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If your inboxes are anything like ours, you’re likely getting fewer work emails this week as colleagues log off for the holidays. You may also be seeing at least a few “2023 outlook” subject lines, as it’s the time of year when analysts gaze into their crystal balls and tell us what we can expect in the next 12 months.
The trouble with these forecasts, as one New York Times columnist pointed out last weekend, is that they are most often wrong. The article shares a piece of advice we think is worth remembering as you scan all those outlooks: “Accept that you need to invest without knowing what will happen to your money over the short term.” It echoes one of our fundamental beliefs here at FWIW — that it’s important to embrace uncertainty and keep your eye on the long term, as we point out in our Guide to the Rewards of Long-Term Investing.
That covers our investing wisdom for this week, as we’re keeping things lighter while the business world slows down over the holidays (though Monday’s report on a breakthrough UN biodiversity agreement to protect 30% of Earth’s land and water, along with our story on how biodiversity and investing go together, is still certainly news you can use). Today, we’re bringing you some last-minute financial gift ideas for the loved ones on your list, as well as some recommended books, movies, and podcasts to catch up on during the holiday lull.
Whatever your traditions, we wish you joyous holidays and hope you are able to spend time with family, friends, and pleasant airplane seatmates.
Programming note: While we are hoping everyone can enjoy a lighter email inbox for a few weeks, don’t be surprised to see FWIW pop up next Thursday as well. We will be featuring a quick quiz and some last-minute thoughts for those new year’s resolutions.
Asking for a friend….
We know there is a lot to think about these days, and it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. To help with those nagging questions and so you have useful resources at your fingertips, here are few links to resources and past stories relevant in these turbulent times:
- How to Practice Faith-Based Investing
- Some of our favorite inflation-fighting strategies (and a few more)
- Unpacking the ESG Alphabet Soup (including a link to our ever-growing glossary of common terms)
- FWIW Guide to Cleantech Investing: Sectors to Watch (covering a dozen innovative sectors to anchor your research on sustainable investing options)
- “Siri, What Is a Recession?”
6 last-minute finance gift ideas
If you’re not one of those people who gets their holiday gift shopping done weeks in advance (we see you, Virgos!), or you’re guilty of forgetting someone and are desperately googling ideas now, we’re here to help!
Here’s a FWIW list of last-minute (financial and investing-focused) gift ideas.
Stocks can be sent directly from your brokerage account to the recipient’s if you have their details. Another option is Stockpile, which sells gift cards for up to $200 to be redeemed on the platform. Websites like Unique Stock Gifts and GiveAShare let you gift a single stock from a limited list and print a stock certificate replica (the real ones are super expensive) to wrap and place under the tree.
In most cases there are no tax obligations for you when you gift a stock (just don’t go overboard here, ok), but the giftee will have to pay capital gains taxes on any profits if they sell. If you want to gift stocks to a child, they’ll need a custodial brokerage account controlled by their guardians.
Lastly, try to pick businesses whose ethos and practices you think your giftee would approve of. Consider if they would find the investment socially responsible and whether it aligns with any religious beliefs and values they hold. We have lots of resources to help you with this, but if you’re in a rush and gifting ETF shares, you can analyze the fund’s contents with As You Sow’s tools.
2. Finance book
If your loved one wants to learn about managing money or enjoys reading about history, the economy, entrepreneurs, businesses, and financial controversies, there are some great titles out there for them. We love the feel of a real book, but e-books do save the last-minute shopper.
You can choose from the FWIW list of personal finance and investing basics books, the Financial Times Business Book of the Year Award longlists have the newer page-turners, and the most popular on Goodreads is another place to look. Fast Company recently asked executives for their new business book recommendations. You’ll find some options even for those too young to add and subtract correctly.
3. US savings bond
Experts say this is probably the safest investment you can gift. A US savings bond is a loan to the federal government and comes in two types: EE bonds and I bonds. The former has a fixed interest rate (currently 2.10%), while the latter’s adjusts for inflation every six months. I bonds (with an interest rate that changes every six months and presently over 6%) are included as examples of options we’ve recommended FWIW readers consider as inflation and interest rates rise.
You can purchase a gift bond online of any amount between $25 and $10,000. They fully mature in 30 years, but your giftee can cash theirs in after one year (although they would lose three months of interest before five years). Both you and your recipient will need TreasuryDirect accounts, and you will also need to fill in their Social Security number. The Treasury Department provides step-by-step instructions for the entire process, though we warn you that the site is a bit wonky.
The gift bond must be held in your account for five days before it’s delivered, but you can print out one of the official holiday-themed announcements so you’re not empty-handed and your recipient will know their gift is on the way.
