From the Forbes 2014 Investment Guide, wealth building tips to last you through the year. (For more detailed advice, click on the link in each tip.)
Sir John Templeton: “Invest at the point of maximum pessimism.”
Don’t mistake a low P/E ratio for a value stock.
Benjamin Graham: “Patience is the fund investor’s single most powerful ally.”
Let your attorneys ride shotgun, but not in the driver’s seat.
Remember Enron; reduce your employer’s company stock in your 401(k).
Warren Buffett: “Rule No. 1 is never lose money. Rule No. 2 is never forget Rule No. 1!”
Fund a Roth IRA if you’re eligible; your money grows tax free for retirement, and in an emergency you can take your contribution back without penalty.
Barry Sternlicht: Pay attention to the big themes, because they are what will help you earn ten times your money.
Back a friend or relative’s startup with a convertible loan, so you share in the upside.
Use commodities as a hedge against inflation.
Raise the deductibles on your auto and home insurance.
Form family limited partnerships to transfer assets at a tax discount.
Beat death taxes in 20 states by making big gifts while you’re alive.
For simple federal tax-free wealth transfer, make $14,000 annual gifts to children and grandchildren. It won’t cut into your $5.25 million lifetime exemption from gift and estate taxes.
Get tax advice before settling a lawsuit.
Read Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edwin LeFèvre.
To keep peace with both relatives and the IRS, document all family loans.
Peter Lynch: “Never invest in any idea you can’t illustrate with a crayon.”
View collecting as a hobby first and investment second; psychic returns can make up for a lower average return than in stocks.
Add a personal items floater to your homeowner’s insurance to cover collectibles.
When the bear charges, stand your ground.
For protection from inflation and currency devaluation, buy the “gold you can eat”—farmland.
Know your risk tolerance. Pick an asset allocation that lets you sleep at night, so you won’t panic and sell stocks at the bottom.
Don’t keep too much in cash equivalents—over time, this “safe” investment barely keeps up with inflation.
After setting an asset allocation, rebalance yearly; it forces you to take profits when stocks have surged and to buy more shares when they’re cheap.
Benjamin Graham: “Adopt simple rules and stick to them.”
Buy Bitcoin as a speculation or political statement, not a hedge.
Be a tax-smart investor. Hold taxable bonds in a 401(k) or IRA. Put individual stocks in taxable accounts so you can sell losers to harvest tax losses.
Pay attention to the IRS’ wash sale rule when harvesting capital losses.
Don’t invest in a hedge fund unless its audited results are reported in compliance with Global Investment Performance Standards.
Build an emergency fund outside your 401(k).
For the biggest tax break when donating collectibles to charity, make sure they’ll be displayed and not sold.
Put alternative investments like real estate (but never collectibles) in your IRA.
Burton Malkiel: “All index funds are not created equal. Some have unconscionably high expenses.”
Keep an eye on—but don’t obsess over—mutual fund fees and expenses.
Even committed indexers should use actively managed funds to buy municipal and high-yield bonds and value stocks.
Yield is nice, but total return is the metric that matters.
Gold is overrated as an inflation hedge—historically, its price moves are unrelated to inflation.
For inflation protection, buy floating-rate corporate bonds.
Don’t let the mood swings of Mr. Market coax you into speculating.
Beware affinity fraud; find God, not hot investments, at your church, synagogue or mosque.
Sir John Templeton: “The four most dangerous words in investing are: ‘this time it’s different.’”
Don’t put more than you can afford to lose into a crowdfunded deal; startups are always risky, and the new JOBS Act reduces both paperwork and investor protection.
Don’t underrate the importance of liquidity.
Use Quicken or a Web service to track all your finances and see your big picture.
Use different passwords for each of your online financial accounts; add optional security questions whose answers can’t be found in your Facebook or LinkedIn profiles.
Write down your passwords and hide them; tell one person where they are.
Don’t fight demographics—allocate a portion of your portfolio to health care and biotech stocks.
Diversify globally to boost your portfolio’s risk-adjusted performance.
Benjamin Graham: “Speculation is neither illegal, immoral nor (for most people) fattening to
Cash in on companies with stealth dividends—meaning stock buybacks.
