Economic Updates & Financial Articles

Economic Updates & Financial Articles

Economic Updates:

Retirement in Sight Newsletter:

Financial Articles:

 


Weekly Economic Update for 2/22/2021

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Rising bond yields dampened investor enthusiasm for high-multiple growth companies last week, sending market averages mostly lower in a holiday-shortened week of trading.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.11% for the week. But the Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 0.71% and the Nasdaq Composite index slid 1.57%. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, declined 0.26%.1,2,3

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Retirement Seen Through Your Eyes

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How do you picture your future? If you are like many contemplating retirement, your view is likely pragmatic compared to that of your parents. That doesn’t mean you must have a “plain vanilla” tomorrow. Even if your retirement savings are not as great as you would prefer, you still have great potential to design the life you want.

With that in mind, here are some things to think about.

What do you absolutely need to accomplish? If you could only get four or five things done in retirement, what would they be? Answering this question might lead you to compile a “short list” of life goals, and while they may have nothing to do with money, the financial decisions you make may be integral to achieving them.

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Oil Prices on the Move

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At this time last year, it was still unknown that a deadly global pandemic was on the rise, eventually stalling economic growth and sending crude oil prices into negative territory. But recently, oil prices have surged, with crude hitting highs not seen since before the pandemic.

A hopeful sign. Recent production cuts and a belief in the potential for underlying economic growth are spurring a rally. Although the demand for oil is still lower than normal, many investment professionals harbor hopes of a speedier than expected economic recovery thanks to the ongoing global vaccination effort.1

Oil prices and the economy. The price of oil can often influence the costs of other production and manufacturing across the United States. For example, there is a direct correlation between the cost of gasoline or airplane fuel to the price of transporting goods and people. A drop in fuel prices means lower transport costs and cheaper airline tickets.2

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Economic Predictions: What Lies Ahead?

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It can be easy to overlook the nation’s solid economic fundamentals when the financial media splashes stories every day about an army of amateur traders, short-selling mania, and initial public offerings (IPOs) that double in price on the first day of trading.

But a recent survey by The Wall Street Journal showed just how upbeat economists are about 2021.1

Here’s a quick summary of the highlights.

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Weekly Economic Update for 2/15/2021

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stock prices inched higher last week amid declining COVID-19 cases, a pick-up in vaccinations, and progress on a fiscal relief bill.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.00%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 1.23%. The Nasdaq Composite index climbed 1.73% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, added 1.80%.1,2,3

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How Soon Might the Stimulus Arrive?

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While many in the United States are beginning to receive vaccinations and people are starting to foresee a life after COVID-19, it remains clear that things aren’t yet back to normal. As a result, there has been a great deal of speculation about Congress putting forward an economic stimulus, covering the needs of both individuals and businesses.

While some businesses are opening in a limited capacity, it doesn’t make ends meet for both small businesses who have been forced to close for extended periods, nor their employees, who are about to see the end of another wave of enhanced federal unemployment benefits. That aid is set to expire on March 14, a date that is expected by some to serve as an overall deadline for economic assistance.1

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Retirement Questions That Have Nothing to Do With Money

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Retirement planning is not entirely financial. Your degree of happiness in your “second act” may depend on some factors that don’t come with an obvious price tag. Here are some non-monetary factors to consider as you plan your retirement.

What will you do with your time? Too many people retire without any idea of what their retirement will look like. They leave work, and they cannot figure out what to do with themselves, so they grow restless. It’s important to identify what you want your retirement to look like and what you see yourself doing. Maybe you love your career, and can’t imagine not working during your retirement. There’s no hard and fast rule to your dream retirement, so it's important to be honest with yourself. An EBRI retirement confidence survey shows that almost 74% of retirees plan to work for pay, whereas just 27% of retirees report that they’ve actually worked for pay.1

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Should You Consider Refinancing Your Mortgage?

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Are you considering refinancing your mortgage? Perhaps you want to shorten the term of your home loan. Maybe you have an adjustable-rate mortgage now and want to refi into a fixed rate. Or maybe you want to tap into home equity or consolidate debt. Whatever your reason(s), you must weigh two questions. One, how long do you want to stay in your home? Two, how much money are you expected to save?

