TIME Food & Drink

7 Practical Cooking Tips I Learned From Barefoot Contessa

melted-chocolate-bowl
Getty Images

Chocolate tastes better with a touch of coffee powder

I’ll start by saying this: I’m not athletic, nor do I particularly like working out. But after graduating from college, I discovered a motivating factor that got me to the gym: Barefoot Contessa. I don’t have a TV at home, so I’ve been timing my gym workouts for the past five years with episodes of my favorite cooking show.

After all those years and all those episodes (which I’ve seen multiple times), I’ve learned some surprising but practical tips from the inimitable Ina. While I originally went to the gym to lose a few pounds, I ended up gaining a whole lot of knowledge from Barefoot Contessa.

Now, I’ve learned a lot from Ina Garten over the years about food and entertaining in general — keep things simple (with the volume turned up a notch), use good-quality ingredients, shop local when you can, make items ahead of time — but these are the more nitty-gritty tips I’ve gleaned over the course of watching Barefoot Contessa for so many years; the little hidden nuggets of wisdom that weave their way into her narrative as she effortlessly pulls a roast chicken out of the oven or frosts a three-layer cake.

1. Add coffee to chocolate.

This is a recurring tip mentioned throughout many Barefoot Contessa episodes. Whenever Ina is making a chocolate ganache or cake, she adds some freshly brewed coffee or instant coffee powder (or both!) to enhance the flavor of the chocolate.

2. Use a sharp knife to “mash” guacamole.

Before seeing this tip, I used to mash my guacamole with a fork, eliminating almost all the chunks. Now, though, I’ve seen the light: Ina uses a sharp knife to cut through all the guacamole ingredients until everything is combined but still chunky in texture.

3. Add fruit liqueur to fruit.

Similar to the coffee-chocolate trick, Ina adds a splash of various fruit liqueurs to enhance the flavors of fruit dishes. Crème de cassis — a blackcurrant liqueur — is added to the filling of a plum crunch, framboise — a raspberry liqueur — is used in everything from raspberry sauce to a berry trifle, and limoncello — an Italian lemon liqueur — is used in a light fruit salad.

4. Use a saucer to cut tarts out of puff pastry.

Ina is a woman after my own heart, in that she doesn’t like to use unitasker kitchen tools. Instead of buying a tart pan that she’ll only use every once in a while, she traces a sharp knife around a six-inch saucer — placed over a sheet of puff pastry — to cut out circles of puff pastry for tomato-goat cheese tarts.

5. Keep vanilla beans intact when making vanilla extract.

Where many recipes for homemade vanilla extract call for splitting the vanilla bean first, Ina tells you to just drop the whole beans in the jar, pour vodka over them, and wait for the magic to happen. The best part? Pulling out the vanilla beans after they’ve sufficiently infused (or marinated, as she says) and squeezing out those beautiful seeds to use in everything from vanilla ice cream to vanilla sugar.

6. Roast your shrimp.

There’s an episode of Barefoot Contessa, where Ina is making lemon pasta with shrimp, that completely changed the way I cook shrimp. Instead of standing over a pan while the shrimp cook on the stovetop, I now just roast them in the oven. Ina tosses peeled and deveined shrimp on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasts them for six to eight minutes at 400°F. No fussing over whether or not the shrimp are ready to be flipped — just throw them in the oven and they’ll come out perfectly cooked every time.

7. Grate cheese in the food processor.

Before seeing this tip, I used to buy containers of pre-grated Parmesan cheese at the grocery store; I was too lazy to grate it myself on a box grater. But on multiple episodes of Barefoot Contessa, Ina makes mention of the fact that you lose a lot of flavor when you buy pre-grated cheese; it’s at its best when you grate a hunk of cheese right before you plan to eat it. Her quick solution? The food processor. She cuts off the rind, cuts the cheese into chunks, and grinds it right in the food processor. To borrow her signature line: “How easy is that?”

This article originally appeared on The Kitchn

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TIME Food & Drink

This Is the Best Way to Cook Bacon

bacon
James Ransom, Food52

It only takes 15 minutes

No, we’re not trying to deprive you of one of life’s greatest pleasures: cooking bacon in a hot cast iron skillet, watching it curl into crimped little ribbons, smelling it waft up in fierce, meaty clouds, and hearing it sputter and stutter like a seventh grade boy asking a girl to the movies.

