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投资须记“五要五不要”

2011-07-16  storeroom

双语时事:投资须记“五要五不要”

http://www.sina.com.cn 2009年04月14日 10:22   新东方

  Despite recent gains in the stock market, portfolios remain badly damaged by the market performance of the past 18 months. With jobs still falling away at a rapid clip, the recession is still a serious concern and policymakers are scrambling to implement expensive and complex solutions。

  As we wade through these difficult times, how should you think about your own financial situation? A good starting point is to remember what Kipling wrote: Keep your head about you as everyone is losing theirs。

  It's a great temptation in times such as these to think things will never get better. But if history shows us anything, things do eventually improve. In fact, judging by the standards of past economic shocks, this recession is getting long in the tooth. The average recession since World War II has lasted 11 months, and the longest was 16 months in 1981-82. Our current crisis is 15 months old。

  Also, hints of bottoming are starting to surface. Oil prices have begun to rise, indicating some increased demand. China is importing aluminum again. In addition, the stimulus plan will start to kick in later this year, creating jobs and, perhaps, helping soothe some of the enormous fears in the marketplace。

  So, there are definitely brighter times ahead. Until then, here are some strategies to help you keep your head about you: five things that you definitely should do and five things you definitely should not do, as you weigh how to protect and build your assets。

  Let's start with the five things you should definitely do:

  1. Reduce Your Expensive Debt

  Too many of us overextended ourselves during the past decade with credit cards and other debt. These bills now hang over people like the Sword of Damocles。

  The first order of business is to reduce this expensive debt, even before saving for retirement or investing in the stock market. One smart strategy is to take advantage of much lower gasoline prices. One year ago, gas cost more than $4 a gallon in much of the country. Today, it's less than half that. You should devote the money you save to eliminating your credit-card debt。

  2. Get On a Budget

  Thrift is the new black. That means getting on a budget, measuring exactly what you spend and looking for ways to save money. Perhaps you are eating out more than you appreciate or spending too much on a cup of coffee. Budgeting is a lost discipline for many people and one that should be rediscovered。

  There are several free Web sites, such as Mint.com, Quicken.com and Wesabe.com, that can help you sort out your spending and give you a sense of where you can save money。

  You upload password information for your credit cards and other accounts, and the sites aggregate and sort the data, so you can see how much you're spending on, say, groceries, eating out and movies. You can then track your spending habits over time and make adjustments to save money。

  What's more, some of these sites, notably Wesabe, also have active communities discussing various budgeting issues. If you are just getting started on developing budgeting discipline, talking with others who are doing the same can help make it easier。

  3. Guard Against Inflation

  Currently, inflation is a relative nonissue, and most commentators -- not to mention the Federal Reserve -- believe that it won't become a problem anytime soon。

  Yet, many things are taking place that could raise the specter of inflation in rapid order。

  For starters, the federal government is spending money like a drunken sailor. There's the nearly $800 billion stimulus program, a proposed budget of $4 trillion (up from $3 trillion in the previous year) and hundreds of billions more in bank, real-estate and credit-rescue packages. On top of that, short-term interest rates, set by the Fed, are essentially at zero and quite low in other countries as well。

  All of which is like so much kindling waiting for a spark. Once that spark hits, growth and inflation could come roaring back to life。

  For that reason, it's smart to have a portion of your fixed-income investments in Treasury inflation-protected securities, or TIPS. These bonds are backed by the U.S. government, like normal Treasurys, but also have built-in protections that boost returns to account for inflation。

  Another inflation-hedging strategy is to invest in commodities. When growth resumes, demand for oil, copper and other commodities will rise, making their prices increase. A warning, though: Given the volatility of commodities, financial planners recommend that investors have no more than 5% to 10% of their portfolio in this sector。

4. Have a Stock-Market Strategy

  Despite the recent sprint in share prices, investors remain leery of the stock market. It will take more than a four-week rally to soothe the pain caused by the stock market since it tumbled from its late-2007 highs. When so much doubt surrounds the stock market, it's usually a time to think about investing in equities. Despite the horrid pain most of us have suffered in the market during the past 18 months, stocks, like the economy, will not remain down forever。

