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Mutual fund investors want simpler, shorter prospectuses, says a new survey on habits of fund buyers. Liberty Financial's "Investor Realty Check" survey found that 74 percent of the investors said they would actually read a prospectus if the documents were simplified.

Other findings by the Boston-based financial company:

Investors consider themselves moderate or conservative fund buyers, with only 11 percent describing themselves aggressive.

52 percent of fund owners expect to use the Internet and on-line technology to get investment data.

46 percent of investors pay attention to performance of funds more than any other factor when responding to ads.

Consider your mortality

Will you please make a will?

According to Lippes, Silverstein, Mathias & Wexler, a Buffalo law firm, three in 10 Americans who die each year do so without a written document explaining how to parcel out their holdings. The firm says a will is probably one of the most important legal documents that property owners or parents with minor children will draw up during their lifetime.

A person who dies without a will has no say over how his or her property is distributed or who will become guardians of the children. It would be up to courts and judges who know nothing about the deceased.

It's the taxes, stupid

Investors spend billions of dollars on advice, but few know what they get, says Dalbar Inc., a Boston-based research firm.

Dalbar surveyed 4,000 households and asked what they expected of their personal financial adviser. They found investors generally want education about finances and investing more than they want to make money and they want to figure out how to beat the tax man.

The findings show:

80 percent want a financial adviser to cut their tax bill.

70 percent want an adviser to provide the highest returns from their portfolio.

64 percent want someone to help them write a financial plan.

58 percent want advice on how to change their investment strategy.

Be cautious with online trading

Trading on line is mainly for the savvy, says the Institute of Certified Financial Planners.

Sure, it's easier than going down to the local broker's office and monitoring the electronic ticker. But be wary about using your personal computer to buy or sell because trading on line means trading on your own.

Here are some pitfalls:

Is Internet trading secure? The Internet is accessible to invasion of privacy, although some scrambling processes are available.

Many brokerage firms offering online trading limit their product offerings. Some, for example, don't allow futures trading or the purchase of no-load mutual funds, annuities, or certificates of deposit.

Still online trading is popular. One major discount firm reported that 35 percent of its trades are on line and another reported that 20 percent are, the institute reports.

Financial planners to the rescue

Many Americans are combating tangled finances or struggling to create simple budgets. The Institute of Certified Financial Planners is willing to help, for free.

The institute's Consumer Referral Line offers names of planners who can help you take an accounting of your financial situation. The institute also offers a new brochure, "Taking a Fiscal Inventory: How to Put Your Financial House in Order."

The names of planners in your region and the brochure is available by calling (800) 282-PLAN.

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