Refinances break down into three types: rate-and-term, cash-out, and cash-in. Rate-and-term refinances (also known as refis) simply adjust the term and/or the interest rate of your existing loan. Even though interest rates are rising now, they still make up the bulk of refinances. The no-cash-out variety adds closing costs to the loan balance, relieving you from having to pay those costs out of pocket.

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Retirement In Sight for February, 2021

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EVALUATING AN OPPORTUNITY FOR AN EARLY RETIREMENT

The pandemic has hastened the retirement of some baby boomers, and the linked furloughs and layoffs in many industries have led others to wonder if a retirement transition might come sooner than they think. Buyouts became common last year as businesses cut costs. What if you receive one this year? 

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Weekly Economic Update for 2/8/2021

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks notched strong gains last week, paced by a string of solid economic reports and consensus-beating corporate earnings.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 3.89%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 advanced 4.65%. The Nasdaq Composite index jumped 6.01% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, climbed 1.96%.1,2,3

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Will Updated I.R.S. Tables Create an Opportunity for Retirees?

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If you are retired and have reached your seventies, you may have the opportunity to draw a little less income from your retirement savings accounts in 2022. 

Next year, the Internal Revenue Service plans to update the life expectancy tables used for the calculation of required minimum distributions, or RMDs – the annual withdrawals you are asked to make from certain kinds of retirement plans.1

The I.R.S. knows that on the whole, Americans are living longer than they used to, and therefore, their retirement savings need to last longer. In recognition of this, it is revising the tables used to figure RMDs for the first time since 2002.1

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Monthly Economic Update for February, 2021

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U.S. Markets

Stocks were mixed in January, giving up much of the month’s gains in the final days of trading, as unprecedented activity in a handful of companies roiled markets.

 The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 2.04 percent and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 1.11 percent. By contrast, the Nasdaq Composite gained 1.42 percent.1

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Weekly Economic Update for 2/1/2021

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Despite strong corporate earnings, stock prices closed lower after a volatile week of trading triggered by unprecedented activity in a handful of companies.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 3.27%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 3.31%. The Nasdaq Composite index dropped 3.49% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, slipped 1.83%.1,2,3

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Earnings Season Gets Underway

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Every few months, you may hear the phrase “earnings season” as you listen to financial news.

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

Earnings season is the time when a majority of publicly traded companies release their quarterly financial reports. Companies often go into great detail about their business, and some may guide what lies ahead.

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Weekly Economic Update for 1/25/2021

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Anticipation of a new fiscal stimulus and improved vaccine distribution powered stocks to fresh record highs last week with technology stocks leading the way.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.59%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 picked up 1.94%. The Nasdaq Composite index led, gaining 4.19% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, rose by 1.15%.1,2,3

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Tax Filing Season Is a Little Later This Year

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Recently, the Internal Revenue Service (I.R.S.) announced that tax season will start a little later than usual. This year the I.R.S. will begin accepting and processing 2020 tax returns on Friday, February 12, 2021.1

In light of the December 27 tax law changes which brought a second round of Economic Impact Payments and other benefits to many, the I.R.S. will use this additional time to update, program, and test their systems.1

However, if you intend to work with a tax professional or use tax software, there's no need to wait. If you prepare your return now, not only will you have your taxes done and out of the way, but your filings will be transmitted to the I.R.S. starting February 12.1

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1099 Forms

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What is a 1099 form? This is a record of payment from an individual or entity, showing a payment, generated for your records. The individual/entity sends a copy to both the payee as well as the I.R.S.1

Who might be sending 1099s? Clients send their contractors 1099s, recording work performed. Banks send 1099s to reflect interest from a savings account. A state may send a 1099 for a tax refund. If the financial institution who handles your retirement account writes you a check, they will also send you a 1099.1

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Outlook 2021: Bond Prices

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The 10-year Treasury yield has climbed higher since the New Year, which means that some bond prices are dropping. You may have seen the headlines that say, “10-Year Yields Over 1%.”

