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What Is The Value of a CEO Pledge?

As it turns out, the value of the 2019 pledge signed by 181 U.S. corporate CEOs was a fairly good deal for themselves and their shareholders … although less so for the other stakeholders it was designed to represent.

In the past, private companies thought little of the injustice of layoffs and reducing compensation packages for employees when the goal was to deliver greater value to shareholders. After all, workers could be replaced — but shareholders held the company purse strings. Efforts to increase dividend payouts as well as fighting labor demands and environmental regulations were considered justified to serve the greater good — which referred to stockholders.

This shareholder-driven business philosophy harkens back to the writings of economist Milton Friedman. In 1970, he wrote a treatise for The New York Times proclaiming that the primary social responsibility of a business was to increase its profits. Beyond that dictate, all other goals should be secondary.1

While growing share price is important, investors have other factors they must consider. It’s critical to pair the potential for investment growth with your tolerance for market risk and timeline. Don’t ever lose sight of what you want your money to accomplish beyond simply accumulation. If you would like guidance on investments and potential market risks, we are here to help.

In recent years, the tide has begun to turn regarding that singular business vision. The 2019 CEO

Business Roundtable pledged to not emphasize shareholder value so much if it would harm other stakeholders,particularlycustomers, employees and distributors.2 They also pledged a commitment to investing in employees, delivering value to customers, dealing ethically with suppliers and supporting local communities.

Signatories included J.P. Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan, Boeing’s Dennis A. Muilenburg and GM’s Mary Barra.3 It is worth noting that signing the pledge was mostly an independent action by these CEOs, and wasn’t always approved by their company boards.4

This initiative was indicative of the changing times. The presidential administration was entirely focused on supporting an “America First” platform, so the private sector felt compelled to support social and economic issues that affected the general public.

Many of the CEOs subsequently did reduce shareholder payouts, but in some cases, they redirected that cash to shield their companies from the financial effects of the pandemic. However, perhaps even more interesting is that a Reuters analysis of data compiled by Refinitiv found that most of those signatory companies paid out higher median net income to shareholders than S&P 500 firms that did not sign the pledge.5

Further analysis by Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania revealed that, among those signatories, companies that paid out the largest share of profits to investors were also more likely to announce layoffs and furloughs during the pandemic.6

Alas, the lesson is that shareholder priority and CEO compensation are still deeply baked into corporate America’s governance. While more companies have developed plans to support social initiatives, priorities are still driven by profits and an average of 91% of CEO compensation continues to be linked to company financial performance.7

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Milton Friedman. The New York Times. Sep. 13, 1970. “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits.” https://www.nytimes.com/1970/09/13/archives/a-friedman-doctrine-the-social-responsibility-of-business-is-to.html. Accessed Feb. 8, 2021.

2 Business Roundtable. Aug. 19, 2019. “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation.” https://s3.amazonaws.com/brt.org/BRT-StatementonthePurposeofaCorporationOctober2020.pdf. Accessed Feb. 8, 2021.

3 Maggie Fitzgerald. CNBC. Aug. 19, 2019. “The CEOs of nearly 200 companies just said shareholder value is no longer their main objective.” https://www.cnbc.com/2019/08/19/the-ceos-of-nearly-two-hundred-companies-say-shareholder-value-is-no-longer-their-main-objective.html. Accessed Feb. 8, 2021.

4 Jessica DiNapoli, Ross Kerber and Noel Randewich. Reuters. Jan. 25, 2021. “Investor payouts and job cuts jar with U.S. companies’ social pledge.” https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-businessroundtable-wo/insight-investor-payouts-and-job-cuts-jar-with-u-s-companies-social-pledge-idINL1N2JU217. Accessed Feb. 8, 2021.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Michael Hiltzik. yahoo!finance. Aug. 19, 2020. “Last year CEOs pledged to serve stakeholders, not shareholders. You were right not to buy it.” https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/column-ago-ceos-pledged-serve-130028409.html. Accessed Feb. 8, 2021.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Pandemic Highlights the Difference Between Economics and Finance

One of the more glaring lessons of the 2020 pandemic was that the economy and the stock market are not the same thing, nor do they necessarily move in lockstep. They are measurements of two different things, often indicating how the other will react. However, as we saw last year, the economy is a greater indicator of how Main Street is doing while the stock market is more a reflection of Wall Street.

