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Investing

Many financial plans include at least some weighting in stocks and/or mutual funds, and while historically equities have tended to rise in value over the long term, they carry a certain amount of risk, both for long- and short-term investors. It is therefore imperative that you have realistic financial goals and investment objectives in place before you begin to invest.

Calculators

College Funding – Use this calculator to estimate the cost of your child's education, based on the variables you input.

Tax-Deferred Savings – Compare the potential future value of tax-deferred investments to that of taxation investments.

Flipbooks

Higher Education: College Saving and Funding Strategies – College is an investment in your child's future. It requires a savings commitment and knowledge of funding methods.

Investing Basics: Embark on Your Wealth-Building Journey – Weighing the risks and rewards of various investment options can help you develop a sound investment strategy.

Research Articles

529 Lesson Plan: High Scores for 529 College Savings Program

Looking for a tax-advantaged college savings plan that has no age restrictions and no income phaseout limits — and one you can use to pay for more than just tuition?

Consider the 529 college savings plan, an increasingly popular way to save for higher-education expenses, which have more than tripled over the past two decades — with annual costs (for tuition and fees, and room and board) of more than $45,000 per year for the average private four-year college.1 Named after the section of the tax code that authorized them, 529 plans (also known as qualified tuition plans) are now offered in almost every state.

Most people have heard about the original form of 529, the state-operated prepaid tuition plan, which allows you to purchase units of future tuition at today's rates, with the plan assuming the responsibility of investing the funds to keep pace with inflation. Many state governments guarantee that the cost of an equal number of units of education in the sponsoring state will be covered, regardless of investment performance or the rate of tuition increase. Of course, each state plan has a different mix of rules and restrictions. Prepaid tuition programs typically will pay future college tuition at any of the sponsoring state's eligible colleges and universities (and some will pay an equal amount to private and out-of-state institutions).

The other type of 529 is the savings plan. It's similar to an investment account, but the funds accumulate tax deferred. Withdrawals from state-sponsored 529 plans are free of federal income tax as long as they are used for qualified college expenses. Many states also exempt withdrawals from state income tax for qualified higher education expenses. Unlike the case with prepaid tuition plans, contributions can be used for all qualified higher-education expenses (tuition, fees, books, equipment and supplies, room and board), and the funds usually can be used at all accredited post-secondary schools in the United States. The risk with these plans is that investments may lose money or may not perform well enough to cover college costs as anticipated.

In most cases, 529 savings plans place investment dollars in a mix of funds based on the age of the beneficiary, with account allocations becoming more conservative as the time for college draws closer. But recently, more states have contracted professional money managers — many well-known investment firms — to actively manage and market their plans, so a growing number of investors can customize their asset allocations. Some states enable account owners to qualify for a deduction on their state tax returns or receive a small match on the money invested. Earnings from 529 plans are not taxed when used to pay for eligible college expenses. And there are even consumer-friendly reward programs that allow people who purchase certain products and services to receive rebate dollars that go into state-sponsored college savings accounts.

Funds contributed to a 529 plan are considered to be gifts to the beneficiary, so anyone — even non-relatives — can contribute up to $15,000 per year in 2018 per beneficiary without incurring gift tax consequences. Contributions can be made in one lump sum or in monthly installments. And assets contributed to a 529 plan are not considered part of the account owner's estate, therefore avoiding estate taxes upon the owner's death.

Major Benefits

These savings plans generally allow people of any income level to contribute, and there are no age limits for the student. The account owner can maintain control of the account until funds are withdrawn — and, if desired, can even change the beneficiary as long as he or she is within the immediate family of the original beneficiary. A 529 plan is also extremely simple when it comes to tax reporting — the sponsoring state, not you, is responsible for all income tax record keeping. At the end of the year when the withdrawal is made for college, you will receive Form 1099 from the state, and there is only one figure to enter on it: the amount of income to report on the student's tax return.

Benefits for Grandparents

The 529 plan could be a great way for grandparents to shelter inheritance money from estate taxes and contribute substantial amounts to a student's college fund. At the same time, they also control the assets and can retain the power to control withdrawals from the account. By accelerating use of the annual gift tax exclusion, a grandparent — as well as anyone, for that matter — could elect to use five years' worth of annual exclusions by making a single contribution of as much as $75,000 per beneficiary in 2018 (or a couple could contribute $150,000 in 2018), as long as no other contributions are made for that beneficiary for five years. If the account owner dies, the 529 plan balance is not considered part of his or her estate for tax purposes. (If the donor makes the five-year election and dies during the five-year calendar period, part of the contribution could revert back to the donor's estate.)

As with other investments, there are generally fees and expenses associated with participation in a Section 529 savings plan. In addition, there are no guarantees regarding the performance of the underlying investments in 529 plans. The tax implications of a 529 savings plan should be discussed with your legal and/or tax advisors because they can vary significantly from state to state. Also note that most states offer their own 529 plans, which may provide advantages and benefits exclusively for their residents and taxpayers.

Before investing in a 529 savings plan, please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully. The official disclosure statements and applicable prospectuses — which contain this and other information about the investment options, underlying investments, and investment company — can be obtained by contacting your financial professional. You should read these materials carefully before investing.

By comparing different plans, you can determine which might be available for your situation. You may find that 529 programs make saving for college easier than before.

Sources:
1) The College Board, 2017

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What Is an Annuity?

An annuity is a contract with an insurance company that is funded by the purchaser and designed to generate an income stream in retirement. It is a flexible financial vehicle that can help protect against the risk of living a long time because it provides an option for a lifetime income.

Two advantages of annuities are that the funds accumulate tax deferred and they can be distributed in a variety of ways to the contract owner.

