The Power of Confidence

In January, American consumer confidence reached an 11-year high. The University of Michigan consumer sentiment index rose to 98.1, up from 93.6 in December, which is the highest level since January 2004.

Thanks to lower gas prices, more people said they are likely to buy a car than in any other time in the last decade. Folks also indicated they were back in the market for big-ticket household items — which may well need to be replaced by now — such as a washing machine or vacuum cleaner.

While the job market remains at an uptick, workers today admit they still feel less secure about retaining their jobs than workers did back in the late 1970s. They fear not just losing their job — but not being able to find a comparable job if they did. Alas, although the economic recession technically ended more than six years ago, its scars still run deep.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Consumer Sentiment Brightened in January to 11-Year High,” from Bloomberg, Jan. 30, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Worker’s expectations about losing and replacing their jobs: 35 years of change,” from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2015.]

With those levels of remaining uncertainty, it’s no wonder our economy has moved so slowly to recover. Confidence plays a tremendous role in everything we do. Whether competing in sports or just trying to accomplish goals in daily life, how you feel about your chances for success can help tip the scales one way or another.

For example, a psychology study from Ohio State revealed that a person’s level of self-confidence can influence his career path. Another recent study found that female STEM students (who study science, technology, engineering or math in college) exhibit far less confidence in the classroom than male students, possibly contributing to the comparatively low proportion of women who pursue STEM careers. Really, for all workers, a lack of self-assuredness may lead to less confidence when negotiating a job salary and may ultimately mean a lower lifetime income.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Study: Self-confidence Plays a Crucial Role in Forging Your Career Path,” from Fast Company, accessed Jan. 30, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Female programmers are less confident than male programmers,” from IT World, Jan. 12, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “5 Reasons Why You Should Negotiate Your Salary, Every Time,” from The Huffington Post, Jan. 21, 2015.]

Perhaps with the improving job market and some salary negotiation training, parents will soon be able to kick their young adult children out of the nest. Recent analysis shows that 11.5 percent of baby boomers live in households with children under age 18, but more than 30 percent live in households with children of any age. This not-so-empty nest phenomenon also holds true for seniors (1 percent vs. 12 percent).

On one hand, young adults may lack the confidence to move out on their own given the high levels of unemployment and economic uncertainty they’ve witnessed since graduating from college. On the other hand, now that they’re settled into an adult routine at home with the luxuries of on-site laundry and every cable channel known to mankind, who wants to move out to prepare meals, spend an hour each week at a laundromat or give up programming on ESPN, TNT or CNN?

However, for older adults that need to get back to the business of saving for retirement, one less on-site mouth to feed can make a difference. And not having to support another adult under your roof can help bolster your confidence to meet retirement income goals. If we can help raise your confidence in your retirement income, please contact us today.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Children in the Household by Generation, 2014,” from Demo Memo, Jan. 28, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Intended for Millennials, Dish’s Sling TV Is a Cord Cutter’s Dream,” from NPR, Jan. 26, 2015.]

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Retirement Income Tips

A lot goes into retirement income planning. You have to estimate how much you’re going to spend years from now, when sometimes it’s difficult to know what you’re going to spend this year. Cars break down. The roof leaks. The furnace needs to be replaced. Life is a cornucopia of who-knows-what will happen next.

In addition to knowing what you’ll need once the paychecks stop coming in, you’ll need to consider what tax bracket you’ll be in. You’ll need to project how your assets will fare from now until and through retirement. Yet if there’s one thing we know, it’s that we can’t predict the markets and we can’t rely on historical performance to repeat itself.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Winging It in Retirement?” at The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Jan. 22, 2015.]

Then there’s the issue of health. Some people are fortunate and suffer only the minor aches and pains of getting older. Others develop more serious chronic conditions, both mental and physical. Taking screening tests and conducting a comprehensive family history can help spot genetic predispositions to certain conditions. But even then, some people who are predisposed go unscathed, while others with no genetic markers acquire some unsuspecting ailment that changes their retirement plans.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Careful planning can ease retirement’s health costs,” at CNBC, Jan. 20, 2015.]

