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16 Jul 2015

Summer on Augusta

Our company is one of many proud sponsors of the annual event “Summer on Augusta”, presented by Virginia Hayes of Coldwell Banker Caine.  The event takes place every summer in the beautiful historic area of Augusta Street  in downtown Greenville, SC.  Special events along Augusta Street are presented by local businesses as we celebrate Summer with festivities, block parties, kids activities, southern themed events, tomato pie contest, great food, cool drinks, live music and much more! It’s a great time on Augusta Street. Watch for upcoming events  and be a part of our community by joining the Augusta Road Business Association!  New members are always welcome.

Please email with questions!


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25 Jan 2015

Quarterly Economic Update



“There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.”  Bern Williams


Do you own a small business? Do you work for yourself, or freelance? Just a reminder: January 15 is the deadline for Q4 1040-ES forms.

A review of 4Q 2014

The last quarter of 2014 brought more volatility to the stock and commodities markets. The S&P 500 and Dow both gained more than 4%, outperforming quite a few of the major foreign indices. Oil prices took a dive, along with prices of other key energy futures. The pace of home sales slowed and year-over-year home price gains grew smaller. Tumbling energy shares and a pandemic exerted more strain on equities than the end of QE3. New economic worries arrived for the European Union, Russia and Japan. Our economy looked solid, showing less unemployment, more consumer spending and impressive growth.1


America was clearly getting back on its feet economically. Unemployment declined only 0.1% between September and November, but at 5.8%, November’s jobless rate was down 1.2% year-over-year. (The overall jobless rate, or U-6 rate, dipped to 11.4% in that month.) Job creation really picked up in fall: there were 243,000 new hires in October, 321,000 in November. Hourly earnings rose 0.4% in November, indicating decent wage growth at last.2

Consumers were spending freely, enjoying a reduction in gas prices that gave them a little more discretionary income. On December 31, AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report measured an average price of $2.26 a gallon for unleaded fuel; falling pump prices had saved households more than $14 billion. The Commerce Department measured a distinct rise in personal spending – up 0.3% for October, 0.6% for November and 3.2% for Q3 – and household spending certainly played a part in the terrific final GDP numbers for Q2 (4.6%) and Q3 (5.0%).3,4

A consumer with more income can prove more confident and more ready to make discretionary purchases. That implication was borne out by fall figures from the Commerce Department showing retail sales up 0.3% in October and 0.7% in November, and advancing household confidence surveys. The University of Michigan consumer sentiment index rose from 84.6 to 93.6 across Q4 and the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index moved from (a revised) 89.0 to 92.6. Households certainly didn’t have much inflation pressure to worry about. By November, the annual gain in the headline Consumer Price Index was just 1.3% (it was 1.7% for the core CPI).5,6

Turning from the consumer to the producer, Q4 saw the Institute for Supply Management’s much-observed PMI Producer Price Index move from 56.6 (October) to 59.0 (November) to 58.7 (December), all indicating strong sector growth. ISM’s services index went 58.6-57.1-59.3 across the last three months, flashing the same kind of signal. On the downside, core capital goods orders, minus aircraft, were off 1.9% in October and flat in November. Producer prices flattened in November, leaving the headline Producer Price Index up but 1.4% year-over-year.4,5

While stocks rebounded fast from a severe October drop in reaction to the Ebola virus reaching the U.S., quarterly gains looked to be in jeopardy last month as the oil selloff gained momentum. Then Federal Reserve inserted a new passage into its December policy statement: it would be “patient in beginning to normalize the stance of monetary policy.” It also left the phrase “considerable time” in place. What did investors glean from this? A broad assumption that the central bank would likely wait until mid-2015 or later to adjust interest rates.7


The plunge in oil prices helped to put enormous pressure on Russia’s economy: its stock market foundered in fall, and so did the ruble, which by January had lost half of its value against the dollar (triggering memories of the banking crisis of 1998). In the European Union, a new possibility of fracture emerged as the Greek parliament failed to choose a new leader and thereby dissolved, forcing new national elections. Would the Syriza party rise to the forefront of Greek politics – the same party that wanted to undo the austerity measures set by the EU and the International Monetary Fund as a condition of Greece’s bailout?8,9

The quarter ended with Russia on the edge of recession and the eurozone economy at stall speed (0.8% growth projected for 2014) with the euro approaching 9-year lows against the dollar. Hopes emerged that the European Central Bank might start buying bonds, but the eurozone appeared in stagnant shape. The latest Markit manufacturing PMIs affirmed that suspicion – eurozone, 50.6; France, 47.5; Italy, 48.4; Germany, 51.2.8,10,11

China’s economy exhibited more hints of slowing. Its official factory PMI declined to 50.1 (the tiniest degree of expansion) in December, and its real estate market was in a downturn. (In better news, the nation’s official service sector PMI stood at 54.1 by December.) GDP was expected to slow a bit from the Q3 mark of 7.3% in Q4, which would put China’s 2014 growth at under 7.5%. That would represent the worst year for its economy since 1990. In Japan, data showed inflation lessening for a fourth straight month in November with factory output down 0.6% and retail sales down 0.3%. The Bank of Japan began easing on Halloween, with the yen losing 9.2% against the dollar from then to Christmas.12,13


Benchmarks in China and Argentina came in first and last in Q4 performance. The Shanghai Composite jumped 36.84% in the quarter (its A Shares were up 36.97%), and the MERVAL fell 31.64%.1

