2011 was a tough year for investments, but consumers could have opportunities to rebound in 2012. SmartMoney’s Glenn Ruffenach offers five tips for maximizing your returns over the next 12 months: examine benefits plan fees; take advantage of low interest rates to pay down debt; make gifting plans early, before time is up on the Tax Relief Act of 2010; watch for increased Medicare taxes, then build a plan to soften this blow; and, finally, one bit of advice that may be good to keep in mind well beyond 2012: find an investment allocation you’re comfortable with and then stay the course. Why? In a rocky market environment, research shows that investors who stick with their allocations — stocks included — fare best. 

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