Economic Updates & Financial Articles

Economic Updates & Financial Articles

Economic Updates:

Retirement in Sight Newsletter:

Financial Articles:

 


Weekly Economic Update for 10/19/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks treaded water last week amid fading prospects for a stimulus bill, fears of a second wave of COVID-19 cases, and increasing political and regulatory pressures on Big Tech companies.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added just 0.07% while the Standard & Poor’s 500 eked out a gain of 0.19%. The Nasdaq Composite index picked up 0.79% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, slid 2.08%.1,2,3

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The Social Security Administration Announces 2021 COLA

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On October 13, 2020, the Social Security Administration (SSA) officially announced that Social Security recipients will receive a 1.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2021. This adjustment will begin with benefits payable to more than 64 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2021. Additionally, increased payments to more than 8 million Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2020.1

Is this a COLA lite? Many may be disappointed by this modest bump compared to the 1.6 percent increase beneficiaries saw in 2020 or the 2.8 percent boost in 2019. However, it’s important to remember that the Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In broad terms, the CPI measures the price of consumer goods and how they're trending in to evaluate the economy. In short, lower inflation numbers usually equals a modest COLA.2

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How Medigap Choices Have Changed

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As many may recall, seniors who previously enrolled in Medicare are facing some changes. Medigap Plan F might not be sold after 2020 and Medigap Plan G will be undergoing some changes.1

These changes only impact new Medicare enrollees, however. If you enrolled in Medicare prior to 2020, and have Plan F or Plan G coverage, you can keep that coverage.2

Why do people like Plan F? Plan F is basically a “Cadillac plan”: it is not cheap, but it lets you see any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare patients, and the upfront cost is the total cost. If you have Plan F coverage, it’s rare to be surprised by subsequent requests to pay a deductible, a copayment, or coinsurance.2

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Election 2020: Managing Your Emotions

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45% of consumers with $100,000 or more investable assets expect to make changes to their investments due to the upcoming 2020 presidential election.1

No matter how you look at it, that’s a startling statistic.

Second-guessing your investment strategy is natural, especially with an election on the horizon. Emotions are running high as many are divided about what may happen to the financial markets with the election just weeks away.

That makes this a great time to remember that investing involves risks, and investment decisions should be based on your own goals, time horizon, and tolerance for risk. If you’re concerned that the upcoming election may change one of these key factors, perhaps it’s time to review your portfolio.

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Weekly Economic Update for 10/12/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks staged a powerful rally last week, riding a wave of optimism over the prospect of the passage of a new fiscal stimulus bill.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 3.27%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 increased 3.84%. The Nasdaq Composite index gained 4.56% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, advanced 2.23%.1-3

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October Is Financial Planning Month

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When training to become a financial professional, much of our course work centers on the six critical areas of creating a financial strategy. Some recognize October as Financial Planning Month, so it's an excellent opportunity to review those six personal finance areas.1

Cash Management: This is a broad topic that can address many issues. One area is creating an emergency fund, which is money that's set aside for unplanned expenses. Cash management also can include looking at your "sources and uses" of money. Financial Planning Month focuses mainly on cash management and spending habits.1

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FAFSA Applications Are Now Open

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Applications for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) are now open for the academic year 2021-22. Applying for the FAFSA allows you to qualify for grants, scholarships, and other federally-sourced aid, such as work-study or student loans. The applications opened on October 1, 2020, and will be accepted until the deadline, June 30, 2022.1

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Retirement In Sight for October, 2020

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ARE CAR OR TRUCK COSTS BLOCKING THE ROAD TO RETIREMENT?

On a purely logical level, investing tens of thousands of dollars toward retirement may make more sense than adding an equivalent consumer debt here and now. On a practical level, though, we need a good car or truck, and on an emotional level, we get a kick out of driving something new. So, we buy (and often finance) new vehicles.

While a car or truck can possibly help you make money, autos almost always depreciate. Factor in financing, licensing, repairs, and fuel, and the costs can add up. A 5-year auto loan on a new car or truck in the $50,000-$70,000 price range could mean a monthly payment of anywhere from $800-$1,300, depending on what you put down. If that same consumer buys a new or used vehicle with a price tag of about $20,000, the difference in monthly payments can give the person choices.1

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Monthly Economic Update for October, 2020

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U.S. Markets

Stocks dropped in September as investors worried about stalled fiscal stimulus talks in Washington, the upcoming election, and new coronavirus cases in Europe.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which lagged this year slipped 2.28 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index lost 3.92 percent and the Nasdaq Composite declined 5.16 percent.1

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Weekly Economic Update for 10/5/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks advanced last week, propelled by hopes that legislators may reach an agreement for a new fiscal stimulus package and optimism generated by a few corporate deal announcements and initial public offerings.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.87%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 increased 1.52%. The Nasdaq Composite index gained 1.48% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, advanced 1.56%.1,2,3

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Election 2020: Economic Issues in the Crosshairs

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It should come as no surprise to hear the economy is the top issue for voters in the 2020 election. Nearly 8 in ten voters say that the economy will be very important to them when they cast their votes.1

But when voters say “economy,” what do they really mean? Is it a catch-all phrase for personal finances? Not exactly. Here’s a breakdown of voters’ top three economic concerns and what each candidate has said about the issues.1

Questions about trade. Questions remain about what will develop between the U.S. and China following the election. President Trump has worked to revise the U.S.-China trade agreements, while former Vice President Joe Biden has indicated he may move towards a more open trade policy.2

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End-Of-The-Year Money Moves - 2020

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What has changed for you in 2020? For many, this year has been as complicated as learning a new dance. Did you start a new job or leave a job behind? That’s one step. Did you retire? There’s another step. Did you start a family? That’s practically a pirouette. If notable changes occurred in your personal or professional life, then you may want to review your finances before this year ends and 2021 begins. Proving that you have all of the right moves in 2020 might put you in a better position to tango with 2021.

Even if your 2020 has been relatively uneventful, the end of the year is still a good time to get cracking and see where you can manage your overall personal finances. 

Keep in mind this article is for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for real-life advice. Please consult your tax, legal, and accounting professionals before modifying your tax strategy.

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Ouch! September’s Market Correction Hurt

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In theory, investors understand that stock market corrections are part of the investing process. But experiencing a setback—like the one we’ve witnessed in the past four weeks—can raise a lot of shoulda, woulda, coulda questions.

