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The Federal Trade Commission received more than 3 million consumer complaints in 2016. Accompanying chart illustrates the seven top complaint categories.
79%: Estimated percentage of U.S. workers who have access to an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan or similar defined contribution plan. Only about 41% of them are contributing to their plan.
Value and Growth: Investing Styles
The terms value and growth are used to describe different investing styles and to construct indexes, mutual funds, and ETFs. This article explains the difference between value stocks and growth stocks and how they can work together in a diversification strategy.
A 2017 poll found that 54% of workers were confident they would have enough money for a comfortable retirement, the highest percentage since 2004. Saving can seem abstract, and concrete goals might inspire workers to take appropriate steps to help their retirement picture come to life.
This quiz tests readers’ knowledge of the financial benefits and responsibilities related to certain age milestones between 50 and 70½.
Deeper into the Red
Annual federal budget deficits are projected to triple over the next 30 years, assuming revenue and spending laws remain the same and GDP continues to grow 2% annually. Accompanying chart shows projected average annual deficits as a percentage of GDP for decades through 2047.
$17.2 billion: Estimated state sales taxes lost on Internet purchases in 2016.
Yours, Mine, and Ours: Financial Tips for Blended Families
Combining finances can be complicated for any couple, but the challenges become more complex the second time around, especially when children are involved. This article explores some financial issues that blended families may want to consider and clarify, including debts, college tuition, wills, and beneficiary forms.
Buying and Selling: Trading Basics
The NYSE Group averaged more than 7.4 million trades per day in 2016. Many of these trades are more complex than most investors need to consider, but it may be helpful for readers to understand these basic terms and types of trades: bid and ask prices, market order, limit order, stop-loss order, and stop-limit order.
Insuring Your College Student
Sending a student off to college can be hectic — and insurance might not be at the top of the to-do list. But every college student has insurance needs (medical, auto, personal property) that should be addressed.
Bigger Loans for Better Wheels
The average amount financed for a new car has increased sharply over the last two and a half years. This chart shows average amounts since 2008.
0.1%: Percentage of gross domestic product that the U.S. government spends on job training, job search assistance, and other job transition programs to help displaced workers.
401(k) and IRA: A Double Savings Opportunity
Employer-sponsored retirement plans and IRAs offer tax-advantaged opportunities to save for retirement, but they are not mutually exclusive. This article focuses on both types of accounts, their annual contribution limits, and how they could work together to help build retirement savings.
Do You Have Enough Life Insurance?
Two out of five U.S. households have no life insurance protection, and many households who do have insurance think they need a higher level of coverage. This article explains the advantages of an individual policy and discusses the differences between term life insurance and permanent life insurance.
Deficit Trading: The Import/Export Imbalance
The U.S. trade deficit is likely to receive more attention as the new administration considers policies that might affect international trade relationships. This article provides some basic facts to help readers understand the issues behind the headlines, and how China factors into the trade deficit.
Residual earnings of each Federal Reserve Bank are returned to the U.S. Treasury annually after meeting operations costs, paying dividends, and retaining certain required funds. Accompanying chart shows Federal Reserve distributions to the Treasury over the last decade.
123456: Most common password in 2016, used by nearly 17% of accounts, according to a study of 10 million stolen passwords.
Investing in Real Estate
In September 2016, real estate investment trusts gained new attention when S&P Dow Jones Indices and MSCI created a new sector for equity REITs. This article explains the basics of equity REITs and the benefits and risks of adding them to an investment portfolio.
When a Saver Marries a Spender, Every Penny Counts
When one spouse is a penny pincher and the other is loose with the family purse strings, it may be helpful to learn more about the other’s point of view. This article offers guidelines to help facilitate financial discussions.
Bon Voyage! International Travel Tips
In 2016, Americans made almost 25 million international trips during the months of June, July, and August. This article offers tips to help keep travelers’ trips on track.
Work After Working?
In a survey of “mass affluent” Americans, 83% of millennials said they planned to work in retirement. Accompanying chart shows the percentage of workers, by generation, who expect to work in retirement compared with the percentage of retirees who are currently working.
