Financial Matters

Tips and news from the financial experts at Attentive Investment Managers.

’Tis the Season

busy-season

The period between Thanksgiving and the end-of-year holiday season would seem like a sleepy time for financial planners, but in fact it is anything but. You might be surprised at how much activity takes place on behalf of you and your investments in the final month of the year.

For instance? Even though this has been a good year in the markets, not all investments will have gained value. This is the last opportunity to harvest any losses we find in taxable accounts, by selling investments that have gone down and “booking” the loss. Then we can look for investments that have gained value, sell some of those to offset the losses, and thereby save capital gains taxes in the future. Up to $3,000 of ordinary income can be offset by investment losses as well.

This is also the time of year when mutual fund companies post, in advance, the amount of ordinary income and capital gain distributions they will make to their shareholders. Since the value of the shares drops by the amount that is distributed, this would seem like a non-event performance-wise. But in fact some mutual funds are poised to make 20% or even 30% distributions, and this cash is immediately taxable, unlike gains in the share values, which are only realized when you decide to sell. By selling funds before the distributions, and buying them back later, we can reduce your tax bill this year.

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Dollar-Cost Averaging

dollar-cost-averaging

Are you retiring or changing jobs and have a rollover? Getting a bonus or expecting a large tax-refund. Let’s invest it!

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What to do with your First Eagle Fund settlement check

settlement-money

If you receive a settlement check in the coming days ranging from $10-$40 from FEF Settlement Fund you were identified as a shareholder of a First Eagle Fund during the time which administrative investigations were conducted and proceedings founded by the SEC. You have two options with these checks.

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Tax Proposal: What does it mean for you?

tax-proposal

There is a lot of discussion happening regarding the recently released GOP Tax Proposal. With pages and pages of proposed changes the most important thing to note is that this is a proposal, certainly not a finished product and the tax overhaul is far from certain. For you, our clients, not much has changed in the kind of preparation we believe you should be doing. As in every year, we want you to review your expenses, income and last year’s returns and of course, look at any what-if scenarios that may be on your horizon.

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2017 3rd Quarter Report

third-quarter

The last few years of a bull market are always a bit of a mystery to professional investors; the market rises faster than it did in the early, cautious years when nobody believed there WAS a bull market, even though there appear to be fewer fundamental or economic reasons for it. The current bull market churns on, even if nobody can explain it, and people who bail out in anticipation of a downturn do so at the risk of missing out on an untold number of months or years of (still somewhat inexplicable) gains. As nice as the returns have been domestically, international stocks this year have been even kinder to investment portfolios.

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How to Respond to a Data Breach

data-breach

You may have read that hackers broke into the Equifax database and stole personal information tied to 143 million people. The hackers accessed people's names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver's license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people. There is no reason to think that data is not for sale to criminals who can use it to open new lines of credit or file phony tax refund requests in peoples' names.

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Facts About Powers of Attorney

power-of-attorney

Everybody should have a power of attorney, but not everybody knows exactly what it is or why it's so important.

A power of attorney is a legal document that empowers a person you trust to handle your financial affairs if and when you become incapacitated. While you're up and around, the document just sits in a file. But if you're in an accident and suddenly can't act on your own behalf, the document allows somebody else to make decisions on your behalf—usually temporarily, until you can start handling your own affairs again. At that point, the document goes back in the file, and you're back in charge.

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Teach Kids About Money: Recommended Books

kids-money

Kids have a unique way of blowing any parent's budget. The endless requests of "Can I get ….?" give us a clear indication as parents that children do not understand the value of money, and teaching them important values about spending and saving can be a difficult task.

Spare your budget and your patience by teaching your children the value of money early on and help them become super saving smart adults! We recommend these books to help YOU teach your children about managing money and saving.