Russia’s RTS dropped 29.63%, and several other European indices had quarterly losses. Q4 brought retreats of 5.04% for Spain’s IBEX 35, 9.00% for Italy’s FTSE MIB, 3.25% for France’s CAC 40, 0.86% for the FTSE 100 and 0.16% for the DJ STOXX 600. Two exceptions to all this: Ireland’s ISEQ rose 7.18% and Germany’s DAX gained 3.50%. Besides the MERVAL, other indices in the Americas took hits: the Bovespa went -7.59%, the IPC All-Share -4.09%, the TSX Composite -2.19%.1

In the Asia Pacific region, the Nikkei 225 rose 7.90%, the Sensex 3.26%, and the Hang Seng 2.93%; Pakistan’s KSE 100 gained 8.09%, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 2.23%. Korea’s KOSPI lost 5.17%. In the bigger picture, the Asia Dow retreated 1.27%, outperforming the Europe Dow (-5.63%) and Global Dow (-1.30%) but finishing behind the Dow Jones Americas (+3.13%). As for the MSCI World Index and MSCI Emerging Markets Index, the former rose 0.66% while the latter fell 4.88%.1,14


Q4 brought no relief for energy futures. Losses accelerated on the NYMEX, making 2014 awful for gasoline (-44.42%), West Texas Intermediate crude (-45.87%), natural gas (-31.68%) and heating oil (-37.62). In a true testament to the ups and downs of this sector, Q3’s three worst-performing commodities were Q4’s best performers: corn futures gained 23.77% in the quarter, soybeans 11.61% and wheat 23.00%. Another Q4 winner was coffee, as huge demand met less-than-ideal supply due to parched weather in Brazil. Coffee went +43.19 on the year.15,16

As for the major metals, palladium far outpaced the pack, extending its 2014 advance to 11.35%. Gold wound up down -1.72% for 2014 at the end of the quarter, platinum -11.79%, copper -16.76%, silver -19.36%. The U.S. Dollar Index certainly had a nice Q4, rising another 5.04%.15,17


Existing home sales were up a (revised) 1.4% in October, but sank 6.1% in November according to the National Association of Realtors. New home sales waned as well: the Census Bureau found them down a (revised) 2.2% in October, and off another 1.6% for November. NAR’s pending home sales index was up 0.8% for November after a 1.1% October slip.5

In news aside from sales and sales contracts, the Census Bureau said building permits and housing starts unsurprisingly dipped with the cold weather; permits increased 4.8% in October and declined 5.2% a month after while groundbreaking was up a (revised) 1.7% in October but down 1.6% in November. The lagging S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index showed prices rising 4.6% in the past 12 months in its broadest measurement, compared to 4.8% a month earlier.5,18


All these developments happened parallel to a marked descent in mortgage interest rates. In its December 31 nationwide survey, Freddie Mac found the following average interest rates on home loan types: 30-year FRM, 3.87%; 15-year FRM, 3.15%; 5/1-year ARM, 3.01%; 1-year ARM, 2.40%. All those mean rates were higher in the September 25 survey: 30-year FRM, 4.20%; 15-year FRM, 3.36%; 5/1-year ARM, 3.08%; 1-year ARM, 2.43%.19


As the table below notes, Q4 brought big advances for the Dow, S&P and Nasdaq. It also saw the Russell 2000 rally 9.35%, putting its overall 2014 performance at +3.53%. On New Year’s Eve, the Dow closed at 17,823.07, the NASDAQ at 4,736.05, the S&P at 2,058.90 and the RUT at 1,204.70. The Dow hit a peak of 18,053.71 in Q4 while the S&P peaked at 2,090.57. Among all U.S. indices, the quarter’s best performer was (hardly a surprise) the CBOE VIX. It rose 17.72% to 19.20, going +39.94% for 2014. The quarter’s poorest performer was the PHLX Oil Service Index, down 20.84%.1


DJIA +7.52 +4.58 +7.52 +6.53
NASDAQ +13.40 +5.40 +13.40 +11.77
S&P 500 +11.39 +4.39 +11.39 +6.99
10 YR TIPS 0.49% 0.80% 1.48% 1.68%

Sources:,, – 12/31/141,20,21 Indices are unmanaged, do not incur fees or expenses, and cannot be invested into directly.

These returns do not include dividends.

Now to this quarter. We have seen the U.S. equity market struggle out of the gate, with a selloff in energy shares dragging down the major indices. Some analysts think that what happens in January sets the tone for the year, and they wonder if the coming earnings season will provide sufficient distraction from waning oil demand, flagging overseas economies and the continuing perception of an interest rate increase in the near term. In their eyes, Q1 2015 will be full of storms and headwinds. Others see America as the best house in a bad neighborhood, with its stock market capably insulated from the brunt of these developments. January 5 saw a 331-point drop for the Dow and oil heading under $50, but those news items didn’t eradicate the core bullish sentiment that abides on Wall Street. The quarter may pleasantly surprise investors, as have many quarters in recent years.22


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5 Mar 2014

Organizing Your Paperwork for Tax Season

If you haven’t done it, now’s the time.

Provided by Renita M. Owens, CPA, LLC

How prepared are you to prepare your 1040? The earlier you compile and organize the relevant paperwork, the easier things may be for you (or the tax preparer working for you) this winter. Here are some tips to help you get ready:

As a first step, look at your 2012 return. Unless your job, living situation or financial situation has changed notably since you last filed your taxes, chances are you will need the same set of forms, schedules and receipts this year as you did last year. So open that manila folder (or online vault) and make or print a list of the items that accompanied your 2012 return. You should receive the TY 2013 versions of everything you need by early February at the latest.

