For the week of December 15, 2008
In another sign that the markets may have the worst-case scenario already factored into pricing, Wall
Street shook off news Friday that the Senate had failed to pass a $14 billion bailout package for U.S.
automakers. Just last week, the markets managed a Friday advance despite the Labor Department
report showing the nation lost 533,000 jobs in November. Since its Nov. 20 low, the Dow has gained
14.3 percent, the S&P is up 16.9 percent and the NASDAQ has recovered 17.1 percent. This week, the
Federal Reserve holds its December meeting, where it is expected to lower the federal funds rate by half
a percentage point to 0.5 percent. For the week, the Dow lost 0.01 percent to end at 8,629.68, the S&P
gained 0.48 percent to close the week at 879.73, and the NASDAQ rose 2.08 percent to finish the week
Source: Morningstar.com. * Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indexes are unmanaged and
cannot be invested into directly. Three and five-year returns are annualized. The S&P, excluding “1 Week”
returns, is a reflection of return to an investor, by reinvesting dividends after the deduction of withholding tax.
Historic High – The highest individual income tax rate in U.S. history was in 1944 and 1945 when the
top rate on a single filer was 94 percent, according to the Tax Foundation.
Work More to Make More – One out of every four workers (24 percent) at least age 45 who were
surveyed in September 2008 had increased the number of hours they were working to make up for the
decline in their investment portfolio due to the downturn in the U.S. economy (Source: AARP, BTN
Stop Working – Thirty-seven percent of American workers do not retire on their own timetable but rather
are forced into retirement due to layoffs, illnesses or injuries (Source: Urban Institute, BTN Research).
Less In Stocks – The average American worker who is participating in his/her employer’s pre-tax 401k
plan has 54 percent of retirement assets invested in the stock market. One year ago, the average
balance in equities was 68 percent (Source: Hewitt Associates, BTN Research).
Sweeteners – In order to win Congressional support of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bill,
$150 billion of tax incentives were added to the legislation, including changes to the Alternative Minimum
Tax law (Source: Wall Street Journal, BTN Research).
WEEKLY FOCUS – The Ghost of Good Intentions Past
With just two weeks left in 2008, we pause to reflect on
everything we have accomplished this year – along with
the things we planned to accomplish but didn’t. When it
comes to the details of our finances – from budgets to
bank statements, credit reports to receipts – many of us
have procrastinated on getting our house in order. If
economic uncertainty has left you overwhelmed by what
you cannot control – Congress, Wall Street and the
impending tax season – focus these last two weeks on
those things you can control and enjoy a sense of
year-end accomplishment. We offer a few suggestions
to get you started:
1. Close inactive accounts. If you have a bank or
credit card account that you have not used recently, consider whether you should close it. You may be
incurring fees for holding the account or it may be impacting your credit rating. In addition, closing an
inactive account prevents it from being targeted for identity theft.
2. Set your accounts up for online bill pay. Save the environment and a little money by eliminating the
need for paper envelopes, checks and postage stamps.
3. Review your beneficiaries on all accounts to ensure they have been updated, particularly if you have
married, been divorced or had a child this year.
4. Request your credit report. You are entitled to one free credit report each year.
5. Take the next step in organizing your paperwork for tax preparation. If you’ve got one big box of
statements and receipts, you could start by labeling a large manila envelope or folder for each month and
doing a quick sort by date, without worrying about what you need or don’t need. Or ask your tax preparer
for a list of what you’ll need to prepare your tax return and get started on assembling those items.
6. Don’t forget to turn in your receipts for health care or day care expenses covered by flex spending
plans. If you expect to have money left in your flex account, see if you can get in one more dental cleaning
or another box of contact lenses. If you don’t use that money, you lose it!
Taking even a few small actions like these can help you end the year feeling more in control of your
finances during a turbulent time for our nation’s economy. If you have recent or coming changes of your
own – a marriage, divorce, new child or grandchild, or change in employment – please call our office to
schedule an appointment to review what bigger actions may be needed to adjust your investment and
* The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of
the stock market in general. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted index of 30 actively traded blue-
chip stocks. NASDAQ Composite Index is an unmanaged, market-weighted index of all over-the-counter common
stocks traded on the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation System. The Morgan
Stanley Capital International Europe, Australia and Far East Index (MSCI EAFE Index) is a widely recognized
benchmark of non-U.S. stock markets. It is an unmanaged index composed of a sample of companies
representative of the market structure of 20 European and Pacific Basin countries and includes reinvestment of all
dividends. Written by Securities America. SAI# 291193
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