Since the market decline in August, the stock market has been bouncing around and is almost back to the levels at the beginning of the year. For the year to date the major indices are showing the following total returns[i]:
- US stock market -1.65% (Vanguard Total Stock Market VTI)
- International Markets -0.95% (Vanguard Total International Stock ETF VXUS)
- Bonds +1.29% (Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF BND)
No one can predict where the market is going from here, but a recession is unlikely for the following reasons[ii]:
- Monetary policy is loose and will remain that way even when the Federal Reserve starts raising interest rates.
- Tax rates are not high by historical standards.
- The federal government is not growing as quickly as it did in the prior decade.
- Financial firms are better capitalized than they’ve been for years.
- Businesses are sitting on loads of cash.
- Households’ debt obligations are hovering near the smallest share of after-tax income since the early 1980s.
- Home building has revived and it appears to still have further to go.
Replacing Medicare Cards
If you have established a “my Social Security” account, you are a Medicare beneficiary and have lost, damaged, or need to replace your Medicare card, you can now easily order a replacement Medicare card using your online “my Social Security” account. If you are still working, don’t forget to use your “my Social Security” account to view your yearly Social Security Statement and verify the accuracy of your earnings record and obtain updated estimates of your future Social Security benefits.
Lending Money to Friends & Family
This can be tricky – here are some tips:
- Consider what you can afford. Do not give away emergency funds or money earmarked for retirement. Can you afford to lose all the money?
- Would a bank loan them money? If not, you are probably taking on a very risky loan.
- Get terms in writing – is it a loan or gift and set expectations on when repayment will occur to avoid any confusion.
- Consider alternatives: For a child, offer to help with groceries or prepare a cooked meal periodically. If a family member is struggling with medical bills, help them negotiate a better deal.
- Learn to say no: It can be difficult to say no to a loved one, but sometimes it is the best decision. Do not let guilt force you into a bad financial decision for yourself.
Recently Vanguard announced they are using your voice as your password if you call them. Vanguard Voice Verification is a neat idea and if you have a Vanguard account, I urge you to set it up – it only takes a few minutes.
October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Here are some tips from the Stop.Think.Connect Campaign:
- Use strong passwords and change them regularly.
- Keep your usernames, passwords, or other computer/website access codes private.
- Only open emails and attachments from people you trust.
- Be wary of installing any software or apps that are not known to be reliable.
- Make electronic and physical back-ups or copies of all your important documents or photos.
- Secure your Wi-Fi Internet with a secure password.
July saw us in Australia again – this time for my nephew’s wedding in Margaret River, Western Australia. Was fun to see family from all over the world and we were fortunate to swim with a “small” 48’ Whale Shark – the largest fish in the world. During August we visited a bear camp on Kodiak Island in Alaska. Apart from being about 20’ away from a beautiful sow, Roberta discovered a new skill in landing a halibut and 4 silver salmon. Later in August I met with my peers in an in-person meeting in Chicago – as usual a very informative meeting with this great group of fellow fee-only planners. Last month had a great long weekend in Colorado Springs, patronizing my son’s favorite locally owned restaurants with him!
Contact me for a review meeting if needed. Please plan early for setting up an appointment. Feel free to pass this newsletter on to whoever may be interested, or encourage them to sign up directly on the website.
[i] Yahoo Finance Historical Prices as of 10/7/2015