For some, the first time they experience a change in bond prices is when they open their monthly statement and review their investments.

But before you check your January statement, here is some background that may help put the most recent move in rates in perspective.

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Weekly Economic Update for 1/18/2021

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Markets drifted lower last week as uninspired investors digested mixed news on the economic front.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.91% while the Standard & Poor’s 500 slid 1.48%. The Nasdaq Composite index stumbled 1.54% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, slipped 0.26%.1,2,3

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Weekly Economic Update for 1/11/2021

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Shrugging off COVID-19 infections and the disruption at the Capitol on January 6, stocks powered higher to kick off a new year of trading.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.61%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 increased by 1.83%. The Nasdaq Composite index, which led throughout 2020, picked up 2.43%. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, rose 1.45%.1,2,3

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2021 Opens With a Bang

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The first week of 2021 has already had many ups and downs. Just because it’s a new year doesn’t mean that the 2020 issues go away, and so far, 2021 has been no exception to this rule.

The markets opened on January 4 and traded lower out of the gate, with the S&P 500 dropping 1.5%. The last time the market opened lower was in 2016, when the S&P 500, the Dow Jones, and the Nasdaq Composite all dropped on the first trading day of the new year.1,2

The stock market’s first hurdle of the New Year was to assess the runoff elections happening for the two Senate seats in Georgia. A special election has only happened three other times in our nation’s history, so the market appeared anxious about the process.3,4

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5 Highlights of the New Stimulus Package

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After a bit of political posturing in December, the $900 billion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (2021 CAA) was signed into law by President Trump as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact employers and employees.

Here’s a quick recap of five key highlights:

Stimulus Checks: The new law authorized a second round of $600 checks for people with income that meets the criteria. The checks start to phase out for individuals who earned at least $75,000 in 2019 and $150,000 for joint filers.1

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Retirement In Sight for January, 2021

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TO RETIRE, OR NOT TO RETIRE?

For some of us, the coronavirus pandemic has complicated the question. As Yahoo! Finance reports, a Harris Poll study conducted this past summer found that 25% of Gen Xers and 14% of baby boomers think they will retire later than they planned, because of the pandemic's financial impact on their lives.   

Will this perception be fleeting? Forty-nine percent of respondents cited the current state of the economy as the biggest obstacle to realizing their retirement goals, but the economy frequently changes course. Long-term retirement strategies consider potential short-term economic ups and downs. 

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Monthly Economic Update for January, 2021

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U.S. Markets

A tumultuous year ended on a positive note as stocks rose in December, spurred by the rollout of multiple COVID-19 vaccines and the signing of a new fiscal relief bill.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which lagged all year, picked up 3.27 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 3.71 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite tacked on 5.65 percent.1

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Quarterly Economic Update for 4Q 2020

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THE QUARTER IN BRIEF

On Wall Street, the fourth quarter's biggest development had everything to do with science and medicine. In November, news that two vaccines had been highly effective against COVID-19 in clinical trials strengthened Wall Street's fall rally. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized both vaccines for emergency use weeks later.

Two important deals were struck after much negotiation. In the nation's capital, Congress approved a second economic stimulus in response to the pandemic. Overseas, the United Kingdom and the European Union met the deadline to forge a post-Brexit trade agreement.

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Weekly Economic Update for 1/4/2021

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks moved higher during a holiday-shortened week of trading, capping off a turbulent, but otherwise strong year for equity investors.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.35%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 increased by 1.43%. The Nasdaq Composite index, which led all year, added 0.65%. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, rose 2.02%.1,2,3

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IRA Deadlines Are Approaching

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Financially, many of us associate April with taxes – but we should also associate April with important IRA deadlines.

April 15, 2021 is the deadline to take your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from certain individual retirement accounts.

Keep in mind that withdrawals from traditional, SIMPLE, and SEP-IRAs are taxed as ordinary income, and if taken before age 59½, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty.

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What’s the Buzz with Bitcoin?

