Weekly Stock Market Commentary 11 23 2009

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Stock Market Commentary
For the week of November 23, 2009

The Market
The markets ended the week with mixed results as investors tried to reconcile indications of economic recovery against continued high unemployment rate. Investors responded with a move to more defensive stocks as evidenced by the weekly increase in the Dow Jones. The approaching year end caused some investors, including hedge funds, to lock in profits from the recent rally, according to analysts interviewed by Reuters. For the week, the Dow ended up 0.63 percent to close at 10,318.16. The S&P dropped 0.13 percent to finish the week at 1,091.38, while the NASDAQ fell 1.01 percent to end the week at 2,146.04.

Weekly Stock Market Commentary 11 23 2009
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.

The Return of the 401(k) Match – A study by Fidelity Investments of its workplace retirement plans found that of the 8 percent of companies that reduced or suspended matching 401(k) contributions earlier this year, 27 percent have reinstated their match or intend to in 2010. Fidelity’s research indicates employer matches impact the amount that employees defer. At companies that suspended their match, 11 percent of employees decreased their contribution rate, double the number of employees who reduced their contributions when the match remained the same. (Source: Fidelity Investments, CNN Money)

Overpaid – The Treasury Department estimated last week that more than 15 million taxpayers will have to repay a portion of their Making Work Pay tax credit. The credit came in the form of small paycheck increases due to new IRS withholding tables. The credits were supposed to be up to $400 for individuals and $800 for couples, but the withholding tables do not account for people with multiple jobs, couples with multiple incomes or Social Security recipients who work. In addition, the $250 payments to more than 50 million Social Security recipients included those who had already received the Making Work Pay credit. (Source: Treasury Department, USA Today)

Rising College Debt – The U.S. Department of Education released a report earlier this month showing that federal student-loan disbursements during the 2008-2009 academic year increased by 25 percent over the previous year to $75 billion. Increases in previous years had ranged from 1.7 percent in 1998-1999 to nearly 17 percent in 1994-1995. Two-thirds of today’s college students require loans to pay for college, racking up an average of $23,186 in debt by the time they graduate. (Source: Department of Education, MSN Money)

WEEKLY FOCUS – The Importance of Your 401(k)

We have long stressed the importance of a 401(k) or other defined contribution plan to an individual’s overall retirement plan. A 2008 study from Hewitt Associates, a global human resources company, emphasized just how important 401(k) accounts will be for future retirees.

The study also raised the bar for how much a person needs at the time he retires so as not to outlive his money. Due to greater longevity and rising health care costs, Hewitt estimated that retirees need 126 percent of their salary at retirement to cover their expenses – although the real amount will vary based on age, income and savings rates. Still, the study seems to contradict the common wisdom that says Americans will require less income in retirement than they do during working years.

Using actual data and behaviors of nearly 2 million employees at 72 large U.S. companies, the study found that fewer than one in five Americans will meet their total estimated needs in retirement. Taking advantage of employee 401(k) plans throughout their career, however, increases those odds dramatically. According to the research, “employees who contribute to a 401(k) plan can expect to replace 96 percent of their preretirement income. Those who do not save can expect to replace only 54 percent of preretirement income, with a heavy reliance on Social Security.”

We hope you are already contributing to your employer’s 401(k) plan. We also hope you will spread the word to your children and grandchildren who may be starting their first jobs where they have access to a 401(k). We can help you or a family member build a full retirement plan that takes into consideration your employer-based accounts as well as other sources, and we can help handle the 401k rollover option of your plan account when you retire. Call us if you would like to review or create a plan for yourself or a family member.

* 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# 301660