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Stay Plugged in to New Tech Trends

Technology hasn’t just improved over time; it’s also matured its users. Today, the average child gets his or her first cellphone at age 10. In past generations, 10 was about the age when parents finally let their kids use those creepy crawly bug makers that required a heating device. These days, one of the biggest growth trends in IT is wearable technology, such as medical and fitness devices. As much of the nation continues on its prolonged health kick, companies have adapted to consumers’ needs by rolling out wearable technology. The U.S. has accounted for the largest share of these medical and fitness devices that encourage improved health and activity. New products are constantly rolled out with a variety of everyday applications. Click through to see how technology might impact the financial services industry.

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What’s Keeping Your Senior Clients Up At Night?

Calvin Goetz was featured in the January/February 2016 issue of NAIFA's Advisor Today. In the article, What's Keeping Your Senior Clients Up At Night?, Calvin speaks to tax and employment concerns as well as financial products that may be helpful to retirees. Click through to read the article.

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What’s Your EQ?

The study of “emotional intelligence” began in the 1980s as a way to measure one’s ability to identify and manage both his or her own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. In the business world, people with high emotional intelligence, known as a high EQ (emotional quotient) are known to be more empathetic to others, which enables them to more effectively manage conflicts, read and respond to co-worker needs and keep their own emotions from disrupting their performance. A high EQ is particularly important in consulting professions; it’s a skill that we as financial professionals work on as much as understanding financial trends. That’s because we must do more than educate and evaluate our clients’ finances; we must understand the pressures you feel and how you cope with volatility and change in order to offer guidance for your personal situation.

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No Matter the Age, There’s No Place Like Home

For many, — hopefully most — “home” represents security and acceptance. A place to retreat when things don’t go your way; a place to celebrate when they do. Not long ago, the holidays were the one time of the year when the family reconvened to spend time together under one roof. Now, it’s not uncommon for relatives to share a home year-round. Gone are the days when a son or daughter moved on to college or a career at the age of 18, only to return on special November and December occasions. For better or worse, boomers are growing accustomed to welcoming back grown children, as well as seniors seeking care from a familiar face. Retirees typically prefer to live in the comfort of their own home as long as possible, but the best alternative may be moving back in with adult children. As your financial professional, we focus on helping clients feel confident in their finances now and in the future, and, if necessary, develop contingency plans, because even the best-laid plans can go awry. If we can help you with your retirement income plan, please contact us for a meeting.

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Inspiration for becoming a retirement and financial advisor

More than a decade of my professional career has been dedicated to serving the financial and retirement planning needs of my clients. I am proud to have helped hundreds of clients live the retirement they have always dreamed of. My passion for my work stems from my life experiences. Learn more about what inspired me to become a retirement and financial advisor by clicking on "Read More".

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Values of Adulthood: A True Cause and Effect

Sometimes it’s interesting to think back to how our upbringing determined how we developed our specific set of ideals. After all, the situations and experiences we faced early in life can have a big impact on the paths we chose in adulthood. Our earliest impressions of the world are an extension of the behaviors we observed and the lessons our parents taught us. As we grow older, our life experiences often align and reconfirm the validity of those early influences. One aspect of growing up is finding people who share your same values, and this can create strong relationships. As financial professionals, we live and work in the same community as many of our clients, and in many cases, share the same values in terms of work ethic, prudence and money management. Having a similar belief system as our clients has enabled us to develop strong, long-term relationships.

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Feeling Like a Fish Out of Water

As the 2016 election approaches, immigration is being brought up more than ever. But the issue is nothing new, and will still be around long after the next U.S. President is elected. Some have viewed immigration as a concern since the French, Spanish, Dutch and Swedish settled in America back in the late 16th century, while others argue none of us would be here in the first place if it wasn’t for immigration. We’ve all had a first day at a new school or job where we had to wonder how we would be treated and if we would fit in. Imagine that predicament if you moved to a place where everyone around you had a different native tongue. On occasion, consumers unfamiliar with the world of finance may feel like everyone’s speaking a whole new language. Our job as your financial professional is to clear this confusion and help ensure your financial strategy is suited to your unique needs.

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Young Adults Left Waiting on Post-Recession Employment

Underemployment is a problem that has been particularly difficult on recent college graduates, but its effects are felt by all demographics. Although the unemployment rate is down, you could say we have the most well-educated bartenders and busboys in history. The World Economic Forum found that most college-educated workers took jobs in low-earning industries between 2000 and 2014, and wages of young college graduates are 2.5 percent lower than they were in 2000.

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Women and the Process of Retirement Planning

Planning for retirement income shouldn’t stop just because you retire. It’s a process, much like raising children and pursuing a career. You learn, you implement, you make mistakes, you seek advice. So whether you are already retired, nearing retiring or thinking about it as an abstract concept many years away, we can help you engage in this ongoing process. In addition to general retirement income planning for a couple, it’s a good idea for married couples to also engage in individual retirement income planning. Odds are, one spouse will live longer than the other, so it’s important to plan for financial security once one spouse has passed away. Given that women generally live longer than men, this can be especially important for them.

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The Business of Risk

Cyber threats have created an interesting conundrum in which the criminal perpetrators are frequently more tech savvy than those responsible for preventing their crimes or apprehending them. And the situation, at the moment, doesn’t really show signs of improving. Several national security experts recently issued recommendations to help address the problem. They referred to the issue as a “black elephant -- a dangerous crossbreed between the ‘black swan’ risk (capable of producing unexpected outcomes with enormous consequences) and the ‘elephant in the room’ (a large problem that is in plain sight).”

