Chicago Sun-Times Latest news from the Chicago Sun-Times Online en-us (Editor) Newspapers Chicago Sun-Times 84 34 30 Copyright 2014 <![CDATA[ Organize finances in the new year ]]>

Originally published: Jan. 6, 2002 I always want to start the New Year with my finances well organized. So I offer a look at my New Year’s “To-Do” list, with the hope that it may give you some useful ideas to get started on the right track. To-Do No. 1: Set up a file box to get last year’s financial information out of my desk drawers. Use a black marker to label it “2001--Tax records.” What’s in it? File folders filled with: * All of my paid bills, bound with huge rubber bands. * A printout copy of my checkbook … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:14:35 -0500 <![CDATA[ Lessons from meeting of investment committee ]]>

Originally published: Jan. 6, 2002 Sometimes it’s easier to read the rules for successful stock market investing than it is to put them into action. That lesson was forcefully driven home to me at an investment-committee meeting of a large Chicago institution with more than $1 billion in assets. The committee includes some of the city’s best-known investment managers and financiers. Here are three lessons that crystallized from this week’s meeting: Get ahead of the curve. Sometimes being far ahead seems risky to me, but they in their collective wisdom feel that being intelligently ahead of the pack actually diminishes … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:14:35 -0500 <![CDATA[ Convertibles provide way to minimize risk ]]>

Originally published: Jan. 6, 2002 Convertible bonds and convertible preferred stocks are among the least understood investment categories--and therein lies the extra potential for maximizing profit while minimizing downside risk. John Calamos, president of Chicago-based Calamos Asset Management, has made a career out of doing just that. And now his five-star-rated mutual funds are attracting attention as a place to hide from--yet participate in--these volatile markets. What are convertibles? In essence, convertible bonds are a debt obligation of a company. They pay regular interest, but offer the additional upside potential of equity, because at some point in the future these … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:14:35 -0500 <![CDATA[ As gifts this year, teach kids perspective, sharing ]]>

Originally published: Jan. 6, 2002 Every year at this time I like to write about spending money on holiday gifts that can grow in importance for your child, and teach some money lessons, as well. And I’m happy to pass along some investment ideas that can boost a college fund, as well as create an interest in investing. But this year there are some other lessons that are appropriate gifts for the holiday season. The first is the gift of perspective. This year even the youngest child can appreciate how much he or she has been given in the sense … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:14:35 -0500 <![CDATA[ Evaluate your losses for 2001 tax purposes ]]>

Originally published: Jan. 6, 2002 Let me be among the first to remind you that it’s time to tally up those losses in your investment portfolio and consider some strategies to make use of them for tax purposes. This is truly the silver lining in the ugly cloud of huge investor losses for 2001. But you have only 30 more trading days to take action, so now’s the time to start planning. These strategies apply only to investment losses, or gains, taken outside your tax-sheltered retirement accounts. Those IRA and 401(k) accounts get no tax benefit; ultimately all the withdrawals … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:14:35 -0500 <![CDATA[ Foundation accounts an option for giving ]]>

Originally published: Jan. 6, 2002 The holiday season brings out the spirit of giving, and--in spite of the recession--Americans are proving again that they are the most generous people in the world. But there’s a way to take that charitable spirit a step further to leverage your giving. Wealthy people create their own charitable foundations. And now, so can you. It’s easy--and free--if you take advantage of the donor-advised funds set up by many mutual fund companies. It all started with the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, which was created in 1992 to help individuals avoid the hassle and legal expense … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:14:35 -0500 <![CDATA[ Go online to asses portfolio diversification ]]>

Originally published: Jan. 6, 2002 The year just ending was filled with lessons for investors. And one of the most painful lessons was the importance of diversification. The first insight came early in the year, with investors suffering a hangover from the collapse of tech stocks. Many people who thought they were diversified by investing in several different growth funds learned that the funds had all purchased the same few technology companies. When the sector collapsed, so did their entire investment portfolio. The year ended with an even more painful lesson in the importance of diversification. The bankruptcy of Enron … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:14:35 -0500 <![CDATA[ Recession’s signs like a common cold’s ]]>