The day-to-day performance of major stock indices, such as the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average, is not usually an accurate account of what’s happening in the lives of most Americans.1

As a general rule, economics is more of a social science. It conveys a picture that captures the interplay between real resources and human behavior. Finance, on the other hand, is a proactive measure. Its focus is on the tools and techniques of managing money.

We hear these two terms used interchangeably all the time, though, and that’s because they often do move in the same direction. That’s not what happened last year. While millions of Americans lost jobs and other sources of earned income, after an initial drop in the stock market, many investors saw their portfolios make ample gains. This was a good demonstration of how your money in the market could be working as another source of income. It’s another way of diversifying your assets, so that your investments can keeping earning money even if you can’t. Remember, we’re here to help you put your assets to work, so call on us if you need guidance.

Economics covers the production, consumption and distribution of goods and services and how people interact with them — through buying, selling, or working to buy or sell them — and how they react to price changes driven by supply, demand and inflation. It is, after all, people who drive economic activity and ultimately growth. There are two main branches of economics: macroeconomics and microeconomics.2

Macroeconomics measures the overall economy through factors such as inflation, price levels, rate of economic growth, national income, gross domestic product (GDP) and changes in employment levels.3 Microeconomics tracks specific factors within the economy, largely the choices made by people, households and industries. It is a study of the incentives behind those decisions and how they affect the use and distribution of resources.4

Finance, on the other hand, deals specifically with the use and distribution of money. As a discipline, it comprises three basic categories: public finance, corporate finance and personal finance. Within those realms, we often talk about the difference between Main Street and Wall Street. Main Street describes the average American investor as well as small independent businesses, while Wall Street consists of high net worth investors, large global corporations and the high finance capital markets.

There are inevitable conflicts between these two sectors. For example, government regulations frequently are designed to protect individual investors and/or small businesses, but they can pose a detriment to Wall Street profitability. The opposite can also be true, where benefits for large corporations can hurt small businesses, local jobs and small investors.5

Early on, the Federal Reserve and other central banks stepped up to infuse the economy with capital, thus stemming the tide of the economic decline. While these moves helped bolster the stock market, they did not prevent the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs or stimulate consumerism. In other words, policy and even legislative intervention may have helped Wall Street, but it didn’t do that much to encourage economic growth or job creation.6

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Clark Merrefield. Journalist Resource. Jan. 11, 2021. “The stock market is not the economy. Right? Here’s what the research says.” https://journalistsresource.org/studies/economics/stock-market-not-economy/. Accessed Feb. 4, 2021.

2 Stephen D. Simpson. Investopedia. Nov. 2, 2020. “Finance vs. Economics: What’s the Difference?” https://www.investopedia.com/articles/economics/11/difference-between-finance-and-economics.asp. Accessed Feb. 4, 2021.

3 Investopedia. Dec. 29, 2020. “Macroeconomics.” https://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/macroeconomics.asp. Accessed Feb. 4, 2021.

4 Investopedia. Nov. 2, 2020. “Microeconomics.” https://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/microeconomics.asp. Accessed Feb. 4, 2021.

5 Corporate Finance Institute. 2021. “What is Main Street vs Wall Street?” https://corporatefinanceinstitute.com/resources/knowledge/finance/main-street-vs-wall-street/. Accessed Feb. 4, 2021.

6 Shyam Sunder. Yale Insights. June 17, 2020. “Liquidity Injections May Have Driven the Stock Market Recovery.” https://insights.som.yale.edu/insights/liquidity-injections-may-have-driven-the-stock-market-recovery#gref. Accessed Feb. 15, 2021.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Vaccines and the Stock Market

If there’s one thing that can move the economy and stock market forward, it’s hope. This year, that hope is being presented in the form of COVID-19 vaccines. Economists and Wall Street analysts have long proclaimed that comprehensive economic recovery is not possible until we have contained the virus. The prospect of wide distribution of effective vaccines and herd immunity by the end of the year has put recovery in our crosshairs.1

What does this mean for investors? Review your investment portfolio and get your financial house in order. If we are due for improvement, it could be beneficial to get into the market when prices are low, rebalance often and take advantage of market dips for additional investment opportunities. As always, we are here to help guide on the best way to meet your financial goals.