Set investing rules for yourself that block impulsive decisions.
Look beneath a fund’s name, with Morningstar’s Style Box and X-ray.
Use software to track your asset allocation.
Ask for a “brokerage window” in your 401(k)—an opening that allows you to invest in any mutual fund and even individual stocks.
Bond laddering is good, but diversifying your income investments is important, too.
Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) offer protection from inflation—not from rising interest rates.
John Bogle: “Time is your friend. Impulse is your enemy.”
Use salary increases to boost contributions to your 401(k).
Defy conventional wisdom and increase your stock allocation after retirement.
To make money in small-cap stocks, look for novel business methods and niches, not the next blockbuster drug.
Don’t abdicate investment decisions to your spouse.
Be suspicious—and investigate further—when a corporation changes its auditors.
Carry a $2 million or bigger umbrella insurance policy to protect your wealth from liability suits.
Warren Buffett: “Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.”
Invest to meet goals, not to beat indexes.
Clarify your own objectives by writing an Investment Policy Statement.
When you get restricted stock in a startup, make an 83(b) election; if the company takes off, you’ll save big on taxes.
Consider your marriage tax penalty (or bonus) before setting a wedding date.
Dan Ariely: “If you can’t save money, be really nice to your kids.”
Put peer-to-peer loans in your portfolio using sites like LendingClub.com for monthly cash flow and yields of from 7% to 9%.
Peter Lynch: “Go for a business that any idiot can run—because sooner or later, any idiot is probably going to run it.”
Never take on a mortgage just for the tax deduction.
Keep no more than $250,000 in any one bank.
Buy an index fund weighted to fundamentals.
Remain anonymous after winning the Powerball jackpot.
Work for a charity for ten years and get your federal student debt forgiven.
Beware personal finance gurus pitching products.
The most successful investors spend many hours at it each day and have passion and patience. There are no shortcuts.
Warren Buffett: “Diversification is protection against ignorance.”
Like Captain Kirk, have advisors from different planets.
Before funding college accounts make sure you’re saving enough in your retirement accounts.
To avoid a tax penalty, tap IRAs, not 401(k)s, to pay college tuition.
Borrow from grandma at 4% for grad school; Uncle Sam’s Graduate Plus loans go for 6.41%.
When buying a luxury condo, ignore superfluous amenities like massage rooms and pet spas; they won’t contribute to resale value.
Add commercial real estate to your portfolio.
Wait for inflation to rise before buying TIPS.
Howard Marks: “Rule number one: Most things will prove to be cyclical. Rule number two: Some of the greatest opportunities for gain and loss come when other people forget rule number one.”
Before remarriage, discuss estate plans.
Track gambling losses to offset taxable gambling winnings.
Confess any tax crimes to a lawyer, not a CPA.
Deduct your yacht loan as mortgage interest on a second home.
Don’t do deals between yourself and your own IRA.
Don’t roll your old 401(k) into an IRA if you might face a lawsuit.
When creating a trust or family limited partnership for asset protection, don’t give it your own name or one obviously identified with you.
Profit from stock market volatility: Buy into a VIX futures fund and use wild, seemingly irrational swings as buying opportunities.
Gary Shilling: “The market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.”
Beware dividend traps—fat payouts supported by declining cash flow.
Bet against weak currencies, like George Soros.
Back up your financial records using a secure cloud service.
Before investing in your own state’s 529, compare its fees and tax breaks to New York’s rock-bottom cost plan.
Buy liens on homes of real estate tax deadbeats.
Learn a lesson from each stock-picking mistake.
Julian Robertson: “Buy into forgotten markets.”
Join an angel investing club.
Keep your own entrepreneurial options open by refusing to sign onerous noncompete agreements.
Buy stocks of companies still controlled by their billionaire founders.
Leon Black: Do your homework, but still don’t bet the ranch.
Louis Bacon: “As a speculator you must embrace disorder and chaos.”
Almost all great value investors look for market anomalies or disconnects that they can exploit.
Warren Buffett: “Big opportunities come infrequently. When it’s raining gold, reach for a bucket, not a thimble.”
Always keep some investment powder dry.
Allocate investments against your life risks.
