What the experts say

A safer way to buy banks?; Fee-only not worry-free; Your shopaholic spouse

A safer way to buy banks?

It may be “the best news since learning that chocolate and red wine are good for you,” said Daren Fonda in SmartMoney. After near-annihilation, financial stocks seem to be making a comeback. “Of course, the key is choosing top-quality picks and enjoying them in moderation.” One way to do that is through an exchange-traded fund that specializes in preferred stocks, which offer fatter dividends and fewer price swings than common stocks. The three “preferred ETFs” on the market—two from PowerShares and one from iShares—each hold a hefty stake in financial stocks and recently looked “deeply discounted.” Once banks “shore up” their finances, the stocks could bounce. Just be warned: “With so much uncertainty in the sector, investing in bank stocks is still a bit dicey.”

Fee-only not worry-free

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There have been plenty of reports about “crooked” financial advisors, said Ron Lieber in The New York Times, but the Securities and Exchange Commission’s recent action against one James Putnam is worth noting. Why? Putnam is a past president of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, an organization of fee-only financial advisors who have “loudly criticized” other advisors for not always acting in clients’ best interest. It raises the question: Can you trust any financial advisor? “I still believe that a NAPFA planner should be among the first people you see when shopping for financial assistance.” But investors should understand that a NAPFA membership is just a credential—not a guarantee. Before trusting someone with your finances, make sure to “ask them to sign a fiduciary oath.” If you really want to be careful, take the advice, but then execute the actual trades yourself.

Your shopaholic spouse

If you tend to scrimp and save, living with a spendthrift spouse is tough in the best of times, said Tyler Cowen in Money. “But when the economy is in the tank, seeing your beloved breeze in with the latest handbag or tech toys can be downright enraging.” Still, lecturing your spouse on the value of money management probably won’t help matters. Most people overspend to feel good or feel in control: The more you lecture, the more inclined they are to spend. Instead, “encourage your spouse to own the problem” by asking him or her to keep tabs on household finances or open a separate account. If shopping sprees are jeopardizing family finances, more “extreme measures” may be in order. But you might also consider lightening up. “If you think the occasional iToy is expensive, wait until you see how much a divorce costs.”

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