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Managing Health Care Costs in Retirement

health-care-retirement

Many people say that their #1 retirement concern is now not outliving their money but the cost of health care in retirement. There is much debate over Medicare and health care costs overall. The important idea to take from this overall concern is that financial planners can be of assistance and bridging this gap can be addressed relatively simply.

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Estate Planning

estate-planning

We all put a great amount of planning into our lives. What we do for a living, where we live, how big our family will be—these are all part of creating the life you desire. But what happens to all of your hard work after you pass away? That is Estate Planning—making a plan ahead of time to decide who will benefit from all you accumulated during your life. Good estate planning includes much more than that, however. It should include not only passing on your valuables, but also passing on your values—meaning how you wish to take care of minor children, family members with special needs, life insurance to care for your family should something happen to you, incapacity and medical wishes for yourself, business transfers, and cost reduction strategies for your survivors. Estate Planning is an ongoing process that should be reviewed and updated as needed on a continual basis.

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Quarterly Newsletter: 2017 Second Quarter Report

The U.S. stock market has more than tripled in value during the runup that started in March 2009, and the most recent quarter somehow managed to accelerate the upward trend. We have just experienced the third-best first half, in terms of U.S. market returns, of the 2000s. By any measure, this represents a strong first half of the year, driven by the S&P 500 tech sector, biotech firms and information technology companies generally. What is interesting is that investors appear to be flooding into these business categories because they are the ones most likely to grow their sales even if the economic environment were to turn sour—which suggests a growing bedrock of pessimism about future economic growth among seasoned investors. Is that justified? Economic growth was admittedly meager in the first quarter—U.S. GDP grew just 1.4% from the beginning of January to the end of March, a figure that was actually revised upwards from initial estimates of 0.7%. That represents a slowdown from ...
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Getting a Grip on Your Credit & Financial Health

checking-credit-score

Credit is an arbitrary idea that affects us all and has a huge impact on our overall financial life. According to the US Debt Clock, the average personal debt per citizen in the US is $56,322. Whether you have good credit or are struggling to take control of your credit, here are some tips to help you navigate this difficult concept.

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Designating Beneficiaries & Owning an Inherited Retirement Account

retirement-beneficiary

What happens to your Retirement account if you pass away? Retirement accounts offer an advantage in the way they can be passed to your beneficiaries without a costly Trust or extensive Probate of your estate. A beneficiary designation allows you to allocate your hard earned savings to your loved ones in any manner you choose. But, there are pitfalls that should be avoided when designating beneficiaries.

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Tax Reduction Strategies

tax-cut

​1. Pay Yourself First

The utilization of company retirement plans (401-k's and Simple IRA's) are the easiest way to build up tax advantaged assets for your retirement goals. Verify that you are contributing the amount required in order to maximize the employer's match. Above that amount it would usually be prudent to try to contribute the maximum amount possible in order to minimize your income tax liability.

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Risk Management / Long-Term Investments

risk-management

What is your Risk Tolerance? Identifying and analyzing your preferred level of potential loss is essential in Financial Planning. Once you have saved toward any given goal, the idea is to leverage it so that you can gain more. Risk Management involves the trade off – how much you are willing to risk on the downside to potential gain on the upside.

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Retirement Strategies

retired-couple

There are many ways to implement plans for your retirement. The two sides of the spectrum of possibilities are to develop a plan and stick to it no matter what, or just go with the flow and see how things play out. Outlining these two options seems almost ridiculous as they represent extreme polar opposites of one another. The reality is that the best plans are those that are well thought out but also allow for flexibility.

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Net Worth / Cash Flow

Net Worth / Cash Flow

Assets, Liabilities, Income and expenses – analyzing what we have financially effectively and honestly can be a confusing task but integral in order to assess where a person is financially and their ability to accomplish their financial goals. Planning properly requires more than black and white numbers on a page – understanding how these numbers relate to and impact your Financial Plan. This is an often overlooked portion of building a sound Financial Plan by many people but is a huge part of the data gathering process done by Financial Planning Professionals and an insightful financial advisor can utilize details found in both to assist them in helping you reach your goals.

