What We're Reading




Forget Tantrums, Emerging Markets Are the Haven Now
Just as the Federal Reserve steadily picks up the pace of rate increases, Wall Street’s quantitative strategists are telling clients to sell U.S. stocks and buy into emerging markets.

Seniors Are Losing Billions Of Dollars A Year To Fraud. What Can We Do About It?
American seniors are being duped out of billions of dollars a year, and con artists are getting more sophisticated all the time.  We're looking at what types of scams are on the rise, why prosecution of these cases can be difficult, and how best to prevent them. 

Buying Emerging Markets During a Disaster
Earlier this week I wrote a short history (because there really is no long history) of corrections and bear markets in emerging market stocks. 

How to Retire in Your 30s With $1 Million in the Bank
Millennials especially have embraced this so-called FIRE movement — the acronym stands for financial independence, retire early — seeing it as a way out of soul-sucking, time-stealing work and an economy fueled by consumerism.

What to Do When You're Bad at Money
It was only a few years ago I started learning how money works. Like a lot of Americans I was very late to the game, in large part because there’s no formal system in place to teach us how to manage our money. There are tons of invisible forces working against us, and the end result is that being good or bad at money is sometimes viewed in moralistic terms or as a measure of someone’s character.

How We Sent Our Children to College Debt-Free
My husband and I have been sneaking high-fives because, come this fall, all three of our children will be in college. And here’s the sweetest part: They’re all going to school with no debt. We don't come from money. We didn't inherit cash because a relative died. There were no lottery winnings or strike-it-rich stock picks. My husband and I were raised in low-income households. We're first-generation college graduates. But as important as college was in pushing us up economically, we felt strongly about avoiding student loans for our children. Debt is a cuss word in our house.

Capital Group Midyear Outlook
Midway through 2018, virtually all countries find themselves in the midst of an economic upswing. But the specter of tighter monetary policy, trade skirmishes, rising volatility and rich valuations may leave investors wondering, "What's next?"

Tax Cuts Are Why U.S. Bond Yields Aren't Higher
The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note yield has risen 49 basis points since the beginning of the year to 2.90 percent, and the 30-year bond yield has jumped 33 basis points to 3.07 percent. Given all the talk about the strong economy, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, $1 trillion federal budget deficits and increased government borrowing, why aren’t yields even higher? Blame the tax cuts. 

Trying to Keep Up With the Kardashians? Here's How to Stop Money Envy.
There are folks so rich that they have never had to repack two suitcases while checking into a flight to avoid paying $50 for an overweight bag. They have their own plane, and they can buy a new wardrobe whenever they vacation. Some people are so wealthy they can change houses like others change shoes.

Decade After Crisis, a $600 Trillion Market Remains Murky to Regulators
In the maze of subsidiaries that make up Goldman Sachs Group, two in London have nearly identical names: Goldman Sachs International and Goldman Sachs International Bank. Both trade financial instruments known as derivatives with hedge funds, insurers, governments and other clients. United States regulators, however, get detailed information only about the derivatives traded by Goldman Sachs International. Thanks to a loophole in laws enacted in response to the financial crisis, trades by Goldman Sachs International Bank don’t have to be reported.

Third of Sovereign Funds Plan to Cut Equity Holdings, Cite Trade War Fear
Over a third of sovereign investors plan to cut their equity exposure over the next three years after a strong run in 2017, citing trade wars, geopolitics and high valuations as headwinds to performance, a study by asset manager Invesco showed.

Americans Are Having Fewer Babies. They Told Us Why.
Americans are having fewer babies. At first, researchers thought the declining fertility rate was because of the recession, but it kept falling even as the economy recovered. Now it has reached a record low for the second consecutive year. Because the fertility rate subtly shapes many major issues of the day — including immigration, education, housing, the labor supply, the social safety net and support for working families — there’s a lot of concern about why today’s young adults aren’t having as many children. So we asked them. 

