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Financial Check Up Time

- Alan Lavine and Gail Liberman

It's time for a third quarter financial check up. So go online or get out your statements.

Here are several things to review.

  • Has your financial condition changed since the beginning of the year? If you are making less income, you may have to get more conservative. You may need more emergency cash on hand.

  • How much is invested in tax-deductible retirement savings plans? You can deduct your Individual retirement account or 401 (K) company pension plan contribution from your taxes. Someone in the 27 percent bracket would save $270 on their taxes for every $1,000 retirement savings contribution?

  • What percentage of your investments are in stocks, bonds and cash? The older you are, the less you should have in risky investments like stocks. Subtract your age from 100. As a simpler rule of thumb that tells you how much you should have in stocks.

  • How much is invested in tax-free municipal bonds? If you are in a high tax bracket, municipal bonds are a better deal that taxable bonds. ye How have your stock mutual funds or stocks performed versus similar funds or the S&P 500, an index of stock market returns? If you are above or below the index or similar funds by a small amount, there is no need for concern.

  • How have your bond mutual funds performed versus similar funds and the Lehman Brothers Aggregate bond index. If you are above or below the index or similar funds by a small amount, there is no need for concern.

  • How much do you have in international investments? Overseas stock and bond funds do not move in tandem with the US markets. So this is a good way to get some diversification.

  • How much do you have in inflation hedges like gold bullion, precious metals mutual funds, real estate investment trust or real estate stock funds, inflation index treasury bonds, inflation index savings bonds and inflation index CDs? Experts say you should have between 5 percent and 10 percent of your assets in inflation indexed investments.

  • How much do you have sock away for emergencies? You should have at least 6 months cash on hand. This will help you weather any unexpected financial storms.


    Alan Lavine and Gail Liberman are husband and wife columnist and authors of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Making Money With Mutual Funds, (Alpha Books). Al and Gail's new book is Rags to Retirement, (Alpha Books).

    To read more columns, please visit the column archive.

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