Ameriprise Abney Associates

Ameriprise Abney Associates

Are you looking for ways to reach your financial goals in today's volatile market? We'll help you build a plan to get back on track toward reaching them. Working together, we will work to find investing opportunities in today’s uncertain market that are aligned with your financial goals. Together, we can bring your dreams more within reach.

An Abney Associates Ameriprise Financial Advisor on Qualified and Nonqualified Annuities

You may have heard that IRAs and employer-sponsored plans (e.g., 401(k)s) are the best ways to invest for retirement. That's true for many people, but what if you've maxed out your contributions to those accounts and want to save more? An annuity may be a good investment to look into.




An annuity is a tax-deferred investment contract. The details on how it works vary, but here's the general idea. You invest your money (either a lump sum or a series of contributions) with a life insurance company that sells annuities (the annuity issuer). The period when you are funding the annuity is known as the accumulation phase. In exchange for your investment, the annuity issuer promises to make payments to you or a named beneficiary at some point in the future. The period when you are receiving payments from the annuity is known as the distribution phase. Chances are, you'll start receiving payments after you retire.




Understanding your annuity payout options is very important. Keep in mind that payments are based on the claims-paying ability of the issuer. You want to be sure that the payments you receive will meet your income needs during retirement. Here are some of the most common payout options:


-          You surrender the annuity and receive a lump-sum payment of all of the money you have accumulated.


-          You receive payments from the annuity over a specific number of years, typically between 5 and 20. If you die before this "period certain" is up, your beneficiary will receive the remaining payments.


-          You receive payments from the annuity for your entire lifetime. You can't outlive the payments (no matter how long you live), but there will typically be no survivor payments after you die.


-          You combine a lifetime annuity with a period certain annuity. This means that you receive payments for the longer of your lifetime or the time period chosen. Again, if you die before the period certain is up, your beneficiary will receive the remaining payments.


-          You elect a joint and survivor annuity so that payments last for the combined life of you and another person, usually your spouse. When one of you dies, the survivor receives payments for the rest of his or her life.


When you surrender the annuity for a lump sum, your tax bill on the investment earnings will be due all in one year. The other options on this list provide you with a guaranteed stream of income (subject to the claims-paying ability of the issuer). They're known as annuitization options because you've elected to spread payments over a period of years. Part of each payment is a return of your principal investment. The other part is taxable investment earnings. You typically receive payments at regular intervals throughout the year (usually monthly, but sometimes quarterly or yearly). The amount of each payment depends on the amount of your principal investment, the particular type of annuity, the length of the payout period, your age if payments for lifetime payments, and other factors.




An annuity can often be a great addition to your retirement portfolio. Here are some reasons to consider investing in an annuity:


-          Your investment earnings are tax deferred as long as they remain in the annuity. You don't pay income tax on those earnings until they are paid out to you.


-          An annuity may be free from the claims of your creditors in some states.


-          If you die with an annuity, the annuity's death benefit will pass to your beneficiary without having to go through probate.


-          Your annuity can be a reliable source of retirement income, and you have some freedom to decide how you'll receive that income.


-          You don't have to meet income tests or other criteria to invest in an annuity.


-          You're not subject to an annual contribution limit, unlike IRAs and employer-sponsored plans. You can contribute as much or as little as you like in any given year.


-          You're not required to start taking distributions from an annuity at age 70½ (the required minimum distribution age for IRAs and employer-sponsored plans). You can typically postpone payments until you need the income.


But annuities aren't for everyone. Here are some potential drawbacks:


-          Contributions to nonqualified annuities are made with after-tax dollars and are not tax deductible.


-          Once you've elected to annuitize payments, you usually can't change them, but there are some exceptions.


-          You can take your money from an annuity before you start receiving payments, but your annuity issuer may impose a surrender charge if you withdraw your money within a certain number of years (e.g., seven) after your original investment.


-          You may have to pay other costs when you invest in an annuity (e.g., annual fees, investment management fees, insurance expenses).


-          You may be subject to a 10 percent federal penalty tax (in addition to any regular income tax) if you withdraw your money from an annuity before age 59½, unless you meet one of the exceptions to this rule.


-          Investment gains are taxed as ordinary income tax rates, not at the lower capital gains rate.




If you think that an annuity is right for you, your next step is to decide which type of annuity. Overwhelmed by all of the annuity products on the market today? Don't be. In fact, most annuities fit into a small handful of categories. Your choices basically revolve around two key questions.


First, how soon would you like annuity payments to begin? That probably depends on how close you are to retiring. If you're near retirement or already retired, an immediate annuity may be your best bet. This type of annuity starts making payments to you shortly after you buy the annuity, typically within a year or less. But what if you're younger, and retirement is still a long-term goal? Then you're probably better off with a deferred annuity. As the name suggests, this type of annuity lets you postpone payments until a later time, even if that's many years down the road.


Second, how would you like your money invested? With a fixed annuity, the annuity issuer determines an interest rate to credit to your investment account. An immediate fixed annuity guarantees a particular rate, and your payment amount never varies. A deferred fixed annuity guarantees your rate for a certain number of years; your rate then fluctuates from year to year as market interest rates change. A variable annuity, whether immediate or deferred, gives you more control and the chance to earn a better rate of return (although with a greater potential for gain comes a greater potential for loss). You select your own investments from the subaccounts that the annuity issuer offers. Your payment amount will vary based on how your investments perform.


Note: Variable annuities are sold by prospectus. You should consider the investment objectives, risk, charges and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the variable annuity, can be obtained from the insurance company issuing the variable annuity or from your financial professional. You should read the prospectus carefully before you invest.




It pays to shop around for the right annuity. In fact, doing a little homework could save you hundreds of dollars a year or more. Why? Rates of return and costs can vary widely between different annuities. You'll also want to shop around for a reputable, financially sound annuity issuer. There are firms that make a business of rating insurance companies based on their financial strength, investment performance, and other factors. Consider checking out these ratings.

An Abney Associates Ameriprise Financial Advisor on How Student Loans Impact your Credit


If you've finished college within the last few years, chances are you're paying off your student loans. What happens with your student loans now that they've entered repayment status will have a significant impact--positive or negative--on your credit history and credit score.