There are many different types of annuities. Immediate annuities are designed to provide income right away, whereas deferred annuities are designed for long-term accumulation. Some annuities offer a guaranteed rate of interest, whereas others do not.

Generally, annuities have contract limitations, fees, and charges, which can include mortality and expense charges, account fees, underlying investment management fees, administrative fees, and charges for optional benefits. Most annuities have surrender charges that are assessed during the early years of the contract if the contract owner surrenders the annuity. Withdrawals of annuity earnings are taxed as ordinary income and may be subject to surrender charges, plus a 10 percent federal income tax penalty if made prior to age 59½. Withdrawals reduce annuity contract benefits and values. Any guarantees are contingent on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing company. Annuities are not guaranteed by the FDIC or any other government agency; they are not deposits of, nor are they guaranteed or endorsed by, any bank or savings association. For variable annuities, the investment return and principal value of an investment option are not guaranteed. Variable annuity subaccounts fluctuate with changes in market conditions; thus, the principal may be worth more or less than the original amount invested when the annuity is surrendered.

Variable annuities are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the variable annuity contract and the underlying investment options, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What Is Asset Allocation?

An annuity is a contract with an insurance company in which you make one or more payments in exchange for a future income stream in retirement. The funds in an annuity accumulate tax deferred, regardless of which type you select. Because you do not have to pay taxes on any growth in your annuity until it is withdrawn, this financial vehicle has become an attractive way to accumulate funds for retirement.

Annuities can be immediate or deferred, and they can provide fixed returns or variable returns.

Fixed Annuity

Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, once said, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there." This is certainly true when it comes to investing: If you don't know where you're headed financially, then it is not as vital which investments make up your portfolio. If you do have a monetary destination in mind, then asset allocation becomes very important.

The term "asset allocation" is often tossed around in discussions of investing. But what exactly is it? Simply put, asset allocation is about not putting all your eggs in one basket. More formally, it is a systematic approach to diversification that may help you determine the most efficient mix of assets based on your risk tolerance and time horizon.

Asset allocation seeks to manage investment risk by diversifying a portfolio among the major asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, and cash alternatives. Each asset class has a different level of risk and potential return. At any given time, while one asset category may be increasing in value, another may be decreasing in value. Diversification is a method to help manage investment risk. Asset allocation and diversification do not guarantee a profit or protect against loss. So if the value of one asset class or security drops, the other asset classes or securities may help cushion the blow.

Dividing your investments in this way may help you ride out market fluctuations and protect your portfolio from a major loss in any one asset class. Of course, it is also important to understand the risk versus return tradeoff. Generally, the greater the potential return of an investment, the greater the risk.

As a result, the makeup of a portfolio should be based on your risk tolerance. Generally, you should not place all your assets in those categories that have the highest potential for gain if you are concerned about the prospect of a loss. It is essential to find a balance of asset classes with the highest potential return for your risk profile.

Other factors that are important to developing an asset allocation strategy are your investment goals and time horizon. When you are considering how to diversify your portfolio, ask yourself what you want to accomplish with your investments. Are you planning to buy a new car or house soon? Do you aspire to pay for your children's college education? When retirement rolls around, would you like to travel and buy a vacation home? These factors should all be considered when outlining an asset allocation strategy.

If you require a specific amount of money at a point in the near future, you might want to consider a strategy that involves less risk. On the other hand, if you are saving for retirement and have several years until you will need the funds, you might be able to invest for greater growth potential, although this will also involve greater risks.

Whichever asset allocation scenario you decide on, it's important to remember that there is no one strategy that fits every type of investor. Your specific situation calls for a specific approach with which you are comfortable and one that could help you pursue your investment goals.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What Are the Different Classes of Assets?

When it comes to investing their money, many people are content to take a random approach. They may have received a hot tip for a particular investment and decided to plow a large amount of money into it with no regard to the overall balance of their portfolios. However, research has shown that it is through the careful selection of the various asset classes, rather than the individual investments themselves, that people prosper financially. Therefore, the careful selection and distribution of your investments among the various asset classes is likely to prove crucial to the future success of your investment portfolio.

There are five broad asset classes that you should take into consideration when constructing your investment portfolio.

Cash refers to the most liquid holdings in your portfolio. This asset class includes the balance in your checking account, money market account, and certificates of deposit. Conventional wisdom holds that you should keep three to six months' salary in cash to cover yourself in the event of an emergency.

Fixed-principal investments are those that do not put your principal at risk due to market forces. Fixed annuities and trust deeds fall into this category.

Debt makes up the third asset class. It includes municipal, corporate, government, and government agency bonds. It also covers other debt-secured investments such as collateralized mortgage obligations.

Equity represents an ownership interest in a business entity; this class covers any investment you might make in stocks. It also covers any interest you may have in a closely held corporation or partnership.

Tangibles include your holdings in real estate, art, gold, precious stones, stamps, baseball cards, or other valuable collector's items.

How you choose to distribute your investments among the various asset classes depends on your goals, your risk tolerance, and your expected rate of return. Keep in mind that asset allocation does not guarantee a profit or protect against loss; it is a method used to help manage investment risk. All investments are subject to market fluctuation, risk, and loss of principal. When sold, investments may be worth more or less than their original cost.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What is a Bond?

When you invest in bonds, you are investing in the debt of a government entity or a corporation. A bond is simply evidence of a debt and represents a long-term IOU.

Bonds are issued by federal, state, and local governments; agencies of the U.S. government; and corporations. By selling debt with a promise to pay it back with interest, the issuing agency can raise capital to finance its operations.