From its intraday high on September 2 to its intraday low September 23, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropped more than 10%. The Nasdaq Composite dropped as much as 14% as technology stocks bore the brunt of the selling.1

Should I have done something differently? Would I do it again? Could I avoid this part of the investing process?

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Quarterly Economic Update 3Q-2020

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THE QUARTER IN BRIEF

The summer brought an economic rebound and a continuation of the stock market rally that began in spring. In late September, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's GDPNow tracker estimated real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 32.0% for the third quarter. All three of the major Wall Street benchmarks advanced in Q3; the S&P 500 added nearly 8%, ending the quarter up about 4% for the year. Even so, U.S. equities slumped in September as traders worried that the stock market might be getting ahead of the economy.1,2

In Washington, the Federal Reserve altered its monetary policy stance and forecast low-interest rates for the near future. Hopes for another economic stimulus dimmed in Congress. On Main Street, the coronavirus pandemic remained top of mind, but improvements in hiring, consumer confidence, and retail sales were evident.

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Weekly Economic Update for 9/28/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks were mixed last week as worries that stretched from Washington D.C., where prospects of a new fiscal stimulus bill dimmed, to Europe, which saw an increase of new COVID-19 cases.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 1.75%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 0.63%. The Nasdaq Composite index gained 1.11% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, slumped 4.20%.1-3

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Year-End Estate Strategies

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With one year ending and a new one on the cusp of starting, many people will consider their resolutions—not their estate strategy. But the end of the year is a great time to sit down and review your preparations, especially when you're spending more time with your loved ones; even more important if you have a complicated estate that may need to get managed after you're gone.

Call a family meeting. Many people don't let their family know their wishes or who is appointed to handle the estate. While two-thirds of Americans say that the pandemic has brought them closer to their family, only 28% of those 65 and older have started discussing their estate strategy with their families.1,2

You may be able to get ahead of any potential family issues down the line by discussing your wishes, what needs to be handled by your estate, and reviewing what you have in place. No one wants to think about their family members passing away, but an awkward conversation now may mitigate future problems.

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Managing Drug Costs

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Are prescription drug costs burdening your finances? Some people find it a challenge to manage the cost of prescription drugs. Americans pay an average of $1,200 per year for medicine. For those facing greater and more dangerous ailments, some drugs can cost $10,000 per month or even lump sums in excess of $80,000 for certain drug therapies. Yes, health insurance and Medicare Part D can help you, but not everyone has access to Medicare, and not every insurance company has the same formulary. This means that your coverage may fall short—not something you want to hear when wrestling with a major diagnosis.1

How can a household try to manage drug costs? There are some approaches that may help.

Shop around & compare Part D plans annually. As you shop, keep in mind that plans with smaller premiums may have higher out-of-pocket costs. Some plans also limit monthly doses of certain drugs in their coverage or request patients to try less costly drugs before branded drugs can be prescribed.

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Mergers, Acquisitions, & the Markets

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There hasn’t been much merger and acquisition activity through 2020. This diminished activity comes despite low interest rates, which may help companies manage the cost of borrowing for a purchase. Some of this makes sense, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic leading to widespread economic uncertainty.

Through August, mergers and acquisitions came to a relative halt, with activity falling to an 18-year low.1,2,3

Will it pick up next year? It’s difficult to see companies not taking advantage of this fact sooner, rather than later. Some companies have used the low-rate environment of the past several months to “bolster their balance sheet” to put them in a stronger financial position for the years ahead. How do they do it? In some instances, by paying down certain debt and issuing new debt at more favorable rates.

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Budgeting for Beginners

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Budgeting towards needs and goals. One of the objectives of creating a household budget is that, as time moves on and the various household members advance in their careers, they are likely to make more money. Knowing where that money goes can help direct that money to not only meet your day-to-day needs but also to potentially realize your financial goals. Rent payments may become mortgage payments, and socking away a few bucks into your savings each payday could change into an effective financial strategy involving various investment tools.1

Remember that investing involves risk, and the return and principal value of investments will fluctuate as market conditions change. Investment opportunities should take into consideration your goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance. When sold, investments may be worth more or less than their original cost. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

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Annual Financial To-Do List

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What financial, business, or life priorities do you need to address for the coming year? Now is an excellent time to think about the investing, saving, or budgeting methods you could employ toward specific objectives, from building your retirement fund to managing your taxes. You have plenty of choices. Here are a few ideas to consider:

Can you contribute more to your retirement plans this year? In 2021, the contribution limit for a Roth or traditional individual retirement account (IRA) is expected to remain at $6,000 ($7,000 for those making “catch-up” contributions). Your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) may affect how much you can put into a Roth IRA. With a traditional IRA, you can contribute if you (or your spouse if filing jointly) have taxable compensation, but income limits are one factor in determining whether the contribution is tax-deductible.1

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Election 2020

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As the U.S. presidential election draws near, expect to see more and more headlines that propose, "What will happen next if this person is elected?" or, "What policy changes to prepare for in the next four years?"

In reality, however, it isn't easy to anticipate what may happen with the financial markets after the November elections. An ambitious investor would have to forecast the election results, evaluate which policies may become law, estimate a potential economic impact, and assess how the financial markets might react. That's a tall order.1

Remember, in addition to the presidency, a total of 35 Senate seats and 435 Congressional seats will be on the ballot. The makeup of the country's executive and legislative branches may look much different—or very similar—in 2021.2,3

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Weekly Economic Update for 9/21/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks slipped as the technology sector remained under pressure and a mid-week announcement by the Federal Reserve failed to inspire investors.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.03%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 0.64%. The Nasdaq Composite index dropped 0.56% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, rose 0.75%.1,2,3

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Facts About Medicare Open Enrollment

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Medicare’s open enrollment period runs from October 15 to December 7. If you are enrolling in Medicare for the first time, give yourself plenty of time. You may discover that it is much more complex than an employer-sponsored group health plan.1

When you enroll in Medicare, you pay multiple premiums for multiple types of coverage (Parts A and B, as well as the Part D prescription drug plan). Unlike a group health plan, there are no caps on out-of-pocket costs and a risk that you might have to pay a hospital insurance deductible more than once per year. Original Medicare also does not cover some costs that many seniors would like to cover, such as dental and vision care expenses.2

This is why so many retirees decide to buy Medigap policies or enroll in comprehensive Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans—they recognize the shortcomings of original Medicare. The downside of Part C plans is that you are restricted to the doctors in their networks. Original Medicare allows you to choose any doctor that accepts Medicare (though it is smart to have a Medigap policy as well).

