Feature

What the experts say

Running a fund’s numbers; Are ‘job loss’ deals legit?; Oops, here’s my data

Running a fund’s numbersMutual-fund investors tend to “overdose” on data and place too much emphasis on one-year returns, said Russel Kinnel in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. But there are a few key data points that make much more practical grounds for comparison. First, consider the fund’s expense ratio. Over the course of 10 years, returns on the lowest-cost funds exceed those of their pricey peers two-thirds of the time. Weigh the fund’s risk rating against your own tolerance for risk. “Most investors are better off avoiding high-risk funds.” Next, see how Morningstar rates the fund’s stewardship; funds with a D or an F tend to care more about their bottom line than yours. Finally, with the exception of money market funds, “consider a fund only if at least one of its managers has $500,000 or more invested in it.” Make sure the manager eats his own cooking.  

Are ‘job loss’ deals legit?Automakers, airlines, and home builders are pitching “job loss protection” these days, said Carla Fried in Money. “The gist: If you’re let go soon after making a purchase, the company will either help you with the tab or let you wiggle out of the obligation.” Most of these offers are legitimate, save for the usual fine print. “But the real catch is the way these programs can influence your buying psychology.” After all, if you’re really that worried about losing your job, shouldn’t you be shoring up savings rather than buying big-ticket items? If your “gig is relatively stable,” consider such protection a nice little perk, not a key selling point. “Pay too much attention to the offers, and you could miss out on a better bargain.”

Oops, here’s my dataWe tend to associate identity theft with “sophisticated hackers,” but most data breaches can be chalked up to human error, said Anne Kadet in SmartMoney. “Over and over, it’s a matter of hasty e-mails, goofy printer errors, and flash drives lost at conferences.” In fact, the biggest security leak in your house is probably your trash can—an easy source for “Dumpster data diving.” Another common culprit: laptops left behind in hotels and airports. Then there are those “dingbat” moves that make headlines—such as when the State of Louisiana accidentally mailed 150 tax reminders that included a second taxpayer’s data. “But look at the bright side.” Only 2 percent of data breaches actually result in identity theft. Apparently most people who come across this sensitive information are either honest or just as “clueless” as the people who lost it in the first place.

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