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Ross Levin

Columnist | Your Money
Ross Levin is founding principal and president of Accredited Investors Inc., Edina, a fee-only wealth management firm. His Gains and Losses column runs on the fourth Sunday of the month. A compilation of these columns can be found in his book, "Spend Your Life Wisely." Send emails to
Recent content from Ross Levin
At the end of a year, investors should assess their deeper motivations, fears and goals.

Ross Levin: After a sour year in stocks, focus on understanding your fear and greed

Did the falling markets affect more than they needed to?
Bell ringer or not, it’s the time of year when people search their conscience as they encounter charities like the Salvation Army more frequently.

Ross Levin: Giving feeds our soul, so why do we worry about it so much?

When you give, you are telling yourself that you have enough.
Columnist Ross Levin says that when parents do things that they feel their children are taking for granted, parents may be the ones acting entitled.

Levin: How parents can get twisted around on entitlement

Parents need to ask: Am I modeling entitlement or gratitude?
With the election done, it’s time to take a breather from politics and recognize that economic choices are always about more good than bad rather th

Ross Levin: Taxes are fair and unfair, debt is good and no good

Life is complex and it'll be nice to put aside the political caricatures for awhile.
It’s easy to second-guess your investment choices when the markets are down.

Levin: Silence the investment critic in your head

Turn that critical voice into something more productive.
There are ways to earn more on your cash than a traditional savings account.

Levin: This is the exact moment to put cash to work

It's surprisingly easy to get a better return with your cash than a savings account provides.
Getting too fixated on a target price, or financial goal, can trap investors into inaction.

Levin: Don't become 'anchored' in your financial expectations

There's a risk to become tied to an idea or price that doesn't really matter.
Incentives are so influential on choices involving money, but there are hazards within them that people may not see.

Levin: Incentives are powerful, but they can also pose hazards

Incentives usually drive big monetary decisions, but they can be misleading too.
The midway is the meme stocks area of the Minnesota State Fair.

Levin: Some people go to the State Fair and see their financial life in front of them

What you can learn from a stroll around the fairgrounds with ideas of money in your head.
Sometimes people say things about money that are quick and brusque.

Levin: When talking about money, many people could use a do-over

Sometimes people blurt out uncomfortable feelings about a financial situation. Here's to second chances.
In the search for a good financial planner, the question to be answered is “Does the planner understand you?”

Levin: What your financial planner should be asking you

The key question to be answered is: Does the planner understand you and your family?
The stock market has been a real lemon this year.

Ross Levin: Four things you can do with your stocks in this bear market

Use losses for tax savings, rebalance what's moved off your plan and other ideas for a market that's a lemon.
The decision to buy a house can be shaped by studying a chart.

Levin: Even with prices and rates rising, the equation for buying a home stays the same

Mapping out your time horizon and asset direction will help you decide whether it's better to rent or buy.
In Buddhist teachings, the concept of “near enemies” is a subtle way of understanding risk. File photo of a Buddhist mandala artist.

Levin: What a Buddhist concept can teach you about your finances

The notion of 'near enemies' can illuminate financial attributes or traits that seem appealing at first but turn out to be problems.
In a time of uncertainty, taking action can feel good, but can lead to more problems if not well thought out.

Levin: Action feels right at a moment of economic uncertainty, but it may not be

You can't have a victory if you are playing the wrong game.
A Tickle Me Elmo doll, shown in a 1996 file photo. At the time, its maker was air-freighting shipments in from China after being caught off guard by s

Levin: What Tickle Me Elmo can teach you about economic bubbles

The concept of bubbles is an important one for investors, especially those who are trying to make big decisions about real estate and cryptocurrency.
Keeping the big picture in mind is always a challenge for investors.

Levin: Moving south part of the year to avoid Minnesota's tax — and other money mistakes

One of the hardest things to do in investing, and life, is to keep the big picture in mind.
Levin: Crypto, losses, capital gains? How to think about taxes in investment decisions

Levin: Crypto, losses, capital gains? How to think about taxes in investment decisions

Avoid the investment mistake pro football player Trevor Lawrence made that cost him millions in taxes.
The kids’ game “Would you rather?” can help adults illuminate their financial options.

Levin: Playing 'Would you rather?' with your money will teach you a lot

The kids' game about competing choices holds surprising lessons for adults and their money.
Wealth is something you can’t see. Once you see it, it’s gone.

Levin: We're all paying the volatility tax right now

Once you see wealth, it's gone.
In retirement, there are two major investment risks: volatility and inflation.

Levin: In retirement, there are two investment risks and both are happening now

Inflation and volatility are the challenges to retirees' assets at the moment they are most needed.
The lake lifestyle is so alluring that Minnesotans will let emotions get in the way of cost/benefit calculations.

