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The Kiplinger Report

Updated: 1 day ago

I remember reading Kiplinger Personal Finance Magazine so long ago it was called Changing Times.  Although even then back in 1989, it was trying to deliver “authoritative, unbiased advice.” I’ve glanced at it on and off through the years, finally deciding to read the whole April 2024 issue straight through . . . so you don’t have to.

The editor, Lisa Gerstner, kicks things off with a review of the housing market since COVID, recapping the record low mortgage rates through the current record high ones, before plugging the cover story which is an outlook for the current year. It all seemed rather banal and made me long for the days when the former editor Knight Kiplinger provided more pointed commentary.  

Next is an article about how “You May Pay More to File Your Taxes” this year. As with every recent tax article, it mentions that if your income is quite low you may (or may not) be able to file for free. While some details are provided, I wish they mentioned the inherent unfairness of how TurboTax and H&R Block have successfully lobbied to require almost all taxpayers use (and pay for) their services. Maybe something like this NextAvenue article

Then a series of short paragraphs mentioning:

- Free admission to all national parks on April 20, though as I’m a vet, I have free admission every day.

- A short article that says, should the reader have summer travel plans, they should “consider applying for a credit card that offers points or miles you can redeem for a variety of travel purchases.” Really!?

- A $100 million Verizon settlement for customers between 2016 and 2023. As I was a customer during this time, this might actually be some profitable prose.

Next is a seven page article on whether The Magnificent Seven (TSLA, AMZN, GOOGL, META, NVDA, AAPL, MSFT) will “stay on top.” It appears to me to be a giant tip sheet with a simplistic SWOT analysis of each. Through an interesting sidebar it is mentioned that this isn’t the first time a small group of stocks have dominated market growth, as the Nifty Fifty dominated in the late 60s, only to be humbled in the 70s.

In the middle of the article is the ubiquitous Fisher Investments ad, in this case offering “99 Retirement Tips.” Besides the words “social security” being in every issue, you always count on Ken Fisher trying to get his hands on 1% of your portfolio.  

On page 26 is an article on how to “Get Your Cash Off the Sidelines.” I guess we all can use a refresher every now and again and who would say no to a higher rate, but this article appears to be written to meet a periodic publishing requirement instead of providing interesting ideas. It mentions options to money market funds but then also mentions “investing a small amount in . . .  Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XLV, $140),” as well as some individual stocks, which all seems a little ill-advised.   

The “Stock Spotlight” mentions that Walgreen Boots Alliance (WBA) cut its dividend by almost half and has been unceremoniously booted out of the Dividend Aristocrats Club. The stock had gone nowhere over the “past 20 years” so you’d think some might have seen this coming, though immediately after the cut the stock dropped 12%. Dividend yield is much like sex, a man’s quest for it is insatiable and if disappointed he will quickly move on to the next opportunity. This could have been a good place for the author to mention the shortcomings of investing based on dividend yield, but I think readers might have then booted their Kiplinger subscription instead.

There was then a Kiplinger standard, a Q&A with a big wig, in this case “the guru of market stats,” who in answer to the final question of “which are the most important [stats] for investors to track?“ replied “earnings and cash flow.” What a revelation! I’m hopeful he is not blackballed by Wall Street by letting the cat out of the bag!

James Glassman then gives some stock tips in his monthly column “Street Smart.” I used to enjoy Glassman’s stuff in the Washington Post until his tip on Thornburg Mortgage cost me 20,000 smackers. And his positive mention of Tootsie Roll doesn’t make me want to forgive him, as TR has been stinking up my portfolio for the last 20 years. This column is about boring stocks, which are heavily held by the specifically mentioned Parnasssus Core Equity (PRBLX), though he doesn’t mention it comes with a scintillating 0.85% expense ratio and a fascinating 40% turnover ratio. He did mention “good investing is just like watching paint dry” which is difficult to do when he recommends ten new stocks to buy every month.

It is immediately followed by the “Kiplinger Dividend 15” update, which immediately acknowledges that it’s “trailed the S&P 500 index by eight percentage points” over the last 12 months. One of the 15 is Enterprise Products Partners (EPD), which makes me wonder how many readers buy this stock only to realize that it is not a stock, but a master limited partnership which comes with a fair amount of tax consequence and even more tax filing headaches.  

“Income Investing” is full page devoted to tax-exempt bonds, which I read with interest as my knowledge of the subject is quite thin. It’s mentioned that once the Federal Reserve trims rates, trillions in cash will “head into municipals,” which all sounds a little speculative. It is also mentioned that due to the complexities of the muni market, I should only invest in actively managed funds. It goes on to state I should “shop for individual bonds,“ with a third of my new money. So I need to hire the pros, but then buy individual bonds myself? The PIMCO High Yield Municipal Bond (PYMAX) is recommended, though with a 0.60% expense ratio and a return of 3.83% since inception, I’m taking a pass.  

