Michelle Singletary

Washington, D.C.

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column The Color of Money, which appears in The Washington Post on Wednesdays and Sundays. Her award-winning column is syndicated by The Washington Post News Service and Syndicate and is carried in dozens of newspapers nationwide. She has written four personal finance books, including, "What to Do With Your Money When Crisis Hits: A Survival Guide" and “The 21-Day Financial Fast: Your Path to Financial Peace and Freedom.” Singletary was the financial expert for “The Revolution,” a daytime program on ABC. For two years, she was the host of her own national television program, “Singletary Says,” on TV One. She is a frequent contributor to various NPR programs and has appeared on national talk shows and television networks, including CNN, PBS, NBC’s “Today,” and “The Early Show on CBS.” In her spare time, Singletary is the director of a ministry she founded at her church, in which women and men volunteer to mentor others who are having financial challenges. As part of this ministry, she and her husband also volunteer to teach financial literacy to prison inmates. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park. She has received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Johns Hopkins University, where she earned a master’s degree in business and management. In 2020, The Washington Post celebrated her long and distinguished career at the paper with the Eugene Meyer Award, its highest journalistic honor. To stay informed about various money issues subscribe to Michelle’s weekly retirement and personal finance newsletter, which will be delivered to your inbox every Monday and Thursday.

Archives

Read all of Michelle's Newsletters Read all Color of Money Discussions Honors & Awards:
  • The Washington Post Eugene Meyer Award, highest journalistic honor, 2020
  • Distinguished Achievement Award from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, the organization’s highest honor, 2019
  • Hall of Fame for the Society of Professional Journalists Washington, D.C., Pro Chapter, 2019
  • Fellowship, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton Seminars for Business Journalist, awarded by National Press Foundation, 2018
  • Salute to Excellence Award for Community Service, National Association of Black Journalists, 2010
  • Best in Business, series of columns, Society of American Business Editors, 2008
  • Books by Michelle Singletary:
  • What To Do With Your Money When Crisis Hits: A Survival Guide
  • Buy on Amazon
  • The 21 Day Financial Fast: Your Path to Financial Peace and Fre
  • Buy on Amazon
  • Your Money and Your Man: How You and Prince Charming Can Spend Well and Live Rich
  • Buy on Amazon
  • Spend Well, Live Rich: How to Get What You Want with the Money You Have
  • Buy on Amazon
Recent Articles

MICHELLE SINGLETARY COLUMN

Advance for release Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, and thereafter

(For Singletary clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only.

By Michelle Singletary

WASHINGTON - Some investors clutch their hearts when the stock market dives. Others see an opportunity to dive in and "buy the dip."

As indexes such as the Dow and S&P 500 took a sharp drop recently, people started tweeting #BuyTheDip. The S&P fell 1.7% Monday, its worst day in two months, noted Callie Cox, senior investment strategist with Ally Invest.

You may be wondering what it means to "buy the dip."

Investopedia, my go-to site for good investor information, explains the investment strategy this way: " 'Buy the dips' means purchasing an asset after it has dropped in price. The belief here is that the new lower price represents a bargain as the 'dip' is only a short-term blip and the asset, with time, is likely to bounce back and increase in value."

To put it another way, for those of you who were born to bargain-shop, this means stuff is on sale.

Market dips in 2020, courtesy of a global pandemic that made stocks cheaper to buy, have resulted in a spike in first-time investors, according to a report earlier this year by the Finra Investor Education Foundation and NORC at the University of Chicago.

During 2020, there was a surge in retail investors who opened taxable, non-retirement investment accounts via online brokers. These new investors were younger, had lower incomes and were more racially diverse, the report found.

One reason new investors opened accounts was that dips in the market made stocks cheaper to buy.

Dan Egan, director of behavioral finance and investing at the online investment firm Betterment, said he understands why people gravitate to a "buy the dip" strategy. Psychologically, it can get people off the investing sidelines.

"It does give you this sense of confidence of, 'Well, at least I didn't buy at the top,'" Egan said. "It's a way of minimizing regret and feeling comfortable with getting invested at a specific point in time."

The stock market can be scary, and buying when stocks are down, from a behavioral point of view, can help people get invested and benefit from growth in the market, Egan said.

But Egan and Cox warn about being overly confident about this strategy.