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Hardly a day goes by that the topic of bitcoin or other cryptocurrency assets doesn’t come up in meetings with clients and prospects or from friends and relatives who want to know, “what all the buzz is about?”

The message is the same, regardless of who’s asking. Cryptocurrency is not a currency at all. It’s a speculative asset class that is not appropriate for everyone. Only people with a high-risk tolerance should consider cryptocurrency assets.

Like other alternative assets, cryptocurrency can be illiquid at times, and its current values may fluctuate from the purchase price. Cryptocurrency assets can be significantly affected by a variety of forces, including economic conditions and simple supply and demand.

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Weekly Economic Update for 12/21/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks climbed higher amid the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and an improving outlook for a fiscal stimulus bill.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which has lagged all year, gained 0.44%. The Standard & Poor’s 500 picked up 1.25% while the Nasdaq Composite index surged 3.05%. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, rose 2.44%.1,2,3

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Distributions from Mutual Funds

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This time of year, you might glance at an account statement and see there has been an adjustment. But there may not be any cause for concern.

Many mutual funds in December pay shareholders capital gains distributions that they have accumulated throughout the year.1

Typically, mutual fund companies start making estimates about distributions as early as November and most finalize the payment by mid-December.1

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Weekly Economic Update for 12/14/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks retreated last week on rising COVID-19 infections and slow progress on an economic relief bill.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 0.57%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 dropped 0.96%. The Nasdaq Composite index fell 0.69% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, declined 0.05%.1,2,3

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New Distribution Period Tables

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As much as you would like to, you can’t keep your money in your retirement account forever.

These investment vehicles include 401(k)s, IRAs, and similar retirement accounts.1  Under the SECURE Act, once you reach age 72, you must begin taking required minimum distributions from your 401(k), IRAs, or other defined contribution plans in most circumstances. Withdrawals from your 401(k) or other defined contribution plans are taxed as ordinary income and, if taken before age 59½, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty.

Another major change that occurred from the SECURE Act is the removal of the age limit for traditional IRA contributions. Before the SECURE Act, you had to stop making contributions at age 70½. Now, you can continue to make contributions as long as you meet the earned-income requirement.2

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Markets & Marriage

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Your investment strategy is a lot like a marriage. One day you may feel like everything’s going swimmingly. The next day, there might be an argument over who forgot to load the dishwasher. And even the best marriages and partnerships have moments where one or both partners look around and go, “Is this as good as it gets?”

The stock market, much like a marriage, has days of ups and downs. Just look at what happened within the last few weeks. During the first week of December, the stock market jumped 200 points, only for that gain to disappear a week later.1,2

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Group Life for a Growing Business?

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As companies grow and add employees, they also add employee benefits. Retirement and medical plans can be provided, but what about group life insurance? 

Group life on the menu? Owner-operators know that group life coverage can help attract excellent workers, but some are anxious about the cost and suspect they are just “small fish” to insurers. In reality, coverage may be very affordable and include a variety of policy choices. 

Several factors will affect the cost and availability of life insurance, including the number of eligible workers, their ages and genders, the nature of your business, and the type and amount of insurance purchased. Life insurance policies have expenses, including mortality and other charges. You should consider determining whether your company wants to expand its benefits package before implementing a strategy involving life insurance.  Any guarantees associated with a policy are dependent on the ability of the issuing insurance company to continue making claim payments.

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Building a Healthy Financial Foundation

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When you read about money matters, you will sometimes see the phrase, “getting your financial house in order.” What exactly does that mean? 

When your financial “house is in order,” it means it is built on a solid foundation. It means that you have six fundamental “pillars” in place that are either crucial for sustaining your financial well-being or creating wealth. 

#1: A savings account. This is your Fort Knox: the place where you store and build the cash you may someday use for your biggest purchases. Savings accounts pay a modest interest rate. You should still consider having a savings account, even in today’s low-interest rate environment. Banks and credit unions often limit the number and amount of withdrawals you can make from savings accounts per month.       