When you left school, you enjoyed a grace period of six to nine months before you had to begin repaying your student loans. But they were there all along, sleeping like an 800-pound gorilla in the corner of the room. Once the grace period was over, the gorilla woke up. How is he now affecting your ability to get other credit?


One way to find out is to pull a copy of your credit report. There are three major credit reporting agencies, or credit bureaus--Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union--and you should get a copy of your credit report from each one. Keep in mind, though, that while institutions making student loans are required to report the date of disbursement, balance due, and current status of your loans to a credit bureau, they're not currently required to report the information to all three, although many do.


If you're repaying your student loans on time, then the gorilla is behaving nicely, and is actually helping you establish a good credit history. But if you're seriously delinquent or in default on your loans, the gorilla will turn into King Kong, terrorizing the neighborhood and seriously undermining your efforts to get other credit.



Your credit report contains information about any credit you have, including credit cards, car loans, and student loans. The credit bureau (or any prospective creditor) may use this information to generate a credit score, which statistically compares information about you to the credit performance of a base sample of consumers with similar profiles. The higher your credit score, the more likely you are to be a good credit risk, and the better your chances of obtaining credit at a favorable interest rate.


Many different factors are used to determine your credit score. Some of these factors carry more weight than others. Significant weight is given to factors describing:


  • Your payment history, including whether you've paid your obligations on time, and how long any delinquencies have lasted
  • Your outstanding debt, including the amounts you owe on your accounts, the different types of accounts you have (e.g., credit cards, installment loans), and how close your balances are to the account limits
  • Your credit history, including how long you've had credit, how long specific accounts have been open, and how long it has been since you've used each account
  • New credit, including how many inquires or applications for credit you've made, and how recently you've made them



Always make your student loan payments on time. Otherwise, your credit score will be negatively affected. To improve your credit score, it's also important to make sure that any positive repayment history is correctly reported by all three credit bureaus, especially if your credit history is sparse. If you find that your student loans aren't being reported correctly to all three major credit bureaus, ask your lender to do so.


But even when it's there for all to see, a large student loan debt may impact a factor prospective creditors scrutinize closely: your debt-to-income ratio. A large student loan debt may especially hurt your chances of getting new credit if you're in a low-paying job, and a prospective creditor feels your budget is stretched too thin to make room for the payments any new credit will require.


Moreover, if your principal balances haven't changed much (and they don't in the early years of loans with long repayment terms) or if they're getting larger (because you've taken a forbearance on your student loans and the accruing interest is adding to your outstanding balance), it may look to a prospective lender like you're not making much progress on paying down the debt you already have.



Like many people, you may have put off buying a house or a car because you're overburdened with student loan debt. So what can you do to improve your situation? Here are some suggestions to consider:


  • Pay off your student loan debt as fast as possible. Doing so will reduce your debt-to-income ratio, even if your income doesn't increase.
  • If you're struggling to repay your student loans and are considering asking for forbearance, ask your lender instead to allow you to make interest-only payments. Your principal balance may not go down, but it won't go up, either.
  • Ask your lender about a graduated repayment option. In this arrangement, the term of your student loan remains the same, but your payments are smaller in the beginning years and larger in the later years. Lowering your payments in the early years may improve your debt-to-income ratio, and larger payments later may not adversely affect you if your income increases as well.
  • If you're really strapped, explore extended or income-sensitive repayment options. Extended repayment options extend the term you have to repay your loans. Over the longer term, you'll pay a greater amount of interest, but your monthly payments will be smaller, thus improving your debt-to-income ratio. Income-sensitive plans tie your monthly payment to your level of income; the lower your income, the lower your payment. This also may improve your debt-to-income ratio.
  • If you have several student loans, consider consolidating them through a student loan consolidation program. This won't reduce your total debt, but a larger loan may offer a longer repayment term or a better interest rate. While you'll pay more total interest over the course of a longer term, you'll also lower your monthly payment, which in turn will lower your debt-to-income ratio.
  • If you're in default on your student loans, don't ignore them--they aren't going to go away. Student loans generally cannot be discharged even in bankruptcy. Ask your lender about loan rehabilitation programs; successful completion of such programs can remove default status notations on your credit reports.
An Abney Associates Ameriprise Financial Advisor on Understanding Long-Term Care Insurance

IT'S A FACT: People today are living longer. Although that's good news, the odds of requiring some sort of long-term care increase as you get older. And as the costs of home care, nursing homes, and assisted living escalate, you probably wonder how you're ever going to be able to afford long-term care. One solution that is gaining in popularity is long-term care insurance (LTCI).



Most people associate long-term care with the elderly. But it applies to the ongoing care of individuals of all ages who can no longer independently perform basic activities of daily living (ADLs)--such as bathing, dressing, or eating--due to an illness, injury, or cognitive disorder. This care can be provided in a number of settings, including private homes, assisted-living facilities, adult day-care centers, hospices, and nursing homes.



Even though you may never need long-term care, you'll want to be prepared in case you ever do, because long-term care is often very expensive. Although Medicaid does cover some of the costs of long-term care, it has strict financial eligibility requirements--you would have to exhaust a large portion of your life savings to become eligible for it. And since HMOs, Medicare, and Medigap don't pay for most long-term care expenses, you're going to need to find alternative ways to pay for long-term care. One option you have is to purchase an LTCI policy.

However, LTCI is not for everyone. Whether or not you should buy it depends on a number of factors, such as your age and financial circumstances. Consider purchasing an LTCI policy if some or all of the following apply:


You are between the ages of 40 and 84

You have significant assets that you would like to protect

You can afford to pay the premiums now and in the future

You are in good health and are insurable



Typically, an LTCI policy works like this: You pay a premium, and when benefits are triggered, the policy pays a selected dollar amount per day (for a set period of time) for the type of long-term care outlined in the policy.


Most policies provide that certain physical and/or mental impairments trigger benefits. The most common method for determining when benefits are payable is based on your inability to perform certain activities of daily living (ADLs), such as eating, bathing, dressing, continence, toileting (moving on and off the toilet), and transferring (moving in and out of bed). Typically, benefits are payable when you're unable to perform a certain number of ADLs (e.g., two or three).


Some policies, however, will begin paying benefits only if your doctor certifies that the care is medically necessary. Others will also offer benefits for cognitive or mental incapacity, demonstrated by your inability to pass certain tests.