This income planning process for retirement can seem bleak, but perhaps it’s only a matter of approach.

Remember when you saved for your first car, or your first home? Even just saving for a deposit, first and last month’s rent before you could move into your first apartment may have seemed insurmountable. But you did it, eventually, and it felt great. Like freedom. Life was yours for the taking, and you were in control.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “‘Intergenerational’ retirement home sees students live alongside the elderly,” at CTV News (Canada), Dec. 7, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “What to Know about Money and Work by 50, 60, 70,” at NextAvenue.org, Jan. 6, 2015.]

You can approach retirement income planning in a similar way. It’s just another one of life’s great adventures, and the more you focus on the strategy, the more in control you may feel. Regardless of market volatility, job insecurity, emergency expenses and health concerns, the more you prepare for unexpected adverse events, the more contingency options may be available to you. Like so many other things in life, some variables you can control better than others.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Retirement planning isn’t just about the money,” at CNBC, Jan. 21, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Plan for a Long Life When Saving for Retirement,” at Kiplinger, February 2015.]

It’s important to plan for the long term through healthy choices. In this way, retirement income planning is similar to lifestyle choices. Let us help you devise a strategy designed to support your unique situation.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products. Our firm is not permitted to offer, and no statement contained herein shall constitute, tax, legal or accounting advice. Be sure to speak with qualified professionals before making any decisions about your personal situation. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Wage War Wages On

The hacking incidence at Sony may have hurt actor Seth Rogen and the release of his film, “The Interview,” but it was a boon for actress Charlize Theron. After leaked emails revealed her male co-star Chris Hemsworth was being paid $10 million more than her in their film, “The Huntsman,” she successfully renegotiated equal pay for equal work — the longtime behest of gender equality activists.

Charlize Theron

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Charlize Theron Negotiates $10M Raise after Sony Hack Reveals Male Costar Was to be Paid Millions More,” from Think Progress, Jan. 12, 2015.]

A recent study revealed the extent of geographical reach of unequal pay among men and women. In every state in the U.S., men make more money than women. Among the wealthiest women, the vast majority acquired their wealth as relatives of wealthy men.

[CLICK HERE to read the report, “Men make more money than women in every single state across the U.S. — with Louisiana’s $16K gender wage gap being the widest,” from DailyMail.com, Jan. 15, 2015.]

In Washington, the debate over raising the national minimum wage is expected to continue. Critics argue that a mandatory increase, on top of the employer health insurance mandate, would be devastating to businesses and a major setback in unemployment levels.

However, the Peterson Institute for International Economics recently tackled the question of whether raising the pay of low-skilled workers at large corporations can lead to higher productivity. It reports a plethora of advantages, including lower turnover, less absenteeism, less supervision, better health, improved productivity, attracting more high-quality candidates with higher IQs and a better fit for the job, more inventory knowledge and higher customer satisfaction.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Higher Wages for Low-Income Workers Lead to Higher Productivity,” from The Peterson Institute for International Economics, Jan. 13, 2015.]

Another topic heatedly debated in Congress is the employer mandate imposed by the health care law. Many legislators are seeking to change the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s definition of a full-time employee to one who works 40 hours per week instead of 30. However, according to the Commonwealth Fund, this change would mean twice as many workers may have their work hours reduced and shift more workers to either Medicaid or the health care exchanges, which would increase the federal deficit by an estimated $73.7 billion over 10 years.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why Changing the Definition of Full-Time Work Under the ACA Will Put More Workers at Risk and Increase Federal Spending,” from The Commonwealth Fund, Jan. 24, 2014.]

In his new book, “American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., proposes transforming the way the Earned Income Tax Credit works. Rubio believes the credit isn’t effective because it’s paid as a one-time lump sum, which many people then spend on something frivolous. He recommends the credit be doled out in equal increments via a worker’s paycheck, essentially increasing his take-home pay throughout the year.