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Trends in Jobs and Education

It’s that time of year. Student graduates are crossing the tassel from one side of the cap to the other, parents are both teary-eyed and relieved, and millions of wide-eyed young adults will be flooding both college campuses and the workforce. For young college grads just entering the job market, the news is upbeat. One recent survey found that employers are planning to hire 9.6 percent more graduates in the U.S. than they did last year. Not surprisingly, the most hirable major continues to be engineering, the degree of choice for approximately 72 percent of companies. Other popular majors are business (68 percent) and computer science (58 percent). Sought-after personal traits for first-timers aren’t that much different from what companies seek from experienced workers: critical thinking, problem solving, being a team player, professional demeanor and strong work ethic.

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Longevity Decisions

People over age 90 are now the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. By mid-century, this population is expected to quadruple. Many researchers currently are studying what the commonalities are for longevity and whether we can replicate them either in lifestyle choices or perhaps even pharmaceutically. A “60 Minutes” episode last year revealed some interesting findings about people over age 90, based on data originally gathered on this group back in 1981.

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Keep Calm and Carry On

During World War II, the British government used a poster campaign to help the general public prepare for and deal with the realities of war on their personal lives. The first poster was encouraging: “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution will Bring Us Victory.” The second was a bit menacing: “Freedom is in Peril.” The third and most well-known, “Keep Calm and Carry On,” was ironically never even distributed. It was scheduled to be posted should Germany invade Britain, but that never happened. Perhaps it has been the most enduring missive due to its more tempered message -- both realistic and reassuring.

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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.

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.

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Political Environment: 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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 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.

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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.

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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.

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Retiree Ingenuity

For many, the mind stays sharp as long as it continues to be challenged, and the trend of retirees working and living longer proves just that. Take Hugh Lyman, for example. When he retired, this small business owner pursued a long-standing passion as an inventor. Fascinated with the possibilities of using 3-D printer technology, he felt the expense of the plastic filament used was too high. So he developed his own version using lower-cost plastic pellets, cutting the cost of the material from $40-50 a kilo to $5. Apparently the cost of the original material was inflated due to a patent, so he invented his own workaround. Sometimes it takes a good bit of work experience to understand that there are alternate ways of achieving the same goal.

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Is Your Retirement Just a Number?

Throughout our lives, we are identified by numbers. Social Security number. Employee ID number. Driver’s license number. The amount of money that you make. The number of children and grandchildren that you have. The value of your home. Fortunately, those numbers are simply points of reference; they don’t truly define who we are. Our personal accomplishments do this. Our career. Our family. The way we respond in stressful situations. The way we treat people on a daily basis.

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Mortgages and Real Estate

Real estate appears to be rebounding slowly but surely. There’s even a push from government regulators to lower the down payment requirements for new mortgages. New analysis shows few borrowers are granted 3 percent to 5 percent down payment loans on their homes, and those that do have excellent credit. The percentage of people receiving that low rate peaked at 3.4 percent in 1999. It remains to be seen if lenders will be amenable to lowering their down payment requirements.

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How Year-End Politics May Affect You

The changing of the guard in Congress has begun: out with the old, in with the new. As the GOP prepares to take a majority presence in both the House and Senate, one question looms: Are we in for even more gridlock moving forward? It appears that much is on tap for the lame-duck session of Congress -- the final year-end push to tap votes of exiting congressmen. The first priority will be passing a government funding bill, which can hopefully be resolved without shutting down the government. The most likely scenario is that Republicans will push for another short-term, stopgap resolution until after the New Year, when they can dominate the discussion. Democrats would like to use the lame-duck session to revive expired tax breaks before year end and approve a backlog of presidential nominations.

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Is Your Retirement Just a Number?

Throughout our lives, we are identified by numbers. Social Security number. Employee ID number. Driver’s license number. How much do you make? How many children and grandchildren do you have? What’s the value of your home? Fortunately, those numbers are simply points of reference; they don’t truly define who we are. Our personal accomplishments do this. Our career. Our family. The way we respond in stressful situations. The way we treat people on a daily basis. But as we near and enter retirement, we are once again focused on a number: How much money might each of us need saved to live the retirement lifestyle we desire? If you watch the ads on television, you may get the impression that there’s one magical number out there for all of us that can make all of our retirement dreams come true, but that is not the case.

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Give Thanks. The Grass is Greener Here.

As we enter this holiday season, it’s worth taking a look at your individual circumstances and gauging whether your financial situation is stronger than it was last year, three years ago or five years ago. We can all find reasons to gripe about one thing or another, even in the best of the times. But that’s why it’s so important to remember when things were more difficult. This may be the very reason why bad things happen to good people -- to help make us stronger.

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Small Business, Small Incomes

Large corporations in America have only been around about 13 decades. Before then, America was built on the backs of small business owners. Larger companies started to take root in the mid-19th century, led by railroads and industrial firms. Small business owners took a hit but adapted by developing market niches too small for big companies to accommodate or by serving as suppliers to larger firms. Small businesses have never gone away, and today they provide 55 percent of all jobs in America.

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Money: Relatively Speaking

Money is a topic that is on every adult’s mind a great majority of the time. But there’s a big difference in what people are thinking when it comes to money. Some people wonder how their earned income stacks up against others. Some people create financial goals and save and invest diligently to meet them. Others just wonder if they’ll have enough to pay all their bills this month.

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A Lifetime of Wisdom

In contrast to popular perception, young adults do not rule. In fact, the 18 to 44 age group currently comprises 36.4 percent of the population, while those age 45 and up represent 40.3 percent. Of course, if you play your teenage child or grandchild in basketball or try to wear the same size dress you wore before having children, being part of the demographic majority may not seem like much of a win. But the older people become, the more they tend to develop a perspective on what they’ve learned and gained versus what they still want out of life. In other words, a lifetime of wisdom might be worth more to you now than a 32-inch waist.

