Could Social Security Really Go Away? That may be unlikely, but the program does face financial challenges. Provided by: Paul Lewis, CFP®,CWS® Will Social Security run out of money in the 2030s? You may have heard warnings about this dire scenario coming true. These warnings, however, assume that no action will be taken to address Social Security’s financial challenges between now and then. It is true that Social Security is being strained by a gradual demographic shift. The Census Bureau says that in 2035, America will have more senior citizens than children for the first time. In that year, 21%

Quarterly Market Commentary Q1 2019 The Federal Reserve alters its outlook, the truce in the trade dispute holds, the real estate market strengthens, and stocks make an impressive comeback from Q4, even as growth concerns mount. Provided By: Paul Lewis, CFP®,CWS® THE QUARTER IN BRIEF The strongest first quarter for stocks in 21 years featured all kinds of news. Central banks revised their outlook on monetary policy, seeing less robust economies in 2019. Faint glimmers of progress emerged in the U.S.-China trade dispute. Concerns over near-term corporate earnings and bond yields grew. The possibility of a “hard” Brexit loomed in

Weekly Economic Update 4/1/2019 Stocks close out a great quarter, mortgage rates decline, and Wall Street awaits a wave of IPO action. Provided by: Paul Lewis, CFP®,CWS® THE WEEK ON WALL STREET Stocks ended last week higher as volatility slowed, completing their best quarter since 2009. A Friday tweet from Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin encouraged investors, referring to “constructive” discussions in the ongoing U.S.-China trade negotiations.1 The S&P 500 gained 1.27% for the week. The Dow Industrials and Nasdaq Composite both exceeded that advance: the Dow rose 1.60%; the Nasdaq, 1.42%.2-4 Foreign shares went the other way. The

Weekly Economic Update 2/25/2019 In this week’s recap: the Dow extends its win streak, Fed minutes reveal a little uncertainty, and home sales weaken again. Provided By: Paul Lewis, CFP®,CWS® THE WEEK ON WALL STREET Stocks rallied last week as optimism about a potential U.S.-China trade deal grew. The S&P 500 advanced 0.80% for the week to 2,792.67. The Nasdaq Composite improved 0.86% to 7,527.54, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.64% to 26,031.81. The renewed prospects for a trade pact were not the only development investors found appealing last week. There were indications that the Federal Reserve might

Weekly Economic Update 2/4/2019 In this week’s recap: a hiring surge, a noteworthy remark from Jerome Powell, a dip for a respected household confidence index, and gains on Wall Street. Provided by: Paul Lewis, CFP®,CWS® February BEGINS WITH SOME EXCELLENT ECONOMIC DATA Payrolls swelled with 304,000 net new jobs last month, according to the Department of Labor’s February employment report. (A Bloomberg survey of economists had projected a gain of 165,000.) The number of Americans temporarily laid off or working part time for economic reasons increased greatly in January as a consequence of the partial federal government shutdown; that left

Weekly Economic Update 1/14/2019 In this week’s recap: the CPI decreases, a service sector activity index takes a fall, oil’s rebound continues, and equities advance. Presented by: Paul Lewis, CFP®,CWS® FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE MARCH, INFLATION RETREATS December brought a 0.1% decline in the Consumer Price Index, the first in nine months. As in November, cheaper gasoline was a factor: gas prices took a 7.5% monthly fall. The CPI advanced 1.9% across 2018. The core CPI, which excludes food and energy costs, rose 0.2% in December for a third consecutive month and gained 2.2% for the year. In short,

Weekly Economic Update 12/10/2018 In this week’s recap: the pace of job creation slows, the factory & service sectors expand, OPEC signs off on an output cut, and Wall Street copes with turbulence. HIRING PACE SLOWS In November, U.S. employers added a net 155,000 hires to their payrolls. That compares with a (revised) gain of 237,000 recorded by the federal government for October. The Department of Labor’s latest jobs report showed the main unemployment rate holding steady at just 3.7%, and the U-6 rate (unemployed and underemployed) rising 0.2% to 7.6%. Annualized wage growth was at 3.1%. Will this middling

Weekly Economic Update 11/26/2018 In this week’s recap: a gain in existing home sales, a dip for consumer sentiment, more pain for the oil sector, and more losses for the big three. SUDDENLY, MORE HOMES SELL Existing home sales improved in October for the first time in seven months. The National Association of Realtors announced a 1.4% monthly increase, while also noting that the annualized sales pace was 5.1% slower than it had been 12 months earlier. Across the year ending in October, the median sales price for an existing home rose 3.8%. There were 4.3 months of housing inventory

Weekly Market Update 11/12/2018 SERVICE SECTOR KEEPS BOOMING At a lofty October mark of 60.3, the Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing purchasing manager index was a bit lower than the record 61.6 reading seen in September, but it also beat the 59.3 consensus forecast from Refinitiv. Across the 12 months ending in October, the mean reading for the index was a strong 58.5.1,2  IS THIS THE BEST YEAR FOR CONSUMER SENTIMENT SINCE 2000? It could turn out that way, if the University of Michigan’s influential index maintains its current level. Its preliminary November edition came in at 98.3, slightly below

Weekly Economic Update 11/5/2018 HIRING SURGED LAST MONTH The Department of Labor’s latest employment report painted a picture of a thriving economy. Payrolls expanded with 250,000 net new hires in October, with wages improving 3.1% year-over-year (that was the best 12-month wage increase in nine years). Unemployment remained remarkably low at 3.7%; underemployment, as measured by the U-6 rate, ticked down 0.1% to 7.4%. October marked the labor market’s 97th straight month of expansion; the main jobless rate has been under 5% for two years. Last month, there were 7.1 million job openings and 6.1 million unemployed Americans.1,2    HOUSEHOLD

