Q: How often should I review my stock holdings? - H.R., Adrian, Mich.

Q: How often should I review my stock holdings?

ó H.R., Adrian, Mich.

A: Ideally, follow the companies frequently ó perhaps every three months, when quarterly reports are issued. At that time, read through the report (the annual report is long, but quarterly reports are much briefer) and through past press releases, which you can usually find at company websites. With big, established, long-term holdings, you can get away with checking in less often. Younger, smaller outfits such as shoemaker Crocs are likely to fluctuate much more than blue chips such as General Electric. But even blue chips can have sharp moves.

Foolís school: Refinancing 101

The benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate is averaging 3.34 percent, remaining near its record low. If you havenít refinanced your mortgage yet, you might want to consider it before rates rise, as they eventually will. You might be able to save thousands of dollars.

Refinancing involves taking out a new mortgage on your home ó usually at a lower interest rate, and typically shrinking your payments. You also might opt for a shorter- or longer-term mortgage, resulting in somewhat higher (or lower) payments.

When you shop for a better deal than the one you have, assess the many mortgage costs involved, such as the origination fee, discount points, the appraisal, the credit report, processing, title insurance and the escrow fee. You can research available loans and interest rates at bankrate.com and other sites.

Consider what ďpoints,Ē if any, you might pay. A point is equal to 1 percent of the value of your loan. Points are paid upfront when you close the loan and basically permit you to buy a lower rate. They can make sense if you plan to keep the home and loan for many years.

If you can get a new mortgage at a rate thatís at least 1 percentage point lower than your current rate, you might reap enormous interest savings over 15 to

30 years, depending on how much you borrow.

In some refinancings, you can actually increase the amount of your loan by taking out extra funds ó perhaps to pay down credit-card debt or make home improvements. Be careful with this ď cash-outĒ tactic, though ó your valuable home equity will take a hit, and cash-out interest rates can be higher.

Know, too, that it has become harder since the subprime-lending crisis to get qualified for mortgages. Lenders, having made too many regrettable loans, are being pickier. Itís more important than ever to have or develop a solid credit rating. Pay your bills on time, and avoid excessive debt.

Learn more at www.fool.com/how-to-invest/personal-finance/home/index.aspx and www.bankrate.com/refinance.aspx.

Foolish trivia

I was founded a century ago by a guy named Leon Leonwood who wanted to sell Maine hunting shoes. Today, Iím a global enterprise, with annual sales of about $1.4 billion. My flagship store never closes and hasnít had locks on its doors since 1951. More than 11 million people visit my stores annually, and even more order from me online and via my many catalogs. Iím privately owned, so you canít buy stock in me. Iím known for my terrific customer service, and I donít charge for shipping on U.S. and Canadian orders. Who am I?

Last weekís trivia question: I was born in 1923 as a small yarn company in Boston, but today, Iím an international conglomerate based in Providence, R.I.

I employ more than 30,000 and rake in more than $11 billion annually. My wares include Bell helicopters, E-Z-GO golf carts, Jacobsen turf-care machines and Cessna planes. (I boast the largest business-jet fleet in the world.) Iím also very involved in telecommunication equipment and services, financial services, military vehicles and more. Some of my other brands include Kautex, Lycoming, AAI and Greenlee. During World War II, I made parachutes. Who am I?

Answer: Textron

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