Countdown to Retirement: A Five-Year Plan
For most of your working life, it wasn’t exactly a pressing concern. You might have pondered it for a few minutes as you skimmed your company’s benefits handout, checking to see if your new glasses were covered or if you’ll be reimbursed for your gym membership. Retirement was more like a vague, distant concept rather than something that would actually happen one day. Then, suddenly, you hit your late 50s or early 60s and you realize, almost without being aware of it, that you’ve begun paying closer attention to those commercials about annuities, reverse mortgages and Medicare Part B, and you’re no longer reflexively tossing those AARP mailings straight into the trash.

What's the Yield Curve? 'A Powerful Signal of Recession' Has Wall Street's Attention
You can try to play down a trade war with China. You can brush off the impact of rising oil prices on corporate earnings. But if you’re in the business of making economic predictions, it has become very difficult to disregard an important signal from the bond market. The so-called yield curve is perilously close to predicting a recession — something it has done before with surprising accuracy — and it’s become a big topic on Wall Street. Terms like “yield curve” can be mind-numbing if you’re not a bond trader, but the mechanics, practical impact and psychology of it are fairly straightforward. Here’s what the fuss is all about.

Demystifying the Blockchain
This is bonkers. A new so-called blockchain company is selling virtual real estate online with prices as high as $120,000 for a 10-meter by 10-meter piece of virtual land. You can buy a plot of virtual land in a virtual city, with certain neighborhoods costing more than others, like in a real city. Except that it isn’t a real city. It is all virtual. Follow? Me neither.

How to Talk About Moving to a Retirement Home: 'It's a Journey'
Dawn and John Strumsky agree about most things, a tendency that has served them well in 45 years of marriage. But there was one subject where they did not see eye to eye for the longest time: their retirement future.

Do Millennials Have a Savings Problem?
“By 35, you should have twice your salary saved, according to retirement experts”. It’s an anodyne statement, as these things go; basically it’s what you’ll hear from any financial planner. So when MarketWatch tweeted out those words, it probably weren’t expecting social media to unite into one loud scream of existential anguish.

Stock Market Volatility is Back, and it is Leaving Older Investors Anxious About Their Retirement Plans
For investors who value peace of mind, financial markets have been quite accommodating over the past decade: stocks rising steadily, interest rates at historic lows, few gut-wrenching sell-offs. Until now.

Why You Should Hire a Financial Planner, Even if You're Not Rich
If the very idea of financial planning makes you break out in hives, you’re not alone. A new study found that perceived financial well-being — feeling secure about not only the state of your current situation but how well you’ve planned for the future — holds the key to your overall well-being. Your financial security can affect you as strongly as job satisfaction, relationship stability, and physical health combined.

A $76,000.00 Monthly Pension: Why States and Cities Are Short on Cash
A public university president in Oregon gives new meaning to the idea of a pensioner. Joseph Robertson, an eye surgeon who retired as head of the Oregon Health & Science University last fall, receives the state’s largest government pension. It is $76,111. Per month. That is considerably more than the average Oregon family earns in a year.

Investing While Distracted in the Trump Era
Distracted much? That is the question we must all wrestle with in the Trump era. An endless stream of tweets, announcements, firings, policy shifts, outrages and absurdities greet us each day -- and that is before the market even opens. Psychographic microtargeting, the president and the porn star, CPR for gunshot victims, fine people among neo-Nazis -- events and ideas that in the context of U.S. political life would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. Investors can easily fall down this rabbit hole, where their adventures are filled with nonsensical distractions.

Many Americans Try Retirement, Then Change Their Minds
Ms. King felt ready. She’d turned 66, her full Social Security retirement age. She’d invested fully in the hospital’s 401(k) plan and consulted with a financial adviser. She and her husband, who had already retired, had paid off the mortgage on their three-bedroom ranch. They took a week’s trip to Hilton Head, S.C., to celebrate their impending freedom. But her retirement lasted just three months. 

This is How Much Guests Actually Spend at Weddings
A wedding is an expensive proposition, and not just for the bride and groom. Between possible travel expenses, hotel stay, special-occasion attire and, of course, the wedding gift itself, guests often shell out hundreds, if not thousands, to attend — not to mention the shower and bachelor or bachelorette parties leading up to the big day, according to a Bankrate.com report released Wednesday.

A Historian on the Myths of American Trade
Trade policy wonks are gluttons for punishment. In good times, their pet topic is dismissed as dull. In bad, they find trade being faulted for everything. 

