Ross Hage

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Should you prepare for the ‘fiscal cliff’?

As an investor, you can sometimes feel you’re at the mercy of forces beyond your control. This may be especially true today, when the entire country appears on edge about the approaching “fiscal cliff.”

Roth IRA benefits can stretch beyond your retirement

If you’re somewhat familiar with investing, you may know that the Roth IRA is a great retirement-savings vehicle. But are you aware that some of its benefits can also pay off for the next generation of your family?

This Mother’s Day, think of financial moves that help your children

If you’re a mother, you’ll probably get some nice cards and flowers on Mother’s Day. Of course the greatest gifts are your children themselves and since you want to see them happy and financially secure, perhaps you can use this Mother’s Day as an opportunity to consider ways to help your children at various stages of their lives. So, let’s take a look at a few steps:

Earth Day lessons can apply to investors, too

Started in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day, on April 22, is designed to create awareness of the Earth’s environment and to encourage conservation efforts. If you and your family participate in the day’s events, such as helping clean up a local park or taking materials to a recycling center, you know the benefits of doing your part to improve. But are you doing everything you can to upgrade your environment for investing? Actually, as an investor, you can learn a lot from the lessons of Earth Day. Here are just a few ideas: • Diversify. If you’re familiar with Earth Day, you know that it involves multiple activities, including educational programs and do-it-now action steps.

Early IRA funding can pay off over time

You’ve got until April 17 to contribute to your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) for the 2011 tax year. That’s not a lot of time, but if you have some money available, and you haven’t completely funded your IRA for 2011, consider doing so before the deadline. And once you’ve “maxed out” on your IRA for last year, why not get a jump on 2012? Actually, you could have started contributing to your 2012 IRA as early as Jan. 2.

Are you prepared for long-term care costs

Like everyone else, you hope to remain physically and financially independent your entire life. And you may well achieve this goal. Nonetheless, the future is not ours to see, so you’ll want to prepare yourself for as many contingencies as possible — one of which is the high cost of long-term care. As you may know, long-term care primarily refers to nursing home expenses, but it also includes services provided in your own home. In either case, it could be expensive. The national average rate for a private room in a nursing home was more than $87,000 per year in 2011, according to the 2011 MetLife Market Survey of Long-Term Care Costs.

Explore the world of international investments

You’re probably accustomed to measuring the progress of your investments, and the overall condition of the investment world, by checking on indexes such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500. And since these types of benchmarks focus on American companies, you might get the idea that the best investments are located in the United States. But that impression would be false because there are, literally, a world of investment opportunities beyond the U.S. borders. In fact, as of the end of 2010, U.S. stock markets constituted less than a third of the total global stock market value, according to the World Bank.

Investors can learn from Super Bowl teams

It’s Super Bowl time again, and whether you’re a sports fan or not, you can probably learn something from the Super Bowl teams that you can apply to other endeavors — such as investing. What might these lessons be? Take a look: Pick players carefully. Super Bowl teams don’t get there out of luck; they’ve made it in part because they have carefully chosen players. And to potentially achieve success as an investor, you, too, need carefully chosen “players” — investments that are chosen for your individual situation. Choose a diversified mix of players. Not only do Super Bowl teams have good players, but they have good ones at different positions — and these players tend to play well together. As an investor, you should own a variety of investments with different capabilities — such as stocks for growth and bonds for income — and your various investments should complement, rather than duplicate, one another. Strive to build a diversified portfolio containing investments appropriate for your situation, such as stocks, bonds, government securities, certificates of deposit (CDs) and other vehicles.

When investing, "face to face" beats fingers on a keyboard

These days, you can purchase just about anything you want on the Internet. However, you can still benefit from a human, face-to-face experience for some purchases such as your investments. Unlike a computer interface, a financial professional takes the time to understand your situation today — and then help you make adjustments tomorrow. Let’s first look at two areas a financial professional will consider: Your risk tolerance — By asking the right questions, a financial professional can help determine if you’re a moderate, conservative or aggressive investor and then recommend investments suitable for that risk tolerance.

Don’t let low interest rates sink your retirement expectations

Over the past few years, if you’ve taken out a mortgage or another consumer loan, you’ve probably welcomed the low interest rates you may have received. But as an investor, if you’ve kept any retirement savings in fixed-rate investment vehicles, you may have seen low rates in a less favorable light. And that’s why it may be time for you to take a closer look at your financial strategy for working toward the retirement lifestyle you’ve envisioned. Of course, you can always hope that interest rates will rise, and perhaps they will. As you may know, the Federal Reserve has kept interest rates at record lows in recent years to stimulate lending and thereby boost the economy. But rates can’t get much lower, and if inflation were to heat up, the Fed could reverse course by starting to raise rates.

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