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Financial Planning Goals

Financial Planning Goals

Defining one's goals in the Financial Planning process is an integral part of creating a basis for analysis of current financial conditions and how they relate to future plans of action to be developed and implemented. It is critical for goals to be realistic, but more importantly specific and measurable. A Financial Planner can assist you in asking the central questions and guiding you toward how to think about and accomplish your goals. One would develop and recommend actionable steps that can allow you to both prioritize and achieve your goals. Goals can be either short-term or long-term in nature but understanding their role in the overall planning process is important so that you don't mismanage your assets along the way.

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A Brief Guide to Social Security

A Brief Guide to Social Security

If you're starting to plan for retirement, Social Security may be an important source of retirement income. Millions of Americans depend on Social Security today. For some, it is their primary source of retirement income, and for others, it is supplemental income.

Benefits of Social Security

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Financial Planning is...

Financial Planning is...

Financial Planning is the comprehensive analysis and evaluation of an individual's current financial state and needs used in the development of a strategy to successfully meet your financial goals in the future. Professionals, like Mike, utilize their knowledge of client's future life goals, transfer plans (in life and death) and future expense needs to develop comprehensive Financial Plans.

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Clear Long-Term

Clear Long-Term

The Federal Reserve has once again raised interest rates by 25 basis points, but is still maintaining their placid stance toward economic policy. This allowed equities last week to end a tumultuous week with a slight uptick. The expectation is that the Fed is going to continue to raise rates very slowly.

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Greece’s Return to the Headlines

Greece’s Return to the Headlines

As you can see from the graph, the nation of Greece, once the subject of almost daily speculation about the viability of its government bonds, has pulled its economy out of a disaster into a muddle. No doubt, you got tired of hearing about Grexit scenarios and all the times when the European Central Bank and the European Stability Mechanism came to the rescue.

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Becoming Debt Free

Becoming Debt Free

Starting off the New Year on a good foot is always preferable but sometimes it takes a little planning and preparation to get you on track, especially when it comes to debt. Facing debt issues can be intimidating but pretending it isn't there makes matters much worse. There is no better time than the present to begin working on your finances and becoming debt free. 

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The Role of Bonds

The Role of Bonds
Bond prices go down when rates go up, and rates are beginning to do just that. Preceding the current environment, we had nearly 30 years of declining interest rates and about 8 years of nearly zero rates. U.S. equities are up, and we are all holding our breath in anticipation of the all-time high 20,000 mark on the DOW so why would someone want to buy bonds? The purpose of bonds in a portfolio is not to generate massive returns.Bonds are an agent of protection against the most dreaded market risk – a crash in equities.In 2008, the last time the markets crashed a allocation that included bonds could have achieved a positive return while at that time stocks were losing 37%, meaning bonds were outperforming stocks. This is not to say that we are going to have a market downturn however, over time, investors holding bonds in their portfolio often experience a less bumpy market ride and fewer losses during downturns. In the bond markets, it's possible that the decades-long bull market—which ...
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Higher Rates: The Tempest in the Teapot

Higher Rates: The Tempest in the Teapot

Anybody who was surprised that the Federal Reserve Board decided to raise its benchmark interest rate this week probably wasn't paying attention. The U.S. economy is humming along, the stock market is booming and the unemployment rate has fallen faster than anybody expected. The incoming administration has promised lower taxes and a stimulative $550 billion infrastructure investment. The question on the minds of most observers is: what were they waiting for?

