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February 17, 2016

Put your financial 'puzzle' together

January 29 was National Puzzle Day, with puzzle celebrations and events taking place at museums, libraries and other venues across the country. Why this date was chosen - or why National Puzzle Day even exists - is something of a mystery. But as an investor, you can find value in the concept of a puzzle - specifically, in putting together the pieces of your financial puzzle.
  What are these pieces? Here are the essential ones:

  • Growth - At different times in your life, you will have various goals - purchasing a first or second home, sending your children to college, enjoying a comfortable retirement, and so on. While these goals are diverse, they all have one thing in common: To achieve them, you'll need some growth potential in your investment portfolio. The nature and the extent of the growth-oriented vehicles, such as stocks and stock-based instruments, in your holdings will depend on your specific goals, risk tolerance and time horizon - but growth opportunities you must have.
  • Income - Income-producing investments, such as bonds and dividend-paying stocks, can help supplement your earned income during your working years and provide you with a valuable income stream when you're retired. Plus, bonds and other income-producers can help balance a portfolio that might otherwise be too heavy in growth vehicles - which, as you know, are typically higher in risk.
  • Taxes - Taxes will always be part of the investment equation. Whenever possible, you'll want to take advantage of those accounts that let you make tax-deductible contributions and that provide the opportunity for tax-deferred growth, such as a traditional IRA and your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan. You may also find that you can benefit from tax-free investments, such as some types of municipal bonds and a Roth IRA. (Your Roth IRA contributions are not tax-deductible, but your earnings grow tax free, provided you've had your account at least five years and you don't start taking withdrawals until you reach 59½.)
  • Protection - You can't just invest for your future - you also have to protect it. If something were to happen to you, would your family be able to remain in your home? Would your children still be able to go to college? To help ensure continuity and security in your family's lives, you'll need to maintain adequate life and disability insurance. Also, you will need to protect your independence in your retirement years, as you no doubt would want to avoid burdening your grown children with any financial burden. To attain this type of freedom, you may have to guard against the potentially catastrophic costs of long-term care, such as an extended nursing home stay. A financial professional can suggest ways of meeting these expenses.
  • Legacy - After working hard your whole life, you'd probably like to leave something behind to your children, grandchildren, other family members and possibly even charitable institutions. To create the legacy you desire, you will need to create a comprehensive estate plan. Because such a plan may involve a will, living trust and other complex legal documents, you will need to work with your legal and tax advisors.
    Try to put these pieces together to help complete your financial "puzzle" - when you do, you may well like the picture that emerges.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor, Don Mockler.


February 5, 2016

Will the Presidential Election affect investment outlook?

We're just a few weeks away from the caucuses and primaries, so presidential election season is in full swing. As a voter, you may be keenly interested in the election process. But as an investor, should you be concerned?
If you take a look back, you might be somewhat encouraged over the prospects of the financial markets this year. In the last 12 presidential election years, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has been up nine times and down just three. So, election years must be good for the financial markets, right?
Not necessarily. In every year, the markets are influenced by a variety of factors: interest rates, inflation, corporate profits, geopolitical events, economic growth, even the weather. And it's safe to say that 2016 will be no different. At this early stage of the year, one could say that some of these factors, such as continued low interest rates and a reasonably strong economy, might bode well for investors. But there's a lot of 2016 ahead of us - and it's notoriously difficult for anybody, even so-called experts, to accurately predict the market's performance over a relatively short time, such as a year.
Still, the market's history of pretty good results in presidential election years may not be entirely random. For one thing, the White House is never the only office being contested; elections are also held for every congressional district and many seats in the Senate. Consequently, during these election years, campaigning often takes precedence over legislating. This legislative inactivity tends to be welcomed by the financial markets, which generally dislike surprises, big changes and new directions.
However, you can't really count on past trends to provide a certain roadmap for the year ahead, in terms of the performance of the financial markets. As mentioned above, many factors influence this performance, and at this early stage in the year, we just can't predict which of these factors will take precedence.
So, instead of worrying about things you can't control, focus on those that you can. For starters, review your investment mix. Does it still properly reflect your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon? Over time, even if you haven't made many changes to your portfolio, it can become "unbalanced." For example, if you own some stocks that have increased greatly in value over the years, these stocks may now be taking up a larger percentage of your holdings than you had intended, bringing with them a higher degree of risk. Consequently, you might want to consider selling off some of these stocks and using the proceeds to fill in other gaps in your portfolio.
On the other hand, if you think your mix of investments is not providing you with the returns you need to help make progress toward your long-term objectives, you may need to add some vehicles that can provide you with more growth potential. After all, it's 2016 now, so whatever your age, you are another year closer to retirement.
 Will this year look like past presidential election years, as far as good returns from the stock market? No one can say for sure. But if you "vote" for smart investment moves, you won't be sorry.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor, Don Mockler.

February 1, 2016

Conservatives must speak up now

By Marlin Stutzman

For the past several decades, liberals emboldened and indoctrinated in the counter culture movement of the 1960's, have been the most vociferous and ardent supporters of free speech. Lately, it is hard to ignore the deafening silence from the political left as the debate about free speech and religious liberty unfolds here in Indiana and across the nation.
There was a time, not too long ago, when people of all faiths understood and respected each other's differences. The idea of allowing government to dictate the terms of a person's free exercise of conscience or religious beliefs was overwhelmingly rejected by individuals of all faiths, and especially by people of no faith.
As a descendent of people of faith who came to America desperate to escape religious persecution, I understand the history and influence of the church on American culture. However, there are those who do not appreciate this influence. In recent years, we have seen legal challenges to the presence of religious symbols in the public square and remnants of faith in our public policy. These protests seem trivial to some, but certainly transparent in the intent to limit the influence of Judeo-Christian principles on American culture. In many of these cases, heard from city councils to The United States Supreme Court, the individual's rights have trumped the majority. Time-honored traditions, values and sentiments have given way to political correctness dictated by the state and a less tolerant society. Again, this same liberal-progressive movement that argued against our respected traditions in a misguided attempt to promote individuality and diversity are now silent as Christians are attacked for their individual beliefs.  The most recent attacks are no longer relegated to the public square, but are now happening to Christians in their own homes and businesses.
So, how did we get to a place in America where matters of faith are subject to restriction by the state or federal government? And, why are the champions of free speech and personal freedom suddenly silent as Christians remain under constant siege for their beliefs? It is important to understand the ongoing cultural debate in America is not about the Ten Commandments on the courthouse lawn, prayer in our public schools, or protecting the rights of the LGBT community. It is also not about religion in general. The concerted effort by the political left aided by the media and fueled recently by corporate interests is an attempt to reduce the influence of Christianity on our culture and replace faith and family with consumerism and nanny-state government. These political groups certainly have the right to fight for the things they believe, but they do not have the right to silence those of us who disagree. If they were true to their classically liberal ideology they would be defending Christians, not joining the chorus of the authoritarians working to strike another blow against free people in the interests of a more powerful government. Make no mistake, I am not standing by waiting on the progressive left to wake up and reconcile their hypocrisy on this issue. I will continue to defend the First Amendment for all Americans not just for those with whom I agree.
Those who advocate limits on religious speech are shortsighted as they may just as easily become the next target of the thought police. It is why more reasonable and rational voices must stand up and speak out against current measures in the Indiana legislature that in any way limit our First Amendment rights as Americans.  I strongly encourage members of the Indiana House and Senate, especially conservatives who claim to respect our Bill of Rights, to speak up on this crucial matter. You will never have to apologize for defending liberty...not yet anyway.

Marlin Stutzman is currently a Congressman from the Third District and a candidate for the US Senate.