The Market Is Up & I Am Not … Why?

Remember that the major indices don’t represent the entirety of Wall Street. 

The S&P 500 is up about 10% YTD, why aren’t I? If your investments are lagging the broad benchmark, you may be asking that very question. The short answer is that the S&P is not the overall market (and vice versa). Each year, there are money managers, day traders and retirement savers whose portfolios wind up underperforming it.1

Keep in mind that the S&P serves as a kind of “Wall Street shorthand.” The media watches it constantly because it does provide a good gauge of how things are going during a trading day, week or year. It is cap-weighted (larger firms account for a greater proportion of its value, smaller firms a smaller proportion) and includes companies from many sectors. Its 500-odd components represent roughly 70% of the aggregate value of the American stock markets.2

Still, the S&P is not the whole stock market – just a portion of it.

You can say the same thing about the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which includes only 30 companies and isn’t even cap-weighted like the S&P is. It stands for about 25% of U.S. stock market value, but it is devoted to the blue chips.2

How about the Nasdaq Composite or the Russell 2000? The same thing applies.

Yes, the Nasdaq is large (3,000+ members), and yes, it consists of insurance, industrial, transportation and financial firms as well as tech companies. It is still undeniably tech-heavy, however, and includes a whole bunch of speculative small-cap firms. So on many days, its performance may not correspond to that of the broad market.2,3

That also holds true for the Russell, which is a vast index but all about the small caps. (It is actually a portion of the Russell 3000, which also contains large-cap firms.)2

If you really want a broad view of the market, your search will lead you to the behemoth Wilshire 5000, which some investors call the “total market index.” You could argue that the Wilshire is the real barometer of the U.S. market, as it is several times the size of the S&P 500 (it includes about 3,700 firms at the moment, encompassing just about every publicly-traded company based in this country. In mid-December, the Wilshire was up about 9% for 2014.4,5

One benchmark doesn’t equal the entire market. There are all manner of indices out there, tracking everything from utility firms to Internet and biotech companies to emerging markets. As wonderful or dismal as their performance may be on a given day, week or year, they don’t give you the story of the overall market. Your YTD return may even vary greatly from the gains of the big benchmarks depending on how your invested assets are allocated.

During any year, you will see certain segments of the market perform remarkably well and others poorly. Because of that ongoing reality, you must stay diversified and adopt a long-term perspective as you invest.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – us.spindices.com/indices/equity/sp-500 [12/11/14]

2 – investopedia.com/articles/analyst/102501.asp [12/11/14]

3 – quotes.morningstar.com/indexquote/quote.html?t=COMP [12/11/14]

4 – web.wilshire.com/Indexes/Broad/Wilshire5000/Characteristics.html [12/11/14]

5 – money.cnn.com/quote/quote.html?symb=W5000FLT [12/11/14]

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc, and does not necessarily represent the views of Albert Aizin, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Pfizer, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Albert Aizin is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at http://www.theretirementgroup.com.

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Yes, Young Growing Families Can Save & Invest

It may seem like a tall order, but it can be accomplished.

Plan to put yourself steps ahead of your peers. If you have a young, growing family, no doubt your to-do list is pretty long on any given day. Beyond today, you are probably working on another kind of to-do list for the long term. Where does “saving and investing” rank on that list?

For some families, it never quite ranks high enough – and it never becomes the priority it should become. Assorted financial pressures, sudden shifts in household needs, bad luck – they can all move “saving and investing” down the list. Even so, young families have planned to build wealth in the face of such stresses. You can follow their example. It is less an option than a necessity.

First step: put it into numbers. Most people have invested a little by the time they reach 30 or 35, and some have invested avidly. A plan is not always in place, however. The mission is simply to “make money” or “build wealth” for “the future.”

This is good, but also vague. How much money will you need to save by 65 to promote enough retirement income and to live comfortably? Are you on pace to build a retirement nest egg that large? How much risk do you feel comfortable tolerating as you invest? What kind of impact are investment fees and taxes having on your efforts?

A financial professional can help you arrive at answers to these questions, and others. He or she can help you define long-range retirement savings goals and project the amount of savings and income you may need to sustain your lifestyle as retirees. At that point, “the future” will seem more tangible and your wealth-building effort even more purposeful.

