The Best of Everything 2011 - Slide Show
Slide Show

The Best of Everything 2011

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Want to know which cars are most energy-efficient? We’ve got a lineup in every price range. Need to find the best place to shop for health insurance? We’ve got it covered. Or how about the best exchange-traded fund if you’re looking for dividends? That's on our list, too.

Our annual awards choose the standouts in stocks, funds, credit cards, travel, tech, apps and cars. We picked the brains of our staff experts to find out which products and resources they swear by. Click through our slide show to see what made the best list this year.
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Best Cash-Back Credit Card: Chase Freedom Card

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The no-annual-fee Chase Freedom card sweetens its 1% reward on all purchases with an additional 4% rebate for every dollar, up to $1,500, that is spent on certain categories (such as charity and dining), which change quarterly. If you charge $20,000 a year, you could earn $440.
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Best Rewards-Points Card: Citi ThankYou Preferred Card

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With Citi's no-fee card you receive five points per dollar spent at drugstores, supermarkets and gas stations, and one point on everything else, for the first year. After that, you’ll earn one point per dollar spent. Points earn discounts on travel and merchandise or can reduce your monthly balance.
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Best Low-Interest Card: Citizens Trust Bank Visa Gold Card

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Not only does this Visa Gold card come with a 7.25% variable interest rate, but it has no annual fee and does not charge a foreign currency transaction fee if you use it abroad. Transferring a balance is free. You will earn one rewards point per dollar spent. Points are good for travel or merchandise.
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Best Credit Card for Travel: PenFed Premium Travel Rewards

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Avoid foreign-currency conversion fees with PenFed Premium Travel's no-fee card. Also, you’ll earn five points for every dollar spent on airline purchases and one point on everything else. You must join the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, but a $20 donation to the National Military Family Association gets you in.
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Best Podcast: Freakonomics

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Freakonomics, the podcast, explores themes from parenting to hitchhiking using clever economic analysis and expert interviews. Hosts Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt keep the show fast and fun. Download on iTunes or at Freakonomics' site.
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Best Economy Blog: SimoleonSense.com

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Feed your brain cutting-edge articles on wealth with the SimoleonSense.com blog. Hedge-fund analyst Miguel Barbosa links to pieces on investor psychology, education, economics -- the list is long and often surprising.
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Best Investing Blog: Dr. Ed's Blog

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Economist Ed Yardeni’s blog is a good first stop each morning for the lowdown on the Fed, the markets and our dysfunctional government. Dr. Ed’s witty delivery helps the medicine go down -- plus, he does movie reviews.
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Best Market Newsletter: InvesTech

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Market letter publisher James Stack isn’t one to be blinded by periodic market manias, and he hews to a “safety first” philosophy. His base in Montana, far from Wall Street, helps, too. A subscription costs $295 a year.
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Best Fund Newsletter: No-Load Fund Analyst

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For sheer depth of information, you can’t top No-Load Fund Analyst ($600 a year). Editor Stephen Savage fills issues with in-depth fund profiles, market analysis and interviews with fund managers. Hulbert Financial Digest says its stock-oriented portfolio returned 4.0% annualized over the past ten years through September 30.
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Best Investing App: Bloomberg

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If you invest in a wide range of assets and depend on financial news, you’ll love the Bloomberg app. It provides real-time quotes for stocks and major stock indexes, government bonds, commodities and currencies worldwide.

But more important, it gives you the same breaking economic and financial news that Bloomberg’s worldwide team of journalists produces for the Bloomberg Web site. And with a manageable list of categories, the app is easy to navigate.
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Best Investing App: Morningstar

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Morningstar's free app gives all the basic data on a stock, plus its proprietary Morningstar rating, a snapshot of the company’s financial health, and what the bulls and bears are saying about it. Plus, you’ll get weekly updates of Morningstar’s top-rated mutual funds, stocks and ETFs. Pay $185 a year for the premium service and get full reports on funds and stocks.
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Best Foreign Stock: Accenture

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The CEO of Accenture (symbol ACN) is French, the company is based in Ireland, and the employees—experts in information technology, management and government operations—are spread among 53 nations. Accenture sits on $5.7 billion in cash, has low debt plus a terrific ten-year annualized return of 16.3%.
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Best Dividend-Paying Stock: Chevron

Coolcaesar & en.Wikipedia

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Chevron (CVX) is a cash machine disguised as an oil-and-gas conglomerate. It has paid a dividend every year since 1912 and should boost that dividend at an 8% annual clip through 2016. Chevron has sold some of its less-profitable refining assets and expects its energy-production to grow significantly starting in 2014.
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Best Growth Stock: Express Scripts

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Pharmacy-benefit manager Express Scripts (ESRX) is positioned for gangbuster growth thanks to an aging population and increasing drug sales. Earnings for the company, which also owns 60,000 pharmacies, have increased 28.4% annualized for the past five years and are projected to grow 17.3% a year for the next five years.
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Best Fund for Dividends: Vanguard Dividend Growth

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No matter how the market moves, manager Don Kilbride sticks to his investing approach at Vanguard Dividend Growth (VDIGX). He hunts down undervalued companies with growing dividends, producing what he calls a high-quality portfolio that currently delivers a 2% yield. This year, that quality helped keep the fund even through October 7, despite the lashing that pulled the S&P 500 down 6.7%.
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Best Low-Minimum Fund: Amana Trust Income

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If you’re looking to tap into the stock market with a low-minimum, top-quality fund, invest in Amana Trust Income (AMANX).