We’re trying to help you cook bacon better.

Because as glorious as cooking bacon on the stove can be, it’s also a mess. There’s grease all over the kitchen, and all over you. And because a pan is only so big, making a heaping plate of bacon is something that takes a while—and will leave you smelling like a high-end dog toy. Instead, you should bake your bacon.

bacon-pan
James Ransom, Food52

Here’s how: heat your oven to 400° F, put slices of bacon on a baking sheet—as many as you’d like, just make sure they fit in one layer—and slide it into the oven. The bacon will sizzle in its own rendered fat, cooking evenly. Just 15 minutes or so later, you’ll have those perfect little pork ribbons—with minimal cleanup.

Bonus points: Carefully pour the hot bacon fat into a jar, and store in the fridge. Use as you would lard or butter. Expect awesome, bacon-y flavor.

This article originally appeared on Food52

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TIME apps

6 Must-Know Tricks for Mastering Apple Music

A guide to Apple's powerful but somewhat confusing new app

Apple Music, Apple’s new streaming service, is finally here. The $9.99-per-month service is trying to beat competitors like Spotify and Google Play Music by cramming in as many features as possible: access to 30 million songs on demand, playlists curated by music experts, algorithmically powered radio stations and a live radio station like the ones you hear on the classic FM dial.

All those features add up to make Apple Music an incredibly powerful app, but also one that can be pretty challenging to navigate. Here are five quick tips to make the experience a bit more seamless:

Understanding Apple Music’s Tabs

Apple Music is divided into five main sections, and it’s not exactly obvious what each one does. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • For You shows you personalized playlists and albums based on the genre and artist preferences you pick out when you first open the app, as well as your play history.
  • New shows a list of new songs and albums, currently popular content, videos and thematic playlists.
  • Radio features Beats 1, Apple’s 24/7 live radio station, and algorithmically driven stations based on genre.
  • Connect is a social network that lets artists connect directly to fans.
  • My Music shows the songs you have in your library, as well as any playlists you’ve built.

Show Only Songs You’ve Downloaded

Apple Music doesn’t do much to help denote which songs are downloaded to your phone and which are floating in the cloud. On the “My Music” tab, you can select the drop-down menu that begins with “Artists” in the middle of the screen and activate the “Music Available Offline” option at the bottom of the menu. That will make it so only songs on your iPhone show up.

Turn Off Your Subscription’s Auto-Renewal

Apple Music comes with a free three-month subscription, but be careful—Apple has already “helpfully” signed you up to begin paying the $9.99 monthly fee via your iTunes account when the trial ends. To make sure you don’t get charged, press the human silhouette icon in the top left corner of Apple Muisc, select “View Apple ID,” then select “Manage” under the Subcriptions header. Select “Apple Music Membership” and then select “Free Trial.” The app should then show you the date your trial is set to end, and it won’t charge you after that time expires.

 

Download Songs Using Cellular Data

By default, the iPhone only downloads songs over Wi-Fi to help prevent large data bills. If you want to be able to download Apple Music songs to your phone via wireless data, go to the Settings menu and then select “iTunes & App Store.” Toggle the “Use Cellular Data” option on, and Apple Music will be able to download songs whenever you have an Internet connection.

See the Upcoming Schedule for Beats 1

Beats 1, Apple Music’s live radio station, is a new twist for music streaming, but presents an age-old problem for music listeners: how do you know what the radio station is going to play next? If you simply click on the “Beats 1” art at the top of the “Radio” tab, you’ll be presented with a schedule of the upcoming shows over the next several hours. Bonus protip: you can add any song playing on Beats 1 to your library by selecting the three periods to the right of the song’s name and clicking “Add to My Music.”

Adjust Your Genre/Artist Preferences

When you first boot up Apple Music, the app will ask you to pick a few favorite genres to help it show you songs catered to your tastes. Later on, if you realize the app is serving you a bit too much death metal, you can change these preferences easily. Click the human silhouette icon in the top left corner, select “Choose Artists for You” and you’ll be taken to the same selection screen for genres and artists that you saw when you first used the app.

TIME Gadgets

6 Secret Tricks You Didn’t Know Your iPhone Could Do

Apple's I Phone  : Launch at Apple Opera Store In Paris
Chesnot—Getty Images A Woman checks the iPhone 6, on the day of its launch at the Apple Store Opera on September 19, 2014, in Paris, France.