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Hospitable Hospitals

Hospitals acquire reputations, just as all companies (and people) do. But there are so many different ways a hospital can be perceived. Some consider them a place where people go to die and should thus be avoided — a commonly held belief of Ebola victims in West Africa. Recently, there’s been press about how hospitals are saving money thanks to Medicaid expansion in some states, citing a reduction in uninsured admissions by 30 percent. As a result, the tab for uncompensated hospital care will be approximately $5.7 billion less in 2014.

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Together, We’re Worlds Apart

The world continues to grow (figuratively and virtually) smaller. The economy is more global. We are connected by Facebook and other social media. We can exchange ideas with people in foreign lands. Check out videos and photographs taken in Australia, 10 minutes ago. We’ve learned that our individual — and national — problems are more universal than we ever considered. Yet, perhaps now we wonder why we wanted to be so connected with others. Take Scotland, for example. In a 55 percent to 45 percent vote, the country will remain a part of Great Britain. But leadership has confirmed it will move forward with expanded “devolution” plans, a process started in 1999, to decentralize governing bodies and give more powers to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

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Does Your Financial Strategy Take Into Account Unforeseen Retirement Challenges?

Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” However, when it comes to planning for retirement, it may not be a bad idea to develop a strategy that takes into consideration unexpected challenges that could arise. An unanticipated scenario in retirement might include a major medical issue, debilitating illness, or an adult child moving back in after a job loss or even returning home with grandchildren in tow after a divorce. Many people create an income plan for retirement’s best-case scenario, but it may be a good idea for them to consider what may happen to their retirement income if a challenging situation were to arise.

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DIY: When It Works and When It Doesn’t

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Census Bureau, do-it-yourself (DIY) work accounts for 37 percent of all home remodeling projects in the U.S. Unfortunately, the flip side is that about 30 percent of work performed by the professional remodeling industry represents fixing DIY attempts. We are often tempted to do something ourselves to save money or simply for the satisfaction, but how do you know when it’s OK to do the work and when you should call in a pro?

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What Jobs Mean to Us—and the U.S.

Who looks for a job in August? Who’s around to interview candidates anyway? August is a popular month for end-of-summer vacations before the school year starts. This trend showed up in the latest jobs report, which revealed a slump of only 142,000 jobs added after six straight months of payroll gains exceeding 200,000. However, there are some interesting recent trends where the job market is concerned. For one thing, a new survey discovered that freelancers (53 million strong) make up 34 percent of the U.S. workforce. That’s not a trend that is expected to slow down, even as the job market grows stronger. Another study predicts that these “contingent workers” will exceed 40 percent of the workforce by 2020.

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Sporting Confidence through Ups and Downs

Some of the world’s top sports figures have recently experienced ups and downs in their careers. Take Rafael Nadal for instance, one of the top men’s professional tennis players in the world. Two years ago, Nadal was forced to sit out for seven months due to a knee injury. Then he fought his way back in 2013, winning two Grand Slam titles and ending the year at No. 1 in the world. Just recently Nadal announced a wrist injury that caused him to withdraw from the final Grand Slam event of the year: the U.S. Open, where he was the defending champion.

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Transitioning to Retirement

Change is never easy, at least for most people. And the people who do adjust to change well are often serial planners, knowing how to prepare well in advance. But when it comes to retirement, even when you know decades ahead of time that it’s going to eventually happen, you may still have trouble adjusting to change. This can be particularly true if retirement happens earlier than you expected. In fact, 49 percent of Americans retire unexpectedly because of health problems, disability, spousal-care demands and downsizing. For many, this unexpected change in employment can cause a financial hardship.

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Problems, Solutions…And More Problems

Retail health care is on the rise. If you’re not familiar with this term, it may be coming to a Wal-Mart near you. In fact, Wal-Mart shoppers in Florence and Sumter, South Carolina, can now get a checkup at an in-store health clinic after they check out with a cashier. Does Wal-Mart care about the health of its customers and employees? Sure. But at the forefront of this business plan is an effort to grasp some of the billions of health care dollars spent by its massive constituency every year. Wal-Mart’s plan is to increase store traffic as a result of customers who come in to fill prescriptions and get a flu diagnosis, then decide to shop for a few household items while they’re there. What does the Wal-Mart approach mean for the health care industry as a whole?

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Lessons of a Millennial Nation

The so-called millennial generation -- those born after 1980 and before 2000 -- continues to suffuse news headlines. There are actually more millennials (80 million) now than baby boomers. Perhaps continued interest in this age group is driven by hope that it will become an economic force to propel our nation’s humdrum growth. Now reaching adulthood, this demographic is poised to spend greater discretionary income, buy homes, have children, start up successful companies and pour its newfound earnings into the securities markets.

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Cautious Optimism

According to Guggenheim Partners, the most recent data from leading economic indicators, ranging from hiring to housing, demonstrates that the U.S. economy is “firing on all cylinders.” However, CIO Scott Minerd harkens back to the summer of 1987 when investors, deluded by a benign risk environment, failed to recognize the levels of overvaluation present in the market. This  ultimately led to the dramatic October 19 market drop known as Black Monday.

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Equal, Yet Separate

The U.S. Declaration of Independence declares that all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights — such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However, new research from Stanford indicates the pursuit of happiness is increasingly aligned with affordability. The study asserts that America’s cities are becoming more divided into two distinct groups, with college-educated workers clustered in more desirable locales that less-educated people cannot afford.

