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Personal Finance: 20 Dos & Don'ts for 2009

Personal Finance: 20 Dos & Don'ts for 2009

Business Week

5. Do think about energy efficiency.

Russell Francis of Portland Financial Advisors in Beaverton, Ore., recommends that investors take advantage of a $500 federal residential energy tax credit that was rescinded in 2008 but returns in 2009. The credit can help cover the costs of adding insulation or replacing doors, windows, or furnaces—home repairs that should also save you on heating and cooling costs.

6. Don’t stop contributing to 401(k) and other retirement accounts.

Says Sidney Blum of GreenLight Fee Only Advisors in Evanston, Ill.: “Everyone loves to invest in their 401(k) when the markets are flying high, but they should keep putting money in while the markets are down.” He adds: “More money is made at the bottom of a market than at the top.”

Even more pessimistic planners say you should be taking advantage of any match your employer offers for retirement fund contributions.

7. Do live below your means. Save.

Investing for the future is only possible if you have some money left over at the end of each month to sock away. View this BusinessWeek slide show for 25 ways to save more each month.

8. Don’t make sudden moves.

“Refrain from making extreme changes to the portfolio just because the financial markets are volatile,” says William Howell, a financial adviser in Noblesville, Ind. “Stick to the overall investment game plan.”

In such an extreme environment, investment decisions based on emotion or fear are likely to lose you money. It’s probably better to ignore the day-to-day news and follow a long-term investing plan.

9. Do pay off expensive debts.

Rather than investing your money, you first might consider paying off debts, especially those with high rates or those for which interest is not tax-deductible. The avoidance of interest will likely save you more than your investments would have earned.

Stanley F. Ehrlich, an adviser in Westfield, N.J., notes: “Paying off a car loan with 7% interest provides an immediate 7% return, a return that is not [currently] available through most asset classes.” Credit-card debt is so expensive that most planners say it is always the first thing people should pay off.


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