Your phone is about to get way more useful

The iPhone always seems to have a new trick up its sleeve. Tucked away in the device’s myriad menus, there’s probably a setting or two you’ve never played with that could make the device even more useful. That’s to say nothing of the numerous gesture-based controls Apple tucks away in its mobile operating system, many of which may not be readily apparent. Chances are you could be typing faster, taking better pictures and noticing more texts with these hidden wonders.

Here, we uncover six lesser-known iPhone tricks that you can use every day:

Take Pictures Using Your Headphones

Pressing the volume-up button on Apple’s official headphones will snap a picture with the iPhone’s camera app. This is a useful trick if you’re setting up your phone on a tripod or want to ensure your shot is steady, as you won’t have to press a button on the screen to take a photo. You can also take a picture by hitting the volume buttons on the side of the iPhone itself.

Shake to Undo

Typed an error into a text or email? Simply shake the iPhone to bring up the option to Undo your last action. The gesture works in iMessage, Mail and other default apps, but developers can also implement the feature, so try it in all kinds of different apps.

Take High-Quality Photos

There’s an easy way to automatically make your iPhone camera take better pictures. With the Camera app open, select HDR On at the top of the screen to take a high dynamic range picture. An HDR photo takes three pictures of a scene and combines the best parts of each to make an image that best captures what the human eye sees.

It’s especially useful for landscapes, pictures in sunlight and photos in low light. If you’re not sure when an HDR photo is appropriate, select HDR Auto at the top of the Camera app, and the iPhone will automatically determine when to use the feature.

Enable Read Receipts

If you want to receive a text from a friend, not reply for a while, but let her know you read it, read receipts are the feature for you. The iMessage function lets other iPhone users know exactly what time you read their texts, similar to how BlackBerry’s BBM worked. To enable the feature, go to Settings, scroll down to Messages and toggle on “Send Read Receipts.” Rumor has it that the upcoming iOS 9 will also let people tailor which friends receive read receipts and which don’t.

Create Keyboard Shortcuts

You can create custom text shortcuts for long words or phrases you often use, like an email address. In the Settings menu, select General, then select Keyboard, then Add New Shortcut. The first field will ask for the long phrase you want to use and the second field will ask for the shortcut you want to stand in for the longer phrase. After the shortcut has been saved, if you type it into iMessage and press the space bar, it will automatically transform into the longer phrase.

Make your phone flash for text message alerts

Sometimes a phone vibration or chime isn’t enough to alert you to a new text message. You can use the iPhone’s LED flash as another alert signal. Simply open the Settings menu, select General, Select Accessibility, then toggle LED Flash for Alerts on.

TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Track Down Anyone’s Email Address Using Your Gmail

woman-typing-laptop
Getty Images

Use the guess-and-verify technique

The Muse logo

Most of us associate networking with industry events, shaking hands with a friend of a friend of a former co-worker, and grabbing coffee with someone you’d like to get to know better. But it’s 2015, and building a relationship can happen just as easily through email. And, yes, I’m talking about the slightly nerve-racking, but potentially very rewarding, act of sending cold emails to professionals you don’t personally know.

Taking the initiative to message influential people in your industry can reap huge benefits. You can ask for advice based on their career path, secure partnerships for your company or side project, or eventually even get a foot in the door with someone who works at your dream company.

No matter what your request is, however, there’s no way to make it unless you have this person’s email. That’s why I’ve used—and will share with you—the guess-and-verify strategy that has helped me find and connect with successful entrepreneurs like Mashable’s CEO, Spoon University’s founders, and Arianna Huffington.

I will say upfront, though, that this strategy usually doesn’t work if you’re trying to contact someone who’s Beyoncé-level famous, or if his or her email is arranged in an uncommon format (more on this later). (Also, the app required for this technique is currently made only for Gmail.)

With that said, I’ve used this strategy for two years now, and it has worked more than 90% of the time. Follow these simple steps and you, too, can contact the inspiring professionals you’ve been dying to connect with.

Your first task is to download Rapportive, an extension that shows you everything you need to know about your contacts. Once it’s downloaded, you can start guessing possible formats for the contact’s email address.

To do this, you only have to know the contact’s full name and company domain. With this information, you can arrange (and re-arrange) these elements until you find a real email address.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re trying to connect with Kevin Systrom, CEO and co-founder of Instagram.

