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Sep
13
How We Deal with Hacks
Over the past few years we have all become accustomed to the news of major data hacking events. From Target to the Federal Government, it seems like almost a constant stream of privacy violations originating with the very companies we trust with our most important facts and figures. And still, there was a collective gasp when Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, announced last week that they had been the victim of a hack which compromised the security of more than 143 million Americans (almost 50% of the country).    First, a point of reference: Equifax (along with its competitors Experian and TransUnion) keep track of the detailed financial affairs of all Americans for the purpose of understanding their risk when...
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Sep
07
September Commentary: A True Story
If you have been a part of the Teplitz Financial Group family for a while, you are probably used to getting an email around this time of year talking about how September is Life Insurance Awareness Month. You probably have a chuckle and say to yourself, "Oh, Ari...that is not a thing." Well, in fact, it is a thing (visit www.lifehappens.org if you don't believe me) and this year, I want to tell you a true story to illustrate the importance of life insurance. Last year, when my daughter was in nursery school, I had to talk to my four-year-old about death. You would think that a career of helping protect people against life's catastrophes would have prepared me for that talk. After all, I routinely talk to families about what might happen....
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Jul
20
Chasing Returns
Over the past few months, you have probably heard more than a couple of Trump Administration officials tout the fact that the stock market is at an all-time high. This should not come as a particular surprise, as you can just go back to 2013, when the market was seemingly hitting all-time highs on a daily basis, to see the Obama Administration taking the same victory lap. Now we can argue the merit of any President taking credit for market performance (I happen to believe that their responsibility, good or bad, is limited), but that is not today's topic. Today, let's look at the danger that exists in constantly hearing about how great the market is doing. First, some facts. Yes, by virtually all measures, the U.S. market is at, or near,...
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May
03
May Commentary: The Tax Reform Gauntlet
Last week Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin stepped into the White House Briefing Room and laid out the broad strokes of Trump Administration's much-hyped tax reform plan. Whether it was the ticking of the "100-day clock" or the first salvo towards delivering on a popular campaign promise, Wednesday gave us the first few drips about where this complex legislative negotiation will begin. The centerpiece of the Administration's proposed tax cut is a drastic decrease in the business tax rate, where corporations and small businesses alike would see their tax bill cut by more than half--from 35% to 15%. Moreover, this new 15% business tax rate would include "pass-through" entities (businesses formed as partnerships, LLCs, and even some...
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Mar
20
March Commentary: I Have Seen the Market Top
If you have been a client for any measurable amount of time, you have probably heard me say something to the effect of, "we don't know when it is going to be, but we have now been in a bull market for several years, so there is no question that we are due for a market correction sooner rather than later." Sound familiar? It should...because I feel like I have said it about 1,000 times in most client meetings since 2013. I haven't gone out on this limb in hopes of timing the next market correction—God knows that if we have learned anything over the past few months, it is that prognostication of any kind is really a losing game. The truth is, we are now more than 8 years into a bull market, making this the second longest bull market in...
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Nov
21
November Commentary: President-Elect Donald Trump
It has been almost two weeks since businessman Donald Trump became the President-Elect of the United States, which means it has been almost two weeks since our collective jaws dropped and we began trying to figure out what the next four years might look like. Given that prognostication has not exactly been an exact science of late, it is hard to tell where we are headed. Prior to election night, conventional wisdom had been that the U.S. investment markets would react more harshly to a Trump victory than to a Clinton win, simply based on the "unknown" factor of Donald Trump, and the anxiety the unknown always brings to the market. About halfway through poll closings, it looked like conventional wisdom would play out. As a Trump victory...
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Oct
27
Confronting a Parent's Fear
I have sold hundreds of life insurance policies. Some have been policies for young children whose parents are looking to protect their child's insurability. Some have been for retirees looking to make sure that they have a legacy to provide to their grown children. Most have been to parents with young children who realize, either theoretically or from personal experience, the tremendous hardship that their premature death would cause for those who depend on them most. I know that fear firsthand. As a parent to my two beautiful children, I have two big concerns. The first is one that all parents must to learn to live with--the fear that something terrible could happen to them. That, sadly, is a fear we must all learn to live with. The...