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Year-End Gifting

Year-End Gifting
A "gift" is any transfer of an asset for less than full consideration (usually no consideration). The annual exclusion (both per donor and per donee) is currently $14,000 per calendar year. There is no limit to the number of donee's that you can gift. While the gift is not taxable to the recipient, it is also not deductible (other than charitable gifts) by the donor. The recipient will take the "tax basis" of the donor for income tax purposes. If the $14,000 per year done rule is exceeded during the calendar year, a gift tax return (Form 709) should be filed by April 15 th of the following year. No actual gift tax will be paid to the I.R.S. until the taxable portion of the gift(s) exceeds $1,000,000 per donor. Needless to say, this is a complex area and I recommend consulting a tax professional if contemplating gifts that exceed the $14,000 per year limit. 
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Year-End Tax Planning

Year-End Tax Planning
​A s we near the end of another year, it's a good time to see if there are any actions to implement in order to lower your tax bill next April. Portfolio review for capital losses A review of your non-retirement accounts in order to liquidate any holdings that would produce capital losses. If your losses exceed your capital gains, you can deduct up to $3,000 against ordinary income. Any excess losses above the amount are carried forward to future years. Establishing a 401(k) plan If you're self-employed you have a 12/31 dead-line to establish a 401(k) plan. Other types of retirement accounts (SEP-IRA's, traditional IRA's) can be set up after year end and still be timely funded in 2017 to produce a 2016 write-off. Roth Conversions If your income is down in the current year (hopefully it is not), a Roth Conversion can make lemonade out of lemons. Converting an IRA to Roth IRA may be something to consider. You should talk this over with your tax preparer ahead of ...
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IRA vs. 401(k): Which is the better option?

IRA vs. 401(k): Which is the better option?
We can all agree that saving for retirement is a must. The next question is where. Both an IRA and 401(k) can be excellent options for retirement savings. Both offer you tax-advantages, as you don't pay any taxes on the growth of your investments. Typically, costs associated with 401(k) management are higher than those of an IRA plan. However, with many new regulations in the financial industry today, participants are given protection from exorbitant fees. Within an IRA account your investment options can be almost never-ending but many times 401(k)'s limit your investment capabilities to a select offering or have restrictions on investment types. With 401(k)'s most employers offer an "employer match", usually ranging dollar for dollar anywhere from 2%-5% of your salary deferral (depending on the plan). If you elect to not participate you are essentially "leaving money on the table" and forgoing additional monies that are employment incentives – ...
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Costs of Living

Costs of Living

What is a dollar worth?

If you answered that it's worth a dollar, you must be living in Illinois. A research report by U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis found that the prices for a particular basket of goods and services—food, transportation, housing and education—are higher in some states than others. Illinois came in at almost exactly the average; a $100 bill will buy $100.70 worth of the items. People living in the District of Columbia, the nation's most expensive area, would have to pay, on average, $118.10 for the same basket of items.

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Diversification

Diversification
So far, we have discussed the concepts surrounding building a financial pyramid, risk vs reward, and understanding your own risk tolerance. These ideas give you a clear path in which to create your ideal allocation of investments. Here is where diversification comes in. Whatever your risk tolerance level or what your goals are you must use diversification as part of your investment strategy. So what exactly is diversification? Diversification is allocating your assets across the major asset classes (stocks, bonds and cash) in order to make your best possible return within your risk spectrum. Each class then has a deeper diversification capability – you may take advantage of different investment styles such as growth or value stocks and even further by sector such as technology or healthcare. Diversification is a balancing act that encompasses your risk tolerance. All investments have a certain amount of risk and by utilizing diversification strategies your goal...
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Staff Profiles: Michael L. Dalton

Staff Profiles: Michael L. Dalton
    Michael L. Dalton established Attentive Investment Managers in 1989. As CEO, Mike enjoys interacting with his clients and helping them reach their financial goals and objectives. During a typical day at the office, he reviews investment profiles, meets with clients, responds to questions, and researches the market by listening to and reading market commentary.  Mike earned his Bachelor's Degree in Accounting in 1968 from Humphreys College in Stockton. He received his Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification in 1971 and his Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation in 1989 from the College of Financial Planning. In 2000, he earned his Master of Science Degree in Retirement Planning from the College of Financial Planning. Mike demonstrated great diligence and concentration by earning his degree while simultaneously running two businesses as a CPA and Investment Adviser. Before founding Attentive Investment Managers, he owned his own CPA firm. A lifelong resi...
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Risk v. Reward