The issuing company or government entity will outline how much money it would like to borrow, for what length of time, and the interest it is willing to pay. Investors who buy bonds are lending their money to the issuer and thus become the issuer's creditors. Bonds are sold at "par" or "face" value, which is the price at which the bond is issued, usually in denominations of $1,000 or $5,000.

By purchasing a bond, you are lending the debtor money. In exchange, you receive a note stating the amount loaned, the interest rate (the "coupon" or "coupon rate"), how often the interest will be paid, and the term of the loan.

The principal (the amount initially paid for the bond) must be repaid on the stipulated maturity date. Before that date, you (as lender) receive regular interest, usually every six months. The interest payments on a bond are usually fixed.

Before 1983, bondholders would receive coupons that they would clip and mail in semi-annually to receive the interest payments. Presently, all bonds are issued electronically in book-entry form only.

If you are considering buying a bond, remember that the market value of a bond is at risk when interest rates fluctuate. As interest rates rise, the value of existing bonds typically falls because the interest rate on new bonds would be higher. The opposite can also happen as well. Of course, this phenomenon applies only if you decide to sell a bond before it reaches maturity. If you hold a bond to maturity, you will receive the interest payments due plus your original principal, barring default by the issuer. Additional considerations are a bond's maturity date and credit quality. Investments seeking to achieve higher yields also involve a higher degree of risk.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What Is a Closed-End Fund?

Closed-end funds have been around since 1893, more than 30 years before the first mutual fund (also known as an open-end fund) was created in the United States. However, closed-end funds are much less common than open-end funds. There are fewer than 600 closed-end funds on the market, whereas there are more than 8,000 mutual funds available.

Closed-end funds are similar to open-end mutual funds in that investors pool their money together to purchase a professionally managed portfolio of stocks and/or bonds. Both have dividends and capital gains that are distributed annually. In other ways, they are very different. For example, closed end funds are much less common than open end funds. Also, closed-end funds have more in common with stocks or exchange-traded funds (ETFs), but they are actively managed.

Closed-end funds have an initial public offering (IPO) with a fixed number of shares to sell to investors. After that point, the investment company usually does not deal with the public directly, and investors who want to purchase shares must do so on a secondary market, such as the New York Stock Exchange. A closed-end fund's investment portfolio is generally managed by a separate entity known as an "investment adviser," that is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Shares are bought and sold on the open market, creating a situation in which investor activity does not significantly impact decisions on handling the funds. The market price of closed-end fund shares trading on a secondary market is determined by supply and demand, not by the shares' net asset value (NAV). Although closed-end funds start with a NAV, the trading price may be higher or lower than that value. If the price is higher, shares are selling at a "premium." If the price is lower, they are selling at a "discount."

If you are considering investing in a closed-end fund, there are some things to be aware of. Closed-end funds have broker trading fees and are considered riskier than open-ended mutual funds. They can invest in a greater amount of illiquid securities and can use leveraging methods usually avoided by mutual funds. Closed-end funds are generally not redeemable. The investment company does not have to buy back shares to fulfill investor demand. And closed-end funds charge management fees.

Some people consider investing in closed-end funds because they are designed to provide a stream of income, often on a monthly or quarterly basis. Closed-end funds also could provide an important diversification element to their portfolios. Diversification is a method to help manage investment risk, but it does not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss.

The value of closed-end fund and mutual fund shares fluctuate with market conditions. Shares, when sold or redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

Source:
1) Investment Company Institute, 2016

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What College Investment Options Do I Have?

As tax laws change, college investment planning becomes increasingly complex. The most beneficial strategies for creating a college fund are quite similar to other investment tactics. Investment products that are tax deferred, tax exempt, or transferable without tax consequences can be especially advantageous.

This could be even more effective if you do your planning early.

One important aspect of an investment is its balance of yield and risk. Determine the amount of risk you can tolerate, given the amount of time you have to recover from any potential losses.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the financial aid formulas. This could help you determine whether assets and income should be in your name or your child's name. Structuring your investments ahead of time can have a significant effect on the net amount of funds available for your child's education.

There are a number of funding options available for your college investment plan. This list contains a few of the more common.

Certificates of Deposit

CDs offer a reasonable return with a relatively high degree of safety. They are FDIC insured to $250,000 (per depositor, per federally insured institution in interest and principal) and offer a fixed rate of return, whereas the principal and yield of investment securities will fluctuate with changes in market conditions.

The interest earned on a CD is taxed as ordinary income. And CDs are not very liquid. You could pay a significant interest penalty for withdrawing money before it reaches maturity.

Bonds

Many people consider U.S. government bonds to be among the least risky investments available. They are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest.

The interest on Series EE bonds is tax-free to low- and middle-income families if the proceeds are used to fund a college education. This benefit phases out for individuals and couples in the upper middle class and above.

Zero-coupon bonds are purchased at a substantial discount and pay their face value upon maturity. Because they do not pay interest until maturity, their prices tend to be more volatile than bonds paying interest regularly. Thus zero-coupon bonds make it possible to buy high-quality bonds for far less money up front. Interest income is subject to taxes annually as ordinary income, even though no income is being paid to the investor.

The return and principal value of bonds fluctuate with market conditions and when sold, bonds may be worth more or less than their original cost.

Stocks and Mutual Funds

Many people who use stocks to fund a college investment program invest in mutual funds.

Mutual funds are professionally managed. They buy and sell securities to meet the specific goals of their fund, weighing risk against security, and yield against quality. They can be an effective addition to a college investment plan. The investment return and principal value of stocks and mutual funds fluctuate with market conditions, and, when sold or redeemed, shares may be worth more or less than their original cost. Bond funds are subject to the same inflation, interest-rate, and credit risks associated with their underlying bonds. As interest rates rise, bond prices typically fall, which can adversely affect a bond funds performance.

Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

Making Choices

There are college investment options to fit almost any investor. No matter how modest or how ample your income, careful planning could be the most effective way to “find” the money for college. The key is to start early and remain consistent.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What Is Diversification?

Virtually every investment has some type of risk associated with it. The stock market rises and falls. An increase in interest rates can cause a decline in the bond market. No matter what you decide to invest in, risk is something you must consider.

One key to successful investing is managing risk while maintaining the potential for adequate returns on your investments. One of the most effective ways to help manage your investment risk is to diversify. Diversification is an investment strategy aimed at managing risk by spreading your money across a variety of investments such as stocks, bonds, real estate, and cash alternatives; but diversification does not guarantee a profit or protect against loss.

The main philosophy behind diversification is really quite simple: “Don't put all your eggs in one basket.” Spreading the risk among a number of different investment categories, as well as over several different industries, can help offset a loss in any one investment.

Likewise, the power of diversification may help smooth your returns over time. As one investment increases, it may offset the decreases in another. This may allow your portfolio to ride out market fluctuations, providing a more steady performance under various economic conditions. By potentially reducing the impact of market ups and downs, diversification could go far in enhancing your comfort level with investing.

Diversification is one of the main reasons why mutual funds may be so attractive for both experienced and novice investors. Many non-institutional investors have a limited investment budget and may find it challenging to construct a portfolio that is sufficiently diversified.

For a modest initial investment, you can purchase shares in a diversified portfolio of securities. You have “built-in” diversification. Depending on the objectives of the fund, it may contain a variety of stocks, bonds, and cash vehicles, or a combination of them.

Whether you are investing in mutual funds or are putting together your own combination of stocks, bonds, and other investment vehicles, it is a good idea to keep in mind the importance of diversifying. The value of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds fluctuate with market conditions. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What Is Dollar-Cost Averaging?

Every investor dreams of buying into the market at a low point, just before it hits an upswing, and garnering a large profit from selling at the market's peak. But trying to predict market highs and lows is a feat no one has ever fully mastered, despite the claims by some that they have just the right strategy that enables them to buy and sell at the most opportune times.

Attempting to predict which direction the market will go or investing merely on intuition can get you in trouble, or at the very least may cause you a great deal of frustration. One strategy that may help you navigate these investing pitfalls is dollar-cost averaging.

Dollar-cost averaging involves investing a set amount of money in an investment vehicle at regular intervals for an extended period of time, regardless of the price. Let's say you have $6,000 to invest. Instead of investing it all at once, you decide to use a dollar-cost averaging strategy and contribute $500 each month, regardless of share price, until your money is completely invested. You would end up purchasing more shares when prices are low and fewer shares when prices are high. For example, you might end up buying 20 shares when the price is low, but only 10 when the price is higher.

This strategy has the potential to reduce the risk of investing a large amount in a single investment when the cost per share is inflated. It may also help reduce the risk for an investor who tends to pull out of the market when it takes a dip, potentially causing an inopportune loss in profit.

The average cost per share may also be reduced, which has the possibility to help you gain better overall profits from the market. Utilizing a dollar-cost averaging program, the bottom line is that the average share price has the potential to be higher than your average share cost. This occurs because you purchased fewer shares when the stock was priced high and more shares when the price was low. Dollar-cost averaging can also help you to avoid the annoyance and stress of continually monitoring the market in an attempt to buy and sell at “fortuitous” moments.

Dollar-cost averaging is a long-range plan, as implied by the word “averaging.” In other words, the technique's best use comes only after you've stuck with it for a while, despite any nerve-racking swings in the market. When other panicky investors are scrambling to get out of the market because it has declined and to get back into it when the market has risen, you'll keep investing a specific amount based on the interval you've set.

Dollar-cost averaging does not ensure a profit in rising markets or protect against a loss in declining markets. This type of investment program involves continuous investment in securities regardless of the fluctuating price levels of such securities. Investors should consider their financial ability to continue making purchases through periods of low and high price levels. The return and principal value of stocks fluctuate with changes in market conditions. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

How does inflation affect me?

Are you saving for retirement? For your children's education? For any other long-term goal? If so, you'll want to know how inflation can impact your savings. Inflation is the increase in the price of products over time. Inflation rates have fluctuated over the years. Sometimes inflation runs high, and other times it is hardly noticeable. The short-term changes aren't the real issue. The real issue is the effect of long-term inflation.

Over the long term, inflation erodes the purchasing power of your income and wealth. This means that even as you save and invest, your accumulated wealth buys less and less, just with the mere passage of time. And those who put off saving and investing impacted even more.

The effects of inflation can't be denied — yet there are ways to fight them. You should own at least some investments whose potential return exceeds the inflation rate. A portfolio that earns 2% when inflation is 3% actually loses purchasing power each year. Though past performance is no guarantee of future results, stocks historically have provided higher long-term total returns than cash alternatives or bonds. However, that potential for higher returns comes with, greater risk of volatility and potential for loss. You can lose part or all of the money you invest in a stock. Because of that volatility, stock investments may not be appropriate for money you count on to be available in the short term. You'll need to think about whether you have the financial and emotional ability to ride out those ups and downs as you pursue higher returns.

Bonds can also help, but since 1926 their inflation-adjusted return has been less than that of stocks. Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS), which are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest, are indexed so that your return should pace with inflation. The principal is automatically adjusted every six months to reflect increases or decreases in the Consumer Price Index; as long as you hold a TIPS to maturity, you will receive the greater of the original or inflation-adjusted principal. Unless you own TIPs in a tax-deferred account, you must pay federal income tax on the income plus any increase in principal, even though you won't receive any accrued principal until the bond matures. When interest rates rise, the value of existing bonds will typically fall on the secondary market. However, changing rates and secondary-market values should not affect the principal of bonds held to maturity.

