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Showing posts from December, 2009

Watch Out for Scams Targeting Seniors

by Kathryn A. Walson, Staff Writer, Kiplinger's Retirement Report

Seniors are prey for smooth-talking scammers who promise big prizes and great investment returns.

In 2000, Liz Mulligan took a job as a caregiver for an elderly man. She had recently retired from a position that involved auditing. So it didn't take her long to figure out that her client's bookkeeper had stolen $219,000 from him. The bookkeeper eventually went to prison.

"That got me interested in helping seniors who've been financially exploited," says Mulligan, 64, who lives in Seattle. "I saw the disastrous effects."

Mulligan started a business that helps victims organize their financial records and negotiate with creditors and banks. She also volunteers as a "fraud fighter" for a program created by the AARP Foundation and the Washington attorney general's office.

As a fraud fighter, Mulligan calls seniors around the U.S. to advise them how to dodge scam artists. And when s…

The Only Way to Earn 50% Annual Returns

By Tim Hanson

Think back to the fall of 2007. Happy times, indeed. The market was rising, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns still existed, and we were blissfully unaware that Tiger Woods was an adulterer.

At that time -- perhaps overcome with confidence -- my colleague Joe Magyer and I penned an article asking why you weren't earning 50% annual returns. This, in fact, was a challenge posed to us by Motley Fool CEO and co-founder Tom Gardner, and one we spent some time thinking about because, well, we thought we might be able to pull it off.

The results of our brain strain
Our strategy to achieve this glorious return had three steps:

1. Get out of index funds.
2. Protect our principal.
3. Invest in small, underfollowed stocks that are likely to be mispriced.

Fast-forward to today. While I stand by those three steps, if you had followed them for the past few years, you would have subjected yourself to extraordinary volatility and (at least temporary) losses.

And that's the catch…

3 ways to outsmart the market

At times the market acts like the fool. Protecting yourself from its folly is simpler than you might think.

By Pat Regnier

(Fortune Magazine) -- As you try to figure out how to put your money to work in a market that veers from depression to mania, you're confronted with two opposing facts that lead to opposing investing strategies.

Fact No. 1: Outwitting the market is tough.

There's a good chance you've learned this the hard way. Remember when you were a tech-stock genius, circa 1999? Or how you didn't really gain confidence in the bull market that started in 2002 until about 2005, only to be really confident just in time for the market's top in 2007?

If experience hasn't schooled you, the numbers can: Over the past 15 years, about 60% of the mutual funds that invest in blue-chip stocks failed to beat the S&P 500 index, the frequently cited proxy for "the market." Managers of bond and foreign-stock funds also struggle to beat benchmarks.

Even during th…

How the falling U.S. dollar affects your stock portfolio

By Paul J. Lim, senior editor

The dollar has fallen for much of this decade, and lately the decline is picking up speed. Already down more than 15% against the euro since March, the buck is expected to sink another 10% by the first quarter. Usually, when a once-strong asset falls this far out of favor, the correct long-term strategy is clear: Be a contrarian and buy.

But the dollar isn't an asset -- it's a vehicle through which investments are made. And the fact that investors around the world are buying more and more non-U.S. assets suggests that the dollar will keep falling.

There are, of course, plenty of reasons here at home that the dollar is faltering. Among them: rising deficits; low interest rates paid out by our bonds; and rising inflation fears.

But the dollar is also weaker because "investors think there are better places to put their money to work than in the U.S.," says Jack Ablin, chief investment officer for Harris Private Bank.

Indeed, the 37% drop in the…

Could the Government Prevent Another Major Collapse?

By Simon Maierhofer

Growing up and going to school in a little village in Germany, I had a big advantage - a big brother. Not only was my brother twice as old and tall as me, he was also twice as tall as all the other boys at school. If needed, he could be my 'Get out of jail free card' - or at least so I thought.

No matter how old you are, having the backing of a big brother is always advantageous. Even huge multi-billion, multi-national banks (NYSEArca: KBE - News) and financial organizations (NYSEArca: XLF - News) needed the help of a 'big brother' earlier this year.

In this case, the government stepped up and took the place of a big brother. There were, however, no family ties involved in this relationship. It was strictly business. On numerous occasions, the government had to bail out banks (NYSEArca: IAT - News) that had gotten into trouble.

