What the experts say

Investing in bridges and tunnels; Easy access to annuities; How much is your time worth?

Investing in bridges and tunnels

Over the next 20 years, developing countries and rich countries together will spend $30 trillion upgrading their physical infrastructures, said Bob Frick in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. Rather than rely on taxes or bonds to raise money for such projects, governments increasingly turn to private markets. For investors, putting money into the companies that build and fund bridges, roads, and other public infrastructures promises steady dividends and returns. “Most projects resist the ups and downs of economic cycles,” and mutual funds and exchange-traded funds provide a relatively easy way to invest. A new exchange-traded fund, iShares S&P Global Infrastructure Index, is one such fund. “If the fund had existed before December of last year and faithfully tracked the index, its one-, three-, and five-year annualized returns would have been 20 percent, 21 percent, and 23 percent, respectively.” At the moment, most construction is taking place abroad. But “you should soon find more domestic investment opportunities.”

Easy access to annuities

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Buying an annuity is now almost as easy as buying a stock or a mutual fund, said Daisy Maxey in The Wall Street Journal. These insurance-like investment vehicles once were available only through intermediaries. Now they’re increasingly available online and through 401(k) plans. In December, Fidelity began offering a tax-deferred variable annuity online, and other big firms are also giving consumers more direct access to their annuity offerings. “As investors are increasingly left on their own to manage their nest eggs,” a wider availability of annuities should give them more flexibility. But some experts argue that the complexity of annuities warrants buying them from a trained professional. “You need to know what you’re getting and how it fits in with what you’re already doing,” says Matthew Tuttle, a financial planner in Stamford, Conn.

How much is your time worth?

Many conscientious consumers insist on doing certain jobs themselves rather than paying someone else, said Jean Chatzky in Money. Others spend hours looking for the best deals. But they might be better off if they took a serious look at just how much their time is worth, says Tim Ferris, author of best-seller The Four-Hour Workweek. If you haven’t already, calculate what you make on an hourly basis. Then keep track of how many hours you spend on time-sucking tasks. Then multiply the total by your hourly rate. Unless you’re saving an equivalent amount of money “shopping for your TV or constantly combing the Internet for slightly higher CD yields,” you’re losing money. Of course, if you enjoy clipping coupons or weeding your garden, the time may be well spent. But, if you hate the chore—and lose money doing it—by all means hire an expert.

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