Andrew Tobias: “A penny saved is two (pretax) pennies earned.”
Deduct losses from your sideline/hobby by bunching your expenses and showing a small profit in 3 of 5 years.
Postpone real estate gains tax with a 1031 exchange.
Qualify as a “real estate professional” to save big on taxes.
Be leery of investments sold for tax savings.
Burton Malkiel: “Start saving now, not later: Time is money.”
Before making a big discretionary purchase, calculate future cost—what the dollars you’re spending could grow to if invested for 20 or 30 years.
Read How to Make Money in Stocks by William J. O’Neil.
Buy designer goods at consignment shops; when you get bored with them, sell for a profit on eBay.
Discuss any prenuptial agreement way in advance of your wedding.
Hell hath no fury. Never cheat on your taxes and your spouse at the same time—exes are a big source of IRS leads.
Don’t buy a large amount of a thinly traded stock all at once.
Buy and hold at your own risk.
Don’t be afraid to buy into strength.
It’s okay to chase performance—sometimes.
Burton Malkiel: “In the stock market, past is not prologue.”
Start a 529 college savings plan for yourself before you have children. If you don’t use it for graduate school, transfer it to your kid.
Make your kid rich by helping him fund a Roth IRA.
Deplete Junior’s UTMA—you can spend it on a laptop, camps, private school and tutoring—before applying for college financial aid.
Reduce your student loan interest rate with auto debit.
Julian Robertson: Suggest your kid take an accounting course—“It was the course that helped me more than anything.”
Robert Shiller: “If you want to get rich, go into finance or a related field. Finance is the technology for making things happen.”
Identify companies that gouge you yet keep your business. Buy them.
Buy stocks like socks—good quality on sale.
Buy into big ideas just like a global macro hedge fund for as little as $1,000 to start.
Use limit orders when buying small-company stocks with low trading volume.
Don’t leave it all in the dollar. Invest globally for currency diversification.
Dollar-cost average the whole stock market.
Buy companies with high ratios of gross profits-to-total assets.
John Neff: “Buy on the cannons and sell on the trumpets.”
Monitor your individual stocks; set a Google news alert and watch for signs of possible trouble.
Bone up on “risk parity” diversification.
Always know how a financial advisor is getting paid and what if any commissions she’ll earn.
Watch out for paid shills at investment seminars.
Ken Fisher: “You know who didn’t have bad years? Bernard Madoff—until he got caught.”
Buy a retirement annuity cheap by delaying Social Security until 70.
If you need to tap retirement cash early, study up on the exceptions that let you avoid a 10% penalty, including taking “substantially equal periodic payments.”
Burton Malkiel: “Tune out the financial TV channels. Watch the cooking channel or the gardening channel if you want useful advice.”
Warren Buffett: “Returns decrease as motion increases.’’
Ron Baron: “Don’t waste your time short-selling. Show me the short-sellers’ yachts.”
If you earn too much to contribute to a Roth IRA, fund a nondeductible IRA and convert it.
If divorcing, get a “QDRO” from the court that allows you to split retirement assets without owing immediate tax.
Claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit for your kid’s college—if you’re eligible.
Don’t make multiple $9,900 bank deposits—the government might seize your money and keep it on the grounds you’re trying to skirt anti-money-laundering laws.
Do a bond fund swap to harvest tax losses.
Gain funding—and a market—on Kickstarter.
Barry Ritholtz: “Never confuse investing with trading.”
Don’t let the tax tail wag the investment dog.
Hold illiquid assets in a Roth IRA, not a regular IRA.
Be like Peter Thiel and put hot startup stock in a Roth IRA to make all gains tax free.
Learn about your fiancé’s debts, before you walk down the aisle.
Beware high-yield investments pitched as being like a bank CD.
Watch out for stock hoaxes on Twitter.
Be leery of pitches involving a self-directed IRA.
Benjamin Graham: “It is absurd to think that the general public can ever make money out of market forecasts. For who will buy when the general public, at a given signal, rushes to sell out at a profit?”
Avoid sudden lifestyle changes after a windfall.
Automatically divert money from your paycheck into savings to the point where it hurts.