Before you buy LTCI, it's important to shop around and compare several policies. Read the Outline of Coverage portion of each policy carefully, and make sure you understand all of the benefits, exclusions, and provisions. Once you find a policy you like, be sure to check insurance company ratings from services such as A. M. Best, Moody's, and Standard & Poor's to make sure that the company is financially stable.


When comparing policies, you'll want to pay close attention to these common features and provisions:


  • Elimination period: The period of time before the insurance policy will begin paying benefits (typical options range from 20 to 100 days). Also known as the waiting period.
  • Duration of benefits: The limitations placed on the benefits you can receive (e.g., a dollar amount such as $150,000 or a time limit such as two years).
  • Daily benefit: The amount of coverage you select as your daily benefit (typical options range from $50 to $350).
  • Optional inflation rider: Protection against inflation.
  • Range of care: Coverage for different levels of care (skilled, intermediate, and/or custodial) in care settings specified in policy (e.g., nursing home, assisted living facility, at home).
  • Pre-existing conditions: The waiting period (e.g., six months) imposed before coverage will go into effect regarding treatment for pre-existing conditions.
  • Other exclusions: Whether or not certain conditions are covered (e.g., Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease).
  • Premium increases: Whether or not your premiums will increase during the policy period.
  • Guaranteed renewability: The opportunity for you to renew the policy and maintain your coverage despite any changes in your health.
  • Grace period for late payment: The period during which the policy will remain in effect if you are late paying the premium.
  • Return of premium: Return of premium or nonforfeiture benefits if you cancel your policy after paying premiums for a number of years.
  • Prior hospitalization: Whether or not a hospital stay is required before you can qualify for LTCI benefits.
  • When comparing LTCI policies, you may wish to seek assistance. Consult a financial professional, attorney, or accountant for more information.



There's no doubt about it: LTCI is often expensive. Still, the cost of LTCI depends on many factors, including the type of policy that you purchase (e.g., size of benefit, length of benefit period, care options, optional riders). Premium cost is also based in large part on your age at the time you purchase the policy. The younger you are when you purchase a policy, the lower your premiums will be.


An Abney Associates Ameriprise Financial Advisor: Asset Protection in Estate Planning

You're beginning to accumulate substantial wealth, but you worry about protecting it from future potential creditors. Whether your concern is for your personal assets or your business, various tools exist to keep your property safe from tax collectors, accident victims, health-care providers, credit card issuers, business creditors, and creditors of others.


To insulate your property from such claims, you'll have to evaluate each tool in terms of your own situation. You may decide that insurance and a Declaration of Homestead may be sufficient protection for your home because your exposure to a claim is low. For high exposure, you may want to create a business entity or an offshore trust to shield your assets. Remember, no asset protection tool is guaranteed to work, and you may have to adjust your asset protection strategies as your situation or the laws change.



Liability insurance is at the top of any plan for asset protection. You should consider purchasing or increasing umbrella coverage on your homeowner’s policy. For business-related liability, purchase or increase your liability coverage under your business insurance policy. Generally, the cost of the premiums for this type of coverage is minimal compared to what you might be required to pay under a court judgment should you ever be sued.



Your primary residence may be your most significant asset. State law determines the creditor and judgment protection afforded a residence by way of a Declaration of Homestead, which varies greatly from state to state. For example, a state may provide a complete exemption for a residence (i.e., its entire value), a limited exemption (e.g., up to $100,000), or an exemption under certain circumstances (e.g., a judgment for medical bills). A Declaration of Homestead is easy to file. You pay a small fee, fill out a simple form, and file it at the registry where your deed is recorded.



Perhaps you work in an occupation or business that exposes you to greater potential liability than your spouse's job does. If so, it may be a good idea to divide assets between you so that you keep only the income and assets from your job, while your spouse takes sole ownership of your investments and other valuable assets. Generally, your creditors can reach only those assets that are in your name.



Consider using a corporation, limited partnership, or limited liability company (LLC) to operate the business. Such business entities shield the personal assets of the shareholders, limited partners, or LLC members from liabilities that arise from the business. The liability of these owners will be limited to the assets of the business.


Conversely, corporations, limited partnerships, and LLCs provide some protection from the personal creditors of a shareholder, limited partner, or member. In a corporation, a creditor of an individual owner is able to place a lien on, and eventually acquire, the shares of the debtor/shareholder, but would not have any rights greater than the rights conferred by the shares. In limited partnerships or LLCs, under most state laws, a creditor of a partner or member is entitled to obtain only a charging order with respect to the partner or member's interest. The charging order gives the creditor the right to receive any distributions with respect to the interest. In all respects, the creditor is treated as a mere assignee and is not entitled to exercise any voting rights or other rights that the partner or member possessed.



People have used trusts to protect their assets for generations. The key to using a trust as an asset protection tool is that the trust must be irrevocable and become the owner of your property. Once given away, these assets are no longer yours and are not available to satisfy claims against you. To properly establish an asset protection trust, you must not keep any interest in the trust assets or control over the trust.


Trusts can also protect trust assets from potential creditors of the beneficiaries of the trust. The extent to which a beneficiary's creditors can reach trust property depends on how much access the beneficiary has to the trust property. The more access the beneficiary has to the trust property, the more access the beneficiary's creditors will have. Thus, the terms of the trust are critical.


There are many types of asset protection trusts, each having its own benefits and drawbacks. These trusts include:

  • Spendthrift trusts
  • Discretionary trusts
  • Support trusts
  • Blend trusts
  • Personal trusts
  • Self-settled trusts

Since certain claims can pierce domestic protective trusts (e.g., claims by a spouse or child for support and state or federal claims), you can bolster your protection by placing the trust in a foreign jurisdiction. Offshore or foreign trusts are established under, or made subject to, the laws of another country (e.g., the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Belize, Jersey, Liechtenstein, and the Cook Islands) that does not generally honor judgments made in the United States.



The court will ignore transfers to an asset protection trust if:

  • A creditor's claim arose before you made the transfer
  • You made the transfer with the intent to defraud a creditor
  • You incurred debts without a reasonable expectation of paying them
Abney Associates Ameriprise: Saving for Retirement and a Child's Education

Saving for retirement and a child's education at the same time


You want to retire comfortably when the time comes. You also want to help your child go to college. So how do you juggle the two? The truth is, saving for your retirement and your child's education at the same time can be a challenge. But take heart--you may be able to reach both goals if you make some smart choices now.