This hopeful sentiment was echoed by CNBC’s ever-enthusiastic “Mad Money” host, Jim Cramer. He recently proclaimed that the U.S. stock market will be poised for even greater heights if President Biden is successful in forging a plan to quickly and widely distribute the COVID vaccinations.2

Phil Orlando, Federated Hermes’ chief equity market strategist and one of Wall Street’s bullish market analysts, advocates a combination of vaccine rollout and additional fiscal stimulus. He believes one of the surefire ways to boost economic growth is to help lower-skilled unemployed people find work. He predicted that by July 4, the U.S. will be coronavirus-free, setting the stage for a “monster market year.”3

Unfortunately, European stocks continue to struggle despite market exuberance in the U.S. over a new presidential administration. Part of this concern may be that many EU countries have suffered setbacks due to subsequent and more virulent strains of the coronavirus. As before, the U.S. continues to lag on the worst of the effects of the virus as they occur.4 This foreshadowing makes it all the more important that vaccines get into as many arms as possible in the next few months.

Market sectors that have suffered terribly from calls for lockdowns and social distancing are likely to benefit the most from widespread distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. This includes the aviation and hospitality sectors, as well as the office and retail property market in Europe and the U.S. Of course, the opposite could be true: Pandemic beneficiaries could see a loss in revenues once people get out and about — for example, Amazon, Netflix and Zoom Video.5

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Robin Wigglesworth. Financial Times. Dec. 2, 2020. “The ‘everything rally’: vaccines prompt wave of market exuberance.” https://www.ft.com/content/d785632d-d9a0-45ae-ae57-7b98bb2fb8d6. Accessed Jan. 25, 2021.

2 Kevin Stankiewicz. CNBC. Jan. 20, 2021. “Jim Cramer says the stock market could ‘explode’ if Biden improves Covid vaccine rollout.” https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/20/jim-cramer-stocks-could-explode-if-biden-improves-covid-vaccine-rollout.html?recirc=taboolainternal. Accessed Jan. 25, 2021.

3 Stephanie Landsman. CNBC. Jan. 20, 2021. “Covid-19 vaccines will end pandemic in U.S. by early summer, Federated Hermes’ chief equity market strategist predicts.” https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/20/covid-19-vaccines-will-end-pandemic-in-us-by-early-summer-federated.html. Accessed Jan. 25, 2021.

4 Jim Armitage. Evening Standard. Jan. 25, 2021. “FTSE 100 rises slightly as investors balance surging Wall Street with Covid worries.” https://www.standard.co.uk/business/ftse-100-rises-covid-joe-biden-quarantine-b900967.html. Accessed Jan. 25, 2021.

5 Sumathi Bala. CNBC. Nov. 23, 2020. “Hopes for a coronavirus vaccine are creating market winners – and losers.” https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/23/investing-coronavirus-vaccine-creates-market-winners-and-losers-.html. Accessed Jan. 25, 2021.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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When To “Buy Low”

The beginning of the year is typically full of hope. We make New Year’s resolutions, and it may take a few months for our enthusiasm (and vigilance) to wane. There’s also the “January Effect,” when the stock market generally gets a performance boost thanks to tax harvesting in December and subsequent reinvestments. But even that phenomenon tends to fade.1

When it comes to investing in the stock market, we recommend a strategic approach. First, you want to consider your big picture — which includes how you ultimately want to use accumulated assets (e.g., college tuition, retirement) and when you’ll need them. You also want to make sure you don’t take on too much risk, so that requires a strategic asset allocation across a diverse group of investments. Finally, one of the basic tenets of stock investing is to buy low and sell high. We can help you with all of these tactics.

We expect 2021 to be an interesting year. Assuming wide distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and successful containment of the virus, the economy should get back on track. But as we saw in 2020, even the coronavirus didn’t have a long-term impact on the stock market.

With that said, Merrill Lynch sees a broad market uptrend in 2021. In equities, the money manager sees upside in cyclical sectors (e.g., financials, materials, industrials), U.S. small-cap value stocks and emerging markets — which are supported by the continued downtrend in the U.S. dollar.2 Bear in mind that while some of these investments pose higher risk, they also follow the tenet of buying low and selling high. The key is to find stocks that are currently selling at low prices but have the potential to rise given (1) the current economic environment, (2) market trends and (3) individual company fundamentals.

