Personal Finance: 20 Dos & Don'ts for 2009
10. Don’t give up on stocks.
“Historically some of the best periods for stock market returns have been during dismal economic times,” says Paul Winter of Five Seasons Financial Planning in Salt Lake City. Though investors approaching retirement shouldn’t risk too much money in volatile equity markets, investors hoping to build a nest egg for the long term have few better options than the stock market.
11. Do track your spending.
“It’s very easy to lose sight of where your funds are spent,” says Alexandra Ollinger of Truepoint Capital in Cincinnati.
G.M. Livingston III, a planner in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., advises clients to buy software like Quicken to track their spending. “It’s a universal mistake,” Livingston says. “Most people don’t know where their money goes.”
12. Don’t pay high management fees.
It doesn’t only matter how much your investments earn; it is also important how much you get to keep after trading costs and fees paid to financial advisers and fund managers. When market returns are small or nonexistent, even a 1% or 2% management fee can hurt. Decide if it’s worth it. Also, check out offerings from traditionally low-cost fund companies like Vanguard, where the average mutual fund expense ratio is 0.2%.
13. Do review your credit reports.
With the Federal Reserve cutting the federal funds rate close to zero and policymakers eager to revive the housing market, mortgage rates are expected to drop substantially in 2009. That could be a great opportunity to refinance your mortgage, but only if you have a solid credit score. Check your credit report for any errors now, says Scott Beaudin of Pathway Financial Advisors in Burlington, Vt. “Fixing problems takes time and you don’t want to be trying to fix your report while in the middle of a mortgage application,” he says. The three U.S. consumer reporting agencies set up a Web site, to allow consumers to access a free copy of their credit report each year.
14. Don’t follow the herd.
“Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful,” says legendary investor Warren Buffett. Warren Ward, an adviser in Columbus, Ind., agrees, advising his clients to ease back into stock or bond markets rather than seeking the safety of cash or Treasuries as many other investors are doing now. “Do your own thinking and don’t allow yourself to be panicked into taking an action you’ll regret,” Ward says.