Here are some potential arrangements for his email. (Pro tip: The larger the company, the higher the chances that the email will use both the first and last name.)

  • kevin@instagram.com
  • kevins@instagram.com
  • ksystrom@instagram.com
  • kevinsystrom@instagram.com
  • kevin.systrom@instagram.com
  • k.systrom@instagram.com

With these guesses in mind, you can start the verification process. Open up a new message in Gmail, and insert a potential email address in the recipient slot. If your contact’s LinkedIn profile shows up to the right—congratulations! The email you guessed is active, and you can move on to messaging him or her.

kevin-systrom-email
Kat Moon—The Muse

And how can you tell if you’ve inserted an incorrect email? Let’s suppose that I guessed ksystrom@instagram.com and pasted that in. As you can see in the below image, nothing appeared in Rapportive—meaning I can eliminate that address from my list.

email-error
Kat Moon—The Muse

Now, not every company’s domain is as straightforward as @instagram.com. If you can’t verify a contact’s email after trying different first and last name arrangements, it’s possible that you don’t have the correct company domain.

When this happens, I go to CrunchBase—the world’s most comprehensive dataset of company activity, covering every organization from Microsoft and Amazon to the newest startups. CrunchBase gives you the most updated domain of whichever company your contact works at. For instance, I had to contact the founder of London-based startup Deliveroo. All of my email guesses ended with @deliveroo.com, but CrunchBase showed me the company domain is actually @deliveroo.co.uk. Sure enough, I verified the correct contact information moments later.

Guess and verify with Rapportive—it’s really as simple as that! Once you have an inspiring professional’s email, be bold and reach out. But before shooting off your message, check out my piece on effective elements that will increase the chances of your cold email getting a reply. No, you probably won’t receive a response for every single email you send. But you know what they say—you’ll never know until you try.

This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article above was originally published on The Muse.

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TIME eBay

The 1 Unexpected Trick to Selling Your Stuff on Ebay

eBay
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images The ebay Inc. logo and website are arranged for a photograph in Tiskilwa, Illinois, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015.

Using eBay's mobile app can save you time while you still make big bucks

It’s that time of year again. Folding tables are sprouting up in driveways all over the U.S., because yard sale season has arrived once more. But selling your old junk on the side of the road is no way to maximize your returns — that’s best done online. And when it comes to second-hand sales, eBay is still first-rate in a crowded marketplace of e-commerce sites.

“EBay is great to sell used products, one-of-a kind items, antiques, or items that are broken,” says Jordan Malik, author of The Free eBay Products Worth Thousands That You Can Sell Today.

Wait, broken items? Yes indeed — even your junk can rake in dough online, says the award-winning Amazon merchant who’s also been selling on eBay for more than 15 years. “Believe it or not, there’s a huge marketplace for broken electronics for spare parts,” says Malik.

But there’s one key difference between power-sellers like Malik and poor packrats like the rest of us: they don’t hesitate when posting a product for sale.

“People are hesitant to use eBay because of the complexity of putting up a product,” says Malik, adding that sitting down at a computer, picking out a design template, and typing up snappy copy can be a drag. Instead, Malik uses eBay’s mobile app to advertise his goods for sale. “That has made it so much easier to take a photo and list a product,” he says. “They really dumbed down the process.”

The popularity of eBay’s app is changing the game for sellers like Malik. Last year, sales from mobile devices accounted for around one-fifth of the e-commerce site’s total. And, crucially, eBay’s mobile users don’t see the bolded fonts or color-shaded listings that desktop buyers do. That’s why Malik doesn’t bother with these window-dressing details.

“They need to read a description and see the photos clearly to make the buying decision,” he says.

When selling his stuff, Malik uses his smartphone to take photos of the product, uploading the pictures through the eBay app where he also dictates a description of the gear using the voice-to-text feature. From the smartphone’s camera to its microphone, handheld technology has dramatically eliminated the barriers to posting products online.

“In five minutes or less, I’ve got the listing live,” he says. Malik admits that later on, he may fire up the laptop to edit or add more to the description, but that’s not necessary to closing a sale. “There’s plenty of people who just do mobile period and they do just fine,” he says.

As for what sells best on eBay, that’s similarly surprising. You might expect big ticket items in demand by everyone — like cellphones or electronics — to start bidding wars on the auction website. But Malik says niche products tend to sell just as well. For instance, if you have size 15 shoes, get them posted, because someone with big feet will likely come across your listing before they stroll up your front walk.