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Oct
27
Election Commentary: Trading Places
As I was going through boxes in my attic last weekend, I came across the box that contained one of my most prized childhood possessions—my baseball card collection. I still remember trading away a 1987 Topps Barry Bonds rookie card for a 1991 Upper Deck Bernie Williams rookie card and a 1989 Topps Don Mattingly card. I was thrilled. The only Don Mattingly card I had been missing was now in my collection. Truth be told, my friend got the best of that trade. But that was not the point. The point was, he had a resource I wanted, and I had a resource he wanted. So we traded. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is called free trade, and it has become a central issue in the upcoming Presidential election. In order to have a conversation about free...
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Oct
27
October Commentary: Is it the AFFORDABLE Care Act?
It is the last week of October, and we are less than two weeks away from the end of this root canal of a Presidential election. But even before election day finally arrives, millions of Americans will sign up for health insurance during the fourth annual open enrollment of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Earlier this week, the Obama Administration released the 2017 rates for the 39 states that participate in the national health insurance exchange on healthcare.gov. To say these rates were met with resistance would be an understatement of epic proportions. There really is no way to sugarcoat it. On average, the 10 million people who are currently enrolled in ACA on-exchange plans will see a...
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Aug
22
The Battle Over the Minimum Wage
Tags: Politics; Wages
One of the biggest holdovers from the valiant White House run by Senator Bernie Sanders is the adoption of the "Fight-for-$15" effort to more than double the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. What at one point seemed to be nothing more than an idealistic push towards equality was officially adopted by the Democratic National Committee Party Platform during its convention in late July and has now become a major point of contention between Senator Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The fact that the two sides disagree is not a surprise. Democrats generally favor a higher minimum wage than Republicans do. They believe that employers are putting increasing demands on laborers with little to no financial reward, and are, in some cases,...
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Aug
05
August Commentary: The Tax Plans of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton
After the longest election cycle in modern history, we are finally entering the stretch run. Less than 100 days separate us from knowing who the next President of the United States is going to be. Truth is, either way, history will be made. A victory by Secretary Hillary Clinton means the first time that we all get to say "Madam President". A win by Donald Trump will, for the first time since Dwight Eisenhower was elected more than 60 years ago, put a man in the Oval Office who has never held elected office. This election has been polarizing, if nothing else. Social media has been set aflame by constant political rhetoric, and the old adage of not talking politics has been all but retired. As all of us prepare to make our choice in...
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Jul
18
July Commentary: Brought to You by the Word Volatility
The first half of 2016 has certainly not had any shortage of headlines. From terrorist attacks in Dallas, Orlando, Paris, Istanbul and now Nice, to continued tensions between police departments and communities of color across the country, to Brexit and the most contentious Presidential primary campaign in at least 40 years, it is hard to feel something other than exhaustion when it comes to the world stage. It is therefore understandable that investment market performance has largely gone unnoticed. Despite being under the radar, there has been plenty to talk about. The year started with a mini-crash, which saw markets drop around 10% during the first six weeks of the year. That was followed by a rally of equal proportion. And after a...
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Jun
28
How to Handle Brexit
By the time you read this article, you will probably be sick and tired of the word Brexit. If you are like me, you probably spent the weekend hearing friends, family, and Facebook bemoaning the journey that one of our closest geo-political allies is about to embark on. I am very sensitive to the fact that there is a great deal of information out there, so instead of offering another opinion of whether the vote to leave the European Union (EU) was good or bad, I am going to attempt to offer some perspective on the economic ramifications of Britain's new reality. The first, and most important, piece of perspective I can offer is that nothing that happened in the Market on Friday or today sheds light on the long-term implications of the...
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Jun
10
June Commentary: The Curious Incident of the May Jobs Report
The jobs report. The monthly stress test issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that provides metrics to the central question of the current election cycle, "How is the US economy doing?" The dependent relationship between employment and our economic health cannot be denied, nor should it, but as pundits and candidates alike seem hell-bent on confusing the matter, it is important to look beyond the rhetoric to find out what the data actually tells us. The easiest conclusion to draw from May's report is to proclaim that the economy is going to hell in a hand basket. After all, it was the lowest job creation number issued by the BLS since 2010, underperforming its goal by nearly 70%. You might be asking yourself, as I did, how can...
