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November 2016: Will vs. Trust: Is One Better Than the Other?

When it comes to planning your estate, you might be wondering whether you should use a will or a trust (or both). Understanding the similarities and the differences between these two important documents may help you decide which strategy is better for you.

What is a will?

A will is a legal document that lets you direct how your property will be dispersed (among other things) when you die. It becomes effective only after your death. It also allows you to name an estate executor as the legal representative who will carry out your wishes.

In many states, your will is the only legal way you can name a guardian for your minor children. Without a will, your property will be distributed according to the intestacy laws of your state. Keep in mind that wills and trusts are legal documents generally governed by state law, which may differ from one state to the next.

October 2016: Earnings Call: A Closer Look at Financial Reports

The second quarter of 2016 marked the fifth quarter in a row of declining U.S. corporate earnings. Low oil prices and a strong dollar were largely to blame for lackluster financial results.1

Publicly traded companies are required to report quarterly financial results to regulators and shareholders. Earnings season is the often-turbulent period when most companies must disclose their successes and failures. 

September 2016: Quiz: Test Your Interest Rate Knowledge

In December 2015, the Federal Reserve raised the federal funds target rate to a range of 0.25% to 0.50%, the first rate increase from the near-zero range where it had lingered for seven years. Many economists viewed this action as a positive sign that the Fed had finally deemed the U.S. economy healthy enough to withstand slightly higher interest rates. It remains to be seen how rate increases will play out for the remainder of 2016. In the meantime, try taking this short quiz to test your interest rate knowledge.

August 2016: Investors Are Human, Too

In 1981, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller published a groundbreaking study that contradicted a prevailing theory that markets are always efficient. If they were, stock prices

would generally mirror the growth in earnings and dividends. Shiller's research showed that stock prices fluctuate more often than changes in companies' intrinsic valuations (such as dividend yield) would suggest.1

Shiller concluded that asset prices sometimes move erratically in the short term simply because investor behavior can be influenced by emotions such as greed and fear. Many investors would agree that it's sometimes difficult to stay calm and act rationally, especially when unexpected events upset the financial markets.

July 2016: An Investment Reality Check

Market volatility is alive and well in 2016. Low oil prices, China's slowing growth, the prospect of rising interest rates, the strong U.S. dollar, global conflicts--all of these factors have contributed to turbulent markets this year. Many investors may be tempted to review their portfolios only when the markets hit a rough patch, but careful planning is essential in all economic climates. So whether the markets are up or down, reviewing your portfolio with your financial professional can be an excellent way to keep your investments on track, and midway through the year is a good time for a reality check. Here are three questions to consider.

June 2016: Projecting a Happy Retirement

A 2015 study found that 41% of households headed by someone aged 55 to 64 had no retirement savings, and only about a third of them had a traditional pension. Among households in this age group with savings, the median amount was just $104,0001.

Your own savings may be more substantial, but in general Americans struggle to meet their savings goals. Even a healthy savings account may not provide as much income as you would like over a long retirement.

Despite the challenges, about 56% of current retirees say they are very satisfied with retirement, and 34% say they are moderately satisfied. Only 9% are dissatisfied2.

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