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Making money: When greed is good, and more
3 top pieces of financial advice — from choosing life insurance to keeping your accounts safe
 
Follow Gordon Gekko's life mantra when it comes to your 401(k).
Follow Gordon Gekko's life mantra when it comes to your 401(k). YouTube

Choosing life insurance
Is it time to start thinking about life insurance? asked Jeff Reeves in USA Today. "If you're young and single, not making all that much money, life insurance probably isn't a pressing concern." But it may be if you have a spouse, child, or parent who depends on your income. Term life insurance is the most affordable option, but it leaves you "with nothing after 20 years of premiums (other than your health, obviously)." Americans are increasingly buying whole and universal life insurance plans, which have higher premiums and function as hybrid insurance and investing plans, allowing policyholders to cash out early if they want the money. But the risks and rewards of these plans are hard to figure out, so the best choice for most people is to opt for term life and invest the premiums you save in a mutual fund. "The cost savings over the decades will add up big time."

Keep your accounts safe
Learn to keep your online identities safe, said Stephanie AuWerter at CNN.com. To guard your financial transactions, install an anti-virus program and update your software to fix security holes. It's also a good idea to isolate your financial information from other personal data by using a single web browser to conduct all of your online transactions and nothing else. That way, if your usual browser is compromised, your credit card numbers, logins, passwords, and banking information can stay safe. Many banks will also alert you by email or text message whenever there's suspicious activity on your account. Make the effort to come up with strong passwords — and resist the urge to recycle the same password for different institutions.

When greed is good
Sometimes it's all right to be a little greedy, said Farnoosh Torabi at Yahoo — especially when putting your own needs first is "the best way to build and protect your family's wealth." If you're saving for retirement and your children's college, put money in your 401(k) first. Retirement doesn't come with scholarships or government-backed loans, and you need "much more in the bank to fund 20 to 30 years in retirement versus just four in college." And if you're negotiating a salary, don't be afraid to tack on an extra 10 to 15 percent to your ideal number in case your new boss tries "to negotiate you down." You never know; being a little greedy could pay off.

 
Sergio Hernandez is business editor of The Week's print edition. He has previously worked for The DailyProPublica, the Village Voice, and Gawker.

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