Risk v. Reward
If you desire high long-term returns, you must be willing to accept the high levels of volatility associated with the types of asset classes that produce such returns. There is a wide spectrum of risk levels among asset classes. Risk is defined as fluctuations in returns from one period to the next. Lower-risk investments, such as cash alternatives (for example, Treasury bills or certificates of deposit), have averaged modest long-term historical returns. Higher-risk investments, such as large, small, and international stocks, have averaged higher returns historically but with more volatility or fluctuations in value. One of the first steps in developing an investment plan is to determine which is most important: return stability or long-term investment performance. Government bonds and Treasury bills are guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest, while stocks and corporate bonds are not guaranteed. Certificates of...
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Long-term Care Insurance

Long-term Care Insurance
Understanding the risks of needing long-term care and the possibility of incurring substantial expenses is a huge part of financial planning. Proper planning can allow a person to avoid not being prepared for the need for care as you age. Over the last century medical science has been able to greatly increase life expectancy. Individuals are living on average 20-30 years longer and sometimes need assistance with day to day needs. Long-term care is now offered in a variety of settings, such as; nursing homes, assisted living residences, life care communities, adult day-care or even in person's home. A person's health status affects the likelihood of incurring a long stay with catastrophic expenses. It is imperative that you weigh all the risks involved with purchasing or not purchasing insurance. Likewise, understanding what you may need in terms of coverage is prudent. A few tips when shopping for a Long-Term Care Insurance policy are: Buy a policy with a ...
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Your Financial Pyramid

Your Financial Pyramid
When you develop your Financial Pyramid there are numerous factors that you need to be mindful of. One of the most important is the concepts of managing your risk versus reward and diversification. With this in mind it is of critical importance that you start off with a good financial base which mitigates your risks. Insurance needs, including medical, home & car insurance (just to name a few) are imperative for protecting your assets from unforeseen loss. As an example of how this can affect your Financial Pyramid and your overall budget, we once had a client whom had drastically cut their annual budget expenditures. After further inspection, we discovered they had cancelled their medical insurance – thinking that they were young and healthy; they didn't need to be concerned with that "unneeded" expense. At that point, we advised them to immediately reinstate their insurance. They had saved up a large nest egg which they intended to invest in the stock mar...
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IRA Options

IRA Options
Almost everyone can have some sort of IRA. There are Traditional & Rollover IRA's and Roth IRA's. Annual contribution limits have increased over the years, making IRA's much more attractive for saving for retirement. Individuals over age 50 can make additional "catch-up" contributions each year. If you are not participating in an employer sponsored 401(k) plan you may contribute to a deductible Traditional IRA at a maximum of $5,500 per year or $6,500 for those over 50 years of age. Additionally, if you do participate in an employer sponsored plan and income allows you may make a non-deductible contribution to a Traditional IRA and then further transfer the contributions to a Roth IRA, making them non-taxable upon withdrawal through the use of a Roth Conversion. The Roth IRA has become a popular way to expand retirement investing for many investors because, although contributions are not tax deductible, Roth distributions can be tax free if certain conditions ar...
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What is Compound Interest?

