Making money: What the experts say

The disappearing inheritance; Finding value in spin-offs; Planning a financial tune-up

The disappearing inheritance

Bad news, baby boomers, said Anne Tergesen in The Wall Street Journal. Many of you “won’t be getting as much of an inheritance” as you hoped. What’s worse, you’ll probably have to tap your own savings to help “cash-strapped parents make ends meet.” With longer life spans, rising costs for health and long-term care, and roller-coaster markets, many elderly parents are outliving the savings they once hoped to pass on to their children. “There are way too many adult children I see who are looking at Mom and Dad’s estate as their ticket to a secure retirement,” says estate planner M. Holly Isdale. “But with people living longer, much of the money is likely to be spent.” Financial advisers say it’s important to talk openly and early about what can be an uncomfortable topic, especially if parents anticipate running short of money.

Finding value in spin-offs

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When companies split into pieces, investors can often find bargains, said Kathy M. Kristof in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. A number of studies have found that spin-offs often outperform market averages, particularly in the years just after a separation. The rub: Only about 30 companies a year announce plans to jettison parts of their business and form new entities. And spin-offs aren’t always good deals, since some may be loaded with debt. But they can be cheap when they are overlooked, especially if a spin-off’s new independence ignites “the sort of entrepreneurial zeal” that delivers good returns. Genie Energy, for instance, which split from telecom company IDT Corp. last year, sells power to small businesses and looks like a buy.

Planning a financial tune-up

The day I set aside annually for cleaning up my personal finances “has become one of my favorites of the year,” said Ron Lieber in The New York Times. “It feels that good to get yourself properly sorted.” We should all devote a day to financial maintenance, whether it’s automating bills, updating a budget, or rebalancing retirement accounts. You might try “bolstering your annual savings by another percentage point if you can afford it” or spending a few hours shopping for better deals on cellphones, credit cards, and cable. While you’re at it, check your credit reports, reread your will, and make sure your insurance policies are up to date. Then treat yourself by finally spending those soon-to-expire gift cards.

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