Ponderings For the Week of May 24 to 30, 2021

Tepid Results as Market Searches for Direction

Stocks were directionless last week due to diverse opinions about where the investment markets are headed. While strength in the economy remains robust, this is causing concern about inflation and when the Federal Reserve Board may begin to hike interest rates. U. S. economic data has been weaker than expected. As the summer trading season begins in earnest, investment professionals are in a quandary as to the direction of equities. Recent losses in momentum are suggesting that the bears may yet get the upper hand in the next phase of market action.

Should domestic stocks continue to disappoint, investment professionals are urging investors to consider foreign stocks which are more heavily exposed to economically sensitive sectors than their U.S. counterparts. While hardly a reliable indicator of future performance, over the past week U.S. stocks lost 0.4% on average while international stocks gained 1.3%.   

Estimate Your Benefits with Social Security Administration Online Tool

The Social Security Administration website provides an excellent online tool that estimates how much you can expect to receive in Social Security retirement benefits. You already have access to an annual benefits statement from the SSA, either online or by mail for those age 60 or over who have not yet established an online SSA account. What makes the “Retirement Estimator” useful is that it allows you to tweak your future earnings to derive a more accurate estimate of your benefits.

To receive an estimate, you must enter some information including your name, Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, and your earnings for last year. You’ll then receive estimates of benefits at age 62, full retirement age, and age 70. But the best feature is the ability to create additional scenarios, which allow you to see how much more or less you will receive in benefits based on additional factors that you enter. For example, you can compare various scenarios based on changes in your future earnings if you expect to earn more or less in some of the years before you retire. Also, if you expect to stop work before collecting benefits, you can factor that in. The estimated benefit is adjusted for inflation, so the nearer you are to retirement, the more accurate the estimate. Here’s the Web address for the calculator:


The Retirement Estimator cannot be used in some situations, but there are other estimators on the Social Security site that will provide you with a ballpark estimate.

Smart Money Tips 

  • Travel insurance alert. After a painful hiatus for travel lovers, planning wonderful sojourns to distant locales is once again on the docket. Most people don’t consider purchasing travel insurance, but that could be a mistake. Travel entails many financial risks, including but not limited to accidents, illness, missed flights, canceled tours, baggage loss, theft, and emergency evacuation. Deciding on acquiring coverage depends on the chances you’ll need it (the older you are, the more likely you will) and whether you can afford to pay out-of-pocket for any losses or emergency needs, which could be astronomical. I was recently reminded of this when reading about travel to a popular but very remote location that has limited medical facilities. But, the writer reassured, a charter flight could be arranged to the nearest comprehensive medical facility – for a mere $40,000.

    While policies may cover more than one – or all – travel risks, there are five main categories: trip cancellation and interruption, medical, evacuation, baggage, and flight insurance. Costs for comprehensive policies vary, but generally range from 5% to 12% of total trip costs. Rates rise significantly for those over 50. Since Medicare does not cover medical costs outside the U.S., check with your Medigap carrier to see if it covers emergency care overseas - probably not. (Thanks to my good friend, the peripatetic Pat, for suggesting this topic.)

  • The surest way to build up your investments. Articles abound on how poorly prepared so many people are for retirement. Those who have accumulated retirement savings and benefited from the long bull market harbor the fear that another big drop in stock prices could wipe out many years of gains. But before concluding that you’ll never be able to afford to retire, keep in mind that there is one surefire way to build up your wealth and that is to save regularly and regularly increase the amount you’re saving.








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