4. Budgeting tool
Help your friends and family save for the future, stay out of debt, and afford more fun adventures with a budget planner!
You can buy a physical journal designed to track income, savings, spending, and goals. This highly rated one from Clever Fox comes with fun motivational stickers and a place to store bills.
Or you can go virtual and get them one of the many budgeting apps that link to bank accounts, credit cards, and loans. Check whether there’s a gift card option or if you can gift the iOS app on the App Store. You Need a Budget (YNAB), which is recommended by the folks at Wirecutter and Investopedia, lets you gift an annual subscription for $98.99. One of NerdWallet’s recommendations, EveryDollar, also has a gifting option. If your friend is a freak in the (spread) sheets, they may enjoy a gift subscription for Tiller, an automated service built on Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel.
5. Board game
You gotta start ‘em early. Give the kids in your life the gift of financial literacy by buying them a board game that teaches them the basics, builds their math skills, and gives them a screen-time break. Popular classics are Monopoly, The Game of Life, and PayDay. Others include Money Bags, Cashflow (designed by the author of Rich Dad Poor Dad), The Stock Exchange Game, and Act Your Wage (from personal finance expert and radio personality Dave Ramsey).
6. Kiva loan
Sometimes helping others can bring more joy and fulfillment than any material present. A gift card for the lending platform Kiva allows the recipient to make a microloan to someone in need who has little or no access to credit. They can choose from prescreened borrowers who live in areas spanning nearly 80 countries and usually seek the funds to expand their small businesses. When the money is repaid — there’s historically a 96% repayment rate — your giftee can decide whether to lend the money to another borrower and continue being a force for good.
The FWIW holiday reading, watching, and listening list
Whether you’re traveling to see family, hitting the slopes, tanning on a beach, or staying home, the holidays promise some much-needed downtime. Here are some illuminating recommendations to help you fill it.
A few cozy titles to curl up with during your winter break:
Purpose and Profit: How Business Can Lift Up the World by George Serafeim — The Harvard Business School professor examines the role that entrepreneurs, managers, employees, consumers, and investors can all play in strengthening the relationship between purpose and profit.
The Price of Time: The Real Story of Interest by Edward Chancellor — It’s all anyone has been talking about this year. The author explains the history and nature of the macroeconomic policy tool that’s got stock markets and economies bent out of shape and the financial world in a fix.
Nomad Century: How Climate Migration Will Reshape Our World by Gaia Vince — An award-winning science journalist offers an important perspective on how the world is changing as it heats up and the need to prepare.
Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take by Paul Polman and Andrew Winston — How can business leaders tackle the urgent challenges of climate change and inequality while building a thriving business? Find inspiration in this missive from a former Unilever CEO and one of the world’s leading experts on corporate sustainability.
📰 🤓For your inbox — The Newsette!
While we often focus on finance reads, we’ve really enjoyed reading this free weekday email written for women and by women. It is full of news you need to know, stuff you'll become obsessed with, and inspiring women to follow — all things we need more of in our daily lives. Subscribe here.
We love it when a film combines suspense and entertainment with lessons about money and business. If the recent FTX implosion got you curious about other financial scandals, check out one of these movies.
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room — Enron is often mentioned as a cautionary tale because it’s one of the biggest corporate governance failures in history. This Oscar-nominated documentary is based on the book by reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind. Available to stream on Prime Video, Hulu, and Apple TV.
The Big Short — An adaptation of Michael Lewis's 2010 book, this star-studded, fast-paced, and witty film follows the Wall Street players who predicted the housing market bubble that would lead to the financial crisis of 2008. Available to rent on Apple TV and FlixFling.
The China Hustle — Since the Chinese government makes it hard for American investors to know what’s really going on at companies based in their country, this documentary follows activist short sellers trying to uncover the reality. Available to stream on Hulu and Apple TV.
🎄Trading Places — Our feel-good holiday pick is this 1983 flick that will make you laugh and give you a look (ok, a unique look) at commodities trading.
Taking a walk to escape your family for a little while? Here are two podcasts you may enjoy.
Climate Change from A to Z, The New Yorker — Sure, you can skim this extensive compilation of stories, but closing your eyes and listening to the audio version feels like someone reading you a bedtime story. Hopefully, it will leave you dreaming of ways you can positively impact the climate crisis.
Impact investing, NPR’s Planet Money — This two-part series breaks down the controversy surrounding ESG and values-based investing and interviews people on both sides of the debate.
Before you go -
What’s the modern-day equivalent of getting a lump of coal? Fruitcake and weight-loss items top the list of worst gifts.
**The FWIW team does not hold any stocks mentioned in this week’s newsletter, but we do use Tiller and have been long-time fans of Kiva. And on the subject of fans… couldn’t be happier about the result of the World Cup final.