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Dread reviewing your investment account statements? If you've waited this long, it's just about time to rip open those envelopes and give your money a thorough once-over, especially if it has been a while since you did anything more than glance at your dwindling balances.
To make the process more productive, we've devised a rundown of things to review.
Start a scorecard: Note interest rates you're earning on your savings. If you own stocks or mutual funds, how do they stack up against the plain old vanilla S&P 500 index mutual fund? Lastly, what are you paying to invest your money? Scrutinize any fees you pay -- to your bank, brokerage, or fund family. Your goal is to keep all fees below 2% of the value of your holdings.
Don't let your cash crash: Is your savings languishing in an account earning a pittance in interest? If you know you're not going to touch the money for the next six months or longer, stash it in an account that's worth your while. There are several savings options for your short-term cash, including money market accounts, money market mutual funds, and certificates of deposit. Not worth your bother? Remember, even just a few fractions of a percentage point can make a difference (use these online calculators to see how much), particularly on savings in the five-figure range and above.
Give your long-term investments a chance: The stock market is still the best place to park your long-term savings. A reminder: When we say "long-term," we mean money you do not need to use for at least the next five years (or even longer if you are more averse to risk). An easy way into the market is through a mutual fund. If you've got five years or longer before you need your investment reserves, a diversified stock mutual fund may give you all the exposure to stocks that you need.
Supersize it: The path to market-beating returns is paved with great company stocks. Once you have a sense of the basics, start evaluating businesses to see if you have the Buffett touch. And remember, your goal when investing is to keep fees in check by not overpaying to trade or trading in and out of stocks too often.
Re-evaluate: Take stock of your savings (your returns, your investment fees and your allocation) on a regular basis -- at least once a quarter, if not once a month.
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