"When the stock market is going through a sell-off, you may not be able to buy the dip, because of your emotions," Cox said. "Buy the dip is one of those things that works really well on paper, but it doesn't work well in real life. It's something that I personally struggle with because, as an investor, I want to buy the dip, but I'm human, and sometimes I don't feel good when the market's going down. Buy the dip is market timing."

Buying on dips doesn't necessarily guarantee better returns, they said. While you wait for a downturn, you could be missing out on significant upturns in the stock market.

"The issue with buying the dip as a strategy is that you can end up sitting out of the market for those long periods of time when it rallies," Egan said.

It's also impossible to know when the market will dip to its lowest point during a particular period, leaving many people waiting for the right time to buy. You could be waiting a long time.

Then there's the question of how low is low enough?

"Obviously, if you buy at a 1 percent dip, that's not going to be dramatically different than just buying whenever you put the money in, because 1 percent dips happen pretty frequently," Egan said. "At the far opposite end, there is this 'buy if the market drops 50 percent from all-time highs.' You're going to very rarely invest if that's the case, because the market doesn't drop that dramatically that often."

So, what if your strategy is to buy when the market is down 5 percent or 10 percent?

Cox points out that the S&P hasn't gone through a pullback of 5 percent or more from 52-week highs since October 2020, the third-longest streak since 2005.

"So if you wanted to invest late last year but wanted to wait for a 5 percent-plus dip, you've missed out on a 30 percent rally since the beginning of November 2020," she said.

In a recent market report, Cox advocated for dollar-cost averaging. This is a strategy in which you automate the process by investing the same amount of money on a regular basis regardless of the stock price.

"The world tends to frame investing as an all-or-nothing pursuit," Cox writes. "You're either all in and bullish, or on the sidelines with no skin in the game. But in reality, many people tend to gradually put their money in the market based on the calendar, instead of trying to guess the next top or bottom. That's a strategy called dollar cost averaging, and it rewards consistency over timing."

Besides, using dollar-cost averaging, you'll eventually be buying during dips.

"Dollar-cost averaging works really well because, if you're investing a fixed amount of money at different times, you naturally buy fewer shares when the share price is high and then more shares when the share price is low, so you get a little more exposure to those dips when they happen," Cox said.

I like Charles Schwab's caution about market timing, "Our research shows that the cost of waiting for the perfect moment to invest typically exceeds the benefit of even perfect timing."

In other words, don't let your efforts to beat the market lead you to sit out too long.

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Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary). Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

MICHELLE SINGLETARY COLUMN

Advance for release Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, and thereafter

(For Singletary clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only.

By Michelle Singletary

WASHINGTON - To hide my tears after encounters with one particular editor during my internship years, I would retreat to the restroom at the back of the newsroom.

Whenever I would see this editor approaching my desk, my stomach would knot up as I prepared for a discussion that would inevitably make me want to scream or swear. She was mean. She was harsh. Most importantly, her style of management didn't inspire me to do better. It made me want to quit.

I hated every single interaction with this manager. I was miserable under her tutelage. She was the opposite in every way of the fictional character Ted Lasso, played by Jason Sudeikis in the Apple TV Plus television show that won an Emmy for outstanding comedy series. The show also landed Sudeikis an Emmy for outstanding lead actor.

The series received 20 Emmy nominations, all well deserved. But the show stands out not just for its acting and directing but also for what it depicts -- a manager who strives to create an emotionally safe workplace.

Ted Lasso is an American football coach hired to run an English soccer team. Lasso's charming coaching style and endless optimism win over the mediocre team and fans.

Sudeikis's Lasso had me at his handwritten, slightly crooked "Believe" sign posted over his office door. His corny expressions and pep talks to the soccer players -- even after a brutal loss -- make you wish you had a boss like him.

"When it comes to locker rooms, I like 'em just like my mother's bathing suits. I only wanna see 'em in one piece," Lasso says in one episode as he tries to end a feud between two players.

Lasso's personality is so sunny you need a pair of sunglasses in his presence.

So, what's this got to do with personal finance, you might ask?

Well, many people resign -- sometimes without another job -- because they just can't take the abuse from their boss. Others retire too early and without the financial security they should have, concluding that staying is not worth the cost to their mental health.

Every year, U.S. businesses lose $1 trillion to voluntary turnover, according to a 2019 Gallup report.

"And the most astounding part is that most of this damage is self-inflicted," the report said.