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May
18
Retirement Matters: There is No Magic Number
Clarity. It is the first scientific principle of modern goal setting theory as detailed by Dr. Edwin Locke, the Obi-Wan Kenobi in this area of study. It is about knowing exactly what you are trying to achieve and when. It is about specificity; about being able to measure a goal's outcome. With this in mind, it would seem that the same theory should apply to funding retirement, right? Wrong. When it comes to retirement, there is no magic number. There is simply no way for anyone to accurately predict the exact amount of retirement savings you need to achieve by an exact date in the future in order to ensure retirement happens exactly the way you want it to. The reason? Retirement planning is not an exact science. Here are some sobering...
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May
02
May Commentary: You Need a Will
It was just about two weeks ago when the world learned that Prince, one of the most beloved and creative artists of our time, had died at his Chanhassen, Minnesota home. For his legions of fans, myself included, his legacy will not be about his death, but rather his unique ability to make all of us see the world differently through the colorful lens of his music. Sadly, his legacy might become muddier for his closest loved ones, as it has now been reported that Prince died, like so many others, without a last will and testament. Over the course of my years in practice, I have seen my fair share of families torn apart because the deceased didn't take the steps necessary to ensure that their wishes were carried out. While each situation...
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Apr
11
April Commentary: The New Landscape for Retirement Advice
Let me ask you a question. How many things do you know of that have not been updated since 1974? Your grandmother's house? Sure. Your favorite song? OK. But would you be surprised to know that until yesterday, the major legislation regarding retirement plans and investment advice had not been changed? Given the speed at which the Federal Government operates, it is probably not much of a surprise, but that does not change the impact of the first major regulatory changes to our industry in more than four decades. The issuing of this week's Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) by the Department of Labor (DOL) brought to fruition changes that were first proposed in 2010. The basic issue that the Obama Administration was trying to address...
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Mar
29
While You Were Sleeping...
The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Remember? It was only two months ago, in January, when markets opened the year down nearly 11%. Gas prices reached a multi-year low and recession fears abounded on virtually every financial news network. In fact, if it hadn't been for the incessant coverage of Presidential primaries and the 20+ debates on both sides of the aisle, we may have had an all-out panic on our hands. But guess what? Now, with just three days left in the first quarter of 2016, we have virtually climbed out of the hole the year started in and may, just may, end the quarter with small gains in US markets. Given the current geopolitical and economic climate, it seems somewhat surprising that the Dow and S&P 500 are on the...
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Mar
07
The Thing About Politics and the Economy
Tags: Politics
With all of the media coverage out there, it is hard to believe that we are STILL eight months away from Americans heading to the polls to vote for the next President of the United States. We are barely two months into 2016 and it feels like there is nothing else going on in the world other than the latest sound bite from the candidates. I would contend that whether you are "feeling the Bern," looking to "make American great again," or are somewhere in between, that we can all agree on one thing--this goes on for entirely too long. One of the dangers of such a drawn out electoral process is that it becomes exceedingly easy to get lost in the rhetoric that each candidate throws out and lose sight of the facts that support their claims. For...
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Jan
15
Quarterly Commentary: What to Expect in 2016
For the first time since 2008, December ended a year where both the Dow Jones and S&P 500 finished with negative returns. Couple that with struggles in the international market and minimal gains in bond funds, and you have a year that saw many with results on the wrong side of the line.  Unfortunately, things didn't get better when we turned the page to 2016, as global markets, including the United States, have already seen more than a 7% decline this year (Source: Bloomberg Business). So where do we go from here? Honestly, the jury is out. Everything points towards a year not so dissimilar to the past two, which ended up slightly and down slightly, respectively. The major problem for most investors is finding spots to achieve gain and/or...
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Dec
28
December Commentary: The Wait is Over!
