Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Don’t Fall Victim to Phony Tax Scams

As a little girl, I was always interested in eavesdropping on my parents’ “money” conversations, and I remember, very well, their talks during the “Ides of Tax” season, when they looked under every rock for deductions!

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? And while my folks had five legitimate little deductions (my brother and sisters and I), I was always entertained by their whispering about “so-and-so” who claimed extra children, or even their dogs, to get the best of Uncle Sam.

Those tax schemes were usually ratted out by neighbors or well-meaning friends, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) didn’t have to be too sophisticated to ferret them out.

If only tax fraud was so simple anymore!

Today, technology has made the proliferation of tax fraud countless times worse, with hypesters and con artists preying on people who fall victim—knowingly or unknowingly—to their schemes and scams.

The IRS has just issued its annual “Dirty Dozen” tax scams list to remind taxpayers to be cautious, and also to inform us that participation—voluntary or not—can lead to not only big penalties and interest, but also a tour of the criminal court systems. IRS Releases the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2012 Let’s take a look:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tax Watch: Don’t Forget your Partnership Income!

It’s that time of year again and most of us hem and haw, and procrastinate when it’s time to give Uncle Sam his due.

And while we are given a couple of extra days to file this year (deadline=April 17, 2012), d-day will be upon us before we know it. So in the next few columns, I’m going to share some tax tips and reminders that often take folks by surprise.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Three Funds to Turn Investment Beginners into Retirement Winners

Just a couple of months into the New Year, it’s time for your 401k administrator to begin holding meetings about your company’s retirement options. Most of the old-hands will automatically sign up again, without giving a thought or two to determining if their funds from last year still meet their needs today. Yet, many of them—and their portfolios—are in dire need of a retread. And I’ll address the necessity of actively pursuing those changes in a column coming soon.

But today, I want to talk with never-before or new investors who may find themselves facing a pound of prospectuses without knowing where to begin their journey upon the path of successful investing.

First of all, don’t panic! Your 401k plan will generally include a selection of mutual funds (not too many offer ETFs just yet), as well as total portfolio options for investors looking to avoid picking individual funds. These offerings will probably include:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Wrap-up from World Money Show

It was a great show, and who can complain about being in Orlando in February?

My last day at the show was a good mix of interviews with fixed income and equity advisors. The fixed income folks offered a positive outlook on the U.S.--and gold--but felt investors looking for income may need to "go out on the risk scale" a little, in order to obtain a decent income stream. They also warned against:

  • Chasing stocks just for the yield; instead, make sure the companies you choose are fundamentally strong
  • Laddering bonds--a strategy that no longer works with such low interest rates
  • Buy and hold--with continued volatility, this strategy is no longer viable
Other ideas for investment included:

  • Large cap stocks, particularly in technology and finance
  • Dividend-paying compaies
  • Emerging market stocks, but very selectively

My interviews will be posted on within the next couple of weeks, so make sure you login for the latest opinions and specific recommendations from some of the most-respected financial advisors in the marketplace today.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Market Strategies from the World Money Show

I had a great time catching up with lots of friends and associates today, and I was pleased with their overall positive sentiment about the U.S. economy and markets.

The investment advisors at the World Money Show are a diverse bunch with a range of opinions. I spent the afternoon quizzing a few of my favorite advisors about their take on the current market, as well as which sectors look attractive for 2012.

You may recall my recent discussion about the transition of economic and market cycles and my contention that we were nearing the changeover from early- to mid-cycle, when small caps begin to lose their luster and investors begin to find larger cap stocks more attractive.

This was the prevailing theme in almsost all of my interviews today, accompanied by pretty bullish outlooks from the majority.

Here's a snapshot of what they had to say:

1.  Europe and the U.S. are not tied to each other at the hip, with historical proof that recessions on the continent did not foster similar economic downturns in the U.S. Additionally, the improving economic indicators in the U.S., including consumer sentiment, housing, and unemployment, continue to indicate a strengthening environment on the home front.

2.  Whether investing in dividend-paying stocks, growth equities or ETFs, and although the climate is bullish, this cycle requires more than a "dart-throw" to ferret out the best investments. All agreed that judicious stock-picking would become more important in the days ahead. In other words, don't chase yield or "hot" sectors; instead, find out if the company or companies, in the case of an ETF, are fundamentally strong investments for the long haul. Always a good strategy, in my opinion.

3.  Don't give up on emerging markets. Although most are still underperforming, it may be the perfect time to indulge a small portion of your portfolio in areas that are destined to grow exponentially in the next few years due to demographic and economic trends. And while I heard very few individual stock recommendations, several advisors thought a diversified ETF would be a good start.

Overall, pretty bullish, although most agreed with me--the volatility isn't over, but the trend looks good!

This & That from the World Money Show, Orlando, FL

It's a lot warmer in Orlando than it's been in Tennessee! And the investment climate is heating up here at the World Money Show, too--the best attendance I've seen in years.

I've been interviewing financial gurus all morning for and have heard some interesting viewpoints, including:

Possible investment ideas:

  • Brazil, a resource-rich country, but hot in telecom also
  • India, ready to become the next China, but with many more advantages
  • Batteries, for hybrid and electric vehicles; look for M&A in this arena, as well as large caps aligning themselves with up-and-comers

And places to stay away from:

  • Japan, where the tsunami, nuclear plant closures and a faltering economy should make investors beware
  • The U.S., due to our burgeoning debt
  • Big banks which aren't as healthy as the media portrays and are doomed to repeat their mistakes
My interviews continue through today and tomorrow and will be uploaded to:, in the near future.

Tune in for some timely information that may help put your investment strategy back on track!