Most Couples Plan to Start Married Life With This Costly Ball and Chain
About a third of couples getting married in the next year plan to borrow up to $10,000 to cover wedding bills, according to a new survey from Student Loan Hero.

What Kind of Housing Does N.H. Need, and Why Don't We Have Enough Of It?
In the southern region of New Hampshire and on the Seacoast, vacancy rates are low, housing prices are high, and there is a lack of affordable housing for families and young adults. In the northern and western parts of the state, substandard housing remains a problem. As part of the The Balance series on NHPR about the cost of living in the Granite State, we look at why our state continues to have issues, and how some cities, like Londonderry, are turning to mixed community developments. 

NH Boasts ‘No New Taxes,’ But Watch Out For Property Tax Whoppers This Session
For decades New Hampshire politicians have stood on political stumps from Pittsburg to Hinsdale to Seabrook trumpeting the righteousness of no new or increased taxes or fees.

10 Years After Financial Crisis, Senate Prepares to Roll Back Banking Rules
The Senate is preparing to scale back the sweeping banking regulations passed after the 2008 financial crisis, with more than a dozen Democrats ready to give Republicans the votes they need to weaken one of President Barack Obama’s largest legislative achievements.

In Age Of Division, Author Says 'It's Better Than It Looks' When You Stick To The Facts
It might feel like the world is always on the brink of disaster, but Gregg Easterbrook says we're better off than we think. NPR's Sarah McCammon asks him about his new book, It's Better Than It Looks.

The Financial Literacy Problem
Financial literacy has been dropping for years, making the need for a personal finance education even more crucial.

I'm a Millennial Millionaire. Here's How I Got So Rich
By any definition, becoming a millionaire by your 30s isn’t easy, unless you happen to come from a lot of money. Tips abound on how you can accumulate wealth through saving and smart investments, but unless you’re putting away a lot of cash, a seven-figure net worth at such a young age can seem like a pipe dream. But it is attainable, at least if you’re resourceful, driven, and of course, lucky enough. 

So It's Your First Market Hiccup. What Should You Do Now?
We’ve been here before. Stocks can fall fast and bounce back hard, even if they haven’t moved all that much or that quickly in recent years. But perhaps you haven’t been here before. 

How Consumers Should Approach a Volatile Stock Market
The stock market plunged more than 1,000 points on Monday, reversing the growth in the markets throughout 2017. Richard Salmen is chair of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards talks with NPR's Ari Shapiro about what consumers should be doing.

Check This Simple Chart Before You Buy Anything
“Remember that all you’re committing to is slowing down and asking yourself what you really want, rather than acting on impulse,” she wrote. “That’s it. That’s what being a ‘mindful’ consumer is all about.”

As Big Firms Exit Broker Pact, Investors are Uneasy
For years, wealth management firms agreed not to stand in the way of such broker recruitment, putting client needs ahead of their own. But now, some firms are balking at letting clients go, and are threatening legal action to make them stay put. At the root of the fight is money, billions of dollars in client fees that wealth management firms reap every year.

Can We Be Brutally Honest About Investment Returns?
With U.S. stocks at all-time highs, it’s more important than ever that investors be brutally realistic about future returns.Some of the most purportedly sophisticated investors in the world, the managers of giant pension funds for state and local government employees, might not have absorbed that lesson yet. You can learn a lot from these folks — if you listen to them and then do the opposite.

Downsizing Baby Boomers Face a Key Decision: Is it Better to Rent or to Buy?
The rent-or-buy decision is more commonly thought of as a dilemma for young professionals establishing their households, not people approaching retirement. But whether it’s a financially savvy decision or simply the only solution when they can’t find a suitable place to buy, some baby boomers are choosing to rent an apartment downtown when they downsize.

Key Provisions of 2017 Tax Reform
The final provisions of the 2017 tax reform bill are finally here. The goal of this publication is to briefly highlight some of the key changes and planning issues of this complex bill that are important to individual investors and business owners. The impact on individuals will vary depending on your particular situation. Also, many aspects of this bill raise more questions and will need clarification.