It finally happened! On December 16th, for the first time in nearly a decade, the Federal Reserve raised interest in what represents a hesitant, but real, vote of confidence for the United States economy. The rise amounts to a small but significant move, with rates ticking up from zero to a range of 0.25 and 0.50 percent. This begins the process of closing the books on an era of easy money which helped our nation avoid further consequence of the Great Recession. Truthfully, the move surprised no one. Short of actually tattooing the words on her forehead, Federal Reserve Board Chairwoman Janet Yellen did everything she could to let us know the move was coming. I would say she really did all of us a favor. The lack of surprise likely had a...
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Nov
23
The Economic Impact of ISIS
On November 13, the world watched in horror, as 129 mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, and children were senselessly murdered by a group of radical Islamic militants that we have become all too familiar with. There is absolutely nothing we can do to dry the tears of the families of those lost, nor quell the fears that all of us feel today as a result of what we witnessed. Like you, I have spent much of the last week wondering what's next. A natural fear related to a perceived increase in global terrorism is how will it impact the market. I spoke to many colleagues and clients on Monday who were concerned that the Paris and Beirut attacks would flip the switch on another market correction.  With fear so rampant these...
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Nov
02
The Value of (Employer Subsidized) Health Insurance
I am going to tell you a story. A story about my own personal experience with open market health insurance, as it relates to my son, who was born on July 20, 2015. My goal here is not to bemoan how much my wife's pregnancy cost us, nor to make a comment on the validity of Obamacare, but rather to emphasize the value of employer-paid health insurance as part of an overall compensation package. Like most of the country, I had employer subsidized health insurance for the much of my professional life. And, like most of the country, I didn't pay that much attention to the benefits, and the real costs associated with what I was being offered. I focused only on cost to me, and the out of pocket costs I would have to bear. As a young family, we...
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Oct
21
Back to the Future!
As you have probably already seen on social media, today is Back to the Future Day. For those not familiar with the 1989 classic film, today, October 21st, 2015 was the "future" date that Marty McFly visited in Back to the Future II. It is somewhat funny to watch that movie and see how much the world has changed since 1985. While we may not have hover boards or flying cars, and while the Mets are currently doing a good job of making sure the Cubs don't win the World Series, there is much that the movie got right. Most importantly, the movie accurately predicted the technology would represent the largest economic revolution of the 21st century. As 80s kids like yours truly celebrate Back to the Future Day, I thought it would be a good...
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Sep
25
Happy Life Insurance Awareness Month
Every September, Life Happens, a non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire the public to take personal financial responsibility through the ownership of life insurance and related products, hosts Life Insurance Awareness Month, its annual opportunity to promote the important role that life insurance plays in the life of a family. As a staunch believer in the need for life insurance as part of an overall financial plan, it seemed like a good time to share a story about how life insurance impacted the life of someone I know. A former colleague of mine, Paul, seemed to be living the perfect life. He was married, had three beautiful children, and recently received a promotion that was going to provide some much needed financial...
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Aug
28
Market Commentary: A Late Summer Harvest
The financial news over these last 10 days seems like a steady stream of negativity. Triple-digit market loss, after triple-digit market loss will certainly create some aches and pains for those of us who have money invested in equities here and around the globe. While a loss is a loss, and nothing, but time, will bring back the gains we saw in investment accounts as recently as earlier this month, there are strategies to take some of the sting out of these most recent injuries. One strategy that we are implementing here at the firm is called tax-loss harvesting. Simply put, it means selling a losing position for a loss while using those proceeds to purchase a similar position while it is low. The goal here is to create a current...
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Aug
24
Understanding Last Week in the Market
The work-week isn't more than a few hours old and the phone has already rang more today than it usually does in the course of a week. While I would love to believe that this is an indication that my clients miss me, there is really only one thing it can mean--the market went down. And down it went...more than 1,000 points in three days. If you are keeping score, that is a loss of nearly 6.5% for the Dow Jones Industrial Average between August 19-21st, and a year-to-date loss of more than 8.3%. The S&P 500, a broader U.S. index, was not spared either-- falling below the psychologically important 2,000 mark. It was down 3 percent on the day and more than 7 percent below its recent peak. That is more doom and gloom than anyone really wants...