The first step is to determine what your financial needs are for each goal. Answering the following questions can help you get started:


For retirement:

  • How many years until you retire?
  • Does your company offer an employer-sponsored retirement plan or a pension plan? Do you participate? If so, what's your balance? Can you estimate what your balance will be when you retire?
  • How much do you expect to receive in Social Security benefits? (You can estimate this amount by using your Personal Earnings and Benefit Statement, now mailed every year by the Social Security Administration.)
  • What standard of living do you hope to have in retirement? For example, do you want to travel extensively, or will you be happy to stay in one place and live more simply?
  • Do you or your spouse expect to work part-time in retirement?


For college:

  • How many years until your child start college?
  • Will your child attend a public or private college? What's the expected cost?
  • Do you have more than one child whom you'll be saving for?
  • Does your child have any special academic, athletic, or artistic skills that could lead to a scholarship?
  • Do you expect your child to qualify for financial aid?

Many on-line calculators are available to help you predict your retirement income needs and your child's college funding needs.




After you know what your financial needs are, the next step is to determine what you can afford to put aside each month. To do so, you'll need to prepare a detailed family budget that lists all of your income and expenses. Keep in mind, though, that the amount you can afford may change from time to time as your circumstances change. Once you've come up with a dollar amount, you'll need to decide how to divvy up your funds.




Though college is certainly an important goal, you should probably focus on your retirement if you have limited funds. With generous corporate pensions mostly a thing of the past, the burden is primarily on you to fund your retirement. But if you wait until your child is in college to start saving, you'll miss out on years of tax-deferred growth and compounding of your money. Remember, your child can always attend college by taking out loans (or maybe even with scholarships), but there's no such thing as a retirement loan!




Ideally, you'll want to try to pursue both goals at the same time. The more money you can squirrel away for college bills now, the less money you or your child will need to borrow later. Even if you can allocate only a small amount to your child's college fund, say $50 or $100 a month, you might be surprised at how much you can accumulate over many years. For example, if you saved $100 every month and earned 8 percent, you'd have $18,415 in your child's college fund after 10 years. (This example is for illustrative purposes only and does not represent a specific investment.)


If you're unsure how to allocate your funds between retirement and college, a professional financial planner may be able to help you. This person can also help you select the best investments for each goal. Remember, just because you're pursuing both goals at the same time doesn't necessarily mean that the same investments will be appropriate. Each goal should be treated independently.




If the numbers say that you can't afford to educate your child or retire with the lifestyle you expected, you'll have to make some sacrifices. Here are some things you can do:


  • Defer retirement: The longer you work the more money you'll earn and the later you'll need to dip into your retirement savings.
  • Work part-time during retirement.
  • Reduce your standard of living now or in retirement: You might be able to adjust your spending habits now in order to have money later. Or, you may want to consider cutting back in retirement.
  • Increase your earnings now: You might consider increasing your hours at your current job, finding another job with better pay, taking a second job, or having a previously stay-at-home spouse return to the workforce.
  • Invest more aggressively: If you have several years until retirement or college, you might be able to earn more money by investing more aggressively (but remember that aggressive investments mean a greater risk of loss).
  • Expect your child to contribute more money to college: Despite your best efforts, your child may need to take out student loans or work part-time to earn money for college.
  • Send your child to a less expensive school: You may have dreamed your child would follow in your footsteps and attend an Ivy League school. However, unless your child is awarded a scholarship, you may need to lower your expectations. Don't feel guilty--a lesser-known liberal arts college or a state university may provide your child with a similar quality education at a far lower cost.
  • Think of other creative ways to reduce education costs: Your child could attend a local college and live at home to save on room and board, enroll in an accelerated program to graduate in three years instead for four, take advantage of a cooperative education where paid internships alternate with course work, or defer college for a year or two and work to earn money for college.




Yes. Should they be? Probably not, most financial planners discourage paying for college with funds from a retirement account; they also discourage using retirement funds for a child's college education if doing so will leave you with no funds in your retirement years. However, you can certainly tap your retirement accounts to help pay the college bills if you need to. With IRAs, you can withdraw money penalty free for college expenses, even if you're under age 59½ (though there may be income tax consequences for the money you withdraw). But with an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k) or 403(b), you'll generally pay a 10 percent penalty on any withdrawals made before you reach age 59½ (age 55 in some cases), even if the money is used for college expenses. You may also be subject to a six month suspension if you make a hardship withdrawal. There may be income tax consequences, as well. (Check with your plan administrator to see what withdrawal options are available to you in your employer-sponsored retirement plan.)

An Abney Associates Ameriprise Financial Advisor for Taking Retirement Plans

Taking advantage of employer-sponsored retirement plans


Employer-sponsored qualified retirement plans such as 401(k)s are some of the most powerful retirement savings tools available. If your employer offers such a plan and you're not participating in it, you should be. Once you're participating in a plan, try to take full advantage of it.




Before you can take advantage of your employer's plan, you need to understand how these plans work. Read everything you can about the plan and talk to your employer's benefit officer. You can also talk to a financial planner, a tax advisor, and other professionals. Recognize the key features that many employer-sponsored plans share:


  • Your employer automatically deducts your contributions from your paycheck. You may never even miss the money--out of sight, out of mind.
  • You decide what portion of your salary to contribute, up to the legal limit. And you can usually change your contribution amount on certain dates during the year.
  • With 401(k), 403(b), 457(b), SARSEPs, and SIMPLE plans, you contribute to the plan on a pretax basis. Your contributions come off the top of your salary before your employer withholds income taxes.
  • Your 401(k), 403(b), or 457(b) plan may let you make after-tax Roth contributions--there's no up-front tax benefit but qualified distributions are entirely tax free.
  • Your employer may match all or part of your contribution up to a certain level. You typically become vested in these employer dollars through years of service with the company.
  • Your funds grow tax deferred in the plan. You don't pay taxes on investment earnings until you withdraw your money from the plan.
  • You'll pay income taxes and possibly an early withdrawal penalty if you withdraw your money from the plan.
  • You may be able to borrow a portion of your vested balance (up to $50,000) at a reasonable interest rate.
  • Your creditors cannot reach your plan funds to satisfy your debts.




The more you can save for retirement, the better your chances of retiring comfortably. If you can, max out your contribution up to the legal limit. If you need to free up money to do that, try to cut certain expenses.


