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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Make the most of what you have—Get more of what you need

How can you set a value on what you do? For family caregivers in the United States, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) estimates their efforts were worth approximately $375 billion in 2007. In addition, the average family caregiver for someone 50 years or older spent $5,531 on out-of-pocket caregiving expenses in 2007—more than 10 percent of the median income for a family caregiver that year, according to AARP.

It’s clear that being a family caregiver can be financially challenging. Allsup and the National Family Caregivers Association would like to help.

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With JPMorgan rumored to be eyeing a minority stake in Twitter that would value the company at $4.5 billion, it’s time for advisors to start taking it seriously. Not surprisingly, like many other aspects of web-marketing and social media, how an advisor uses Twitter is different from most everyone else.

For a financial advisor, having thousands of Twitter followers doesn’t mean much unless you’re reaching the right people. For you, the “right people” means your client base. Chances are some of the people you do business with today are active on Twitter. By establishing your own Twitter identity and inviting your existing clients to “follow” you, you accomplish several things.

As if you didn’t have enough to worry about—between getting clients, pleasing clients, meeting deadlines, sending out invoices and making sure the yogurt isn’t past its “sell by” date—you have to think about your financial future, too.

If financial planning sounds overwhelming, and you work on contingency, take a look at “structured settlements.”

Here’s how it works: If you work on contingency, you can defer some (or all) of your fee until later and avoid paying tax on it until a time you choose. It could be:

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Financial World Relies on Key Groups to Track the Economy

Over the years, the closely watched “yield curve” has been fairly adept at signaling the onset of U.S. economic recessions. When short-term Treasury yields exceed long-term yields, an economic slowdown often results. When such a yield “inversion” occurred in late 2005, some economists pointed to it as an indication that a recession was approaching. Some two years later, the economy indeed fell into recession.

A yield curve inversion would seem to be a fairly straightforward method for ascertaining the direction of the economy, but more often than not, matters are not so simple. This is evidenced by the committees and teams who join forces to study the economy and weigh in with predictions and forecasts. Here’s a look at some of the key organizations that bring together the world’s most powerful and influential economists.

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Thanks to a popular 2007 motion picture, many Americans now have a “bucket list” — an inventory of accomplishments they hope to achieve in their lifetimes. Although many bucket list endeavors require courage or tenacity, such as traveling to faraway places or writing a book, there’s at least one task you can resolve to accomplish that is fairly simple but could have lasting benefits for your family, friends, and possibly a favorite charity.

Designate Your Beneficiaries When you set up an IRA or participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you are typically asked to fill out a beneficiary designation form. Although many people postpone the naming of a beneficiary, this can be a big mistake. IRAs and most retirement accounts are not subject to probate, and the assets will convey directly to your designated beneficiaries, regardless of different instructions in your will.

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Social media has become an inescapable force, but many in the financial services industry are still holding back from using it.

The fastest demographic on Facebook, Stern said, is women aged 55-65 – a huge chunk of many advisors client base. Currently, there is the biggest wealth transfer from the older generation to the younger generation, which leaves a huge opportunity for advisors to show their attributes to these newer clients and meet them where they are at: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are just one of the many types of investment funds available, but they have some qualities that are unique and set them apart from other vehicles. ETFs are securities that attempt to track all types of indexes, industries, or commodities. For example, an ETF might be made up of securities representative of the technological industry or of the S&P 500.*

When ETFs were first created in the 1990s, the aim was to mimic the movements of an index of a specific financial benchmark. Today, ETFs also follow industries and commodities, not just indexes. The investment vehicle with the sole purpose of mirroring a specific index is called an index fund.

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Growth Stocks vs. Value Stocks

Investors are often confused about the differences between growth stocks and value stocks. The main way in which they differ is not in how they are bought and sold, nor is it how much ownership they represent in a company. Rather, the difference lies mainly in the way in which they are perceived by the market and, ultimately, the investor.

Growth stocks are associated with high-quality, successful companies whose earnings are expected to continue growing at an above-average rate relative to the market. Growth stocks generally have high price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios and high price-to-book ratios. The P/E ratio is the market value per share divided by the current year’s earnings per share.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

The good news for women: they live longer, so they will have longer to enjoy their retirement. The bad news: they live longer, and so their retirement will be much more expensive than for their male counterparts.

Women tend to outlive their husbands. Only one-third of women over sixty-five are married, and on average women will survive their husbands by fifteen years.

The combination of being on their own and living longer means that women need far more retirement income than do most men.

