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The quits rate represents the share of workers who voluntarily leave their jobs. When more workers are able to walk away from a job, it’s typically a sign of confidence in the economy. Accompanying chart tracks the U.S. total nonfarm quits rate since 2007.
Bracing for Higher Rates
Custom-Built Ladders Help Manage Bond Risks
The Federal Reserve anticipates gradually lifting the benchmark federal funds rate in 2017 and 2018, and its policies could affect the entire fixed-income market. Bond laddering is a time-tested strategy that can help manage interest rate risk. This article focuses on bond ladders using individual bonds and bond ETFs.
Tracking a Tighter Job Market
Two Reports That Help Paint the Employment Picture
Several important indicators of labor market strength have finally returned to pre-recession levels. This article discusses the government reports that track employment statistics, and what a tightening job market could mean for the U.S. economy. Accompanying chart compares the official U-3 unemployment rate with the broader U-6 unemployment rate.
Insuring a Home-Based Business
People who run businesses from their homes often assume that homeowners insurance provides sufficient coverage, but this misconception may expose them to a considerable amount of risk. They might consider the broader protection offered by in-home business insurance policies, which are tailor-made for businesses that operate out of a residence.
More U.S. employees are currently working for large companies (2,500+ head count) than for small firms with fewer than 100 employees. This represents a major shift since the 1980s and 1990s. Accompanying chart compares share of total employment, by employer size, in 1990 and 2014.
Company Stock and Your Portfolio
Keep Your Focus on Concentration Risk
The opportunity to acquire company stock can be a lucrative employee benefit. But having retirement plan assets with too high a concentration of employer stock could become a problem. This article focuses on ways to help manage concentration risk.
Life Insurance Options for Leaving a Legacy
Permanent life insurance typically provides a lifetime death benefit, regardless of health, as long as the policy is kept in force. This article describes how a whole life or survivorship life insurance policy can play an important role in a family’s estate plan.
Keeping Up with Quarterly Taxes
Sole proprietors, S corporation shareholders, and other self-employed individuals who expect to owe $1,000 or more in federal taxes when filing their returns must make estimated tax payments. Making accurate quarterly payments on schedule can help taxpayers avoid interest penalties for underpayment and keep them from falling behind with the IRS.
Consumers Carried the Economy in 2016
Real gross domestic product grew by just 1.6% in 2016, and consumers did most of the heavy lifting. Accompanying chart shows the contributions of components to real GDP growth.
Is America’s Aging Population Slowing Down the Economy?
Though the economy has continued to improve since the Great Recession, GDP growth has been weak compared with past recoveries. This article discusses why some economists believe that shifting demographics may be the primary reason.
Grandparents Can Help Bridge the Gap
A college education is a significant financial burden that is increasingly hard for students and their parents to meet. Fortunately, some grandparents are willing to help cover the costs. This article explains how gifts of cash, tuition payments made directly to a college, and 529 savings plan withdrawals could affect a student’s financial aid.
Social Media Marketing Strategies
About three-fourths of small businesses have used social media for marketing purposes. It’s also a convenient way for businesses to build relationships with existing customers and widen exposure in the marketplace. This article includes tips for managing social media profiles effectively.
Consumer Prices Bounced Back in 2016
Inflation rose 2.1% in 2016 — right in line with the 20-year average of 2.13%. Accompanying chart shows the annual change in the Consumer Price Index from 1997 to 2016.
A Tax-Friendly Strategy to Help Preserve Your Inheritance
A stretch IRA strategy leaves more of the inherited assets untouched so they can keep accumulating on a tax-deferred basis. This article focuses on some of the complicated rules and deadlines for handling inherited IRA assets and taking required minimum distributions.
TIPS May Fit into Your Fixed-Income Portfolio
One way to help protect a bond portfolio from a potential spike in inflation is by investing in Treasury inflation-protected securities. Investors trade the certainty of knowing how much interest they will receive for the assurance that the investment will maintain its purchasing power over time.
Offering Life Insurance as an Employee Benefit
Making life insurance part of an employee benefit program could be a cost-effective way to recruit, reward, and retain valuable employees. This article discusses group term policies and bonus plans funded with cash-value life insurance for key executives.
How Long Will You Be Retired?
Longevity is increasing, which is one reason why waiting to claim a higher Social Security benefit could pay off in the long run. Statistically, for a 65-year-old couple, there is a 50% chance that one spouse will live until at least 92. Accompanying chart compares the average U.S. life expectancy at age 65 in 1940 and 2015.
