Blog Posts2020-10-29T16:56:01+00:00

Blog

Introduction to Designing and Managing an Investment Portfolio

Once you've identified your financial and investment goals and assessed your investing personality, you'll need to create an investment portfolio that fits your needs and understand what's involved in managing that portfolio on an ongoing basis. Entire books--actually, shelves full of books--have been written about ways to design and manage a portfolio, so this discussion obviously can only serve as a basic introduction to the process. However, it can help you understand the challenges involved and decide just how much assistance you might need, as well as how involved you want to be in managing your portfolio on an ongoing basis. Read More

Understanding Probate

When you die, you leave behind your estate. Your estate consists of your assets — all of your money, real estate, and worldly belongings. Your estate also includes your debts, expenses, and unpaid taxes. After you die, somebody must take charge of your estate and settle your affairs. This person will take your estate through probate, a court-supervised process that winds up your financial affairs after your death. Read More

Conducting a Periodic Review of Your Estate Plan

With your estate plan successfully implemented, one final but critical step remains: carrying out a periodic review and update. Imagine this: since you implemented your estate plan five years ago, you got divorced and remarried, sold your house and bought a boat to live on, sold your legal practice and invested the money that provides you with enough income so you no longer have to work, and reconciled with your estranged daughter. This scenario may look more like fantasy than reality, but imagine how these major changes over a five-year period may affect your estate. Read More

Understanding Risk

Few terms in personal finance are as important, or used as frequently, as "risk." Nevertheless, few terms are as imprecisely defined. Generally, when financial advisors or the media talk about investment risk, their focus is on the historical price volatility of the asset or investment under discussion. Read More

What Are Required Minimum Distributions And How Are They Calculated?

Required minimum distributions (RMDs) are the amounts that you must withdraw each year from your traditional IRA, employer-sponsored retirement plan, or tax-sheltered annuity. (Lifetime minimum distributions are not required from Roth IRAs, but your beneficiaries generally must take distributions following your death.) You must begin to take the annual distributions by April 1 of the year following the year in which you reach age 72. Read More

Closing a Retirement Income Gap

When you determine how much income you'll need in retirement, you may base your projection on the type of lifestyle you plan to have and when you want to retire. However, as you grow closer to retirement, you may discover that your income won't be enough to meet your needs. If you find yourself in this situation, you'll need to adopt a plan to bridge this projected income gap. Read More

10 Years and Counting: Points to Consider as You Approach Retirement

If you're a decade or so away from retirement, you've probably spent at least some time thinking about this major life change. How will you manage the transition? Will you travel, take up a new sport or hobby, or spend more time with friends and family? Should you consider relocating? Will you continue to work in some capacity? Will changes in your income sources affect your standard of living? Read More

Creating an Investment Portfolio

You've identified your goals and done some basic research. You understand the difference between a stock and a bond. But how do you actually go about creating an investment portfolio? What specific investments are right for you? What resources are out there to help you with investment decisions? Do you need a financial professional to help you get started? Read More

Retirement: Proceed With Caution Before Relying on General Rules

When investing for retirement, you're likely to hear a lot of well-meaning guidance from family, friends, and others offering advice — even the media. As you weigh the potential benefits of any commonly cited investment rules, consider that most are designed for the average situation, which means they may be wrong as often as they're right. Although such guidance is usually based on sound principles and may indeed be a good starting point, be sure to think carefully about your own personal situation before taking any tips at face value. Read More

Balancing a Retirement Portfolio with Asset Allocation

The combination of investments you choose is as important as the individual investments themselves. In fact, many experts argue that it's even more important, since the mix of various types of investments accounts for most of the ups and downs of a portfolio's return. Each type of investment, or asset class, has strengths and weaknesses that let it play a specific role in your overall investing strategy. Read More

How Aggressive Should I Be When I Invest For Retirement?

It depends. The right answer in your case will depend on a number of key factors. These include, among others, your income and assets, your attitude toward risk, whether you have access to an employer-sponsored plan at work, the age at which you plan to retire, and your projected expenses during retirement. But it's possible to lay down some guidelines that may be of help to you. Read More

Wealth Due To Inheritance

If you're the beneficiary of a large inheritance, you may find yourself suddenly wealthy. Even if you expected the inheritance, you may be surprised by the size of the bequest or the diverse assets you've inherited. You'll need to evaluate your new financial position, learn to manage your sizable assets, and consider the tax consequences of your inheritance, among other issues. Read More

Are You An Investor Or A Speculator?