[CLICK HERE to read the report, “Sen. Marco Rubio charts conservative solutions to vexing problems in ‘American Dreams’,” from Tampa Bay Times, Jan. 11 2015.]

While income inequality may be a hot topic in America, another issue we should concern ourselves with is making sure our net worth accumulates over time, and leveraging the assets we do have. Earning a higher salary as we get older and acquire more skills and experience is all well and good. But the key is to utilize financial strategies that can help ensure our retirement income will last as long as we do. As always, we’re here to help you do just that.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products. Our firm is not permitted to offer, and no statement contained herein, shall constitute tax, legal or accounting advice. Be sure to speak with qualified professionals before making any decisions about your personal situation. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Nemoy – A Gentle Man

During Memorial Day weekend in 2012 I found myself at the Phoenix Convention Center surrounded by aliens, treekies, freeks and geeks of all stripes.  It was my first visit to a Comicon.

Our purpose?  To meet Leonard Nemoy.  After waiting in long lines to check in, we waited in another long line to get our picture taken with Mr. Nemoy.  Walk in, exchange greetings, pose, “FLASH!”, walk out.  The photo op lasted less than a minute.

Teresa Bear Leonard Nemoy

The photo captures that brief brush with celebrity. However, a far less intimate encounter later that day left a more lasting impression.

At a Comicon, it is customary for guest artists to participate in “panels”.  The size of the room used is directly proportional to the popularity of the the guest.  Nemoy’s panel was in the largest ballroom of the convention center.  It probably seated several thousand people.  The audience was asked to silence their cell phones and Mr. Nemoy arrived.

Leonard Nemoy’s speech was probably one that he had given many times before in similar venues.  It was funny, enlightening and entertaining.  However, the part I remembered most was unscripted.

In the middle of his talk, a single cell phone rang loud and clear.  Leonard looked down and answered his phone.  Everyone in the audience clearly heard his side of the conversation with his wife.

“Hello”

—–(wife speaking)—-

“I’m talking with some friends”

The whole ballroom erupted with laughter.

What happened next was what made the biggest impression on me.  Mr Nemoy kept on talking to her.  30 seconds later he hung up and resumed his speech.

I put myself in his place – delivering a speech in a room full of people when my husband calls. I probably wouldn’t have answered the phone or if I did answer it, would have said “I’m busy, and can’t talk right now”. Leonard did not.  He made sure that he gave full attention to the love of his life – his wife Susan.

Leonard Nemoy played a stoic Vulcan.  It must have been a stretch for this kind, gentle man.

Live Long and Prosper!

Politics – the Battle Begins in Earnest

The economy is in good shape for starting a new year, but lines have already been drawn in the sand where our political engine is concerned. Republicans have a long list of pent-up priorities, including the Keystone Pipeline, repealing portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and reversing the president’s executive action enabling about 5 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S.

Though wielding somewhat less power, Democrats and the administration will continue to focus on tax reform, infrastructure funding and foreign trade.

[CLICK HERE to read the report, “CIO Outlook: Themes for 2015 and Beyond,” from Merrill Lynch, Winter 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “GOP agenda for Congress: Challenge Obama, prove they can govern,” from CNN.com, Jan. 6, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “With GOP Congress incoming, Obama plots his 2015 strategy,” from CBSNews.com, Jan. 3, 2015.]

Despite holding a majority in both houses of Congress, Republicans may have trouble overturning previous legislation. However, there are strategies available to help them. One is the budget reconciliation process, a one-time per year tactic that requires only 51 votes in the Senate as opposed to the 60 needed to overcome a Democratic filibuster. Note that this tactic may be used only for budget-related items. For example, it could repeal tax subsidies offered on the health care exchanges, but it cannot be applied to the individual or employer health care mandates.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Republicans eye reconciliation route in bid to repeal Obamacare,” from The Washington Times, Jan. 1, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Republicans to Chip at Obamacare by Redefining Work Hours,” from Bloomberg, Nov. 7, 2014.]

