What the experts say

Stocks: A Spanish revolution; Early decision, more money?; Giving in good times and bad

Stocks: A Spanish revolution

While companies in much of the world are retrenching, Spanish companies “from windmill makers to banks to bicycle manufacturers” are expanding globally, said Mark Scott and Tara Kalwarski in BusinessWeek. The Spanish domestic economy has its share of problems, but its biggest multinationals are in “surprisingly good shape,” with strong balance sheets and little exposure to “toxic assets.” One of the brightest sectors is renewable energy. In recent years, “Spanish law has guaranteed above-market rates to providers of wind, solar, and other clean power.” Those subsidies recently have been cut, but the firms are now taking their green know-how to other countries. Earnings for utilities firm Iberdrola Renewables, for example, are projected to grow 39 percent next year. Prefer to invest in funds? Investors can gain access to Spain’s renewable-energy powerhouses via the New Alternatives or Calvert Global Alternatives Energy funds, which have 27 percent and 20 percent of their assets in Spanish companies, respectively.

Early decision, more money?

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Applying through a college’s “early decision” program could increase a student’s odds of being accepted, said AnnaMaria Andriotis in SmartMoney. More important, though, knowing your college destination early may help you score more financial aid. State and college grants, in particular, are “finite and often are doled out on a first-come, first-served basis.” Be aware, though, that early decision can have drawbacks. “Students can’t compare financial aid packages from several schools, because they can apply to only one college under the early decision program.” Also, keep in mind that if a school knows that a student will commit early, it may offer less merit aid than it would to someone on the fence.

Giving in good times and bad

It’s the season for charitable giving, said Shelly Banjo in The Wall Street Journal. But while you may be eager to help your ­favorite charities—and score some last-­minute tax deductions—you also may be loath to write a big check when “you’re not quite sure what fate the economy holds.” A donor-advised fund is one solution for dealing with up and down years. Such funds let you contribute cash and other assets, receive an immediate tax deduction upon donation, and wait until later years to make recommendations for when and how you’d like the money to be doled out. When times are good, you can contribute more, gaining you leeway to continue helping out even when “money is tight.”

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