45. Decide what type of investor you want to be. If you're like most people, you probably want to skip stock-picking and put your money in low-cost index funds. Create a diversified portfolio, with longer-term savings in more aggressive investments (such as an index fund that tracks the S&P 500) and shorter-term savings in safer spots such as money market funds.
46. Run some numbers. Most people fail to calculate exactly how much they're on track to save, or how much they'll need, in retirement. Check out the retirement calculators available through your financial institution (Fidelity, T.D. Ameritrade, Transamerica, and T. Rowe Price have them, among others) or use free calculators from Bankrate.com. Experiment with different rates of returns, inflation rates, tax rates, and lifetime expectancy, since no one can predict those factors with any accuracy.
47. Get a detailed home inspection before buying. Home inspections, it turns out, are much more limited than many first-time buyers realize. "The purpose of a home inspection is to look for material defects of a property—things that are unsafe, not working, or that create a hazard," explains Kurt Salomon, president of the American Society of Home Inspectors and an inspector based in Salt Lake City. Home buyers, however, "think we can see through walls and predict the future," he says. If you have specific concerns, such as pool safety or childproofing, consider working with a specialist before buying.
48. Start saving for college. The cost of college can be daunting, but several new strategies make it a little easier to manage. In addition to 529 college savings accounts, which allow parents to invest after-tax money that then grows tax-free, parents can also opt for prepaid tuition plans, which lock in prices today, as well as employer-sponsored college savings plans.
49. Pass on money lessons. Many parents say they feel more comfortable talking about drugs and sex than money. But children learn a lot from their parents' financial habits, often by example. Parents can turn to websites such as Mymoney.gov, AmericaSaves.org, ING Direct's Planet Orange, and SchwabMoneyWise.com for help.
50. Give a smart allowance. Alisa T. Weinstein, author of Earn It, Learn It: Teach Your Child the Value of Money, Work, and Time Well Spent, suggests teaching children to work for their money—in a fun way. She suggests connecting the allowance with tasks related to various careers, such as being a travel agent or chef. Travel-agent tasks include reporting on a destination in an appealing way, creating a brochure, and for older children, calculating exchange rates. "This way, the child is making the connection between effort and money, and the feeling that you worked hard for something. If you can capture that, then you're much more likely to have a child who grows up and can find emotional and financial fulfillment in their careers," says Weinstein.
Do you have other 2012 tips to add to the list? Please share them below.