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September 2020 Newsletter

Women Outpace Men in Degrees Earned

During the 2019-2020 academic year, U.S. colleges and universities conferred an estimated 989,000 associate’s degrees, 1,975,000 bachelor’s degrees, 820,000 master’s degrees, and 184,000 doctoral degrees. Women attain more degrees than men at every level.

Degrees earned by gender

Return of Premium Life Insurance: Protection and Cash Back

You have decided you need life insurance coverage and are considering buying a term policy. But you ask your financial professional, “Do I get any of my money back at the end of the term?” It’s possible, if you consider buying a special kind of term insurance called return of premium term insurance, or ROP.

How ROP Compares to Straight Term Insurance

In general, straight term insurance provides life insurance coverage for a specific number of years, called the term. The face amount of the policy, or death benefit, is paid to your beneficiaries if you die during the term. If you live longer than the term, or you cancel your policy during the term, nothing is paid. By contrast, an ROP term life insurance policy returns some or all of the premiums you paid if you live past the term of your policy and haven’t cancelled coverage. Some issuers may even pay back a pro-rated portion of your premium if you cancel the ROP policy before the end of the term. Also, the premium returned generally is not considered ordinary income, so you won’t have to pay income taxes on the money you receive from the insurance company. (Please consult your tax professional.)

A return of premium feature may be appealing if you want to have a return of some or all of your premium if you outlive the policy term. Yet the cost of ROP insurance can be significantly higher than straight term insurance, depending on the issuer, age of the insured, the amount of coverage (death benefit), and length of the term. But ROP almost always costs less than permanent life insurance with the same death benefit. While straight term insurance can be purchased for terms as short as one year, most ROP insurance is sold for terms of 10 years or longer.

ROP Considerations

It’s great to know you can get your money back if you outlive the term of your life insurance coverage, but there is a cost for that benefit. Also, if you die during the term of insurance coverage, your beneficiaries will receive the same death benefit from the ROP policy as they would from the less-expensive straight term policy.

Advantages and disadvantages of ROP term insurance

When choosing between straight term and ROP term, you might think about the amount of coverage you need, the amount of money you can afford to spend, and the length of time you need the coverage to continue. Your insurance professional can help you by providing information on straight term and ROP term life insurance, including their respective premium costs.

The cost and availability of life insurance depend on factors such as age, health, and the type and amount of insurance purchased. Before implementing a strategy involving life insurance, it would be prudent to make sure that you are insurable. Optional riders are available for an additional fee and are subject to contractual terms, conditions and limitations as outlined in the prospectus and may not benefit all investors. Any guarantees associated with payment of death benefits, income options, or rates of return are based on the claims paying ability and financial strength of the insurer.

Printing Money: The Fed’s Bond-Buying Program

The Federal Reserve’s unprecedented efforts to support the U.S economy during the COVID-19 pandemic include a commitment by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to purchase Treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed securities “in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning and effective transmission of monetary policy.”1

The Fed buys and sells Treasury securities as part of its regular operations and added mortgage-backed securities to its portfolio during the Great Recession, but the essentially unlimited commitment underscores the severity of the crisis. The Fed is also entering uncharted territory by purchasing corporate, state, and local government bonds and extending other loans to the private sector.

Increasing Liquidity

The Federal Open Market Committee sets interest rates and controls the money supply to support the Fed’s dual mandate to promote maximum employment and stable prices, along with its underlying responsibility to promote the stability of the U.S. financial system. By purchasing Treasury securities, the FOMC increases the supply of money in the broader economy, while its purchases of mortgage-backed securities increase supply in the mortgage market. The key to increasing liquidity — called quantitative easing — is that the Fed can make these purchases with funds it creates out of air.

The FOMC purchases the securities through banks within the Federal Reserve System. Rather than using money it already holds on deposit, the Fed adds the appropriate amount to the bank’s balance. This provides the bank with more money to lend to consumers, businesses, or the government (through purchasing more government securities). It also empowers the Treasury or mortgage agency to issue additional bonds knowing that the Fed is ready to buy them. The surge of bond buying by the Fed that began in March helped the Treasury to finance its massive stimulus program in response to the coronavirus.

By law, the Fed returns its net interest income to the Treasury, so the Treasury securities are essentially interest-free loans. The principal must be paid when the bond matures, and the bonds add to the national debt. But the Treasury issues new bonds as it pays off the old ones, thus shifting the ever-growing debt forward. Protecting Against Inflation Considering the seemingly endless need for government spending and private lending, you may wonder why the Fed doesn’t just create an endless supply of money. The controlling factor is the potential for inflation if there is too much money in the economy.

Big Balance Sheet

The Federal Reserve’s assets grew with quantitative easing during and after the Great Recession. In late 2018, the Fed began to reverse the process by allowing bonds to mature without replacing them, only to back off when markets reacted negatively to the move. The 2020 emergency measures quickly pushed the balance sheet over $7 trillion.

Federal reserve assets in trillions

Low interest rates and “money printing” led to high inflation after World War II and during the 1970s, but the current situation is different.2 Inflation has been low for more than a decade, and the economic crisis has severely curtailed consumer spending, making inflation unlikely in the near term.

Accumulating Funds for Short-Term Goals

Stock market volatility in 2020 has clearly reinforced at least one important investing principle: Short-term goals typically require a conservative investment approach. If your portfolio loses 20% of its value due to a temporary event, it would require a 25% gain just to regain that loss. This could take months or even years to achieve.

So how should you strive to accumulate funds for a short-term goal, such as a wedding or a down payment on a home? First, you’ll need to define “short term,” and then select appropriate vehicles for your money.

Investing time periods are usually expressed in general terms. Long term is typically considered 15 years or longer; mid term is between five and 15 years; and short term is generally five or fewer years.

The basic guidelines of investing apply to short-term goals just as they do for longer-term goals. When determining your investment mix, three factors come into play — your goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance. While all three factors are important, your risk tolerance — or ability to withstand losses while pursuing your goals — may warrant careful consideration.

Example: Say you’re trying to save $50,000 for a down payment on your first home. You’d like to achieve that goal in three years. As you’re approaching your target, the market suddenly drops and your portfolio loses 10% of its value. How concerned would you feel? Would you be able to make up that loss from another source without risking other financial goals? Or might you be able to delay buying your new home until you could recoup your loss?

These are the types of questions you should consider before you decide where to put those short-term dollars. If your time frame is not flexible or you would not be able to make up a loss, an appropriate choice may be lower-risk, conservative vehicles. Examples include standard savings accounts, certificates of deposit, and conservative mutual funds. Although these vehicles typically earn lower returns than higher-risk investments, a disciplined (and automated) saving habit combined with a realistic goal and time horizon can help you stay on course.

The FDIC insures CDs and savings accounts, which generally provide a fixed rate of return, up to $250,000 per depositor, per insured institution.

All investments are subject to market fluctuation, risk, and loss of principal. When sold, investments may be worth more or less than their original cost.

Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

 

 

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