Why put your retirement dollars in your employer's plan instead of somewhere else? One reason is that your pretax contributions to your employer's plan lower your taxable income for the year. This means you save money in taxes when you contribute to the plan--a big advantage if you're in a high tax bracket. For example, if you earn $100,000 a year and contribute $10,000 to a 401(k) plan, you'll pay income taxes on $90,000 instead of $100,000. (Roth contributions don't lower your current taxable income but qualified distributions of your contributions and earnings--that is, distributions made after you satisfy a five-year holding period and reach age 59½, become disabled, or die--are tax free.)


Another reason is the power of tax-deferred growth. Your investment earnings compound year after year and aren't taxable as long as they remain in the plan. Over the long term, this gives you the opportunity to build an impressive sum in your employer's plan. You should end up with a much larger balance than somebody who invests the same amount in taxable investments at the same rate of return.


For example, you participate in your employer's tax-deferred plan (Account A). You also have a taxable investment account (Account B). Each account earns 8 percent per year. You're in the 28 percent tax bracket and contribute $10,000 to each account at the end of every year. You pay the yearly income taxes on Account B's earnings using funds from that same account. At the end of 30 years, Account A is worth $1,132,832, while Account B is worth only $757,970. That's a difference of over $370,000. (Note: This example is for illustrative purposes only and does not represent a specific investment.)




If you can't max out your 401(k) or other plan, you should at least try to contribute up to the limit your employer will match. Employer contributions are basically free money once you're vested in them (check with your employer to find out when vesting happens). By capturing the full benefit of your employer's match, you'll be surprised how much faster your balance grows. If you don't take advantage of your employer's generosity, you could be passing up a significant return on your money.


For example, you earn $30,000 a year and work for an employer that has a matching 401(k) plan. The match is 50 cents on the dollar up to 6 percent of your salary. Each year, you contribute 6 percent of your salary ($1,800) to the plan and receive a matching contribution of $900 from your employer.




Most employer-sponsored plans give you a selection of mutual funds or other investments to choose from. Make your choices carefully. The right investment mix for your employer's plan could be one of your keys to a comfortable retirement. That's because over the long term, varying rates of return can make a big difference in the size of your balance.


Research the investments available to you. How have they performed over the long term? Have they held their own during down markets? How much risk will they expose you to? Which ones are best suited for long-term goals like retirement? You may also want to get advice from a financial professional (either your own, or one provided through your plan). He or she can help you pick the right investments based on your personal goals, your attitude toward risk, how long you have until retirement, and other factors. Your financial professional can also help you coordinate your plan investments with your overall investment portfolio.


Finally, you may be able to change your investment allocations or move money between the plan's investments on specific dates during the year (e.g., at the start of every month or every quarter).




When you leave your job, your vested balance in your former employer's retirement plan is yours to keep. You have several options at that point, including:


  • Taking a lump-sum distribution. This is often a bad idea, because you'll pay income taxes and possibly a penalty on the amount you withdraw. Plus, you're giving up continued tax-deferred growth.
  • Leaving your funds in the old plan, growing tax deferred (your old plan may not permit this if your balance is less than $5,000, or if you've reached the plan's normal retirement age--typically age 65). This may be a good idea if you're happy with the plan's investments or you need time to decide what to do with your money.
  • Rolling your funds over to an IRA or a new employer's plan if the plan accepts rollovers. This is often a smart move because there will be no income taxes or penalties if you do the rollover properly (your old plan will withhold 20 percent for income taxes if you receive the funds before rolling them over). Plus, your funds will keep growing tax deferred in the IRA or new plan.
Abney Associates Ameriprise Financial Advisor : Six Keys To Successful Investing

A successful investor maximizes gain and minimizes loss. Though there can be no guarantee that any investment strategy will be successful and all investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, here are six basic principles that may help you invest more successfully.




It's the "rolling snowball" effect. Put simply, compounding pays you earnings on your reinvested earnings. The longer you leave your money at work for you, the more exciting the numbers get. For example, imagine an investment of $10,000 at an annual rate of return of 8 percent. In 20 years, assuming no withdrawals, your $10,000 investment would grow to $46,610. In 25 years, it would grow to $68,485, a 47 percent gain over the 20-year figure. After 30 years, your account would total $100,627. (Of course, this is a hypothetical example that does not reflect the performance of any specific investment.)


This simple example also assumes that no taxes are paid along the way, so all money stays invested. That would be the case in a tax-deferred individual retirement account or qualified retirement plan. The compounded earnings of deferred tax dollars are the main reason experts recommend fully funding all tax-advantaged retirement accounts and plans available to you.


While you should review your portfolio on a regular basis, the point is that money left alone in an investment offers the potential of a significant return over time. With time on your side, you don't have to go for investment "home runs" in order to be successful.





Riding out market volatility sounds simple, doesn't it? But what if you've invested $10,000 in the stock market and the price of the stock drops like a stone one day? On paper, you've lost a bundle, offsetting the value of compounding you're trying to achieve. It's tough to stand pat.


There's no denying it--the financial marketplace can be volatile. Still, it's important to remember two things. First, the longer you stay with a diversified portfolio of investments, the more likely you are to reduce your risk and improve your opportunities for gain. Though past performance doesn't guarantee future results, the long-term direction of the stock market has historically been up. Take your time horizon into account when establishing your investment game plan. For assets you'll use soon, you may not have the time to wait out the market and should consider investments designed to protect your principal. Conversely, think long-term for goals that are many years away.


Second, during any given period of market or economic turmoil, some asset categories and some individual investments historically have been less volatile than others. Bond price swings, for example, have generally been less dramatic than stock prices. Though diversification alone cannot guarantee a profit or ensure against the possibility of loss, you can minimize your risk somewhat by diversifying your holdings among various classes of assets, as well as different types of assets within each class.




Asset allocation is the process by which you spread your dollars over several categories of investments, usually referred to as asset classes. These classes include stocks, bonds, cash (and cash alternatives), real estate, precious metals, collectibles, and in some cases, insurance products. You'll also see the term "asset classes" used to refer to subcategories, such as aggressive growth stocks, long-term growth stocks, international stocks, government bonds (U.S., state, and local), high-quality corporate bonds, low-quality corporate bonds, and tax-free municipal bonds. A basic asset allocation would likely include at least stocks, bonds (or mutual funds of stocks and bonds), and cash or cash alternatives.