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Failure to Launch…a Materialistic Generation

Young adults have had a relatively tough time over the past four or five years. Entry-level jobs have been scant for the onslaught of recent college graduates, many of whom have taken menial jobs to make ends meet until a “real job” comes their way. According to Pew Research, in 2012 only one-third of engineering majors got work as engineers, and only 26 percent of physical sciences majors worked in any science, technology, engineering or math occupation.

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More or Less

Sometimes it feels like there’s just more to do these days. Our houses are bigger and our toys more sophisticated, so there’s more to maintain. On the other hand, we can buy prepackaged salads and don’t have to shell peas anymore. Our cars don’t need oil changes nearly as often, and our ovens self-clean. But between checking emails, returning calls, running errands, carpooling children and being on-call for work and family issues 24/7, it’s important to take time out to simply do less. In fact, according to a recent research paper, making time to do absolutely nothing can help foster our imagination and improve mental health.

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Lessons We Can Learn from Youthful Transgressions

These days it seems that few people from age ten to 20 can be seen without a cell phone in hand. Now that school is out, parents complain of adolescent boys spending the summer playing video games, while girls are having full-on tête-à-têtes in 160-character text messages. One positive way to look at it is that adolescents can have virtual playdates without tracking dirt throughout the house and pilfering the fridge, not to mention learning the art of give and take in conversation. If the last generation of youth was labeled the “entitled ones,” this new crop of kids is one of instant gratification — they need constant stimulation 24/7 or they complain of being bored. But before we all stand on our high horse and judge, please take a moment to consider what you did all summer when you were 12 or 13 years old. Chances are good you slept a lot, watched too much TV, your parents called you lazy and they threatened to have you tested for mono.

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Fed Dovetail

In consideration of the current labor force participation rate and the fact that many discouraged workers may re-enter the job market, Scott Minerd — Global CIO at Guggenheim Partners — recently predicted the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) won’t increase interest rates until as late as early 2016. Now that the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing (QE3) program is winding down, insiders are questioning what the central bank intends to do with the bonds it has purchased, which contributed to the bank’s inflated balance sheet, estimated at $4.3 trillion in assets. When you consider that bond values drop when interest rates rise — as it is believed they inevitably will — without an effective exit strategy the Fed’s substantial bond portfolio could suffer. It’s important to recognize that bonds held to maturity will pay at par assuming there is no default. However, since the Fed created this market, the question remains as to what it plans to do with its excess holdings. Chairwoman Janet Yellen has indicated that this fall the Fed will announce a revised plan to shrink its balance sheet.

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Health Care at the Forefront

In recent news, we’ve witnessed the fallout of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, where officials falsified records to hide the amount of time former service members have had to wait for medical appointments. As if health care doesn’t get enough bad press, this is just one more scandal indicating the dire need to overhaul the industry, its delivery mechanisms and costs. Both the House and the Senate have passed versions of a VA bill to help rectify the situation, and members of Congress say they are confident of sending a unified version to the president by the end of June.

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The Printed Word

We blog, tweet, post. Read, skim, search. We can now receive so much of our information online, on demand, and choose exactly what sources from which to receive it. We’re no longer limited to three nightly newscasts and our daily local paper.

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All Things Inflation

At the end of May, the Commerce Department reported that the price index for personal consumption expenditures increased by 1.6 percent in April from a year earlier — the fastest pace since November 2012. This is the latest sign that U.S. inflation is starting an upward trend.

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Bully for Us: Consumerism Soars

Summer is here. The housing market has gained strength, jobs and incomes have risen, and overall consumers are feeling bullish. Seeing most of us have had to adjust to the “new normal” since the turn of the millennium, recent conditions are the relative equivalent to “happy days are here again.” As it turns out, we’re also pretty good at turning a negative event into a positive force. For years we’ve been reading about how the “graying of America” will leave shortfalls in the workforce and medical field while spending will increase exponentially in health and long-term care. Fortunately, the market tends to follow demand.

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Positive News on Jobs, Food and Fitness Fronts

April unemployment numbers brought good news. About 288,000 new jobs were created, representing the highest one-month total in two years. Unemployment is now at 6.3 percent, its lowest level since September 2008. Employers added an average of 238,000 jobs each month over the last three months, which is a substantial improvement over the average of 167,000 per month in the previous three.

Consumer spending is up, but only modestly. Due to the chilly weather, in the first quarter we spent more money on utilities and health care. Spending on consumer goods was relatively flat, but in March Americans bought more cars and boosted retail numbers at shopping malls.

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Global Perspectives

Many Americans tend to assume we’re the greatest nation. After all, people from other countries are frequently trying to move here. For the most part, we have a strong economy, we’re well educated, we make decent money, and we have the NFL, NBA, and MLB for goodness sake. The U.S. rules.

Except when it doesn’t. The state of our economy is greatly influenced by what goes on in other countries. For example, as the Ukraine-Russia conflict increases the risk profile in Europe, the United States could benefit from greater global capital inflow. On the other hand, should Russian aggression become more pronounced, our government officials may soften the pressure they have placed on regulators to decrease the U.S. defense budget – requiring politicians to look elsewhere for a solution to the country’s deficit woes.

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Live Long and Dance

A recent study reveals that engaging in appropriate exercise after age 65 can help conditions such as back pain and arthritis. Even the Mayo Clinic claims that exercise can be effective at helping prevent and even treat a wide range of age-related health conditions.

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“Life” Is Its Own Financial Variable

Retirement income is a common topic in the financial services industry, with 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day for the next 15 to 20 years. One of the biggest questions pre-retirees face today is whether or not they’ll have enough income to support their desired lifestyle when it comes time to retire.