  That doesn't mean going whole-hog into the market, however. Consider coming at stocks first through your retirement account. For many of us, that account has a longer time horizon and built-in tax efficiencies, and often comes with a corporate match -- which is essentially free money。

  Outside of your retirement account, be sure to maintain a diversified approach among stocks, bonds and cash. A good rule of thumb is to use your age as the percentage of assets you should have in safer bond investments. Thus, if you are 50, you would be split 50-50 between stocks and bonds. If you want to be more conservative, you'd carve back some of the stock exposure and leave it in cash。

  Even with the recent runup in stocks, you still might have a larger-than-usual chunk of your assets in bonds these days, because bonds did well last year and have remained solid this year. If that's the case, rebalancing toward stocks makes sense, especially with their prices so low。

  5. Preserve What You Have

  One of the lessons of the past few years is that the stock market and your home are not ATMs. They are assets that can rise and fall. Having a strategy to preserve your gains is prudent in these challenging times。

  Along with diversification of assets -- stocks, bonds, cash -- maintain diversification in the stock market, as well. Buy broad, low-fee index funds, rather than individual stocks, to lower your exposure to risk。

  And maintain a rainy-day fund in safer places, such as TIPS, certificates of deposit or highly rated municipal or corporate bonds. A good rule of thumb is to have a reserve of six months' earnings in case of a job loss。

  So, what should you definitely not do?

  1. Don't Bury Your Money in the Backyard

  With things the way they are, it's tempting to simply opt out altogether. Fear of financial-system failure, the uncertain nature of the stock market and just a sense of foreboding have people thinking that it's smarter to keep their money in the backyard, a mattress or an empty can。

  But it really isn't. The bank-insurance system works for holdings under $250,000. I know because my bank once failed, and the transfer of assets was seamless. So, at least keep your cash in certificates of deposit earning some sort of return. An overabundance of fear and caution can cost you money; don't let that happen to you。

  2. Don't Chase Returns

  This is a great temptation in any market, but especially so today. Bonds had a great run last year, but some analysts believe they may just be the next bubble waiting to burst。

  In short, don't double down on an asset that has had such a tremendous run. You are likely coming to the game too late, since most of the gains have already been made. That can skew your portfolio too sharply in a single direction, making you vulnerable to a decline in previously hot asset groups。

  Look at it this way. In the past few years, the temptation to chase returns led people to buy too many houses, invest too heavily in a soaring stock market and aggressively bid up oil. All of it ended badly。

  3. Don't Abandon Diversification

  There's a great desire now to stay safe by holding only cash or only Treasurys. This kind of behavior is really just the same as chasing performance. Be disciplined. Stick to a diversified strategy and rebalance your holdings every year to reduce your exposure to the high-fliers。

4. Don't Stop Saving for Retirement

  In times of turmoil, we tend to focus on what's right in front of us: the current bills, the savings account and what the day will bring. But we are all still going to want to retire at some point, so that means remaining disciplined about saving for retirement。

  Employer 401(k) programs remain a good vehicle, even if the stock market has smacked their holdings. These programs allow you to invest money tax-deferred, and many companies, as noted, provide a corporate matching program。

  Rather than ignoring your account statements, as many of us have done, take a look at them and make sure that your holdings are diversified and balanced. Ignoring your savings -- or discontinuing them -- will come back to haunt you when you want to leave off working and relax on the beach。

  5. Don't Ignore Common Sense

  Much heartbreak in the recent past has stemmed from an ignorance of common sense. Fraudsters promising overabundant returns snookered many investors. Some people viewed housing and the stock markets as never-can-lose gambits. Others spent far more than they had。

  Personal finance, at its heart, boils down to common sense. You have to eliminate your high-cost debt and get on a budget. You must save for retirement. And you need to make sure that you own a home you can afford and enjoy, as opposed to seeing it as a get-rich-quick scheme。

  In short: Be prudent, save money, invest wisely. Getting back to these very basics will help all of us rebuild our portfolios and set sail for a better day。

