Is your financial house in good order? Do you know where everything is? How long would it take you to pull together all of your important financial documents? Minutes… or hours? Some of you may be thinking it could take days because you aren’t the one who handles the finances for the household or even if you do, you may have forgotten how to access certain financial documents online, or maybe worse, things are just scattered everywhere. The answer should be “minutes.” And if it’s not, it’s truly time to get financially organized, or as I like to call it, Fi-Organized or Fi-Org’d for short. (more…)
I believe it was Peter Lynch, the legendary mutual fund manager of the Fidelity Magellan Fund that once said, “Prior to retirement have as much in stocks as you can possibly stomach, and then after retirement, have as much in stocks as you can possibly stomach.” In other words, the amount of risk you should take in the stock market, completely and without question, depends on your own personal tolerance for risk. How much risk can you stomach? That’s the million dollar question. (more…)
Why do we plan a vacation? Many, if not most of us, lay out meticulous plans to ensure that our trip goes smoothly. Doing so enables us to do all the things we want to do and see all the things we want to see. But what would happen if we didn’t create a plan in advance? Might a relaxing vacation turn out not so relaxing? Might a potentially great experience turn into a frustratingly negative one? Don’t get me wrong, I know some folks live for spontaneous adventure, but I can’t imagine too many of us like to travel without some sort of plan. By setting an itinerary or planning ahead many of the main aspects of your trip, you can have your expectations become a reality and help to minimize most travel snafus. We plan because there are rewards for doing it. (more…)
Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death. No, this is not a review of Theater Charlotte’s dinner mystery entitled Wine, Chocolate & Murder (doors open at 6:30 on Saturday, February 15th), although I do hear that makes for a fun night out with your Valentine. This is going to be much more personal, and it’s my hope, that you will find it much more valuable. There is a social movement currently taking place which I think it is simply outstanding, and well worth discussing.
Are you familiar with TED Talks? If you are not, go to www.TED.com. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. It is a global set of live conferences (mini presentations) that promote “Ideas Worth Sharing”. You can find extremely interesting presentations, no longer than 10-15 mins. in duration, given by thought provoking individuals on a very wide array of topics. Its popularity has spawned other TED Channels, one of which is TED MED (www.TEDMED.com) solely focused on health and medicine. It is on this particular site that I came across “Let’s Have Dinner and Talk about Death”, presented by Michael Hebb back in April of 2013. (more…)
“It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.” That’s a quote from a pretty intelligent guy by the name of Albert Einstein. It is tough to challenge just about anything that came out of his mind, but it’s probably even tougher to measure what one actually takes out of this world. We spend a lifetime of taking out. But can one spend a lifetime of putting back (or giving back)? (more…)
How will Wall Street remember 2012?
Stock market bears might characterize 2012 as a year of living dangerously, a year in which Wall Street coped with major risks to the American and European economies. Stock market bulls might end up remembering 2012 for what didn’t happen: Greece had resisted a temptation to exit the euro, and it looked as if bipartisan negotiation might save the U.S. economy from heading over the fiscal cliff. In late November, stocks appeared on track for some solid yearly gains.
Key economic indicators improved. The year saw major rebounds in the housing market and consumer confidence. By October, existing home sales were up 10.9% from a year ago with the median sale price at $178,600; 11.1% better than in October 2011. New home sales volume in October had increased 17.2% in 12 months, and the National Association of Home Builders builder sentiment index hit 46 in November, sharply above the October 2011 low of 17. The Conference Board’s consumer confidence poll hit a 57-month high of 73.7 in November, while the University of Michigan’s November consumer sentiment survey reached a peak unseen since July 2007 at 84.9.1,2,3
By October, unemployment was at 7.9%, down 0.4% from January and 2.3% from three years before. After a 0.2% reversal in May and a flat reading in June, personal spending increased consistently through the third quarter, albeit (more…)
The window of opportunity for many tax-saving moves closes on December 31. So set aside some time to evaluate your tax situation now, while there’s still time to affect your bottom line for the current tax year. With that in mind, here are 10 things to consider as the curtain closes on 2011.
1. Deferring income to 2012 means postponing taxes
Consider opportunities you might have to defer income to 2012. You might be able to delay a year-end bonus, for example. If you’re able to push what would have been 2011 income into 2012, you may be able to put off paying income tax on the deferred dollars until next year.