How much documentation is needed? If you don’t freelance or own a business, your list may be short: W-2(s), 1099-INT(s), perhaps 1099-DIVs or 1099-Bs, a Form 1098 if you pay a mortgage, and maybe not much more. Independent contractors need their 1099-MISCs, and the self-employed need to compile every bit of documentation related to business expenses they can find: store and restaurant receipts, mileage records, utility bills, and so on.1

In totaling receipts, don’t forget charitable donations. The IRS wants all of them to be documented. A taxpayer who donates $250 or more to a qualified charity needs a written acknowledgment of such a donation. If your own documentation is sufficiently detailed, you may deduct $0.14 for each mile driven on behalf of a volunteer effort for a qualified charity.1

Or medical expenses & out-of-pocket expenses. Collect receipts for any expense for which your employer doesn’t reimburse you, and any medical bills that came your way last year.

If you’re turning to a tax preparer, stand out by being considerate. If you present clean, neat and well-organized documentation to a preparer, that diligence and orderliness will matter. You might get better and speedier service as a result: you are telegraphing that you are a step removed from the clients with missing or inadequate paperwork.

Make sure you give your preparer your federal tax I.D. number (TIN), and remember that joint filers must supply TINs for each spouse. If you claim anyone as a dependent, you will need to supply your preparer with that person’s federal tax I.D. number. Any dependent you claim has to have a TIN, and that goes for newborns, infants and children as well. So if your kids don’t have Social Security numbers yet, apply for them now using Form SS-5 (available online or at your Social Security office). If you claim the Child & Dependent Care Tax Credit, you will need to show the TIN for the person or business that takes care of your kids while you work.1,3

While we’re on the subject of taxes, some other questions are worth examining…

How long should you keep tax returns? The IRS statute of limitations for refunds is 3 years, but if you underreport taxable income, fail to file a return or file a claim for a loss from worthless securities or bad debt deduction, it wants you to keep them longer. You may have heard that keeping your returns for 7 years is wise; some CPAs and tax advisors will tell you to keep them for life. If the tax records are linked to assets, you will want to retain them for when you figure out the depreciation, amortization, or depletion deduction and the gain or loss. Insurers and creditors may want you to keep federal tax returns indefinitely.2

Can you use electronic files as records in audits? Yes. In fact, early in the audit process, the IRS may request accounting software backup files via Form 4564 (the Information Document Request). Form 4564 asks the taxpayer/preparer to supply the file to the IRS on a flash drive, CD or DVD, plus the necessary administrator username and password. Nothing is emailed. The IRS has the ability to read most tax prep software files. For more, search online for “Electronic Accounting Software Records FAQs.” The IRS page should be the top result.4

How do you calculate cost basis for an investment? A whole article could be written about this, and there are many potential variables in the calculation. At the most basic level with regards to stock, the cost basis is original purchase price + any commission on the purchase.

So in simple terms, if you buy 200 shares of the Little Emerging Company @ $20 a share with a $100 commission, your cost basis = $4,100, or $20.50 per share. If you sell all 200 shares for $4,000 and incur another $100 commission linked to the sale, you lose $200 – the $3,900 you wind up with falls $200 short of your $4,100 cost basis.5

Numerous factors affect cost basis: stock splits, dividend reinvestment, how shares of a security are bought or gifted. Cost basis may also be “stepped up” when an asset is inherited. Since 2011, brokerages have been required to keep track of cost basis for stocks and mutual fund shares, and to report cost basis to investors (and the IRS) when such securities are sold.5

P.S.: this tax season is off to a late start. Business filers were able to send in federal tax returns starting January 13, but the start date for processing 1040 and 1041 forms was pushed back to January 31. Per federal law, the April 15 deadline for federal tax returns remains in place, as does the 6-month extension available for those who file IRS Form 4868.6,7

Renita M. Owens, CPA, PFS may be reached at (864)233-4163 or


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11 Jul 2013

Quarterly Economic Update, 2nd Quarter, 2013

Stocks advanced for the third quarter out of the last four: the S&P 500 rose 2.36% in three months and climbed to a new record close of 1,669.16 on May 21. While the Federal Reserve threatened to let the air out of the rally as the quarter wound down, key indicators largely showed improvement even as the effects of the sequester cuts presumably trickled down to Main Street. The dollar strengthened and gold was hit hard, though oil pushed toward $100 a barrel. The housing recovery continued undeterred.1,2

When Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke mentioned on June 19 that the central bank might reduce its easing effort later this year and end QE3 altogether in mid-2014, global markets tumbled and the S&P 500 ended up having its first losing month in several (-1.50%). While this was the major event affecting investors in Q2, there were many other consequential economic developments.1,3

Non-farm payrolls expanded by (a revised) 199,000 in April and 195,000 in May, the Labor Department noted. The jobless rate was at 7.6% by May, with the long-term unemployed numbering 4.3 million (1 million fewer than a year before). Consumer spending staged a rebound – it declined 0.3% in April, but then rose 0.3% in May. Consumer incomes rose 0.5% in May (the biggest gain in three months) after a 0.1% rise in April. As for consumer inflation, it was certainly mild: the Consumer Price Index rose 0.1% in May to bring America’s annualized inflation rate to 1.4%. Perhaps as a reflection of the increase in personal spending and low inflation, retail sales were up 0.1% in April and 0.6% in May. While the Commerce Department revised Q1 GDP down to 1.8% in June (from an initial 2.4% estimate), the hope was that the Q2 figure might show solid improvement.4,5,6,7,8