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Extraordinary Times Mean Extra Federal Debt

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America’s debt is now nearly as large as its economy. On September 2, the Congressional Budget Office announced that by the end of the 2020 fiscal year (September 30), the federal government is projected to owe debt equaling 98% of the nation’s gross domestic product.1

The CBO also projects that the country’s debt is expected to be greater than its GDP by 2023. Federal debt last exceeded GDP in 1946, the year after World War 2 ended.1

Some analysts thought federal debt would reach these levels by 2030. They did not see this happening now. Then again, who could have foreseen the sudden arrival of COVID-19, let alone its economic impact? This spring brought the nation’s worst quarterly GDP contraction in almost 75 years. The CBO says federal income tax revenues are expected to fall by $280 billion this fiscal year ended September 30, leading the federal government to borrow heavily as it launched its economic stimulus program for businesses and households.1,2

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Home Improvements Trending Higher

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Due to COVID-19, Americans are spending more time at home than ever before, leading to a record amount of spending on home improvement.1

It’s not that big of a surprise since many Americans now find their homes are doing triple duty as a place to live, work, and learn. Homeowners are funneling more money into their homes than ever thanks to a surplus of cash they would typically spend in other ways. However, what is surprising is the amount being spent on home improvement projects.1

The average homeowner has spent around $17,140 during the pandemic to make their homes more enjoyable while sheltering in place. This increase is substantial compared to the 2019 State of Home Spending Report, where it showed the average spending on home improvement was $7,560. Additionally, studies show that 79% of homeowners begin their home improvement projects without a budget. This is an increase from 2019, where 75% of homeowners didn’t have a budget.2,3,4

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TIPS for Inflation

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This summer, the Federal Reserve made a key policy shift. It announced that it would focus on promoting job creation and tolerate a little more inflation along the way for the near future.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell stated on August 27 that the central bank plans to now “seek to achieve inflation that averages 2 percent over time,” rather than proactively adjust short-term interest rates when inflation approaches that established target. So in the near term, 2% inflation may or may not compel the Fed to hike.1

Powell called this a “robust updating” of Fed strategy. Historically speaking, it is. As his predecessor, Janet Yellen, told The New York Times, “most of the Fed’s history has revolved around keeping inflation under control. This really does reflect a decisive recognition that we’re in a very different environment.”1

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Race for a Vaccine

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A U.S. drug company recently said that it’s in late-stage trials for its coronavirus vaccine and reported that it could be given to Americans as early as the end of the year.1

Great news. But it seems like every few days there’s a new update on a clinical trial for COVID-19. So we took the opportunity to check out the overall status for the development of a vaccine.

Much to our surprise, we learned that more than 150 vaccines are in development across the world. Hopes are high that at least one of these vaccines can be brought to market in record time to help manage the global crisis.2

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Retirement In Sight for September, 2020

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COULD YOU RETIRE AT 55?

Suppose you suddenly had to, or the opportunity presented itself. This prospect would not call for disregarding your carefully considered retirement strategy, but it would create some challenges.

Social Security, Medicare, and popular retirement accounts were all created with the assumption that Americans would need retirement benefits and sources of retirement income, sometime in their 60s. A typical 55-year-old has ten years to wait to enroll in Medicare and is seven years away from the chance to claim Social Security. Withdrawing money from a qualified retirement plan before age 59½ often triggers a 10% early-withdrawal penalty. (The CARES Act waives the 10% penalty in 2020 in certain situations.) So, one challenge is to generate income in your 50s from sources apart from retirement plan distributions and Social Security, perhaps using accounts that allow you penalty-free access to assets. There is also a big-picture consideration that comes into play regarding your income if you retire before 60. It means you will have saved for retirement for comparatively fewer years than some of your peers have, and you may end up paying for more years of retirement than they will. The other big challenge is to stay healthy and find and sustain health insurance coverage (remember, COBRA coverage usually lasts no more than 18 months if you retire early). Should you retire at 55 by choice or chance, the circumstance calls for discussion, and a review of your income and insurance options.1

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Weekly Economic Update for 9/14/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks traveled a volatile path last week as investors appeared concerned about the upcoming elections, an uncertain economy, and more delays with additional fiscal stimulus.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 1.66%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 slumped 2.51%. The Nasdaq Composite index plummeted 4.06% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, rose 1.44%.1,2,3

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Football Is Back

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Football is back, which means Summer is coming to a close, days will get shorter, and sweaters will soon be in play.

This year, there was no pre-season, so professional football started in September, which coincidentally, is a perennial month for stock market volatility.1

Football follows Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League, in which each organization started seasons (some abbreviated) in the past few months. Some colleges are playing fall sports, while others have postponed a part of their seasons.

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Weekly Economic Update for 9/7/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

A late week sell-off sent stocks broadly lower as investors took some profits after stocks reached all-time highs earlier in the week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 1.82%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 slumped 2.31%. The Nasdaq Composite index dropped 3.27% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, fell 0.62%.1-3

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When the Fed Talks Inflation, Bond Investors Listen

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Most recently, you may have read that Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell announced a change in how the Fed views inflation. In the past, the Fed said it would consider adjusting short-term rates when inflation approached 2 percent. But in light of 2020’s many challenges, the Fed’s new policy may allow inflation to run above 2 percent for a period of time before any shift in monetary policy is considered.1

For many, bonds are a critical component of their overall investment strategy. So any change in Fed policy regarding inflation may influence a portfolio. That's why It’s so important to understand that the market value of a bond will fluctuate with changes in interest rates. In other words, when interest rates rise, the value of existing bonds will typically fall.2

There’s no doubt this will be a subtle change for many. But for bond investors, the policy shift may indicate that the Fed has given itself more flexibility in the future.

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Dow 30 Changes Its Starting Lineup

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), one of the most widely followed stock market indices, has made some key changes to its starting lineup.

