Where to get the straight scoop about money

Where to get the straight scoop about money

Q: I am trying to learn about investing, but I always feel like financial people are trying to sell me something. Where can I get the information I need without having to worry that someone is trying to take advantage of me?

A: I understand why you might feel a bit wary. Historically, most financial advice has been given by individuals who have had strong financial incentives to sell you products. That has been changing in recent years, but the feeling lingers. While most advisors are honest and ethical, it is always wise to keep your eyes open for conflicts of interest. Above all, it is important to do your homework.

The Volatility Paradox

The Volatility Paradox

Investment risks come in many different flavors. Some risks are like biting into a jalapeno pepper—they really grab your attention. Other risks are much more subtle.

Market volatility is a jalapeno kind of risk. It is so compelling that entire cable channels are dedicated to following the minute-by-minute swings in stock prices. However, unless we are careful, focusing on volatility can blind us to other risks that may be even more significant to our long-term economic well-being.

The Antidote for Market Angst: Stay Invested

The Antidote for Market Angst:  Stay Invested

Not long ago, a friend expressed concern about the stock market. He talked about problems in Washington, D.C. and terrorism abroad and then he asked, "Doesn’t it concern you that the stock market keeps going higher even though the world is going crazy?"

My friend isn’t alone in his worries. In a recent Gallup poll, 25 percent of Americans mentioned dissatisfaction with government or poor leadership as the top problem facing the United States. Economic issues came in second place with 19 percent, while terrorism (8%) and healthcare (7%) were a distant third and fourth.

Teaching Philanthropy with Donor-Advised Funds

Teaching Philanthropy with Donor-Advised Funds

Q: I am trying to teach my grandchildren about charitable giving. In my reading, I came across something called a donor-advised fund and I am wondering how they work and if they might be a good option for me.

A: A donor-advised fund is an account you hold at a sponsoring non-profit organization from which you can direct further charitable gifts. Donor-advised funds give you great flexibility in your charitable giving. You can start a donor-advised fund with a donation as small as $5,000 and then make grants from your fund over time to charities of your choice. In many respects, your donor-advised fund operates as if it were your own little private foundation, but at a fraction of the cost.

A donor-advised fund can be a great way to teach children about philanthropy. Here’s how it could work:

Take a look at the Roth 401k

Take a look at the Roth 401k

Q: My company recently added a Roth option to our 401k plan. We can now choose to contribute to the Roth or the traditional 401k. Some of my coworkers say the Roth is better, but I’m not sure. What do you think?

A: Not every 401k plan offers a Roth option, but if yours does, you should take a close look at it. Roth 401k plans are similar to Roth IRAs. Contributions are made with after-tax money and all future gains and withdrawals are tax-free. Roth 401k plans have several attractive benefits.