Levin: Why emotions often overtake personal financial analysis

When money decisions turn emotional, people tend to put weight on the wrong things.
Market volatility is unnerving to many investors, but it’s a good time to assess your tolerance for risk. Pictured: the Nasdaq Market in New York.

Levin: The market has turned, so do what you always should

Take the appropriate amount of risk based on your situation, not the unknowns of the market.
At a certain age, it’s time to plan for the end.

Levin: The last challenge in planning your finances is one of the hardest

For people of a certain age, there's no time like the present to plan for the end.
To increase your wealth, learn what matters and what doesn’t.

Levin: Let's play 'Ignore it or deal with it' with your money

Here are some simple ways to know what matters and what doesn't with your finances.
'The Great Substitution' applies to your investments, too

'The Great Substitution' applies to your investments, too

You can find substitution occurring everywhere — and this affects your life and your finances.
Sleights of hand can make us question our own reality even when we know we are being tricked.

Levin: Watch out for the tricks of wealth

Investment advisers and clients sometimes engage in financial sleights of hand.
The dilemma resurfaces annually as charities make their holiday and year-end appeals: How much should a person donate to charity?

How much should you give to charity?

There are basically five overlapping reasons why we give.
Levin: We all want certainty in our personal finances, but there is science involved

Levin: We all want certainty in our personal finances, but there is science involved

The precision of math can deceive investors, when there are too many influences on the outcome of investments.
President Joe Biden with senators in June after the bipartisan group reached a deal on infrastructure spending. The measure is stuck in the House.

Levin: When that infrastructure bill passes, the tax consequences will follow

For some businesses, it's best to defer some tax payments until the dust settles.
The wrong map got some troops out of the Alps years ago, a lesson that works for people as they plot out their finances, our columnist says.

Levin: What to do when you want to change your life but can't quite see the picture

A recent book about the pandemic holds lessons for approaching your finances and planning.
The comparison of renting vs. owning a home is not as simple as you may think. Shown are single-family rental homes in Plymouth.

Levin: People underestimate the costs of owning a home vs. renting one

The comparisons often exclude opportunity costs and the time spent on upkeep.
Hart, the Levin family’s collie, who likely could not save humans from quicksand or drowning.

Levin: Don't expect a savior like Lassie to rescue your retirement finances

Only you can save yourself from an investor's worst tendencies: fear and greed.
On paper, all assets and liabilities look equal. But that’s now how real life works.

Levin: Excited by rising house values? Some of your other assets may be more important

Not all assets and liabilities are equal. Here's a way to evaluate them beyond their numeric value.
To understand motivations, ask the opposite question to the one you’re now asking.

Levin: Ask questions in a different way to zero in on financial motivations (and others)

To understand yourself, sometimes you might need to make an Opposite Day.
Look for the lessons in life's financial losses

Look for the lessons in life's financial losses

We visited our daughter and her husband the night they closed on their new home. As we were bringing things in, we heard loud crackling.…
Jammed closet? What you need probably isn't more hangers.

Crowded closets? Time to take a hard look at how they got that way

The lesson: Spend your life wisely.

Uncertainty clouding your money moves? Here's how to sort things out

We just had an election and things are a bit confusing. The current president isn’t ceding power to the president-elect and the Senate has two…

Why it can make financial sense to allow yourself to feel sad

With a lot of tough stuff going on, if we don't experience our feelings, if we simply push ahead and stay positive, the consequences can follow.

Are your financial decisions working out? Don't be afraid to revisit and revise them

  Every year in preparation for watching the Super Bowl, I get a 1-pound bag of peanut M&M’s to eat by myself. The first quarter…

Things to consider when you are ready to retire

The pandemic may have accelerated plans, leaving you feeling unprepared.
Jar full of money in hands. Saving money concept

It pays to focus on how your money will support your values

Rather than focus on what your money can do for you, let's talk about what you can do for you.

Want a better life in 5 years? Here's how to get started

Most job interviewers will ask, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" We have learned to answer so we sound ambitious, but not too…
One Hundred Dollar Bill With Medical Face Mask on George Washington.

When will things get better? 3 keys to getting past this

We know that transitions have beginnings, middles and ends, but they don't always occur in that order.

In times like these, it's a sound financial strategy stick to little things

Here are some that you can do that may buy you some time until things eventually stabilize.
Sure, that puppy is cute, but are you ready for all the work involved?

Fighting those impulse buys during pandemic can add up to deals later

You may have heard about the marshmallow test, a social science test created in the 1970s by Walter Mischel. Put a marshmallow in front of…
A currency trader works at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, June 26, 2020.