What is Compound Interest?
Compounding can seem like a complex concept however, it is quite simple – the longer amount of time you give your money to accumulate the more they have the potential to accrue. Compounding can be thought of interest paid on interest, in other words, deposits can grow at a faster rate. As an example, Investor A saves $2,000 per year for the first 10 years of a 20 year time period. Assuming a 6% annual return her investment would be worth $50,042. Likewise, Investor B saved $3,000 per year during the second 10 year period of a 20 year time period. Assuming the same annual rate of return Investor B would have only accumulated $41,915. Even though Investor B saved more principal than Investor A the earnings of Investor A had longer to grow and therefore they ended up with a larger nest egg. Albert Einstein called the power of compounding the 'eighth wonder of the world'. The bottom line here is to make your money work for you, start saving early and often.
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2016 First Quarter Report: The Bear That Wasn’t

2016 First Quarter Report: The Bear That Wasn’t
The first quarter of the new year has brought us small positive returns in many of the U.S. market indices, which means that investors survived—for now, at least—the worst start to a calendar year ever for the U.S. stock market. The easy call at the beginning of the year would have been to bail out when the markets were declining and sit out the widely-predicted start of a painful, protracted bear market. Some analysts were talking openly about another 2008-9 drop in share prices. But 10% market declines are simply a part of the market's normal turbulence, and anyone who spooks as soon as they see a month of bearish sentiment is likely to miss out on the subsequent gains. Since hitting their 2016 lows on February 11, both the S&P 500 index and the Nasdaq Composite have gained roughly 13% in value. That doesn't guarantee that there will be gains going forward, however. The Market Watch website reports that half of the S&P 500 sectors are reporting declin...
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Difference between a Traditional IRA & a Roth IRA

Difference between a Traditional IRA & a Roth IRA

Do you know the difference between a Traditional IRA & a Roth IRA??

IRA accounts, otherwise known as, Individual Retirement Accounts are a way for to save for retirement. A Traditional IRA can be funded with pre-tax contributions and can be a tax deductible (check with your tax advisor) and grow tax-deferred until age 70 ½ (when the IRS requires you to begin distributing the assets).When you retire and draw on the funds, the money would be taxable as ordinary income.Theoretically, you would be in a lower tax bracket during the withdrawal phase.It is important to note, that any distributions taken prior to 59 ½ are subject to both taxes and an early withdrawal penalty from the Fed of 10% and the State of 2.5%. 

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Don’t Try to Catch a Falling Knife

Don’t Try to Catch a Falling Knife

There has been much discussion over the last month and half about Bear Markets, Sell-offs, the Global economy and a possible Recession. The vast majority of analysts believe we are not in a recession (neither the U.S., China, nor Europe) and that most economic indicators seem to point to the fact that overall the U.S. economy is strong. In fact, most analysts indicate that there is only a 20 -30% chance of a recession in the making for the U.S. In addition, trucking and retail industries are showing signs of stabilization indicating that things did not get worse in January. The factors that are seemingly the 'cause' of this downturn are angst surrounding global growth, politics, oil and Euro banking woes and each day one or another have been blamed for the sell-off during this downturn. However, none of them should be a catalyst for the down market indicating a true disconnect between reality and what investors in the market are thinking. It is important to note that when investors are buying in huge rallies it's traditionally thought the market has created a herd mentality however, when they are selling in bulk during downturns there is an assumption they are right.

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Staff Profiles: Athena Stone

Staff Profiles: Athena Stone

​My name is Athena Stone. Growing up as an "Army Brat," I moved all over the country and even lived overseas for a time. My father and both of my brothers have proudly served our country which I am very honored by and has greatly influenced who I am. 

I live in Lodi with my husband, Jon, and our four children, Kylee, Samantha, Mack and baby Myles. Being a wife and mother with a full-time career is challenging, but I feel my upbringing and my family enable me to bring a unique perspective to my role as an Advisor and Financial Planner.

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Tax Preparation Tips

Tax Preparation Tips

​As you get ready for your 2015 tax preparation, we have a few helpful tips so that you can quickly and efficiently ready yourself for your tax appointment. First and foremost – BE ORGANIZED! Remember that Time is Money. Most firms provide 'Organizers' for you to fill out, take a few moments and compare your current year data to your prior year – this will allow you to determine if there is anything that you may have inadvertently forgotten.