Second step: start today & never stop. If you have already started, congratulations! In getting an early start, you have taken advantage of a young investor’s greatest financial asset: time.

If you haven’t started saving and investing, you can do so now. It doesn’t take a huge lump sum to begin. Even if you defer $100 worth of salary into a retirement plan a month, you are putting a foot forward. See if you can allocate much more.

If you begin when you are young and keep at it, you will witness the awesome power of compounding as you build your retirement savings and net worth through the years.

Just how awesome is it? An example: let’s say you save $100 per month in an investment account for 20 years and the account returns a (hypothetical) 5% for you over those two decades. In 20 years under such conditions, your $100-a-month nest egg will not amount to $24,000 – it will work out to $41,011, which is 71% more! If you put in $200 a month, you wind up with a projected $82,022 off of the $24,000 in contributions! We aren’t factoring in account fees or market fluctuations, of course – but you get the picture. Stretched out to 30 years, a consistent $100-per-month contribution and a consistent 5% return project to $82,302; raise the monthly contribution to $200 and you get $164,604. These numbers factor in annual compounding; use daily compounding as the variable, and they grow a bit larger. So even if you set aside and invest a few twenties each month, you may still end up with appreciable retirement savings – and these are numbers for one retirement saver, there are two of you.1

What’s that? You say you can’t retire on $164,000 or less? You’re absolutely right. You have to devote more than that to your effort. You may need a million or two – and if you plan ahead, you may very well generate it. Ownership of equity investments, real property, business or professional success – this can all help to position you and your family for a comfortable future, provided you keep good financial habits along the way and pay attention to taxes.

How do you find the balance? This is worth addressing – how do you balance saving and investing with attending to your family’s immediate financial needs?

Bottom line, you have to find money to save and invest for your family’s near-term and long-term goals. If it isn’t on hand, you may find it by reducing certain household costs. Are you spending a lot of money on goods and services you want rather than need? Cut back on that kind of spending. Is credit card debt siphoning away dollars you should assign to saving and investing? Fix that financial leak and avoid paying with plastic whenever you can. Other young families are doing it, and yours can as well.

Vow to keep “paying yourself first” – maintain the consistency of your saving and investing effort. What is more important, saving for your child’s college education or buying those season tickets? Who comes first in your life, your family or your gardener? You know the answer.

It has been done; it should be done. Stories abound of families that have built wealth out of comparative poverty. There are people who came to this country with little more than the clothes on their backs who have found prosperity; there are families (including single-parent households) who have been dealt a bad hand yet overcame long financial odds to gain affluence.

It all starts with belief – the belief that you can do it. Complement that belief with a plan and regular saving and investing, and you may find yourself much better off much sooner than you think.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – bankrate.com/calculators/savings/compound-savings-calculator-tool.aspx [12/26/14]

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc, and does not necessarily represent the views of Albert Aizin, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Raytheon, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Albert Aizin is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at http://www.theretirementgroup.com.

Investing as a Couple: Getting to Yes

In a perfect world, both halves of a couple share the same investment goals and agree on the best way to try to reach them. It doesn’t always work that way, though; disagreements about money are often a source of friction between couples. You may be risk averse, while your spouse may be comfortable investing more aggressively–or vice versa. How can you bridge that gap?

First, define your goals

Making good investment decisions is difficult if you don’t know what you’re investing for. Make sure you’re on the same page–or at least reading from the same book–when it comes to financial goal-setting. Knowing where you’re headed is the first step toward developing a road map for dealing jointly with investments.

In some cases you may have the same goals, but put a different priority on each one or have two different time frames for a specific goal. For example, your spouse may want to retire as soon as possible, while you’re anxious to accept a new job that means advancement in your career, even if it means staying put or moving later. Coming to a general agreement on what your priorities are and roughly when you hope to achieve each one can greatly simplify the process of deciding how to invest.

Make sure the game plan is clear

Making sure both spouses know how and (equally important) why their money is invested in a certain way can help minimize marital blowback if investment choices don’t work out as anticipated. Second-guessing rarely improves any relationship. Making sure that both partners understand from the beginning why an investment was chosen, as well as its risks and potential rewards, may help moderate the impulse to say “I told you so” later. Investing doesn’t have to be either/or. A diversified portfolio should have a place for both conservative and more aggressive investments. Though diversification can’t guarantee a profit or ensure against a loss, it’s one way to manage the type and level of risk you face–including the risks involved in bickering with your spouse.