Recent market news — around social-media driven stock trading that created extreme price swings for shares of certain companies — may have you wondering whether you should jump into the excitement. Before you leap, you might consider this advice from legendary investor and teacher Benjamin Graham, considered the father of value investing: "The individual investor should act consistently as an investor and not as a speculator." Read More

Holding Equities for the Long Term: Time vs. Timing

Legendary investor Warren Buffett is famous for his long-term perspective. He has said that he likes to make investments he would be comfortable holding even if the market shut down for 10 years. Investing with an eye to the long term is particularly important with stocks. Historically, equities have typically outperformed bonds, cash, and inflation, though past performance is no guarantee of future results and those returns also have involved higher volatility. Read More

The ABCs of Mutual Fund Share Classes

When investing in a mutual fund, you may have the opportunity to choose among several share classes, most commonly Class A, Class B, and Class C. This multi-class structure offers you the opportunity to select a share class that is best suited to your investment goals. The only differences among these share classes typically revolve around how much you will be charged for buying the fund, when you will pay any sales charges that apply, and the amount you will pay in annual fees and expenses. Read More

Lump Sum vs. Dollar Cost Averaging: Which Is Better?

Some people go swimming by diving into the pool; others prefer to edge into the water gradually, especially if the water's cold. A decision about putting money into an investment can be somewhat similar. Is it best to invest your money all at once, putting a lump sum into something you believe will do well? Or should you invest smaller amounts regularly over time to try to minimize the risk that you might invest at precisely the wrong moment? Read More

Holding Equities For The Long Term: Time vs. Timing

Legendary investor Warren Buffett is famous for his long-term perspective. He has said that he likes to make investments he would be comfortable holding even if the market shut down for 10 years. Investing with an eye to the long term is particularly important with stocks. Historically, equities have typically outperformed bonds, cash, and inflation, though past performance is no guarantee of future results and those returns also have involved higher volatility.Read More

The Power of Dividends In A Portfolio

Since 2003, when the top federal income tax rate on qualified dividends was reduced from a maximum of 38.6%, dividends have acquired renewed respect. Favorable tax treatment isn't the only reason, either; the ability of dividends to provide income and potentially help mitigate market volatility is also attractive to investors. As baby boomers approach retirement and begin to focus on income-producing investments, the long-term demand for high-quality, reliable dividends is likely to increase. Read More

Socially Responsible Investing

Investing with an eye toward promoting social, political, or environmental concerns (or at least not supporting activities you feel are harmful) doesn't mean you have to forgo pursuing a return on your money. Socially responsible investing may allow you to further both your own economic interests and a greater good, in whatever way you define that term. Read More

Active vs. Passive Portfolio Management

One of the longest-standing debates in investing is over the relative merits of active portfolio management versus passive management. With an actively managed portfolio, a manager tries to beat the performance of a given benchmark index by using his or her judgment in selecting individual securities and deciding when to buy and sell them. A passively managed portfolio attempts to match that benchmark performance, and in the process, minimize expenses that can reduce an investor's net return. Each camp has strong advocates who argue that the advantages of its approach outweigh those for the opposite side. Read More

Charitable Giving

Charitable giving can play an important role in many estate plans. Philanthropy cannot only give you great personal satisfaction, it can also give you a current income tax deduction, let you avoid capital gains tax, and reduce the amount of taxes your estate may owe when you die. There are many ways to give to charity. You can make gifts during your lifetime or at your death. You can make gifts outright or use a trust. You can name a charity as a beneficiary in your will, or designate a charity as a beneficiary of your retirement plan or life insurance policy. Or, if your gift is substantial, you can establish a private foundation, community foundation, or donor-advised fund. Read More

Managing a Concentrated Stock Position

A large holding of a single stock that dominates your portfolio carries unique challenges. On the one hand, it may represent a large portion of your portfolio because it has done well in the past. On the other hand, you may feel you need more diversification. You may have new financial goals that require a shift in strategy; for example, you may hold a growth stock, but now want your assets to produce additional income. Or, your investing focus may simply have shifted from growing your net worth to protecting what you've accumulated. Read More

Evaluating Volatility

Figures that show an average return on an investment are only part of the story. They don't tell how that return was achieved. Is the investment a volatile one, with a lot of ups and downs in price or returns that varied dramatically? Or was its performance relatively steady, with prices and returns that were very similar month to month or year after year? Understanding volatility measures can help you evaluate whether a particular investment is suited to your own investing style. Read More

Monitoring Your Portfolio

You probably already know you need to monitor your investment portfolio and update it periodically. Even if you've chosen an asset allocation, market forces may quickly begin to tweak it. For example, if stock prices go up, you may eventually find yourself with a greater percentage of stocks in your portfolio than you want. If stock prices go down, you might worry that you won't be able to reach your financial goals. Read More

Upside Down: What Does the Yield Curve Suggest About Growth?

