For the average investor, the best investment strategy for 2013 likely won’t be the traditional investment strategy commonly recommended by the investment companies and their representatives. Change is in the wind, and one of the best ways to deal with this is to make adjustments to the asset allocation strategy in your investment portfolio.For over 30 years the investment industry recommended that the best investment strategy for most investors was an asset allocation of: 50% to 60% in stocks and 40% to 50% in bonds. The investment vehicle promoted was mutual funds – stock funds and bond funds. This kept things simple and actually worked quite well. Losses in one asset class were often offset by gains in the other. This investment portfolio produced both good growth and income for average investors over the years.As 2013 unfolds it’s time to review your asset allocation. Sometimes the best investment strategy is to be a bit more conservative than the tried and true strategy of yesterday. The stock market has more than doubled in value since early 2009. Bond prices are near historical highs, with interest rates pushing all-time lows. The markets are in a state of uncertainty, as Americans in general are fed up with the lackluster economy and the Congressmen who represent them.Having followed the markets for over 40 years, I have never seen a tougher environment to invest in. Putting together the best investment strategy has never been more difficult. All of the investment asset classes appear to be selling at high price levels, with real estate being perhaps the exception. So, let’s take a look at the things to consider in your asset allocation strategy.If you are one of the millions of every-day Americans who are relatively heavy into bond funds, consider cutting back on your asset allocation to these funds. Bond funds are NOT safe investments in today’s low-interest-rate environment. Your best strategy: no more than 30% or 40% invested in bonds or bond funds. Even U.S.Treasury bonds (T-bonds) will lose significant value if interest rates go back up to normal levels.Also, if you hold long-term bond funds, consider moving to intermediate-term funds that hold bonds with an average maturity of about 5 to 7 years in their investment portfolio. Bond funds that hold long term bonds, maturing in 20 years or more, can lose significant value when interest rates head upward. With this investment strategy you will receive a bit less in dividend income, but you will gain by significantly increasing the safety factor.Millions of Americans have lost faith in the stock market, and many have sold their stocks funds to buy bond funds. The average diversified stock fund gained more than 100% between early 2009 and early 2013. If you missed this opportunity, it is not the best investment strategy to jump in big time and play catch-up now. But, depending on your risk profile and age, you should consider an asset allocation with 20% to 50% going to stock funds.In times of high uncertainty diversification is one of the investor’s best friends. Let this thought guide your investment strategy and asset allocation when picking stock funds for 2013 and beyond. Include a variety of stock (equity) funds in your investment portfolio. The perfect place to start is with a diversified large-cap equity fund like an S&P 500 index fund. With an S&P 500 index fund you own a small piece of 500 of America’s largest, best known companies. Make this your largest holding in the stock portion of your investment portfolio.Then, add an international equity fund to your portfolio. Also include specialty funds in your investment strategy that focus on specific sectors like real estate, gold, natural resources and basic materials. These funds have sometimes been the best investment when the stock market in general is weak.Now that you have cut your asset allocation to stocks and bonds, where do you invest those proceeds? Cash is your other friend when uncertainty is high. Cash refers to safe, liquid investments like money market funds or money in bank savings accounts. Sometimes the best investment strategy includes keeping some powder dry awaiting future opportunity.Your best investment strategy for 2013 is to modify your asset allocation in stocks and bonds so that risk is only moderate. Diversify broadly across the asset classes, and have cash available so you can take advantage of future investment opportunities. This strategy will keep you in the game, with less risk than yesterday’s conventional investment strategy.
So you want to go on a super fantastic, life changing hip trip. I am talking about some holiday! Here are some quick tips to get you started.The hardest step in this process is to make up your mind to go. The rest of the planning is just a series of mini steps in the right direction. So, are you ready? Is your mind made up?
Yes? Good, then get ready to take some mini steps!
No? Good, then get ready to take some mini steps anyway. Once you have planned the hippest of trips, you may ready to commit!