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Aug
10
What You Need to Know About Paying Off Your Student Loans
Congratulations to the Class of 2015 college graduates! You are officially the most indebted graduating class ever. Yes, that's right...for all of your hard work, your parting gift is an average of more than $35,000 in student. That is nearly 65 BILLION dollars in student debt. And that is just the Bachelor's Degree level. Yikes! With figures like that it is no wonder that one of the top priorities for virtually every young professional or budding family that comes into my office is how to manage five and six-figure student loan debt. While advisors and accountants, present company included, will preach that this is good debt, it is debt none-the-less. Good debt only means that it is better than bank loans, credit card debt and personal...
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Jun
15
The Financial Impact of Maternity Leave
In the news this week was an article about a ground-breaking new benefit offered to employees of Virgin Management in London and Geneva. Employees who have been with the company for two years or more may take up to one year (yes, you read that right), of family leave when becoming a new parent (fathers and adoptive parents included) to get to know their new child. As if this wasn't good enough, there is more. Not only are they entitled to a year of family leave, but they will be paid 100% of their base salary during that time. I know...I fell out of my chair too. When asked about it, Richard Branson, Virgin's founder, said "As a father and now a granddad to three wonderful grandchildren, I know how magical the first year of a child's life...
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Jun
05
Financial Literacy: Necessary and Dangerous
One of the major issues facing financial advisors today is how to increase the financial literacy of our clients. In other words, how do we make financial decision-making feel less daunting and provide a better understanding of the method to the madness (so to speak)? One thing I tell clients who want to deepen their knowledge in this area is to read something. Whether it is the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Money Magazine, Kiplinger’s, or something else entirely, adding a financial publication to your regular reading will help you understand the economic factors that impact everything from our global economy to your personal portfolio. While I stand by this piece of advice, it is also a very slippery slope. It's true, in most areas...
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May
21
Why It's Important to Rollover Your Old 401(k)
This week, a long-time friend of mine announced that after 43 years, she was finally prepared to set sail on the next phase of her life and retire from the only company she has ever worked for. 43 years!!!! That is a lifetime, or more, for many who are reading this article right now. Think about this — in the time that my friend was with her company, we have had eight presidents, six economic recessions, and the median household income has doubled, TWICE, and then some. It seems almost impossible to imagine, doesn't it? But that was the way of the world for a long time. You find a job, you work there for your whole career, and you retire with a pension. In this regard, things have certainly changed. Nowadays, fewer than 7% of large...
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May
08
Generation X and the Financial Planner
Need groceries for dinner but don't want to go to the store? Don't worry, there's an app for that. Trying to get around New York, and too macho to ask for directions? Don't worry, there's an app for that. Need to change a flat tire and don't want to call AAA? Don't worry, there's an app for that. Yes, it's true: there is an app for just about everything. I admit it. I am guilty. I often choose the path of least resistance, or least verbal resistance, when I need advice on something. Our lives have become so automated, that the role of another living, breathing human being, in even the most important decisions in our lives, has been called into question. People have become an inconvenience. While the question of whether or...
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Apr
22
April Commentary: A Review of the First Quarter
As we headed into 2015, many wondered if the stock market could achieve a seventh consecutive year of growth. With interest rates still at or near all-time lows, housing and job markets still in flux, and Europe in a state of disarray, there certainly was a lot of unknown as we set sail on the new year. Well, with one quarter in the books, the only thing that has become clear is...it is going to be quite a ride. Many, including yours truly, anticipated volatility on our way through the year, and that is exactly what we got. No matter how you look at the market results from the first quarter, there were ups and there were downs. As has become a trend, there were a number of occasions when the markets hit all-time highs, but those were...
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Mar
31
There's Still Time to Lower Your 2014 Taxes
By now, most of us have filed and forgotten about our 2014 tax returns. However, if you are one of the millions of Americans who is planning to file over these next two weeks, then there is still time to either bolster your return or lower the payment you will be making to Uncle Sam. The IRS allows individuals to make a prior-year contribution (in this case, 2014) to a traditional IRA, ROTH IRA, or both, prior to your tax return due date, not including extensions. For most of us, that is April 15th, which makes this an ideal time to give final consideration to saving a little bit of extra money for retirement. Your qualifications for this opportunity depend largely on your employment status, filing status and income. The deductibility...
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Mar
06
March Commentary: Some Last Minute Tax Tips!