“If you have 20 used men’s shirts that are 18 1/2s with 35/36 sleeves, selling them together in a bundle will bring you a lot more than they will at a yard sale,” says Malik. And if you’re undecided about what’s more important — freeing yourself from clutter or weighing down your pockets with a chunk of change — this method will have you covered on both.

TIME Business

Why Abolishing Tipping Failed in 1950

TIME.com stock photos Money Dollar Bills
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad reported customers lacked the courage to kick the habit

The idea of putting an end to tipping has been gaining some traction the United States recently, with some restaurants deciding to ban the practice and restaurant experts also speaking up, especially as momentum builds for increasing the minimum that tipped servers would take home. But this isn’t the first time a business has tried to make that change.

For example, in the late 1940s, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad declared that tipping in its dining cars was “unworthy of American labor” and “an imposition on the customer.” But the change didn’t stick. In 1950, the company went back to the old way. It turned out that not tipping was just too darn awkward.

Here what happened, as TIME explained back then:

Waiters, though they got a raise, had proved incapable of purging their features of all hope. And most customers had been plain miserable —uncomfortable if they slipped a clandestine coin under a saucer, more uncomfortable if they didn’t. Said the C. & O. sternly: “Too many persons lack the courage to participate in an experiment that breaks with custom.”

Read more about the minimum-wage debate, here in TIME: The Real Meaning of $9 an Hour

MONEY inflation

3 Signs Inflation May Be Lurking Just Around the Corner

150312_INV_Inflation
Kutay Tanir—Getty Images

While consumer prices haven't been rising yet, several signs point to higher wages in the future. Here's what you should do.

After fits and starts and ups and downs, the American economy is finally looking strong — especially compared to Europe. U.S. gross domestic product grew 2.2% and 5% in the last two quarters of 2014, while the unemployment rate dropped in February to 5.5.%.

Yet inflation and wage growth, which are natural outgrowths of an accelerating economy, haven’t seemed to materialize.

At least not yet.

Despite years of unconventional bond buying and warnings from politicians and economists, consumer prices have actually risen less than the desired rate of the Federal Reserve.

The Consumer Price Index declined 0.7% in January, the steepest drop since 2008, thanks to cheap oil. If you strip out volatile energy and food prices, so-called core inflation only rose 1.6% in January over the past year, well below the Fed’s 2% target.

In fact, prices haven’t hit that Fed target in almost two years. Your paycheck has hardly fared any better.

But lately, there have been signs that show America’s workforce might at long last receive an overdue raise. About 70% of companies have said that wages are beginning to outpace inflation, according to the latest Duke University/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook Survey. Industries like technology, manufacturing and health care should see wages grow by 3%.

A small business report points to a tighter labor force, as 26% of companies raised compensation (although that includes benefits like health care), and almost half said finding a qualified employee proved difficult.

What’s more, the 10-year break-even inflation rate, which is a gauge of how much prices are expected to rise annually over the next decade based in part on the yield of 10-year Treasury inflation protected securities — has been ticking up lately to about 1.8%, after touching a recent floor of 1.5% in the beginning of the year. The rate, to be fair, is still well below levels seen before oil’s drop.

So is inflation and wage growth finally set to take off?

That’s a question for Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who has said the Fed will remain “patient” when raising short term interest rates while price growth remains so benign.

This six-year herky-jerky recovery has made fools of many prognosticators, especially those who have shouted loudly that inflation is nigh. “Given that CFOs expect continued strong employment growth, it is surprising that wage pressures are not even great,” says Duke finance professor John Graham. Indeed.

What does this mean for your portfolio?

Well, one option is to add to your Treasury Inflation-Protection Securities (TIPS) holdings, especially short-term TIPS if you’re a conservative investor (though this should still be only a satellite portion of your investments).

TIPS have struggled recently after outperforming equities by 11 percentage points in 2011, and investors have started to put their money elsewhere.

But the best time to get inflation protection is when there’s little fear of rising consumer prices — and when inflation-protected bonds are cheap, like now. For instance, the Vanguard Target Retirement 2015 fund currently allocates about 8% of its portfolio to short-term inflation protection.