Why 2017 Was the Best Year in Human History
We all know that the world is going to hell. Given the rising risk of nuclear war with North Korea, the paralysis in Congress, warfare in Yemen and Syria, atrocities in Myanmar and a president who may be going cuckoo, you might think 2017 was the worst year ever. But you’d be wrong. In fact, 2017 was probably the very best year in the long history of humanity.

Giddy Markets and Grim Politics
Economic growth worldwide picked up in 2017, and the best guess is that the global economy will perform strongly in 2018 as well. At the same time, a rising tide of populism and authoritarianism poses a risk to the stable democratic institutions that underlie long-term growth. And yet headlines seeming to portend political instability and chaos have not prevented stock markets from soaring. What gives?

How to Be Happier, Safer, Healthier, and Smarter in 2018
To welcome in 2018, here is some our best advice from this year for doing things better, whether you’re trying to fix your finances, your relationships, your health or your happiness. And don’t forget to set strong, reasonable New Year’s resolutions!

Investors Should Study 'Broker Protocol' for Their Protection
It's 4 p.m. on a Friday, and out of the blue you get a phone call from your brokerage firm — but it's not the trusted advisor with whom you have worked for 20 years. Instead, it's a new voice from a person you don't know, who tells you that your former advisor has left the firm and your account has been reassigned to him.

Under New Tax Plan, the Cost of Aging Could Rise
In the coming days, a small group of Republicans will meet in Washington to try to settle a simple question: Should their revised tax bill eliminate a deduction for medical expenses and take away thousands of dollars each year from many people who are sick and, often, old?

Bitcoin and Blockchain Technology - A Primer
Bitcoin has gained tremendous popularity since its launch in 2009, and financial institutions and startup companies are investing increasing amounts in blockchain technology. While we don't offer guidance on these new types of virtual currencies, we believe that it is important for investors to understand this new technology. 

America's Looming Fertility Collapse
The United States is in the midst of an historic collapse in childbearing. Ten years ago, the typical American woman had about 2.1 children. Today, it is about 1.77, representing a collapse in fertility on par with the declines in other countries that yielded Japan’s rapidly graying population in the 1990s, or Canada’s massive present-day demand for immigrants. This decline creates new long-term problems for the United States: obligations like Social Security will be substantially harder to finance than current projections suggest, because all current projections use out-of-date, excessively optimistic forecasts of fertility. Far from creating mass joblessness, large-scale automation will become a vital necessity simply to maintain current economic activity with fewer workers, as care for the aged eats up all growth in productivity. 

Tax Changes are Coming Next Year, but You Can Plan for Them Now
The Senate and House may spend most of the month ironing out the differences in their tax bills. Or they may be delayed by other legislation and not enact a new tax code until the new year. Either way, high-earning taxpayers cannot afford to wait and see what happens; they need to act this month before certain opportunities go away. And betting on a delay in a final vote is not wise planning: Accountants predict that the new code will take effect on Jan. 1 even if it has to be made retroactive at some point next year.

Four NFL Players Who Save More Than 70 Percent of Their Salaries
The average NFL salary is $2.1 million, according to Forbes. Still, an alarming 15 percent of NFL players end up declaring bankruptcy. A handful of financially savvy players are making sure they won't fall into that category. Here are four current and former NFL stars who are also pros when it comes to money.

A Bull Market Should Make Investors Happy. This One Isn't.
One day in September, investors with fading summer tans mingled with their brokers over a three-course lunch at Cipriani in Lower Manhattan. Stocks were soaring and they swapped market tips and touted apps that allowed them to buy Bitcoin on the golf course. But the full stomachs and fat portfolios couldn’t mask a sense of unease that pervaded the gathering: that the good times could suddenly end, derailed by nuclear war, political upheaval, a sudden rise in inflation or simply from stratospheric stocks crashing down to earth.

Why Do Smart People Do Foolish Things?
We all probably know someone who is intelligent, but does surprisingly stupid things.  My family delights in pointing out times when I (a professor) make really dumb mistakes.  What does it mean to be smart or intelligent? 

How to Protect Yourself After the Equifax Breach
Weeks after Equifax acknowledged that hackers had breached the company’s system, the company’s interim chief executive, Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., apologized for its messy response. The breach meant that potentially millions of Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers and other information had been stolen, leaving many of us to wonder how vulnerable we might be to identity theft.

