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Investing Specialists

Looking Ahead: Your Fourth-Quarter Financial To-Do List

A strong run for equities and expiring tax rates should light a fire under many investors.

Coming into this year, true bulls were few and far between. The European debt crisis was in full swing, the U.S. economy was no great shakes itself, and emerging markets--long considered the engines that would propel global growth in the future--appeared to be slowing down. After the market posted meager gains in 2011, many Wall Street analysts were predicting more of the same in 2012; 16 analysts surveyed at the start of this year predicted average gains of 8% for the S&P 500 in 2012.

Notwithstanding a recent hiccup, stocks have surprised on the upside: Through late September, the S&P has doubled those analysts' predictions, and bonds and foreign stocks have been decent, too. Given that runup, it's a decent time to take stock of where your portfolio is today. And this year, it's particularly important to conduct your year-end checkup before the year is actually over. That's because a host of tax changes are set to go into effect next year that might have an impact on your investment portfolio, and acting preemptively could save you some money.

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