There are two main reasons why asset allocation is important. First, the mix of asset classes you own is a large factor--some say the biggest factor by far--in determining your overall investment portfolio performance. In other words, the basic decision about how to divide your money between stocks, bonds, and cash is probably more important than your subsequent decisions over exactly which companies to invest in, for example.


Second, by dividing your investment dollars among asset classes that do not respond to the same market forces in the same way at the same time, you can help minimize the effects of market volatility while maximizing your chances of return in the long term. Ideally, if your investments in one class are performing poorly, assets in another class may be doing better. Any gains in the latter can help offset the losses in the former and help minimize their overall impact on your portfolio.




Liquidity refers to how quickly you can convert an investment into cash without loss of principal (your initial investment). Generally speaking, the sooner you'll need your money, the wiser it is to keep it in investments with comparatively less volatile price movements. You want to avoid a situation, for example, where you need to write a tuition check next Tuesday, but the money is tied up in an investment whose price is currently down.


Therefore, your liquidity needs should affect your investment choices. If you'll need the money within the next one to three years, you may want to consider certificates of deposit or a savings account, which are insured by the FDIC, or short-term bonds or a money market account, which are neither insured or guaranteed by the FDIC or any other governmental agency. Your rate of return will likely be lower than that possible with more volatile investments such as stocks, but you'll breathe easier knowing that the principal you invested is relatively safe and quickly available, without concern over market conditions on a given day.


Note: If you're considering a mutual fund, consider its investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses, all of which are outlined in the prospectus, available from the fund. Consider the information carefully before investing.




Dollar cost averaging is a method of accumulating shares of stock or a mutual fund by purchasing a fixed dollar amount of these securities at regularly scheduled intervals over an extended time. When the price is high, your fixed-dollar investment buys less; when prices are low, the same dollar investment will buy more shares. A regular, fixed-dollar investment should result in a lower average price per share than you would get buying a fixed number of shares at each investment interval.


Remember that, just as with any investment strategy, dollar cost averaging can't guarantee you a profit or protect you against a loss if the market is declining. To maximize the potential effects of dollar cost averaging, you should also assess your ability to keep investing even when the market is down.


An alternative to dollar cost averaging would be trying to "time the market," in an effort to predict how the price of the shares will fluctuate in the months ahead so you can make your full investment at the absolute lowest point. However, market timing is generally unprofitable guesswork. The discipline of regular investing is a much more manageable strategy, and it has the added benefit of automating the process.




Unless you plan to rely on luck, your portfolio's long-term success will depend on periodically reviewing it. Maybe your uncle's hot stock tip has frozen over. Maybe economic conditions have changed the prospects for a particular investment, or an entire asset class.


Even if nothing bad at all happens, your various investments will likely appreciate at different rates, which will alter your asset allocation without any action on your part. For example, if you initially decided on an 80 percent to 20 percent mix of stocks to bonds, you might find that after several years the total value of your portfolio has become divided 88 percent to 12 percent (conversely, if stocks haven't done well, you might have a 70-30 ratio of stocks to bonds in this hypothetical example). You need to review your portfolio periodically to see if you need to return to your original allocation. To rebalance your portfolio, you would buy more of the asset class that's lower than desired, possibly using some of the proceeds of the asset class that is now larger than you intended.


Another reason for periodic portfolio review: your circumstances change over time, and your asset allocation will need to reflect those changes. For example, as you get closer to retirement, you might decide to increase your allocation to less volatile investments, or those that can provide a steady stream of income.


Read More: Abney & Associates -Six keys to successful investing


Abney Associates Ameriprise Financial Advisor, Six Keys To Successful 

Abney Associates Ameriprise Financial Advisor: Borrowing or withdrawing money from your 401(k) plan

If you have a 401(k) plan at work and need some cash, you might be tempted to borrow or withdraw money from it. But keep in mind that the purpose of a 401(k) is to save for retirement. Take money out of it now, and you'll risk running out of money during retirement. You may also face stiff tax consequences and penalties for withdrawing money before age 59½. Still, if you're facing a financial emergency--for instance, your child's college tuition is almost due and your 401(k) is your only source of available funds--borrowing or withdrawing money from your 401(k) may be your only option.



To find out if you're allowed to borrow from your 401(k) plan and under what circumstances, check with your plan's administrator or read your summary plan description. Some employers allow 401(k) loans only in cases of financial hardship, but you may be able to borrow money to buy a car, to improve your home, or to use for other purposes.


Generally, obtaining a 401(k) loan is easy--there's little paperwork, and there's no credit check. The fees are limited too--you may be charged a small processing fee, but that's generally it.



No matter how much you have in your 401(k) plan, you probably won't be able to borrow the entire sum. Generally, you can't borrow more than $50,000 or one-half of your vested plan benefits, whichever is less. (An exception applies if your account value is less than $20,000; in this case, you may be able to borrow up to $10,000, even if this is your entire balance.)



Typically, you have to repay money you've borrowed from your 401(k) within five years by making regular payments of principal and interest at least quarterly, often through payroll deduction. However, if you use the funds to purchase a primary residence, you may have a much longer period of time to repay the loan.


Make sure you follow to the letter the repayment requirements for your loan. If you don't repay the loan as required, the money you borrowed will be considered a taxable distribution. If you're under age 59½, you'll owe a 10 percent federal penalty tax, as well as regular income tax on the outstanding loan balance (other than the portion that represents any after-tax or Roth contributions you've made to the plan).



- You won't pay taxes and penalties on the amount you borrow, as long as the loan is repaid on time


- Interest rates on 401(k) plan loans must be consistent with the rates charged by banks and other commercial institutions for similar loans


- In most cases, the interest you pay on borrowed funds is credited to your own plan account; you pay interest to yourself, not to a bank or other lender



- If you don't repay your plan loan when required, it will generally be treated as a taxable distribution.


- If you leave your employer's service (whether voluntarily or not) and still have an outstanding balance on a plan loan, you'll usually be required to repay the loan in full within 60 days. Otherwise, the outstanding balance will be treated as a taxable distribution, and you'll owe a 10 percent penalty tax in addition to regular income taxes if you're under age 59½.