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Living and Working (and Thinking) in a Box

In the late 1970s sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati,” news director Less Nessman would not acknowledge the presence of co-workers unless they simulated knocking on the door of his fake office. His “office” was merely a desk and chair with imaginary walls marked by tape on the floor. Perhaps this was an indication of things to come — the slow evolution of workplace layouts going from private closed-door offices to wide open floor plans filled with individual employee cubicles.

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The United States: For Richer and for Poorer

A recent Health and Retirement Study by the Brookings Institution found that life expectancy is rising more quickly for people at the highest ranks of socio-economic status, while declining or remaining static for those in the lower levels. This discrepancy was raised in relation to Social Security benefits and posed the question as to whether raising the full retirement age as a means of sustaining the program is fair to those of a lower socio-economic class — since research shows that this group tends to pass away younger and may thus receive fewer benefits.

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Couples’ Angst

According to research done by Fidelity, nearly four in 10 couples don’t agree on the lifestyle they want to have in retirement. Sometimes this discussion gets put off before an efficient financial strategy can be developed. For example, have you and your significant other talked about where you want to live in retirement, and whether that involves selling the family home and moving to something that may be easier to maintain? Perhaps you’d love to retreat to a different part of the country – or move to another country altogether – but are hesitant to bring up such a wild idea with your conservative spouse.

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Creative Solutions for Life’s Little Problems

It’s refreshing to see that many people are beginning to implement new and innovative ideas to address some of life’s seemingly little problems that may have a more widespread societal impact.

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Retirement or Tuition? The Savings Dilemma

No one, much less a parent, wants to see a young college graduate weighed down by the burden of student loans. And if those student loans weren’t bad enough, some college students open credit card accounts as a right-of-passage of sorts into adulthood. Although a credit card provides students and young adults the opportunity to enter a new world of financial responsibilities, they can also cause those students to end up even further in debt by the time they graduate.

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The Power of Optimism

The White House recently announced that it expects the U.S. economy to grow by 3.1 percent this year, up from its 1.7 percent expansion in 2013. Is that a realistic projection, or an optimistic one? While the unemployment rate hovers in the 6.7 percent range, many economists say that rate has dropped recently in part because many people have stopped looking for work. That may be true, but it is certainly a pessimistic viewpoint.

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Alzheimer’s Higher Death Toll, Buddy Programs and Guide Dogs

According to a study recently published in the journal Neurologythe number of Americans who die as a result of Alzheimer’s disease has been vastly underestimated for years. New research indicates that since Alzheimer’s is an underlying disease – which leads to complications resulting in death – the number of deaths that may be attributable to Alzheimer’s has been under-reported by as much as half a million people per year. This is six times higher than previously reported, and moves Alzheimer’s up as the number three killer each year, behind heart disease and cancer.

While Alzheimer’s starts out affecting memory and cognitive thought processes, over time it creates breathing, swallowing, and heart rate issues that lead to other diagnoses. Since the subsequent diseases are actually what causes death, Alzheimer’s isn’t listed as a cause of death.

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Is Part-time the New Normal?

With continued sluggish unemployment reports, are we becoming a nation of part-time workers? A recent report from the U.S. Census of Agriculture revealed that more than half – 52 percent – of American farmers only work part time. The majority of our 2.1 million farmers responsible for day-to-day farm operations do not list farming as their principal occupation.

Another recent news item highlights the “part-timing” of our university professors. In the last decade, while the cost of college tuition has risen exponentially, some campuses have been cutting back on professor pay and benefits by adding more part-time adjunct professors. Adjunct means professors are hired on an as-needed basis, depending on class enrollment from one semester to the next. In other words, they don’t work full-time, don’t receive benefits, and don’t even know if they’ll have that same job in five months. Among our nation’s college instructors, more than three-quarters – 76 percent – teach part time. 

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What’s Your Retirement Mission Statement?

Mission statements have long been a staple of corporate business strategies. They’re usually bland, jargon-filled platitudes that have been crafted, edited and revised ad nauseam by someone in the marketing department.

Then Tom Cruise came along in the 1996 film, Jerry Maguire, and re-energized the mission statement as a guiding life principle, not just a bromide: “What started out as one page became twenty-five. Suddenly, I was my father’s son again. I was remembering the simple pleasures…”

Perhaps each of us, as we approach retirement, should write a mission statement about what we want our retirement to be like.

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Are You Financially Prepared for Retirement?

Remember when the most pressing matter on your mind was not retirement income, but rather what to do on Saturday nights?

A recent survey found that Generation X — adults now approaching or in their 40s — is poised to face some of the biggest financial challenges in the future. And that while millennials  — those who reached young adulthood around the year 2000 — are not yet engaged in planning for retirement, members of Generation X don’t have as much time as they may think. After all, while you may consider yourself as young as you feel, your finances should represent your actual age. If not, then you could be falling behind with your financial strategy.

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The January Barometer?

A market theory that has developed over the years is called the January barometer. The theory basically asserts that whatever happens in the financial markets in January is a precursor for what will happen over the rest of the year. Unfortunately, January started the New Year with volatility – just a timely reminder that whatever goes up must correspondingly go down at some point, at least where the financial markets and global economy are concerned.

Many industry insiders see the recent sell-off in the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index and S&P 500 Index as an anticipated correction. Rather than cause for concern, it can be viewed as a short-term and healthy pause.

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Paying for Healthcare, One Way or Another

Despite a rough start, enrollment in private health plans through The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as “Obamacare”) was at three million by the end of January. Some five million are expected to sign up by the March deadline — a considerable improvement from its inauspicious beginnings, but still about two million shy of the White House’s projected goal.

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Olympi-nomics

In the wake of the recent Olympic winter games in Sochi, Russia, a number of economists have mounted theories linking success at Winter Olympics with economic development for participating countries.