Republicans may be able to successfully pass laws in both chambers of Congress, but the president has the power to veto, and he has confirmed that he will do so for any legislation that threatens the viability of the health care act. This may prove to be a challenging prospect for opponents, because to overturn a veto they must have a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Obama on GOP Congress: I’ll probably need my veto pen,” from USA Today, Dec. 29, 2014.]

While the new dynamic in Washington is sure to make for interesting headlines this year, it’s important that we don’t become distracted by politics. When it comes to making our own financial decisions, some of the most important factors are our personal goals, tolerance of market risk and timeline for when we need money. Please contact us for help in making independent decisions this year.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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2015 Outlook

Last year left the U.S. in decent financial shape. Oil prices tanked and the U.S. dollar surged. Inflationary pressure is low, and the stock market ended the year strong. The analysts at Fidelity believe this positive environment should continue at least early into 2015. The economy is in a mid-cycle expansion with solid employment gains and wage increases – although not yet across the board – and the outlook for consumers is good.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “December 2014 Market Update,” from Fidelity, Dec. 12, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Five themes for 2015,” from Fidelity, Dec. 23, 2014.]

Over at Merrill Lynch, analysts are similarly positive. They expect the economy to expand by 3.3 percent in 2015, energized by consumer spending now that individual debt has been reduced. On the job front, analysts expect the economy to generate around 240,000 jobs a month and the unemployment rate to continue dropping.

[CLICK HERE to read the report, “CIO Outlook: Themes for 2015 and Beyond,” from Merrill Lynch, Jan. 2015.]

In the real estate market, housing prices are expected to continue rising but not at the same high growth rate as 2014. Thanks to predicted higher mortgage rates, there will be fewer buyers and the face of those buyers is expected to change. That’s because millennials (young adults under the age of 35) are projected to overtake Gen X (those 35 to 50 years old) as the largest group of homebuyers in the U.S. this year.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Housing Outlook 2015: 11 Predictions from the Experts,” from Forbes, Dec. 18, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “4 predictions for the housing market in 2015,” from Fortune, Dec. 9, 2014.]

In the world of technology, one expert offers a handful of predictions for 2015. Among them, email attachments will evolve into cloud-based links (largely for security reasons), tablets will experience a “surprise comeback” to outsell laptops and there will be a greater focus on security for all devices in the wake of the 2014 breaches at Target, eBay, J.P. Morgan, Home Depot, Nieman Marcus, P.F. Chang’s, Michaels, Goodwill and Sony.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Forecast: Workplace Trends, Choices and Technologies for 2015,” from Recode.net, Dec. 18, 2014.]

Within the health care sector, the new Congress is likely to take aim at targeted points of weakness in an attempt to block the implementation of parts of the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court is already on tap to hear one case concerning the law, and it could end up being a busy year for the legal system.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Supreme Court Decides to Hear King v. Burwell: What Are the Implications?” from The Commonwealth Fund, Nov. 7, 2014.]

On the other hand, do-it-yourself health care appears to be a trend on the rise. Innovative wearable tracking devices, mobile apps and cost-savings due to increasing transparency in the medical field are all expected to gain momentum in 2015.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “10 health care trends to watch in 2015,” from Employment Benefit News, Dec. 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Top Trends Influencing Healthcare IT In 2015,” from CXO Today, Dec. 24, 2014.]

It’s always an exciting time when we enter a new year. It’s an ideal opportunity to re-evaluate current plans, update them and/or make new ones. As always, if we can help in any way to assess your retirement income plans for today and help you feel more confident in tomorrow, please give us a call.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Where Does the Money Go?

In December, Congress passed the federal budget for fiscal year 2015 at the last possible moment, avoiding yet another government shutdown. You have to wonder why this is such a difficult process.