Unpleasant history

On October 2, 2008, the House granted final approval of the first $700 billion bailout package.

On October 9,…

How to ruin your chances of prosperity

Sheyna Steiner

Prosperity and financial freedom are burdens. Where's the excitement in knowing you'll always have enough money to cover any contingency and pay all your bills? All that free time and security would be enough to bore anyone to tears.

To avoid that fate, most people can ruin their chances of prosperity simply by doing as little as possible: Show up at work, do just enough to stay employed and strive for mediocrity.

But for those who just can't seem to beat prosperity off with a stick, there are overt ways to foil long-term financial success.
4 ways to thwart prosperity

* Don't set goals.
* Dillydally.
* Think inside the cubicle.
* Invest in the hottest sectors.

Don't set goals

As they say, you can't reach your destination if you don't know where you're going.

The mantra preached by self-help gurus in every field, from weight loss to dog training, is to set clearly defined goals. The same is true for finance.

Whether your money goal is …

cnnmoney Poll: 84% of Americans think economy still in recession

By Chris Isidore, CNNMoney.com senior writer

Economists are in broad agreement that the Great Recession is over. The American public strongly disagrees.

In a poll of more than 1,000 Americans conducted late last week by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, 84% of those surveyed believe that the economy is still in recession.

That's a slight improvement from the 87% who believed there was still a recession in the September survey, but it is almost the opposite view of the nation's economists.

An official declaration of an end to the recession that started in December 2007 won't be made until next year at the earliest by the National Bureau of Economic Research. But recent economic readings and surveys of economists all point to a U.S. economy that is growing again.

The economy grew at a 2.8% annual rate in the three months ending in September, according to the latest reading on gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's economic activity.

While the economy con…

7 Retirement Investing Mistakes

Provided by Bankrate.com

Everyone knows the secret to investment success is to buy low and sell high. The problem is most of us lack clairvoyance.

We weigh in on some of the most common mistakes investors make, and while it's easy to see that chasing hot stocks -- the most frequently cited mistake -- would be an exercise in futility, there are other pitfalls to watch out for on the road to retirement.

There are never any guarantees when investing, but avoiding these seven missteps will better your chances of success.

Mismatching Investment With Goal

Need that money for retirement in the next couple years? Don't put it in a hot emerging-markets fund.

Consider when you'll need access to your money. This will help you avoid unnecessary transaction fees, penalties and risk.

For some goals, such as paying for college, it may make sense to use a mix of investments, says Gail MarksJarvis, author of "Saving for Retirement (Without Living Like a Pauper or Winning the Lottery)."

&…

Inequality is bad news for everyone

S'pore could be a test bed to temper rat-race impulse to keep up with others
By Tan Hui Yee, Correspondent

WE MIGHT know it as the rat race; academia call it the 'expenditure cascade', but it amounts to the same treadmill.

In short: When the rich get richer, but the poor stay poor, life becomes tougher for everyone else.

Not that the rich intend that outcome but the bigger homes, flashier cars and nicer clothes they buy make everyone else raise his expectations. Soon, the less well off spend more too, but it's a struggle to keep up because their income hasn't grown as much.

Professor Robert Frank applied the term expenditure cascade to this unfortunate product of rising inequality, a phenomenon that could just as well apply here as it does in his native United States.

And while public policies to temper expenditure cascade seem a political impossibility in the US, Prof Frank believes Singapore could make an ideal test bed.

The Cornell University economist, who was in town…

The Biggest Scam Ever

by Robert Kiyosaki

On the cover of the October 19, 2009 issue of "Time" magazine ran this headline: "Why It's Time to Retire the 401(k)." The cover picture was ominous, showing a 401(k) sinking like the Titanic.

I recommend reading this entire article, especially if you do have a 401(k). My concern is that the flaws of this retirement plan will grow into personal tragedies as the first of approximately 75 million baby boomers retire, leading to the biggest stock market crash in history.

But in spite of the apparent problems with the 401(k) plan, the darlings of financial media continue to tout its benefits. The same month "Time" ran its article, "More" magazine's financial guru, Jean Chatzky, wrote an article about using low-interest savings to pay off high-interest credit cards. In the article she states, "There's no better guaranteed return on your money (except, perhaps, a 401(k) match)."

Countering Jean's wisdom of &quo…