Stock market may be booming, but shop around a bit anyway


IF THIS BOOMING STOCK market worries you after major averages soared yesterday to record highs -- Dow Jones now up 974 points, or 25 percent, since Jan. 1 -- try these alternative investments:

"Change your asset allocation by adding new money to bonds and cash reserves. If you're above the 28 percent tax bracket, buy tax-exempt money market and short-term bond funds. Use investment money to pay off debts, also to upgrade your home. Invest the money in yourself by taking courses that improve your skills." (KPMG Peat Marwick.)

BOOST FOR BONDS: Irwin Kellner, a bond specialist at Chemical Bank, says that a bond rally is likely this month: "If the Fed lowers rates at mid-month and Washington agrees to cut the deficit -- both of which I expect -- then we'll see declining yields, so buy bonds now and lock in good rates."

RETIREMENT REVIEW: "Change your 401(k) investments as you grow older, cutting back on high-risk, high-return investments. But don't change investments just to 'time' the market, or follow current 'hot' trends. Your 401(k) is for long-term, so manage it with a solid, stable long-term strategy." ("S&P; 401(k) Planning Guide," by Alan Miller, $12.75.)

POOR EXCUSES: "Everyone should have a will. Worst excuses: 'I'm too young. I don't have enough to need one. My sister said she'd always take care of my kids. Lawyers cost a lot. I haven't got time to make a will. Everybody knows who should get what.' " (Money, November)

TRAVEL TIP: "When making plane reservations, pick the least-crowded flight -- if you have a choice. Reasons: You have a better chance of getting a frequent-flier upgrade to business or first-class, and you'll enjoy the comfort of sitting next to an empty seat. Ticket and travel agents know which flights are least crowded." (Consumer Reports Travel Letter.)

MONEY-SAVERS: "When applying for a new credit card, be sure it offers ALL of the following: Low introductory interest rate grace period of at least 25 days in which no interest is charged on new purchases no annual fee no other restrictions that prevent you from using this plan to your advantage." (Tightwad Gazette)

TAX TRENDS: The Kiplinger Washington Letter, with a good forecasting record, feels we will receive capital-gains tax breaks this year, probably retroactive to mid-October. The letter suggests taxpayers figure on a 50 percent exclusion on long-term gains, "reducing the top rate paid from 28 to 19.8 percent."

MARYLAND MEMO: Sylvan Learning Systems (Columbia), Marriott Courtyard (Bethesda) and Wild Bird Centers of America (Cabin John) are listed under "100 Best Franchise Companies in America" in Success, November.

CAREER CORNER: "A man can succeed at almost anything for which he has unlimited enthusiasm." (Charles Schwab).

"It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can." (Sydney Smith.)

"The one inviolable rule to retirement planning: There is simply no substitute for aggressive -- and we do mean aggressive -- investing." (Smart Money, November)

"Sixty-six percent of Americans approaching retirement age say they should have started saving sooner." (CNBC News.)

NOVEMBER NUGGETS: Tonight, "Wall Street Week With Louis Rukeyser" is about investing in "small stocks," with panelists Gail Dudack, Martin Zweig and Mr. Ticker.

"Stay out of bond funds without a stated maturity date. Buy individual tax-free bonds. Then, flat tax or not, you'll be in safe territory." (Lynch Municipal Advisory)

"The average monthly paycheck for federal employees is increasing steadily. The average March check this year was $147, in August $152." (Forbes, Nov. 1, 1935.)

"Low P/E [price-earnings] ratio stocks easily outperformed high P/E issues over the past 25 years." (David Dreman in Forbes, Nov. 6.)

"Investors, as in a zombie-like trance, poured $3.6 billion into mutual funds last week." (Paul Rabbitt in Barron's, Oct. 30.)

The "call-back" pink slip on my desk read: "Call Jane Doe, IRS Criminal Division." Whew! Mrs. Doe just wanted to know more about a Ticker item.

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