On August 14, 2019, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 800 points, losing 3% of its value in its biggest drop of the year. The Nasdaq Composite also lost 3%, while the S&P 500 lost 2.9%. The slide started with bad economic news from Germany and China, which triggered a flight to the relative safety of U.S. Treasury securities. High demand briefly pushed the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note below the two-year note for the first time since 2007. Read More

Exchange-Traded Funds: Do They Belong in Your Portfolio?

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have become increasingly popular since they were introduced in the United States in the mid-1990s. Their tax efficiencies and relatively low investing costs have attracted investors who like the idea of combining the diversification of mutual funds with the trading flexibility of stocks. The proliferation of ETF choices means they can now be used to create a broad portfolio of core investments, to target narrower sectors, or to gain market exposure that might otherwise be too difficult or costly to access. Read More

IRA and Retirement Plan Limits for 2021

Many IRA and retirement plan limits are indexed for inflation each year. While some of the limits remain unchanged for 2021, other key numbers have increased. The maximum amount you can contribute to a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA in 2021 is $6,000 (or 100% of your earned income, if less), unchanged from 2020. The maximum catch-up contribution for those age 50 or older remains $1,000. You can contribute to both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA in 2021, but your total contributions cannot exceed these annual limits. Read More

Market Week: December 14, 2020

The Nasdaq opened the week by reaching a new high last Monday after climbing for the ninth straight day. Otherwise, stocks tumbled, as the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases had investors worried that more restrictions might be forthcoming. The Global Dow and the Dow each fell 0.5%, followed by the S&P 500 (-0.2%) and the Russell 2000 (-0.1%). Communication, technology, and utilities were the only sectors to gain ground. Treasury yields and crude oil prices declined, while the dollar was mostly higher. Read More

Coronavirus Concerns? Consider Past Health Crises

During the last week of February 2020, the S&P 500 lost 11.49% — the worst week for stocks since the 2008 financial crisis — only to jump by 4.6% on the first Monday in March.1 By all accounts, the drop was largely driven by ever-increasing fears about the potential effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and its ultimate impact on the global economy. If recent volatility is causing you to consider cashing out of your stock holdings, it may be worthwhile to pause and put recent events into perspective, using history as a guide. Read More

Watch Out for Coronavirus Scams

Fraudsters and scam artists are always looking for new ways to prey on consumers. Now they are using the same tactics to take advantage of consumers' heightened financial and health concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. Federal, state, and local law enforcement have begun issuing warnings on the surge of coronavirus scams and how consumers can protect themselves. Here are some of the more prevalent coronavirus scams that consumers need to watch out for. Read More

IRS Clarifies COVID-19 Relief Measures for Retirement Savers

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March 2020 ushered in several measures designed to help IRA and retirement plan account holders cope with financial fallout from the virus. The rules were welcome relief to many people, but left questions about the details unanswered. In late June, the IRS released Notices 2020-50 and 2020-51, which shed light on these outstanding issues. Read More

The Bull Is Back… Will It Keep Charging?

On August 18, 2020, the S&P 500 set a record high for the first time since COVID-19 ushered in a bear market on February 19. The cycle from peak to peak was just 126 trading days, the fastest recovery in the history of the index, erasing losses from an equally historic plunge of almost 34% in February and March. Although the strong comeback is good news for investors, there is a striking disconnect between the buoyant market and an economy still struggling with high unemployment and a public health crisis. Read More

Investing In Bonds

Bonds may not be as glamorous as stocks or commodities, but they are a significant component of most investment portfolios. Bonds are traded in huge volumes every day, but their full usefulness is often underappreciated and underestimated. Read More

Other Investments

A well-diversified investment portfolio contains a mix of stocks, bonds, short-term cash investments, and savings accounts that is tailored to your investment goals and risk tolerance. If you want to diversify your investment portfolio further, you can look to other investment possibilities. Here are a few of these, with brief explanations of what they are, how they can be used, and what the risks and potential rewards may be. Read More

Dollar Cost Averaging

You may not realize it, but if you're investing a regular amount in a 401(k) or another employer-sponsored retirement plan via payroll deduction, you're already using dollar cost averaging. In fact, you can use dollar cost averaging to invest for any long-term goal. It's easy to get started, too. Read More

Investing in Stocks

Businesses sell shares of stock to investors as a way to raise money to finance expansion, pay off debt, and provide operating capital. Each share of stock represents a proportional share of ownership in the company. As a stockholder, you share in a portion of any profits and growth of the company. Dividends from earnings are paid to shareholders, and growth is realized by the increase in value of the stock. Read More

