Mutual Funds

Spotting Good Mutual Funds

The explosion of the 401(k) and decades of dwindling employer pensions powered mutual funds to dominance in the investing landscape. The funds, once meant to simplify investing for the little guy, flourished to the point of becoming almost as confusing to pick as individual stocks. What can you look for?

Avoid International Stocks?

War rages in the Middle East and Ukraine. An economic deceleration dogs China. Once again, Japan struggles to revive its economy. Europe heads into another economic slowdown. Why bother investing outside America?

Because the U.S. no longer dominates world stocks, foreign troubles will eventually abate and overseas bargains now abound.

How to Spot Short-Term-ism

Do we live in a nation of short-term thinkers? Business has plenty of examples that seem to prove that assertion. Think of how Blackberry frittered away its lead in smartphones. Fortunately, there are plenty of successes to give us heart. How can you spot the difference? Look at company leaders.

Is Alternative Investing OK?

Once only available to institutions and wealthy individuals, alternative investments – basically securities that do not trade on any exchange – are winning a broader appeal, according to a panel of advisors.

The goal of using alternative investments is to diversify a portfolio or to lessen its risk. These vehicles tend to be illiquid, meaning they are difficult to trade. They can only be sold to others via financial institutions.

How to Pick Individual Stocks

Picking single equities seems almost quaint in these days of the mutual fund. Singling out a stock for your portfolio still makes sense, though, if you know how to select smart and you sift carefully through headline deals.

One caveat remains true: “Stay away from them if you can’t afford to lose the money,” said Daniel Mazzola, an advisor with American Portfolios in Massapequa, N.Y., speaking at a recent investing panel.

The Bull Market’s Longevity

The stock market has enjoyed a virtually uninterrupted rally since the dismal days of 2009, following the financial crisis. So the market is overdue for a big pullback, right? History suggests otherwise. Huge bull markets happened in the wake of serious past crises, with stocks reaching levels that were unimaginable at the time.

How Target Date Funds Miss

Simplicity is the biggest advantages of target date funds. But simpler is not better. Many of these funds, designed to grow more conservative as investors age, still are too risky. And too often, they fall short as a financial planning tool because they don’t take into account individuals’ needs.

Can’t Trust the Stock Market?

If you keep your life savings in certificates of deposit or a savings account at your local bank, that decision may be based on a common belief about finances, known as a money script: “You can’t trust the stock market.” This belief about money can keep you from making the most of your retirement savings.

Sizing Up Your 401(k)

When did you last evaluate your company’s retirement plan? If you’re like many people, your 401(k) or profit-sharing plan constitutes the largest – or at least one of the largest – investment accounts in your portfolio. Here’s how to make sure it’s the best plan for you.

Many factors help you evaluate your plan, including the total expenses, investment options, guidance provided and your company match.

Why It’s Different This Time

Yes, it is different this time, and not in a good way. The aftermath of the financial crisis and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression produced a sluggish recovery. Accelerating technological change is further disrupting. When looking for a culprit for economic malaise, search no further.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose (translation: The more things change, the more they stay the same). Old wise men and women add a wrinkle to their brows when they hear the phrase: “It’s different this time.” They’ve heard that before.

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