Reuters Money

Zap zombie funds within your portfolio

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zombie index fundsDo you have zombie index funds within your portfolio?

Instead of eating up your brains, they devour your nest egg with high expenses and walking dead performance. They may be lurking within your 401(k)-type plan or individual retirement account.

I like index funds because they generally can track nearly any kind of asset class. As such, they are the white bread of investing and should cost about the same from fund to fund. The cheaper the better. Why pay Nieman-Marcus prices for the same thing you can get at Costco or Sam’s Club for less?

You can vanquish these funds without overtly violent acts, but first you have to identify them. Unfortunately, mandated fee disclosure is still pending, so you have to take the initiative.

So how do you identify a zombie fund? First you need a reliable benchmark for comparison purposes. The easiest way is to look at the index that the fund is supposed to be tracking. A good proxy for the U.S. bond market, for example, is the Barclays Capital Aggregate Bond Index. It’s a basket of listed bonds. If a fund tracks the index return within 0.20 percentage points or less, then that’s pretty good and not expensive.

Target date funds get better and bigger, report finds

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Target date funds are getting better – and that’s good news, because they’re also becoming the 800-pound gorilla of the workplace retirement saving scene.

The use of these funds, which invest in a mix of assets with the aim of reducing equity exposure as participants approach retirement, has accelerated sharply in recent years, due in large measure to the growth of auto-enrollment options in workplace plans.

Tactical asset allocation might become your new normal

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Market volatility is like a headache that hangs on. The cure may lie in shifting your mind from keenly focusing on risk instead of returns.

For many, this is an obvious no brainer, but it involves much more than simply shifting into cash, bonds or gold. What if you don’t want to exit stocks entirely? Then you may need what money managers call tactical asset allocation.

Your retirement rollover decision could save you thousands

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In the two decades that I’ve been covering personal finance, I’ve worked for three big companies. I like to practice what I preach, like in the video above, where I explain some simple ways that you can manage your 401(k) when you change jobs and potentially save yourself more than $60,000 in about 30 minutes.

The backstory that you don’t catch above is this:

I’ve participated in the 401(k) at each employer I’ve worked at over the years, contributing the most money I could afford and always meeting the threshold to get the prized company match.

Balancing your portfolio in a bonkers market

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Balance is a rare bird these days. Jobs, housing, stocks, European debt: All seem to be in a spasmodic tailspin.

There is some consolation that a balanced portfolio can help smooth out the jagged curves of a bipolar market economy. But balance is rarely what we think it is, and it needs constant monitoring.

Hedging can end your retirement panic now

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Even with the most recent market agita, there’s no reason for you to worry long-term about your retirement funds.

Is my head in the clouds? As darkly volatile as this moment in personal investing may seem, it’s actually a golden age for portfolio insurance. Retirement worries as we know it can come to an end — if you know how to hedge properly. There are plenty of retail tools available to that end.

How much stock should older investors hold?

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Jim Dundee’s business is doing well — he’s an optician and owns his own retail optical store near Tampa, Florida. But Dundee started to get nervous about the economy and stock market a couple months ago.

“Even though business has been great here, you could just tell by listening to customers. We serve a pretty savvy clientele, and they were all saying something was brewing and that stocks would take a hit.”

“Sleep Well” funds: Where to invest for a good night’s rest

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The following is a guest post by Lawrence Carrel, author of “ETFs for the Long Run” and “Dividend Stocks for Dummies.” The opinions expressed are his own.

Actively-managed mutual funds took a big hit in the stock market’s 2008 crash. The average equity fund plunged 39.5 percent compared with the 37 percent drop in the S&P 500 Index.

Target date funds faring better in this market meltdown

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After the 2008 market crash, target date funds came under heavy fire for failing to protect older retirement investors. This time around, TDFs are faring much better – thanks to lessons learned a few years ago.

The basic idea of TDFs — to invest in a mix of assets with the aim of reducing equity exposure as participants approach retirement – is sound, since many investors don’t rebalance or pay attention to reducing risk as retirement approaches.

Debt ceiling: 10 reasons not to move your money now

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With the markets getting more and more nervous as the days tick by to August 2 without a debt deal, one thing that might be keeping the bottom from falling out is the calm of financial advisers. To borrow from former President George W. Bush, they are urging clients to “stay the course.” And behold, they cite many sensible reasons for doing so.

Reuters Money reached out to members of the financial community to see how they’re calming the folks they advise. An overwhelming majority expressed faith that lawmakers would broker a deal by the deadline, and markets would adjust regardless.

Here are 10 reasons they give not to juggle your investments right now.

1. A short-term crisis demands long-term thinking.

While it’s true a debt ceiling crash might resemble the sky falling, no one knows if that’s going to happen. Markets reward investors who stick to sensible strategies over time. “Rather than obsessing about the debt debate, we are telling clients to get engaged in a long-term conversation about risk management,” said Michael Gault, senior portfolio strategist at Weiser Capital Management. Gault, who manages $200 million, stressed that the last few months on Wall Street have been good ones. “The concept of ‘risk’ has taken a back seat as the markets’ recovery has been in a relatively smooth upward trajectory. We think there’s tremendous value in rebalancing here.”