Originally published: Jan. 6, 2002 Despite all the miracles of modern science, two common conditions elude a cure: recession and the common cold. And it strikes me that in many ways they’re much alike. We always have some feeling that a cold is coming on; ditto for recession. We mostly try to ignore the ominous warning signs, continuing with our ordinary activities in hopes that the dreaded condition will somehow bypass us this time. Early signals that should alert us are easily ignored. We sneeze once or twice and figure it’s a coincidence. In the case of the economy, the … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:14:35 -0500 <![CDATA[ Annuity from TIAA-CREF good for chicken money ]]>

Originally published: February 17, 2002 Did you ever expect to see 6-month CD rates drop below 1.5 percent? Some Chicago banks are paying only 1.29 percent today. Many seniors who planned to live on their interest income are now faced with digging into principal to meet their rising monthly expenses. Or they’re searching for higher yields. The obvious choices--and risks: But higher yields mean higher risks. For example: 3-year CDs pay about 3.5 percent. But if interest rates rise, you’d be stuck with your low-yield CD for three years--or else face a penalty of at least three months’ loss of … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:14:35 -0500 <![CDATA[ ‘Secret Code’ good for novice investing ]]>

Originally published: February 17, 2002 Has the stock market taught you an expensive lesson in the last two years? You can avoid most of those mistakes in the future by reading an enlightening and easily understandable new book: The Secret Code of the Superior Investor, (Crown, $25). The author is James Glassman, the Washington Post financial columnist and co-author of 1999’s best-selling Dow 36,000. Let’s get that issue of 36,000 out of the way immediately. Yes, even with the Dow struggling to move above 10,000 again, Glassman sticks to his forecast that the popular market average could rise above 36,000 … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:14:35 -0500 <![CDATA[ Why it’s worthwhile to do taxes on PC ]]>

Originally published: February 17, 2002 In the coming months Americans will file 120 million tax returns--a national nightmare and, for many, a personal trauma. About 30 million of those returns--both long and short form--will be created by people who simply sit down with the tax forms, the IRS booklets, and a calculator to figure out the best and most correct answers. Those tax returns will be filled with mathematical errors, and are bound to overlook some deductions or changes in the tax law. For some people, these errors will result in a higher tax bill or cut into their tax-refund … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:14:35 -0500 <![CDATA[ Credit score a key part in loan decisions ]]>

Originally published: April 21, 2002 Do you know the score? This week marks the first anniversary of publicly available credit scores. And it might pay to check in to see where you rank. Credit scoring has long been a behind-the-scenes method that lenders use in determining who should get credit--and what interest rates they should pay. Unlike a credit report, which simply tracks your bill-paying habits as reported by your creditors, your credit score assigns a weighting to other variables in your personal financial history. Learn your score Credit scores were kept secret until a year ago, when Fair Isaac, … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:14:34 -0500 <![CDATA[ Open non-Roth IRA to get tax deductions ]]>

Originally published: April 21, 2002 Forgive me for repeating myself, but I hate to see you pass up a chance to pick up some tax-free money--and you only have until Monday to open your Individual Retirement Account. I just don’t want you to miss out on the very realistic probability of turning $2,000 into nearly $50,000--tax-free--by the time you retire in 31 years. So here’s your last-chance instruction kit for opening an IRA for 2001. And it’s also a road map for opening another IRA for 2002. What is an IRA? An Individual Retirement Account is your chance to set … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:14:34 -0500 <![CDATA[ Paying bills online is a great way to save time ]]>

Originally published: April 21, 2002 It has been nearly five years since this column introduced you to the wonders of online bill payment. I was an early adopter simply because someone literally took me by the hand and showed me the benefits--both in time savings and financial organization. In those five years, I have written very few paper checks. No one has attacked my bank account from the Internet and withdrawn money (as I feared early on). My computer never ate my financial information (although I religiously back up my work on a disc as I was instructed). And checks … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:14:34 -0500 <![CDATA[ Insurance price war, low rates spell savings ]]>

In the six months since the terrorist attacks, Americans have stepped up their purchase of life insurance policies--and the amount of coverage in existing policies. Perhaps it's a reflection of our own renewed sense of mortality. The Medical Information Bureau, which tracks these statistics, says that new applications for life insurance increased 8.6 percent last October and November. And, an online insurance broker in Northbrook, reported that average face amounts on applications rose to $460,000--20 percent over the company's 52-week average before Sept. 11. "That is a tremendous increase for us," says Accuquote President Byron Udell. An insurance checkup … ]]> Fri, 03 May 2013 12:14:34 -0500