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Tips on managing your investments

- Alan Lavine and Gail Liberman

Buying individual stocks or bonds can give you more control of your money than investing in mutual funds.

You can offset gains against losses on your taxes. Plus, you avoid ongoing fund management fees, which run about 1.4 percent annually.

But you'll have to pay commissions.

Here are some tips on the right way to invest in stocks and bonds:

  • Own at least 18 different stocks in different industries. That way if a few stocks perform poorly, your overall holdings won't necessarily suffer.

  • On the bond side, stick with U.S. government bonds or bonds rated AAA by Standard & Poor's. Bonds often do well when the economy slows and stock prices decline.

  • Keep cash in money market funds, bank accounts or U.S. Treasury bills for safety.

  • Have a buy-and-sell game plan for stocks. Set target prices to cut losses or take profits.

  • Lower commissions by trading online.

  • Get good stock research from your brokerage firm. At least read the Value Line Report and Standard & Poor's Outlook.


    Spouses Gail Liberman and Alan Lavine are syndicated columnists. Their latest book is "Rags to Retirement (Alpha Books)." You can e-mail them at MWliblav@aol.com.

    To read more columns, please visit the column archive.

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