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How can I safely shop online this holiday season?

Shopping online is especially popular during the holiday season, when many people prefer to avoid the crowds and purchase gifts with a few clicks of a mouse. However, with this convenience comes the danger of having your personal and financial information stolen by computer hackers. Before you click, you might consider the following tips for a safer online shopping experience. Pay by credit instead of debit. Credit card payments can be withheld if there is a dispute, but debit…

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How can I protect my personal and financial information from credit fraud and identity theft?

In today’s digital world, massive computer hacks and data breaches are common occurrences. And chances are, your personal or financial¬† information is now susceptible to being used for credit fraud or identity theft. If you discover that you are the victim of either of these crimes, you should consider placing a credit freeze or fraud alert on your credit report to protect yourself. A credit freeze prevents new credit and accounts from being opened in your name. Once you…

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The Tech Sector Could Be Dominating Your Portfolio

The biggest names in technology powered stock market gains and bouts of volatility in 2017, and the trend continued into 2018. The S&P Information Technology sector index posted a 13.19% total return from January through July 2018, compared with 6.47% for the broader S&P 500 index.1 Wall Street analysts and the business media often refer to well-known technology companies Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (now officially Alphabet) collectively with the acronym FAANG. Others use FAAMG, which substitutes Microsoft…

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Are my student loans eligible for public service loan forgiveness?

If you are employed by a government or not-for-profit organization, you may be able to receive loan forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness¬†(PSLF) Program. The PSLF, which began in 2007, forgives the remaining balance on federal Direct Loans after you have made 120 monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Qualifying employers for PSLF include: government organizations (e.g., federal, state, local), not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501C(3) of the…

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Should I consider requesting a deferment or forbearance for my federal student loans?

Did you take on a large amount of debt to pay for college, and are you struggling to pay it off? If so, you are not alone. According to the Federal Reserve, 20% of individuals with outstanding student loans were behind on their payments in 2017.1 You may want to consider requesting a deferment or forbearance if you are having difficulty keeping up with your federal student loan payments. Provided certain eligibility requirements are met, both a deferment and…

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Reviewing Your Estate Plan

An estate plan is a map that explains how you want your personal and financial affairs to be handled in the event of your incapacity or death. Due to its importance and because circumstances change over time, you should periodically review your estate plan and update it as needed. When should you review your estate plan? Reviewing your estate plan will alert you to any changes that need to be addressed. For example, you may need to make changes…

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Hybrid Funds: Balanced, Lifestyle, or Target?

Holding a mix of stocks and bonds is fundamental to building a portfolio that can pursue growth while potentially remaining more stable than a stock-only portfolio during market downturns. Many investors approach this goal by owning a mix of individual securities, a mix of funds, or both. However, some hybrid funds try to follow the same strategy in a single investment. Although the goal of these funds is simplicity, they are not as simple as they may appear, and…

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What Happened to Your Money?

If you don’t know what happened to your money during the past year, it’s time to find out. December and January are the perfect months to look back at what you earned, saved, and spent, as W-2s, account statements, and other year-end financial summaries roll in. How much have you saved? If you resolved last year to save more or you set a specific financial goal (for example, saving 15% of your income for retirement), did you accomplish your…

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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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