Personal Finance Q & A

Individual Approach To Joint Finances

Q How can I be less dependent on my spouse to manage money matters?

- J.H. Madison, Wis.

A Financial experts give you high marks for just asking the question. They also agree that your knowing more about money will benefit your spouse as well. A number of excellent books - usually written by women - address that subject head-on: "The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom," by Suze Orman (Crown, $23); "A Woman's Guide To Savvy Investing," (Amacom, $24.95.); and "Making The Most of Your Money," by Jane Bryant Quinn (Simon & Schuster, $30.)

There are also interesting Web sites: www.mfea.com (Mutual Fund Education Alliance; see the section for women) and www.aaii.com (American Association of Individual Investors).

Experts say you should have your own checking or savings account plus at least one bank card and department-store account. So if you need to apply for an emergency bank loan, you have an independent credit history.

You also need to know about your joint finances: mutual funds, brokerage accounts, insurance policies, etc. Know where all the documents are stored.

Q I have five actively managed mutual funds that have done well but nonetheless underperform the S&P 500 Index. Should I just switch into an index fund with its lower fees?

- R.G., Boothbay Harbor, Maine

A"Actually, there is a very strong argument for doing just that," says Lawrence Solomon, research director for "No-Load Fund Investor," Irvington-On-Hudson, N.Y. "In any given year, very few fund managers actually beat the indexes."

Solomon, however, suggests diversifying with funds tied to more than one index. That strategy may give you less volatility in a down market. Two possibilities are the Vanguard Total Index Fund (800-662-7447) and the Fidelity Spartan Total Market Index (800-544-8888.)

Questions about finances? Write:

Guy Halverson

The Christian Science Monitor

500 Fifth Ave., Suite 1845

New York, NY 10110

E-mail: halversong@csps.com

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