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Ross Hage

Stories by Ross

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.

This fall, improve your financial picture during open enrollment

Late fall marks the beginning of the holiday season, which probably means that you’ll have a lot going on over the next couple of months. However, busy as you are, you’ll want to take the time to review your employee benefits package, since November also is a popular month for employers to offer open enrollment.

Make the right moves with inherited stocks

When you inherit a sizable amount of stocks, your overall financial picture can change significantly. But to make the most of your inheritance, you need to decide what to do with your new stocks. Should you keep them or sell?

Remarriage may require refocus on financial goals

If you’re planning to get remarried, you have plenty of company: More than 40 percent of all U.S. weddings are second marriages for at least one of the participants, according to an estimate by the National Stepfamily Resource Center. Naturally, a second marriage will bring many changes to your life — not the least of which may be changes in your financial strategy and goals.

Grandparents need to balance gifts with financial goals

Grandparents Day falls on Sept. 11 this year. While not as widely observed as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, Grandparents Day nonetheless serves a valuable purpose in reminding us of the importance of grandparents in the lives of their grandchildren. If you’re a grandparent yourself, you already know the joy your grandchildren bring you, and through the years, you have probably been generous with them in many ways. At the same time, though, you probably need to strike a balance between your heartfelt gifts and your financial goals. It can be challenging to achieve that balance. For one thing, you and your fellow grandparents have not been stingy in your giving over the past several years. America’s grandparents provided an estimated $370 billion in financial support to their grandchildren between 2004 and 2009, according to a survey by the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

Like the weather, hot investments eventually cool

We’re in the “Dog Days” of summer — traditionally the hottest, steamiest time of year. But it will eventually begin to cool down. Nature isn’t alone in this heating-and-cooling pattern — you can also find evidence of it in the investment world. Specifically, today’s “hot” investments can lose their sizzle quickly, which means that, as an investor, you’ll need to take steps to avoid being left out in the cold.

Time to review your employee 401(K) holdings

This may be the time of year when your company gives you a chance to increase your 401(k) contributions. But how much to put in isn’t your only decision regarding your 401(k) — you’ll also want to look at your investment mix. Why? Because things change — and, if you want to get the maximum benefits from your 401(k), you’ll need to make sure it still meets your needs.

Three keys to successful estate planning

When people hear the words “estate planning,” they often assume it’s an activity only for retirees or near-retirees. But if you have a family, it’s never too soon to create your estate plan. Of course, estate planning can seem like a daunting task. But you’ll find it easier to handle if you break it down into three key areas: distributing your assets, protecting your family and reducing estate taxes.

Three tips for lifetime income: A great Mother’s Day present

Mother’s Day will soon be here. If you’re a mother, you will (hopefully) receive thoughtful cards and gifts.

It is time to start doing some spring cleaning on your (financial) home

March 20 marks the first day of spring. Spring is a time to clean out the gutters, tune up the lawn mower and wash down the windows.

Need to boost retirement income? Consider variable annuities

Here’s a sobering statistic: 46 percent of workers have little or no confidence that they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement, according to a 2010 Retirement Confidence Survey, issued by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Putting your financial ‘puzzle’ pieces together today for a clearer future

Unless you keep track of obscure holidays, you may not be aware that Jan. 29 is National Puzzle Day.

Smart financial opportunities for ‘empty nesters’

It’s graduation time at colleges for the winter semester across the country.

Financial moves to help stay-at-home spouses

Not all households have two wage earners. By choice or circumstance, either you or your spouse may be out of the work force for an extended period of time.

Avoid dangers of ‘over-concentration’

When you were in school, you had to concentrate on your studies.

Three things to consider before taking out a 401(k) loan

Your car could break down. You might need a new furnace.

It’s no treat to be tricked by scary investment moves

If you have young children, or even if you just have some in your neighborhood, you know they will soon acquire large amounts of free candy, obtained by impersonating witches, vampires and other scary creatures. As an adult, you’re unlikely to encounter too many monsters after Halloween ends.

Think twice before taking out 401(k) loan

Your car could break down. You might need a new furnace. You have to pay for one last term of college for your child.

Are your investments working as hard as you?

On Labor Day, we celebrate the achievements of the American worker. As someone who works hard yourself, you can appreciate this holiday.