A short and relatively placid trading week wrapped up Thursday, with the major indices turning in mixed performances. The S&P 500 retreated 0.08%, the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.17%, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.56%. The MSCI EAFE index, tracking foreign stocks in developed countries, added 0.65%.
FACT OF THE WEEK
The concept of plants as household companions dates back as early as 1,000 BC as a symbol of wealth and luxury. Many plant lovers today continue to keep their leafy friends not only for their beauty but for the health benefits as well. NASA revealed that certain houseplants can remove up to 87% of air toxins in 24 hours. Other studies have found in addition to improving air quality, concentration, and productivity up to 15%, houseplants can also reduce stress and noise pollution emitted by household electronic devices.
Nothing really catalytic emerged to drive the market last week, and volumes were low.
Earnings Season Update
More than 78% of S&P 500 firms reporting so far this earnings season have surpassed analyst expectations, according to FactSet. Since guidance tends to be conservative, there is the possibility that more companies will beat forecasts than expected.
The initial public offering market remained strong. Two high-profile technology companies came public on Thursday and were met with enthusiasm from investors. As mentioned in recent weeks, 2019 could be a banner year for IPOs.
Retail Sales Rebound
March's 1.6% gain was the biggest monthly advance seen since September 2017. Sales of cars and gasoline rose more than 3%.
If the upcoming March consumer spending report is also impressive, concerns about the current business cycle peaking may recede.
Nearly 800 companies will report earnings this week, including some high-profile names. This kicks off five weeks of active daily earnings reports.
Investors will watch corporate profits, guidance, and fundamental indicators with great interest, to try and glean whether the economy is strengthening or softening. Reports on first-quarter economic growth and existing home sales will command particular attention.
FINANCIAL STRATEGY OF THE WEEK
CHOOSE YOUR BENEFICIARIES WISELY
Choosing a beneficiary is the cleanest and clearest way of leaving someone money after you're gone. But the process also requires consideration of both the amount of money at stake and the beneficiary's ability to handle a potential windfall.
Upon opening an investment account or life insurance policy, you will be asked to designate a beneficiary. This decision should be carefully considered, most likely well in advance of opening the account. Naming a beneficiary for a life insurance policy or annuity means it will bypass probate, a lengthy and complicated legal process.
Imagine the world after you're gone. When thinking about your beneficiaries, ask yourself the big questions about the future without you. For example, will your children need money to pay for college? Will your parents need help to pay medical bills? Did you consider children or grandchildren? Do you have a favorite charity?
• A family affair. A beneficiary is usually a spouse, child, relative or friend.
• Spread it around. You can also have more than one, depending on the amount of money and personal circumstances of those in your life. You can also name secondary and tertiary beneficiaries, reducing the chance that all your prospective beneficiaries predecease you.
• No tax. For a spousal beneficiary, most assets pass on tax-free. For example, a widow/widower can roll your IRA over to their own.
If there's a will.
• Conflicting advice. If you have a will, make sure that your will and your designated beneficiaries per account don't contradict each other.
• Will comes up short. Decisions you make regarding beneficiaries usually outrank all stipulations in your will if they conflict.
• Ironclad. Beneficiary Designation forms are more ironclad than a will and a legal dispute over a beneficiary conflict can be long and arduous.
Consider setting up a trust. Trusts remove some of the burden of disposing of your assets when you're gone, by moving them while you're alive. They also have their own costs and require another soul-searching mission: designating a trustee or custodian.
• Kids these days. For children under 18 or those used to a certain lifestyle, consider setting up a trust which allows you to stagger the flow of assets over time so the beneficiary can't spend it unwisely or all at once.
• For their protection. If your beneficiary has debts, a trust can help protect your assets from creditors.
• Trusts can be tax-advantaged. "Revocable trusts" can be altered during your lifetime and its assets are subject to the estate tax. "Irrevocable trusts," on the other hand, generally cannot be changed after they are created without the consent of the beneficiary, so you need to be sure you won't need these assets during your lifetime. The assets in irrevocable trusts are not subject to taxes if correctly drafted and the income remains in trust.
What not to do when choosing a beneficiary or trustee:
There's no point in putting all of your time into choosing your beneficiary if you name an irresponsible trustee. This person will be charged with administering the assets in the trust for your beneficiary and ensures your wishes are carried out.
As always, please contact my office with any questions or financial concerns you may have.
Have a great week!