One such research paper by two French professors purports that the number of Olympic medals a country wins is directly correlated to that nation’s population and per-capita income. Based on their calculations, the U.S. was projected to lead in the medal count with 36, followed by Germany (28), and Canada (27), with Russia and Norway tied (24) in fourth place.*

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Tax Updates

As we enter tax season, many issues abound. Congress is back in session and, you never know, may at some point start discussing ideas for tax reform. Whether or not Congress tackles reform provisions this year, things may change within the tax landscape. That’s because every year there are a plethora of provisions that will expire unless Congress takes action. A list of these expiring federal tax provisions is detailed in a report from the Joint Committee on Taxation.

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Happy Days Are Here Again…

What a difference a couple of years made — from challenging times in Europe to the plummet in domestic home values to unemployment approaching double digits. The economic recovery in the U.S. may have been slow, but it has hardly been nonexistent.

As we gaze into the crystal ball for 2014, the typical signs and leading economic indicators look good. The following reports and insights by industry analysts and experts definitely offer an air of optimism. And it’s about time. Enjoy.

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Long-Term Goals

One of the hallmarks of contemporary society is that we want everything right now. We can communicate 24/7 via text, phone, email, tweets and posts and wouldn’t dream of driving on a long trip without a fully charged phone. Remember when cars used to break down on the side of the road and you had to hoof it to the nearest phone?

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What’s Ahead for 2014?

The usual pundits and prognosticators are at it again — making all sorts of predictions and observations about how this next year will play out.

For starters, the New Year will get a little darker. That's because manufacturers will cease making 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs, having already phased out the production of 100- and 75-watt bulbs in 2012 and 2013. You can still buy incandescent bulbs as long as supplies last, but U.S. manufacturers are no longer permitted to produce or import them. Incandescent bulbs do not meet the new standards that require all screw-in light bulbs to use 25 percent less power by 2014 and 65 percent less by 2020. It appears we are in for darker times moving forward, indeed.

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Win/Loss Columns: An Exciting End to 2013

Well, perhaps we missed the excitement of yet another year-end cliffhanger like we had in 2012. This year, Congress got it together long enough to recess with a budget deal ready for the president’s signature. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 was initiated by dealmakers Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Let’s put that one in the “win” column, for at the very least we won’t have to experience the threat of another government shutdown.

The passage of this bill was a pretty strong accomplishment for the partisan Congress, although during the 2013 session it had enacted only 66 laws as of Dec. 25. In the past, the average has been 162.

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Income Updates for Various Demographics

Despite the economic setback and slow recovery in recent years, or perhaps because of them, it seems Americans may be on a trajectory for higher income — if not higher income, then perhaps greater satisfaction with the income that they earn. Here’s a recent round-up of studies about current demographic groups and their earning prospects.

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Skewing Data

Every day we see reports, surveys, research and analysis of data that’s been commissioned and compiled by government agencies, private businesses and third party think tanks. While much of the information is informative, it usually indicates a larger story, or trend, and should be reviewed within a certain context.

For example, a recent jobs report has reduced the country’s unemployment rate to 7 percent, which is quite positive. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics points out in the report that the data reflects the numbers of previously furloughed federal employees who were permitted to return to work after the government shutdown in October. Employment reports this time of year also tend to be influenced by the pickup during the holiday season.

As such, it’s important to view the jobs report within context and be wary of making decisions based on positive data — factors to be considered in both the stock market and in anticipating the moves of the Federal Reserve.

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Shiny New Things

Just about everyone gets something new during the holiday season. Sometimes it’s exactly what we wanted, and we love it and use it all year long. Sometimes it’s exactly what we wanted, but it turns out not to be as great as we expected, so we use it for a time until the shiny newness wears off and it is discarded.

Similarly, sometimes we receive something we didn’t ask for, don’t need and never use. And then other times, we get something totally unexpected that we love and can’t remember what we ever did without.

Then again, the holiday season isn’t always about gifts, sometimes it’s about moments — the unforgettable ones. A first kiss under the mistletoe. An engagement ring wrapped in a perfume box. Announcing a new pregnancy at the family dinner.

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Choices and Trade-offs

With all of the noise surrounding the Affordable Care Act’s botched Health Insurance Marketplace launch and the problem of individual policy cancellations this year, little other significant legislation is getting worked on in Congress. The federal budget debate keeps getting pushed into the future, and any chance of tackling tax reform seems a distant promise.

That’s because life — and politics, apparently — is about setting priorities and making choices. Even legislation as critical as the Farm Bill, which is scheduled to be renewed every five years (extended an additional year in 2013 because no agreement could be reached last year), looks like it will come down to the last-minute wire this year. This “cliffhanger” tactic in legislation is something we’ve become accustomed to in recent years.

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Ups-a-Daisy

Originally, the phrase “ups-a-daisy” was uttered by parents as an exclamation when tossing a child playfully into the air or when encouraging him to get up after a fall. Nowadays, we often hear it as “whoopsie daisy” or “oopsie daisy,” and it means, in today’s vernacular, “my bad.” Recently we heard a version from President Obama that sounded more like:

“With respect to the pledge I made that if you like your plan, you can keep it … there is no doubt that the way I put that forward unequivocally ended up not being accurate. …That’s on me. And that’s why I’m trying to fix it.”

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Sign of the Times

At the end of last summer, I pulled into a gas station in which a sign over the posted gas prices read, “Swimsuit season is over; Krispy Kreme is here.” It was an unconventional yet palpable indicator that summer had ended.

Some signs require a little more technical interpretation, like the ones used to indicate whether our economy is advancing. There are many leading indicators that are considered the most redolent of how the economy is doing. Leading indicators present signs typically before the economy as a whole actually changes — and are, therefore, useful as only short-term projections.

