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Top 10 investing tips for 2017

Top 10 investing tips for 2017

1. Hold your own year-end review
We’re coming to the end of the year, a good time to pretend you’re a corporation and check your financial performance. Review your current portfolio and see if you need to adjust anything to keep your investments in line with your goals and objectives.

“Has there been a life event that changes the way you want your portfolio to work?” asks Thomas J. O’Connell, president of International Financial Advisory Group in Parsippany, New Jersey. A birth, death, retirement or a family member entering college can all have an impact on how you should invest during the new year.

2. Resolve to learn something
If you’re one of those people who thinks, “I have no idea how bonds work” or “What the heck is an ETF?” it’s time to educate yourself.

You don’t have to be Warren Buffett to gain a reasonable working knowledge of investments and retirement rules.

Just choose a couple of things you know you don’t understand and make it a goal to learn something about them. For instance, you might want to look up the difference between mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, because if you think 2017 will be a good year for the stock market, it may be the year for putting some ETFs in your portfolio.

Or, maybe it’s about time that you understood the relationship between bond prices and interest rates.

3. Know your tolerance for risky business
Say the market drops, and you look at your balance and it’s lower. “That’s going to happen,” says Will Branch, investment analyst for MillenniuM Investment & Retirement Advisors in Charlotte, North Carolina. If the mere thought makes you feel ill, imagine it really happening.

You might need to take some risk off the table. Branch recommends this rule of thumb to make your allocation more comfortable: Whatever your age is, take that number and use it as a percentage of your total holdings for safer, fixed-income investments like bonds.

4. No risk, no return
But if you think investing in stocks is too risky, consider this: Staying conservative to try to avoid market risks altogether can be a losing strategy, too. People who stepped out of the market and were afraid to return after the recession missed out on substantial returns, says Arian Vojdani, investment strategist, at MV Financial in Washington, D.C.

“The S&P 500 index has gone up by almost 13 percent in the last seven years,” Vojdani says. “You shouldn’t have all your eggs in one basket, but that gives you an idea of the return you’re missing out on.”

Staying out of the stock market also boosts your inflation risk. “The value of your dollar goes down over time as inflation rises,” Vojdani explains. Investing helps “your money (to) appreciate in value. If you just have money in a bank account you are not making any money on your money. Your money is losing value over time.”

5. Read up
Top tip for investing? Read, says Ethan Braid, a founder of HighPass Asset Management, a fee-only investment advisory firm in Denver. If Bill Gates can read 50 books a year, you can read six, he says.

Braid recommends several titles: “The Most Important Thing” by Howard Marks; “Stocks for the Long Run” by Jeremy Siegel; and “The Warren Buffett Way” by Robert G. Hagstrom.

Reading gives you a good foundation, a process to think about retirement and a way to view the world of investing, Braid says. “If a layperson could just accomplish 10 percent of what a Bill Gates does, you could really make a difference in your life,” he explains.

6. Know that interest rates will probably rise
Many experts will tell you that today’s rock-bottom interest rates will probably rise. At least a bit. If they do, two areas can challenge investors: bond duration and adjustable-rate loans.

“You’ll want to switch to shorter-duration bonds,” says David Fleisher, CEO at Firstrust Financial Resources in Philadelphia. He explains that they’re generally less sensitive to rising or falling interest rates than those with longer durations. And, if you hold a mortgage or other loan with an adjustable rate, you can expect your costs to rise.

If rates do go up, take heart. “It’s because economic growth is on the right track, unemployment is low and the economy is on the path to a solid recovery,” says Omar Aguilar, chief investment officer of equities at Charles Schwab in San Francisco. “I think the markets will respond very positively.”

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