Salesforce.com, Amgen Inc., and Honeywell International Inc. have replaced Exxon Mobil Corp., Pfizer Inc., and Raytheon Technologies Corp. The change went into effect before the market opened on Monday, August 31.1

It’s important for investors to know that the changes took effect so they have a better understanding of the financial markets. But it’s also important to note that the DJIA has made several adjustments since it was first published in 1896, so a change to the Dow 30 lineup is nothing new.2

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Monthly Economic Update for September, 2020

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U.S. Markets

Stock prices surged in August as investors cheered positive news of a potential COVID-19 treatment and welcomed a month-long succession of upbeat economic data.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 7.57 percent, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbed 7.01 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite soared 9.59 percent.1

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Weekly Economic Update for 8/31/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks advanced relentlessly last week on positive COVID-19 developments, encouraging economic data, and a supportive policy shift in the Fed’s approach to its target inflation rate.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased by 2.59%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 jumped 3.26%. The Nasdaq Composite index leaped 3.39% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, rose 1.19%.1-3

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Home Builders Confident In Economic Rebound

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To some, this may hardly feel like an economy headed for a bright future. But don’t tell that to home builders.

Builder confidence in August jumped to an eye-popping 78 in August, according to the Housing Market Index courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders. To put that number in perspective, anything over 50 is considered positive.1

This past April, builder confidence plunged to 30 as the pandemic swept the nation. In August, the index hit the highest level in the 35-year history of the monthly series and matches the record set in December 1998.1

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Conquering Retirement Challenges for Women

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When it comes to retirement, some women face obstacles that can make saving for retirement a challenge. Women typically earn less than their male counterparts and often take time out of the workforce to care for children or other family members. Added to the fact that women typically live longer than men, retirement money for women may need to stretch even further.1

Despite these challenges, there are a lot of reasons to be hopeful.2

Review your existing situation. Do you want to spend your years traveling together, or do you envision staying closer to home? Are you seeing yourself moving to a retirement community, or do you want to live as independently as you can? Sit down with your spouse, if you’re married, to discuss your visions for retirement.

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Has the Stock Market Rally Left You Behind?

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Some people in recent weeks may have been feeling that “the stock market seems to be doing so well but I’m not participating.”

A look behind the headlines helps tell the story.

A CNBC study found that between the stock market high on February 19, 2020—and the new market high on August 18, 2020—only 38 percent of stocks in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index posted gains. By contrast, 62 percent showed losses.1

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Weekly Economic Update for 8/24/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks powered to another week of gains as the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite set multiple new record highs along the way.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was essentially unchanged while the Standard & Poor’s 500 rose by 0.72%. The Nasdaq Composite index added 2.65% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, slipped 0.71%.1,2,3

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How Much Do You Really Know About Extended Care?

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How much does eldercare cost, and how do you arrange it when it is needed? The average person might have difficulty answering those two questions, for the answers are not widely known. For clarification, here are some facts to dispel some myths.

True or false: Medicare will pay for your mom or dad’s nursing home care.

FALSE. Medicare is not extended care insurance.1

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Why Medicare Should Be Part of Your Retirement Planning

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Medicare takes a little time to understand. As you approach age 65, familiarize yourself with its coverage options, costs, and limitations. 

Certain features of Medicare can affect health care costs and coverage. Some retirees may do okay with original Medicare (Parts A and B), others might find it lacking and decide to supplement original Medicare with Part C, Part D, or Medigap coverage. In some cases, that may mean paying more for health care than you initially figured.

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Why Roth IRA Conversions May Now Be Advantageous

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Roth IRAs have attracted retirement savers since their introduction in 1998. They offer the potential for tax-free retirement income, provided Internal Revenue Service rules are followed.

Do Roth IRAs seem even more attractive these days? Perhaps. You can cite two factors: current tax rates and the passage of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act. 

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Is Inflation On The Rise?

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Right now, many Americans are worried about their financial health due to the impact COVID-19 has had on the country. Adding to these concerns were July's consumer prices— excluding food and energy—which rose at the highest rate in nearly 30 years. However, this jump may not be as scary as it looks on the surface.

We’ll get a better idea about the trend on inflation when the Consumer Price Index for August 2020 is released on Friday, September 11. But here are some factors to keep in mind.1

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Get Your FAFSA Ready

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Mark this date on your calendar: October 1. That is the day when current and future traditional college students can start submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2021-22 school year. For many students, the FAFSA is frequently the gateway to significant financial aid: federal and state student loans, grants, university scholarships, and work-study programs.1

FAFSAs should be sent in as soon as possible. The closer to “opening day” (October 1) you can do it, the better. Some states offer aid on a first-come, first-serve basis, and some universities set fall deadlines for financial aid requests.1,2

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Taxable Events in Retirement Accounts

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When you distribute, sell, or receive assets from a retirement account, taxes usually follow. It is true for individuals; it is true for trusts. These decisions represent taxable events.

Many retirement accounts are tax-deferred, but not tax-exempt. So, at some point, a “day of reckoning” arrives for these accounts, and taxes are due. The tax liability may differ greatly, depending on account ownership.

Trust income is now taxed much more than individual income. This is a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.1

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Why Regular Rebalancing Makes Sense

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Everyone loves a winner. If an investment is successful, most people naturally want to stick with it. But is that the best approach?

It may sound counterintuitive, but it may be possible to have too much of a good thing. Over time, the performance of different investments can shift a portfolio’s intent – and its risk profile. It’s a phenomenon sometimes referred to as “risk creep,” and it happens when a portfolio has its risk profile shift over time.

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What Are Stock Splits?

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Two high-profile companies—Apple and Tesla—have announced stock splits in the past few weeks, which makes it a great time to discuss what’s involved when a company announces a stock split.

Remember, any companies mentioned are for illustrative purposes only. It should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of the securities. Any investment should be consistent with your objectives, timeframe, and risk tolerance.

The Securities and Exchange Commission says, “Companies often split shares of their stock to try to make them more affordable to individual investors. Unlike an issuance of new shares, a stock split does not dilute the ownership interests of existing shareholders.”1

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Weekly Economic Update for 8/17/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stock prices drifted higher in an otherwise quiet news week, as a slowdown in new COVID-19 cases outweighed a Congressional impasse on a new fiscal spending measure.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.81%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 rose by 0.64%. The Nasdaq Composite Index inched 0.08% higher for the week. The MSCI EAFE Index, which tracks developed stock markets overseas, advanced 3.11%.1,2,3

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The Fed’s Year-Long Review Expected in September

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As many of you know, the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee has eight scheduled meetings each year when the seven board members review the nation's economic activity and set the federal funds rate's target rate.

