A. You can join them, but do so with your eyes open: There are both upsides and downsides to services that streamline investing in the stock market. For starters, when there’s little to no cost to start trading, many people start without learning much about stock investing and how to do it well. Many don’t understand that trading frequently is a bad idea, as it fails to give good companies time to perform, and leaves investors with costly short-term gains (taxed at higher rates than long-term gains). Trading with borrowed money (“on margin”) is another ill-advised idea, especially for beginners, yet some services make that easy.
MORE MOTLEY FOOL:
Investing in stocks can definitely be fun and exciting, but be wary when an investing platform makes it like a game, showing you your “performance” like a score. Those are your hard-earned dollars that are growing – or evaporating. All new investors should be taking the time to research the companies they invest in, instead of just buying what’s popular and hoping for the best. Many new investors have been jumping into “hot” stocks that have been soaring, hoping to see their own holdings soar, too. But few stocks keep growing that rapidly. Plenty will retreat a little or a lot – and may burn many naive investors.
Q. If I donate $100 to charity and my company matches that with another $100, can I claim a $200 deduction on my tax return? — P.H., Parchment, Mich.
A. Nope. You can deduct only what you contributed.
Get more out of Medicare. Here’s a shocker: A 65-year-old couple retiring today will spend an average of $295,000 out of pocket on health care throughout their retirement, according to Fidelity – and that excludes long-term care. That’s the bad news. The good news is that retirees can keep health care costs down by making the most of Medicare.
A vital thing to know about Medicare is that enrolling late can leave you paying inflated premiums for the rest of your life. So starting a few months before you turn 65, look into enrolling. Most people get enrolled automatically if they’re already receiving Social Security benefits during their enrollment period, but don’t assume you’re safe – double-check.
One good way to keep your lifetime health care expenses down is to be as healthy as possible. If you need to, lose weight. If you’re not already eating nutritious meals and minimizing junk food, get started. Medicare coverage includes a free wellness visit with your doctor once a year, so be sure to schedule that. Many important screenings are also free; these include mammograms and colonoscopies, and screenings for prostate cancer, heart disease, depression, hepatitis C, alcohol misuse, HIV, sexually transmitted infections, diabetes and osteoporosis. Take advantage of all the preventive care you can, as any problems found early can usually be dealt with less expensively, and treating them may lengthen your life as well.
Note that Medicare comes in several varieties: “Original Medicare” is made up of Part A and Part B, which respectively cover hospital and medical services; many enrollees also sign up for Part D (prescription drug coverage) and/or supplemental Medigap plans. If you’re opting for Original Medicare, be sure to study prescription drug plans and supplemental plans available to you, and choose whichever ones will serve you best. Review your options each year, as one plan may suddenly become more attractive – perhaps because your medications change.
As an alternative to Original Medicare, you might opt for a Medicare Advantage plan (sometimes referred to as Part C). We’ll cover Part C plans next week.
My dumbest investment
Locked out: My dumbest investment move was selling my shares of Shopify when they were at $150. (They’re close to $1,500 now!) I’d bought them for around $30 apiece and wanted to “lock in” my gains. I’ve since learned to let my winners run. — K.M., online
The Fool responds: Locking in gains, at least some of them, is not a silly thing to do….