Buying low and selling high involves monitoring and due diligence, but it’s not quite the same as market timing. In fact, the best time for some to engage in a buy-sell strategy is during periodic portfolio rebalancing. Rebalancing is important because if one asset class outperforms others, your portfolio allocation may drift out of range from what’s appropriate for your risk tolerance. By selling off “winners” and reinvesting those gains, not only do you rebalance to your original strategy, but you have ready cash to “buy low” and reposition your money for further growth.3

When rebalancing, if prices seem too high to reinvest, don’t be hesitant to hold cash for a short time. Investment legend Warren Buffett maintained a highly liquid allocation over the past year, but he did so in preparation to pounce on good buying opportunities when they surfaced.4

On the other hand, there are times when buying low may not be advisable. For example, airline stocks continue to struggle despite congressional relief. Industry experts predict that revenues are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels for several years.5

Note that stocks tend to rise on positive news, especially if that news shows some promise of economic growth. A good example of this is when, on Jan. 19, Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen advised Congress to “act big” with regard to increased coronavirus stimulus relief. Following her remarks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rebounded from a recent losing streak and both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq made significant gains.6

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Eric Reed. The Street. Jan. 17, 2021. “January Effect: What Is It and Why Does It Occur?” https://www.thestreet.com/investing/what-is-the-january-effect. Accessed Jan. 20, 2021.

2 Merrill Lynch. January 2021. “Weak Periods May Be Buying Opportunities.” https://olui2.fs.ml.com/Publish/Content/application/pdf/GWMOL/Viewpoint_January_2021_Merrill.pdf. Accessed Jan. 20, 2021.

3 Sachin Nagarajan. Morningstar. Jan. 15, 2021. “A Responsible Version of Market-Timing.” https://www.morningstar.com/articles/1017362/a-responsible-version-of-market-timing. Accessed Jan. 20, 2021.

4 Theron Mohamed. Business Insider. Jan. 18, 2021. “Warren Buffett advised NFL linesman Ndamukong Suh to be ready to buy when bargains appear.” https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/warren-buffett-advises-ndamukong-suh-be-ready-buy-bargains-2021-1-1029977459. Accessed Jan. 20, 2021.

5 Alan Farley. Investopedia. Dec. 22, 2020. “Wrong Time to Buy Airline Stocks.” https://www.investopedia.com/wrong-time-to-buy-airline-stocks-5093391. Accessed Jan. 20, 2021.

6 Joseph Woelfel. The Street. Jan. 19, 2021. “Stocks End Higher as Yellen Tells Congress to ‘Act Big’ on Stimulus.” https://www.thestreet.com/markets/stock-market-dow-jones-industrial-average-banks-yellen-011921. Accessed Jan. 20, 2021.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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The Pros and Cons of Corporate America’s Remote Work Trend

Post-pandemic, will everyone go back to the office like nothing ever happened? Will lost jobs be recovered? Or is remote work and skeleton staffing a trend here to stay?

A recent survey of company leaders revealed that eight in 10 plan to allow employees to work outside the office at least part time going forward. Nearly half (47%) say they’re going to permit employees to work from home full time. In a separate confirmation of this trend, 78% of CEOs agree that remote collaboration is here to stay.1

However, pre-COVID-19, many industries and companies had been reluctant to change to remote staffing models, citing challenges in managing a remote workforce, among other concerns.2 Certainly, there are pros and cons to allowing full-time personnel to work from home. However, it seems it took a pandemic to catapult this phenomenon into a feasible platform.

So here we are. As inconvenient as working from home may be for some, work seems to be getting done. What does this mean for shareholders of companies affected by a remote workforce? It all depends on which types of companies we’re talking about. On the one hand, the need for less office space, supplies and equipment offers cost-cutting measures that can improve profit margins. To wit, companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter have announced they will continue some version of a long-term or permanent work-from-home staffing model in the future.3

On the other hand, businesses that support the normal work-a-day office environment are experiencing a decline in revenues. We’re talking about downtown coffee shops, cafes, dry cleaners, shoe repair shops, gyms, food carts, florists and pharmacies. Some of the “mom-and-pop shops” may have already gone out of business. Commercial real estate has taken a hit. 4

Looking forward, it may be worth evaluating your investment portfolio to help ensure you have a diversified mix of companies that can profit from remote work staffing, or at least should not be significantly hurt by it. Remember that we are always available to conduct a portfolio review and advise you on ways to adjust to suit your circumstances.

An interesting twist to the remote work model is that it could be a boon for rural America. Small cities and towns have been hard-hit by automation and the offshoring of jobs, plus they tend to recover more slowly from economic downturns. The rising trend for remote workers offers a way to populate and infuse more wealth into rural areas of the country.5

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Emily Courtney. FlexJobs. Dec. 21, 2020. “Remote Work Statistics: Navigating the New Normal.” https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/remote-work-statistics/. Accessed Jan. 11, 2021.

