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Originally published Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 8:00 PM

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The Motley Fool: Every Sunday, useful tips on investing


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Q: Can you explain what target-date funds are, and if they’re good investments?

A: Target-date funds are sometimes referred to as “life-cycle” funds. Relatively new, they’re designed to simplify your financial life.

Each fund is focused on a particular year when shareholders would be expected to retire, and its asset allocation is adjusted over time as retirement approaches.

If you plan to retire around 2030, for example, you might buy into a 2030 fund from Vanguard, T. Rowe Price, Fidelity or many other companies.

It will likely be invested largely in stocks and some bonds, and over time it will decrease its stock holdings and add more bonds for you.

They’re not all the same, though. Fees vary widely, and even among funds targeting the same year, holdings and performance vary, too.

So do your research before buying, knowing that you’re not restricted by your age. You might plan to retire in 2020, but a 2025 fund might have the kind of stock-bond mix you prefer.

Keep your big picture in mind, too. You might invest $20,000 in a target-date fund with a 90-10 stock-bond ratio, but if you hold $100,000 in bonds separately and your retirement is 25 years away, your overall asset allocation might not be what you want or need it to be.

Q: Is there any silver lining to inflation?

A: Yes. Imagine locking in a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Inflation will make the dollar value of your payments worth less over time.

You might be earning $50,000 now and paying $1,000 monthly, but in 15 years, if inflation-driven raises have you earning $80,000, that $1,000 payment will represent a much smaller chunk of your income.

Dear Fool: My dumbest investment move was listening to Marc Faber, who predicted a market plunge.

The Fool responds: Some pundits and financial prognosticators are known for their sunny dispositions, while others, such as Dr. Faber, are more associated with gloom and doom.

Each side can claim vindication when the market does what they predicted, but it often goes the other way, and you rarely hear about that.

There are many folks suggesting they know what the market will do in the next few months or years, but no one knows or can know.

What we do know is that over long periods of time, the market has gone up, but never in a straight line.

There will always be occasional hiccups and drops, and each will have been predicted by one or more experts (who got other predictions wrong).

As long as you have plenty of investing years (or decades) ahead of you, consider just investing for the long haul in strong and growing companies, and staying the course during downturns.

A simple broad-market index fund can serve you well, too, roughly matching the market’s returns.

Coke is one of the most dominant and valuable trademarks on Earth, likely to prosper for decades to come.

But Coca-Cola’s (NYSE: KO) sweetened carbonated beverages are losing their fizz a bit, as consumers seek healthier alternatives.

The company has been aiming to revitalize sales with bottled juices, waters, energy drinks, coffees and teas, and it has a bigger plan, too.

In 2010, Coca-Cola laid out its “2020 Vision” for the next decade, aiming to double revenue, raise profit margins and increase its total number of global servings to 3 billion per day (from nearly 2 billion recently). The goals are ambitious but not impossible.

Factors in its favor include a growing global middle class, increasingly able to afford beverage treats.

It also sports massive brand power, with $16 billion brands to its name, such as Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Coca-Cola Zero, vitaminwater, Powerade, Minute Maid and Simply.

Brand strength leads to pricing strength. Coca-Cola is also forging strategic partnerships, such as its 10 percent stake in the maker of Keurig machines, which can boost its presence in households.

Shares of Coca-Cola have a decent chance of growing at a solid clip in coming years.

But even if growth stalls, the global powerhouse will still be a generous income provider, via its dividend that recently yielded 3.1 percent.



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