Estate Planning Mistakes

Too many wealthy households commit these common blunders. Many people plan their estates diligently, with input from legal, tax, and financial professionals. Others plan earnestly, but make mistakes that can potentially affect both the transfer and destiny of family wealth. Here are some common and not-so-common errors to avoid. Doing it all yourself. While you could write your own will or create a will or trust from a template, it can be risky to do so. Sometimes simplicity has a price. Look at the example of Warren Burger. The former Chief Justice of the United States wrote his own will,

Economic Update

January 25, 2016 OIL REBOUND DRIVES STOCKS HIGHER Thanks to frosty weather hitting the Northeast and a round of short covering, WTI crude settled at $32.19 on the NYMEX Friday – up 9% for the day and 9.4% for the week. Oil’s surge (and hopes of quantitative easing overseas) bolstered stocks: across four days, the Dow gained 0.66% to 16,093.51, the S&P 500 1.41% to 1,906.90, and the Nasdaq 2.29% to 4,591.18. (1) EXISTING HOME SALES PACE IMPROVES 14.7% This December jump in resales was partly due to November transactions being delayed by new closing rules. Regardless, 2015 was a

2016 Retirement Plan Contribution Limits

Tame yearly inflation means very little change. Over the past 12 months, consumer prices have increased very little. The latest Consumer Price Index (September) shows 0.0% yearly inflation and only 1.9% core yearly inflation. That means no cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security, and very few IRS adjustments to retirement plan contribution limits.(1) Roth IRA & traditional IRA contribution limits stay the same for 2016. Those 49 and younger in 2016 can contribute up to $5,500 to their IRAs, while those 50 and older will be able to contribute $6,500.(2) 401(k), 403(b), 457 & TSP annual contribution limits are also unchanged.

Retirement Newsletter January 2016

MONTHLY NEWS AND INFORMATION FOR CURRENT AND FUTURE RETIREES NEED TO CATCH UP ON RETIREMENT SAVING? If life events have hampered your retirement savings effort, what can you do to get back on track and improve your prospects for the future? You have some options. If you will be 50 or older in 2016, you can take advantage of the catch-up contribution rules on retirement accounts. As an example, the limit on annual 401(k) and 403(b) deferrals is currently $18,000 for most people, but $24,000 for people 50 and older. You can also free up money that can be directed

Can U.S. shares hold up in the wake of January’s shocks? On January 7, China halted stock trading for the second time in four days. The benchmark Shanghai Composite sank 7.0% on January 4 and dropped 7.3% three days later, both times activating a new circuit-breaker rule that stopped the trading session.(1) Markets worldwide fell in reaction to these dramatic plunges. On January 7 alone, Japan’s Nikkei 225 and Germany’s DAX both suffered selloffs of 2.3%. On the same day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped below the 17,000 level and the S&P 500 closed below 2,000.(1,2,3) While the Dow

Weekly Market Commentary 1-19-2016

The Markets We all have our pet peeves, and if there is one thing markets do NOT like, it is uncertainty. Unfortunately, we entered 2016 with a lot of unanswered questions: How much has China’s growth slowed? How will the country’s slower growth affect companies and investments around the globe? How will the Federal Reserve’s changing monetary policy affect the U.S. economy? How many times will it raise rates during 2016? Will the Fed change course? Will oil prices continue to move lower? Will they move higher? How could changing oil prices affect economic growth? How is the sharing economy

Economic Update

January 18, 2016 LIGHT SWEET CRUDE SETTLES AT $29.42 Oil closed at its lowest level in more than 12 years Friday, plummeting 11.3% for the trading week on the NYMEX. Two factors contributed greatly to the rout: the Energy Information Administration’s forecast of the global crude glut lasting well into 2017 and the imminent expiration of sanctions against Iran, which could mean greater crude exports from that country. The EIA forecast West Texas Intermediate crude prices to rise to the vicinity of $40 later this year. (1,2) CONSUMER OPTIMISM REMAINS Rising to 93.3 from its final 2015 mark of 92.6,

Economic Update

January 4, 2016 HOUSEHOLDS MORE OPTIMISTIC AS 2016 APPROACHES In December, consumer confidence increased. The Conference Board’s respected index posted a reading of 96.5 in the last month of the year, 3.9 points above its revised November mark. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com expected a reading of just 93.5. (1) PENDING HOME SALES INDEX FALLS The National Association of Realtors reported a 0.9% decrease in housing contract activity in November, in contrast to the 0.5% improvement that economists contacted by the Wall Street Journal had expected. Pending home sales were still up 2.7% annually through November, despite declining for three of

