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3 top lists of the 5 best online brokers

3 top lists of the 5 best online brokers

Published 11/18/10  (Modified 3/17/11)

3 top lists of the 5 best online brokers By Peter Andrew

Broker ages

I have an uncle who's a multimillionaire. And he's always talking about the latest call he's received from his broker. When I was a kid, I somehow pictured the person who called him as a thin, elderly gentleman with parchment-thin skin, wearing a morning coat and wing collar, like one of those plutocrats that they used to feature in 1930s Hollywood movies.

But I was wrong. Even when I was a little boy, brokerages employed thrusting young people who were as far away from the top hat stereotype as you could get. And you can get a lot further now. Because today there are two sorts of brokerages: those that provide proactive, personal service and advice to high net worth individuals such as my uncle, and those that offer do-it-yourself online trading environments that are open to everyone.

Discount brokers

Traditional brokers call up clients with hot tips and recommendations that supposedly provide investors with an inside track. But that comes at an eye-watering price, and it's not at all clear that their record of spotting likely winners is as good as they sometimes claim.

Discount brokers often have the same information online that their traditional counterparts offer, but it's up to you to dig it out, and act upon it. The good news is that their fees are a tiny fraction of those changed in the high-end part of the brokerage market. So now the question is:

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Are you investing in China yet?

Published 11/17/10  (Modified 3/9/11)

Are you investing in China yet? By Clark Schultz

The Chinese Revolution

If you are like me, when you think about China you almost get dizzy. It's hard to imagine over one billion people living in a country with a market for goods and services that is literally exploding as the country modernizes. By 2014 the International Monetary Fund estimates that over 10 percent of the world's GDP will be accounted for by China. Now that's an economic revolution.

You just can't help but wonder what kind of investment opportunities exist in China for individual investors like us?

Should you invest in China?

Before we discuss investment strategies, we should consider if it's unpatriotic to invest abroad. My answer is a simple no. First of all, if you invest in China and earn dividends or take profits, that money comes right back to the United States. Also, in the global economy countries rely on each other. We need the Chinese to keep buying our foreign debt and they need us to keep buying their goods.

China has a lot of long-term economic potential. This means that the earlier in your life you can start investing in China, the better off you may be. Even just a few dollars from your monthly paycheck could mean a big payoff at retirement if growth in China is as strong as projected. If you have an IRA account, investing in China may be even more advantageous due to the tax advantages and the power

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A quick guide for moving into mutual funds

Published 11/5/10  (Modified 3/9/11)

A quick guide for moving into mutual funds By Michele Lerner

Like many people, the recession encouraged me to take a harder line with my budget. I'm definitely saving more and being more careful with spending.  But I'm also looking past just saving the money I already have -- I'm looking into earning it.

This morning, I checked on the interest rate on my emergency savings account, and it turned out to be less than 0.5 percent, much lower than I realized! As a result, my next financial move will be to shift some of those savings into a fund where the interest is higher. I decided to do some research, and thought it might be helpful to those foraying into this higher return territory.

From savings accounts to mutual funds

While your basic emergency savings should stay intact in a fund where the money can be accessed quickly when necessary, as soon as that savings account has reached your target comfort level it is time to move into slightly riskier territory to increase the return on your money.

Investors with a deep understanding of the stock market might feel ready to invest in individual stocks, but individuals who are new to the investment world tend to opt for a mutual fund. A mutual fund pools money from investors and builds a portfolio of investments within the fund, with the investors sharing in the gains or losses of the fund.

The main reason new investors opt for mutual funds, besides their professional management,

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2011 IRA contribution limits: 3 ways to maximize your retirement tax advantages

Published 10/29/10  (Modified 3/9/11)

2011 IRA contribution limits: 3 ways to maximize your retirement tax advantages By Richard Barrington

Have you ever run a long-distance race?

I find it useful to think of saving money like distance running. If you obsess over the total distance, then each step seems hopelessly insignificant in covering the necessary ground. If instead you just start making those steps, and concentrate on finding a comfortable and consistent pace, you'll find that before you know it, the distance will take care of itself.

In other words, focus on the next step, because that is what you can most directly control.

In terms of saving money, a great way to make that next step is with a contribution to an IRA -- either a traditional or a Roth IRA. To help you make that step, there are a few things you should know about IRAs, including important information on IRA contribution limitations for this year.

1. Traditional and Roth IRA contribution limitations

Both traditional and Roth IRAs have certain tax advantages, which will be discussed below in "Deciding on a traditional vs. a Roth IRA." However, for anyone considering starting an IRA this year or making continued contributions into an IRA account, it's critical to know that there are limits on how much you can contribute to IRAs each year.

To start with the simple part, the basic contribution limits for both traditional and Roth IRAs are the same, and are unchanged for 2011. The only difference is that taxpayers who are aged 50 and over are allowed to make higher,

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Peer-to-peer lending can benefit borrowers and lenders

Published 10/28/10  (Modified 3/23/11)

By Peter Andrew

Last year, my sister and brother-in-law wanted to remodel their kitchen. They both have good, secure jobs and great credit scores, and could easily have raised the money they needed, even in this economic climate. However, at the same time my mom had quite a hefty balance in a high yield savings account. With bank rates running low, it didn't take them long to work out that my mother could earn more interest, and my sister pay less, if they cut out the bank, and worked out loan terms between themselves.

And that, in essence, is what peer-to-peer lending (a.k.a. person-to-person or P2P lending ) is all about. By eliminating the costly overheads and shareholder profits of banks (not to mention those bonuses), a loan between individuals can make both the borrower and lender better off. None of this is new. Families and friends have been helping each other out for millennia.

P2P lending web sites

What is new is the worldwide web. This allows strangers to lend and borrow through a middleman website that charges a small fraction of the mark-up that banks take for, in effect, brokering a loan. The first of these sites in America, Prosper, began in 2006, and by October 2010 had attracted more than a million members and had funded $205 million worth of loans.

The other big player in this country is


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High interest savings accounts are best found online

Published 10/20/10  (Modified 8/8/11)

High interest savings accounts are best found online By Matt Riddle

A year ago, my wife and I switched banks. She was pregnant with our first kid and, like many Americans, we were saving money however we could.

We had our accounts in two different banks -- both traditional national chains with thousands of branches in the country and sports stadiums named after them -- that offered savings accounts that were accumulating about 0.25 percent interest on a small sum. While we were mostly happy with our banks, our needs had changed, and we wanted better interest rates on our accounts. After fees, we realized that we weren't saving but losing money.

Employees at both banks essentially admitted they were giving us an inferior product. We sorted through what we thought were the best online banks as well as a few local ones and picked one that offered not only a high interest savings account but interest checking as well. After that, we couldn't switch banks fast enough. I wanted our money to go toward saving for our future, not domes for basketball games.

How to find the best savings account rates and what to look for

There is a growing trend among banks to offer better savings rates in non-traditional savings accounts. So if you're thinking about making a switch to capitalize on higher interest rates, keep these five things in mind while hunting for better savings.

1. Interest rate


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