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Can the federal funds rate affect the economy?

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the policymaking branch of the Federal Reserve. One of its primary responsibilities is setting the federal funds target rate. The FOMC meets eight time per year, after which it announces any changes to the target rate. The Federal Reserve (the Fed), through the FOMC, uses the federal funds rate as a means to influence economic growth. If interest rates are low, the presumption is that consumers can borrow more and, consequently, spend…

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What is the federal funds rate?

The federal funds rate is the interest rate at which banks lend funds to each other from their deposits at the Federal Reserve (the Fed), usually overnight, in order to meet federally mandated reserve requirements. Basically, if a bank is unable to meet its reserve requirements at the end of the day, it borrows money from a bank with extra reserves. The federal funds rate is what banks charge each other for overnight loans. This rate is referred to…

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Building Confidence in Your Strategy for Retirement

Each year, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) conducts its Retirement Confidence Survey to assess both worker and retiree confidence in financial aspects of retirement. In 2018, as in years past, retirees expressed a higher level of confidence than today’s workers (perhaps because “retirement” is less of an abstract concept to those actually living it). However, worker confidence seems to be on the rise, while retiree confidence is on the decline. A deeper dive into the research reveals lessons…

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Tax Benefits of Homeownership After Tax Reform

Buying a home can be a major expenditure. Fortunately, federal tax benefits are still available, even after recent tax reform legislation, to help make homeownership more affordable. There may also be tax benefits under state law. Mortgage interest deduction One of the most important tax benefits of owning a home is that you may be able to deduct the mortgage interest you pay. If you itemize deductions on your federal income tax return, you can deduct the interest on…

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What are the new rules for 401(k) hardship withdrawals?

The Bipartisan Budget Act passed in early 2018 relaxed some of the rules governing hardship withdrawals from 401(k)s and similar plans. Not all plans offer hardship withdrawals, but the ones that do will be required to comply for plan years beginning in 2019. In order to take a hardship withdrawal from a 401(k) or similar plan, a plan participant must demonstrate an “immediate and heavy financial need,” as defined by the IRS. (For details, visit the IRS website and…

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Have You Made Any of These Financial Mistakes?

As people move through different stages of life, there are few financial opportunities — and potential pitfalls — around every corner. Have you made any of these mistakes? Your 50s and 60s Raiding your home equity or retirement funds. It goes without saying that doing so will prolong your debt and/or reduce your nest egg. Not quantifying your expected retirement income. As you near retirement, you should know how much money you (and your spouse, if applicable) can expect from…

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Should I enroll in a health savings account?

A health savings account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged account that you can establish and contribute to if you are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). Because you shoulder a greater portion of your health-care costs, you’ll usually pay a much lower premium for an HDHP than you would pay for traditional health insurance. This allows you to contribute the premium dollars you’re saving to your HSA. Then, when you need medical care, you can withdraw HSA funds to…

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Take Charge of Your Student Debt Repayment Plan

Outstanding student loan debt in the United States has tripled over the last decade, surpassing both auto and credit card debt to take second place behind housing debt as the most common type of household debt.1 Today, more than 44 million Americans collectively owe more than $1.4 trillion in student debt.2 Here are some strategies to pay it off. Look to your employer for help The first place to look for help is your employer. While only about 4%…

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What to Do If Your Term Life Insurance Policy Is About to Expire

One advantage of term life insurance is that it is generally the most cost-effective way to achieve the maximum life insurance protection you can afford. Many people first purchase term life insurance to protect their family’s financial interests after a significant life event, such as getting married or the birth of a child. You may have done the same for your family when you purchased your policy years ago. And chances are, other than paying the premiums, you probably…

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What’s so great about a college net price calculator?

If you’re saving for a child’s college education, at some point you’ll want to familiarize yourself with a college net price calculator, which is an invaluable tool for estimating financial aid and measuring a college’s affordability. Available on every college website, a net price calculator gives families an estimate of how much grant aid a student might expect at a particular college based on his or her personal financial and academic profile and the college’s specific criteria for awarding…

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