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Jun 8, 2011
via Reuters Money

DIY investing gets more sophisticated


A number of relatively new websites are offering self-directed investors some pretty high-end portfolio management for small amounts of money, and that’s good for do-it-yourself investors.

But, as I report in my Stern Advice column today, they aren’t all created alike. Some offer advice and others don’t. Some cost more than others. You won’t know the players without a scorecard.

Jun 1, 2011

Stern Advice: Prepping your portfolio for the end of QE2

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Well, the world didn’t end on May 21, as some had predicted.

And the sky won’t fall when the Federal Reserve stops its quantitative-easing program, or QE2, according to many financial professionals.

May 31, 2011
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Housing crash: Is it time to buy low?


True confessions: I live in a bubble. Washington, D.C., the area I call home, appears to be one of the only two places in the country (the other being Seattle) where real estate is doing very well, thank you. So around me, I see home prices stable and rising, and houses getting sold within days of going on the market.

That’s not the case in most of the country, where home prices on average fell 0.8 percent in March, according to the S&P/Case Shiller survey released this morning. “Home prices continue on their downward spiral with no relief in sight,” David Blitzer of S&P, said in a statement. Home prices are at their lowest post-crash levels, with some areas retracing all the way back to 2002 levels.

May 26, 2011
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Parents want to help their kids, but when does it stop?


A weak job market for college and high-school graduates is continuing to drive young adults back into the households and onto the payrolls of their parents, a variety of surveys have confirmed.

Almost 60 percent of parents with non-student children between the ages of 18 and 39 have been helping their kids, according to a survey being released today by the National Endowment of Financial Education. A study released last month by found that more than half of all recent grads are living with their parents. And as much as 85 percent of the Class of 2011 expect to move back home, at least for a while, according to a study by market research firm Twentysomething Inc.

May 25, 2011
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Should the U.S. Treasury sell annuities?


Here’s an out-there idea whose time has probably not come, at least not yet: What if, instead of (or in addition to) floating bonds, the federal government sold retirement annuities?

That may sound like a wild idea, especially in an era when policymakers are talking about privatizing Medicare. But it has advocates within the retirement industry. The upside, according to Martha Tejera, a veteran retirement plan consultant, is that retirees who bought annuities guaranteed by Uncle Sam would feel like their retirement funds were secure. They wouldn’t have to worry about managing their own nest egg, running out of money, or handing their funds over to a Madoff-style crook.

May 25, 2011

Stern Advice: Retirement number that’s changing the debate

WASHINGTON, May 25 (Reuters) – Retirement planning almost
always seems to focus on “the number.” Usually that’s the
amount of money somebody thinks you need to retire securely.

But here is the real number to watch: $25 trillion.
That is a rough (and conservative) approximation of the amount
of wealth controlled by the baby-boom generation, based on
Federal Reserve Board data.

May 20, 2011

Will new niche funds protect bond investors?

WASHINGTON, May 20 (Reuters) – Here’s a quandary for
retirement investors: They’re being told that bonds are
probably headed for a long, slow and potentially painful
decline as the Federal Reserve ends its easy money policies and
interest rates start to rise.

But they are also told that they should keep some of their
money invested in the bond market if they want to be prudently
diversified. And so, how do they deploy those fixed-income
assets without getting slammed when that widely-predicted bond
bear hits?

May 18, 2011

Stern Advice: Solving Social Security with cheap money

WASHINGTON, May 18 (Reuters) – The budget challenge posed
by the retirement of the baby boom behemoth has been
acknowledged and expected for decades: With fewer workers
supporting each retiree, the Social Security program would
become insolvent, or become so expensive as to be

Late last week, the program’s trustees furthered that
argument, projecting that the retirement security trust fund
will run out of cash in 2036 — unless something changes about
the way the program collects and spends revenues.

May 18, 2011
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Coming soon: A shorter, clearer mortgage form


How much are you borrowing and how much will it cost to pay it back? Those are the key questions that a mortgage disclosure form should answer, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is trying to develop one that will will give it to consumers straight.

The agency is circulating two different versions of a proposed form on a new “Know Before You Owe” website and asking consumers to vote on which one they like better. The agency intends to propose a new federally required form shortly after it officially launches on July 21, 2011.

May 13, 2011
via Reuters Money

Recession’s price tag: $2,300 a year


The so-called “Great Recession” has taken a permanent bite out of everyone’s retirement and not just at a macro level. Today’s workers will lose an average of $2,300 a year each in retirement benefits because of the anemic wage growth which started in 2008, according to a new study written by Urban Institute analysts and released by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research. Younger workers and wealthier workers will lose even more.

The study came as Social Security and Medicare trustees reported that both of those programs would run out of money earlier than had been expected. Medicare will exhaust its funds in 2024, not 2029, and Social Security will run out of money in 2036, not 2037, the trustees said. Legislators may be prompted by those findings to shore up or revise those programs, but even if they do, that would not reverse the decline projected by Urban Institute study authors Barbara A. Butrica, Richard W. Johnson and Karen E. Smith.

    • About Linda

      "Linda Stern is an award-winning personal finance journalist who loves to write about how the big picture affects your pocketbook. A former contributing editor at Newsweek magazine and a long-time Reuters columnist, Stern covers everything from credit cards to retirement planning to investing. As a Washington-based correspondent, she sneaks in as much tax and economic policy as her editors will allow. She tweets at And when she expresses opinions, they are her own and not those of her employer."
      Joined Reuters:
      October 2010
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