Retire to a place without state estate or inheritance taxes.
Benefit from 20/20 stock market hindsight by reversing a Roth conversion if stocks tank.
Donald Trump: “Sometimes your best investments are the ones you don’t make.”
Ben Stein: Don’t move into a neighborhood of poverty. Avoid any situation that could leave you with too much unsecured debt.
Get an entrepreneur mentor from SCORE, an organization of retired business folks.
Tap your ethnic community for business funding.
To get the best effort and thinking from employees in your startup, give them stock options.
Like Spanx’s Sara Blakely, solve an irritating problem.
Larry Page: “It is often easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams. …Since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition.”
Don’t blindly rely on a target date fund in your 401(k).
Don’t let your advisor manage you.
Don’t rely on regulators to protect you from financial fraud.
Warren Buffett: “What is smart at one price is dumb at another.”
With large-cap stocks, focus more on cash flow than earnings.
Strong stocks tend to stay that way. Buy high and sell higher.
Don’t let family wealth become a curse on your children.
Start your kid at the bottom of your business.
Read Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits by Philip A. Fisher.
Buy a gift annuity from your alma mater.
John Neff: “When you feel like bragging, it’s probably time to sell.”
Mine your closet for eBay gold.
Mine your network for investment ideas.
Warren Buffett: “The risks of being out of the game are huge compared to the risks of being in it.”
Sell put options like Warren Buffett does.
Buy stocks when a magazine cover declares “The Death of Equities.”
Don’t count on an inheritance. If you get one, don’t blow it.
Leon Cooperman: “Getting rich takes hard work, a passion for what you do and luck.”
If you win the Powerball jackpot, hire a tax advisor before making any decisions.
Hunt down pensions from old employers.
If you’re 50 or older, with substantial self-employment income, use a custom-designed defined benefit plan to shelter $100,000 a year or more from tax.
Max out your 401(k) contributions: In 2014 you can contribute $17,500, or $23,000 if you’re 50-plus.
If your marriage is shaky, make a copy of all financial documents.
If your spouse is shady, file separate tax returns.
Burton Malkiel: “Never buy anything from someone who is out of breath.”
Know when to fire your financial advisor.
Be skeptical of “principal protected” products—ask how much is guaranteed and at what cost.
Be wary of companies that have gone public in reverse mergers.
Low-priced stocks aren’t necessarily cheap.
Make sure a stock’s dividends are less than its cash flow and likely to remain that way.
Warren Buffett: “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.”
Beware unlisted REITs.
Save remodeling receipts to add to your home’s basis and cut gains taxes when you sell.
Buy no more house than you can afford.
Don’t accept a high property tax assessment of your home—you can appeal andtalk it down.
Don’t assume you should buy a house. Start by calculating rent-versus-buy costs for homes in your market.
If you have no time for complexity, diversify your portfolio with just three mutual funds.
Buy a deferred fixed annuity to make sure you don’t outlive your money.
Build your own ersatz retirement annuity with savings bonds.
Boost income with closed-end, covered call funds.
Burton Malkiel: “Trust in time, rather than timing.”
Delay retirement as long as you can.
But don’t assume in your planning that you can work full-time until 70.
Compare insurance costs before choosing a new car model.
Then go shopping for that model at month’s end.
To save even more, don’t own a car, share one.
Hold actively managed mutual funds—the kind that pass on the most-short-term gains—in tax-deferred retirement accounts.
Hold real estate in your IRA—but carefully.
Don’t let the groupthink of investment clubs cloud rational investment analysis.
Warren Buffett: “Diversification is a protection against ignorance.”
Follow top money-manager moves. Even the great investors piggyback on other smart investors.
David Dreman: “The time to buy is when there’s blood on the streets.”
Beware superstar CEOs with weak boards.
Compare benefits (including options) before switching jobs.
Find out how your 401(k) rates at BrightScope.com; if expenses are high or fund choices poor, lobby for a better plan.
Don’t give Uncle Sam an interest-free loan; adjust your withholding so you don’t overpay your taxes.
Even if you can’t pay, file your tax return.
Take a cue from Mark Zuckerberg: Get maximum tax savings for your charitable buck by giving appreciated assets to a donor-advised fund or supporting organization.