Within our own households, there are often two people — sometimes with diametrically opposed opinions on how money should be spent — who fight these battles and resolve them on a daily basis. Few families that have the resources available let things fester to the point where the mortgage or utilities go unpaid or they fail to shop for food. In other words, if we have the money, we would never let our household shut down while we argue over who gets a gym membership this year or who gets a new car.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “What’s in the spending bill? We skim it so you don’t have to,” from The Washington Post, Dec. 10, 2014.]

Like most households, there are certain expenses that must be paid and are non-negotiable. Then there are those that are more subjective. In the finance world, we call that discretionary income. Once all the necessities are paid for, we get to determine how we want to invest or spend the excess money. Since the national budget is largely funded by taxes, many people and politicians believe that taxes should be cut and there should be no excess income. However, mostly politicians battle over where that excess funding should be spent, such as toward social programs, border patrol, the military or job growth. It’s a matter of establishing our country’s values and priorities.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “What’s Ahead for Americans in 2015?” from Gallup, Jan. 1, 2015.]

Consider the long-term prospects of funding innovation versus social programs. Technology has enabled greater productivity and cost savings in manufacturing and now is making inroads into many service jobs. For example, a patient’s MRI can be sent digitally to be read by a highly skilled radiologist in Bangalore, India, for substantially less than one in New York. Eventually, computer software may be able to do this more accurately and even cheaper. So could funding innovation eventually reduce highly skilled jobs?

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “What happens when automation leads to job losses?” from World Economic Forum, Jan. 2, 2015.]

In the U.S., nearly 20 percent of our children live in poverty — the highest rate among all developed countries except Romania. Yet we spend more money educating wealthy children than poor children. Despite whatever circumstances land an adult in poverty, children are helpless victims and education can be the surest path to a better life. Not funding education opportunities for the poor creates a perpetual loop of more public expense, because impoverished children experience disproportionately higher rates of learning disabilities and poor health. With fewer people developing much-needed higher level job skills, our economy grows at a slower rate. So can less funding for education programs stunt our long-term economic development and global competitiveness?

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Inequality and the American Child,” from Moyers & Company, Dec. 30, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the report, “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013,” from U.S. Census Bureau, Sept. 16, 2014.]

We, by default, must trust our political leaders to set our national values, and largely they do so by directing where funding should go each year. But within our own lives, each of us is the CFO of the household income and determines where our discretionary income goes. If we can help you set a more productive budget for this year — one that reflects your personal values and priorities — please give us a call.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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American Pride

Bye China. Bye India. Buy Trenton. Who can forget the catchy 1980s union advertising jingle, “Look for the union label”? You can check out one of those ads at the link below — it’s almost worth a look for the retro-fashions alone.

[Click below to view, “Look for the Union Label 1981 classic ad,” from YouTube.com, uploaded Aug. 2009.


After years of slow economic growth, has America truly recovered? Perhaps not for every single person in the country, but pride in Americana appears to have rebounded nicely. Take the manufacturing industry, for example. Cheaper labor overseas resulted in the loss of 5.8 million factory jobs between 2000 and 2009. Yet since the financial crisis, economists report there has been a renaissance in American manufacturing. An estimated 150 companies have “reshored” (moved positions from overseas to the U.S.) since 2010.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “ANALYSIS: The Renaissance of U.S. Manufacturing Is Real but Maybe Not What You Think,” from International Business Times, Feb. 4, 2014.]

Just recently, New Jersey passed a bill requiring all public contracts to use goods made in America. Some testimonies against the “Buy American” bill predicted that state departments’ inability to select cheaper foreign goods could increase the cost of living in New Jersey by 20 percent. Despite this, the majority of the New Jersey Assembly voted in favor of the bill, many reasoning their vote was about patriotism and the importance of confidence in the competitive abilities and quality of American manufacturing.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “‘Buy American’ bill passes N.J. Assembly,” from NorthJersey.com, Dec. 18, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “New Jersey Seduced by the False Promise of ‘Buy American’ Laws,” from Forbes, Dec. 18, 2014.]