Consumer sentiment improved. April’s Conference Board consumer confidence index was at 69.0; by May it was at 74.3 and in June it reached 81.4. The University of Michigan’s survey also logged an ascent, rising from 76.4 in April to 84.5 in May, then settling at 84.1 in June.9,10

The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing PMI had its ups and downs in the quarter. It wound up at 50.9 in June after coming in at 50.7 in April and 49.0 in May. ISM’s non-manufacturing index rose to 53.7 in May from a 53.1 mark a month earlier – and then it declined in June to 52.2. The Producer Price Index showed similar ups and downs, dropping 0.7% for April and rebounding 0.5% in May. Overall durable goods orders rolled in at a consistent pace: up 3.6% in May.11,12,13,14

When the Supreme Court repealed Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June, it brought federal recognition of same-sex marriages. Financially, that allowed married gay and lesbian couples to file joint tax returns with the IRS and tap into partner health insurance benefits; it also made surviving spouses in such marriages eligible for Social Security survivorship benefits. College students watched interest rates on Stafford loans double to 6.8% due to congressional inaction as June ended, though Capitol Hill lawmakers talked of a fix this summer. Finally, Standard & Poor’s upgraded America’s credit outlook to “stable” from “negative” in June.15,16,17

China’s economy showed distinct signs of cooling off in the quarter. Markit’s monthly PMI showed the nation’s manufacturing sector contracting in May (49.2) and June (48.2), and fears emerged that China might fall short of its 7.5% GDP target for the year. The PRC’s leaders were increasingly focused on rooting the country’s economy in personal consumption rather than exporting and investing. In an effort to clamp down on shadow banking, the People’s Bank of China attempted to curb funding in the interbank lending market, resulting in skyrocketing short-term interest rates. Chinese stocks fell 5.3% in the wake of that move. By the end of the quarter, manufacturing PMIs were at 50.3 in India, 51.0 in Indonesia, 49.5 in Taiwan and 49.4 in South Korea.18,19,20

The good news from Europe: by June, eurozone inflation had declined 0.8% in a year. The bad news: it had risen 0.4% since April to 1.6%. Unemployment for the euro area reached 12.2% in May, up 0.1% from April and up 0.9% in 12 months; at the quarter’s end, jobless rates among EU members ranged from 4.7% (Austria) to 26.9% (Spain). In June, the European Central Bank cut its 2013 GDP projection for the eurozone to -0.6%. It did forecast 1.1% growth in 2014.21,22,23

It was a down quarter for many benchmarks. Some Asia Pacific indices logged gains – the Nikkei 225 (+10.32%), the Sensex (+2.97%), the KSE 100 in Pakistan (+17.04%), the TAIEX in Taiwan (+1.81%). Others didn’t – the Shanghai Composite went -11.51%, the Jakarta Composite -2.47% and Australia’s ASX -3.30%. In the west, the TSX Composite went -4.87%, the Bovespa -15.78% and Mexico’s IPC All-Share -7.84%. While the DAX (+2.10%) and CAC 40 (0.20%) managed small Q2 advances, quarterly losses were more common in Europe – including descents for the RTSI (-12.64%), IBEX (-1.99%) and FTSE 100 (-3.06%). Among regional and multi-country indices, the Global Dow lost only 0.03%,  the DJ STOXX 50 3.46%, the Asia Dow 3.30%, the MSCI World Index just 0.07% and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index 9.14%.24,25

With hints of waning demand in China, U.S. stocks hitting new all-time highs and the dollar growing stronger, there was plenty of selling. The quarter was a disaster for gold, which dropped 23.3% to settle at $1,223.70 on the COMEX on June 28. (In the first half of 2013, gold futures declined $452.10.) Silver’s quarter was even worse: it dropped 31.3%. Platinum futures sank 14.9% in Q2, palladium futures 14.0%. For some other commodities, it was a different story: the first half of 2013 ended with oil up 2.4% YTD, natural gas up 3.9% YTD and cotton up 10.0%. The U.S. Dollar Index went +0.19% in the quarter.26,27,28

A steady stream of positive news arrived from this sector. The April Case-Shiller Home Price Index came out in June, and it showed home prices across 20 cities rising 12.1% in 12 months. The Case-Shiller hadn’t seen a yearly gain that large since March 2006. By May, the National Association of Realtors reported a 12.9% annual gain in existing home sales with a 15.4% increase in the median price of a residential resale; NAR also noted a 12.1% annual improvement in pending home sales. Housing starts and building permits were respectively up 28.6% and 20.8% above year-ago levels by May, and the Census Bureau also noted a 29.0% annualized gain in new home sales.14,29,30,31,32

This might have been the last quarter for rock-bottom mortgage rates. In Freddie Mac’s June 27 Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the average interest rate for the 30-year FRM had risen to 4.46%. (Compare that to 3.57% on March 28.) Other mortgage types also grew more expensive: 15-year FRM, 2.76% to 3.50%; 5/1-year ARM, 2.68% to 3.08%; 1-year ARM, 2.62% to 2.66%.33

Q2 2013 was not as spectacular for U.S. equities as its predecessor. Still, all three major U.S. indices advanced. At the close on June 28, the Dow settled at 14,909.60, the S&P at 1,606.28 and the NASDAQ at 3,403.25. In addition, the Russell 2000 gained 2.73% for the quarter, closing at 977.48 on June 28. Fear increased, at least as measured by the CBOE VIX. The VIX soared 32.26% in the quarter.1
















S&P 500






6/28 RATE










Sources:,, – 6/28/131,34,35,36

Indices are unmanaged, do not incur fees or expenses, and cannot be invested into directly.