In planning your trip you only have to answer the five questions: Why, Who, Where, When and How.Why Travel Start with the why. This is a philosophical question and whatever your answer, it will reflect your life values. Some people look at travel as a luxury, some as an education and some as a necessity to feed the soul.How do you see travel in relation to your life values? Is your purpose to:
connect with family and friends?
rest and recuperate from a stressful life?
explore and adventure?
challenge your physical and mental prowess?
develop your spiritual self?
understand the world more completely?
Once you know your purpose, you can develop your trip plan to meet your needs more effectively.With Whom to TravelAre you going alone or with companions? Picking travel companions is a mini step, but it is also a big decision.Traveling with others can really add enjoyment to your hip trip. You share common experiences, memories and have someone with whom to reflect. Expenses can be shared for things like accommodations and transportation.Traveling with others offers the challenge of compromise. Consideration needs to be given to the needs of each individual. Decisions may be shared as to itinerary, pace and travel style. A short trip together before embarking on a long sojourn can help identify issues that need to be addressed.Traveling alone offers you complete freedom to decide where, when, how and why to go. You can be more spontaneous with less compromise. However, you can miss the companionship of shared experience and seeing things through the eyes of another person.Where to Travel Where are you going? Maybe this is obvious, like I am going to visit my mother in ___. But maybe this is a question that needs to be answered.Make a list of all of the places that you would like to see and experience. Really think about what your passions are in life. What ideas make your heart rate increase? Cross-off ones that are obviously not doable like Going to the moon! Highlight the ones that most catch your fancy.Now use your favorite techniques for making a choice. You can do preliminary research on each area, make a Pros/Cons chart or throw a dart at a map.Once you make the decision about where to go, the real research begins.
Check in with your favorite Travel Agent.
Scour the Internet for opportunities.
Get a guidebook and read it. Get two.
Jot notes about the various areas as you read or highlight interesting items so you can easily find them again.
Consider organized tours for specialty interests. Often a tour can get you in to sites and teach you aspects that you could not experience independently. Very often they can get you there cheaper. You can add an independent phase at the beginning or end of your trip if you wish.When to TravelThis is easy if you have an event around which you are planning such as a festival or a specialty tour. Good advice is to consider traveling on the outer edges of the high season. The deals are usually better, the crowds thinner and the weather is often still good.How to Make Your Travel PlansGet a passport now if your trip is international. Set up a fare watcher for airfares if you will be traveling by plane. Rough out an itinerary and a timeline. List your favorite ideas of places to visit and map these out on a map. Cross off the places that range too far off the path, unless one of those is the primary reason that you picked that hip trip. Estimate the time it will take to visit each destination and again cross out the places for which you do not have time.Rough out a budget for your trip. Again you may need to cross off something that sounds interesting, but is out of your budget.Always plan your itinerary with the knowledge that you will come back in the future. Do not try to do it all unless you have unlimited time and money. In that case, go for it! But for most of us there will be restraints on time, money or both!Minimize one night stays. Then you can get a feel for a place and dig a little bit deeper. It takes a lot of time and energy to get from one place to another. Your goal is to BE THERE, alive, alert and engaged.ConclusionPlanning a trip is simply a series of small steps in which you answer basic questions. Begin now to take these steps and soon you will have planned a super fantastic hip trip!Travel Planner: Getting Started is the first part in a three part series.
Travel Planner: Making Arrangements addresses packing, what to take, making arrangements for transportation and accommodations.
Travel Planner: On the Road addresses the nuts and bolts of transportation, changing money, language barriers, eating and sleeping on the road.