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Birth of the Phoenix

It can be from our dissatisfaction that we often get the motivation to do something new. That is one of the themes conveyed by Wharton professor G. Richard Shell in his book, “Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success.” According to him, we are, in some sense, defined by the conflicts we overcome.

This is perhaps true across many realms — personal, corporate, national, global.

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An MRI for $500, Please

For years we’ve been able to “shop” for health care insurance coverage — whether for individual policies or among different options offered by an employer. But if there’s one thing that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has done, it’s put a spotlight on the cost of not just insurance premiums — but the cost of actual medical services.

In fact, there is an increasing trend to make cost and quality data on hospitals and other healthcare providers publicly available.

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The Role of Uncertainty

Remember trying out for a sports team, or the high school play? Remember waiting to get your acceptance letter from the colleges where you applied? Remember that feeling that you couldn’t move forward, you couldn’t make plans … until you knew?

That’s kind of where the United States has been for nearly six years. If you wonder why our recovery from an economic crisis that occurred in 2008 is so slow, it’s not that our nation’s corporations haven’t restored their balance sheets. They have. 

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Shutting Down the Forest, But Not the Trees

It is with both wide-eyed interest and pit-of-stomach disgust that Americans have watched the political shenanigans and subsequent impact played out during the U.S. government shut down.

The whole strategy is reminiscent of watching a person trying to cut corners actually create a lot more work for himself. You see this with toddlers, lazy employees and particularly teenagers. Consider the 14-year old tasked with unloading the dishwasher before he can meet up with his friends. In his haste, he stacks as many dishes as possible in his arms and, en route to the appropriate cabinet, accidentally drops them all. The ensuing crash assures that he will have a far greater and time-consuming mess to clean up, not to mention the backlash from his parents and the cost to restore the kitchenware.

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Washington D.C.: Showdowns, Shutdowns, Lockdowns and Touchdowns

Hollywood has to work pretty hard to steal headlines from the political ballyhoo and drama in the capital city recently.

As for the showdown, the debt ceiling vote was seemingly taken hostage by politicians wanting to make a political statement at the cost of 800,000 government employees placed on furlough.

Although the issue at stake is health care, it does not appear to represent the desire of the 22 million Americans expected to seek insurance coverage via the health insurance exchanges.

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Health Care Insurance Shopping Lowdown

The Health Care Insurance Exchanges are now open, and you have between now and March 1, 2014, to purchase a new health care insurance plan during the open enrollment period. Rest assured, if you experience a life-altering event, such as losing your job, moving to another state or having a baby, you will be eligible to purchase a policy beyond the open enrollment dates.

One of the tricky things about trying to establish a uniform set of guidelines regarding health insurance is that everyone’s needs are different. There are so many different storylines — multi-level family configurations, work and income arrangements, and even age and health conditions — that factor in to what type of insurance plan works best for you and how much it may cost. That’s why there are so many articles and frequently asked questions columns out there that currently address these issues.

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Retiring to a Place or a State of Mind?

Work in the modern age has become more virtual — meaning many people can conduct their jobs from home or on the road, thanks to smart phones, laptops and iPads. We used to refer to work as a place, as in “I’m going to work.” Now it’s really more of a verb: “I’m going to work.” Here, now, wherever I happen to be.

Can the same be said for retirement? It used to be a phase of life, as in “he’s in retirement” or “she is retired now.” But for many people, retire is now a verb: “I’m going to retire from doing this…so that I can go and do this…” After all, a secondary definition of the word is simply to withdraw to or from a particular place. And many of today’s retirees are doing just that.

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Attention: A Reminder Not to Take Candy from Strangers

This sounds like advice for children. We are forever worrying that they will trust the wrong person, fall for an innocent request for information and get involved in a terrible situation. It’s every parent’s nightmare.

These days, it’s every adult child’s nightmare that his or her parents will succumb to some dark and devious plot. Not only are there more retirees than ever, living longer than ever, there are perhaps more scam artists than ever. And because of the amount of information and promotions and discounts available — more than any one person could ever wade through and verify — it can be easy to get fooled into trusting the claims of a voice over the phone.

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The Fed: Those Crazy Kids

One month they say they’re going to taper the current quantitative easing program…and a couple of months later they change their minds and decide to keep going. In the interim, interest rates on mortgages jumped, which put a slight damper on the housing market, and the markets fluctuated a little as they adjusted and readjusted to the news.

This is a classic case of the markets reacting to “what we say, not what we do.” These days, anything the Fed says tends to result in knee-jerk responses that, while often short lived, reverberate throughout the economy.

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Lightning Strikes Twice

There’s a saying that lightning never strikes twice in the same place. If you’re talking about the atmospheric phenomenon, apparently that’s just a myth. And if you’re talking about the idiom that refers to the same bad things not happening to people twice in one lifetime, apparently that’s not true either.

Just ask boardwalk vendors on the New Jersey shoreline. A recent boardwalk fire decimated many of the same businesses that were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy last October, which penetrated the same area with devastating floods. Many of the same businesses in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights that had rebuilt and reopened just this past summer were burned to oblivion on Sept. 12.

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Lessons from Syria: The Long and Short of It

One of the dominant headlines in August and September involves the conflict in Syria. The government is suspected of using chemical weapons against its own people in its battle with rebel forces — an atrocity that continues to be addressed by the United Nations and countries worldwide.

There is typically a line that should not be crossed when it comes to conflict. With personal arguments, there is a fine line between the decibels one can reach before a discussion becomes a shouting match. In the criminal justice system, there are misdemeanors and felonies, and a certain line for which crimes are punishable by death. Those lines often move depending on where the defendant is prosecuted and the variables related to the crime.