It's that time of year again! Accountants are burning the midnight oil as they receive package after package, email after email, and phone call after phone call, from clients dreaming of large tax refunds or bracing themselves for the dreaded news of owing additional money to Uncle Sam. By now, I hope most of us have scheduled appointments with our accountants, or downloaded the latest version of TurboTax onto our computers. Or, at the very least, I hope all of us have said to ourselves, "I really need to get my taxes done." The truth is, April 15th will be here before you know it. So as we sit here, just over a month from Tax Day, here are some last-minute tips for you to consider. If you need more time, get an extension. Even...
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Jan
30
January Commentary: The New Year's Resolution
The New Year's Resolution. A commitment we make to ourselves—when we've had a few too many cookies, or cocktails, during the Holiday season—that we then spend twelve months trying desperately to hang on to. Many people don't even make it to month two. In fact, I would venture to say that some of the people reading this have probably already strayed from their goal. And the numbers don't lie. According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, just 8% of people are successful in achieving one or more of their resolutions in any given year, and 24% of us never succeed in achieving any of our resolutions year after year after year. So why the high failure rate? It's not like we make insignificant resolutions. The Journal found that "losing...
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Dec
30
December Commentary: A Happy or Not So Happy New Year?
Well, we are here. The last three days of 2014. I am sure you, like me, have some wonderful memories of the past year, and some that you will be glad to bid farewell to as the calendar turns. From an economic perspective, 2014 has been as up and down as everything else this year. So as we seal the book on the current year and look forward to 2015, here are some of the measurables that will help determine how much we all enjoy the next 12 months. To 18,000 and Beyond! In a month that saw the biggest single day drop in the New York Stock Exchange since 2011, the Dow Jones rebounded for a Merry Christmas, hitting an all-time high of 18,024.17 on December 23rd, and creeping up a few more points in the days that followed. What does this mean?...
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Dec
05
Hot Off the Presses: College Board Releases New Figures on College Costs
Every year, The College Board surveys its more than 6,000 member educational institutions and releases the Trends in College Pricing and Trends in Student Aid reports, designed to provide a foundation of evidence to strengthen policy discussions and decisions on a federal level. Despite the fact that this information may be useful if you find yourself at a cocktail party with your lawmakers and representatives, for our purposes, this information provides an opportunity to look at where college costs might be headed. This year's report provides some very interesting figures. All of us with children under the age of 18 are concerned about how we will ever pay for college. But this year's report makes a compelling argument that maybe, just...
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Nov
26
November Commentary: The Result of the Mid-Term Elections
Now that the midterm elections are safely behind us, a lot of people are wondering how politics will impact their investment returns. The conventional wisdom is that divided government—where one party holds the White House while the other controls the House, the Senate or both—is good for the markets.  And while we recognize that when it comes to investment returns, there is never a magic formula, some of the statistics about the impact of mid-term elections and a divided White House are very interesting. For example, statistics tell us that the markets seem to like midterm elections regardless of who wins. If you look at the research done by the likes of Bloomberg and the BMO Capital Markets Investment Strategy Group, you will see that...
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Oct
29
October Commentary: Don't Lose Your Balance
I have always been a fan of this quote by Brian Tracy, a business development expert whose teaching have been instrumental to many in the financial industry. Brian says, "Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance." No matter what we are talking about, he could not be more right. Balance is an important issue, whether we are talking about parenting, work/life balance, psychological balance or even financial balance. Earlier this month, the S&P 500 was down 7.4% during a two-week selloff (Bob Veras, Client Article Why Losses Matter, 10-25-2014), and there was...
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Oct
21
Welcome to the Financial 123 - The Teplitz Financial Group Blog
Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ari Teplitz, and I am the founder of Teplitz Financial Group. It has been a long and interesting road here, but I believe it is that road which makes me an asset to your financial life. Of all of the technology we use at TFG, and believe me, we use a ton of technology, this blog is my favorite addition to our repetoire. It allows me to have meaningful contact with clients, potential clients, and the public at large about the financial issues that all of us face together. Whether you are worried about buying a home, having a child, retirement, changing jobs, or just having enough money to live your life in the manor that you see fit, this blog will hopefully provide some answers and ideas of how to...
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