Should you make investment moves based on a strong dollar?

Currently, the U.S. dollar is pumped-up and powerful. But what does a strong dollar mean to you, as an investor?
To begin with, it’s important to understand just what is meant by a “strong” dollar. The U.S. dollar does not exist in a vacuum — its value — from a global perspective — is determined by its changing strength relative to that of other currencies.
Let’s look at an example:

‘Step-by-step’ approach can ease estate-planning process

Like many people, you may enjoy investing. After all, it can be invigorating to put away money for your future, follow the performance of your investments and track the progress you’re making toward your long-term goals, such as a comfortable retirement. However, you might be less excited about doing estate planning, dreading the perceived time, effort and cost. Yet, you can make the entire process more manageable by breaking it up into specific tasks.

Goodbye, childcare costs … hello, college savings opportunities

If you’re a working parent, you know firsthand about the difficulties of finding quality, affordable care for your children. But eventually, your kids head off to school, and those child care bills go away, or at least diminish greatly. When that happens, you could start putting away money for another one of your children’s milestones: college.
Just how expensive is child care? Costs vary greatly among the 50 states, but the national average for a 4-year-old at a child care center is approximately $7,880 per year, according to Child Care Aware of America, a child care resource and referral agency sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. What could you do with this money once your child enters kindergarten?

Give Mom more than just flowers

Mother’s Day is almost here. This occasion may have special significance for you if you’ve been fortunate enough to have your mother around for your adult life. So naturally, you’ll want to bring Mom some flowers or another gift. But if she’s planning to retire soon, you may want to think about a longer-term way to improve her life — namely, by initiating a conversation about her retirement income strategy.
Of course, she may already have matters well in hand. But a great many people on the verge of retirement have not planned for those years, so you may be able to provide some valuable suggestions. Here are a few ideas:

Researchers disagree on pink/sockeye ‘food fight’

Alaska salmon producers are not buying the presumption that growing numbers of pinks are eating too much food in the ocean, causing sockeye salmon to grow slower and smaller.
That’s the claim of a new study by Seattle and British Columbia researchers, who say the race for food ultimately affects sockeye abundance and survival.
“Our data sets extend up to 55 years each,” said Greg Ruggerone, a researcher at Natural Resources Consultants in Seattle and study co-author. “In looking at productivity or survival of salmon, they’ve included 36 sockeye populations.”

How can you become a ‘healthy’ investor?

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. This “month” is designed to encourage people to follow a healthy, active lifestyle. You can take steps toward this goal, of course, but why not carry the concept of improving health to other areas of your life — such as your investments?
Toward that end, consider these suggestions:

Can you free yourself from some investment taxes?

April 24 has been designated Tax Freedom Day for 2015. Tax Freedom Day, calculated by the Tax Foundation, is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay off its total tax bill for the year. So it may be a good time to review your own situation to determine if you can “free” yourself from some investment-related taxes in the future.
Of course, Tax Freedom Day is something of a fiction, in practical terms, because most people pay their taxes throughout the year via payroll deductions. Also, you may not mind paying your share of taxes because your tax dollars are used in a variety of ways — such as law enforcement, food safety, road maintenance, public education and so on — that, taken together, have a big impact on the quality of life in this country. Nonetheless, you may well want to look for ways to reduce those taxes associated with your investments, leaving you more money available to meet your important goals, such as a comfortable retirement.

How to be an ‘environmental’ investor

Next week, we observe the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. Since its inception in 1970, Earth Day has inspired millions of people to take action to improve the environment. But the lessons of environmentalism can also be applied to other areas of life — such as investing. Specifically, as an investor, you may well want to follow the “three Rs”: reduce, reuse and recycle.
Let’s see how these environmental themes can be applied to your investment habits:

Control your emotions in volatile markets

For the past few years, the stock market has moved up fairly steadily, with no major “corrections.” But thus far in 2015, we’ve already seen periods of volatility — enough, in fact, to make some investors jittery. Nervous investors may be more prone to make decisions based on short-term market movements — so how can you stay calm?
First of all, when evaluating your investment decisions, stay focused on those factors that have historically driven stock prices. The U.S. economy is growing at a reasonably good pace, and corporate earnings remain fairly strong. Plus, stocks may not be as undervalued as they were a few years ago — as measured by the price-to-earnings ratio — but they still aren’t overly expensive, either.

Protecting seniors from financial abuse

It’s unfortunate but true: the elderly population is targeted for financial abuse or exploitation. In fact, by some estimates, this type of targeted abuse results in billions of dollars in losses each year. If you have elderly parents, what signs should you watch for to determine their vulnerability? And what can you do to help protect your parents from being victimized?

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