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What the experts say

Buying American—again; Putting X-rays on plastic?; One-stop mutual funds

Buying American—again For U.S. stock investors, there may be no place like home, said Tom Lauricella in The Wall Street Journal. “Amid continuing turmoil, U.S. stocks are proving much more buoyant than markets abroad, and investment pros think it’s only the beginning.” The Dow is down 12 percent so far this year, but the Dow Jones Wilshire Global Index, which excludes U.S. stocks, is down 21 percent. “Driving the big declines abroad are many of the same factors that first sent U.S. stock prices tumbling late last year, chiefly a collapsing real estate market and its impact on consumers and corporate earnings.” The U.S. economy, meanwhile, looks to be nearing the end of that cycle. As you look toward the future, don’t abandon foreign holdings. But do take “a close look at how much of a portfolio is allocated elsewhere around the globe.”  Putting X-rays on plastic? Medical offices have traditionally offered low- or no-interest payment plans to cash-strapped patients, said Stacey L. Bradford in SmartMoney. But some are now encouraging patients to sign up for so-called medical credit cards. “The idea that patients can fund their medical care in the same way they finance flat-screen TVs is attractive to health-care providers, since they get their money right away.” But such cards—issued by the likes of GE Money and Citigroup—should be seen as a last resort. “By using one of these credit cards, patients convert their medical debt, which doesn’t typically show up on a credit report unless it goes to collection, into revolving consumer debt.” If patients fall behind on payments, they’ll not only be hit with fees and higher rates but get dinged on their credit reports. That could have “lasting implications” beyond the doctor’s office.

One-stop mutual fundsMany mutual-fund investors are looking for a one-fund fix, said Thomas M. Anderson in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. Instead of allocating retirement resources across multiple funds, they’re investing in target-date funds whose precise holdings are adjusted as the investor moves closer to retirement. “Thirty-eight fund families have target-date offerings, and the differences among them are significant.” T. Rowe Price, for instance, sets the overall allocation but tweaks the mix by up to 5 percentage points, depending on market dynamics. So even though these funds are designed for simplicity, choosing the right one will take some research. The stock allocation for a fund targeted for a 2020 retirement, for example, can range from 50 percent to 90 percent.

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