66%: Percentage of female employees who believe it is “very important” to find a job that allows them to make the most of their natural talents, along with their knowledge and skills.
Investing in Your Values
A large majority of young, high-net-worth investors want to make a positive social impact with their investments. In 2016, more than one out of five professionally invested dollars was invested based on principles of sustainable, responsible, and impact (SRI) investing, which is the focus of this article.
Do You Need Disability Insurance?
More than seven out of 10 working Americans believe that most people need disability insurance, yet only one out of three actually has disability insurance protection. This article explains how an individual disability income policy could provide much-needed income in the event of an accident or illness.
The United States has been slow to adopt mobile payments technology, but 2016 represented a big step forward and growth is expected to accelerate over the next few years. This article provides an overview of two types of mobile payments: proximity payments and peer-to-peer payments.
Are You Confident?
The percentage of workers who are confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement has risen steadily since 2013. Accompanying chart shows percentage who are somewhat and very confident.
658 million: Number of unused vacation days by American workers in 2015; about one-third of these days were lost at the end of the year.
Mutual Benefits: Funds to Pursue Your Goals
About 94 million Americans – 43.6% of U.S. households – owned mutual funds in 2016. This article provides an overview of nine different types of mutual funds, ranging from lower-risk money market funds to higher-risk aggressive growth funds.
The State of Social Security
Sixty-two percent of retirees report that Social Security is a major source of retirement income, while only 35% of workers expect the program to be a major source of income for them in retirement. This article outlines the current state of the Social Security program, including possible solutions to address the program’s projected shortfall.
Use Sense with Student Loans
According to a recent survey, 57% of millennials regret how much they borrowed for college. This article provides some guidelines before taking on debt and steps students have taken to make college more affordable.
Chart illustrates the percentage of taxpayers at various levels of adjusted gross income, based on returns filed for the 2014 tax year.
$4.57: Average fee for using an out-of-network ATM in 2016.
Managing Risk at Home and on the Road
Most investors consider their risk tolerance when building a portfolio, but may not do so when purchasing or renewing home and auto insurance. This article discusses how deductibles and liability limits affect insurance premiums, when to consider adding a separate disaster policy or endorsement, and why some people might supplement their auto and homeowners policies with an umbrella liability policy.
Last-Minute Tax Tips
Many taxpayers like to get a head start on filing their returns, but plenty of others scramble to file at the last minute. Fortunately, there is still time to take advantage of some last-minute tax tips, such as making deductible contributions to retirement plans and HSAs.
Are UITs for You?
At the end of 2015, there were 5,188 UITs holding more than $94 billion in assets. A unit investment trust is structured differently than a mutual fund company. Not only does a UIT issue a fixed number of shares (“units”), but it has a defined termination date, which offers investors a clearer picture of its holdings throughout the life of the investment.
Millennials and the Market
Nearly four out of five millennials are not investing in the stock market, even though young people may have the most to gain from the long-term growth potential of stocks. The accompanying chart shows millennials’ top reasons for not investing.
56%: Percentage of Americans who have a household budget.
Men, Women, and Investing
Many researchers have found that men tend to have a higher tolerance for investment risk, while women take a more cautious approach. This article looks at some of the biological reasons for this difference and why both genders can learn from the other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Tax Breaks for College Costs
College is expensive, and costs continue to rise. This article describes three federal tax provisions that can help ease the financial strain of paying for college: the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit, and the tuition and fees deduction.
What Is the Roth IRA Five-Year Rule?
Information on Roth IRAs often refers to the “five-year rule,” but in fact there are two separate five-year holding requirements that may affect the tax treatment of Roth distributions. One determines whether a withdrawal of earnings will be tax-free, and the other determines whether a withdrawal of converted principal will be penalty-free.
Women’s Financial Goals
The top financial goal for women varies widely depending on their personal situations. The accompanying chart shows the top goals for women in four categories: breadwinners, high-level professionals, single and wealthy, and widows.
45%: Percentage of Americans who usually make New Year’s resolutions.
How Much Should You Save for Retirement?