Diversifying your portfolio — spending your assets across a variety of investments that may respond differently to market conditions — is one way to help manage inflation risk. However, diversification does not guarantee a profit or protect against a loss; it is a method used to help manage investment risk.

All investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal, and there is no guarantee that any investment will be worth what you paid for it when you sell.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What is the difference between a fixed annuity and a variable annuity?

An annuity is a contract with an insurance company in which you make one or more payments in exchange for a future income stream in retirement. The funds in an annuity accumulate tax deferred, regardless of which type you select. Because you do not have to pay taxes on any growth in your annuity until it is withdrawn, this financial vehicle has become an attractive way to accumulate funds for retirement.

Annuities can be immediate or deferred, and they can provide fixed returns or variable returns.

Fixed Annuity

A fixed annuity is an insurance-based contract that can be funded either with a lump sum or regular payments over time. In exchange, the insurance company will pay an income that can last for a specific period of time or for life.

Fixed annuity contracts are issued with guaranteed minimum interest rates. Although the rate may be adjusted, it should never fall below a guaranteed minimum rate specified in the contract. This guaranteed rate acts as a “floor” to potentially protect a contract owner from periods of low interest rates.

Fixed annuities provide an option for an income stream that could last a lifetime. The guarantees of fixed annuity contracts are contingent on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.

Immediate fixed annuity

Typically, an immediate annuity is funded with a lump-sum premium to the insurance company, and payments begin within 30 days or can be deferred up to 12 months. Payments can be paid monthly, quarterly, annually, or semi-annually for a guaranteed period of time or for life, whichever is specified in the contract. Only the interest portion of each payment is considered taxation income. The rest is considered a return of principal and is free of income taxes.

Deferred fixed annuity

With a deferred annuity, you make regular premium payments to an insurance company over a period of time and allow the funds to build and earn interest during the accumulation phase. By postponing taxes while your funds accumulate, you keep more of your money working and growing for you instead of paying current taxes. This means an annuity may help you accumulate more over the long term than a taxation investment. Any earnings are not taxed until they are withdrawn, at which time they are considered ordinary income.

Deferred variable annuity

A variable annuity is a contract that provides fluctuating (variable) rather than fixed returns. The key feature of a variable annuity is that you can control how your premiums are invested by the insurance company. Thus, you decide how much risk you want to take and you also bear the investment risk.

Most variable annuity contracts offer a variety of professionally managed portfolios called “subaccounts” (or investment options) that invest in stocks, bonds, and money market instruments, as well as balanced investments. Some of your contributions can be placed in an account that offers a fixed rate of return. Your premiums will be allocated among the subaccounts that you select.

Unlike a fixed annuity, which pays a fixed rate of return, the value of a variable annuity contract is based on the performance of the investment subaccounts that you select. These subaccounts fluctuate in value with market conditions, and the principal may be worth more or less than the original cost when surrendered.

Variable annuities provide the dual advantages of investment flexibility and the potential for tax deferral. The taxes on all interest, dividends, and capital gains are deferred until withdrawals are made.

When you decide to receive income from your annuity, you can choose a lump sum, a fixed payout, or a variable payout. The earnings portion of the annuity will be subject to ordinary income taxes when you begin receiving income. Annuity withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income and may be subject to surrender charges plus a 10% federal income tax penalty if made prior to age 59½. Surrender charges may also apply during the contract's early years.

Annuities have contract limitations, fees, and charges, which can include mortality and expense risk charges, sales and surrender charges, investment management fees, administrative fees, and charges for optional benefits. Annuities are not guaranteed by the FDIC or any other government agency; they are not deposits of, nor are they guaranteed or endorsed by, any bank or savings association. Any guarantees are contingent on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.

Variable annuities are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the variable annuity contract and the underlying investment options, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

How Do Money Market Mutual Funds Work?

Just like individuals, the government, corporations, and banks often need to borrow money for a short time to make ends meet. Unlike most individuals, however, the scale of this borrowing is phenomenal.

The money market is the name given to the arena where most of this short-term borrowing takes place. In the money market, money is both borrowed and lent for short periods of time.

For example, a bank might have to borrow millions of dollars overnight to ensure that it meets federal reserve requirements. Loans in the money market can stretch from one day to one year or beyond. The interest rate is fundamentally determined by supply and demand, the length of the loan, and the credit standing of the borrower.

The money market was traditionally only open to large institutions. Unless you had a spare $100,000 lying around, you couldn't participate.

However, during the inflationary era of the 70s, when interest rates sky-rocketed, people began to demand greater returns on their liquid funds. Leaving money in a bank deposit account at 5 percent interest made little sense with inflation running at 12 percent. The money market was returning significantly higher rates but the vast majority of people were prohibited from participating by the sheer scale of the investment required.

And so, the first money market mutual fund came into being. By pooling shareholders' funds, it was possible for individuals to receive the rewards of participating in the money market. Because of their large size, mutual funds were able to make investments and receive rates of return that individual investors couldn't get on their own.

Money market mutual funds typically purchase highly liquid investments with varying maturities, so there is cash flow to meet investor demand to redeem shares. You can withdraw your money at any time.

For a minimum investment, sometimes as low as $500, money market mutual funds will allow you to write checks. The check-writing feature is most often used to transfer cash to a traditional checking account when additional funds are needed. These funds are useful as highly liquid, cash emergency, short-term investment vehicles.

Money market funds are neither insured nor guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Although money market funds seek to preserve the value of your investment at $1 per share, it is possible to lose money by investing in money market funds.

Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

How Can I Keep More of My Mutual Fund Profits?

Provisions in the tax code allow you to pay lower capital gains taxes on the sale of assets held more than one year. Short-term gains — those resulting from the sale of assets held for one year or less — are taxed as ordinary income at your highest marginal income tax rate.

This means that if you've been buying shares in a stock or mutual fund over the years and are considering selling part of your holdings, your tax liability could be significantly affected by the timing of your sale.

The main pitfall for most investors is the IRS “first-in, first-out” policy. Simply stated, this means the IRS assumes that the first shares you sell are the first shares you purchased. Thus, the first shares in become the first shares out. As a result, if the value of your shares has appreciated, more of the money you receive from the sale will be considered to be taxation as a capital gain.

Fortunately, there is an alternative. When you place a sell order, instruct your broker or mutual fund transfer agent to sell those shares that you purchased for the highest amount of money. This will reduce the percentage of the proceeds of the sale that can be considered capital gain and are therefore taxation.

In order for this strategy to work, you must specify exactly which shares you are selling and when they were originally purchased. Ask your broker to send you a transaction confirmation that identifies by purchase date the shares you want to trade. This will enable you to reduce your taxation gain and maximize your deductible losses when you fill out your tax return.

In some cases, you may be better off selling the first shares you purchased, even if this results in a larger gain. If the first shares are subject to the 15% long-term capital gains rate, but the recently purchased shares are subject to the higher short-term rate, the correct choice may not be obvious. Always consult a tax professional.

By carefully reviewing your brokerage statements, you can determine which shares you paid the most for. You can then specify exactly which shares you'd like to sell. A word to the wise: Make this request in writing. If the IRS calls the transaction into question, the burden of proof is on you.

Finally, the IRS also allows you to calculate your tax basis by taking the average cost of all your shares. On an appreciating asset, this should result in a lower tax liability than the first-in, first-out rule would dictate. Be aware, though, that if you elect to average, you must continue to average for any subsequent sales.

Using either system, you may end up with a lower tax liability from the sale of your shares than the IRS would assume using the first-in, first-out rule.

The value of stocks and mutual funds fluctuates so that shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law in December 2017 “breakpoints” for application of these rates as under current law, except the breakpoints will be adjusted for inflation. For 2018, the 0% breakpoint will be up to $77,200 for Married Filing Jointly, up to $51,700 for Head of Household, and up to $38,600 for others. The 15% breakpoint will be $77,200 for married taxpayers filing jointly, $51,700 for head of household filers, and $38,600 for all other filers. The 20% breakpoint will be $479,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, $452,400 for head of household filers, and $425,800 for all other filers. The new law also leaves in place the current 3.8% net investment income tax.

Taxpayers with modified adjusted gross incomes over $200,000 ($250,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly) are subject to an additional 3.8% tax on net investment income (unearned income) as a result of a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What Is a Mutual Fund?

Since the creation of the first modern-day mutual fund, the Massachusetts Investors Trust, in 1924, there has been a steady growth of mutual funds. Today there are around 8,000 mutual funds.1 Because of their convenience and flexibility, you might want to consider including mutual funds in your investment portfolio.

A mutual fund is a collection of stocks, bonds, and other securities that is purchased and professionally managed by an investment company with the capital from a group of investors. When you invest in a mutual fund, the investment company pools your money with that of other investors that is invested to pursue the objectives stated in the mutual fund prospectus.

As a mutual fund shareholder, you gain an equity position in the fund and, therefore, in all of the underlying securities. You share in any gains and/or losses of the fund. The mutual fund manager trades securities, incurring capital gains or losses, and generates dividend or interest income. Some mutual funds hold securities that offer the potential for capital appreciation. When these securities are sold by the fund, it distributes the profits from the sale to its shareholders in the form of capital gains. Most mutual funds will automatically reinvest your dividends and capital gains in additional shares, if you'd like.

You can redeem your mutual fund shares at any time for their current market value. The value of mutual fund shares is determined daily, based on the total value of the fund divided by the number of shares purchased. The return and principal value of mutual fund shares fluctuate with market conditions; shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

Purchasing shares in a mutual fund can give you access to a diversified portfolio, often without having to spend a large chunk of money and time deciding which types of individual securities to purchase on your own. In addition, you benefit from having your investment managed by a financial professional. Diversification is a method to help manage investment risk, but it does not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss.

Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

Source:
1) Investment Company Institute

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What Is a Mutual Fund?

Whether you're a first-time stock investor or a seasoned veteran, you should understand what differentiates single stock investments from mutual fund investing. Picture a collection of stocks, bonds, or other securities that are purchased by a group of investors and then managed by an investment company. That's a mutual fund. When you buy shares in a fund, you're really buying a piece of a large, diverse portfolio. Conversely, stocks are shares of a single company.

Management

When it comes to managing their investments, some investors prefer leaving the details and skills to someone else. They like having a professional manager oversee the day-to-day decisions that a changing stock market involves and see that as a distinct advantage. A good manager, they might argue, has access to information that would cost them an exorbitant amount, even if they had the time and inclination to do the work themselves.

On the other hand, some investors would never surrender control of their investments. Individual comfort level plays a big part in your investment choice.

Diversifying Matters

Diversification is a big selling factor for mutual funds. When one security in a fund drops, an insightful fund manager may have included stocks that could cushion or offset that loss.

But that's not to say that an investor couldn't diversify his or her own stock selections. Diversification does not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss; it is a method used to help manage investment risk.

Liquidity

In terms of liquidity, fund investors can cash in on any business day. When you sell a stock, you must wait three business days before the trade settles and your money is released.