Social Security and Medicare Face Financial Challenges

Most Americans will eventually receive Social Security and Medicare benefits. Each year, the Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds release lengthy reports to Congress that assess the health of these important programs. The newest reports, released on April 22, 2020, discuss the current financial condition and ongoing financial challenges that both programs face, and project a Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2021. Read More

Understanding Defined Benefit Plans

You may be counting on funds from a defined benefit plan to help you achieve a comfortable retirement. Often referred to as traditional pension plans, defined benefit plans promise to pay you a specified amount at retirement. To help you understand the role a defined benefit plan might play in your retirement savings strategy, here's a look at some basic plan attributes. Read More

Nonqualified Stock Options

A stock option is a written offer from an employer to sell stock to an employee at a specified price within a specific time period. A stock option can be a valuable form of additional compensation to your employees, because it provides your employees with the benefits of company ownership along with potential tax benefits. Read More

Election 2020: Political Uncertainty Creates Potential for Market Swings

There are clear differences between President Donald Trump and Former Vice President Joe Biden (and the political parties they represent) when it comes to tax policies, spending priorities, and overall economic strategies. For this reason, a shift in the balance of power could have wide-ranging implications for future policies and the financial prospects of individuals and businesses. Read More

Employee Stock Purchase Plans

An employee stock purchase plan allows your employees to purchase a specific amount of stock at a specific price (usually at a discount from the stock's fair market value (FMV)). The employee usually purchases the stock through a salary deduction program. Funds are withheld from your employee's after-tax salary and accumulate in an account. The employee can then make stock purchases from the account. Read More

The Shape of Economic Recovery

On June 8, 2020, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which has official responsibility for determining U.S. business cycles, announced that February 2020 marked the end of an expansion that began in 2009 and the beginning of a recession.  This was no great surprise considering widespread business closures due to the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting spike in unemployment, but it was an unusually quick official announcement. Read More

Handling Market Volatility

Conventional wisdom says that what goes up must come down. But even if you view market volatility as a normal occurrence, it can be tough to handle when your money is at stake. Though there's no foolproof way to handle the ups and downs of the stock market, the following common-sense tips can help. Read More

Dealing with Periods of Crisis

By definition, a crisis is a turning point, a time when you have to make crucial decisions (often suddenly) that will affect your future. Although smart planning is the key to effectively dealing with periods of crisis, you may find yourself suddenly dealing with an unexpected event that you didn’t prepare for, and you wonder what to do next. Whether you’re planning ahead or dealing with a crisis now, take control. There’s no escaping the fact that a crisis is a life-changing event, but how you handle a crisis will, in part, determine whether your life changes for the better or for the worse. Read More

New Spending Package Includes Sweeping Retirement Plan Changes (SECURE Act)

The $1.4 trillion spending package enacted on December 20, 2019, included the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, which had overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives in the spring of 2019, but then subsequently stalled in the Senate. The SECURE Act represents the most sweeping set of changes to retirement legislation in more than a decade. Read More

Sudden Wealth

What would you do with an extra $10,000? Maybe you'd pay off some debt, get rid of some college loans, or take a much-needed vacation. What if you suddenly had an extra million or 10 million or more? Now that you've come into a windfall, you have some issues to deal with. You'll need to evaluate your new financial position and consider how your sudden wealth will affect your financial goals. Read More

Data Breaches: Tips For Protecting Your Identity And Your Money

Large-scale data breaches are in the news again, but that's hardly surprising. Breaches have become more frequent — a byproduct of living in an increasingly digital world. During the first six months of 2019, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), a nonprofit organization whose mission includes broadening public awareness of data breaches and identity theft, had already tracked 713 data breaches, with more than 39 million records exposed. Once a breach has occurred, the "aftershocks" can last for years as cyberthieves exploit stolen information. Here are some ways to help protect yourself. Read More

Estate Planning: An Introduction

By definition, estate planning is a process designed to help you manage and preserve your assets while you are alive, and to conserve and control their distribution after your death according to your goals and objectives. But what estate planning means to you specifically depends on who you are. Your age, health, wealth, lifestyle, life stage, goals, and many other factors determine your particular estate planning needs. Read More

Financial Planning: Helping You See the Big Picture

Do you picture yourself owning a new home, starting a business, or retiring comfortably? These are a few of the financial goals that may be important to you, and each comes with a price tag attached. That's where financial planning comes in. Financial planning is a process that can help you target your goals by evaluating your whole financial picture, then outlining strategies that are tailored to your individual needs and available resources. Read More