Unfortunately, women's pension plans just don't measure up. A study by the Older Women's League says that women only receive 54% as much private pension income as do men, and they are falling further and further behind. There is a simple reason for this. The pension you receive depends on whether you stay on the job.

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Earlier this week, we asked you to think about what your retirement will look like. Does it include continuing to work, at least part-time? For many boomers, it does.

Recent research from Investor's Group shows that many boomers plan to continue working beyond age 65. In a recent poll, 42% of boomers said they plan to retire gradually.

"That's what they're saying," said David Ablett, a financial planning expert with Investors Group. With the oldest boomers set to turn 65 in five years, "It will be interesting to see what actually happens."

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Melanie is a young teacher with her future ahead of her. She tries to keep debt to a minimum and she’s a regular saver. She once thought a job in education, and the benefits that come with it, would be a smart financial move, but now those future benefits are in question.

“With the threat of pensions being eliminated, my main goal is to protect myself in retirement,” said Melanie, 33.

Melanie, whose name has been changed, has saved $19,799 in a 403(b) plan, $21,270 in mutual funds, $40,000 in a money market and $2,000 in checking. Her only debt is a car loan and her mortgage.

The Star-Ledger tapped Jerry Lynch, a certified financial planner with JFL Consulting in Fairfield, to help Melanie make sense of her future retirement concerns.

“Melanie is smart in being concerned about being a teacher and changes to retirement benefits that are being proposed by New Jersey,” Lynch says.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

NEW YORK—Stocks wobbled between small gains and losses as continuing tension in Libya kept the U.S. market searching for direction on the anniversary of the bull market's start.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged down 5 points to 12210. Leading the declines, Caterpillar fell 1.5%, while DuPont slipped 1.2%. Keeping the losses in check, International Business Machines rose 2.8%, while Merck gained 1.5%.

Read more: U.S. Stocks Waver - Investing - Stocks -
A year ago, on the first anniversary of the bear market low, which occurred on March 9, 2009, it seemed impossible that we were talking about stocks rising by nearly 60 percent in just one year. Well now we have another year under our belt and the news is GREAT: the S&P 500 has nearly doubled from the bottom!

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — The bull market is celebrating its second anniversary, and while the honeymoon may not be over for U.S. stock investors, the champagne could lose some of its fizz.

The bull market’s third year differs significantly from the first two, both in temperament and magnitude. Typically, large-cap stocks take leadership from small-caps and midcaps, and the gains are more muted.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

One's spirit and zest for life may never age, but financial planning in the 60's is often more practically linked to retirement considerations for good reasons. Whether it be having enough money to retire, being financially able to choose new lifestyles or knowing one doesn't have to continue working if necessary are some of the reasons financial planning in the 60's is useful.

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One of the most important steps of retirement planning is receiving the most out of 401k match. In order to maximize the value you get from your 401k match, you need to consider the information below.

Usually, you will only get a contribution into your plan if you make a contribution on your own. Each time you save some of your salary by putting an amount of money into your 401k account, your employer does as well. Similarly, when you don’t save a dollar, your employer match goes away too.

First of all, some companies simply don’t have a 401k retirement plan. Those that do have them appear to have different ones. While some companies have generous matching programs, the others offer relatively paltry matches or even no matching program at all.

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The latest auction of Twitter shares on Sharespost valued the company at $7.7 billion, which is almost twice as high as Twitter’s valuation after a round of funding in January.

According to Sharespost, a secondary market that lets investors trade with otherwise illiquid assets, investors have agreed to buy 35,000 shares of Twitter’s Series B preferred stock at $34.50 per share. Multiplying that figure with the 223.7 million fully diluted Twitter shares listed by Sharespost one gets a staggering $7.718 billion.

Facebook has experienced a similar growth on secondary markets in the past two years: after being valued at a mere $9.5 billion in November 2009, a round of funding in January this year valued it at $50 billion, with the latest trades with the company’s shares pushing the number even higher, to $65 billion.

Friday, March 4, 2011

While many Americans' retirement looks bleak because they don't have enough money saved, a majority of wealthy baby boomers in a new survey say their standard of living in retirement will top that of their parents.

Eighty-four percent of high-net-worth boomers, age 46 to 64, said their retirement will differ from their parents. Of that group, 86 percent said they plan to be more active, and 72 percent said their standard of living will be higher, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch survey of 1,000 people with investable assets of $250,000 or more.

Seventy percent of these boomers said they'll work in retirement, at least part time, "to remain more active and engaged"; 26 percent said they'll go back to school, 24 percent said they plan to learn a new trade, and 20 percent said they'll start or keep running their own business.