In this extraordinary year, the Fed may announce in September the results of its year-long policy review. The Fed's focus has been where Americans might expect: examining inflation and employment as the nation recovers from the volatility that followed COVID-19.1,2

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Federal Student Loan Relief

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This month, many universities and colleges are welcoming students back to campus, even if most campuses are largely online this year.

But that's not all that's different. The current administration has issued an executive memorandum that extends the temporary halt on all federal student loan payments, which was originally granted by the CARES Act, until December 31, 2020. This executive action instructs the Department of Education to “continue the temporary cessation of payments and the waiver of all interest on student loans held by the Department of Education.”1

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How Much Money Will You Need for Retirement?

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"Will I outlive my retirement money?" That's one of the top fears for people who are starting to prepare for their retirement years.

So I have to chuckle a bit when I see headlines that say, "Here's how much money Americans think they need to retire comfortably."1

$1.9 million is the number, according to a nationwide survey of 1,000 employed 401(k) participants by a well-known financial services company. In 2019, the same survey reported the number was $1.7 million. But this year's pandemic increased the total by $200,000.2

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The Taxation of Restricted Stock Units

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Is your employer giving you restricted stock units (RSUs)? Here are some details about RSUs, which differ from stock options in both their nature and taxation. 

Remember that this article is for illustrative purposes only and not a replacement for real-life advice. Please contact a tax, legal, or accounting professional before implementing a strategy or modifying an existing strategy involving restricted stock units.

RSUs are not yet shares of stock. They are a perk for your loyalty or job performance, and basically, a promise from your employer. The promise is this: at some point in the future, the company will deliver one share of stock to you for every RSU in your name. The delivery of RSUs usually happens in phases, across a few years.1

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A Checklist for When a Spouse or Parent Passes

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When you lose a spouse, partner, or parent, the grief can be overwhelming. In the midst of that grief, life goes on. There are arrangements to be made, things to be taken care of – and in recognition of this reality, here is a checklist that you may find useful at such a time.

First, gather documents. Ask for help from other family members if you need it. Start by gathering the following. 

* A will, a trust, or other estate documents. If none of these exist, you could face a longer legal process when settling the person’s estate. If a trust exists, consider contacting the professional or firm who helped set up the document.

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The 2020 RMD Income Tax Relief Deadline is Almost Here

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Are you one of the many retirement account holders who took a mandatory distribution this year? If so, you may be able to manage the taxes associated with Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from traditional IRAs and 401(k)s. There are some essential details to keep in mind, however. Here’s what you need to know.

Don’t forget the withholding. Thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, those who hold certain retirement accounts can bypass the required minimum distributions for 2020. To do so, though, you’ll need to return the full amount of your RMD to your retirement account. Keep in mind, many retirement account custodians often withhold income tax, which will need to be returned as well—not just the net amount you receive.1

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Weekly Economic Update for 8/10/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Overlooking stalled efforts by Congress to pass a new fiscal stimulus bill, stocks marched higher last week with the Dow Jones Industrials leading the way and the NASDAQ Composite setting multiple fresh record highs.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 3.80%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 rose by 2.45%. The Nasdaq Composite index climbed 2.47% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, advanced 2.31%.1-3

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Financial Strategies for Young Families

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The hardest part is getting started. Even though more than half of U.S. households have some form of investment in the stock market, many new parents may still find that creating a financial strategy is the last thing on their minds. And who can blame them? After all, new parents have a million concerns to keep in mind on top of any unexpected financial pressure that may arise. But for young families with discretionary income, creating a financial strategy may be easier than they realize.1

Remember that investing involves risk, and the return and principal value of investments will fluctuate as market conditions change. Investment opportunities should take into consideration your goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance. When sold, investments may be worth more or less than their original cost. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

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The A, B, C, and D of Medicare

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Whether your 65th birthday is on the horizon or decades away, understanding the different parts of Medicare is critical, as this government-sponsored program may play a role in your future health care decisions.

Parts A & B: Original Medicare. There are two components. In general, Part A covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facility costs, hospice, lab tests, surgery, and some home health care services. One thing to keep in mind is that, while very few beneficiaries must pay Part A premiums out of pocket, annually adjusted standard deductibles still apply.1,2

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Strategic vs. Tactical Investing

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Ever heard the term “strategic investing”? How about “tactical investing”? At a glance, you might assume that both these phrases describe a similar investment approach. 

While each approach involves the periodic adjustment of a portfolio and holding portfolio assets in varied investment classes, they differ in one key respect. Strategic investing is fundamentally passive; tactical investing is fundamentally active. An old saying expresses the opinion that strategic investing is about time in the market, while tactical investing is about timing the market. There is some truth to that.1

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The Cost of Medical Care

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When uninsured people end up in the hospital, “sticker shock” can follow. Just a quick look at the current prices for medical procedures can be sobering.

How much does a CT scan cost? Between $250 to $1,500, depending on where it is performed. Need a stent in your heart? The average cost of that delicate procedure is now close to $20,000. How about a knee replacement? That surgery may run anywhere from $15,000 to $35,000.1,2

Are these the only costs associated with a hospital or outpatient visit? Not quite. Think of the cost of the room, the medications, the anesthesia. Fortunately, many Americans have health coverage, so they only have to pay a fraction of the expenses linked to these and other procedures. Those without health coverage may find themselves in financial pain.

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A Corporate Trustee Could Be a Smart Choice

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In an ideal world, managing a family trust would be simple. There would be no stress, no big learning curve, and no great time commitment involved. Unfortunately, the world is not ideal, and heirs who become trustees are often left with headaches.

“Sure,” a named trustee may think, “I can follow the rules, pay the taxes, and make sure this asset goes to this person or organization. I am confident I can deal with any issues.”

Okay, but what if the trust includes income-producing real estate, intellectual property created with collaborators, or a large investment portfolio? A trustee can quickly lose confidence when trying to understand these assets; let alone, the tax and legal issues linked to them. Additionally, the greater the complexity of the estate, the wider the door opens for family arguments about the way trust assets are being handled.