The Issue of Red Tape

Mutual fund investors often cite transaction ease as an inviting factor. And it is hard to beat the convenience of having records and transactions handled for you, while periodically receiving a detailed statement of your holdings.

Transacting business with stocks can be a more complicated experience. Placing buy orders, selling shares, or dictating any number of orders can be time-consuming. To some, however, that's just part of the experience.

In summary, fund investors are often attracted by the overall convenience. By contrast, stock investors may tend to be more comfortable with their own investing skills.

Keep in mind that the value of mutual funds and stocks will fluctuate with changes in market conditions; when investments are sold, the investor may receive back more or less than the original investment amount.

Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What Stock and Bond Investing Alternatives Do I Have?

Many prudent investors may have at least some of their holdings in stocks, corporate bonds, or both. In fact, when most people think of “investing,” they think of Wall Street and the stock market. Many fail to realize that there are alternative ways to invest in stocks besides owning individual shares.

Mutual Funds

A mutual fund is a collection of stocks, bonds, or other securities managed by a professional investment company.

A typical mutual fund may hold dozens of different securities. This offers some measure of diversification; a sharp decline in an individual security wouldn't be nearly as damaging to your portfolio as it would be if you owned only a few securities. Diversification is a method used to help manage investment risk; it does not guarantee a profit or protect against loss.

Mutual funds are professionally managed. Fund managers devote their attention to buying and selling securities according to the goals of their funds. Mutual funds often have a minimum investment of only $1,000 — some will accept even less.

The return and principal value of mutual funds fluctuate with changes in market conditions. Shares, when sold or redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Bond funds are subject to the interest rate, inflation, and credit risks associated with the underlying bonds in the fund. As interest rates rise, bond prices typically fall, which can adversely affect a bond fund's performance.

Variable Universal Life Insurance

A variable universal life (VUL) insurance policy operates much like a “traditional” universal life policy. In exchange for premiums, the insurance company provides a death benefit. And, just like more traditional life insurance policies, the policy's cash value accumulates tax deferred.

But here is the unique difference: you decide how the premium is divided among the investment subaccounts. With most policies you can select from several different investment subaccounts (or investment options). These investment options allow you to participate in the financial markets and experience the gains and losses realized by the underlying securities.

When considering this product, you should have a need for life insurance. The cash value of a VUL policy is not guaranteed. The investment return and principal value of the variable subaccounts will fluctuate. Your cash value, and perhaps the death benefit, will be determined by the performance of the chosen subaccounts. Withdrawals may be subject to surrender charges and are taxation if you withdraw more than your basis in the policy. Policy loans or withdrawals will reduce the policy's cash value and death benefit, and may require additional premium payments to keep the policy in force. There may also be additional fees and charges associated with a VUL policy.

Variable Annuities

With a variable annuity, you invest a sum with an insurance company, just as you would with a fixed annuity. But instead of investing your money in the insurance company's general account, as with a fixed annuity, your money is invested in a separate account made up of a number of different investment subaccounts. You specify how much of your annuity will be invested in the various subaccounts and your return will be based on the performance of the investments you select.

There are contract limitations, fees, and charges associated with variable annuities, which can include mortality and expense risk charges, sales and surrender charges, investment management fees, administrative fees, and charges for optional benefits. Withdrawals reduce annuity contract benefits and values. Variable annuities are not guaranteed by the FDIC or any other government agency; they are not deposits of, nor are they guaranteed or endorsed by, any bank or savings association. Withdrawals of annuity earnings are taxed as ordinary income and may be subject to surrender charges plus a 10% federal income tax penalty if made prior to age 59½. Any guarantees are contingent on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing company. Variable annuity subaccounts fluctuate with changes in market conditions, and when the annuity is surrendered, your principal may be worth more or less than the original amount invested.

Mutual funds, variable annuities, and variable universal life insurance are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the mutual fund, variable annuity contract, or variable universal life policy and their underlying investment options, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What Is a Stock Index?

In 1884, Charles Henry Dow averaged the closing prices of 11 stocks he considered representative of the strength of the U.S. economy in a paper that preceded The Wall Street Journal. By 1896, The Wall Street Journal was publishing this average on a regular basis, and the most famous indicator of stock market performance was born: the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA or Dow).

Most people have heard of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, as well as a few other well-known stock indexes that track the overall direction of the market. Indexes and averages serve as useful benchmarks against which investors can measure the performance of their own portfolios. Depending on its makeup, a stock index can give investors some idea about the state of the market as a whole or a certain sector of the market. Conceptually, a shift in the price of an index represents an equitable change in the stocks included in the index.

Basically, indexes are imaginary portfolios of securities that represent a particular market or section of the market. Each index has its own method of calculating a change in its base value, often expressed as a percentage change. Thus, you might hear that an index has risen or fallen by a certain percentage. Although you can't invest directly in an unmanaged index, you can invest in an index mutual fund that attempts to mirror a particular index by investing in the securities that comprise the index. The performance of an unmanaged index is not indicative of the performance of any specific investment.

Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

All the stocks in an index typically have at least one element in common. They might trade on the same stock market exchange, belong to the same industry, or have similar market capitalizations. Some of the more widely known indexes are the Dow, the S&P 500, the Nasdaq Composite, the Wilshire 5000, and the Russell 2000.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average

The Dow is an index of widely held blue-chip stocks that is used as an indicator of the performance of U.S. industry leading stocks. Unlike most other major indexes, the stocks in the Dow are unweighted by market capitalization. The 30 stocks included in the Dow are all major factors in their industries.

