What the experts say
Hands-off 401(k) saving can backfire
“When it comes to saving in your 401(k), doing nothing can often work wonders,” said Dan Kadlec in Money.com. But there’s also a downside to investing inertia. Although the average account balance is now at a record high of $100,320—up 10 percent from 2013—it’s growing more slowly than the overall market. The S&P 500 stock index posted a 13.5 percent increase for 2014, while Treasury bonds produced a 10.75 percent return. That suggests many retirement savers are invested too conservatively. Many 401(k) plans with automatic enrollment funnel money into low-risk money market accounts that yield well under 1 percent. “Another worrisome trend” is that only 15 percent of 401(k) savers rebalanced their portfolios last year, “one of the lowest trading rates on record.” Experts say rebalancing is the best way to ensure you “maintain the right level of risk in your portfolio.”
Profiting from broken resolutions
Here’s one reason to keep tabs on your friends’ New Year’s resolutions: moneymaking opportunities, said Sabah Karimi in USNews.com. As January’s fitness goals grind to a halt in early spring, “you can find lightly used gym equipment on the cheap on sites like Craigslist.” The same goes for unused hobby supplies that may now be cluttering a friend’s garage, waiting for someone to take them off their hands. You might also persuade pals to let you take their place in classes they signed up for but have now lost interest in. Another slightly rude idea: Start a “schadenfreude fund” and pay into it whenever someone you know gives up on his or her resolution. “Later, treat yourself (and possibly your friends) to something nice.”
Finding free tax prep
Why spend hundreds of dollars preparing and filing your taxes when “there are plenty of ways to do it at no or little cost”? asked Jessica Dickler in CNBC.com. An increasing number of tax preparation companies offer free help for those who meet certain qualifications. Credit Karma recently launched a free “do-it-yourself tax prep service” for simple tax returns; TurboTax offers a similar service with Absolute Zero, “which began three years ago for taxpayers filing federal 1040A or 1040EZ returns as well as state returns.” The IRS Free File program, geared toward low- and moderate-income taxpayers, is also available through roughly a dozen tax prep providers, including TurboTax, H&R Block, and Jackson Hewitt.