It takes two

Aside from attempting to minimize marital strife, there’s another good reason to make sure both spouses understand how their money is invested and why. If only one person makes all the decisions–even if that person is the more experienced investor–what if something were to happen to that individual? The other spouse might have to make decisions at a very vulnerable time–decisions that could have long-term consequences.

If you’re the less experienced investor, take the responsibility for making sure you have at least a basic understanding of how your resources are invested. If you’re suddenly the one responsible for all decisions, you should at least know enough to protect yourself from fraud and/or work effectively with a financial professional to manage your money.

If you’re the more conservative investor …

  • If you’re unfamiliar with a specific investment, research it. Though past performance is no guarantee of future returns, understanding how an investment typically has behaved in the past or how it compares to other investment possibilities could give you a better perspective on why your spouse is interested in it.
  • Consider whether there are investments that are less aggressive than what your spouse is proposing but that still push you out of your comfort zone and might represent a compromise position. For example, if you don’t want to invest a large amount in a single stock, a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) that invests in that sector might be a way to compromise. (Before investing in a mutual fund or ETF, carefully consider its investment objective, risks, charges, and expenses, which can be found in the prospectus available from the fund. Read it carefully before investing.) Or you could compromise by making a small investment, watching for an agreed-upon length of time to see how it performs, and then deciding whether to invest more.
  • Finally, there may be ways to offset, reduce, or manage the risk involved in a particular investment. Some investments benefit from circumstances that hurt others; for example, a natural disaster that cuts the profits of insurance companies could be beneficial for companies that are hired to rebuild in that area. Many investors try to hedge the risks involved in one investment by purchasing another with very different risks. However, remember that even though hedging could potentially reduce your overall level of risk, doing so probably would also reduce any return you might earn if the other investment is profitable.

If you’re the more aggressive investor …

  • Listen respectfully to your spouse’s concerns. Additional information may increase a spouse’s comfort level, but you won’t know what’s needed if you automatically dismiss any objections. If you don’t have the patience to educate your spouse, a third party who isn’t emotionally involved might be better at explaining your point of view.
  • Concealing the potential pitfalls of an investment about which you’re enthusiastic could make future joint decisions more difficult if your credibility suffers because of a loss. As with most marital issues, transparency and trust are key.
  • A spouse who’s more cautious than you are may help you remember to assess the risks involved or keep trading costs down by reducing the churn in your portfolio.
  • Remember that you can make changes in your portfolio gradually. You might be able to help your spouse get more comfortable with taking on additional risk by spreading the investment out over time rather than investing a lump sum. And if you’re an impulsive investor, try not to act until you can consult your partner–or be prepared to face the consequences.

What if you still can’t agree?

You could consider investing a certain percentage of your combined resources aggressively, an equal percentage conservatively, and a third percentage in a middle-ground choice. This would give each partner equal input and control of the decision-making process, even if one has a larger balance in his or her individual account.

Another approach is to use separate asset allocations to balance competing interests. If both spouses have workplace retirement plans, the risk taker could invest the largest portion of his or her plan in an aggressive choice and put a smaller portion in an option with which a spouse is comfortable. The conservative partner would invest the bulk of his or her money in a relatively conservative choice and put a smaller piece in a more aggressive selection on which you both agree.

Or you could divide responsibility for specific goals. For example, the more conservative half could be responsible for the money that’s being saved for a house down payment in five years. The other partner could take charge of longer-term goals that may benefit from taking greater risk in pursuit of potentially higher returns. You also could consider setting a predetermined limit on how much the risk taker can put into riskier investments.

Finally, a neutral third party with some expertise and a dispassionate view of the situation may be able to help work through differences.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Albert Aizin, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, Qwest, Chevron, Verizon, Bank of America, ING Retirement, AT&T, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Albert Aizin is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

2015 IRA Deadlines Are Approaching

Here is what you need to know.

Financially, many of us associate April with taxes – but we should also associate April with important IRA deadlines.

*April 1 is the absolute deadline to take your first Required Mandatory Distribution (RMD) from your traditional IRA(s).

*April 15 is the deadline for making annual contributions to a traditional or Roth IRA.1

Let’s discuss the contribution deadline first, and then the deadline for that first RMD (which affects only those IRA owners who turned 70½ last year).