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Retirement Blindspots

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We all have our “blue sky” visions of the way retirement should be, yet our futures may unfold in ways we do not predict. So, as you think about your “second act,” you may want to consider some life and financial factors that can suddenly arise.

You may end up retiring earlier than you expect. If you leave the workforce at “full” retirement age (FRA), which is 67 for those born in 1960 and later, you may be eligible to claim “full” Social Security benefits. Working until 67 may be worthwhile because it will reduce your monthly Social Security benefits if you claim them between age 62 and your FRA.1

Now, do most Americans retire at 67? Not according to the annual survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

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Weekly Economic Update for 12/7/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks marched higher last week on an improving outlook for the passage of a fiscal stimulus package.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.03%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 tacked on 1.67%. The Nasdaq Composite index gained 2.12% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, gained 0.78%.1,2,3

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Do Our Biases Affect Our Financial Choices?

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Investors are routinely warned about allowing their emotions to influence their decisions. However, they are less routinely cautioned about their preconceptions and biases that may color their financial choices.

In a battle between the facts & biases, our biases may win. If we acknowledge this tendency, we may be able to avoid some unexamined choices when it comes to personal finance. It may actually "pay" to recognize blind spots and biases with investing. Here are some common examples of bias creeping into our financial lives.

Letting emotions run the show. An investor thinks, "I got a great return from that decision," instead of thinking, "that was a good decision because ______."1

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Cash Balance Plans

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In corporate America, pension plans may be fading away. Only 14% of Fortune 500 companies offered them to full-time employees in 2019. In contrast, legal, medical, accounting, and engineering firms are keeping the spirit of the traditional pension plan alive by adopting cash balance plans.1

Owners and partners of these highly profitable businesses sometimes get a late start on retirement. Cash balance plans give them a chance to catch up since these defined benefit plans are age-weighted: the older you are, the more that can sock away each year, up to $336,000, depending on your age.2

How does a cash balance plan differ from a traditional pension plan? In a cash balance plan, a business or professional practice maintains an account for each employee with a hypothetical “balance” of pay credits (i.e., employer contributions) plus interest credits. The plan’s objective is to pay out a pension-style monthly income stream to the participant at retirement – either a set dollar amount or a percentage of compensation. Lump-sum payouts are also a choice. Another important factor to keep in mind is that cash balance plans are commonly portable: the vested portion of the account balance can be paid out if an employee leaves before a retirement date.3

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Does Main Street Need a Wall Street Strategy?

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As Wall Street pushes higher, a pandemic-weary Main Street is relearning how to manage cash flow with the hope of keeping its retirement dreams alive.

Self-employed Americans, and the people working for them, account for roughly 30 percent of the nation’s workforce.1

In the best of times, putting aside money for retirement was a challenge for this group. Before the pandemic, just 13 percent of people who run a single-person business set aside money in a workplace retirement plan. By comparison, 72 percent of people in large companies participate in retirement plans.2

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Retirement In Sight for December, 2020

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THIS YEAR, THERE IS MORE INCENTIVE TO GIVE

When the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act became law in March, it broadened charitable tax deduction opportunities. These special 2020 tax provisions are worth reviewing before they expire on December 31, 2020.

First and foremost, the CARES Act allows individuals and couples taking the standard federal income tax deduction to claim an additional charitable federal tax deduction of up to $300 in cash gifts made to charities. This charitable deduction can be taken even if you don't itemize, and the limit increases to $600 for married couples. (This deduction is "above-the-line," which means that the deducted amount is simply subtracted from your 2020 gross income.)