You will need to gather all of your W-2's, 1099's, K-1's, to name a few. If you are self-employed be sure that your books are up to date and it is helpful to have all your financials available (i.e. Balance Sheet & Income Statement).

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The Great Panic of 2016

The Great Panic of 2016
Wow! There's no diplomatic way to say this: the global stock markets are in panic mode right now. In two weeks of trading, the U.S.S&P 500 index is down 8% on the year, which brings us close to correction territory (a 10% decline), and has some predicting a bear market (a 20% decline). On top of that, we've been hearing a widely-publicized, rather alarming prediction from Royal Bank of Scotland analyst Andrew Roberts, saying that the global markets "look similar to 2008."  Mr.Roberts is also predicting that technology and automation are set to wipe out half of all jobs in the developed world. If you listen closely out the window, you can almost hear traders shouting "Sell! Head for the exits!" When you're in the middle of so much panic, when people are stampeding in all directions, it's hard to realize that there is no actual fire in the theater.  Yes, oil prices are down around $30 a barrel, and could go lower, which is not exactly terrific news for oil compani...
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2015 Year End Report:

2015 Year End Report:
​In the past year, we experienced many things—a prelude to a Presidential election, a renewal of terrorist concerns,—but in the investment markets, we will look back and yawn. Despite some entertaining ups and downs, particularly in the third quarter of the year, the markets ended pretty much where they began, eking out small gains and losses pretty much across the board. The final three months of the year provided investors with gains that were tantalizingly close to wiping out the losses of the previous three quarters. What's going to happen in 2016? Of course, nobody knows with any degree of certainty. But many professional investors are approaching the new year with an unusual degree of caution. By most metrics, U. S. stocks are slightly pricier than their historical averages. That doesn't mean they can't get more so, but it seems unlikely that people will pay a lot more for a dollar of earnings in the coming year than they will today. Meanwhile, economic growth is moderate at best...
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How the Feds Rate Increase Impacts Bonds

How the Feds Rate Increase Impacts Bonds
Prior to a couple of weeks ago, the last time that the Fed raised interest rates was 2006 – now with a mending economy the Fed Committee has increased the federal funds rate to 0. 25%-0. 50%, up from a range of zero – 0. 25%. It is quite likely that the Fed will continue to slowly raise rates over the coming months which will bring a mix of good and bad trends for the investment markets. An important component for investors, with regard to interest rates is the effect rates have on bond holdings. As seen in the example below, there are two major risks to bonds. 1) Interest Rate Risk – As interest rates climb the value of existing bonds decreases. Also, the longer the maturity the bigger the decline will be. The technical term for maturity is "duration", which is defined as a measure of the sensitivity of the price of a fixed-income (bond) investment to a change in interest rates. 2) Credit Quality – Think of this like a FICO score with a 'AAA' bond rating being an 820 FICO, while a 'B'...
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Mike's "Rule of Thumb"

Mike's "Rule of Thumb"
Creating an appropriate allocation in a portfolio can be difficult. Aside from utilizing a risk tolerance profile there are some other methods for determining an appropriate mix of stocks and bonds for investors. One we utilize is Mike's take on the standard "Rule of Thumb" – which uses a factor of 100 minus the client's age to determine the percentage that should be invested in equities (stocks). Mike's "Rule of Thumb" takes into consideration the fact that everyone now, for the most part, is simply living longer. With our longer lives, not only will we need to provide income for a longer period of time we will also have potentially more time to grow that money. With this in mind, Mike uses a factor of 120 minus the client's age to derive the equity allocation. This guideline creates an allocation that is slightly more aggressive to facilitate faster growth accommodating the need for the longer income needs. As an example, with a 48 year old individual&nb...
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Exit or Seek Opportunity