These returns do not include dividends.

Gloom invaded Wall Street late in the quarter when Ben Bernanke spoke of tapering QE3. Intellectually, investors knew the Fed couldn’t ease forever – but the market sure had a hard time swallowing the pill. The market dip was far from a correction, though, and subsequent economic indicators lightened the mood on the Street. The coming quarter presents the market with strong challenges: few analysts see great things ahead for this next earnings season, there is fear that the jump in mortgage rates may slow the housing comeback, and investors are keeping wary eyes on economic and political developments in China, Europe and the Middle East.  If the housing, hiring and personal spending numbers measure up to expectations in the coming months, stocks may move a little higher in Q3 while Wall Street waits for fall. 

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«Renita M. Owens, CPA, PFS Disclosure»

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. Marketing Library.Net Inc. is not affiliated with any broker or brokerage firm that may be providing this information to you. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is not a solicitation or recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted index of 30 actively traded blue-chip stocks. The NASDAQ Composite Index is an unmanaged, market-weighted index of all over-the-counter common stocks traded on the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation System. The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. NYSE Group, Inc. (NYSE:NYX) operates two securities exchanges: the New York Stock Exchange (the “NYSE”) and NYSE Arca (formerly known as the Archipelago Exchange, or ArcaEx®, and the Pacific Exchange). NYSE Group is a leading provider of securities listing, trading and market data products and services. The New York Mercantile Exchange, Inc. (NYMEX) is the world’s largest physical commodity futures exchange and the preeminent trading forum for energy and precious metals, with trading conducted through two divisions – the NYMEX Division, home to the energy, platinum, and palladium markets, and the COMEX Division, on which all other metals trade. Nikkei 225 (Ticker: ^N225) is a stock market index for the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE). The Nikkei average is the most watched index of Asian stocks. BSE Sensex or Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitivity Index is a value-weighted index composed of 30 stocks that started January 1, 1986. The Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) is Pakistan’s largest and one of the oldest stock exchanges in South Asia by market capitalization.  The TWSE, or TAIEX, Index is capitalization-weighted index of all listed common shares traded on the Taiwan Stock Exchange.  The SSE Composite Index is an index of all stocks (A and B shares) that are traded at the Shanghai Stock Exchange.  The Jakarta Stock Price Index is a modified capitalization-weighted index of all stocks listed on the regular board of the Indonesia Stock Exchange. The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is Australia’s primary securities exchange. The S&P/TSX Composite Index is an index of the stock (equity) prices of the largest companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) as measured by market capitalization.  The Bovespa Index is a gross total return index weighted by traded volume & is comprised of the most liquid stocks traded on the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange. The Mexican IPC index (Indice de Precios y Cotizaciones) is a capitalization-weighted index of the leading stocks traded on the Mexican Stock Exchange. The DAX 30 is a Blue Chip stock market index consisting of the 30 major German companies trading on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. The CAC-40 Index is a narrow-based, modified capitalization-weighted index of 40 companies listed on the Paris Bourse. The RTS Index (abbreviated: RTSI, Russian: Индекс РТС) is a free-float capitalization-weighted index of 50 Russian stocks traded on the Moscow Exchange in Moscow, Russia. The IBEX 35 is the benchmark stock market index of the Bolsa de Madrid, Spain’s principal stock exchange.  The FTSE 100 Index is a share index of the 100 most highly capitalized companies listed on the London Stock Exchange. The Global Dow (GDOW) is a 150-stock index of corporations from around the world, created by Dow Jones & Company. The Dow Jones STOXX 50 is a stock index representing 50 of the largest companies in Europe based on market capitalization. The stock universe used for selection is an aggregate of the 18 Dow Jones STOXX 600 Supersector indexes, which together capture about 95% of the capitalization of the major stock exchanges in 18 European countries. The Asia Dow is an equal-weighted, 30-stock index that measures 30 of the leading blue-chip stocks traded in the Asia/Pacific region, The MSCI World Index is a free-float weighted equity index that includes developed world markets, and does not include emerging markets. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a float-adjusted market capitalization index consisting of indices in more than 25 emerging economies. The US Dollar Index measures the performance of the U.S. dollar against a basket of six currencies. Additional risks are associated with international investing, such as currency fluctuations, political and economic instability and differences in accounting standards. This material represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific point in time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events, or a guarantee of future results. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.  Investments will fluctuate and when redeemed may be worth more or less than when originally invested. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. All economic and performance data is historical and not indicative of future results. Market indices discussed are unmanaged. Investors cannot invest in unmanaged indices. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional.