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Monthly Economic Update for December, 2020

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U.S. Markets

Stock prices powered higher and emboldened investors in November thanks to a series of positive news events.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which has lagged much of the year, led the rally, jumping 11.84 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index tacked on 10.75 percent while the Nasdaq Composite rose 11.80 percent.1

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Weekly Economic Update for 11/30/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks surged last week, ignited by another COVID-19 vaccine announcement, encouraging economic data, and the easing of political uncertainty.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.21%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 added 2.27%. The Nasdaq Composite index, which has led all year, gained 2.96%. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, climbed 1.54%.1,2,3

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Weekly Economic Update for 11/23/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Despite news of another COVID-19 vaccine candidate, stocks were mixed amid investor anxiety over an increase in new infections and economic lockdowns.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.73%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 declined 0.77%. The Nasdaq Composite index rose 0.22% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, gained 1.42%.1,2,3

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Coronavirus Vaccines and the Economy

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As the United States sees a rise in cases of COVID-19 across the nation, news of two promising vaccines out of hundreds being tested has offered a ray of hope for a fatigued world.1

A positive reaction to these vaccines affects every aspect of human life, including the financial world. On Monday, November 16th, The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 450 points on the news of a second effective vaccine, hitting a record high.2

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Speed Bumps & Headlines

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As an investor, it can be tempting to get caught up in daily news headlines. Consider how news about the election and COVID-19 vaccines have moved the markets over the past several weeks. But having a financial strategy can help you ignore short-term volatility and focus on your long-term vision.

As you know, investing is a process based on your goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance. Interestingly enough, it’s also a process that may help you prepare for life’s financial challenges.

For example, did you know that only 44 percent of workers have estimated how much income they would need in retirement? What’s more, only 36 percent have calculated how much money they would need to cover healthcare expenses.1

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Weekly Economic Update for 11/16/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

News of a COVID-19 vaccine ignited a rally in economically sensitive stocks and a broad retreat in technology companies last week, though enthusiasm was tempered by reports of rising new infections and fresh lockdowns.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 4.08%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 2.16%. The Nasdaq Composite index fell 0.55% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, jumped 4.01%.1,2,3

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What Do I Do With All of This Money?

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Here’s a scenario for you: You pick up what appears to be a lottery ticket. You check the numbers for a laugh and discover a winning combination, offering you millions of dollars in prize money. What are the chances of that?

The next day, you get a call from a lawyer. “Uh-oh,” you think. It turns out he works for your Aunt Gertrude’s estate. Just before her passing, she decided not to establish a charity for homeless cacti and other wayward succulents, and has instead left her vast estate in your hands. 

The day after that, you get a call from a Silicon Valley tech billionaire who wants to make an offer on your small startup company and all of its patents. The deal goes through. In a matter of days, you are wealthy beyond the dreams of King Midas himself.

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Interest Rates and Your Mortgage

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With the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates at or near zero, you may wonder about your mortgage. Is it a good time to refinance or even pay off the debt entirely? After all, your mortgage is one of the biggest expenses you may have in life, so why not rid yourself of that debt as soon as possible?1

Not so fast. There are many reasons why keeping your mortgage could be a better option than paying it off. Yes, you may eliminate one of the largest bills you have every month, but there are benefits to maintaining your mortgage as well.

1. Losing all your gains on your investments. Using funds from your investments to pay off your mortgage early may mean you lose out on potential gains. However, by keeping your portfolio untouched, you increase the chances of a return on your investment.2

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Retirement In Sight for November, 2020

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MOST AMERICANS THINK THEY WILL WORK IN RETIREMENT

A life of leisure? That may not be what retirement looks like for baby boomers and Gen Xers—and in fact, it may not be what they want their retirements to look like. Market research firm Ipsos surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. adults earlier this year, and found that 54% of participants believed they would work at least a little during their retirements.

Sixty percent of Gen Xers (those born during 1965-80) held this belief, along with 59% of boomers (those born during 1946-64). Forty-nine percent of millennials also held this perception (the survey defined millennials as Americans born during 1981-96). A significant percentage of those polled looked at the possibility of working in retirement as a plus, rather than a minus: 56% felt that it would be good for their mental well-being to keep working, and 40% believed the income could provide them with more household economic stability in case of volatile unexpected expenses or turbulence in the financial markets affecting their investments. The pollsters also asked which of two possibilities respondents would choose: being totally debt-free, or being able to save more for retirement while carrying some debts. Fifty-five percent of the respondents said they would take the second choice over the first.1,2

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Weekly Economic Update for 11/9/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stocks soared last week as investors anticipated that a split Congress would raise legislative hurdles to changing corporate taxes and adjusting regulatory oversight of big technology companies.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 6.87%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 tacked on 7.32%. The Nasdaq Composite index surged 9.01% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, rose 7.65%.1,2,3

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Election 2020: Wall Street Reacts to Potentially Divided Government

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After many weeks of telegraphing a long and careful ballot count, this week’s election lived up to that prediction in races for the Senate, the House, and the presidency. While Americans voted Tuesday, Wall Street cast its ballot Wednesday.