MONEY Jobs

Employers Add 295,000 Jobs as Economy Keeps Rolling

Amid signs of turmoil overseas, the U.S. economy keeps chugging along.

The U.S. economy gained 295,000 jobs in February, the 12th consecutive month employers added more than 200,000 to their payrolls. Meanwhile the unemployment rate dropped to 5.5%.

This is yet another sign of an improving — or what economists would call a “tightening” — labor market.

The rate at which workers are quitting their jobs has risen near levels not seen since before the 2007-2009 recession, implying that workers are feeling more secure that better opportunities lie ahead.

The number of unemployed workers who’ve been out of work 27 weeks or longer, while still high, is 31.1%, compared with 36.8% a year ago. Average hourly earnings grew by 0.1% last month, after rising 0.5% in January. Wages are up 2% over this time 12 months ago. That’s being be read by many analysts as a relatively sluggish number.

That last bit is important. While the labor market has been improving for more than a year, wage growth has disappointed. That in turn has kept a lid on inflation, which is one of the main reasons why interest rates have been next to nothing since the Great Recession and why the Fed, even now, will be “patient” in raising the cost of borrowing.

Even so “labor tightness is showing up in several high-profile labor disputes,” notes BMO chief investment officer Jack Ablin.

Recent anecdotal evidence points to workers having more power in their dealings with management — take striking port and refinery workers and pay raises for Wal-Mart and TJ Maxx employees. And the economy is still plugging along: an index that gauges non-manufacturing business rose a bit last month despite the headwinds from West Coast port strikes. “It was a miracle that the ISM non-manufacturing index managed to tick up for the second month in a row,” says Gluskin Sheff chief economist David Rosenberg.

Americans are feeling more confident about their finances, too. In the first three months of this year, the Wells Fargo/ Gallup Investor and Retirement Optimism Index jumped to its highest level since 2007. (Thank cheap gas prices.)

Wells Fargo Securities senior economist Sam Bullard believes the economy will continue to add workers this year at a clip of 224,000 per month.

“If realized, this strength in hiring would be enough to continue to pressure the unemployment rate lower and should result in a higher pace of wage growth–all supportive to a Fed tightening move in the coming months,” Bullard says.

MONEY

25 Ways to Get Smarter About Money Right Now

150212_RET_SMARTER_LEDE
John Lund—Getty Images

Small steps that can make a big difference.

Retirement planning is serious business that requires diligence and patience. But a quick tip, or even an irreverent one, can sometimes be helpful, too. Here are 25 observations from my 30 years of writing about retirement and investing that may spur you to plan more effectively (or to start planning if you’ve been putting it off).

1. If you’re not sure whether you’re saving enough for retirement, you probably aren’t. You can find out for sure pretty easily, though, by going to this Am I Saving Enough? tool.

2. There’s an easy way not to outlive your money: die early. But I think most people would agree that coming up with a realistic and flexible retirement income plan is a more reasonable way to go.

3. If your primary rationale for doing a Roth 401(k) or Roth IRA instead of a traditional version is that “tax free is always better than tax-deferred,” you need to read this story before doing anything.

4. Some people put more thought into whether to have fries with their Big Mac than deciding when to claim Social Security benefits. Unfortunately, giving short shrift to that decision may put those same people at greater risk of having to work behind a fast-food counter late in life to maintain their standard of living.

5. Yes, stocks are risky. But if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be able to generate the high long-term returns that can help you build a sizeable nest egg without devoting a third or more of your income to saving.

6. Just because the mere thought of an immediate annuity makes your eyes glaze over doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider one for your post-career portfolio. When it comes to retirement income, boring can be beautiful.

7. What do rebalancing your retirement portfolio and flossing have in common? We know we ought to make both part of our normal routine, but many people don’t get around to either as regularly as they should.

8. Lots of people (especially in the media) complain that we’d all be better off if companies would just go back to giving workers check-a-month retirement pensions instead of 401(k) plans. But that’s not gonna happen. So focus your efforts on how to maximize your 401(k) or other savings plan.

9. Target-date funds’ stock-bond allocations can’t match your risk tolerance exactly. But guess what? You don’t need an exact match to invest successfully for retirement. And for most people an inexact target-date portfolio is a lot better than anything they’d build on their own.

10. A really smart fund manager can beat an index fund. Problem is, there’s no way to tell in advance whether a manager is one of the handful who’s truly smart or one of the many who look smart but are just lucky or having a few good years. That’s why you’re better off going with index funds in your retirement portfolio.

