Senior Personal Finance Correspondent
Linda's Feed
Apr 10, 2013

Stern Advice-Your skin in Washington’s budget game

WASHINGTON, April 10 (Reuters) – The budget that President
Barack Obama unveiled on Wednesday has a long way to go before
any part of it becomes law. It is basically his opening play in
a long game that will involve the House, the Senate and
countless lobbyists.

That game may never end – Congress hasn’t passed a unified
budget resolution since 2009. Federal programs have mainly been
funded in a piecemeal way through so-called continuing
resolutions that often keep money flowing without addressing
policy.

Apr 3, 2013

Bad behavior persists in 401(k) accounts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Yes, stocks have been on a real tear lately, but guess who hasn’t been along for the ride: The millions of 401(k) investors who “moved to safety” after the 2008-2009 market and never felt comfortable enough to move back to stocks.

Participants in 401(k) plans ended 2012 with less than half of their assets invested in stocks, down from 59 percent at the end of 2006, Chicago-based Spectrem Group reported on Tuesday. That’s despite the fact that the S&P 500 stock index rose 6.4 percent over that period and has more than doubled since it hit bottom in March 2009.

Apr 3, 2013

Stern Advice-Bad behavior persists in 401(k) accounts

WASHINGTON, April 3 (Reuters) – Yes, stocks have been on a
real tear lately, but guess who hasn’t been along for the ride:
The millions of 401(k) investors who “moved to safety” after the
2008-2009 market and never felt comfortable enough to move back
to stocks.

Participants in 401(k) plans ended 2012 with less than half
of their assets invested in stocks, down from 59 percent at the
end of 2006, Chicago-based Spectrem Group reported on Tuesday.
That’s despite the fact that the S&P 500 stock index rose 6.4
percent over that period and has more than doubled since it hit
bottom in March 2009.

Mar 20, 2013

Stern Advice: New math for old mortgages

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Wouldn’t it be great if you could simply refinance your own high-interest mortgage, without going through a bank or paying closing costs?

In a way, you can, says Keith Gumbinger of HSH.com, a Riverdale, New Jersey, mortgage research firm. His theory is that you can lower your effective interest rate by pre-paying the loan. That’s a strategy that might be especially useful for homeowners who can’t refinance or who have a low balance left on their loans and can’t find a refi deal that is worth its closing costs.

Mar 13, 2013

Identity theft and the IRS, or, Who got my refund?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Here is something the nation’s criminals are quickly learning: There’s no point in getting yourself all dirty with guns and drugs and the sex trade when you can just scam the Internal Revenue Service.

That turns out to be surprisingly easy to do, in this era of high technology and overloaded IRS workers. Tax fraud connected to identity theft has grown exponentially, as bad actors use stolen Social Security numbers to file fake returns and reap undeserved refunds.

Mar 13, 2013

Stern Advice-Identity theft and the IRS, or, Who got my refund?

WASHINGTON, March 13 (Reuters) – Here is something the
nation’s criminals are quickly learning: There’s no point in
getting yourself all dirty with guns and drugs and the sex trade
when you can just scam the Internal Revenue Service.

That turns out to be surprisingly easy to do, in this era of
high technology and overloaded IRS workers. Tax fraud connected
to identity theft has grown exponentially, as bad actors use
stolen Social Security numbers to file fake returns and reap
undeserved refunds.

Mar 6, 2013

Stern Advice-As Dow hits record, should you pile in or run away?

WASHINGTON, March 6 (Reuters) – The Dow Jones Industrial
Average rallied to a record high on Tuesday, and if you are
anything like the typical investor, that made you want to race
out and buy stocks.

That is the typical and self-destructive buy-high, sell-low
pattern of individual investors. “When the markets are doing
well, people are much more interested,” said Charles Rotblut of
the American Association of Individual Investors. “There’s a
definite correlation between the market rising and people
investing, and the market falling and people selling.”

Mar 1, 2013

U.S. federal workers plan belt tightening as furloughs loom

WASHINGTON, March 1 (Reuters) – Many thousands of U.S.
federal government workers could face painful choices in the
coming weeks: will they cut the cable or the dog walker or the
therapist? Skip the car payment or student loan? Cash in their
savings or borrow from their retirement plans?

The automatic budget cuts – termed “sequestration” in
Washington parlance – are slated to trim $85 billion from the
federal budget between March 1 and September 31, 2013, the end
of the federal fiscal year.

Mar 1, 2013

Federal workers plan belt tightening as furloughs loom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Many thousands of U.S. federal government workers could face painful choices in the coming weeks: will they cut the cable or the dog walker or the therapist? Skip the car payment or student loan? Cash in their savings or borrow from their retirement plans?

The automatic budget cuts – termed “sequestration” in Washington parlance – are slated to trim $85 billion from the federal budget between March 1 and September 31, 2013, the end of the federal fiscal year.

Feb 27, 2013

Stern Advice: How anti-inflation bonds could smack investors

WASHINGTON, Feb 27 (Reuters) – Many mom and pop investors
buy Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS) in the belief
that they are as safe as safe can be: The full faith and credit
of the U.S. government stands behind them, and their returns
adjust to keep up with inflation.

But here’s a fact that some may find surprising. If interest
rates move up faster than consumer prices do, their TIPS
investments can turn around and bite them. A low-yielding
inflation-protected bond could actually lose value faster than a
comparable non-inflation protected bond in that scenario,
according to experts like Gemma Wright-Casparius, a TIPS fund
manager for Vanguard and Jason Ware, market strategist and chief
analyst for Albion Financial Group in Salt Lake City.

    • 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 www.twitter.com/LindaStern. And when she expresses opinions, they are her own and not those of her employer."
      Joined Reuters:
      October 2010
    • Contact Linda

    • Follow Linda