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Family Matters

With the recent ruling of the Defense of Marriage Act and subsequent IRS guidance on tax filings, today’s definition of “family” has changed substantially.

But honestly, the government and corporations are just beginning to catch up with today’s household. For millions of Americans, the typical family of a wife and a husband with 2.5 kids and a dog changed decades ago. Many adults today never even knew what that was like.

Today we have what has become known as the “blended family.” Some configurations may include young adults well into their twenties living at home with their baby boomer parents. 

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Entrepreneurs: From Whence They Come

The atrocities in Syria have been dominating news stories as of late. It seems, sometimes, that never again will we have quiet on the Western front — a period of peace to allow our broken economy to heal properly.

Perhaps it’s appropriate to observe some of the more positive outcomes of our nation’s strong human capital resources. For example, when our soldiers returned home from World War II in 1945, the so-called “Silent Generation” quietly set about rebuilding their lives, contributing to the economy and creating the largest baby boom in history. Their efforts played a tremendous part in the boom of the post-war economy, and the private sector grew organically.

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In the Middle

Remember Jan Brady of the Brady Bunch? She always lamented being the “middle child,” because Cindy got attention for being the littlest and “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha” got attention as the oldest. Much like other children “in the middle,” Jan felt she got lost in the shuffle and no one cared about her.

And so the lament continues with America’s middle class. According to a Pew Research report, middle-class Americans feel they are “fewer, poorer, [and] gloomier” after a lost decade marked by stagnant incomes, shrinking wealth, and greater financial stress and uncertainty. The middle class can be seen as facing new challenges in the current economy.

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Hidden Fees

Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “Our life is frittered away by detail.” It does often seem that way where finances are concerned. For example, despite the consumer protections advanced by the Credit Card Act of 2009, you may still get hit with mystery merchant fees such as “Free-to-paid” and “Zombie” charges.

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The Immigration Debate

Alice Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, recently wrote an article supporting immigration reform. According to her article at Marketwatch.com, if the current legislative bill were passed, it would substantially reduce Social Security costs as a result of increased taxable earnings.

Her comments are based on an analysis provided by the Social Security Administration, which estimated that the bill would extend the solvency of the program by an additional two years (to 2035).

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Do Jobs Matter as Much as Engagement?

In July, the U.S. economy added 162,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent from 7.6 percent in June. However, job market numbers are complex. According to The Wall Street Journal, 227,000 more people said they were employed in July compared with June, but concurrently 37,000 dropped out of the overall labor force — a possible sign that those discouraged by being jobless for a long time simply are no longer looking for work.

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Fed Chairman: Economic Influence, Conjecture and Perspective

At first glance, one might think that the president of the United States — arguably the most powerful person in the free world —is the most influential force on economic growth. Recent history has proven otherwise. From Alan Greenspan to Ben Bernanke, it’s become evident that— to paraphrase from an old advertising slogan from the 1970s — when the Fed chairman speaks, people listen.

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Health Care Law Updates

Section 3022 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) provided for the creation of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). These provider-run organizations are responsible for the overall quality, cost and care of a defined group of Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries. Each ACO must serve at least 5,000 beneficiaries per program.

ACOs are intended to help curb the ramp up in cost of providing health care, and are rewarded with financial incentive payments when successful. Currently, there are more than 250 ACOs — perhaps minus nine of the original 32 pioneer ACOs that recently announced they may exit the Medicare program. These programs cite the difficulty associated with collecting and reporting required data, accessing claims information and the quality of data benchmarking as some of the reasons they’ve not been successful.

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Busy in Congress

We thought it might be an interesting summer in Congress, what with Republicans still fighting Obamacare, sequestration cuts underway, and more deficit proposals on the table. But Congress has a lot more going on. Read on to see what legislative changes may (or may not) be effective soon.

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Long Life Spans and Retirement Income Strategies

Atlanta resident Jim Peniston is looking to retire in about three years, but his biggest concern is outliving his money. In his words, a longer life is a blessing – but it’s also a curse. In fact, according to a survey by Prudential Retirement, 71% of survey respondents feared they may not have enough retirement income to last their lifetime.

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Reshaping Retirement

Visit an established restaurant in your area and you may be struck by the number of gray-haired patrons. In fact, many of the seemingly older seniors are likely to be accompanied by their graying (or otherwise color-coiffed) middle aged children.

It’s official: Older people are taking over the earth. The stats have been anticipating this for years, but now it’s unmistakable via casual observation.

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Reshaping Retirement

Visit an established restaurant in your area and you may be struck by the number of gray-haired patrons. In fact, many of the seemingly older seniors are likely to be accompanied by their graying (or otherwise color-coiffed) middle aged children.

It’s official: Older people are taking over the earth. The stats have been anticipating this for years, but now it’s unmistakable via casual observation.

If you are of advanced age yourself, you may not even notice this phenomenon, because as far as you’re concerned these are just members of your peer group. If you’re accompanied by young children, they probably won’t notice either—a combination of not being particularly observant and the fact that the graying of America is very much a part of their normal, everyday lives.

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Designing Retirement Income

In May, Investment News, the financial news publication, held its 2013 Retirement Income Summit, bringing together leaders from the worlds of investing, government and academia to share the latest thinking in retirement policy, Social Security, insurance, estate planning and taxation with financial professionals.

One topic covered at this year’s conference was a comparison of the two schools of thought on how to structure a portfolio designed to provide retirement income. The first is the traditional plan, transitioning assets to “safe” investments and determining a safe withdrawal rate so that a retiree’s money lasts throughout retirement. However, this plan can be impacted by economic factors, such as rising interest rates.

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