This large-company stock fund requires a minimum investment of $250, or just $100 if it’s in a retirement account. Each additional investment can be as low as $25. That hasn’t hurt its performance: It gained 4.2% annualized over five years, which beat the S&P 500 by an average of 5 percentage points per year.
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Best One-Stop Fund: Vanguard Wellington

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A fund that offers both growth and relative safety with stocks and bonds in a single portfolio can be a tonic in a tumbling market. Over the past ten years, the venerable Vanguard Wellington (VWELX) gained an annualized 6.0%, outpacing 96% of its balanced-fund peers.

But more important, the fund shed just 11.9% from late April to October 3, while the broader market dropped 13.5%. Wellington has a 2.9% yield.
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Best Comeback Fund: Fidelity Magellan

Margaret Lampert

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Fidelity Magellan (FMAGX) has had its ups and downs since storied manager Peter Lynch retired in 1990. But since early 2000, when assets peaked at $100 billion, the fund has been particularly uninspiring. Today it holds just $13 billion.

But it shows promise again now that Jeffrey Feingold (pictured at left) has assumed the reins. He manages four other Fidelity funds, including Trend (FTRNX), which has handily beaten its benchmark during Feingold’s nearly five-year tenure.
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Best Contrarian Investment: Europe's Blue Chips

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The European debt crisis has turned euro-zone markets upside-down this year. But the selloff is a classic overreaction, with great companies selling at cheap prices. Take advantage with Vanguard MSCI Europe (VGK), an inexpensive exchange-traded fund that follows an index of large companies.
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Best Commodities ETF: Greenhaven Continuous Commodity Index

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Greenhaven Continuous Commodity Index (GCC) gives you broad exposure to commodities, so it’s a good inflation hedge that doesn’t track the movements of stocks and bonds. With 0.85% in annual expenses, it isn’t cheap, but it scored gains of 25.4% in 2010 and 19.6% in 2009. Year-to-date it’s down 6.6%; it's three-year annualized return is 6.4%.
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Best ETF for Dividends: SPDR S&P Dividend ETF

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Blue-chip stocks are a good bet now, and those with high and rising dividends are better. SPDR S&P Dividend ETF (SDY) tracks S&P’s high-yield aristocrats, which means companies that have raised their dividends for 25 or more straight years. The fund yields 3.6% and is well diversified. It's three-year annualized return is 8.3%.
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Best Emerging Markets ETF: WisdomTree Emerging Markets SmallCap Dividend

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Two factors make WisdomTree Emerging Markets SmallCap Dividend (DGS) riskier than most: small companies and emerging markets. The risk is moderated by the dividends the companies pay, which make the fund less volatile. Annualized return since its October 2007 inception: 8.7%. Yield: 6.9%. Three-year annualized: 16.4%.
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Best Muni Bond ETF: Market Vectors Indermediate Muni Index

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In a crowded field of good municipal bond ETFs, Market Vectors Indermediate Muni Index (ITM) offers a bit of extra income and slightly lower costs than other tax-free ETFs. It offers high quality, too: The average bond is rated double-A. Current yield: 3.0%. Three-year annualized: 7.9%.
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Best No-Fee Checking Account: Schwab High Yield Investor Checking

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You can open the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account with as little as $1 and earn 0.20% interest. You’ll get free checks and you’ll be reimbursed for all ATM fees. You must open a Schwab One brokerage account to qualify, but there is no minimum-balance requirement.
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Best Money Market Account: Sallie Mae Money Market

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The Sallie Mae Money Market account has no minimum or monthly fee and earns 1.1%. Check writing is available, although you are limited to six withdrawals a month. Mobile banking lets you check balances, pay bills and transfer funds.
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Best Value College-Savings Plan: State Plans

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Your own state plan is best if you get a tax break. (Residents of Arizona, Kansas, Maine, Missouri and Pennsylvania get a tax break for contributing to any state plan.)
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Best College-Savings Plan for Fund Selection: Nebraska Educational

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The Nebraska Educational Savings Trust offers a selection of 14 individual funds from Fidelity, Pimco, T. Rowe Price, State Street and Vanguard.
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Best Low-Fee College-Savings Plan: Utah Educational Savings Plan

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Vanguard index-fund portfolios are available in the Utah Educational Savings Plan. Total asset-based fees for Utah’s index portfolios are 0.18% to 0.26% annually.
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Best Roth IRA for Kids: Scottrade

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Any child who earns income from a job—whether by mowing lawns or flipping burgers—is eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA, regardless of age. It’s a powerful tool that can leverage small contributions and decades of growth into a sizable stash of tax-free money in retirement—or the contributions can help pay for college or become a down payment on a house.

Scottrade has a Roth IRA with no minimum-balance requirement or annual maintenance fee. You have until April 16, 2012, to open and fund a Roth IRA for 2011.
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Best Retirement Planning Calculator: Quickplan Retirement Calculator

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There are plenty of calculators that crunch the numbers to show how much your current savings and contributions will be worth later. But the Quickplan Retirement Calculator at E*Trade lets you choose the retirement lifestyle you’d like to lead—and tells you how much it will cost.

Choices range from an upscale dream retirement to a simpler, less costly life that may require compromises, such as a smaller house or part-time work. If your current savings plan comes up short, you can manipulate the assumptions in a variety of ways.
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Best Solo 401(k) Resource: 401kHelpCenter.com

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Sole proprietors with no employees other than a spouse can contribute up to $49,000 to a solo 401(k) retirement plan in 2011 ($54,500 if they are 50 or older) and deduct the contribution. To find a vendor to administer your plan, go to 401kHelpCenter.com.
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