1 – [6/28/13]

2 – [6/21/13]

3 – [6/19/13]

4 – [6/7/13]

5 – [6/27/13]

6 – [6/19/13]

7 – [6/13/13]

8 – [6/26/13]

9 – [7/2/13]

10 – [3/29/13]

11 – [7/1/13]

12 – [7/3/13]

13 – [6/14/13]

14 – [6/25/13]

15 – [6/26/13]

16 – [7/1/13]

17 – [6/10/13]

18 – [6/28/13]

19 – [6/24/13]

20 – [7/2/13]

21 – [7/1/13]

22 – [7/2/13]

23 – [6/6/13]

24 – [4/2/13]

25 – [6/28/13]

26 –[6/29/13]

27 – [7/3/13]

28 – [7/3/13]

29 – [6/20/13]

30 – [6/27/13]

31 – [6/18/13]

32 –  [6/25/13]

33 – [7/3/13]

34 – [6/28/13]

34 – [6/28/13]

34 – [6/28/13]

34 – [6/28/13]

34 – [6/28/13]

34 – [6/28/13]

35 – [7/1/13]

36 – [3/28/13]


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11 Jul 2013

The Latest on Social Security

Benefits increase for 2013. Ideas for reform are numerous.

Provided by Renita M. Owens, CPA, PFS

Social Security benefits have increased 1.7% this year. This doesn’t come close to the 3.6% boost retirees got for 2012, but it does mark the second straight annual cost-of-living adjustment. (After a hefty 5.8% COLA for 2009, there were no COLAs for 2010 or 2011).1,2

So for 2013, the average monthly Social Security payment going to a single retiree is $1,261 ($21 larger than last year). The average retired couple gets $2,048 per month in 2013 (a $34 monthly increase). A single retiree claiming benefits at the full retirement age of 66 this year could get a maximum monthly Social Security payment of $2,533.2

Of course, COLAs have also occurred to Medicare premiums and the payroll tax ceiling for employees.

However, Medicare premiums are eating into that COLA. The good news for 2013 is that Part B premiums didn’t rise as much as some analysts expected. Medicare’s trustees, for example, anticipated a $9 monthly increase in these premiums. Instead, the increase was slightly more than $5. Part B premiums are now $104.90 per month, as opposed to $99.90 in 2012. (The annual Part B deductible is $7 greater for 2013 at $147, and the Part A deductible is $28 greater at $1,184.)2,3

So how much does the rise in Part B premiums reduce the 2013 Social Security COLA? If you receive S2,000 a month in Social Security benefits, your effective COLA for 2013 is 1.45% ($29 a month more). If you get $1,000 of Social Security benefits each month, your net COLA is actually 1.2% ($12 a month more).3

Few Social Security recipients have annual ordinary incomes in excess of $85,000 (single filers) or $170,000 (joint filers). Unfortunately, those that do will see their total Part B monthly premiums rise anywhere from $147-336 a month thanks to surcharges (and that isn’t counting surcharges paid on Part D prescription drug plans).3

Social Security’s retirement earnings test amounts have also risen. If you receive Social Security benefits and you will be younger than full retirement age at the end of 2013, $1 of your benefits will be withheld for every $2 that you earn above $15,120 (the 2012 limit was $14,640).4

If you receive Social Security benefits and reach full retirement age during 2013, $1 of your benefits will be withheld for every $3 that you earn above $40,080 – but that restriction applies only to earnings in the months prior to attaining full retirement age. (The applicable 2012 threshold was $38,880.) There is no limit on earnings starting the month an individual attains full retirement age.4

As always, part of your Social Security benefits may be taxed. This may happen if you exceed the program’s “combined income” threshold. (Combined income = adjusted gross income + non-taxable interest + 50% of Social Security benefits.)5

If you are a single filer with a combined income between $25,000-34,000, you may have to pay federal income tax on up to 50% of your Social Security benefits this year. That also goes for joint filers with combined incomes of $32,000-44,000.5

If you are a single filer with a combined income of more than $34,000, you may have to pay federal income tax on up to 85% of your 2013 Social Security benefits. Likewise for joint filers whose combined incomes top $44,000. 5

Those married and filing separately will “probably” have their Social Security benefits taxed in 2013, according to the program’s website.5

The Social Security wage base is 3.3% higher for 2013. In 2012, the federal government levied payroll tax on the first $110,100 of employee income. In 2013, individual wages up until $113,700 are subject to the tax. The payroll tax for employees is also back to 6.2% this year. So an individual worker could pay as much as $7,049.40 in Social Security taxes in 2013 as opposed to a maximum of $4,624.20 in 2012.2,4

How will the sequester cuts affect Social Security? Basically, they won’t. There will be no reduction in Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Veterans Affairs or SNAP benefits under such circumstances. However, the Social Security Administration may suffer budget cuts that result in reduced hours (or closed doors) at its offices and an even longer wait to process disability claims. The sequester cuts will not affect Medicare or Medicaid benefits either, though Medicare payments to doctors face a 2% cut.6

What about Social Security’s projected long-range shortfall? Social Security projects that it can tap its surplus of roughly $2.7 trillion to pay 100% of scheduled retirement benefits through 2032. Yet in 2010, it began paying out more than it took in, a condition that may last for decades thanks to the aging of the baby boomer demographic. Because of this reality, Social Security’s trustees have forecast a $623 billion deficit for 2033, expanding to $1 trillion by 2045 and almost $7 trillion by 2086.7

How does America fix that? The simple fix many legislators have suggested is to hike the full retirement age to 70 from 67. If that happened now, the Congressional Budget Office says the program could keep about 13% more money each year. Of course, the social and economic effects of this could be devastating for many retirees.8

The White House fiscal commission has proposed raising the FICA cap – that is, the payroll tax cap would gradually increase between now and 2050 so that 90% of wages earned in America would be subject to Social Security tax by the middle of the century. (This is how it used to be.) Under this plan, the taxable maximum would be $190,000 by 2020.9