11. Your employer’s 401(k) match isn’t really “free.” It’s part of your compensation. Which makes it all the more puzzling why anyone wouldn’t contribute at least enough to his 401(k) to get the full company match.

12. Investing in a fund with high fees is like betting on a racehorse being ridden by a fat jockey. Sure, the horse could still be good enough to win. But do you want to put money on it? A low-cost fund effectively allows you to boost your savings rate and gives you a better shot at building an adequate nest egg and making it last throughout retirement.

13. Every time you move to a new house or apartment do you leave all your furniture and other possessions behind? Then why do so many people fail to consolidate their old 401ks into their current plan or a rollover IRA? (Okay, if the old plan’s investing options are unmatchable, that’s a reason. But seriously, how often is that the case?)

14. A reverse mortgage can be a good option to supplement retirement income if your other resources are coming up short. But be sure to consider a trade-down as well. In fact, you may be able to trade down and then do a reverse mortgage in the future.

15. No rule of thumb can be a substitute for detailed retirement planning. But some rules of thumb are better than no planning at all. And going with a rule of thumb may at least help you get on track toward a secure retirement until you decide to get more serious about your planning.

16. Many people are skittish about investing in bonds these days because they’re worried they’ll get clobbered when interest rates rise. But you know what? Pundits have been predicting bond Armageddon for years and it hasn’t happened. Besides, as this research shows, even at today’s low yields bonds remain an effective way to hedge equity risks and diversify your portfolio.

17. People peddling high-cost variable annuities know that retirement investors love the word “guaranteed.” Which is why as soon as you hear that alluring word, you should ask what, exactly, is being guaranteed and who is doing the guaranteeing? Then ask how much you’re paying for that guarantee and what you’re giving up for it. The answers may surprise and enlighten you.

18. No retirement calculator can truly tell you whether you’re on track for a secure retirement because no tool can fully reflect the uncertainty and complexity of real life. Of course, the same goes for the most sophisticated software and human advisers, too. The reason to fire up a good retirement calculator isn’t to come away with a projection that’s 100% accurate. It’s to get a sense of whether you’re on the right course and see how different moves might improve your prospects.

19. You don’t have to be a financial wiz to invest successfully for retirement. But understanding a few basic principles can improve your investing results. Try this investing quiz to see how much you know.

20. Getting fleeced by an unscrupulous adviser or ravaged by a severe bear market can certainly wreak havoc on your retirement plans. But for most people it’s basic lapses in investing and planning that diminish their retirement prospects the most.

21. Many experts say the 4% rule is broken, that it no longer works in today’s low-return world. Fact is, the 4% rule was never all it was cracked up to be. To avoid running out of money in retirement, plug your spending, income, and investing info into a retirement income calculator capable of assessing the probability that your money will last—then repeat the process every year or so to see if you need to adjust your spending.

22. Diversifying your portfolio can lower risk and boost returns. But if you try to get too fancy and stuff your portfolio with investments from every obscure corner of the market and all manner of arcane ETFs, you may end up di-worse-ifying rather than diversifying.

23. Many retirees pour their savings into “income investments” like dividend stocks and high-yield bonds when they want to turn their savings into reliable income. But such a focus can be dangerous. A better way to go: create a low-cost diversified portfolio that generates both income and growth, and then get the income you need from interest, dividends, and periodic sales of fund or ETF shares.

24. The next time wild swings in the market give you the jitters, don’t look to bail out of stocks and huddle in bonds or cash. Market timing doesn’t work. Instead, do this 15-minute Portfolio Check-Up, and then take these 3 Simple Steps to Crash-Proof Your Portfolio.

25. Financial security is definitely important, but retirement satisfaction isn’t just a question of money. Lifestyle matters, too. Among the lifestyle factors that make for a happier post-career life: maintaining your health, staying active and engaged through occasional work or volunteering, cultivating a circle of friends…and, yes, regular sex.

Walter Updegrave is the editor of RealDealRetirement.com. If you have a question on retirement or investing that you would like Walter to answer online, send it to him at walter@realdealretirement.com.

More from RealDealRetirement.com:

Social Security: Your 3 Most Pressing Questions Answered

5 Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Financial Adviser

How To Tell If You Can Afford To Retire Early

 

 

 

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