Know how much your donations are worth

As the leaves begin to change and summer high temperatures begin fading in memory, many begin focusing on the annual ritual of Fall Cleaning. Closets often hold hidden gems that still have a lot of wear. Goodwill offers a great place to drop off your gently used items and you benefit from the tax deduction for your donations. Unfortunately, many of us don’t know how to put a value on that slightly worn, but still stylish pair of shoes or a coffee maker that has served its faithful morning duty. To help identify how much tax deduction you can take for various items, Goodwill has created its Valuation Guide for Goodwill Donors. You can access it here. Simply refer to the chart, locate the type of item you’re donating and record the value. It reduces the need to recreate your tax-deductible donations at the end of each year.

Follow the plan

Worried about what to do when the market fluctuates? Follow your plan. The answer is easy but the discipline to do so isn’t always. Read Justus Morgan’s column for more.

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How to read the panicky market

Over the last few trading days, we’ve seen some pretty wild volatility in the market. A solid financial plan is the antidote to ease your anxiety. Read more from Justin Moilanen.

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How to ensure against a rainy day in your career

Read MIke Haubrich’s latest blog post on the About.com blog, Money Over 55 in which he discusses how to ensure against a career rainy day.

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How to fill a career a retirement income gap with career value

Mike Haubrich is now a guest blogger on about.com’s MoneyOver55 blog.

Read his first post here.

How to fill a retirement income gap with career value

Having a plan helps the drop from hurting (too much)

Since last week was the worst decline in the stock market in the past few years we thought you might appreciate a quick note. While a number of pundits have been vocal in providing an explanation, I don’t know that the underlying cause really matters. The reality is that there’s been a decline of around four percent and most likely we’ll see more declines in the future. Of course, we don’t know when or by how much further, but once again, I don’t know that it really matters.Continue reading

An abundant Thanksgiving week

This chapter excerpted from Appreciative Moments: Stories and Practices for Living and Working Appreciatively. iUniverse, 2008.  With permission of the author, Ed Jacobson

Chapter 32:  An Abundant Thanksgiving Week

Thanksgiving_Cover_Photos_for_Facebook_Thanksgiving_2013_HD_Facebook_fb_Timeline_Covers_and_Backgrounds-141

My mind’s been cooking lately about the rapidly-approaching Thanksgiving holiday and the piece I’ve wanted to write about having An Appreciative Thanksgiving Day. Then a new notion arose: Why not think about an Abundant Thanksgiving Day? I love the concept of abundance. It can refer to financial or material abundance, but it embraces much more than that. I conceive of it as a sense of fullness, ripeness, brimming with life, in various sectors of our lives: financial, familial, spiritual, religious, community, work, health, psychological …the list of abundance areas goes on and on. Continue reading

Volatility is up. So what?

Professional investors know something that most people find impossible to believe: that the threat of scary ups and downs in the markets is by far the best friend of the long-term investor.  Why?  Because over the long term, stocks have provided returns far higher than bonds or cash.  If it weren’t for the occasional dizzying gyrations, any rational investor would put his or her money where the highest returns have been.  Right?

This appears to be one of those times–a time when non-professional investors are reminded of the reasons why they have this lingering fear of the stock market.  Since the end of September, the S&P 500 index has done something regularly that it normally does infrequently: moved more than a full percent up or down in a single day.  Consider the recent pattern this month:

  • Oct. 1   -1.3%
  • Oct. 4  +0.05%
  • Oct. 5   +1.1%
  • Oct. 6   -0.2%
  • Oct. 7   -1.5%
  • Oct. 8   +1.8%
  • Oct. 9    -2.1%
  • Oct. 10  -1.1%
  • Oct. 13  -1.65%

Contrast this to the calm before the storm: earlier this year, the markets experienced 42 consecutive days without a single 1% price move, and the accompanying chart shows that this is far from the record.

1 percent gain.loss

 

The question we should be asking ourselves is: why are we paying such close attention to daily market movements?  Why are we allowing ourselves to fall for the trap of getting anxious over short-term swings in stock prices?

This next chart shows the growth of a dollar invested in the S&P 500 at the beginning of 1950, with dividends reinvested, compared with a variety of alternative investments which have not provided the same returns.  (Note that small cap stocks, which are more volatile, have done even better.)  The chart also shows all the scary headlines that the markets managed to sail through on the way to their current levels–all of which are scarier than the things we’re reading about today.

one dollar

 

This is not to say that the markets won’t go lower in the coming days, weeks or months; in fact, we are still awaiting that correction of at least 10% which the markets delivery with some regularity on their way to new highs, which has been long-delayed in this current bull market.  The thing to remember is that the daily price of your stock holdings are determined by mood swings of skittish investors whose fears are stoked by pundits and commentators in the press, who know that the best way to get and hold your attention is to scare the heck out of you.  What they don’t say, because it’s boring, is that the value of your stock holdings are determined by the effectiveness of millions of workers who go to work every day in offices and factories, farms, warehouses, power plants and research facilities, who slowly, incrementally, with their daily labor, build up the value of the businesses they work for.

The last time we checked, that incremental progress hasn’t stopped.  The economy is still growing.  You won’t get a daily report on the value of the stocks you own; only the daily, changing opinions of skittish investors.  But if you take a second look at the growth of an investment in stocks over the long-term, you get a better idea of how that value is built over time, no matter what the markets will do tomorrow.

Sources:  http://www.bespokeinvest.com/thinkbig/2014/6/17/1-moves.htmlhttps://www.jpmorganfunds.com/blobcontent/377/965/1323354460291_II-GROWTH2014.pdf

reprinted with permission of Bob Veres, Inside Information

Watch.Listen.Read. – June 30, 2014

Welcome to my new blog post.  Periodically, I will post links to some things I watch, listen to, or read that may be of interest to you.  Enjoy!

Watch.

TED Talks: Why We Do What We Do

“What is your motive for action? What is it that drives you in your life today?”

http://www.ted.com/talks/tony_robbins_asks_why_we_do_what_we_do

 

Listen.

Freakonomics: Failure Is Your Friend

“With a pre-mortem, you try to find out what might go wrong before it goes wrong.”

http://freakonomics.com/2014/06/05/failure-is-your-friend-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/

 

Read.

Farnam Street: The Science of Improving at Almost Anything

“The energy saved from routines and rituals gives us more energy to make better decisions.”

http://www.farnamstreetblog.com/2014/05/improving-your-performance/

 

 

Hassle-free home sales

As seen in the Racine Journal Times | April 30, 2014

Driving around Racine, I often see homes for sale that have been listed for well over a year. I often wonder how the sellers are dealing with this unnecessary delay in moving forward with their lives. Focusing on a strategy for hassle-free home sales can lead to selling your house in weeks rather than months or years.Continue reading