2 Nigel Davies. Forbes. March 10, 2020. “This Is Why Employers Are Still Denying Your Remote Working Requests.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/nigeldavies/2020/03/10/this-is-why-employers-are-still-denying-your-remote-working-requests/?sh=1b5031e26bcd. Accessed Jan. 25, 2021.

3 Derek Thompson. The Atlantic. Aug 6, 2020. “The Workforce Is About to Change Dramatically.” https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/08/just-small-shift-remote-work-could-change-everything/614980/. Accessed Jan. 11, 2021.

4 Steve LeVine. Marker. Sept. 1, 2020. “Remote Work Is Killing the Hidden Trillion-Dollar Office Economy.” https://marker.medium.com/remote-work-is-killing-the-hidden-trillion-dollar-office-economy-5800af06b007. Accessed Jan. 11, 2021.

5 Alex Wittenberg. Bloomberg. July 23, 2020. “The Economics of Remote Work.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-23/the-effect-of-remote-work-on-america-s-economy. Accessed Jan. 11, 2021.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk, including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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How To Help Maximize Social Security Benefits

There are good reasons to delay starting Social Security benefits, but there are also good reasons to begin them early. It really does depend on your circumstances.

If you claim earlier than your full retirement age (FRA), your benefit will be permanently reduced. The age to qualify for the full Social Security benefit varies by birth date, not only for beneficiaries, but also for surviving spouses who rely on the primary earner’s benefit:1

  • For people born between 1943 and 1954, FRA is age 66.
  • For people born between 1955 and 1959, FRA ranges from 66 and 2 months to 66 and 10 months.
  • For people born in 1960 and later, FRA starts at 67.
  • For surviving spouses born between 1945 and 1956, FRA is age 66.
  • For surviving spouses born from 1957 to 1961, FRA ranges from 66 and 2 months to 66 and 10 months.
  • For surviving spouses born in 1962 and later, FRA is 67.

Why would you claim earlier than FRA if your benefit will be reduced? One reason to start them early is if you want to retire early and need Social Security benefits to help cover your expenses. Or, if you want your investments to have a longer time to grow, you may want to begin benefits so you don’t have to draw from your retirement accounts — at least not until you have to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) at age 72.2 Taxable brokerage accounts can continue growing without distributions.

However, delaying benefits can have some advantages as well. The main one is that if you wait until FRA, you’ll receive a higher monthly payout by avoiding the permanent reduction in benefits before what would have been your full retirement age. And if you delay beyond FRA, your permanent benefit allows collection credits ranging from 5.5% to 8% (depending on your birth year) up to age 70.3 This may be a good option if you continue working through your 60s and/or have plenty of retirement assets you can start tapping for income when you retire. Also, bear in mind that the longer you wait, the higher the benefit will be for a surviving spouse who will rely on your benefit. The same applies if you have children who would be eligible for benefits.

Obviously, deciding when to start drawing benefits can be a big decision — one that should be determined based on your personal factors, such as your age, income, ability/desire to work, your spouse’s income, your health, your assets, possibly whether or not your mortgage is paid and even the lifestyle you want to enjoy during retirement. We can help you evaluate your entire financial picture to help you make this decision. Feel free to contact one of our experienced advisors.

There are a few more things you should know about spousal benefits. For example, a spouse can receive 50% of the higher-earning spouse’s Social Security benefit or the benefit based on her own work history — whichever is higher. A spouse can apply for benefits based on the primary earner’s work history only after the primary has already claimed benefits. Be aware that spousal benefits are available only after the couple has been married for at least one year. When a couple divorces, the ex-spouse can apply for benefits if the marriage lasted 10 or more years and once they have been divorced for at least two years.4

Here are a few other tidbits:5

  • In 2021, the average Social Security beneficiary will collect [CM1] $1,543, according to the Social Security Administration.
  • In 2021, the maximum benefit anyone can receive is $3,895, which includes delayed retirement credits up to age 70.
  • For self-employed people who must pay both the individual and employer Social Security (FICA) tax, the maximum tax in 2021 is $17,707.20.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Liz Weston. The Los Angeles Times. Jan. 6, 2021. “For Social Security benefits, playing a waiting game really pays off.” https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2021-01-06/social-security-benefits-waiting-pays-off. Accessed Jan 6, 2021.