The Obama Administration also recently initiated steps to promote manufacturing in America. More than $290 million will be invested in two new private/public manufacturing competitions to benefit the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “President Obama Launches Competitions for New Manufacturing Innovation Hubs and American Apprenticeship Grants,” from the White House, Dec. 11, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “US to Get Two New Manufacturing Hubs — Smart Manufacturing and Flexible Hybrid Electronics,” from Industry Week, Dec. 11, 2014.]

On an individual basis, Americans seem to be doing their part to “buy American” as well. Given a choice between a USA-made product and an identical product made abroad, 78 percent of Americans would rather buy the American product. Perhaps years of handling “Made in China” (India, Indonesia, etc.) tchotchkes have influenced an expectation of higher quality among American-made goods, because 60 percent of Americans say they’d buy American-made even if it cost 10 percent more. Indeed, even 60 percent of Chinese consumers would prefer to purchase American-made over Chinese production, even if it costs more.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Made in America?” from Consumer Reports, Feb. 2013.]

Between bipartisan politics, racial issues and economic divides, it’s easy to sustain an attitude of disgust and aggravation with the good old U.S. of A. But what we lack in pride over the day-to-day mishaps, we must recognize in privilege — to live and work here. America by nature instills the belief of opportunity and certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These are all good sentiments to reflect on as we embark on a new year.

Please contact us if you would like to discuss your financial future.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products.

The information
contained in this material is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. It is given for informational purposes only, and no statement contained herein shall constitute tax, legal or investment advice. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation. You should seek advice on legal and tax questions from an independent attorney or tax advisor. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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City Burbs

The housing market continues to experience mixed results, depending on the area of the country and demographics. For example, while the homeownership rate for seniors is 80 percent, about 40 percent of those over 65 were still making house payments in 2010, according to a 2014 report from the joint center for housing. While many seniors prefer to stay in their own homes, those that are moving tend to seek out homes located near urban centers. Recent trends lean toward walkable city areas with a multigenerational population rather than retirement communities.

However, as the job market improves, real estate insiders believe more young adults will enter the first-time homebuyers market. For 2015, some of the hottest projected residential markets include Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Des Moines, Iowa. The latter two boast large populations of millennials attracted by job growth and affordability.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Older Americans a Pillar of Housing Market with High Ownership Rate,” from Bloomberg, Dec. 8, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “10 Hottest Housing Markets for 2015,” from CNN Money, Dec. 7, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Top Metro Areas Poised for Uptick in Baby Boomer Home-sales,” from the National Association of Realtors, Dec. 10, 2014.]

Urban centers are on the rise. The Brookings Institution reports that urban counties are growing more quickly than a decade ago, while suburban growth has slowed. The housing market in suburbs has suffered most notably due to the tightening of mortgage lending standards and fewer jobs. Young adults are staying in larger cities longer because they boast better job opportunities, and they cannot yet afford to buy a home — a situation that should rectify itself as the economy improves.

[CLICK HERE to read the essay, “A Planet of Suburbs,” from The Economist, December 2014.]

One problem with city dwelling is finding a safe place to live at an affordable price. In New York City, some developers are taking a sustainable green approach by repurposing stackable shipping container as living quarters. The steel containers take up a smaller carbon footprint and offer an affordable option that can be located in basically any area that gets approved. The idea stems from an effort to create structurally sound, temporary dwellings for displaced victims after Hurricane Sandy a few years ago. Since many New Yorkers are used to living in small quarters, the idea is to retrofit the cargo containers into apartments and join them together to create a high rise or village. One couple purchased six shipping containers and designed a 1,600-square-foot, energy-efficient home connected by an interior staircase.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “NYC Developers Team up to Boost Shipping Container Housing and Retail in the City,” from Inhabitat.com, Dec. 12, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “NYC is Preparing Shipping Container Homes for Future Hurricanes and Disasters,” from Inhabitat.com, Nov. 23, 2012.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Brooklyn Couple Moves into Stacked Shipping Container Home in Williamsburg,” from Inhabitat.com, March 4, 2013.]