  尽管近期股市出现了上涨,但过去18个月里市场的表现仍让投资组合损失累累。就业仍在快速下降,经济衰退的阴影挥之不去,决策者都在忙于实施代价高昂而复杂的解决办法。

  在我们经历这些困难时期时,你应当如何考虑自己的财务状况?最基本的一点是要记住吉卜林(Kipling)所写的:在别人糊涂时依然保持清醒。

  在眼下这种时刻,很容易产生情况永远也不会好转的想法。但如果说历史对我们有所启迪,那就是事情最终会改善。事实上,按以往经济动荡的标准判断,这次衰退的时间已经挺久了。二战以后的衰退平均持续时间为11个月,最长是1981年至1982年之间的16个月。本轮危机已经持续了15个月。

  此外,触底的迹象也开始显现。石油价格已开始上升,表明需求出现了一些增加。中国恢复了对铝的进口。此外,刺激计划将在今年晚些时候开始产生作用,创造就业机会,或许还有助于缓解市场中的严重恐慌情绪。

  因此,未来的前景肯定是光明的。在此之前,这里有一些策略帮助你保持清醒的头脑:在考虑应如何保护和增加你的资产时应该坚决做到的“五要”和“五不要”。

  让我们先从“五要”开始:

  1. 减少负债

  我们很多人在过去十年里用信用卡和其他负债进行了过多的透支。现在这些债务就像达摩克利斯之剑一样悬在人们头上。

  目前的当务之急就是减少这种高成本负债,并把其排在为退休储蓄或投资股市之前。一个明智的策略是利用下跌了许多的汽油价格。一年前,美国许多地区的汽油价格都超过了每加仑4美元。而今天的价格还不到当时的一半。你应该把省下来的钱用于减少你的信用卡债务。

  2. 精打细算

  节俭正当其时。这意味着精打细算,认真思忖你的开支,寻找省钱良方。也许你外出就餐的次数超出了你的设想,或是在咖啡上花的钱太多。预算对很多人都缺乏约束力,现在应该重新认识这点了。

  有不少免费网站,如Mint.com、Quicken.com和Wesabe.com,可以帮助你甄别开支,让你在什么地方能省钱的问题上找到点感觉。

  你只要上传你的信用卡和其它账户的密码信息,这类网站就会对数据进行汇总和分类,这样你就可以看到你在食品、外出就餐和电影等方面的支出情况了。然后,你可以跟踪一段你的消费习惯,并为作出一些调整以省钱。

  而且,其中一些网站(尤其是Wesabe)还有很活跃的讨论各种预算问题的社区。如果你是刚开始制定预算规则,与志同道合的人讨论一下可能会令这项工作更轻松。

  3. 谨防通胀

目前,通货膨胀基本还不算一个问题。美国联邦储备委员会(Federal Reserve)以及大多数评论家都认为通货膨胀在短期内不足为虑。

  然而,正在发生的许多事情可能让通货膨胀的幽灵迅速出现。

  首先,联邦政府正在像喝醉的水手一样大肆挥霍。近8,000亿美元的刺激计划、4万亿美元的预算计划(高于上一年的3万亿美元)以及数千亿美元的银行、房地产和信贷救助方案。最重要的是,美联储设定的短期利率已基本为零,其它国家的利率水平也相当低了。

  所有这一切就像一大堆干柴,只等火花一闪。一旦遇到火花,增长和通胀就可能迅速卷土重来。

  出于这个原因,在你的固定收益投资中持有部分财政部通货膨胀保值债券(TIPS)当是明智之举。同普通美国国债一样,这些债券不但受到了美国政府的支持,而且本身还具有保护功能,可在通货膨胀时提高回报率。

  另一个对冲通货膨胀的策略是投资大宗商品。当经济恢复增长时,对石油、铜和其他大宗商品的需求将会增加,从而将推动它们的价格上涨。不过,应该注意:鉴于商品的波动性,理财规划师建议,投资者对这个行业的投资不应超过其投资组合的5%至10%。

  4. 要有股市投资战略

  尽管最近股价有所上扬,但投资者对股市仍持警惕态度。股市自2007年末不断创出新高后一路下跌,这种情况造成的痛苦不是靠一轮为时4周的上涨就能消除的。当有这么多的怀疑笼罩着股市时,通常也就到了考虑投资股市的时候了。尽管过去18个月里我们大部分人都在股市上遭受了切肤之痛,但股市和经济一样,不会永远保持低迷状态。