Social Security and Your Retirement
What You Don’t Know Could Affect Your Benefits
Many retirees rush to file for Social Security before carefully weighing their options, but an understanding of the program’s rules and benefits is an important part of long-term retirement planning. This article focuses on three often-misunderstood aspects of Social Security: the retirement earnings test, the taxability of benefits, and how filing at a later age could boost lifetime benefits.
One Option for Turning Savings into Retirement Income
Many workers who won’t receive a traditional pension could benefit from incorporating an annuity strategy into their retirement planning. This article discusses the benefits and risks of indexed annuities, including ways in which return rates are calculated and how index performance can affect the growth of the annuity.
The Pros and Cons of Financing Options
Even though the credit market has become friendlier overall, small companies still have a more difficult time getting approved for bank loans than larger businesses. This article discusses some common types of financing that might be available to help small businesses expand, pursue new opportunities, or cover operating expenses.
Too Little, Too Late?
According to a 2016 survey, 36% of older Americans said that reaching a significant birthday was the reason they started planning for retirement. Accompanying chart shows ages when retirement planning began.
Pre-Retirement Tax Planning
High Earners Can Take Alternate Route to a Roth IRA
Eligibility to contribute to a Roth IRA phases out at higher MAGI levels. This article discusses two planning strategies that could help reduce future RMDs while building a source of tax-free retirement income: Roth conversions and Roth 401(k) contributions.
How Much Risk Can You Take?
Stress Test Your Portfolio, and Yourself
A portfolio’s risk profile should reflect the investor’s ability, both financially and emotionally, to endure periods of market volatility. This article explores factors that may influence an individual’s risk tolerance.
Consider Taxation When Setting Compensation
Depending on the structure of a business, the owner generally has two options for taking home a paycheck: a salary and/or a draw (or distribution). This article discusses the tax considerations involved in setting a small-business owner’s compensation.
Home values nationwide increased 31% between the first quarter of 2012 and the middle of 2016. Accompanying chart shows the year-over-year change in U.S. house prices from 2007 to 2016.
Real Estate Markets on the Mend
Tax Breaks for Borrowers, Buyers, and Sellers
The U.S. tax code favors real estate ownership, allowing for tax savings that might help families enhance their everyday lives and build wealth over the long term. This article focuses on write-offs and incentives for homeowners, including the exclusion of capital gains on the sale of a primary residence and the ability to postpone gains when a rental property is exchanged instead of sold.
Is Smart Beta a Smart Strategy for You?
Smart beta mutual funds and ETFs use clearly defined factors other than market capitalization to select and weight investments in order to track an existing factor-based index or create a new index. This article discusses how these funds are constructed and the role they may play in some investors’ portfolios.
Cash Balance Plans Can Help Supercharge Retirement Savings
Cash balance plans are not just a powerful tool for employee recruitment and retention. They have generous contribution limits that increase with age, which might enable partners in professional service firms and high-income business owners to maximize or catch up on retirement savings and reduce their taxable incomes.
Yuan Status Elevated, But Far from “Safe Haven”
In October 2016, the International Monetary Fund added the Chinese yuan to its basket of reserve currencies, which are used to facilitate trade between member nations. Still, most of world’s transactions depend on U.S. dollars. The accompanying chart shows the share of world’s total payments for the U.S. dollar, euro, pound, and yuan.
Investing in a Low-Growth World
Global Markets Present Opportunities and Risks
Investing globally provides access to growth opportunities that may be different from those in the United States. But the greatest return potential is also associated with the greatest risks. This article discusses geopolitical events and other factors that may influence global GDP growth and international investments in 2017.
Corporate Bond Investing
Consider Credit and Interest Rate Risks
Corporate bonds have long been a mainstay for investors who want to generate income or dampen the effects of stock market volatility on their portfolios. This article discusses credit quality and the ways in which corporate bonds differ from U.S. Treasury securities, as well as how rising interest rates might affect the value of existing bonds.
LLCs: Hybrid Structure May Offer Best of Both Worlds
A limited liability company provides many of the legal advantages of a corporation but can choose to be taxed as a partnership or a sole proprietorship. This article focuses on the distinctions between LLCs and other common business structures.
Grinding Out Growth
The U.S. economy expanded at a 1.1% annual rate in the second quarter of 2016, but has been stuck in slow-growth mode since mid-2015. An accompanying chart shows real GDP growth since 2013.
Retirement Plan Rollovers
Five Scenarios That Could Affect Your Decision
Workers who change employers could choose to leave retirement funds in their former employer’s plan, transfer the funds to their new employer’s plan, or roll the assets to an IRA. This article addresses certain circumstances that might cause investors to think twice before executing an IRA rollover.
Watching the Yield Curve
Can the Bond Market Predict Economic Trends?