Want to get back into the stock market? Here's one way to do it

Aggregate data reveal that almost a trillion dollars has moved into money-market funds this year between February and May. And as we know, the market…
There are not good or bad real estate markets, there are better or worse markets. It is one of the rules in buying and selling homes that remains cons

Looking to buy or sell a home? Here are 10 things you need to understand

The actual value is the price one person is willing to pay for it at a particular point in time.

We don't know when this will end, so we must deal with the now normal

Let’s say there is a 90% chance that social distancing has smoothed things over until we find a cure for COVID-19. There is a 90%…
As countries re-examine their reliance on far-flung supply chains that could include this terminal in Hong Kong, take time to check your personal supp

To improve your resilience, take time to improve your supply chain

Only three things can get you through work stoppages — government support, your ability to borrow, and your personal savings

Scarcity is playing a big role in our lives right now. Here's how.

Scarcity creates this tunneling effect where we are laser-focused on only one thing.
An opinion affects strategy.

Our opinions often guide our investments, and that can be costly

When an opinion leads to strategy decisions, how can you reduce the expense of the mistake?
The Fearless Girl statue stands in front of the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, March 16, 2020 in New York.

To chart your next move in financial markets, think 'here,' not 'there'

There are many models outlining what could happen, although models are not maps. We don't really know how much better or worse things will be.
Markets plunged Monday, causing many investors to think about rebalancing their portfolios.

Market panic is a virus we can contain

Before you quarantine your investments, let's examine what is going on.

Navigating right, wrong and in between in financial planning

I was trying to convince someone what a great thing something was going to be. I was charming and unconvincing. He was the same. So…
Getting retirement right starts with being comfortable with your own story

Getting retirement right starts with being comfortable with your own story

Sometimes a fear of what could happen is more limiting than dealing with what is actually happening.

After strong decade for stocks, resist making assumptions

If you think back to the end of 2011, were you thinking about calling your broker? I don’t mean calling her about your excitement regarding…

You just might be better off by accepting financial planning mysteries

Even if puzzles are complex, they are solvable. Good advice adds to desired outcomes.

It's a good time to notice those who are struggling

Thanksgiving is a good time to take stock.

Taxes don't have to be as painful as we make them out to be

In Minnesota, we are acutely affected by taxes and we have three choices: eliminate them, limit them or appreciate them.
Make sure your kids want the cabin before you leave it to them in the will.

It is time to talk about the family cabin

Because parents are often not open with their adult children, chaos may ensue.

Long-term care, climate change and your finances

There would seem to be nothing in common between long-term care and climate change. But there is. Insurance companies cannot properly price it. This is…

Why you need to ask questions of your financial adviser

A new client recently was asking many questions in a meeting, ending with one about whether there are ways to see their account directly from…

Build on areas of agreement to resolve money dispute with partner

I have learned a lot in over 35 years of doing this. And I am still learning. But I can give you something I have…

Financial planning jargon could be costing you money

Financial planning has a lot of confusing jargon. Here is a short course on what some of these things really mean.Financial planners get paid in…

When talking money, try these five steps to get to the real issue

When the Mueller report came out, to no one's surprise, many Democrats and many Republicans came away with starkly differing takes. No amount of chatter…

A lesson in learning to help others

It started with the "Be Kind" billboard as we approached Green Valley on our way through Wisconsin. My wife and I looked at each other…
Hand of young adult pointing elderly person where to sign

Legacy letter can explain your money values to your heirs

Money and values are intricately intertwined. When you reach the stage of life where you want to pass on your life philosophy on the subject…

Market jitters? Calm down, and follow this plan

When you opened your year-end investment statements, you felt sick and were looking for someone to blame, weren't you? Everything had seemed so hunky dory…
Decluttering phenomenon Marie Kondo.

How to apply Marie Kondo's 'Tidying Up' to your finances

As Kondo tidily sums up, "People cannot change their habits without first changing their thinking." That works for financial perspectives, too.

Buying opportunity? Time to panic? How to think amid roiling markets

Let’s be honest — if you are an investor, you are uncomfortable in this volatile stock market. But should you be? There is only one…
Joan Gabel answered questions last Friday from the University of Minnesota Board of Regents. On Tuesday of this week, the regents selected her to beco

Funny thing about the U's presidential search council: It worked

Our diverse, eclectic group helped the U land a terrifc candidate. Here's some of what I learned.
A canning jar filled with currency sits on a shelf

How to keep money issues from turning bitter

Here are a couple of ideas on how to handle things before the resentment builds.

Figuring out who you aren't can help your financial planning

If we are conscious of who we aren't, we are more likely to make decisions that connect our actions and values.
Rising interest rates may not be good for your adjustable rate mortgage, but they are great for any money that you may have in savings.

Do not leave money around — use savings vehicles

Look at options other than savings accounts with banks.