Conservatively, the cost of replacing a departing employee can range from one-half to two times the staffer's annual salary.

"A 100-person organization that provides an average salary of $50,000 could have turnover and replacement costs of approximately $660,000 to $2.6 million per year," Gallup estimated.

Over half of exiting employees who quit say their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving their job, Gallup found. And these folks said that in the three months leading up to their departure, no one spoke to them about their job satisfaction or discussed their future with the organization. If you don't feel wanted, why stay?

The pandemic has made things even worse. Quit rates are high. Realizing how short life is, lots of employees are opting to leave their job rather than endure the low pay or a tyrannical supervisor -- or both.

In a July report titled "The 'Great Resignation' Is Really the 'Great Discontent,'" Gallup found that 48% of American workers are actively job-searching or watching for other employment opportunities. The dissatisfaction -- not with pay but with workplace conditions -- cuts across all categories, from customer service employees to highly professional positions.

Here's an interesting factoid from Gallup's resignation report: "It takes more than a 20% pay raise to lure most employees away from a manager who engages them, and next to nothing to poach most disengaged workers."

Think about that.

Companies are losing people to competitors who don't have to offer a pay raise, just the prospect of a better working environment.

People are rightly reassessing how and for whom they want to work. Workers aren't expecting the perfection you get when a room full of writers can craft the characteristics of the best boss. Employees understand conflicts will occur.

"You don't need to be best friends to be great teammates. Heck, even Woody and Buzz got under each other's plastic," Lasso says, gently trying to get the feuding players to find something to respect about each other.

If you want to fix the "Great Resignation" trend, get your managers to address why people are so discontent. It's likely that the reason people want to resign is that they have a bad boss.

Workers want to be respected. They want to know they are valued. They shouldn't be yelled at, belittled or taken for granted. And certainly not sent running to the bathroom in tears. If your management style deflates an employee, you are doing your job poorly. Instead, be like Ted Lasso.

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Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary). Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

MICHELLE SINGLETARY COLUMN

Advance for release Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, and thereafter

(For Singletary clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only. Removes repeated phrase in last sentence of 2nd graf

By Michelle Singletary

WASHINGTON -- A new sci-fi FX on Hulu series "Y: The Last Man" proves this is indeed a man's world -- and why that's a big problem.

An adaptation of the comic-book series by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, "Y: The Last Man" depicts an apocalyptic world in which every mammal with a Y chromosome suddenly and with no explanation dies. One subplot of this show is how gender inequality contributes to the chaos. The women are left to rebuild but aren't equipped to handle the mayhem, because so many vital job fields were dominated by men.

Naturally, the song featured in the show's trailer was James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." It's one of the signature songs by "the Godfather of Soul" -- co-written by a woman, Betty Jean Newsome, who had to sue to get credit for it.

There's one cisgender male survivor, Yorick Brown (Ben Schnetzer). Yorick is a man-child who relies on his parents to pay his rent because he can't earn enough working as a self-employed escape artist. He's not worried at all about figuring out why he was spared, yet he's the key to the world's future.

I realize this is a drama -- fiction -- but it's also reality.

- - -

Fiction: Yorick's mother is a high-ranking congresswoman, Jennifer Brown (Diane Lane), who, through the line of succession, becomes president. But governing is difficult. The women struggle to manage the power grid. Police numbers are insufficient to keep the peace.

Fact: In the United States, women represent just 16% of the enlisted armed forces and 19% of the officer corps, according to a Backgrounders report by the Council on Foreign Relations.

In 2019, only 12.8% of full-time law enforcement officers were female, according to an analysis by Statista.

- - -

Fiction: With so few women in political leadership roles, governments around the world are in disarray.

Fact: "Data shows that women are underrepresented at all levels of decision-making worldwide, and achieving gender parity in political life is far off," according to U.N. Women, a U.N. organization that focuses on gender equality. The group says that as of Sept. 1, "there are 26 women serving as Heads of State and/or Government in 24 countries. At the current rate, gender equality in the highest positions of power will not be reached for another 130 years."

- - -

Fiction: One scene in the third episode of the series was so heartbreakingly close to reality. Brown, looking exhausted, is pleading with a mother, who is grieving for her two sons, to get a nuclear power plant back up. This accomplished nuclear engineer is literally their only hope. There isn't anyone else.

