Summertime is in full swing! So relax, grab an iced tea, and enjoy this collection of worthwhile reads on investing, personal finance, and stewardship.

  • Vanguard escalates ETF fee war (ETF.com). Starting next month, Vanguard will offer commission-free trading on roughly 1,800 ETFs — about nine times(!) as many as former free-ETF leader Charles Schwab.

    (A deeper dive: Financial planner Michael Kitces argues that the Vanguard move could be a "potentially fatal disruption to the nature of no-transaction-fee (NTF) ETF platforms themselves, undermining existing pay-to-play distribution agreements [under which funds buy space on] the most popular NTF ETF platforms.")
     
  • How do expenses change in retirement? (Morningstar). Your current budget is a good starting point for determining how much you'll spend in retirement, but take into account how your spending might change.
     
  • Your Thrift Savings Plan 2018 (Federal Soup). This is an updated edition of a publication we've long recommended for federal workers. It's available as a free PDF download (but you'll first have to supply your name, email address, and a few other particulars).
     
  • Over 800 cryptocurrencies are now dead and bitcoin is 70 percent off its record high (CNBC). An unhappy update from the cryptocurrency world.
     
  • Mystery person buys $1M worth of remaining toys at Toys 'R' Us store to donate to kids (WNCN TV). Toys 'R' Us closed its doors for good last week. But not before an anonymous someone bought all the remaining toys at a Raleigh, North Carolina, location to give away. 

And from the bloggers and pundits...

  • Asset class returns for the first half of 2018 (Novel Investor). The market is always changing. What worked well last year may not this year. Case in point: "Emerging Markets" was at the top of the returns chart in 2017. So far this year, Emerging Markets is dead last.
     
  • Some considerations for investing globally (Ben Carlson, A Wealth of Common Sense). Why it still makes sense to diversify into foreign assets, despite the current rough spell for many international funds.
     
  • New ways to estimate and fund long-term care costs (Mary Beth Franklin, Investment News). This article notes that the Society of Actuaries has been working on a model for a hybrid insurance product called Life-Stage Protection. It starts out as term life insurance during a person's income-earning years, then converts to a long-term care policy. No word on when it may be coming to market.
     
  • Spending deferred (Jonathan Clements, Humble Dollar). A simple concept, but one that requires discipline: By not spending today, you potentially can spend far more in the future.
     
  • The media's coverage of retirement saving really is terrible (Andrew Biggs, Forbes). The author — a former deputy commissioner at the Social Security Administration — argues that despite what you may read in the news, most Americans are not ill-prepared for retirement. He says the data show that "retirement savings and retirement incomes have never been higher."
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