2 Christy Bieber. DailyJournal. Jan. 6, 2021. “3 Great Reasons to Take Social Security Benefits at 62.” https://dailyjournalonline.com/business/investment/personal-finance/3-great-reasons-to-take-social-security-benefits-at-62/article_2a84328d-4d06-5f4e-9a4d-37b3b7fd8c3c.html. Accessed Jan 6, 2021.

3 Justin Kuepper. Dividend.com. Dec. 11, 2020. “How to Make the Most of Your Social Security Benefits.” https://www.dividend.com/retirement-channel/making-the-most-of-your-social-security-benefits/. Accessed Jan 6, 2021.

4 Rachel Hartman. US News & World Report. March 11, 2020. “How to Maximize Social Security With Spousal Benefits.” https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/social-security/articles/how-to-maximize-social-security-with-spousal-benefits. Accessed Jan 6, 2021.

5 Maurie Backman. Mooresville Tribune. Jan. 6, 2021. “5 Essential Social Security Numbers You Need to Know in 2021.” https://mooresvilletribune.com/business/investment/personal-finance/5-essential-social-security-numbers-you-need-to-know-in-2021/article_3d757b8d-d266-537d-89d8-dbeaf3607108.html. Accessed Jan 6, 2021.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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 [CM1]Note: I changed this to “beneficiary will collect” because the way it was changed had it saying, “benefit will be collect …” and that doesn’t sound right.

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Global Recovery in a Post-Pandemic World

In 2020, the World Economic Forum published its annual Global Competitiveness Report, as usual. However, in light of the global pandemic, it put its long-standing Global Competitiveness Index rankings on hold. Instead, the report focused on priorities for recovery and revival instead of competition.1

Indeed, economic globalization over the past two decades, in many ways, seems to have made the world much smaller. The world seems to be more integrated, and some countries rely on each other for supply chain and production capabilities, geopolitical support and shared innovation and technologies.2

Moving past this latest pandemic, it would be beneficial to the world if countries worked together to ensure this virus, and others in the future, are more efficiently contained and do not impact the global economy in the manner in which COVID-19 has. The 2020 World Economic Forum report emphasized four main areas in need of transformation: the environment, human capital, financial markets and the innovation ecosystem.3

These four areas could apply to our own households as well. After all, some of us leaned on each other throughout the pandemic — neighbors shopping for neighbors, checking in on each other, making the extra effort to stay in touch with high-risk individuals to keep their spirits up. And while the country suffered through COVID, we simultaneously experienced the highest number of named storms on record, record levels of wildfires and the hottest day on record (129.9 F in Death Valley, California).4

Depending on circumstances, some people’s household finances have been transformed, leaving some with less income and others with more savings. We relied on and appreciated technology to keep us fed, clothed and connected with loved ones and colleagues. During this intervening time of recovery, we should not forget the lessons learned. Feel free to contact us if you are looking for ways to help protect your finances in the wake of future crises — whether global, national or household.

In other parts of the world, the new U.S. administration will likely foster a change in global relationships. The Biden presidency is expected to nurture relations with European countries and approach the China trade war with a more mutually beneficial exchange. Furthermore, as we return to more normal economic fundamentals in the new year, we could see a weaker U.S. dollar that may favor emerging markets in the short term.5

The day before Christmas, Great Britain ironed out its long-awaited deal with Europe to move forward with the separation known as Brexit. The new deal promises a rebalance of regulations and other challenges between the two continents, but it does not include any new tariffs or quotas.6 The split, which formally begins on Feb. 1, looks like it could make things more difficult for residents of the two regions when it comes to cross-border travel, attending universities, business dealings and job opportunities.7

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

 

1 Klaus Schwab and Saadia Zahidi. World Economic Forum. 2020. “How Countries are Performing on the Road to Recovery.” http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_TheGlobalCompetitivenessReport2020.pdf. Accessed Dec. 29, 2020.

2 Ibid.

3 Saadia Zahidi. World Economic Forum. Dec. 16, 2020. “This is how countries can rebuild competitive economies for people and planet.” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/12/how-countries-can-rebuild-competitive-economies-for-people-and-planet/. Accessed Dec. 29, 2020.

4 EcoWatch. Dec. 23, 2020. “The Top 10 Extreme Weather and Climate Events of 2020.” https://www.ecowatch.com/extreme-weather-climate-2020-2649628910.html?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1. Accessed Dec. 29, 2020.