Weekly Economic Update 10/29/2018 FIRST ESTIMATE OF Q3 GDP: 3.5% A 4.0% gain in consumer spending and a 3.3% advance in government spending helped strengthen the economy in the three months ending in September. Bureau of Economic Analysis data shows that the past two quarters represent the best 6-month period for U.S. growth since 2014. It appears likely that the economy will expand more than 3% this year; if that happens, 2018 will enter the history books as the best year for the economy since 2005.1  NEW HOME SALES SLUMP, BUT PENDING HOME SALES IMPROVE According to the Census Bureau,

Weekly Economic Update 10/22/2018 HOMES MOVE AT THE SLOWEST PACE IN 3 YEARS Existing home sales slumped 3.4% in September as the annualized sales rate decelerated to a degree unseen since November 2015. In reporting this, the National Association of Realtors cited the usual factors: climbing mortgage rates, tight inventory, and ascending prices (the median sale price in September was $258,100, up 4.2% in 12 months). The NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, now projects a 1.6% reduction in resales for 2018; economists at Fannie Mae are forecasting a 2.0% retreat. In other real estate news, the Census Bureau said that

UNCERTAINTY BREEDS SELLING, FOLLOWED BY A RELIEF RALLY On Friday, Wall Street rebounded from a disquieting slump that saw the blue chips take an almost 1,400 point dive. The S&P 500 gained 1.42% to snap a 6-session losing streak, the Nasdaq Composite rose 2.29% to fight back from a correction, and the Dow rose 1.15%. A new earnings season may take investors’ minds off the insecurities they have felt recently about bond yields, tariffs, and interest rate hikes. Those uncertainties weighed on equities again this past week: the Dow fell 4.19% to 25,339.99; the S&P, 4.10% to 2,767.13; the Nasdaq,

10-YEAR TREASURY YIELD HITS A 7-YEAR PEAK Friday, the yield on the 10-year note reached 3.23%, its highest level since 2011. Its yield rose dramatically last week, influenced by hawkish comments from Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell and reports showing minimal unemployment and a swiftly expanding business sector. All this strengthened investor perception that the U.S. economy has hit its stride. It also suggested a near future with recurring interest rate hikes, costlier borrowing, and subdued spending. That possibility weighed on equities. For the week, the Nasdaq Composite fell 3.21% to 7,788.45, and the S&P 500, 0.97% to 2,885.57; the

FEDERAL RESERVE MAKES ITS THIRD RATE HIKE OF 2018 The central bank set the target range for the federal funds rate at 2.00-2.25% last week, in a move that economists and investors widely expected. One development was unexpected: the Fed removed the word “accommodative” from its latest policy statement, a hint that it may be on the verge of altering its monetary policy outlook. The Fed dot-plot still shows one more interest rate hike for 2018 and three hikes in 2019.1 HOUSEHOLDS SEE A VERY STRONG ECONOMY Both marquee U.S. consumer confidence indices finished September in good shape. The Conference

Weekly Economic Update 9/17/2018 CONSUMER SENTIMENT EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS In its initial September edition, the University of Michigan’s monthly consumer sentiment index rose 4.6 points to 100.8, a 6-month high. Economists polled by Bloomberg had forecast a reading of 96.6. Fifty-six percent of households responding to the survey said that they had made recent financial gains; the all-time high for the survey is 57%, recorded in both March 2018 and February 1998. The index’s future expectations gauge reached a 14-year peak of 91.1.1 RETAIL SALES ALMOST FLAT IN AUGUST The 0.1% August advance was the smallest monthly gain since February. Core

Weekly Economic Update 9/10/2018 LATEST JOBS REPORT CONFIRMS WAGE GROWTH IS ACCELERATING According to the Department of Labor’s newest employment report, average pay for U.S. private sector workers improved 2.9% in the 12 months ending in August. That is the best annualized wage boost since the end of the Great Recession in 2009 and an improvement from 2.7% in July. The economy added 201,000 net new jobs last month. The headline jobless rate remained at 3.9%; the U-6 rate, which includes both unemployed and underemployed Americans, declined 0.1% to 7.4%, a 17-year low.1 STRONG AUGUST SHOWINGS FOR THE ISM INDICES

Pros & Cons of Different Small Business Retirement Plans As a small business owner, you may want a better retirement plan – one that will let you and your key employees save much more for retirement.  If the annual contribution limits on standard retirement plans disappoint you, you should know about these alternatives.  Simplified Employee Pension plans (SEPs). A SEP allows your business to set up and fund IRAs for your workers as well as for yourself. The employer makes 100% of the plan contributions, and the money contributed is tax deductible. The annual contribution limit is $55,000 in 2018.

5 Easy Ways For Businesses To Save On Their Taxes Download the Guide For Free Click Here FREE Is Your Company’s 401k plan up to date? Book a Free Consultation and find out. Click Here FREE Is Your Company’s 401(k) Plan as Good as It Could Be? Two recent court rulings may make you want to double-check.  How often do retirement plan sponsors check up on 401(k)s? Not as often as they should, perhaps. Employers need to be especially vigilant these days. Every plan sponsor should know about two recent court rulings. One came from the Supreme Court in 2015;

Weekly Economic Update 9/3/2018 Facebook Google+ Twitter LinkedIn Email OPTIMISM REIGNS ON MAIN STREET In August, the Conference Board’s respected consumer confidence index made a remarkable leap, rising 5.5 points to 133.4. This was its highest reading in almost 18 years. (Economists surveyed by Briefing.com forecast an August reading of 126.5.) The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index also improved in its final August edition, ending the month at a mark of 96.2, 0.9 points above its preliminary reading.1,2