Feature

What the experts say

They’re called ‘Dow Dogs’ for a reason; Self-defense for savers; When an expert is worth the cost

They’re called ‘Dow Dogs’ for a reasonThe Dow Jones Industrial Average’s dowdy image is well deserved, said Jeff Reeves in MarketWatch.com. Once regarded as a who’s who of the companies driving the American economy, today’s Dow 30 looks more like “a list of stocks past their prime.” Consider Microsoft, the index’s third-worst-performing stock this year. A decade ago, Mister Softee was seen as an unstoppable “empire.” Today, Apple upstages it at every turn. The second-worst performer, Bank of America, has become “a zombie bank” carrying billions of dollars in nonperforming toxic mortgages. That leaves last place for Cisco, a company left “lazy and bloated” by its long dominance of the Internet-backbone business, and now outmaneuvered by nimble rivals like Juniper Networks. Yes, these Dow components are the pillars of the economy—circa 1997.

Self-defense for saversWith many bank savings accounts earning less than 1 percent, you can’t afford to let “hidden fees and surprise penalties” erode your returns, said Christina Couch in Bankrate.com. Some online banks offer rates that sound high, but before you invest, make sure you find out how often the bank compounds interest. The standard practice is to compound daily, and any less frequent compounding will significantly reduce your return. “Teaser rates” are another common pitfall. Some banks offer introductory rates as high as 2.25 percent, but the yield plummets to below 1 percent within weeks or months. And be particularly vigilant about annual fees and minimum-balance charges. Those charges can eat away at a balance far faster than dismal interest payments augment it.

When an expert is worth the costAmericans love to tackle all manner of tasks themselves, said Sheryl Nance-Nash in Daily​Finance.com. But with complex financial matters, “a do-it-yourself strategy can make a bad situation much worse.” If you have to manage your aging mother’s finances, will you know what it takes to place her in a nursing home and arrange Medicaid coverage? Let a specialist help. If you’re an entrepreneur, you may have a great idea, but an expert will usually know more about setting up a financial plan and a retirement account. And if you plan to marry soon, “three is not a crowd” for a heart-to-heart “on the very unromantic topic of money.” A good financial adviser is an investment in your future happiness.

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