Another fix that has been proposed is indexing Social Security COLAs to price growth instead of average wage growth – that is, to “chained” CPI rather than the Consumer Price Index. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) mentioned the idea in his controversial “Path to Prosperity” plan (the so-called “Ryan roadmap”) late in the 2000s. The Business Roundtable, a coalition of 210 CEOs of major American companies, has also pitched the idea. Detractors note that linking COLAs to chained CPI means lower COLAs and a marked reduction in Social Security benefits especially affecting women.10

The conservative Heritage Foundation recently advanced the idea of cutting Social Security benefits for the richest 9% of retirees, offering a $10,000 tax exemption for seniors who work past Social Security’s full retirement age, and protecting all Social Security income from taxation.11

Other pundits want to see retirement planning left solely to individuals. They cite what Chile did in the early 1980s: it replaced its federal pension program with a system of privately managed personal retirement investment accounts, allowing participants to set their own contribution levels, risk tolerance and retirement date. The effort yielded better than a 9.2% compounded annual return across its first 30 years.12

Several fixes were suggested in a 2010 report issued by the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, including: 1) a 3% cut in benefits, 2) raising the payroll tax to 7.3%, 3) hiking the full retirement age to 68 or older, 4) increasing the Social Security averaging period that determines SSI, 5) reducing the typical yearly COLA by 1% or .5%, 6) reducing spousal benefits, 7) investing some of Social Security’s trust funds in equities, 8) directing some estate tax revenues into Social Security’s trust fund.13

Perhaps a fix lies somewhere within these proposals; unmodified or altered, alone or in combination.

How much retirement income do you have these days? With Social Security’s future still a question mark, you may be thinking about where your retirement income will come from in the years ahead. A chat with the financial professional you know and trust may lead to some ideas.

Renita Owens may be reached at 864.233.4163 or

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.


1 – [10/16/12]

2 – [10/16/12]

3 – [11/16/12]

4 – [10/16/12]

5 – [1/14/13]

6 – [2/19/13]

7 – [8/13/12]

8 – [12/3/12]

9 – [10/19/11]

10 – [1/18/13]

11 – [10/21/11]

12 – [10/12/11]

13 – [5/18/10]


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28 Nov 2012

Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

Whether they’re snatching your purse, diving into your dumpster, stealing your mail, or
hacking into your computer, they’re out to get you. Who are they? Identity thieves.
Identity thieves can empty your bank account, max out your credit cards, open new
accounts in your name, and purchase furniture, cars, and even homes on the basis of
your credit history. If they give your personal information to the police during an arrest
and then don’t show up for a court date, you may be subsequently arrested and jailed.
And what will you get for their efforts? You’ll get the headache and expense of cleaning
up the mess they leave behind.

You may never be able to completely prevent your identity from being stolen, but here
are some steps you can take to help protect yourself from becoming a victim.

Check yourself out

It’s important to review your credit report periodically. Check to make sure that all the
information contained in it is correct, and be on the lookout for any fraudulent activity.
You may get your credit report for free once a year. To do so, contact the Annual Credit
Report Request Service online at or call (877) 322-8228.
If you need to correct any information or dispute any entries, contact the three national
credit reporting agencies:

1. Equifax:
(800) 685-1111

2. Experian:
(888) 397-3742

3. TransUnion:
(800) 916-8800

Secure your number

Your most important personal identifier is your Social Security number (SSN). Guard it
carefully. Never carry your Social Security card with you unless you’ll need it. The same
goes for other forms of identification (for example, health insurance cards) that display
your SSN. If your state uses your SSN as your driver’s license number, request an
alternate number.

Don’t have your SSN preprinted on your checks, and don’t let merchants write it on your
checks. Don’t give it out over the phone unless you initiate the call to an organization
you trust. Ask the three major credit reporting agencies to truncate it on your credit
reports. Try to avoid listing it on employment applications; offer instead to provide it
during a job interview.

Don’t leave home with it

Most of us carry our checkbooks and all of our credit cards, debit cards, and telephone
cards with us all the time. That’s a bad idea; if your wallet or purse is stolen, the thief will
have a treasure chest of new toys to play with.

Carry only the cards and/or checks you’ll need for any one trip. And keep a written
record of all your account numbers, credit card expiration dates, and the telephone
numbers of the customer service and fraud departments in a secure place–at home.

Keep your receipts

When you make a purchase with a credit or debit card, you’re given a receipt. Don’t
throw it away or leave it behind; it may contain your credit or debit card number. And
don’t leave it in the shopping bag inside your car while you continue shopping; if your
car is broken into and the item you bought is stolen, your identity may be as well.
Save your receipts until you can check them against your monthly credit card and bank
statements, and watch your statements for purchases you didn’t make.

When you toss it, shred it

Before you throw out any financial records such as credit or debit card receipts and
statements, cancelled checks, or even offers for credit you receive in the mail, shred the
documents, preferably with a cross-cut shredder. If you don’t, you may find the
panhandler going through your dumpster was looking for more than discarded leftovers.

Keep a low profile

The more your personal information is available to others, the more likely you are to be
victimized by identity theft. While you don’t need to become a hermit in a cave, there are
steps you can take to help minimize your exposure:

To stop telephone calls from national telemarketers, list your telephone number with
the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry by calling (888) 382-
1222 or registering online at

To remove your name from most national mailing and e-mailing lists, as well as
most telemarketing lists, write the Direct Marketing Association at 1120 Avenue of
the Americas, New York, NY 10036-6700, or register online at

To remove your name from marketing lists prepared by the three national consumer
reporting agencies, call (888) 567-8688 or register online at

When given the opportunity to do so by your bank, investment firm, insurance
company, and credit card companies, opt out of allowing them to share your
financial information with other organizations.