The S&P 500 rose 2.2% on Wednesday, November 4, as it appeared a divided government would be the outcome of election 2020. The Nasdaq, which has led all year, picked up 3.9%.1

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Long-Term Rates Are Creeping Higher

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With all the election chatter and stock market volatility, it may have been easy to miss the ongoing uptrend in long-term interest rates.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury bond is sitting just below 1%. Just a few short months ago, the 10-year was yielding roughly 0.5%.1

What's fueling the rally? More demand for money, which is the result of a pickup in economic activity. When businesses see economic conditions improving, they look to expand their operations. When entrepreneurs see exciting new opportunities, they look to raise money to finance their projects.2

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Monthly Economic Update for November, 2020

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U.S. Markets

Inaction on a second American fiscal stimulus bill and a rise in global COVID-19 cases put pressure on stock prices in October.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which has lagged much of the year, dropped 4.61 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index lost 2.77 percent and the Nasdaq Composite slipped 2.29 percent.1

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Weekly Economic Update for 11/2/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

Stock prices dropped last week as hopes for a fiscal stimulus bill faded and investors focused on rising COVID-19 infections, here and abroad.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 6.47%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 tumbled 5.64%. The Nasdaq Composite index lost 5.51% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, slumped 5.02%.1,2,3

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2021 Limits for IRAs, 401(k)s and More

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On October 26, the Treasury Department released the 2021 adjusted figures for retirement account savings. Although these adjustments won’t bring any major changes, there are some minor elements to note.

401(k)s. The salary deferral amount for 401(k)s remains the same at $19,500, while the catch-up amount of $6,500 also remains unchanged. However, the overall limit for these plans will increase from $57,000 to $58,000 in 2021.1

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How and When to Sign Up for Medicare

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Medicare enrollment is automatic for some. For those receiving Social Security benefits, the coverage starts on the first day of the month you turn 65.1

If you are not receiving Social Security benefits at 65, you may be delaying until you reach full retirement age, or until you reach 70. If you’re coming up on 65 and not receiving Social Security benefits, SSDI, or benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board, you can still apply for Medicare coverage. You can visit your local SSA office or visit www.socialsecurity.gov/medicareonly/ to determine your eligibility.1

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Managing Money as a Couple

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When you marry or simply share a household with someone, your financial life changes—and your approach to managing your money may change as well. The good news is that it is usually not so difficult.

At some point, you will have to ask yourselves some money questions—questions that pertain not only to your shared finances but also to your individual finances. Waiting too long to ask (or answer) those questions might carry a price. In the 2019 TD Bank Love & Money survey of consumers who said they were in relationships, 40% of younger couples described having weekly arguments about their finances.1

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Weekly Economic Update for 10/26/2020

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THE WEEK ON WALL STREET

The failure to reach an agreement on a new fiscal stimulus bill soured investor sentiment and sent stocks modestly lower for the week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.95%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 0.53%. The Nasdaq Composite index slipped 1.06% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, declined 0.44%. 1,2,3

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Earnings Season: 3rd Quarter Results

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Earnings are coming in, reflecting the third quarter of 2020. However, it’s important not to jump to any conclusions about the state of the overall economy based on the results reported from a small handful of companies.

It’s easy to get excited—positively or negatively—about earnings reports. Perhaps you have a financial interest in a particular company. In practical terms, though, your overall financial strategy likely covers a wide variety of investments that can be influenced in different ways by different factors.

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Election 2020: A Dose of Patience

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The upcoming election is prompting some people to reconsider their investment strategy.

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

But if history is any guide, patience may be the answer.

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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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