S&P 500

The Standard & Poor's 500 is an index of 500 of the most widely held stocks — leading companies from all sectors of the economy — chosen for their market size, liquidity, and industry group representation. Because some stocks influence the market more than others, each stock is given a different weight when the calculations are made. This is called “market-capitalization weighting,” which is the type of weighting used for the Nasdaq Composite, the Wilshire 5000, and the Russell 2000. Over 80% of all U.S. equity is tracked by the S&P 500.

Nasdaq Composite Index

The National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation system, or NASDAQ, represents all domestic and non-U.S. — based common stocks traded on The NASDAQ Stock Market. It includes over 3,000 companies — more than most other stock indexes — many of which are in the technological field. Of course, The NASDAQ Stock Market isn't restricted to technology issues. The NASDAQ Stock Exchange was established in 1971 as the world's first electronic stock market.

Wilshire 5000

Probably the most broadly based market index is the Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index. Originally comprising 5,000 stocks, the Wilshire 5000 now uses more than 5000 market capitalization–weighted security returns to adjust the index. The index tracks the overall performance of stocks actively traded on the American stock exchanges; the companies are all headquartered in the United States.

Russell 2000

Started in 1972, the Russell 2000 Index gauges the performance of 2,000 small-cap stocks that are often omitted from large indexes. This market capitalization–weighted index serves as a benchmark for small-cap U.S. stocks and could be useful for tracking small companies with growth potential.

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Market indexes are useful for assessing the historical performance of investment portfolios over time, but they don't reveal important details about the companies they track. They also have certain biases inherent in their statistical calculations. Remember that past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

If your portfolio lags substantially behind a corresponding index, it may be time to reevaluate and reallocate assets. Be sure to select an appropriate index as your benchmark. For example, comparing a small-cap stock portfolio to the Dow Jones Industrial Average may not be very meaningful; comparing it to the Russell 2000 Index would be more appropriate. When selecting stocks, it's prudent to keep an eye on long-term performance based on certain fundamentals that may or may not be subject to market trends.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.

What Types of Bonds Are Available?

Bonds are issued by federal, state, and local governments; agencies of the U.S. government; and corporations. There are three basic types of bonds: U.S. Treasury, municipal, and corporate.

Treasury Securities

Bonds, bills, and notes issued by the U.S. government are generally called “Treasuries” and are the highest-quality securities available. They are issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury through the Bureau of Public Debt. All treasury securities are liquid and traded on the secondary market. They are differentiated by their maturity dates, which range from 30 days to 30 years. One major advantage of Treasuries is that the interest earned is exempt from state and local taxes. Treasuries are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest, so there is little risk of default.

Treasury bills (T-bills) are short-term securities that mature in less than one year. They are sold at a discount from their face value and thus don't pay interest prior to maturity.

Treasury notes (T-notes) earn a fixed rate of interest every six months and have maturities ranging from 1 to 10 years. The 10-year Treasury note is one of the most quoted when discussing the performance of the U.S. government bond market and is also used as a benchmark by the mortgage market.

Treasury bonds (T-bonds) have maturities ranging from 10 to 30 years. Like T-notes, they also have a coupon payment every six months.

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) are inflation-indexed bonds. The principal value of TIPS is adjusted by changes in the Consumer Price Index. They are typically offered in maturities ranging from 5 to 20 years.

In addition to these Treasury securities, certain federal agencies also issue bonds. The Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae), the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. (Freddie Mac) issue bonds for specific purposes, mostly related to funding home purchases. These bonds are also backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.

Municipal Bonds

Municipal bonds (“munis”) are issued by state and local governments to fund the construction of schools, highways, housing, sewer systems, and other important public projects. These bonds tend to be exempt from federal income tax and, in some cases, from state and local taxes for investors who live in the jurisdiction where the bond is issued. Munis tend to offer competitive rates but with additional risk because local governments can go bankrupt.

Note that, in some states, investors will have to pay state income tax if they purchase shares of a municipal bond fund that invests in bonds issued by states other than the one in which they pay taxes. In addition, although some municipal bonds in the fund may not be subject to ordinary income tax, they may be subject to federal, state, and local alternative minimum tax, if an investor sells a tax-exempt bond fund at a profit, there are capital gains taxes to consider.

There are two basic types of municipal bonds. General obligation bonds are secured by the full faith and credit of the issuer and supported by the issuer's taxing power. Revenue bonds are repaid using revenue generated by the individual project the bond was issued to fund.

Corporate Bonds

Corporations may issue bonds to fund a large capital investment or a business expansion. Corporate bonds tend to carry a higher level of risk than government bonds, but they generally are associated with higher potential yields. The value and risk associated with corporate bonds depend in large part on the financial outlook and reputation of the company issuing the bond.

Bonds issued by companies with low credit quality are high-yield bonds, also called junk bonds. Investments in high-yield bonds offer different rewards and risks than investing in investment-grade securities, including higher volatility, greater credit risk, and the more speculative nature of the issuer. Variations on corporate bonds include convertible bonds, which can be converted into company stock under certain conditions.

Zero-Coupon Bonds

This type of bond (also called an “accrual bond”) doesn't make coupon payments but is issued at a steep discount. The bond is redeemed for its full value upon maturity. Zero-coupon bonds tend to fluctuate in price more than coupon bonds. They can be issued by the U.S. Treasury, corporations, and state and local government entities and generally have long maturity dates.

* * *

Bonds are subject to interest rate, inflation, and credit risks, and they have different maturities. As interest rates rise, bond prices typically fall. The return and principal value of bonds fluctuate with changes in market conditions. If not held to maturity, bonds may be worth more or less than their original cost. Bond funds are subject to the same inflation, interest rate, and credit risks associated with their underlying bonds. As interest rates rise, bond prices typically fall, which can adversely affect a bond fund's performance.

Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

 

The information in this article is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2018 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.


 

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