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Don’t Overreact in August

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One of my favorite Wall Street quotes is from Mark Twain, who said:

“October: This is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August and February.”

But October may need to move over. During the past several years, the month of August has earned the reputation as being one of the more volatile months for stock prices.

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Weekly Economic Update for 8/10/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Overlooking stalled efforts by Congress to pass a new fiscal stimulus bill, stocks marched higher last week with the Dow Jones Industrials leading the way and the NASDAQ Composite setting multiple fresh record highs.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 3.80%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 rose by 2.45%. The Nasdaq Composite index climbed 2.47% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, advanced 2.31%.1-3

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Retirement In Sight for August, 2020

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FIGURING OUT WHEN TO START YOUR SECOND ACT

Many Gen Xers and baby boomers look forward to retiring on their terms. In such a circumstance, the key question becomes when to walk away from work. According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the average retirement age is now 65 for men and 63 for women.  You may retire before or after that age, depending on a few critical factors, which can vary per individual.

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Monthly Economic Update for August, 2020

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U.S. Markets

Stock prices rallied in July as further development of a COVID-19 vaccine and better-than-expected corporate financial reports encouraged investors.

The S&P 500 gained 5.5 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite picked up 6.8 percent. The Dow Industrial Average, which has lagged much of the year, rose 2.4 percent.1

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Weekly Economic Update for 8/3/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks were mixed last week amid a busy week of earnings, some troubling economic data, and seemingly little progress on a new fiscal stimulus package.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.16%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 increased by 1.73%. The Nasdaq Composite Index surged 3.69% for the week. The MSCI EAFE Index, which tracks developed stock markets overseas, dipped 0.75%.1,2,3

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Will Political Changes Affect the Economy?

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With all of the storm and stress of the year 2020, you’d be forgiven if you momentarily forgot that we’re due for another national election in November. Many states will be selecting governors, representatives, and senators, while the country itself will be voting in the presidential election.

Even though these elections happen every four years, they often breed uncertainty or anxiety about the financial markets and other investment matters. Some of our personal political beliefs may be informed by our economic worldview. For that reason, it’s natural that presidential elections are seen as potential turning points for the economy.

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Keep an Eye on Buying & Selling by Corporate Executives

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To some, the buying and selling of a company’s stock by corporate officers and directors can be an indicator of Wall Street sentiment.

In July 2020, the ratio of companies with executive buying compared with executive selling touched 0.27 – the lowest level in nearly 20 years.1

By contrast, the ratio set an 11-year high of 1.75 in March 2020.1

Corporate officers and directors are referred to as "insiders," so you'll often see this reported as "insider trading" by the financial press. But it's critical to know nothing is wrong or illegal with this type of buying and selling.

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Weekly Economic Update for 7/27/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks slipped in the final days of trading last week on higher jobless claims and rising tensions in the U.S.-China relationship.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.76%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 dipped 0.28%. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 1.33% for the week. The MSCI EAFE Index, which tracks developed stock markets overseas, rose 1.24%.1,2,3

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Starting a Roth IRA for a Teen

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Want to give your child or grandchild a great financial start? A Roth IRA might be a choice to consider. There are many reasons why starting a Roth IRA for a teenager may be a sound financial strategy. Read on to learn more about how doing this may benefit both of you.

Tax-free benefits during retirement. Setting up a Roth IRA for the teenager in your life could prime them to have more retirement savings. Plus, a Roth IRA has the potential to accumulate over the years, and the owner may be able to better manage their tax burden if they withdraw the money after age 59½.1

For example, a 19-year-old who contributes $5,000 a year to a Roth IRA, which earns 8% for 40 years, would be positioned to have about $1.4 million by age 59. Of course, this is a hypothetical example that’s used for illustrative purposes only. It is not representative of any specific investment or combination of investments. Actual results will fluctuate.2

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The I.R.S. Has Enhanced the 2020 RMD Waivers

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In March, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act became law. It was designed to help Americans impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.1

The new law offered investors a financial break. It gave people the option to skip required minimum distributions (RMDs) from traditional Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and 401(k)-style plans in 2020. (Original owners of Roth IRAs never have to take RMDs from those accounts.)2,3

Keep in mind that this article is for informational purposes only. It’s not a replacement for real-life advice, so make sure to consult your tax legal and accounting professionals before modifying your RMD strategy.

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Should You Consider Refinancing Your Mortgage?

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On July 16, mortgage giant Freddie Mac announced that the average interest rate for a 30-year home loan had fallen to 2.98%. In addition, the average interest rate for a 15-year home loan had declined to 2.48%.1

A 30-year mortgage at less than 3% interest? A 15-year mortgage at less than 2.5% interest? These lows were historic milestones, unseen in the 49 years of Freddie’s weekly surveys. It’s unclear how long this low-rate environment may persist.1

Are you considering refinancing your mortgage? Keep in mind that just two summers ago, the average interest rate on a 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage hovered around 4%, while the 30-year was in the vicinity of 4.5%.2

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30-year Home Loans Fall to Historic Lows

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Lately, it can feel like each day brings a new headline about fluctuating market behavior. But amid the ups and downs of 2020, there may be some potential good news on the horizon. On July 16, 2020, the interest rate for a 30-year home loan had fallen to 2.98%. In addition, the average interest rate for a 15-year home loan had declined to 2.48%.1,2,3

Good news for homebuyers. Keep in mind that just two summers ago, the average interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage hovered around 4%, while the 30-year was in the vicinity of 4.5%. With the average interest rate on these loans at new historic lows, it may be a smart time for first-time buyers to consider making their move.

In other words, it's uncertain how long these historically low rates will last. Keep in mind this article is for informational purposes only. It's not a replacement for real-life advice. It’s always a good idea to consult with your tax, legal, and accounting professionals before considering any changes to your living situation.

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Little-Known Homeowners Insurance Facts

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If you have a homeowners insurance policy, you should be aware of what this insurance does and does not cover. These policies have their limitations as well as underrecognized perks.