Less than half of current workers have tried to estimate how much savings they would need to live comfortably in retirement. This article explains some key factors to consider — such as Social Security benefits, realistic investment returns, longevity, and medical expenses — and offers a worksheet to help readers calculate their savings needs.
Managing Risk with a Strong Foundation
Asset allocation and diversification are so fundamental that it’s easy to lose sight of them while tracking the performance of specific securities or the dollar value of investments. This article provides an overview of these basic principles and how they can work together to help create a strong foundation for constructing a portfolio.
A Roadmap for Your Family
A letter of instruction has no formal legal status, but it could be just as important as a legal will to help loved ones settle an estate and move forward with their lives. This article outlines the types of information that might be included in a letter of instruction.
The percentage of Americans who were satisfied with their personal financial situations nearly doubled between 2009 and 2015. The accompanying chart compares Americans’ satisfaction with their personal finances in 2009, 2012, and 2015 to changes in the unemployment rate and GDP growth.
$44.83: Average value of gift cards purchased for the 2015 winter holidays, down from $47.87 the previous year.
Open or Closed? A Tale of Two Funds
Open-end mutual funds are the most common type of investment company, but closed-end funds offer features that may appeal to certain investors, particularly those who are looking for a regular income stream. More than 60% of closed-end funds hold bonds, and tax-advantaged municipal bonds are the most common type of holding. This article provides an overview of how open-end and closed-end funds work, including the potential benefits and risks.
The Cost of Caregiving
A 2015 study found that almost 40 million Americans — about one out of six adults — had provided unpaid care to another adult during the previous 12 months. This article looks at the financial, emotional, and physical costs of providing “free” care to loved ones, and it offers tips that might be helpful for caregivers.
Chipping Away at Fraud
When shopping this holiday season, it’s more likely that consumers will use a credit card with an embedded chip utilizing EMV technology. This article explains the basics of the technology and provides an overview of the EMV rollout in the United States.
Retail sales during November and December account for almost 20% of annual retail sales. The accompanying chart shows holiday sales revenue from 2008 through 2015.
18%: Percentage of mass-affluent Americans who give themselves an “A” in planning for retirement; 38% grade themselves a “C” or lower.
Consider Munis for Tax-Free Income
Although municipal bonds have been cast in a negative light by the city of Detroit’s 2013 bankruptcy and the continuing debt crisis in Puerto Rico, “munis” are normally considered to be a relatively safe investment. This article describes differences between general obligation bonds and revenue bonds, how bonds are rated for credit risk, and the potential benefits of tax-free yields.
End-of-Year Tax Planning
Even though this is a busy time of year, taxpayers may benefit from examining their finances and taking action before December 31. This article suggests a number of strategies — deferring income, accelerating deductions, and increasing retirement plan contributions — that could help reduce tax liability for 2016.
Finding Lost Money
Though finding buried treasure is unlikely, discovering “lost” money or other assets may not be a fantasy after all. This article offers information on researching unclaimed property — inactive financial accounts, uncashed dividend checks, tax refunds, and more — through state and federal programs and databases.
The percentage of families who said they were “living comfortably” or “doing okay” increased in 2015 across all levels of education. As in previous years, people with higher levels of education were more likely to be on solid ground financially. The accompanying chart shows percentages over the past three years by level of education.
22: Median age when millennials started to save for retirement. By contrast, the median age was 27 for Gen Xers and 35 for baby boomers.
Feeling Confident: Steps to Saving More
In 2016, 21% of U.S. workers said they were very confident they would have enough money for a comfortable retirement. This article offers ideas that may help readers save more without making a big sacrifice in their cash flow.
Balanced Funds: Seeking Growth and Stability
Since 2001, investment in balanced mutual funds has grown more consistently than investment in equity and bond funds. This article focuses on the basics of balanced funds, why they may be appealing to investors, and how their historical performance compares to equity funds and bond funds.
Tips for Online Shopping
Internet retail sales rose by almost 15% in 2015, while retail sales overall increased by less than 1.6%. This article provides tips that could help make readers’ online shopping experiences safer and more satisfying.