- Loan interest is generally not tax deductible (unless the loan is secured by your principal residence).


- You'll lose out on any tax-deferred interest that may have accrued on the borrowed funds had they remained in your 401(k).


- Loan payments are made with after-tax dollars.



Your 401(k) plan may have a provision that allows you to withdraw money from the plan while you're still employed if you can demonstrate "heavy and immediate" financial need and you have no other resources you can use to meet that need (e.g., you can't borrow from a commercial lender or from a retirement account and you have no other available savings). It's up to your employer to determine which financial needs qualify. Many employers allow hardship withdrawals only for the following reasons:


- To pay the medical expenses of you, your spouse, your children, your other dependents, or your plan beneficiary


- To pay the burial or funeral expenses of your parent, your spouse, your children, your other dependents, or your plan beneficiary


- To pay a maximum of 12 months worth of tuition and related educational expenses for post-secondary education for you, your spouse, your children, your other dependents, or your plan beneficiary


- To pay costs related to the purchase of your principal residence


- To make payments to prevent eviction from or foreclosure on your principal residence


- To pay expenses for the repair of damage to your principal residence after certain casualty losses


Note: You may also be allowed to withdraw funds to pay income tax and/or penalties on the hardship withdrawal itself, if these are due.


Your employer will generally require that you submit your request for a hardship withdrawal in writing.



Generally, you can't withdraw more than the total amount you've contributed to the plan, minus the amount of any previous hardship withdrawals you've made. In some cases, though, you may be able to withdraw the earnings on contributions you've made. Check with your plan administrator for more information on the rules that apply to withdrawals from your 401(k) plan.



The option to take a hardship withdrawal can come in very handy if you really need money and you have no other assets to draw on, and your plan does not allow loans (or if you can't afford to make loan payments).



- Taking a hardship withdrawal will reduce the size of your retirement nest egg, and the funds you withdraw will no longer grow tax deferred.


- Hardship withdrawals are generally subject to federal (and possibly state) income tax. A 10 percent federal penalty tax may also apply if you're under age 59½. (If you make a hardship withdrawal of your Roth 401(k) contributions, only the portion of the withdrawal representing earnings will be subject to tax and penalties.)


- You may not be able to contribute to your 401(k) plan for six months following a hardship distribution.



If your employer makes contributions to your 401(k) plan (for example, matching contributions) you may be able to withdraw those dollars once you become vested (that is, once you own your employer's contributions). Check with your plan administrator for your plan's withdrawal rules.


If you are a qualified individual impacted by certain natural disasters, or if you are a reservist called to active duty after September 11, 2001, special rules may apply to you.


Abney Associates Team A financial advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.

Organizing your finances when your spouse has died. Losing a spouse is a stressful transition. And the added pressure of having to settle the estate and organize finances can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make dealing with these matters less difficult.



When your spouse dies, your first step should be to contact anyone who is close to you and your spouse, and anyone who may help you with funeral preparations. Next, you should contact your attorney and other financial professionals. You'll also want to contact life insurance companies, government agencies, and your spouse's employer for information on how you can file for benefits.



Getting expert advice when you need it is essential. An attorney can help you go over your spouse's will and start estate settlement procedures. Your funeral director can also be an excellent source of information and may help you obtain copies of the death certificate and applications for Social Security and veterans benefits. Your life insurance agent can assist you with the claims process, or you can contact the company's policyholder service department directly. You may also wish to consult with a financial professional, accountant, or tax advisor to help you organize your finances.



Before you can begin to settle your spouse's estate or apply for insurance proceeds or government benefits, you'll need to locate important documents and financial records (e.g., birth certificates, marriage certificates, life insurance policies). Keep in mind that you may need to obtain certified copies of certain documents. For example, you'll need a certified copy of your spouse's death certificate to apply for life insurance proceeds. And to apply for Social Security benefits, you'll need to provide birth, marriage, and death certificates.



If you've ever felt frustrated because you couldn't find an important document, you already know the importance of setting up a filing system. Start by reviewing all important documents and organizing them by topic area. Next, set up a file for each topic area. For example, you may want to set up separate files for estate records, insurance, government benefits, tax information, and so on. Finally, be sure to store your files in a safe but readily accessible place. That way, you'll be able to locate the information when you need it.



During this stressful time, you probably have a lot on your mind. To help you keep track of certain tasks and details, set up a phone and mail system to record incoming and outgoing calls and mail. For phone calls, keep a sheet of paper or notebook by the phone and write down the date of the call, the caller's name, and a description of what you talked about. For mail, write down whom the mail came from, the date you received it, and, if you sent a response, the date it was sent.


Also, if you don't already have one, make a list of the names and phone numbers of organizations and people you might need to contact, and post it near your phone. For example, the list may include the phone numbers of your attorney, insurance agent, financial professionals, and friends--all of whom you can contact for advice.



When your spouse dies, you may have some immediate expenses to take care of, such as funeral costs and any outstanding debts that your spouse may have incurred (e.g., credit cards, car loan). Even if you are expecting money from an insurance or estate settlement, you may lack the funds to pay for those expenses right away. If that is the case, don't panic--you have several options. If your spouse had a life insurance policy that named you as the beneficiary, you may be able to get the life insurance proceeds within a few days after you file. And you can always ask the insurance company if they'll give you an advance. In the meantime, you can use credit cards for certain expenses. Or, if you need the cash, you can take out a cash advance against a credit card. Also, you can try to negotiate with creditors to allow you to postpone payment of certain debts for 30 days or more, if necessary.



- Don't think about moving from your current home until you can make a decision based on reason rather than emotion.

- Don't spend money impulsively. When you're grieving, you may be especially vulnerable to pressure from salespeople.

- Don't cave in to pressure to sell or give away your spouse's possessions. Wait until you can make clear-headed decisions.

- Don't give or loan money to others without reviewing your finances first, taking into account your present and future needs and obligations.

Ameriprise Financial Abney Associates Team: Investing for major financial goals

Go out into your yard and dig a big hole. Every month, throw $50 into it, but don't take any money out until you're ready to buy a house, send your child to college, or retire. It sounds a little crazy, doesn't it? But that's what investing without setting clear-cut goals is like. If you're lucky, you may end up with enough money to meet your needs, but you have no way to know for sure.