Some policies insure actual cash value (ACV). ACV factors depreciation into an item’s worth. If someone makes off with your expensive camera that you bought five years ago, a homeowners policy that reimburses you for ACV would only pay for part of the cost of a new equivalent camera bought today.1

Other policies insure replacement cash value (RCV). That means 100% of the cost of an equivalent item today, at least in the insurer’s view.1

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Keep Your Life Insurance When You Retire

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Do you need a life insurance policy in retirement? One school of thought says no. The kids are grown, and the need to financially insulate the household against the loss of a breadwinner has passed.

If you are thinking about dropping your coverage for either or both of those reasons, you may also want to consider the excellent reasons to retain, obtain, or convert a life insurance policy after you retire. Take these factors into account and consult with your financial professional before making a decision.

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What Is Earnings Season?

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Every few months, you may hear the phrase “we’re entering earnings season” as you read financial news.

But what exactly is “earnings season” and why is it important to Wall Street?

Earnings season is the period of time when a majority of publicly traded companies release their quarterly financial reports. Companies often go into great detail about the forces that influenced their business for the prior three months, and some may provide guidance about what lies ahead.

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Weekly Economic Update for 7/20/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks were mixed last week as investors reacted to positive economic data, progress on a COVID-19 vaccine, and the continued nationwide increase of COVID-19 cases.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 2.29%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 rose by 1.25%. But the Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 1.08% for the week. The mega-cap technology companies saw some profit-taking last week, sending the Nasdaq Composite to its first loss in three weeks. The MSCI EAFE Index, which tracks developed stock markets overseas, ended 2.19% higher.1,2,3

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Weekly Economic Update for 7/13/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stock prices notched solid gains last week, looking past an increase in COVID-19 cases and any potential economic concerns raised by the trend.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased by 0.96%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 climbed 1.76%. The Nasdaq Composite Index bounded 4.01% higher for the week. The MSCI EAFE Index, which tracks developed stock markets overseas, gained just 0.07%.1,2,3

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Retirement In Sight for July, 2020

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HAS THE PANDEMIC AFFECTED THE RETIREMENT MINDSET?

Each year, the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies surveys baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials to gauge their perceptions about retiring. The 2020 survey, conducted in April, studied the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it may have affected their outlooks.

Overall, 53% of respondents said that their confidence about retiring remained the same during this spring’s economic turbulence. Twenty-three percent indicated they were less confident about their retirement prospects; another 13% said that they had grown more confident. Nearly half (45%) of all respondents believed that they would be able to transition to part-time work en route to retirement; 61% expected that their employers would provide them with full employee benefits, even while working part time. Fifty-two percent of all respondents believed that they would keep working past age 65, and 68% of baby boomers indicated that they planned to work or were working at 65 or later. Fewer baby boomers and Gen Xers (13%) had been laid off this spring compared to millennials (18%). Retirement saving was still the number one financial priority in life for both Gen Xers and baby boomers alike; though, the percentage of respondents saying so declined from the 2019 survey (23% to 20% for Gen Xers and 40% to 32% for boomers). In an encouraging sign for the current generation of retirees, 25% of the boomers surveyed indicated that they were debt free.1

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Weekly Economic Update for 7/6/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

In a holiday-shortened week, stock prices turned higher as encouraging economic data outweighed an increase in COVID-19 cases and a rollback in economic re-openings.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 3.25%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 increased by 4.02%. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 4.62% for the week. The MSCI EAFE Index, which tracks developed stock markets overseas, picked up 0.22%.1,2,3

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Monthly Economic Update for July, 2020

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U.S. Markets

Stocks rallied in May, sparked by a supportive Federal Reserve, stories of states re-opening, and reported progress on a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 4.2%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index picked up 4.5%. The NASDAQ Composite led, gaining 6.7%.1

Shift in Focus

April’s positive momentum continued into May, as stocks registered healthy gains, and investors looked to future economic hopes rather than current woes.

Further aiding stocks was a better-than-expected jobs report and firming oil prices. Many investors breathed a sigh of relief on the news that U.S. and Chinese negotiators were planning to meet, despite the rising tensions between the two nations.

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Quarterly Economic Update for 2Q-2020

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THE QUARTER IN BRIEF

As a new quarter begins, we look back on an eventful second quarter for households and investors – a quarter in which the economy took a mighty hit, while the stock market soared. Complying with stay-at-home orders, Americans abruptly cut back on discretionary spending, traveling, and commuting, resulting in a dire scenario for some industries. Unemployment rose as business revenue declined. Fundamental economic indicators saw big swings, and on one trading day, oil prices actually collapsed into negative territory. Homes became easier to finance; though, transactions declined. The Federal Reserve made proactive moves to try and foster a bit more economic stability. While Main Street quieted, Wall Street rallied, sensing that an economic rebound might be starting. The Standard & Poor’s 500 gained 19.95% for the quarter.1

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Weekly Economic Update for 6/29/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

A jump in COVID-19 cases dampened investor enthusiasm last week, sending stock prices lower on worries that rising infections could derail the economic recovery. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 3.31%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 retreated 2.86%. The Nasdaq Composite Index lost 1.90% for the week. The MSCI EAFE Index, which tracks developed stock markets overseas, declined 1.28%.1,2,3

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What Determines Car Insurance Rates?

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Your auto insurance premium is based on more than your driving history. The amount you pay for auto insurance is determined by a complicated algorithm that takes many factors into consideration. Your driving history is just one variable used to calculate your rate. Read on to learn more about what auto insurance carriers look at when they determine your premium.

Age is a key factor. Younger drivers are considered the riskiest to insure due to their lack of experience behind the wheel. Most insurance carriers consider a “young driver” to be someone under age 25. Drivers older than 25 typically pose less risk, so your car insurance premiums may drop as you get older.1

Your location makes a difference. Your location is one of the biggest factors in determining your car insurance premium. Insurance carriers use data from more than just your state and county; they often use information from your specific zip code. Insurance providers don’t just look at whether you live in an urban or rural area, but also at the motor vehicle theft and crime rate statistics where you live and park your vehicle.1

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Weekly Economic Update for 6/22/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks moved higher last week on news of more Federal Reserve market support and diminished concerns that new COVID-19 cases might lead to another economic shutdown.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.04%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 gained 1.86%. The Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 3.73% for the week. The MSCI EAFE Index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, increased 1.88%.1,2,3

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Weekly Economic Update for 6/15/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Investor sentiment turned negative last week, amid an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in states where re-opening has been underway as well as a subdued economic forecast from the Federal Reserve.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 5.55%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 4.78%. The Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 2.30% for the week. The MSCI EAFE Index, which tracks developed stock markets overseas, fell 3.10%.1,2,3

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Before You Claim Social Security

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Whether you want to leave work at 62, 67, or 72, claiming the retirement benefits you are entitled to by federal law is no casual decision. You will want to consider a few key factors first.

