Stock Market Commentary
For the week of August 4, 2008
The U.S. stock market faced a bumpy end to the week as news of General Motors large quarterly loss and a rise in oil prices sent stocks falling on Friday. For the week, the Dow was down 0.37 percent to end at 11,326.32. The NASDAQ remained flat up only 0.02 percent to close the week at 2,310.96, while the S&P finished up 0.24 percent, ending the week at 1,260.31.
Unclaimed Money – The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported last week that more than 5 million Americans have not claimed their share of the $170 billion in economic stimulus funds. The federal government automatically sent checks in late May, June and July to taxpayers who had filed a 2007 return. Those who have not filed a return or requested a stimulus check have until Oct. 15, 2008, to claim their payments.
Up For Now – The Social Security trust funds had $179 billion more of taxes paid into the fund than expenditures it paid out (in the form of benefit payments) during calendar year 2007 (Source: Social Security Administration, BTN Research).
Add And Subtract – There were 4.3 million births of American babies during calendar year 2007. There were 2.4 million deaths of American citizens last year (Source: Center for Disease Control, BTN Research).
Putting More Away – One out of every six American workers (16 percent) has increased his/her regular retirement savings amount as a result of the slowdown in the U.S. economy (Source: Bankrate, BusinessWeek, BTN Research).
Outdated – Even though 78 percent of business owners have an estate plan in place, 89 percent of this group have failed to update their document due to a marriage, divorce, birth or a death (Source: Bank of America, BTN Research).
WEEKLY FOCUS – Anti-Scam Tips for Surviving Spouses
Newspaper obituaries provide a service in notifying a large number of people in a short period of time about the death of a community member. Unfortunately, they also provide a list of potential victims to scam artists and thieves looking for emotionally vulnerable and, during memorial services, physically absent targets. A few simple guidelines can help you or your loved one avoid most of the common scams.
The most immediate vulnerability will be an empty house. Through an obituary, a thief can ascertain when the family will be away, and with friends and relatives coming and going, neighbors may assume the person going in while the family is gone has permission to do so. Ask a friend or neighbor to house sit – not just watch from next door – during visitations and services. (This rule also works well for weddings and anniversary parties that have been announced in the newspaper.)
Treat anything from an unknown party with suspicion. Invoices, calls regarding orders for products or services, investment opportunities and claims for money owed can all be scams looking to part distracted grieving survivors with their money. Pay those bills you know to be legitimate – mortgage, utilities, credit cards, car payments. Set everything else aside. If you don’t have caller ID on your phone, consider getting it so you know before you answer who is on the line. And remember that companies that pressure you to make decisions or send money during a difficult time probably don’t have good reasons for doing so.
Consider a checks-and-balances approach to decision making, especially regarding finances. Ask a family member, friend or trusted advisor such as an accountant, attorney or financial professional to review invoices and other claims before you send money. You will still have control of your money, and you’ll have a second opinion from someone you trust.
Surviving spouses generally fall into two groups – those who believe they have plenty of money and those afraid they don’t have enough. We can work with attorneys and accountants to help review the surviving spouse’s finances, including any lump sum payments from credit life insurance or a individual 401k. Please contact our office if you or a loved one needs financial assistance during your bereavement.
* 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. WMCSAI# 284589