Monthly Economic Update December 2015

December 2015 THE MONTH IN BRIEF While the Russell 2000 and Nasdaq Composite advanced significantly in November, the S&P 500 did not – the broad U.S. benchmark rose a mere 0.05%. Terrorists took hundreds of lives in France, Lebanon, Nigeria, Mali and Tunisia during the month, and the fear in the wake of those attacks was felt in the investment markets. Federal Reserve policy minutes contained strong hints that the central bank could raise interest rates in December, a signal investors accepted without disillusionment. Oil, gold and many other major commodities retreated. Key consumer confidence, consumer spending and manufacturing indicators

Economic Update

CONSUMER SPENDING IMPROVES 0.3% This November increase matched the forecast of economists polled by Briefing.com, and it was a nice change after a flat October reading (revised down from an initially reported 0.1% gain). Consumer incomes also rose 0.3% in November. (1) HOUSEHOLD OPTIMISM INCREASES IN DECEMBER At mid-month, the preliminary University of Michigan consumer sentiment index presented a reading of 91.8. Last week, it rose slightly to 92.6. Analysts surveyed by Briefing.com expected a final December reading of 92.0. (1) RULE CHANGES HAMPER EXISTING HOME SALES New mortgage disclosure rules instituted by the federal government delayed some closings in

Economic Update

TIGHTENING BEGINS As anticipated, the Federal Reserve raised the benchmark interest rate by 0.25% last week. The Federal Open Market Committee voted 10-0 to make the move. Its latest dot-plot forecast projects four rate hikes during 2016, which would put the federal funds rate above 1% by the end of next year. The Fed also adjusted the discount rate charged to commercial banks, raising it a quarter-point to 1.0%. (1,2) ANOTHER TOUGH WEEK FOR OIL Baker Hughes data showed a gain in the number of active U.S. oil rigs last week, the first since mid-November. Light sweet crude slipped 0.6%

Retirement Newsletter

MONTHLY NEWS AND INFORMATION FOR CURRENT AND FUTURE RETIREES ARE YOU GOING TO RETIRE NEXT YEAR? If you are (and even if your retirement is a few years away), you should know the essential steps to take as you make the transition. Think about your workplace retirement plan – your last opportunities to contribute to it are coming up, and you must decide when you want to roll it over. If you are retiring in your fifties – whether from a civil service or private sector job – you may benefit from leaving the money in the plan a few

4th Quarter Economic Update 2015

A review of 4Q 2015 THE QUARTER IN BRIEF Thanks to a great October offsetting a flat November and a down December, U.S. stock indices posted sizable gains during the fourth quarter. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 7.00% in Q4, but even so, the blue chips lost 2.23% for the year. In the last quarter of 2015, the Federal Reserve finally raised interest rates, the slowdown in global manufacturing spread to America, and oil prices fell on the NYMEX. Hiring totals were impressive, housing indicators mostly positive. Terrorism, ongoing weakness in Chinese manufacturing, the oil supply glut, and declining

Weekly Market Commentary 1/11/2016

The Markets The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) started the New Year with a downward currency adjustment and fireworks followed. Last week, three distinct issues affected China’s stock market. First, the PBOC’s devaluation of the yuan (a.k.a. the renminbi), along with the knowledge the central bank had been spending heavily to prop up its currency in recent months, led many analysts and investors to the conclusion China’s economy might not be as robust as official reports indicated, according to the Financial Times. Not everyone was surprised by this revelation. During the fourth quarter of 2015, The Conference Board’s working paper

Weekly Economic Update 1/11/2015

CAN STOCKS REGAIN THEIR FOOTING THIS WEEK? Investors hope so after a very rough start to 2016. Declining oil prices and disappointing manufacturing data in both the U.S. and China helped trigger a global selloff: the major equity indices in Europe and Asia fell between 5-9% last week with our benchmarks following suit. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 6.19% in five days to 16,346.45, paralleled by a 6.13% fall for the S&P 500 to 1,922.03 and a 7.27% descent for the Nasdaq Composite to 4,643.60. The week ended with the S&P 9.8% below its May 2015 peak, and with

The Markets Investing in U.S. stock markets during 2015 was a bit like riding a mechanical bull. Markets jolted up and down but, once the year ended, investors were almost where they had started. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500) entered 2015 at about 2,058. It rose as high as 2,130 during May and fell to about 1,867 in August. As the year ended, the index was almost at 2,044. It would have finished in negative territory if it weren’t for dividends. With dividends included, the S&P 500 was up 1.4 percent for the year, according to Barron’s.

Making and Keeping Financial Resolutions

What you might do (or do differently) in the months ahead? How will your money habits change in 2016? What decisions or behaviors might help your personal finances, your retirement prospects, or your net worth? Each year presents a “clean slate,” so as one year ebbs into another, it is natural to think about what you might do (or do differently) in the 12 months ahead. Financially speaking, what New Year’s resolutions might you want to make for 2016 – and what can you do to stick by such resolutions as 2016 unfolds? Strive to maximize your 2016 retirement plan