How long do you think you will live? If you have a feeling you will live into your nineties, for example, it may be better to claim later. If you start receiving Social Security benefits at or after Full Retirement Age (which varies from age 66 to 67 for those born in 1943 or later), your monthly benefit will be larger than if you had claimed at 62. If you file for benefits at FRA or later, chances are you probably a) worked into your mid-sixties, b) are in fairly good health, and c) have sizable retirement savings.1

If you really need retirement income, then claiming at or close to 62 might make more sense. If you have an average lifespan, you will, theoretically, receive the average amount of lifetime benefits regardless of when you claim them. Essentially, the choice comes down to more lifetime payments that are smaller versus fewer lifetime payments that are larger. For the record, Social Security’s actuaries project that the average 65-year-old man to live 84.0 years, and the average 65-year-old woman, 86.5 years.2

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Retirement Plan Options for Small Businesses

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As a small-business owner, figuring out retirement choices can be a little intimidating. How do you pick the most appropriate retirement plan for your business as well as your employees?

There are three main types of retirement plans for small businesses: SIMPLE-IRAs, SEP-IRAs, and 401(k)s. Read on below to learn more about each type of retirement plan. Also, keep in mind that recent legislative changes that occurred with the passing of the SECURE Act and CARES Act may complicate the decision.

SIMPLE-IRAs. SIMPLE stands for Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees. This is a traditional IRA that is set up for employees and allows both employees and employers to contribute. If you’re an employer of a small business who needs to get started with a retirement plan, a SIMPLE-IRA may be for you. While this plan doesn’t require an employee to contribute, employers must contribute 2% of their employee’s salary to a retirement fund. If you do choose to offer a matching contribution to your employee’s SIMPLE-IRA plan, you can match up to 3% of your employee’s compensation. Employees can also participate in a SIMPLE-IRA plan by having automatic deductions go straight from their paycheck to their SIMPLE-IRA.1,2,3

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Retirement In Sight for June, 2020

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YOU MIGHT SPEND LESS – LATER IN RETIREMENT

A 2019 whitepaper by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) indicates that Americans tend to spend less as they age.

EBRI analyzed a study from the University of Michigan, which tracked spending levels of Americans aged 50 or older for 12 years. Looking at this data, EBRI found that households headed by people aged 75 or older typically lived on 20% to 25% less per year than those aged 65 to 74.

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Weekly Economic Update for 6/8/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

A positive jobs report sent stocks soaring last Friday, capping a solid week as evidence of a global economic recovery outweighed concerns over civil unrest and tensions with China.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 6.81%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 advanced 4.91%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index lagged, climbing 3.42%. The MSCI EAFE Index, which tracks developed stock markets overseas, gained 5.52%.1,2,3

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Who Is Your Trusted Contact?

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Investment firms have a new client service requirement. They must now ask you if you would like to provide the name and information of a trusted contact.1

You do not have to supply this information, but it is encouraged. The request is made with your best interest in mind – and to lower the risk of someone crooked attempting to make investment decisions on your behalf.1

Why is setting up a trusted contact so important? While no one wants to think ill of someone they know and love, the reality is that seniors have lost an average of $50,200 to someone they know. And studies have shown that almost half of all seniors aged 65 and older manage their own finances. Statistically speaking, if you fall within this age range, you could be vulnerable to scams.1

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College Funding Options

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How can you cover your child’s future college costs? Saving early (and often) may be key for most families. Here are some college savings vehicles to consider.

529 college savings plans. Offered by states and some educational institutions, these plans allow you to save up to $15,000 per year for your child’s college costs without having to file an I.R.S. gift tax return. A married couple can contribute up to $30,000 per year. (An individual or couple’s annual contribution to a 529 plan cannot exceed the yearly gift tax exclusion set by the Internal Revenue Service.) You can even front-load a 529 plan with up to $75,000 in initial contributions per plan beneficiary – up to five years of gifts in one year – without triggering gift taxes.1,2

529 plans commonly feature equity investment options that you may use to try and grow your college savings. You can even participate in 529 plans offered by other states, which may be advantageous if your student wants to go to college in another part of the country. (More than 30 states offer some form of a tax deduction for 529 plan contributions.)1,2

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Monthly Economic Update for June, 2020

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U.S. Markets

Stocks rallied in May, sparked by a supportive Federal Reserve, stories of states re-opening, and reported progress on a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 4.2%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index picked up 4.5%. The NASDAQ Composite led, gaining 6.7%.1

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Weekly Economic Update for 6/1/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

The shortened week, which began with a powerful two-day rally of trading, was enough to drive the markets into another week of solid gains.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 3.75%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 advanced 3.01%. The Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 1.77% for the week. The MSCI EAFE Index, which tracks developed stock markets overseas, gained 6.18%.1-3

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Eldercare Choices in the COVID-19 Era

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Given the threat of COVID-19, seniors today may be considering their extended care alternatives with extra caution.1

In addition to health factors, the cost can be an issue. According to Genworth’s 2020 Cost of Care Survey, the median annual cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home is now $90,000. A single-occupancy room may cost over $100,000 a year.1

While you could designate a portion of your retirement savings for possible extended care costs, there are other choices to consider as well.1

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Making a Charitable Contribution

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Why sell shares when you can gift them? If you have appreciated stocks in your portfolio, you might want to consider donating those shares to charity rather than selling them.

Why, exactly? Donating appreciated securities to a tax-exempt charity may allow you to manage your taxes and benefit the charity. If you have held the stock for more than a year, you may be able to deduct from your taxes the fair market value of the stock in the year that you donate. If the charity is tax-exempt, it may not face capital gains tax on the stock if it sells it in the future.1

Keep in mind this article is for informational purposes only. It's not a replacement for real-life advice. Make sure to consult your tax, legal, and accounting professional before modifying your gift-giving strategy.

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