Immigrants have had a significant impact on America’s housing market as well. Between 2012 and 2013, larger cities lost about 5.4 million inhabitants but gained 3.3 million migrants from other areas of the country. Many of them were foreign immigrants, attributed with saving some cities from “outright depopulation.”

While some immigrants look to legislative permission to live in the U.S., others simply buy their way in. In the last fiscal year, 10,928 foreign families applied for a little-known federal visa program known as EB-5. This program allows foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in U.S. projects to become eligible for a temporary visa. If the project is found to have produced the pledged 10 jobs per investor, the investors and their immediate families become eligible for green cards. More than 80 percent of applicants typically receive approval, and their numbers are increasing. In the previous fiscal year, 6,346 foreign investors applied — a significant increase over only 486 in 2006 — according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the program’s administrator.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Hot Source of Property Financing: Visa Seekers,” from The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 9, 2014.]

Obviously, home ownership is part of the American dream and not to be taken for granted. Remember too that homes are an asset and, for many, a significant portion of their net worth. If we can help you leverage your assets to help you feel more confident in your financial future, please give us a call.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Low Oil Prices: Who Wins, Who Loses?

The national average price for a gallon of gas is less than $3, with further decreases expected. But that’s nothing new. Bear in mind that oil is a commodity, so its price varies according to cycles of supply and demand. For example, in 1986 and 1998, oil dropped below $10 a barrel. In 2008, prices made a dramatic drop from $145 a barrel in July to $33 by mid-December. In early December 2014, oil was about $66 a barrel.

For folks looking for extra cash during this holiday season, lower gas prices are a welcome relief. One of the positives that accompanies low oil prices is an increase in consumer discretionary funds, which in turn leads to spending and can stimulate economic growth. The phenomenon also presents substantial savings for companies that rely on gas for transportation needs, such as national retailers, trucking and airline industries. Excess revenues can be redeployed for other needs, such as more jobs.

One of the drivers of increased oil production, and therefore lower prices, is the innovation of fracking. Its prevalence in the U.S. has led to less dependence on the global oil industry. Countries that are large oil importers, such as China and India, enjoy greater savings as a result of paying lower prices.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Slide in Oil Prices Is Blessing for Most,” from The New York Times, Dec. 5, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Don’t Fear an Oil Bust,” from Slate, Dec. 5, 2014.]

However, lower oil prices don’t benefit everyone. Take the state of Louisiana, for example, which charges a 12.5 percent severance tax to producers. The state’s 2015 budget relies on revenues based on a price of $96.70 per barrel, so if crude oil averages $81 a barrel in 2015, the difference could cause the state to lose approximately $133 million in revenue. Alaska is experiencing a similar situation.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How Much Will $60 Oil Hurt Louisiana?” from 24/7 Wall St., Dec. 5, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “What Really Happens When You Cut Taxes on Oil Companies,” from ThinkProgress, Dec. 8, 2014.]

By the same token, countries that rely on oil exports receive a crushing blow in revenues when oil prices drop. Moreover, the oversupply in oil production signals that the global economy isn’t growing fast enough to generate enough consumption demand.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “For World’s Oil Exporters, Falling Prices Have a Domino Effect,” from NPR, Dec. 5, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Dark Side to Falling Oil Prices,” from Guggenheim Partners, Dec. 4, 2014.]

While there are often pitfalls to positive events, it’s important to remember that there can also be a silver lining associated with a negative event. One of the lessons we learn is to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. In other words, if you find yourself with a windfall of positive cash flow — due to lower gas prices or otherwise — let us help you choose a financial vehicle in which you can allocate those funds to help boost your income during any undesirable events. As always, please give us a call.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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