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What is gross domestic product, and why is it important to investors?

GDP, or gross domestic product, measures the value of goods and services produced by a nation’s economy less the value of goods and services used in production. In essence, GDP is a broad measure of the nation’s overall economic activity and serves as a gauge of the country’s economic health. Countries with the largest GDP are the United States, China, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom. GDP generally provides economic information on a quarterly basis and is calculated for…

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What is the employment situation report important to investors?

Each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes the Employment Situation Summary report based on information from the prior month. The data for the report is derived primarily from two sources: a survey of approximately 60,000 households, or about 110,000 individuals (household survey), and an establishment survey of over 651,000 worksites. Results from each survey provide information about the labor sector, including the: Total number of employed and unemployed people Unemployment rate (the percentage of the labor force that…

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Marriage and Money: Taking a Team Approach to Retirement

Now that it’s fairly common for families to have two wage earners, many husbands and wives are accumulating assets in separate employer-sponsored retirement accounts. In 2018, the maximum employee contribution to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan is $18,500 ($24,500 for those age 50 and older), and employers often match contributions up to a set percentage of salary. But even when most of a married couple’s retirement assets reside in different accounts, it’s still possible to craft a unified retirement…

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Investing to Save Time Boosts Happiness Returns

The more money you make, the more valuable you perceive your time to be — and the more time-strapped you may feel, according to University of British Columbia psychology professor Elizabeth Dunn.1 So wouldn’t it stand to reason that if you use some of your hard-earned money to buy yourself more time — for example, by paying someone to clean your house or mow your lawn — you might achieve a greater level of happiness? Indeed, that was the…

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Mid-Year Planning: Tax Changes to Factor In

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed in December of last year, fundamentally changes the federal tax landscape for both individuals and businesses. Many of the provisions in the legislation are permanent, others (including most of the tax cuts that apply to individuals) expire at the end of 2025. Here are some of the  significant changes you should factor in to any mid-year tax planning. You should also consider reviewing your situation with a tax professional. New lower marginal…

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What are some strategies for paying off credit card debt?

Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to get caught up in the cycle of credit card debt. In fact, it’s become a growing problem for many Americans. According to the Federal Reserve, total U.S. credit card payments reached 111.1 billion in 2016, up 7.4% from 2015.1 If you find that you are struggling to pay down a credit card debt balance, here are some strategies that can help eliminate your credit card debt altogether: Pay off cards with the highest…

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What are some tips for creating a budget and sticking to it?

It’s a common problem for many individuals — wondering exactly where your paycheck goes each month. After paying expenses, such as your mortgage, utilities, and credit card bills, you may find little left to put toward anything else. Creating a budget is the first key to successfully manage your finances. Knowing exactly how you are spending your money each month can set you on a more clear path to pursue your financial goals. If you become sidetracked when it…

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Government Report Details Household Finances

Every three years, the Federal Reserve sponsors the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), which collects information on the financial state of U.S. households. The survey is one of the nation’s primary sources of information on the financial condition of different types of households. Here are a few interesting observations gleaned from the most recent surveys conducted in 2013 and 2016, with the latter comparing changes during that timeframe. Income The typical household’s median family income rose 10% between 2013…

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Will a government pension reduce my Social Security benefits?

If you earned a government pension from a job not subject to Social Security tax withholding (“noncovered employment”) and are also eligible for Social Security benefits through a job where Social Security taxes were withheld, two provisions might reduce your benefits: the windfall elimination provision (WEP) and the government pension offset (GPO). The WEP affects how a worker’s Social Security benefit is calculated. If you’re subject to the WEP, your benefit is calculated using a modified formula, possibly resulting…

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How does working affect Social Security retirement benefits?

If you’re thinking about working as long as possible to increase your retirement savings, you may be wondering whether you can receive Social Security retirement benefits while you’re still employed. The answer is yes. But depending on your age, earnings from work may affect the amount of your Social Security benefit. If you’re younger than full retirement age and make more than the annual earnings limit ($17,040 in 2018), part of your benefits will be withheld, reducing the amount…

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