They're Out to Reveal the 'Dirty Little Secret of Higher Education'
For all its faults, you can give the Internet credit for at least one big win: making prices far more transparent than they were in those dark days before http://everything. Sitting on a bench with a mobile phone, it’s easy to compare the price of a ride across town with Uber versus Lyft; buying a used Toyota from any dealer in the country; getting a home mortgage; or embarking on a kayak tour in Maui. But a Boston startup launching this month contends that the price of one important thing is still pretty opaque: going to college. 

Nobel in Economics is Awarded to Richard Thaler
Richard H. Thaler, whose work has persuaded many economists to pay more attention to human behavior, and many governments to pay more attention to economics, was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences on Monday.

Pension Storm Warning
This time is different are the four most dangerous words any economist or money manager can utter. We learn new things and invent new technologies. Players come and go. But in the big picture, this time is usually not fundamentally different, because fallible humans are still in charge. (Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart wrote an important book called This Time Is Different on the 260-odd times that governments have defaulted on their debts; and on each occasion, up until the moment of collapse, investors kept telling themselves “This time is different.” It never was.)

If You're Dreaming of Retiring, It's Important to Make a Plan - and Commit to It
The go-to strategy to encourage people to save for their retirement years has been to frighten them with the numbers. The average cost of retirement is more than $700,000, according to a study released this year by Merrill Lynch. If you want a swanky retirement, you’ll obviously need more. Fidelity Investments estimates that health care and medical expenses alone will total $275,000 for the average 65-year-old couple retiring in 2017. And then there’s the scariest number of all. If you retire at 65, you could live an additional 25 years. The horror: You could outlive your savings.

Equifax Data Breach: 143 Million People Could Be Affected
Equifax says a giant cybersecurity breach compromised the personal information of as many as 143 million Americans — almost half the country. Cyber criminals have accessed sensitive information -- including names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and the numbers of some driver's licenses.

The American Protectionism Bill That Made The Great Depression Worse
One of the most memorable movie scenes from 1986's "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" was comedian Ben Stein as the droning high school teacher, trying to teach his bored students the lesson of “Smoot-Hawley,” the tariff bill of 1930. “Anyone? Anyone?” is the line Stein repeats over and over, trying to elicit answers about a disastrous piece of American legislation. But the real story of that terrible tariff bill is far from boring. It’s actually a fascinating tale of protectionism, politics, piety and patriotism. It’s also a legislative tragedy, a tale of a bill going off the rails, careening off a cliff and helping to sink the world economy.  

The Stock Market Has Been Magical. It Can't Last.
Some things just can’t last. The nearly magical stock market that has persisted so valiantly this year is one of them. The bull market that started in March 2009 seems to have gone on forever, but that’s only a small part of the story. What is astonishing is the way that stocks have risen in 2017.

Smart Investors May Be Killing Capitalism
Picking stocks is for insiders and suckers. That has become the new wisdom on Wall Street when it comes to the best interest of average investors. For most of us, the wisest strategy is to avoid the “this company or that company” game and bet on every company —by putting money in low-cost index funds.But what if this prudent approach is also dangerous? Good for your portfolio, but bad for our collective economic future.

Five Risks That Can Crack Your Retirement Nest Egg
When I advise my clients about their retirement, I can't just focus on asking them, "How much are you saving?" or "Do you think you are conservative or aggressive?" These are questions to be addressed. However, a couple's retirement is dependent on a few other financial disciplines that are interconnected with retirement planning to flesh out the entire discussion. Some have to do with behavior, and others have to do with prudent planning. 

How to Avoid Family Financial Sabotage
Did you ever lend or give money to a family member? If so, you're like many who have responded financially to at least one request. Giving to others can be rewarding, but becoming the family bank or money tree can be stressful, particularly when the amount or frequency of the requests is high. Stress comes from deciding if you can afford the outlay and wondering if the money will be used responsibly. The request can also be packaged in what psychotherapist Dr. Susan Forward called FOG — fear, obligation and guilt. FOG can keep you from saying no when no would be the best response.