5 Robert Horrocks. AdvisorPerspectives. Dec. 14, 2020. “CIO Outlook: Tailwinds for Emerging Markets.” https://www.advisorperspectives.com/commentaries/2020/12/14/cio-outlook-tailwinds-for-emerging-markets. Accessed Dec. 29, 2020.

6 Bloomberg. Dec. 24, 2020. “In Bullet Points: The Key Terms of the Brexit Deal Analyzed.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-12-24/in-bullet-points-the-key-terms-of-the-brexit-deal. Accessed Dec. 29, 2020.

7 Joe Mayes. Bloomberg | Quint. Dec. 28, 2020. “Not So Fast! What Brexit Means for Border Crossers.” https://www.bloombergquint.com/quicktakes/not-so-fast-what-brexit-means-for-border-crossers-quicktake. Accessed Dec. 29, 2020.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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2021 Outlook: Wealth Managers Weigh In

While challenges likely still lie ahead, there’s no denying we all weathered our fair share of storms in 2020. Now that the calendar has turned to a new year, we looked to wealth managers across the nation to find out what they’re expecting for 2021. As you’ll see, the answer often changes depending on where you look.

According to its latest 2021 economic outlook, UBS expects widescale availability of the COVID-19 vaccine will increase global output in 2021. The firm anticipates corporate earnings will return to pre-pandemic highs by the end of 2021 and recommends that investors diversify their portfolios by rebalancing out of U.S. large caps and global consumer staples and into global equities and cyclical stocks with catch-up potential.1

Merrill Lynch anticipates full recovery will take a bit longer. It doesn’t see a complete restoration of growth, innovation and stability until 2022. However, the firm predicts 2021 will see progress, particularly in industries that benefited from the pandemic. It also sees opportunities for sectors in which pent-up demand could soar, such as air travel and hospitality.2

Goldman Sachs has dubbed its projection for a V-shaped recovery the “Vaccine-Shaped Recovery,” reinforcing its outlook now that the vaccine is becoming available. The money manager anticipates economic activity will rebound by this summer, with a ramp-up in depressed sectors such as travel, accommodation and food services. Goldman projects the United States and Europe will end the year with a 2% jump in GDP, while most emerging economies will lag with a somewhat slower recovery.3

JP Morgan Asset Management also predicts a relatively fast rebound thanks to vaccine availability. It warns, however, that job recovery, GDP and inflation are more dependent on policies implemented by the Federal Reserve and the new presidential administration, so they may lag somewhat. Its analysts say U.S. equities already boast high valuations, so investors may find more growth opportunity in international stocks and alternative assets that offer both income and downside protection.4

Whether you’re bullish or bearish on the coming recovery, the U.S. economic prospects seem to look much better than they did six months ago. If you’d like a financial review to see if there are ways to better position your assets for the future, please give us a call.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 UBS. 2020. “A Year of Renewal.” https://www.ubs.com/us/en/wealth-management/market-news/cio/insights-display-adp/global/en/wealth-management/chief-investment-office/market-insights/2021/year-ahead.html#livestream. Accessed Dec. 17, 2020.

2 Merrill Lynch. Dec. 17, 2020. “Outlook 2021: How to Prepare for the Year Ahead.” https://www.ml.com/articles/2021-market-outlook-portfolio-investments.html. Accessed Dec. 17, 2020.

3 Goldman Sachs. Nov. 7, 2020. “V(accine)-Shaped Recovery.” https://www.goldmansachs.com/insights/pages/gs-research/macro-outlook-2021/report.pdf. Accessed Dec. 17, 2020.

4 JP Morgan Asset Management. 2020. “The Investment Outlook for 2021.” https://am.jpmorgan.com/content/dam/jpm-am-aem/global/en/insights/market-insights/investment-outlook-2021-us.pdf. Accessed Dec. 17, 2020.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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What Is “Stakeholder Capitalism”?

In its monthly Investment Insights publication, Merrill Lynch noted that while nationalism has been a strong trend throughout the past few years, globalism in the prior 30 years did much to reduce poverty worldwide. As trade agreements shifted many U.S. jobs and operations overseas, the average income of the lower 50% of global earners nearly double between 1980 and 2016. However, this came at a price, including the mass exodus of U.S. jobs and stagnant wages at the low-income scale.1 And yet, U.S. investors benefitted from higher corporate profit margins and subsequent higher stock prices.

