From the Editor


How to Build 'Team You'

Janet Bodnar

Our writers know a thing or two about going to knowledgeable sources they—and you—can trust.



When it comes to finding a good auto mechanic, contractor, plumber or any other service provider, nothing beats getting a recommendation from someone you trust. In fact, tapping the well of knowledgeable sources is a theme that runs through our story on picking your financial dream team. Writing a story like this is always tough because finding the right person depends on where you live and your personal preferences. And we didn’t have room to include all the colorful and creative strategies our own staff members used to find key people they can count on, so I’ll fill you in on a few.

When one of our editors was searching for a contractor, her spouse boldly knocked on the door of a neighbor whose home renovation he admired—only to be met with a “growling, teeth-baring German shepherd and the lady of the house,” who didn’t seem happy to see him, either. But he got the name of the contractor, who turned into “our go-to remodeler for the past 15 years.”

Several editors chipped in with hints on how to find a good auto mechanic. “When we moved here 27 years ago, we had the idea to call the local cab company and ask for a recommendation,” explains one colleague. “The dispatcher said he took his car to Murray’s, and we’ve been going to Murray’s ever since.” Make friends with a neighborhood gas station owner, advises another staff member. “I feel he always levels with me, and he helped me out of a scrape when I had a dead battery.” One of our editors has even used homemade brownies to ingratiate himself with his mechanic.

To find a painter, our housing writer went to a local Benjamin Moore store and asked for a referral. And here’s a hint from our resident handyman: “Never trust the guy walking down the street with a chainsaw who asks if you want your tree cut down.”

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Personal touch. When reporting a story, our writers also know a thing or two about going to knowledgeable sources they—and you—can trust. Personal experience played a key role in choosing funds for the Kiplinger 25, the annual list of our favorite mutual funds. One of the most heated debates between investing editor Manny Schiffres and senior associate editor Nellie Huang was over whether to replace Dodge & Cox Stock, which has trailed the market in four of the past five full calendar years. Manny argued that the fund has had down periods before and come back strong. And he says that when he visited the fund in San Francisco last fall, he came away impressed that its managers “stick to their knitting” as value investors. Verdict: D&C stays.

Nellie’s experience was decisive in adding Homestead Small-Company Stock to the list: “It consistently turned up in my fund screens for things like attractive returns and low minimum investments.” And she was struck by the fund’s own personal touch—managers make it a point to visit “tiny companies you never heard of.”

On the other hand, Primecap Odyssey Growth was dropped from the list because its managers rarely talk to the press, and they didn’t take the time to answer our phone calls. Overall, we replaced five funds this year, which is about average. We keep turnover low to avoid what’s trendy and focus on funds you can buy and hold.

Think of it as building a mutual fund dream team—or finding a mechanic you can trust.

P.S. Is the Securities and Exchange Commission in your corner? Read our exclusive interview with chairman Mary Schapiro.



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