Broken Models: Financial Advisors' Daily Digest
In an article on sequence-of-returns risk – the unique risk to which new retirees are exposed by virtue of the fact that they are drawing down income while subject to the market’s scattered returns – Surz points out that defensive portfolios withdrawing at a 4% annual rate have underperformed more aggressive portfolios since 2008.

How the Medicaid Debate Affects Long-Term Care Insurance Decisions
The latest version of the Senate’s health insurance bill appeared on Thursday, and it didn’t do much to change the drastic reductions in Medicaid spending that were in the original legislation.

Tackling the 'Nastiest, Hardest Problem in Finance'
Consider some of the most challenging problems in finance: the equity-premium puzzle; binomial-option pricing models; do zero interest rates spur inflation or damp it; are stocks cheap or overpriced Challenging as those may appear, none compare to what Nobel laureate William Sharpe, 82, calls "decumulation," or the use of savings in retirement. It is, he says, “the nastiest, hardest problem in finance.”  

The First Steps to Repaying Your Student Debt
For this year's crop of new college grads, few things are more exhilarating than being handed your diploma. Too bad it's so closely followed by something else: that first student loan bill. Seven in 10 seniors graduate with debt, owing about $30,100 per borrower, according to the most recent data from the Institute for College Access & Success.

Study: You Literally Can't Even Pay People to Read Opinions They Disagree With
People are so conditioned to avoid contrary viewpoints that they will actually forego an opportunity to win more money if it requires them to read something with which they disagree. That's according to a fascinating—and deeply depressing—study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

In This Noisy World, Kids Really Need Critical Thinking
More than 1 in 6 students in the United States are unable to solve complex thinking problems, according to the 2012 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) test done on 15 year old children in 44 different countries1. Though American students did well overall, they consistently lagged behind their Asian counterparts. Unfortunately, kids who lack critical thinking problem solving skills face a higher risk of behavior and economical problems as adults.

Get Ready for Dramatically Lower Stock Market Returns Over the Next Decade
Vanguard Group says expect a typical 60 percent stocks/40 percent bonds portfolio to deliver two- to- three percentage points less in nominal annual returns than its long-term norm.


Your Client's Financial Well-Being is More Than Their Finances
A person’s financial well-being is about more than just finances, according to a new research paper from Morningstar behavioral economist Sarah Newcomb. The paper – When More Is Less: Rethinking Financial Health – draws on results of a 2016 survey of U.S. adults to create a model of financial health using demographic, psychographic, emotional and behavioral variables.


America's Disproportionate Weight in Global Stockmarket Indices
The aims of a stockmarket index are threefold. First, to reflect what is actually going on in the market; second, to create a benchmark against which professional fund managers can be judged; and third, to allow investors to assemble well-diversified, low-cost portfolios. On all three counts there are reasons to worry about the MSCI All-World Country Index, one of the most widely used gauges of the global stockmarket.

Millenials: It Pays to Rethink the Boomer Approach to Retirement
To paraphrase one of the great musings of the American businessman and investor Charlie Munger, you don't have to touch an electric fence to learn not to do it. In other words, it's better to learn through observation and the mistakes of others than through making the mistakes yourself. For this reason, millennials should take note of the situation many baby boomers find themselves in today as they near retirement age.


In Unprecedented Move, Pension Plan Cuts Benefits Promised to Retirees
A pension fund in Cleveland became the first plan to approve benefit cuts for current retirees — even though it is still years away from running out of cash. The move, some critics say, could open the door for other troubled pension plans to follow suit. The financially strapped Iron Workers Local 17 Pension fund proposed a plan for extending its lifespan by reducing benefits for workers and retirees. Now that the plan has received final approval, roughly half of the 2,000 participants will see their pension benefits shrink on Feb. 1. Benefits will be cut by 20 percent on average, but some retirees are expecting their monthly payments to be slashed by as much as 60 percent.


Market Indicator Hits Extreme Levels Last Seen Before Plunges in 1929, 2000 and 2008
While the S&P 500 is reaching all-time highs on optimism over Donald Trump's economic agenda, some Wall Street strategists are increasingly worried about a widely followed valuation measure that's reached levels that preceded most of the major market crashes of the last 100 years. 

