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Q: Warren Buffett’s mentor, Benjamin Graham, said, “In the short run the market is a voting machine. In the long run it’s a weighing machine.” What does that mean?

A: Graham was pointing out how from day to day, the stock market reflects the popularity of various stocks and the psychology of investors.

Investors “vote” by buying and selling, sending prices up and down.

Over the long run, though, the popularity contest fades away and value is what matters.

Stock prices ultimately reflect or approach the value of the underlying companies, based on their sales and e•arnings, and their potential growth. Focus on the long run.

Dear Fool: My dumbest investment strategy involved how I managed my traditional IRA. I made contributions while working and deducted them from my income tax, as allowed.

My mistake was not taking out more of my money before starting on Social Security.

Now that I’m retired and a widower, I’m paying a lot in income taxes, as my IRA withdrawals triggered the taxation of my Social Security benefits. It’s worth warning people about this.

The Fool responds: For many retirees, it can make sense to take big chunks out of your IRA early, while delaying taking Social Security.

Yes, you’ll lose some appreciation potential in your IRA, but your deferred Social Security benefits will increase by about 8 percent (for most of us) annually up to age 70, delivering a sizable guaranteed return and boosting your ultimate payout a lot.

Everyone’s situation is different, though, due to marital status, earnings history, life expectancy, risk tolerance and other considerations.

Run the numbers yourself or consult a financial planning pro for guidance.

Shares of FedEx (NYSE: FDX), the world’s biggest airfreight company, have racked up a double-digit gain over the past year, but they have room to grow.

FedEx has been dealing with sluggish economic conditions and high fuel prices by cutting costs and raising rates.

The company has been slimming down its air-transport network and has offered voluntary employee buyouts to reduce unnecessary staffing.

Some don’t like its cutting flights to Asia (due to weak demand) or its strengthened focus on ground deliveries, as those moves might constrain growth and result in tougher competition, but the moves are likely to boost profitability. The company is replacing older aircraft with more fuel-efficient planes.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Postal Service may be a competitor, but it’s also a customer, with FedEx recently securing a seven-year contract extension worth $10.5 billion for airport-to-airport transportation of U.S. mail.

The long-term growth of e-commerce should boost FedEx’s business, as it delivers items ordered online.

A threat, though, is a rise in same-day deliveries, featuring retailers working with companies such as eBay to offer faster service to customers.

FedEx recently posted estimate-topping earnings, though management tempered near-term expectations. The stock seems appealingly valued and is likely to appreciate over the coming years.