50 Power moves to improve your life: sure-fire ways to advance your finances, career, small business and lifestyle.

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Money

  1. Make sure your investment portfolio has exposure to emerging markets.

    Some of the best-performing emerging markets mutual over the last 10 according to Morningstar, include the Delaware Emerging Markets fund (DEMAX), JP Morgan Emerging Markets Equity (JFAMX), and Oppenheimer Developing Markets (ODMAX). Experts recommend that no more than 10% of your portfolio's assets be invested in these vehicles.

  2. When applying for a mortgage, consider working with a small mortgage banker as opposed to a mortgage broker.

    Smaller mortgage bankers can actually get better pricing on loans--sometimes as much as a quarter to half a point--than brokers.

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  3. If you get a pay raise this year, use the extra money to strengthen your financial position--even if it's just a 2% or 3% cost-of-living increase.

    Set it aside in an emergency savings fund, pay off some personal debts, or commit the cash to your retirement account.

  4. Have a professional prepare your taxes this season if you're self-employed, inherited some money, purchased a house (primary or rental), had a child, or experienced some other major life change in 2010.

    An expert can save you anywhere between five and 10 times what you pay them for their work. If, for instance, you spend $500 on tax preparation, you could slice $2,500 to $5,000 from your tax bill.

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  5. Here's a high-octane stock tip: Analysts are projecting that the global auto industry is about to experience a resurgence.

    Two companies whose stocks are likely to benefit from increasing auto sales around the globe are Tenneco Inc. (TEN), manufacturer of auto emission control products and ride control systems for carmakers, and American Axle 6 Manufacturing Holdings Inc. (AXL), which makes car axles, drivetrain systems, chassis modules, and other major components for all types of autos.

  6. Always negotiate to get the best deal.

    When buying big-ticket items such as a car or home, put your negotiating skills to work. Be your own advocate and target a price that will leave more money in your pocket (See "How to Negotiate a Great Deal on a New Car," in this issue).

  7. Check your financial statements.

    Keeping an eye on billing statements and regularly checking your credit report can help you spot identity theft early on.

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  8. Use cash whenever possible.

    Paying for items in cash will make you think twice about how much you're spending. Shoppers who use cash tend to spend less.

  9. Know when to shop.

    Retailers offer deep discounts on certain items during specific months of the year. For example, the best time to buy a gas grill is during the winter months.

  10. Fight for your rights.

    If you feel that you've been treated unfairly as a consumer, know who to call. For example, if you believe you were treated inappropriately during a scanning or pat-down while traveling by airplane, contact the External Compliance Division of the Transportation Security Administration's Office of Civil Rights and Liberties.

    Small Biz

  11. Determine who needs or wants the product or service you offer.

    Identify your target audience and develop ways to engage and interact with them. Ask yourself questions to narrow down your prospective customer base. The narrower the definition, the more successful you will be. And don't stop with identifying your customer, but work to build a relationship and deliver a product/ service for which they come back repeatedly. Retaining customers is equally as important as attracting new ones. So ask their opinion on your product/service via printed or online surveys or through conversation.

  12. Make your customers/clients comfortable with you.

    They need to have a sense that you're credible and competent. If you don't meet this standard they're not going to want to go any further with you. The art of the sale is not a matter of convincing people to buy what you have, it's finding what they want and your ability to deliver.

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  13. Leverage social media and e-mail marketing.

    Social media and e-mail marketing are important tools as part of an overall balanced media mix for any type of business. It takes you where your customers are. Neither are magic bullets, but intelligently and diligently capturing customer data and maintaining a database is a good way to build a foundation for e-mail campaigns. And social media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, foursquare, etc.) is a good way to build a client/ fan base, as well as engage existing and new customers. To be effective, however, it must be continually monitored and updated as well as organic in approach.

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  14. Know what online resources are available to help you go global.

    Export.gov (www.export. gov) is a portal that aggregates resources from other government agencies to help entrepreneurs compete globally. Their services include market research, trade events, leads, and information on how to export. The Export-Import Bank of the United States (www.exim. gay)...

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