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Market Month: January 2019

The Markets (as of market close January 31, 2019) Investors celebrated a month in which several indexes posted their best January performance in three decades. A strong labor market, low inflation, and a more "patient" Federal Reserve Board all sent encouraging messages to investors who were hungry for good news after last December's precipitous plunge. The Russell 2000 led the charge, closing the month more than 11% higher than its 2018 close, followed by a nearly 10% gain in the Nasdaq, while the S&P 500, Dow, and Global Dow all topped 7%. By the close of trading on January 31, the price of crude oil (WTI) was $53.95 per barrel, up from the December 31 price of $45.81 per barrel. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.256 per gallon on January 28, down slightly from the December 31 selling price of $2.266 and $0.351 lower than a year ago. The price of gold rose by the end of January, reaching $1,325.70 by close of business on the 31st, up from $1,284.70 at the end ...

How can You Lower the Costs of Owning a Vehicle?

Vehicle expenses can take a big bite out of your budget. According to a AAA report, the average annual total cost of owning and operating a new vehicle in 2018 was $8,849. Fortunately, you may be able to save money by reducing three costs. Depreciation: The loss of a vehicle's value over time was the largest expense associated with buying a vehicle, according to the AAA report. Depreciation accounts for almost 40% of the cost of owning a new vehicle — on average, $3,289. Some cars hold their value better than others, so it's important to consider resale value before you buy. Because depreciation lessens over time, buying a used vehicle or keeping a vehicle longer can help minimize the impact of depreciation. Insurance: The average annual cost of full-coverage auto insurance was $1,189. Premiums are based on many factors, including the vehicle make and model, and your location. Some vehicles may cost substantially more to insure because they are statistically more likely to be damaged i ...

Tax Scams to Watch Out For

While tax scams are especially prevalent during tax season, they can take place any time during the year. As a result, it's in your best interest to always be vigilant so you don't end up becoming the victim of a fraudulent tax scheme. Here are some of the more common scams to watch out for. Phishing Phishing scams usually involve unsolicited emails or fake websites that pose as legitimate IRS sites to convince you to provide personal or financial information. Once scam artists obtain this information, they use it to commit identity or financial theft. It is important to remember that the IRS will never initiate contact with you by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media. If you get an email claiming to be from the IRS, don't respond or click any of the links; instead forward it to phishing@irs.gov. Phone scams Beware of callers claiming that they're from the IRS. They m ...

Structures and Strategies: Family Business Succession Planning

Submitted by David Frederick, J.D., LL.M., Director of Wealth Planning at First Bank Wealth Management. A family business is more than just a business. It’s a livelihood, a life’s savings, a retirement plan, an inheritance, and a legacy. Family businesses face many challenges that require careful planning. Perhaps the greatest challenge is passing the business from one generation to the next and allowing it to successfully grow into the future. While a careful plan can help ensure the successful transfer and continued viability of the business, a lack of planning could effectively end the business during this critical juncture. Parents passing the business to the next generation generally have three areas of concern in common: economic benefit, control of the business, and tax reduction. The confluence of these concerns creates a complex environment that requires careful planning and a sound strategy. Families and individuals engage in business to earn a profit, or an economic benefit. E ...

2018 Market Review

After logging strong returns in 2017, global equity markets delivered negative returns in US dollar terms in 2018. Common news stories in 2018 included reports on global economic growth, corporate earnings, record low unemployment in the US, the implementation of Brexit, US trade wars with China and other countries, and a flattening US Treasury yield curve. Global equity markets delivered positive returns through September, followed by a decline in the fourth quarter, resulting in a –4.4% return for the S&P 500 and –9.4% for the MSCI All Country World Index for the year. The fourth quarter equity market decline has many investors wondering how equities may perform in the near term. Equity market declines of 10% have occurred numerous times in the past. The S&P 500 returned –13.5% in the fourth quarter while the MSCI All Country World Index returned –12.8%. After declines of 10% or more, equity returns over the subsequent 12 months have been positive 71% of the time in US mar ...