Health care costs are higher than they have ever been in this day and age, to the point that they are actually pushing more and more people out of reach. Decent health care is now so hard to come by if you do not have good benefits or thousand in the bank that people are really struggling to get and stay healthy. The health of the nation is declining as a result. Costs have risen to the extent that any illness has to burn itself out because people cannot afford to go to the doctor’s surgery to get a prescription, but why have health care costs escalated this far?Health Care Costs And Governmental ChangesIn recent years, the legal system and the medical system have been lumped together under the same umbrella as a result of the fact that the United States is now a suing nation. Every time someone files a lawsuit against a doctor or hospital, health care costs are guaranteed to rise, so think how much all of the lawsuits combined have contributed to the rising health care costs that we are now faced with! Of course, if an individual is suing a doctor or hospital for a legitimate reason then that is warranted, but if they are just doing it to profit or on made up accusations then those individuals are ruining health care for those of us that just want to be healthy and would be grateful to be able to afford an appointment when we are ill. Too often, individuals sue because they get the basic health care standard rather than something that they have not paid for to begin with, and the rest of us have to foot the bill.Insurance companies also contribute to the rising health care costs. Some insurance companies actually determine the costs of various procedures on their policies and will only pay that set amount out despite the fact that a bill for the medical care received actually totals more. As a result, most people would not be able to pay the bill in full so it would go to a debt collector, which costs money, or written off, which also costs money. As a result, doctors and hospitals put their health care costs up to recoup their losses and we all miss out as a result.The final reason for the rising health care costs that we have today is the standards of living. Every day living is rising in expense on a daily basis and we cannot keep up. More and more people are getting into debt as a result. When general prices go up, so do the health care costs and thus the less affluent people suffer as a result. They find themselves unable to afford anything. If there is no help available then this will have to change because health care cannot go on as it is. There has to be some sort of reform and fast, otherwise nobody will be healthy in the coming years!
It’s wonderful to know that you have options available when you need care quickly, but it’s never good to let pressing treatments during illness or injury be your only form of health care. Seeing a doctor regularly for checkups and physicals is the best way to stay healthy. When you don’t have time to schedule an appointment your new option involves an urgent care walk in clinic. There are many urgent care clinics across the country, and they are becoming the new go-to health location.What can preventative health care do for you? Prevention in health care is all encompassing. Eating healthy, exercising, and visiting a primary care physician and dentist regularly are all part of lengthening your life. Getting excellent health care when you have a problem isn’t the only step of living a healthy life. The best course of action is stopping any diseases before they start.How Prevention HelpsMany serious health concerns and deaths are caused by completely preventable diseases or chronic conditions that could be addressed with regular health care. How does prevention help?Chronic Diseases -7 out of 10 Americans who die every year, will die from chronic diseases. Many of these diseases, like diabetes, are preventable. And some, like heart disease and cancer, can be caught early with regular checkups.More Common Than You Think -If you break down the numbers, almost one in every two adults has a chronic illness of some kind! Many of whom are unaware of, or not properly treating, their illnesses.Children Need Preventative Health Care Too – These kinds of diseases are becoming more common in children as well. Simply because most children are healthy and have good immune systems after infanthood does not mean they can go without regular checkups. One in every three children in America is currently vulnerable to some chronic diseases simply by being overweight. Healthier children means more days in school and better learning!Those who discover chronic conditions, like cancer, early are more likely to survive. And many chronic diseases are found during routine check ups and doctor’s appointments. There are financial benefits to preventative health care as well! Healthier people mean less sick days, less company loss, and higher paychecks for everyone.What it Means to Engage in PreventionPreventative health care is wide in scope. So what does it mean to actively engage in health prevention?Visit the Doctor if You Are Sick -It means going to the doctor, including an urgent care walk in clinic, when you are sick so that a standard infection doesn’t become a dangerous secondary infection.Take Care of Yourself at Home -It means checking yourself for potential issues with safety measures like breast self-examinations and keeping good track of your body’s behaviors.Submit to Annual Examinations and Tests -It means submitting to even those tests you find embarrassing, like colonoscopies or prostate exams. Being healthy means putting pride aside and considering your body’s needs.Commit to Living Healthy -It means focusing on the best ways to make your body healthy with everyday living. Try to stop habits that have long term effects on your body, like drinking and smoking. Try to involve yourself in regular exercise. Try to note what you eat and how much you eat. Good nutrition means better health.A routine investment in your health is a long term investment in your future!