Get Used to It: Economists See 'New Normal' of Slow Growth
Americans should get used to a "new normal" of slow economic growth, business economists say. The median estimate from economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics calls for the American economy to grow 2.2 percent in 2017, up from a forecast 1.6 percent this year and unchanged from the previous survey in September.


Gradually Converting a Traditional IRA to a Roth Can Boost Nest Egg
The first wave of baby boomers who turned 70 ½ this year must start tapping their traditional retirement accounts soon and pay taxes on those required minimum distributions. For those first boomers who turn 70 ½ this year, who were born from January through June 1946, their first distribution is due by the end of 2016. But a special first-year rule allows them to postpone their initial distribution until April 1 of the following year. However, if they opt to delay they would have to take their second distribution by Dec. 31, 2017, resulting in a double payout next year and an even higher tax bill.


Public Pensions are being Overly Optimistic 
The proximate cause of this column is an article in the New York Times, detailing the travails of a tiny government office that decided to withdraw from Calpers, the California state pension system, in order to switch to a 401(k) system. Officials at the office thought this would be a simple matter, since their members were fully paid in. Only it turned out it cost them more than $500,000 to make the switch, because when they went to leave, Calpers said “We meant fully funded if you stay, not fully funded if you leave.”

Why McMansions were Doomed Investments from the Start
The term "McMansion" is not usually used as a compliment. Loosely defined as a cookie-cutter suburban home of between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet, the McMansion was considered the ultimate sign of affluence in the late 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, before the crash of the housing market in 2008. 

Student Debt: Lives on Hold
Almost every American knows an adult burdened by a student loan. Fewer know that growing alongside 42 million indebted students is a formidable private industry that has been enriched by those very loans. Step by step, one law after another has been enacted by Congress to make student debt the worst kind of debt for Americans—and the best kind for banks and debt collectors.

Boomers, It's Time to Spend - and Pay Taxes on - Your 401(k)
At age 70½, the bill comes due on all those tax-deferred savings accounts we’ve been building, and this week the oldest baby boomers will begin to reach that finish line—with many millions more to follow. Those waves of retirees will be required to start pulling money from their IRAs and 401(k)s. Following an Internal Revenue Service formula, these annual withdrawals can push you into a higher tax bracket, so financial planners put a lot of energy into building strategies to minimize the tax bite.

No. 1 Financial Regret of Older Americans
Most Americans are filled with regrets — financial regrets. Fully three in four, in fact, admit they harbor financial regrets, according to a survey of more than 1,000 adults published Tuesday by Bankrate.com. Their biggest regret:

Financial Illiteracy May have Cost Investors $200B
Back in the day, I used to believe individual investors could manage their own money and even sometimes beat the pros at their own game. But after years of watching them make every mistake in the book, I don’t think many investors know what they’re doing. Now it turns out there’s a reason for that: Many investors are financially illiterate.

1 in 4 Americans have PTSD-Like Symptoms from Financial Stress
If you’ve ever felt like financial stress was bringing you down—in a big way—you might be interested in the findings of a new study from Payoff, a financial wellness company. In an analysis of data from 2,011 survey respondents, researchers at Payoff discovered that 23% of respondents were experiencing symptoms commonly associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to their finances. Among Millennials, the number is 36%.

The Secret Shame of Middle Class Americans
Since 2013, the federal reserve board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering, but the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?

Dalio: We're not Ready to Handle the Next Downturn
Ray Dalio is founder and CEO of Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world. Dalio bases his investment decisions less on abstract financial data, and more on his reading of the macro economy. He’s very focused on how central bank interest rates are running close to zero these days. Dalio joined Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to talk about the future of the economy when central banks run out of firepower.

Love Stinks when it comes to Saving Money
Love's influence over purchases is most easily seen and tallied in big events such as a wedding, where shoppers are making multiple purchases in short order and emotions run high, said Kit Yarrow, author of "Decoding the New Consumer Mind." Almost half of couples married in 2014 said they busted their budget, according to TheKnot.com. Wedding costs also hit a record high that year, at $31,213.

The Fed in a Bind
Pity the Federal Reserve. As it demonstrated again Wednesday, the central bank remains hostage to changing financial markets and global economic conditions. This is making it very hard for Fed officials to communicate a clear and consistent policy path that will be pursued for any significant period of time.

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