DEAR WOUNDED: I'm in my 50s and have just started thinking seriously about my retirement. I clearly need to put more effort into this area. Can you make any suggestions?
ANSWER: When the aircraft maintenance staff at Turkish Airlines finished up a repair job ahead of schedule, they celebrated by sacrificing a camel at the Istanbul airport. According to the News of the Weird, hundreds of pounds of meat were distributed to the workers.
Most companies are feeding their employees less and less -- cutting pensions, making us pay for health care, etc. There was a time when companies played a larger role in supporting their people, but those days are gone.
Your company won't be providing you freshly butchered camel any time soon, but I can offer some suggestions to help get the most out of what you've got. For more, go to your favorite bookstore and surf the investment books. Pick the book and strategy that seems best tailored to your situation.
Do you pay attention to your investments? Recently a friend had me look at her portfolio, and I was stunned to see that almost half of it was getting only a 3 percent annual return or less. You need to check in on how your portfolio is doing on a regular basis.
Do you try to avoid hitting home runs? My finance professor taught me an important lesson: It's nice to beat the market, but swinging for the fences increases your risk. You'll do fine if you just match the overall market's gains. Don't get me wrong, home runs are nice, but a bunch of singles and doubles are all you need.
Do you appreciate the power of compounding? The average gain for the stock market is 10 percent per year. Even with down years, the longer your money remains in the market, the more it will be worth. When it comes to investing, earlier certainly beats later.
Do you worry as much about the money going out as the money going in? Your portfolio is affected by the money you earn and the money you spend. Yet, most of us put considerably less attention into watching the cash that leaves our wallet.
Are you diversified? The more you bet on one company or industry, the higher your risk. A diversified portfolio means that you spread your investments across big, medium and little companies, and also across growth companies, value companies and companies that are a blend of the two. A percentage of your portfolio should also be in international firms and bonds.
Do you play to your own strengths? Be careful to tailor your investment strategy to your skills and expertise. For example, flipping houses is a great strategy for someone with skills at repairing houses. For someone who doesn't have that skill, (like me!) chances are it will be an expensive boondoggle. So it's important to tailor your strategy based on your knowledge and expertise.
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Working Wounded/ABCNEWS.com online ballot question: Do you have trouble getting through to the people you need to talk to to do your job?
"The say opportunity's only got one hair on it's head and you got to grab it while it's going by." William Demarest