"We need people like you," Brown says, "people who went to work every day where they were the only woman in the room."

Fact: Of course, there are some jobs where women dominate -- health-related occupations and education -- and these jobs are also critically important to the functioning of society. But women are needed in other fields, too, especially in STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math.

When he heard I was writing about "Y," Andrew Van Dam, a Washington Post reporter who focuses on economic data, pointed out the following statistics from the Census Bureau on the most male occupations in the country:

The workers who install and maintain power lines are 98% male, and the ones who operate power plants are 93% male, according to Census Bureau data.

Van Dam found that workers in several occupations were more than 99% men -- including oil and gas roustabouts, mining-excavator operators and brick and stone masons -- as of 2019, the most recent year for which Census Bureau data is available. Dozens more occupations are more than 97% male, including HVAC workers, plumbers, roofers, carpenters, electricians, wind turbine technicians, solar-panel installers, auto mechanics and loggers.

In addition to the Census Bureau statistics, a report earlier this year from the Pew Research Center highlights the underrepresentation of women in STEM.

Women account for 25% of those working in computer occupations, according to the report. Women are vastly underrepresented in the ranks of engineers and architects, at 15%. Representation is better in health-related STEM jobs, where women represent 38% of physicians and surgeons, up two percentage points from 2016. And they represent 33% of emergency medical technicians and paramedics, also up two percentage points from 2016.

The Pew report also pointed out that while STEM workers often earn more than others, there's a substantial pay gap for women. In 2019, the median earnings of women in STEM occupations was $66,200, compared with men's median earnings of $90,000.

Even when they are hired, it can be torturous for women in those jobs where they are a minority. "Women in STEM and non-STEM jobs are equally likely to say they have experienced sexual harassment at work, and both groups of women are less inclined than men to think that women are 'usually treated fairly' when it comes to promotions," a 2018 Pew report found.

"Discrimination and sexual harassment are seen as more frequent, and gender is perceived as more of an impediment than an advantage to career success," the report said.

- - -

The events of "Y" don't seem so preposterous as the world continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic. Watching the women in this fictionalized drama struggle was infuriating -- because the fact is, in the real world, women are still fighting decades of inequities.

- - -

Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary). Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

About
Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column The Color of Money, which appears in The Washington Post on Wednesdays and Sundays. Her award-winning column is syndicated by The Washington Post News Service and Syndicate and is carried in dozens of newspapers nationwide. She has written four personal finance books, including, "What to Do With Your Money When Crisis Hits: A Survival Guide" and “The 21-Day Financial Fast: Your Path to Financial Peace and Freedom.” Singletary was the financial expert for “The Revolution,” a daytime program on ABC. For two years, she was the host of her own national television program, “Singletary Says,” on TV One. She is a frequent contributor to various NPR programs and has appeared on national talk shows and television networks, including CNN, PBS, NBC’s “Today,” and “The Early Show on CBS.” In her spare time, Singletary is the director of a ministry she founded at her church, in which women and men volunteer to mentor others who are having financial challenges. As part of this ministry, she and her husband also volunteer to teach financial literacy to prison inmates. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park. She has received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Johns Hopkins University, where she earned a master’s degree in business and management. In 2020, The Washington Post celebrated her long and distinguished career at the paper with the Eugene Meyer Award, its highest journalistic honor. To stay informed about various money issues subscribe to Michelle’s weekly retirement and personal finance newsletter, which will be delivered to your inbox every Monday and Thursday.

Archives

Read all of Michelle's Newsletters Read all Color of Money Discussions
Books
  • What To Do With Your Money When Crisis Hits: A Survival Guide
  • The 21 Day Financial Fast: Your Path to Financial Peace and Fre
  • Your Money and Your Man: How You and Prince Charming Can Spend Well and Live Rich
  • Spend Well, Live Rich: How to Get What You Want with the Money You Have
Awards
  • The Washington Post Eugene Meyer Award, highest journalistic honor, 2020
  • Distinguished Achievement Award from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, the organization’s highest honor, 2019
  • Hall of Fame for the Society of Professional Journalists Washington, D.C., Pro Chapter, 2019
  • Fellowship, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton Seminars for Business Journalist, awarded by National Press Foundation, 2018
  • Salute to Excellence Award for Community Service, National Association of Black Journalists, 2010
  • Best in Business, series of columns, Society of American Business Editors, 2008
Links