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July 2017: Don't Let Rising Interest Rates Catch You by Surprise

You've probably heard the news that the Federal Reserve has been raising its benchmark federal funds rate. The Fed doesn't directly control consumer interest rates, but changes to the federal funds rate (which is the rate banks use to lend funds to each other overnight within the Federal Reserve system) often affect consumer borrowing costs.

Forms of consumer credit that charge variable interest rates are especially vulnerable, including adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs), most credit cards, and certain private student loans. Variable interest rates are often tied to a benchmark (an index) such as the U.S. prime rate or the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), which typically goes up when the federal funds rate increases.

Although nothing is certain, the Fed expects to raise the federal funds rate by small increments over the next several years. However, you still have time to act before any interest rate hikes significantly affect your finances.

June 2017: The Cost of a Wedding

 

Congratulations, you're getting married! While you're looking forward to the big day, chances are you're overwhelmed with all the planning you have to do...and how you can possibly afford the wedding

of your dreams. After all, your wedding will probably be the priciest party you will have in your lifetime. According to a study conducted by The Knot, the national average price of a wedding in 2016 was $35,329, an increase of $2,688 from 2015.1

By following some basic budgeting, saving, and planning guidelines, you can estimate what your wedding will cost.

May 2017: Is Smart Beta a Smart Strategy for You?

Traditional investment indexes such as the S&P 500 are weighted based on market capitalization, the value of a company's total outstanding stock. This means the largest companies in the index may have much greater influence on index performance than smaller companies. For example, the 10 largest companies in the S&P 500 account for more than 18% of the index's performance, as opposed to about 2% if every company were weighted equally.1 Funds that track market-weighted indexes may be the most direct way to participate in broad market performance, but there has been increasing interest in an alternative indexing strategy called smart beta (also known as strategic beta or factor-based investing). More than 100 smart-beta exchange-traded funds (ETFs) were launched in 2016.2

Shifting the weight

April 2017: Four Ways to Double the Power of Your Tax Refund

The IRS expects that more than 70% of taxpayers will receive a refund in 2017.¹ What you do with a tax refund is up to you, but here are some ideas that may make your refund twice as valuable.

Double your savings

Perhaps you'd like to use your tax refund to start an education fund for your children or grandchildren, contribute to a retirement savings account for yourself, or save for a rainy day. A financial concept known as the Rule of 72 can give you a rough estimate of how long it might take to double what you initially save. Simply divide 72 by the annual rate you hope that your money will earn. For example, if you invest your tax refund and it earns a 6% average annual rate of return, your investment might double in approximately 12 years (72 divided by 6 equals 12).

March 2017: Due Date Approaches for 2016 Federal Income Tax Returns

Tax filing season is here again. If you haven't done so already, you'll want to start pulling things together — that includes getting your hands on a copy of last year's tax return and gathering W-2s, 1099s, and deduction records. You'll need these records whether you're preparing your own return or paying someone else to do your taxes for you.

February 2017: Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Social Security Retirement Benefits?

Social Security is an important source of retirement income for millions of Americans, but how much do you know about this program? Test your knowledge, and learn more about your retirement benefits, by answering the following questions.

Questions

1. Do you have to be retired to collect Social Security retirement benefits?

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