The earlier you make your annual IRA contribution, the better. You can make a yearly Roth or traditional IRA contribution anytime between January 1 of the current year and April 15 of the next year. So the contribution window for 2014 is January 1, 2014- April 15, 2015. You can make your IRA contribution for 2015 anytime from January 1, 2015-April 15, 2016.2

You have more than 15 months to make your IRA contribution for a given year, but why wait? Savvy IRA owners contribute as early as they can to give those dollars more months to grow and compound. (After all, who wants less time to amass retirement savings?)

You cut your income tax bill by contributing to a deductible traditional IRA. That’s because you are funding it with after-tax dollars. To get the full tax deduction for your 2015 traditional IRA contribution, you have to meet one or more of these financial conditions:

*You aren’t eligible to participate in a workplace retirement plan.

*You are eligible to participate in a workplace retirement plan, but you are a single filer or head of household with modified adjusted gross income of $61,000 or less. (Or if you file jointly with your spouse, your combined MAGI is $98,000 or less.)

*You aren’t eligible to participate in a workplace retirement plan, but your spouse is eligible and your combined 2015 gross income is $183,000 or less.3

If you are the original owner of a traditional IRA, by law you must stop contributing to it starting in the year you turn 70½. If you are the initial owner of a Roth IRA, you can contribute to it as long as you live provided you have taxable compensation and MAGI below a certain level (see below).1,3

If you are making a 2014 IRA contribution in early 2015, be aware of this fact. You must tell the investment company hosting the IRA account what year the contribution is for. If you fail to indicate the tax year that the contribution applies to, the custodian firm may make a default assumption that the contribution is for the current year (and note exactly that to the IRS).4

So, write “2015 IRA contribution” or “2014 IRA contribution” as applicable in the memo area of your check, plainly and simply. Be sure to write your account number on the check. Should you make your contribution electronically, double-check that these details are communicated.

How much can you put into an IRA this year? You can contribute up to $5,500 to a Roth or traditional IRA for the 2015 tax year, $6,500 if you will be 50 or older this year. (The same applies for the 2014 tax year). If you have multiple IRAs, you can contribute up to a total of $5,500/$6,500 across the various accounts. Should you make an IRA contribution exceeding these limits, you will not be rewarded for it: you will have until the following April 15 to correct the contribution with the help of an IRS form, and if you don’t, the amount of the excess contribution will be taxed at 6% each year the correction is avoided.1,4

If you earn a lot of money, your maximum contribution to a Roth IRA may be reduced because of MAGI phase-outs, which kick in as follows.3

 

2014 Tax Year 2015 Tax Year
Single/head of household: $114,000 – $129,000 Single/head of household: $116,000 – $131,000
Married filing jointly: $181,000 – $191,000 Married filing jointly: $183,000 – $193,000
Married filing separately: $0 – $10,000 Married filing separately: $0 – $10,000

If your MAGI falls within the applicable phase-out range, you may make a partial contribution.3

A last-chance RMD deadline rolls around on April 1. If you turned 70½ in 2014, the IRS gave you a choice: you could a) take your first Required Minimum Distribution from your traditional IRA before December 31, 2014, or b) postpone it until as late as April 1, 2015.1

If you chose b), you will have to take two RMDs this year – one by April 1, 2014 and another by December 31, 2014. (For subsequent years, your annual RMD deadline will be December 31.) The investment firm hosting your IRA should have already notified you of this consequence, and the RMD amount(s) – in fact, they have probably calculated the RMD(s) for you.5

Original owners of Roth IRAs will never face this issue – they are not required to take RMDs.1

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Traditional-and-Roth-IRAs [11/3/14]

2 – dailyfinance.com/2014/12/06/time-running-out-end-year-retirement-planning/ [12/6/14]

3 – asppa.org/News/Browse-Topics/Sales-Marketing/Article/ArticleID/3594 [10/23/14]

4 – investopedia.com/articles/retirement/05/021505.asp [1/21/15]

5 – schwab.com/public/schwab/nn/articles/IRA-Tax-Traps [6/6/14]

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc, and does not necessarily represent the views of Albert Aizin, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, AT&T, Qwest, ING Retirement,Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Merck, Pfizer, Glaxosmithkline,Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Albert Aizin is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at http://www.theretirementgroup.com.