Investors pay attention to the yield curve to identify buying opportunities in the bond market and because it has a history of forecasting economic growth. This article explores factors that influence bond yields, and why unprecedented central bank policies could be making the yield curve a less reliable leading indicator.
Six Steps to Launching a New Venture
Today’s entrepreneurs are more likely to start a business because they spot an opportunity rather than do so out of necessity. This article provides an overview of some important first steps in the entrepreneurial process.
Businesses Take Wait-and-See Approach
Persistently low oil prices have caused deep cutbacks in the energy sector, but anxiety over global events and the U.S. presidential election probably contributed to weak business spending in the first half of 2016. Accompanying chart shows quarterly changes in private nonresidential fixed investment since 2007.
Following the Federal Reserve
Governors Play Central Role in U.S. Financial System
There is more going on behind the scenes in the Federal Reserve System than the rate decisions that appear in the news. This article focuses on the regulatory and supervisory responsibilities of the Federal Reserve, including emergency lending, stress tests, and capital controls.
Estate Planning Essentials
Powers of Attorney Allow Families to Pass the Reins
Executing a power of attorney allows individuals to select a trusted representative to handle critical decisions and protect the family’s privacy. This article explains the role of a durable power of attorney for health care, a durable power of attorney for finances, and a limited power of attorney.
Improving Market Allows More Owners to Cash Out
Because small-business owners often have much of their net worth tied up in their enterprises, valuation can be an important part of retirement planning. This article discusses common valuation methods and how owners can get the best price when selling their businesses.
Federal Tax Break Tally
The estimated budget impact of more than 200 different tax breaks exceeded $1.6 trillion in FY 2016. Accompanying chart breaks down 2016 tax expenditures by type — exclusions, deductions, credits, capital gains.
Qualified Charitable Distributions
Giving from the Heart with Your IRA
A popular tax provision that allows individuals age 70½ and older to make tax-free qualified charitable distributions directly from their IRAs has been permanently reinstated. This article discusses how QCDs work and why they may be more valuable than taking a charitable tax deduction.
Wrangling with Investment Taxes
Three Strategies to Help Boost After-Tax Returns
It’s more important than ever for investors to pay attention to the tax implications of their investment decisions. This article focuses on capital gains taxes, stock dividends, the net investment income tax, and strategies readers can use to help reduce their overall tax burdens.
New Overtime Rules Could Be Costly for Small Businesses
It’s estimated that 4.2 million more U.S. workers could become eligible for overtime pay when the Department of Labor’s new rules take effect on December 1, 2016. Employers may need to review employee classifications and staffing options as they attempt to comply with the new rules, balance budgets, and retain top talent.
For Some, Golden Years Not So Shiny
The share of U.S. retirees who report being “very satisfied” in retirement has been falling since 1998. An accompanying chart shows the satisfaction levels of retirees (those with pension income and those without pension income) between 1998 and 2012.
Medicare Means Testing
Surcharges Set to Rise in 2018
Income-related Medicare premiums reduce strain on the federal budget by imposing higher costs on beneficiaries with greater financial means. This article discusses how the Medicare program is structured, upcoming increases in Medicare premiums, and why it’s more important than ever to factor rising health-care costs into retirement planning.
The Expansion of Exchange-Traded Funds
ETFs Look Like Mutual Funds, Trade Like 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. This article focuses on ETF choices and the key differences between mutual funds and ETFs.
Bracing for Potential Cybersecurity Threats
Hackers are targeting small businesses at an alarming rate. This article discusses specific cyber security threats and offers some tips to help small businesses defend their data and protect their interests.
Lower Fares Don’t Always Mean Cheaper Trips
The average domestic ticket price for airfare, adjusted for inflation, fell more than 14% between 2000 and 2015, while consumer prices overall rose about 35% over the same period. Meanwhile, less competition has resulted in higher fares for some routes, and most airlines now charge extra fees for checked baggage and other services. An accompanying chart shows the average ticket price from 2000 to 2015.
Lessons That Grandparents and Grandchildren Can Share
Many young adults are just starting out, but grandparents often have a lifetime of experience with important financial matters such as saving and investing. This article includes financial lessons that grandparents and grandchildren can focus on together.
Taking a Closer Look at Financial Reports
Publicly traded companies are required to report their financial results to regulators and shareholders on a quarterly basis. Earnings season is the often-turbulent period when most companies must disclose their successes and failures. This article focuses on the results and projections included in quarterly reports, why announcements may or may not move the markets, and what long-term investors can take away from earnings season.
Comparing Your Retirement Plan Options
Setting up an employer-sponsored retirement plan provides a way for small-business owners and their employees to shelter more of their income from taxes and save money for the future. This article looks at some specific features of 401(k) plans, SEP IRAs, and SIMPLE IRAs.