2. Paying deductible expenses sooner may help you in 2011
Does it make sense for you to accelerate deductions into 2011? If you itemize deductions, it might help your 2011 bottom line to pay deductible expenses like medical costs, qualifying interest, and state and local taxes before the end of the year, instead of waiting until 2012.
3. Income tax rates to remain the same in 2012
The same six federal income tax rates that apply in 2011 will apply in 2012. So, depending upon your income, you’ll fall into either the 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, or 35% rate bracket. And, as in 2011, long-term capital gains and (more…)
We have all suffered through (and many are still suffering through) the second worst economic downturn in our country’s history. “I Was There” and no one is even handing out the proverbial free tee-shirt. But there have been signs of hope, as the stock market has rebounded well off its 2009 lows, corporations are in much better financial shape, investors have delevered, and many economic indicators are still moving in the right direction (albeit at a much slower pace than most would like to see). The most stubborn areas can still be seen today in the housing market and the elevated levels continuing in unemployment. Add to that the US debt debacle, as well as European debt woes, slowing growth in the emerging markets, an S&P US rating downgrade and the media is once again having a feeding frenzy. (more…)
If we slash trillions from the federal budget, what does that do to our GDP?
The summer of discontent stretches on. As July ebbs into August, we have no resolution on the federal debt limit issue. The possibility of default is still in play. Republican leaders want major cuts to entitlement programs as a condition of raising the debt ceiling; Democrats agree on the necessity of cuts but also want tax hikes for the wealthiest Americans to bring in added revenue.
A trillion-dollar divide. On July 14, CNBC.com reported that both parties had tentatively agreed on nearly $1.4 trillion worth of reductions to the federal budget. That’s not too surprising: $1.4 trillion is the projected size of the budget gap for the fiscal year ending in September. Republicans have called for $2.4 trillion in cuts.1,2
This federal belt-tightening is going to lead politicians, economists and consumers into the second part of the debt cap (more…)
Is there a chance that America could actually default on its debt?
When will the debt ceiling issue be solved? The NFL, the NBA, the EU, Congress … wherever you look, it seems people would rather wrangle these days than resolve their differences. The U.S. Treasury has set a hard deadline of August 2 for Congress to settle its divide on the federal debt ceiling, and if partisan bickering interferes, the world economy could suffer a severe hit.
What would happen if we miss the deadline? According to federal budget analysts at the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Treasury would only be able to make a slight majority of its 80 million monthly payments in August. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner would likely be put in the same position as a struggling consumer low on cash and behind on his bills: he would have to selectively decide which debts to pay for the month and which to ignore.1
Should August 2 come and go without a solution, Congress’s inaction (and Geithner’s subsequent decisions) would have dramatic global repercussions. Most likely, his big priority would be to pay off bond investors so that a formal (more…)
If you ever have the inkling to manage your investments on your own, that inkling is worth reconsidering. Do-it-yourself or DIY investment management can be a bad idea for the retail investor for myriad reasons. Getting caught up in the moment. When you are watching your investments day to day, you can lose a sense … Continue reading “Why DIY Investment Management Is Such a Risk”
If you are an executor to an estate, you must carry out your duties responsibly. Fulfilling these duties is not only a measure of your ability, but a measure of your character.You can approach these tasks methodically. In fact, it is probably best if you do. Here are the common steps required of executors, before … Continue reading “An Executor Checklist”
Addressing the potential threat of long-term care expenses may be one of the biggest financial challenges for individuals who are developing a retirement strategy. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 69% of people over age 65 can expect to need extended care services at some point in their lives. So, understanding … Continue reading “Understanding Long-Term Care”
One constant in life is change. During the past year and a half, we have experienced more change than any of us bargained for. Change is disruptive—but also brings opportunities. For investors right now, there is no shortage of changes to think about, but those changes may set the stage for the next leg higher … Continue reading “Market Update: Change May Bring Opportunities”
Financial markets tend to function best when they have clear, strong leadership. When there’s concern about who’s the boss, markets can struggle. Jerome Powell is finishing his first term as Fed Chair in February 2022. Until the past few weeks, Wall Street overwhelmingly believed he would be nominated to a second term by President Biden.1
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