Exit or Seek Opportunity
Recent turmoil in financial markets, rising pessimism about Chinese and emerging markets growth and a renewed slump in oil prices have fueled fears that the global economic recovery is faltering. While the world economy does face several challenges, we remain convinced that the United States and Europe are on an upward growth trajectory. China is a wildcard, but while growth is slowing there, it should stabilize. We do not foresee current equity market weakness morphing into a bear market. Bear markets typically occur against a backdrop of recessions that produce significant declines in corporate earnings. Earnings have wavered this year, but we believe this is mainly due to a profit crunch in the energy sector and the sharp rise in the U.S. dollar. The negative impact of both of these factors should fade in the coming quarters, allowing earnings to improve. Additionally, monetary policy should stay accommodative even when the Fed starts raising rates. If the Fed were only focused on t...
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"Don't Panic"

"Don't Panic"
It appears as though the correction we've been anticipating and talked about for the last couple of quarters is now upon us. Since July there has been quiet erosion in the equities markets, becoming what many have called a 'landslide' or 'free fall'. As of Friday, the S&P was down 7. 7% and the Dow down 10. 3%. Although, we understand stock market declines are emotional and anxious periods of time we would like to remind you, this was expected. The market has gone 46 months without a correction which is substantially over the 18 month norm We urge you to not succumb to downside and sell, we have spent much time positioning your portfolio to mitigate the downside risk as much as possible based on your risk tolerance.We DEFINITELY don't think this is a prelude to another 2008-style market decline. Leading indicators are still positive and lower oil prices and interest rates should help stabilize growth. One key takeaway is that the downturn and the selling in the last 4+ days has res...
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Sound and Fury

Sound and Fury
For all the drama we've experienced in the past few months and disturbing but ultimately not harmful news in Europe, China and Puerto Rico, the second quarter of the new year has brought slightly positive returns in many of the U. S. and global indices,. For the second consecutive quarter, investors experienced a mild roller coaster of up and down days in the U.S. and global markets, small panics and surprising rallies that ultimately cancelled each other out in what trading professionals refer to as a sideways market. For the second consecutive quarter, investors are looking over their shoulders at interest rates, waiting for the Federal Reserve Board to finally take its foot off of interest rates, for bond yields to jump higher, making bonds more competitive with stocks and triggering an outflow from the stock market that could (so the reasoning goes) cause a bear market in U. S. equities. But of course investors have been waiting for this shoe to drop for the bet...
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Just a Quick Update from AIM

Just a Quick Update from AIM
We expect equities to continue to trade sideways as investors await more clarity about the economic outlook. In our view, the first half of the year's weakness was an anomaly, and better growth lies ahead. Global growth is also improving. While risks are inherent, we believe the positives outweigh the negatives. The main wildcard is what will happen when the Fed raises rates, which we think will be more likely in September rather than this week. Having said that, we do not think the backdrop will turn overly punitive for stock prices when this does happen. Equities have remained remarkably resilient this year, pushing ahead modestly in the face of rising uncertainty. Volatility is likely to remain elevated, and we expect some sort of consolidation or downturn at some point. Over the longer term, however, modestly improving growth, still-accommodative global monetary policy and relatively attractive valuations argue for retaining overweight positions in equities. As we've previously men...
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Stop Awaiting the Fed

Stop Awaiting the Fed
The first quarter of the new year has brought us small positive returns in many of the U. S. and global indices, and more than the usual amount of anxiety along with them. Meanwhile, global markets are showing signs of life. If you were watching the markets day to day, you experienced a mild roller coaster, what trading professionals refer to as a sideways market. One day it was up, the next down, each day (or week) seeming to erase the gains or losses of the previous ones. The best explanation for this phenomenon is that investors are still looking over their shoulders at interest rates, waiting for bond yields to jump higher, making bonds more competitive with stocks and triggering an outflow from the stock market that could (so the reasoning goes) cause a bear market in U. S. equities. However, investors have been waiting for this shoe to drop for the better part of three years, and meanwhile, interest rates have drifted decidedly lower in the first quarter.This inter...
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