You may even want to consider having your name and address removed from the
telephone book and reverse directories.

Take a byte out of crime

Whatever else you may want your computer to do, you don’t want it to inadvertently
reveal your personal information to others. Take steps to help assure that this won’t

Install a firewall to prevent hackers from obtaining information from your hard drive or
hijacking your computer to use it for committing other crimes. This is especially
important if you use a high-speed connection that leaves you continuously connected to
the Internet. Moreover, install virus protection software and update it on a regular basis.

Try to avoid storing personal and financial information on a laptop; if it’s stolen, the thief
may obtain more than your computer. If you must store such information on your laptop,
make things as difficult as possible for a thief by protecting these files with a strong
password–one that’s six to eight characters long, and that contains letters (upper and
lower case), numbers, and symbols.

“If a stranger calls, don’t answer.” Opening e-mails from people you don’t know,
especially if you download attached files or click on hyperlinks within the message, can
expose you to viruses, infect your computer with “spyware” that captures information by
recording your keystrokes, or lead you to “spoofs” (websites that replicate legitimate
business sites) designed to trick you into revealing personal information that can be
used to steal your identity.

If you wish to visit a business’s legitimate website, use your stored bookmark or type the
URL address directly into the browser. If you provide personal or financial information
about yourself over the Internet, do so only at secure websites; to determine if a site is
secure, look for a URL that begins with “https” (instead of “http”) or a lock icon on the
browser’s status bar.

And when it comes time to upgrade to a new computer, remove all your personal
information from the old one before you dispose of it. Using the “delete” function isn’t
sufficient to do the job; overwrite the hard drive by using a “wipe” utility program. The
minimal cost of investing in this software may save you from being wiped out later by an
identity thief.

Be diligent

As the grizzled duty sergeant used to say on a televised police drama, “Be careful out
there.” The identity you save may be your own.


No tags here

28 Nov 2012



Plan to avoid these common money blunders.

Presented by Renita M. Owens, CPA, PFS

A recent survey found that over 60% of women feel they are better at handling money than men are.1 However, married women sometimes find themselves in perplexing financial situations – conditions that might be avoided with a little planning and/or foresight. With vigilance, you can plan to steer clear of these mistakes.

Not saving enough for retirement after marriage. If your spouse earns a huge salary and has invested avidly, you may have less impetus to save for retirement yourself. Your IRA, 401(k) or 403(b) may start to seem more supplemental than primary. Yet what happens if the relationship ends someday and you personally end up with a retirement savings shortfall? Keep contributing to your own retirement accounts.

Dipping into retirement savings once married. If your spouse is really wealthy or has much greater net worth than you do, your retirement nest egg may seem minor in comparison. Your spouse may tell you that with all the investments and savings that you collectively possess, you taking a loan out of your 401(k) won’t be that bad. Well, drawing down your own retirement savings could look like a very bad move 20 or 30 years from now. Who knows what changes life could have in store? Resist the temptation to siphon off your retirement savings.

Trusting a reckless spouse with your finances. When you love someone who is cavalier with money, look out. Beware of ceding financial control or your financial say in such a situation. If you marry someone with severe debt problems, don’t think that you will be financially immune from the effects of those problems. If your spouse is a wastrel or has a terrible credit rating, do not “hand over the keys” to the household finances. Watch what goes on with the bank accounts, investment accounts and credit cards among you– keep communication open and encourage transparency.

Forfeiting some or all of your financial identity. You may have taken your spouse’s name, but that does not mean you need to give up your own credit card for a shared one, merge your personal checking account into a joint one, and so forth. If you don’t use a credit card for several months or years, you won’t have to pay a fee but it could show up as “inactive” on your credit report. The credit card issuer may move to close the account, and losing the credit history of that card could hurt your credit score. Retain individual savings and investment accounts and individual credit cards.2

Divorcing with an “equal” rather than equitable financial settlement. If a divorce happens, the impulse may be to amicably split things “50/50” … or, the focus may be on keeping custody of your kids or keeping your home with your financial potential a distant second. However, you must keep your financial future in mind.

Quite often, a woman will be instrumental in building a business or professional practice with her spouse – but she may not be a part of that successful company or professional entity after a divorce. If you divorce and have helped your spouse build a business to greater or lesser degree, you may not only find yourself out of work but taking a job that pays less or having to learn new skills to compete in the job market. Your earnings potential and retirement savings potential may be affected. If you should divorce, seek an equitable settlement that considers your future financial potential; this is even more important than retaining material wealth or real property from the marriage.

Losing touch with your career path. If you have happily put a career aside to raise kids, keep in mind that you might find yourself returning to work sooner rather than later. Life events, economic necessity, personal desire and growing children may all be factors. Yet a long, total absence from the workplace can make it difficult to step back in – the technology or outlook of any given field can change radically across a few short years. Try to keep a foot (or at least a toe) in your career via consulting or networking efforts.

The takeaway: look out for your financial well-being. It is okay to emphasize (and plan for) your own financial destiny when you are married. In fact, it is both wise and appropriate to do so.

Renita M. Owens, CPA, PFS may be reached at (864)233-4163 or

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty.


1 [02/03/2009]

2 [5/14/10]

3 [9/15/11]


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