A Tribute to Walter Updegrave

A respected Money magazine columnist retired last week, and explains how he saved enough.

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Walter Updegrave spent 26 years at Money magazine, where he wrote more than 1,000 “Ask the Expert” columns. He retired at the end of March.

As a fellow journalist, I admired the clarity of his writing and especially the soundness of his advice. There are relatively few sources of good financial advice. The space is largely dominated by what Jane Bryant Quinn correctly called “financial pornography.”

Jonathan Clements set the standard most of us try to follow during his tenure at the Wall Street Journal. My colleagues Larry Swedroe and Jared Kizer are an excellent source of financial advice. You can find Swedroe’s blog at CBS MoneyWatch and Kizer’s blog at Multifactor World. My colleague Carl Richards has a unique ability to simplify investing. His blogs appear on The New York Times. Allan Roth’s blog at CBS Money Watch is always worthy of a careful read, as are the blog posts of my former colleagues, Jay Franklin and Mark Hebner, which can be found at the website of Index Funds Advisors. Rick Ferri’s blog posts are among my favorites. They appear in Forbes. The Bogleheads forum is also an excellent resource for investors.

Unfortunately, most of what passes for financial journalism is not informative or helpful to investors. Examples abound, but the most obvious are Jim Cramer, and almost all the talking heads who appear on CNBC and other financial news programs who purport to have the ability to predict the direction of the markets or to select stocks or mutual funds that are likely to outperform. Websites likes Seeking Alpha perpetuate the myth that trying to beat the markets is an intelligent way to invest, rather than simply gambling. To illustrate this point, the title of a talk I give to investing groups is: “Seeking Alpha…and Getting Clobbered!” That’s a more accurate description of the reality for investors.

Updegrave’s final column typifies the solid advice that marked his tenure at Money. In answer to an inquiry from a reader who wanted to know about his personal retirement planning, Updegrave noted that he saved on a regular basis and funded retirement accounts available to him as a freelance journalist and subsequently as an employee at Money.

Here’s how he describes his investment philosophy: “I've never had much faith in money managers' ability to beat the market after investment costs, nor in my ability to predict which asset classes would perform best in the short-term. So for the most part I've tried to build a portfolio of low-cost broadly diversified index funds that track the overall stock and bond markets. Then I sat back and rode the long-term upward sweep of the financial markets.”

I suggest you paste those words on to a sheet of paper, frame it and place it next to your computer, so you will never be tempted to deviate from that simple, responsible approach to investing.

Updegrave had a unique ability to cut through the nonsense that passes for financial reporting. That’s what made his reporting so valuable. I am comforted by the fact that he will continue to express his views about personal finance subjects in some capacity. Nevertheless, I will miss his columns in Money and wish him a well-deserved respite.

Dan Solin is the director of investor advocacy for the BAM Alliance and a wealth adviser with Buckingham Asset Management. He is a New York Times best-selling author of the Smartest series of books. His latest book, 7 Steps to Save Your Financial Life Now, was published on Dec. 31, 2012.

The views of the author are his alone and may not represent the views of his affiliated firms. Any data, information, and content on this blog is for information purposes only and should not be construed as an offer of advisory services.