Warren Buffett: “Time is the friend of the wonderful business, the enemy of the mediocre.”
Don’t chase yesterday’s winners unless they’re still winning.
Purchase “own occupation” disability insurance.
Remember that market underperformance—just like costs—compounds.
Ramit Sethi: Set up systems to automate desired behaviors. Leave your gym clothes at the foot of your bed. Have contributions to savings automatically deducted.
Open a spousal IRA for a stay-at-home husband or wife.
If you work from home, get a rider on your homeowner’s insurance policy to protect you if the FedEx man slips.
To maximize college aid, make Roth 401(k) contributions, not pretax ones, while your kids are in college.
Like Warren Buffett, make concentrated bets in stocks that you have high confidence in.
Live dangerously; invest your emergency fund instead of keeping it in cash.
Barry Sternlicht: Study outliers rather than eliminate them. You can learn everything there
is to know about the industry or the player from the company that is performing better or worse.
Don’t wait until expiration. Always look to buy back cheap options.
Most stock market gains since 1950 have occurred in the November-Aprilperiod.
Over the long run, small-cap stocks have outperformed big blue chips.
Take only calculated risks on the smallest Pink Sheet stocks.
Move inherited IRAs from trustee to trustee only.
Name primary and contingent IRA beneficiaries so your heirs can enjoy the maximum years of tax deferral.
Maximize your Social Security using a couples claiming strategy.
Open all mail from the IRS.
Don’t cheat the IRS and your business partner at the same time.
Never ignore a 1099, even if it’s wrong—the IRS won’t.
Don’t lie to your tax pro.
After you hit 70, take the required minimum distributions (RMD) each year from your traditional IRAs or face near-confiscatory tax penalties.
If you don’t need your RMD, consider rolling it directly to a charity.
Sign a living will, health care proxy and power of attorney, even if you’re still healthy.
Get a will. What happens to property if someone dies without one (intestate) varies by state and might not be what you would want.
Warren Buffett: “No matter how serene today may be, tomorrow is always uncertain.”
Insure your home for its replacement value; buy flood insurance if there’s a risk of water damage.
Scan in your tax records, and keep a copy on the cloud or on an external drive at work; fires and floods happen.
Keep business and personal expenses separate.
Maintain at least some financial accounts separate from your spouse’s.
Peter Lynch: “Know what you own and know why you own it.”
Have your kid read The Little Book That Beats the Market by Joel Greenblatt.
Don’t fall for cheap stocks that are really worth even less.
Read the classic Where Are the Customers’ Yachts? by Fred Schwed Jr.
Run from a pitchman “guaranteeing” high returns.
Benjamin Graham: Speculate only with a separate small portion of your capital.
Snitch on tax cheats and collect a multimillion-dollar IRS whistle-blower award.
Learn what behavioral economists have found about self-destructive investor behavior—so you can try to avoid these common and expensive mistakes.
Understand the risks of using leverage and inverse ETFs, which rebalance assets daily.
Benjamin Graham: “Every nonprofessional who operates on margin … is ipso facto speculating.”
Register for Medicare at 65, even if you’re still covered by your workplace insurance, to avoid having to pay a penalty later.
Rob Arnott: “No strategy can make up for inadequate savings or premature retirement.”
Start saving for retirement in your 20s to put the compounding winds at your back.
Use the Rule of 72: Divide your expected percentage return into 72 to figure how long it will take you to double your money.
Never sell a stock that keeps on rising in price.
Warren Buffett: “When we own portions of outstanding businesses with outstanding managements, our favorite holding period is forever.”
Ben Franklin: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
Use ETFs to be your own international fund manager.
Don’t try to impose your ego on the market.
Set up 10% trailing stop-loss orders to avoid unexpected nosedives in your portfolio.
Barry Sternlicht: You have to be willing to change your mind. If you are a stubborn mule, you’ll get killed.
Read Warren Buffett’s favorite book, Benjamin Graham’s Intelligent Investor.
Be a vulture investor: Buy distressed bonds at pennies on the dollar like Marty Whitman and David Tepper.