  不过这并不是说要一古脑儿扎进股市。还是考虑先通过退休帐户进入股市。对我们很多人来说,这个帐户时间更长,又有着固有的纳税方面的优势,而且公司还常常会再出一部分──这其实都是白得的钱。

  在退休帐户之外,要保持分散投资于股票、债券和现金上。一条经验法则是,更安全的债券投资占总投资的百分比应该与你的年龄相同。比如,如果你50岁,你在股票和债券上的投资就该是50%对50%。如果你想更为保守一些,可以减少股市上的敞口,转而持有现金。

  即便是在最近股市上扬的情况下,你目前所持有的债券占你总资产的比例或许仍高于通常水平,因为债券去年表现不错,今年也依然强劲。如果是这种情况,那么多持有一些股票是有意义的,特别是在股价如此之低的时候。

  5. 要保护已有的收益

  过去几年的教训之一是,股市和你的房子可不是自动取款机,而是价值可涨可跌的资产。在当前这个有挑战的时期,拥有一个保护已有收益的战略是谨慎的做法。

  除资产投资分散化(股票、债券和现金)外,股市投资也要保持分散化。买进大范围的低成本指数基金,而不要买某只个股,以减小风险敞口。

  把以防万一的资金放在较安全的投资上,比如通货膨胀保值债券、定期存单,或评级较高的市政债券或公司债券。一条不错的经验法则是,留出一笔相当于6个月收入的备用金,万一失业就可以派上用场。

  你绝对不该做的又是什么呢?

  1. 不要把钱埋在后院里

  考虑到现在的形势,人们可能很容易会想干脆什么也不投了。对金融体系失灵的担心,股市不确定的本性,甚至只是一种不祥之感,这些都会让人们认为把钱放在后院、床垫或空罐子里都更明智一些。

  不过这却是大错特错了。银行保险体系对低于25万美元的资产是能起作用的。我知道这点,因为我工作的银行倒闭了,而资产却实现了“无缝”转移。因此,至少把现金放到定存单中还能获得一些收益。过于小心谨慎或担心害怕会让你的金钱受到损失;不要让这点发生在你的身上。

  2. 不要追逐回报

  这在任何市场上都是很大的诱惑,但在眼下就更为明显。债券去年大幅上扬,但一些分析师认为这可能是下一个等待破灭的泡沫。

  简而言之,不要在已经出现这种巨大涨幅的资产上“双倍下注”。你参与这场游戏的时间可能太迟了,因为大多数的涨幅都已经走完了。这可能使你的投资组合向一个方向大幅变化,让你容易受到此前热门资产类别下跌的冲击。

  这么说吧,过去几年里,追逐回报的诱惑令人们买了太多的房子,在大幅飙升的股市上投入重金,大肆推高油价。这些结果都不好。

  3. 不要放弃分散投资

  现在人们只持有现金或美国国债以保安全的想法非常强烈。这类行为其实与追逐表现的做法毫无二致。要遵守自己的投资战略。坚持分散化战略,每年把资产重新均衡一下,以降低高风险敞口。

  4. 不要停止为退休攒钱

  在动荡时期,我们往往会只看眼前:当期的帐单、储蓄帐户、今天会发生什么事。不过,我们仍都会希望在某个时候退休,所以这就意味着要坚持为退休攒钱的做法。

  员工的401(k)计划仍是一项好的投资工具,就算股市令这样的资产受到了冲击。这类计划让你投资的钱可以递延纳税,而且正如刚刚所说的,很多公司也会提供一部分资金。

  不要忽视对帐单(我们很多人都是这样),好好看看,确保你的资产是分散而均衡的。如果忽视存款或是中断储蓄,在你打算退休到海边度假时它们就会回来在你周围“阴魂不散”。

  5. 不要忽视常识

  最近令人心碎的事大部分源于对常识的忽视。骗子承诺过于丰厚的回报诓骗了很多投资者。有些人认为房市和股市是只赚不赔的买卖。有些人则入不敷出。

  个人理财归根到底是常识的问题。你必须消除高成本负债,进行预算。你必须为退休攒钱。你还要确保自己拥有一座负担得起、又可以享受的房子,而不是把房子看成是一个一夜暴富的法子。

  简而言之,要谨慎、攒钱、明智地投资。回归这些基本点将帮助我们所有的人重建投资组合,迎接更美好的生活。  

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