Next the “ETF Spotlight” was shown on Bitcoin. I read it as my knowledge of bitcoin was even less than tax-exempt bonds, but it all seems incredibly irresponsible to include a whole page on the subject. Though it is also recommended that you “spread your money among a few with different custody arrangements,” as bitcoins have a way of disappearing.

Finally the cover story, “Where the Housing Market is Headed.” It is filled with all kinds of statistics, percentages, and forecasts which has a tea leaves reading aspect to it. It did mention that at -19%, 2023 “homes sales fell off a cliff,” which doesn’t seem so much like a cliff as a modest hill. Either way 19% is much worse than I suspected based on what I see in K.C. I’m thankfully not looking to buy, but if I was I’m not sure anything in this article would be of use. Also much of the analysis and numbers were provided by real estate agents and the National Association of Realtors, and I’m not sure either has a home buyers best interest at heart.

At the end of the article it mentions “Consider becoming a landlord,” which as a former one, I’m quite sure most readers should not. It could be this sentence was mentioned so I would read the following article “How to be a Successful Landlord” . . . . which I did not.   

“Budgeting with the Bucket Method” is such a rather sedate piece about the wonder of budgeting, I could barely muster the enthusiasm to read it. And have to wonder how many subscribers actually do, and if they do, how many then start bucketing? I always knew that Kiplinger periodically published various updates: housing (see above), social security (see below), but didn’t realize they periodically publish the same exact article, in this case in June 2023, though back then they uniquely titled it “Bucket Budgeting: An Easy Way To Manage Cash Flow,” with a few cosmetic edits. It makes me think that maybe they have run out of ideas.

I was thinking of skipping over “Get Your Bank’s Best Yields” due to the inherent  snooze factor, when I noticed something about a Capital One lawsuit, specifically how in 2019 new customers were offered a higher yielding money market account than existing ones. As an existing customer I had previously complained to Capital One about this specific issue . . . without satisfaction, so I’m actually a little excited about maybe getting some back interest, less 50% lawyers fees.

“When Should You File for Social Security? Applying at age 70 maximizes your monthly payout, but claiming early could provide advantages that can’t be quantified on a spreadsheet.” This is one case where the title of the article provides all the information you need, thus enabling the reader to skip reading it. If the article detailed a couple’s specific strategy for claiming, then this might be interesting otherwise it contains all usual social security rubrics.

“Singles: Build a Social Network” was maybe the best piece, not so much for any specific detail but for the idea to get out there, meet people and maybe take a class, as I’ve always wanted to learn judo. In retirement my social circle has shrunk which may have had an effect on my mental health. That and if someday I fall down the stairs and break my neck, my sensei might notice that I didn’t show up to the dojo.     

I had thought “The Lowdown on Inflation” might be an article on how inflation is measured. I know I would find that interesting as I’ve recently read that shrinking packages sizes, shrinkflation, may be making inflation appear smaller than it actually is. Unfortunately this article was about the five different kinds (stagflation, inflation, deflation, etc. ) and what is the best investment to combat each. This all seems like waste of two whole pages, as: How do I know what type is coming? What if it lands somewhere between inflation and stagflation? Also, if stagflation is coming, I have trouble believing that today’s answer is the same as the answer was back in 1980.

One of the benefits of not having children is an early retirement that has led to world travel, another is being able to skip over the article “When the Kids Move Back Home.”

“The Best Rewards Credit Card for You” is really a subject best left for the internet, as the offers are constantly changing, and the internet, say via, can provide links to the actual credit card offers. And at eight pages, it seemed like this might be seven pages of filler. It mentioned a credit card called the Bilt Mastercard from Wells Fargo that offers points for paying your rent via credit card, which all seems just a little too esoteric. It also makes me wonder if affiliate commissions and not journalistic curiosity is to blame for its inclusion.

  • Though if you ask me the Capital One Venture Rewards (unlimited 2X miles with 75,000 Bonus Miles) is the best all around credit card.  

The inside back cover was a nice article about a man who is giving back by teaching personal finance to the masses. It made me realize that I need to give back more than writing this article, though when I realized the guy made a living as a “certified financial coach,” I felt a little better about my current efforts.

You may think I was a little hard on the Kiplinger, but the issue I read would have cost me $7.95 if I hadn’t read it at the library. And for $7.95 I think I deserve some meat. Trust me I was a little let down by the whole experience and the recycled articles, as I was hopeful to get some nuggets (besides my future legal windfalls) - then again I was thankful there were no articles about the 4% rule, prepaying my mortgage or the best place to invest $1000.

135 views2 comments


Another wonderfully honest review. An author who has no sponsors to satisfy. (I subscribed for years until I realized I was reading the same things over and over. The mag is a good place for beginners, but realize that it has its 'sponsors'....)

Replying to

Thanks! Through the years I've read an article here and there, and was always a little underwhelmed, but after reading an entire issue I realized that the whole thing is weak, basic and repetitive.

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