In 2020, the COVID pandemic created yet another wealth imbalance. The combined net worth of American billionaires increased by 36% between mid-March and December, while nearly 50% of lower-income adults struggled to pay their bills during the same timeframe.2

Even the Federal Reserve contributed to this divide, albeit inadvertently. By pushing interest rates down and injecting more cash into the loan market, investor confidence received a boost and many transitioned their portfolio allocations to higher-risk, higher-performing investments, which in turn increased stock prices.3

Many factors contribute to stock market performance that are not necessarily tied to stronger company fundamentals. Perhaps in response to these recent market influences, there is an emerging trend in stock market investing. It’s not just about how well a stock performs, but how the company achieved that performance. Many wealth managers are seeing an economic shift toward “stakeholder capitalism,” basically a tighter focus on corporate enhancements that potentially benefit all stakeholders, including employees, customers and local communities, as well as shareholders.4

This approach represents a shift away from how company stocks have been evaluated in the past two decades, which often placed more emphasis on quarterly profits and less on five- to 10-year plans. Focusing on long-term results can help weather brief periods of volatility and disruption. Feel free to contact one of our advisors to discuss.

Last September, the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council released standardized Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics (SCM). This is a measure of how companies treat their workers, their communities and the environment. The goal is to monitor these metrics with the idea of directing more capital to companies that deliver both positive returns and high satisfaction among all stakeholders.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Merrill Lynch. September 2020. “Investment Insights.” https://mlaem.fs.ml.com/content/dam/ML/Articles/pdf/ML_The_Great_Shift_3235536_v10.pdf. Accessed Dec. 11, 2020.

2 Juliana Kaplan. Business Insider. Dec. 12, 2020. “American billionaires’ net worths have grown to $4 trillion during the coronavirus pandemic.” https://www.businessinsider.com/billionaires-net-worths-have-grown-to-4-trillion-during-pandemic-2020-12. Accessed Dec. 12, 2020.

3 Sean Ross. Investopedia. Nov. 24, 2020. “How Quantitative Easing (QE) Affects the Stock Market.” https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/021015/how-does-quantitative-easing-us-affect-stock-market.asp. Accessed Dec. 11, 2020.

4 Doug Sundheim and Kate Starr. Harvard Business Review. Jan. 22, 2020. “Making Stakeholder Capitalism a Reality.” https://hbr.org/2020/01/making-stakeholder-capitalism-a-reality. Accessed Dec. 31, 2020.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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What’s Ahead for the Stock Market?

In November, the Dow experienced its best month since 1987, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq indexes enjoyed their best month since April of this year.1

With the election behind us and a vaccine on the horizon, the stock market has plenty to celebrate. Many consumers used the pandemic period to shore up their savings, which bodes well for their prosperity in the coming year. There is a low chance of increased taxes or massive reforms given the divide in Congress, and while interest rates remain low, the home-buying market is poised to soar on renewed consumer confidence. All of these factors may be historically good news for investment markets.2

The stock market increases 82% of the time in the first year of new presidential terms,3 and the S&P 500 has averaged 11.7% returns in the first year of every presidential term since the end of World War II, regardless of party affiliation. Furthermore, the S&P 500 has averaged 15.6% returns with Democratic presidents compared 10% with Republican presidents. Industries like technology, health care, financials and industrials tend to thrive under a Democratic president.4

Despite jobs and economic growth taking a hit in 2020, that fortunately wasn’t reflected in the stock market. For more insight on how to plan for the coming year, feel free to reach out to one of our financial advisors for a review.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Matt Egan. CNN. Nov. 30, 2020. “Trump said the stock market would crash if Biden won. The Dow just had its best month since 1987.” https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/30/business/stock-market-dow-jones-trump-biden/index.html. Accessed Nov. 30, 2020.

2 Jeremy Siegel. Knowledge@Wharton. Nov. 21, 2020. “Jeremy Siegel: What’s Ahead for the Stock Market?” https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/siegel-markets-economy/. Accessed Nov. 30, 2020.

3 Mark Hulbert. Marketwatch. Nov. 28, 2020. “Opinion: Here are your odds that stock prices will be higher at the end of 2021.” https://www.marketwatch.com/story/here-are-your-odds-that-stock-prices-will-be-higher-at-the-end-of-2021-2020-11-24?mod=MW_section_top_stories. Accessed Nov. 30, 2020.

4 Savita Subramanian. Merrill Lynch. Oct. 8, 2020. “The Markets and Presidential Elections.” https://www.ml.com/articles/market-volatility-presidential-elections.html#financial-research-and-insights. Accessed Nov. 30, 2020.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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