Pay attention to moving averages. When the 20- or 50-day average crosses below the 200-day average it’s bearish.
Monitor the level of fear in the market with the CBOE put/call ratio and theVIX.
Get tax help if you’ve got incentive stock options—they carry tax benefits but also a nasty alternative minimum tax trap.
Pay public school tuition for your overachieving teen by getting steep discounts at great private colleges.
Don’t treat your 401(k) as a piggy bank; you’ll regret it come retirement.
Read Money Masters of Our Time by John Train.
Never buy anything from a cold-calling broker.
Be alert for the signs that a bubble is forming.
Use sentiment indicators as contrarian tools.
Don’t confuse correlation with causation in markets.
Tap an IRA—not a 401(k)—without penalty for a first-time home purchase.
Leave the dollars in a Health Savings Account growing tax free for retirement while you cover medical deductibles and copays from your current income.
Use a “flight path” approach to asset allocation, raising your exposure to stocks as you become a more confident investor.
Know your sell rules before you buy.
Read letters of great investors such as Warren Buffett and Jeremy Grantham online.
Become an online stock researcher.
Beware of asset protection scams.
When stuck paying AMT, accelerate some income.
Rent out your vacation home for two weeks a year, tax free.
Most people don’t need a whole life policy; buy a 20-year level-premium life insurance policy before your first child is born.
Warren Buffett: “You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.”
Save $40,000 or more by sending your overachiever to community college and then have her transfer to a top public university or the Ivy League.
Save on a master’s—for yourself or kids—by earning it in Britain in one year.
Have your eldest child take a gap year before college so that more than one child is in school at the same time—you’ll get more financial aid.
Rothify—Roth conversions make sense in more cases than most people realize.
Time 401(k) contributions to make sure you grab your full employer match.
Factor your individual health and life expectancy into your decision on when to take Social Security.
Use an online calculator to help you determine the best strategy to maximize your Social Security benefits.
Put junk bond funds in tax-deferred accounts.
Buy master limited partnerships late in life to avoid their tax drawbacks.
Only buy closed-end funds trading at discounts to net asset value.
Invest in businesses with sustainable competitive advantages.
Don’t fight the tape.
Remember, three out of four stocks follow the market’s overall trend.
Spend 25% less than you make—it will give you flexibility to pursue the big opportunity.
Bruce Greenwald: To get really rich, copy the hedge fund, private equity and VC masters and “get your hands on somebody else’s money.”
Warren Buffett: “Investors should remember that excitement and expenses are their enemies.”
Watch out for high fees hidden in some tax-sheltered products like 529s and variable annuities.
Protect your assets before there’s a claim against you; after-the-fact moves can backfire.
Remember Bernie Madoff: Make sure your investment advisor keeps your money in an account with an independent custodian.
Gary Shilling: Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Instead, intelligently and efficiently apply what is already well known.
Warren Buffett: “You don’t have to make money back the same way you lost it.”
When selling a business, plan ahead and you may be able to save big on tax.
Retire to a place where jobs are plentiful.
Factor taxes into your retirement income strategy.
Take $500,000 per couple in gains on the sale of your home, tax free.
Don’t be afraid to deduct a legitimate home office—you can now claim up to $1,500 a year, with minimal recordkeeping.
Review the assumptions an ex-employer has made in calculating your pension. Mistakes aren’t unusual.
Keep 5% of your portfolio in gold.
Own gold through ETFs like GLD.
When pundits declare the death of “buy-and-hold” it could well be the sign of a market bottom.
Warren Buffett: “It’s optimism that is the enemy of the rational buyer.”
Burton Malkiel: “ ‘Efficient markets’ does not mean that the price of every security at every moment in time is correct.”
Look for undiscovered stocks with market caps between $1 billion and $10 billion.
Understand how the businesses you invest in make money.
If the short sellers are swarming around your stock, investigate the bears’ thesis.
When company insiders buy, you should, too.
Benjamin Graham: Those who want “freedom from concern” must accept lower returns.
Warren Buffett: It is “far better to buy a wonderful business at a fair price than to buy a fair business at a wonderful price.”
Burton Malkiel: “Avoid the temptation to follow the herd.”
Steve Jobs: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”