Stock Market Commentary
For the week of November 16, 2009
Although the Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index fell for the second straight month, earnings reports from Walt Disney Co., Abercrombie & Fitch and JC Penney Co. Inc. signaled hope for the retail sector as the 2009 holiday season begins. That optimism gave the markets their second consecutive week of gains, even as the Commerce Department reported the trade deficit had reached its highest level since January, driven by higher oil prices. For the week, the Dow ended up 2.53 percent to close at 10,270.47. The S&P rose 2.33 percent to finish the week at 1,093.48, while the NASDAQ climbed 2.62 percent to end the week at 2,167.88
College Costs – Tuition and fees for one year of college at an average four-year public university (in-state tuition and fees) is $7,020 for the current 2009-10 school year. That amount is almost equal to the cost of tuition and fees for one year of college at an average four-year private university ($7,048) during the 1987-88 school year or 22 years ago. The figures do not include the cost of room and board (Source: College Board, BTN Research).
Tax Stats – In 1980, the top 1 percent of U.S. taxpayers earned at least $81,000 in adjusted gross income (AGI), accounted for 8 percent of all AGI nationwide and paid 19 percent of all federal income tax. In 2007 (the most recent year for which data is available), the top 1 percent of U.S. taxpayers earned at least $410,000 in AGI, accounted for 23 percent of all AGI nationwide and paid 40 percent of all federal income tax (Source: Internal Revenue Service, BTN Research).
Better Late Than Never – A survey of 343 U.S. executives conducted by Deloitte found that although only 32 percent believe the stimulus plan has effected the economy so far, nearly half (49 percent) think it will have an impact in 2010.
Good Intentions – Although in a recent Prudential Financial survey investors age 45 to 75 with at least $100,000 in retirement savings said they had lost more than a third of their assets in 2008, about two-thirds are confident they can grow back the lost savings within five years through their employer retirement plan. A survey by Wells Fargo & Company, however, found that only 23 percent of pre-retirees (ages 50 to 59) are savings more for retirement this year than they did last year; 57 percent are saving the same amount; and 20 percent have reduced their savings rates.
WEEKLY FOCUS – Medicare Part D Annual Open Enrollment
A couple, both age 65, retiring today will spend, according to Fidelity Investments’ 2009 survey, approximately $240,000 on health care during their retirement years – and that doesn’t include any assisted living or nursing care. That cost has risen 50 percent since 2002. Making the most of your health expense resources during retirement can make a significant difference in how long your retirement savings will last.
The annual open enrollment period for 2010 Medicare Part D began Nov. 15 and will extend until Dec. 31. During that time, Medicare benefit recipients can add,drop or change their prescription drug coverage (Part D). According to Medicare Today, anyone eligible for Medicare Part A (whether actually enrolled or not), or who is currently enrolled in Medicare Part B, may join Medicare Part D to get help paying prescription drug costs. Your eligibility is not dependent on your income, health status or current prescription expenses. Although enrollment in Medicare Part D is voluntary, if a beneficiary does not sign up when first eligible and decides to enroll later, there may be a penalty fee.
Medicare Part D participants can choose between joining a Medicare prescription drug plan (PDP) through a Medicare-approved private company or joining a Medicare Health Plan, such as Medicare Advantage, that includes prescription drug coverage. According to www.Medicare.gov, you typically pay less for prescriptions with a PDP. While Medicare Health Plans tend to have higher premiums, they may offer more benefits, such as vision, hearing, dental and wellness programs as well as prescription drug coverage.
If you are already enrolled in Part D, you can switch your plan during the enrollment period. For those using a PDP, changing plans has no impact on the doctors you see. With a Health Plan, however, you may be limited to the doctors within the particular plan’s group. That hurdle often discourages participants from changing plans, but if premium costs are a concern, participants would do well to investigate their options.
The Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder can help you determine if you would benefit from switching plans. You will find this tool and many others at www.Medicare.gov. If you have questions or need additional help in determining how health care costs may impact your retirement, please call our office. We’re here to help!
* 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. Barclays Capital Aggregate Bond Index is an unmanaged index comprised of U.S. investment grade, fixed rate bond market securities, including government, government agency, corporate and mortgage-backed securities between one and 10 years. Written by Securities America. SAI# 301491