12 Days of Tax Tips

By David Frederick, J.D., LL.M., SVP/Director of Wealth Planning, First Bank Wealth Management The end of the year is a time for holidays, celebrations, family gatherings, and New Year’s resolutions. It is also the last opportunity to save on yearly taxes. There are a number of year-end tax strategies and maneuvers that taxpayers can use to potentially save themselves substantial tax, lower their tax bill, or raise their refund next spring. The following are a dozen tips that can help individual taxpayers save on taxes before the year ends. Maximize Retirement Savings Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and Qualified Retirement Plans, like the 401(k), offer substantial present tax savings. A taxpayer may deduct current contributions to these savings plans and benefit from their investments growing tax-deferred, paying tax only when the plans distribute income in retirement. For 2018, an individual may deduct up to $18,500 in contributions to a Qualified Retirement Plan with an add ...

Market Month: November 2018

The Markets (as of market close November 30, 2018) November proved to be a very volatile month for stocks. By the third week of the month, the benchmark indexes listed here had given back just about all of the gains accumulated during the year. However, a spurt during the last week of November helped push stocks higher by the end of the month. Each of the indexes listed here outperformed their October end-of-the-month closing values, led by the large caps of the S&P 500 and the Dow, followed by the Global Dow and the small caps of the Russell 2000. The technology stocks of the Nasdaq edged higher by the close of November, and that index still maintains a sizeable lead year-to-date among the indexes listed here. Nevertheless, investors head into the last month of the year anxiously, as fears of a slowing economy and growing international trade tensions will likely temper expectations for steady stock gains moving forward. Energy stocks have been hit by falling oil prices, and the yield on 10-year Tre ...

2018 Year-End Tax Planning Basics

The window of opportunity for many tax-saving moves closes on December 31, so it's important to evaluate your tax situation now, while there's still time to affect your bottom line for the 2018 tax year. Timing is Everything Consider any opportunities you have to defer income to 2019. For example, you may be able to defer a year-end bonus, or delay the collection of business debts, rents, and payments for services. Doing so may allow you to postpone paying tax on the income until next year. If there's a chance that you'll be in a lower income tax bracket next year, deferring income could mean paying less tax on the income as well. Similarly, consider ways to accelerate deductions into 2018. If you itemize deductions, you might accelerate some deductible expenses like medical expenses, qualifying interest, or state and local taxes by making payments before year-end. Or you might consider making next year's charitable contribution this year instead. Sometimes, however, it may ...

Five Questions About Long-Term Care

  1. What is long-term care? Long-term care refers to the ongoing services and support needed by people who have chronic health conditions or disabilities. There are three levels of long-term care: Skilled care: Generally round-the-clock care that's given by professional health care providers such as nurses, therapists, or aides under a doctor's supervision. Intermediate care: Also provided by professional health care providers but on a less frequent basis than skilled care. Custodial care: Personal care that's often given by family caregivers, nurses' aides, or home health workers who provide assistance with what are called "activities of daily living" such as bathing, eating, and dressing. Long-term care is not just provided in nursing homes--in fact, the most common type of long-term care is home-based care. Long-term care services may also be provided in a variety of other settings, such as assisted living facilities and adult day care centers. 2. ...

November is National Family Caregivers Month

By presidential proclamation, November is National Family Caregivers Month. Each day, parents, children, siblings, and spouses selflessly sacrifice their time and energy to care for family members affected by illness, injury, or disability. Caregiving can exact an emotional, physical, and financial toll. It is important for caregivers to know that their labors of love are appreciated, and to recognize that they need care and support as well. Caregiving often involves providing for the needs of our older population. As the number of older Americans rises, so will the number of caregivers. While we take this time to recognize our caregivers, it's also a good time to consider planning for potential long-term care. According to recent U.S. Department of Health & Human Services information (www.longtermcare.gov), almost 52% of people over age 65 will need some type of long-term care during their lifetimes. Between the ages of 40 and 50, on average, 8% of people have a disability that could requir ...

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Disclosure

All First Bank blog information and content is strictly informational. It is not intended to be specific investment, tax, or legal advice. If you need detailed financial, investment, or tax advice, please contact a First Bank qualified professional. Please note, First Bank occasionally shares third-party content we find to be relevant and helpful to our audiences.