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Review your stock portfolio: It is a smart strategy to review your portfolio before the year-end to see if you can find a tax advantage in taking a loss or cashing in a gain, but don’t wait until the very last minute. December 23 is the deadline for making a trade if you want it recorded on your 2013 tax return. Capital losses can be carried back three years or carried forward indefinitely.perkmeup/Getty Images/iStockphoto

I've been writing Portfolio Strategy columns every week since November 2004, and I've offered opinions on almost everything mainstream investors can buy. What do I actually use myself? To give you an idea, I looked at all the accounts I own or look after for other people. Here's a complete list of what I came up with:

Preferred shares: Perpetuals, to be exact. Those are the preferred shares that have no redemption or reset date. Their price is sensitive to interest rate changes, but that hasn't been an issue. I use these shares as a higher-yielding complement to bonds.

Guaranteed investment certificates: Good for laddering to cover expenses that will come due on specific dates. For example, I have GICs maturing in time to pay university tuition bills for our two sons at the end of the summer. In every case, these GICs are from alternative issuers (not big banks) that are members of Canada Deposit Insurance Corp.

Investment savings accounts: Savings accounts that you buy and sell like a mutual fund. I use them for short-term parking. Yields are just 1 to 1.25 per cent, but that's much better than money market funds or Treasury Bills.

Bond ETFs: I see them as an efficient way to get broad exposure to government, corporate and high yield bonds.

Corporate bonds: I have a five-year corporate bond ladder in one account using bonds with yields that are higher than those available from corporate bond ETFs. More risk than a diversified ETF, but not dramatically so.

Dividend growth stocks: Almost every individual stock I've bought has a strong history of consistent dividend growth. Mostly Canadian shares, but also a few U.S. ones.

Equity ETFs: Exposure to stock markets outside North America in a single purchase. Also, for U.S. and Canadian markets and sectors.

Mutual funds: I own two mutual funds in my various accounts, one of them a D-series fund with low fees that acknowledge I'm not getting any investment advice. The other is an ultra-low-cost balanced fund from an independent no-load fund company.

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