes Geoffrey Fowler in this week’s Washington Post. But thankfully, even though modern technology has made it easy for scammers to place thousands of calls per second, engineers are busy developing clever technologies that let us take back some semblance of control. Today, there are six companies leading the charge to flag and block robocalls on cellphones: HiyaNomoroboRoboKillerTNSTruecaller and YouMail. You can also activate your cell phone carrier’s free service that will help identify and block robocalls. For AT&T subscribers, the app is called AT&T Call Protect, for Verizon, download the Verizon Call Filter app, and, for T-Mobile, just turn on the company’s Scam ID and Scam Block service, no app required.

The 5 Slickest Scams of 2019 

While we’re on the topic of scams and spam, it’s a good time for a reminder that it’s not only the elderly who are being deceived by savvy con artists these days. Some phony websites look incredibly official — and fake representatives are doing their best to sound convincing. And, they do, because they’re spending hours researching your life online before they even pick up the phone. On this week, we put together a list of five of the smoothest scams you should keep an eye out for, including romance ruses, fake family emergencies, and even fake job sites. (Hint: The only person actually getting paid is the scammer.) Check out our run-down, and let us know if there are any other clever scams we should be keeping an eye out for.

Do You Overestimate Or Underestimate Your Abilities? 

How confident do you feel in your ability to understand people’s feelings or survive a zombie apocalypse, for example? Recent studies show that people have some interesting — and often inaccurate — perceptions of themselves when it comes to sizing up their abilities. Not surprisingly, there’s a divide across gender lines, writes Spencer Greenberg and Seth Stephens-Davidowitz in this week’s New York Times. For example, men were confident they could best their peers at stereotypically male tasks, like playing poker and fixing a chair. Meanwhile, women felt they could outperform their counterparts in things like cooking a delicious meal and child-rearing. But the constant across both sexes was that experience was what influenced confidence the most. In other words, the more you do something, the more your confidence grows. Shocking? Not so much—but it does have important implications with regard to your finances. If you’re intimidated by investing, for example, the best way to ease your fears is to get out there and do it. Flexing your financial muscles is the best way to breed confidence and kill zombies fear — a lesson we all need to be reminded of from time to time.

Charles Schwab and… Chill? 

How many monthly subscriptions do you have for things that help you stay healthy, informed, and entertained? There’s Netflix, Equinox, Apple Music, and now there’s Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium—a service that could send a shock wave through the financial-planning world, writes Jason Zweig in this week’s Wall Street Journal. For a $300 sign-up fee and a $30 per month charge, Schwab’s new program offers unlimited access to financial planners and online tools, and will manage your investment portfolios with no annual fee. If you’ve met with a financial planner before, you know this model is vastly different from the traditional model, where you’re charged a yearly fee based on your portfolio size — there’s no separate line item for “financial planning.” Unfortunately, this may have “trained the public to believe investing is arcane and expensive, while financial planning is mundane and unimportant,” Zweig writes. Meanwhile, the opposite is closer to the truth. “Investment management is a commodity whose market price has dropped close to zero, whereas the advice and judgment of a good financial planner can do wonders for your net worth,” he says, arguing that it’s time for advisors nationwide to rethink their fees, perhaps charging on a fee-for-service basis (like a doctor or lawyer), rather than charging a percentage of your assets under management. Meanwhile, Schwab has assigned 35 financial planners to its new program, and more companies may soon follow suit with this model.

Have a great week,


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