The first step in investing is defining your dreams for the future. If you are married or in a long-term relationship, spend some time together discussing your joint and individual goals. It's best to be as specific as possible. For instance, you may know you want to retire, but when? If you want to send your child to college, does that mean an Ivy League school or the community college down the street?


You'll end up with a list of goals. Some of these goals will be long term (you have more than 15 years to plan), some will be short term (5 years or less to plan), and some will be intermediate (between 5 and 15 years to plan). You can then decide how much money you'll need to accumulate and which investments can best help you meet your goals. Remember that there can be no guarantee that any investment strategy will be successful and that all investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal.



After a hard day at the office, do you ask, "Is it time to retire yet?" Retirement may seem a long way off, but it's never too early to start planning--especially if you want your retirement to be a secure one. The sooner you start, the more ability you have to let time do some of the work of making your money grow.


Let's say that your goal is to retire at age 65 with $500,000 in your retirement fund. At age 25 you decide to begin contributing $250 per month to your company's 401(k) plan. If your investment earns 6 percent per year, compounded monthly, you would have more than $500,000 in your 401(k) account when you retire. (This is a hypothetical example, of course, and does not represent the results of any specific investment.)


But what would happen if you left things to chance instead? Let's say you wait until you're 35 to begin investing. Assuming you contributed the same amount to your 401(k) and the rate of return on your investment dollars was the same, you would end up with only about half the amount in the first example. Though it's never too late to start working toward your goals, as you can see, early decisions can have enormous consequences later on.



Some other points to keep in mind as you're planning your retirement saving and investing strategy:


- Plan for a long life. Average life expectancies in this country have been increasing for many years. and many people live even longer than those averages.


- Think about how much time you have until retirement, then invest accordingly. For instance, if retirement is a long way off and you can handle some risk, you might choose to put a larger percentage of your money in stock (equity) investments that, though more volatile, offer a higher potential for long-term return than do more conservative investments. Conversely, if you're nearing retirement, a greater portion of your nest egg might be devoted to investments focused on income and preservation of your capital.


- Consider how inflation will affect your retirement savings. When determining how much you'll need to save for retirement, don't forget that the higher the cost of living, the lower your real rate of return on your investment dollars.




Whether you're saving for a child's education or planning to return to school yourself, paying tuition costs definitely requires forethought--and the sooner the better. With college costs typically rising faster than the rate of inflation, getting an early start and understanding how to use tax advantages and investment strategy to make the most of your savings can make an enormous difference in reducing or eliminating any post-graduation debt burden. The more time you have before you need the money, the more you're able to take advantage of compounding to build a substantial college fund. With a longer investment time frame and a tolerance for some risk, you might also be willing to put some of your money into investments that offer the potential for growth.



Consider these tips as well:

- Estimate how much it will cost to send your child to college and plan accordingly. Estimates of the average future cost of tuition at two-year and four-year public and private colleges and universities are widely available.


- Research financial aid packages that can help offset part of the cost of college. Although there's no guarantee your child will receive financial aid, at least you'll know what kind of help is available should you need it.


- Look into state-sponsored tuition plans that put your money into investments tailored to your financial needs and time frame. For instance, most of your dollars may be allocated to growth investments initially; later, as your child approaches college, more conservative investments can help conserve principal.


- Think about how you might resolve conflicts between goals. For instance, if you need to save for your child's education and your own retirement at the same time, how will you do it?




At some point, you'll probably want to buy a home, a car, maybe even that yacht that you've always wanted. Although they're hardly impulse items, large purchases often have a shorter time frame than other financial goals; one to five years is common.


Because you don't have much time to invest, you'll have to budget your investment dollars wisely. Rather than choosing growth investments, you may want to put your money into less volatile, highly liquid investments that have some potential for growth, but that offer you quick and easy access to your money should you need it.

Financial Advisory Abney Associates i kinesiska ekonomin en huvudkandidat för överdrivna uppmärksamhet

I år har redan sett en hel del uppmärksamhet som ägnas kinesiska data, som redan har orsakat betydande volatilitet på finansmarknaderna. Detta intresse i Kina kan vara proportion till den faktiska betydelsen av den kinesiska ekonomin.


Det finns två skäl varför Kinas data har betonats av investerare. Det har varit anmärkningsvärt stark samförstånd kring de globala ekonomiska utsikterna i år. Idén om en bra US återhämtning, en medioker euroområdets återhämtning och stabil men mer exportledd asiatiska tillväxt är fast etablerad. Ett vitt spridda samförstånd är tråkigt, och investerare letar efter något som kan skilja deras strategi. Kinesiska data har varit de största överraskningarna för marknader i år, grep på sensation-svalt investerare.


Rubriken data i Kina har varit dramatisk. Ett bra exempel var februari nedgången i kinesiska exporten av mer än 18%. Ytlig analys föreslår att detta är en dramatiska ekonomiska utveckling.


Om dessa snedvridningar rensas alla bort, steg Kinas export förmodligen runt 5%, något mindre än 7,5% tillväxt i slutet av 2013. Naturligtvis, en ökning med 5% är mindre sannolikt att göra rubriker än en 18% nedgång, och så mer uppmärksamhet ägnas åt de mer dramatiska rapporterade figuren – och därmed Kina förutsätter mer vikt i den globala ekonomin.


Den uppmärksamhet som Kina är osannolikt att försvinna någon gång snart. I själva verket som USA väder snedvridningar tas bort från amerikanska data, troligtvis den ekonomiska enighet kommer att etablera sig även mer bestämt. Detta kommer läggas skyndsamt till investerarnas sökandet efter något sensationellt. Om Kinas ekonomiska prestanda kommer att vara att locka till sig mer uppmärksamhet, hur gör sin ekonomi verkligen översätta till resten av världen?


Kinas distorsion-justerade export nummer berätta något om världsekonomin, men inte så mycket. Titta på detaljerna i kinesiska handelsstatistiken avslöjar att det som betyder mest för den kinesiska ekonomin är amerikanska prestanda. Ja, Kinas export till USA uppgår till 5,6 procent av sin bruttonationalprodukt (BNP). Detta är viktigt - USA är viktigare än Japan, Tyskland, Storbritannien och Frankrike i kombination. Vikten av USA tyder på att måtta i Kinas export data är bara speglar det dåliga vintervädret, och inte några ekonomiska avmattningen.


Det har också oro över Kinas inhemska ekonomi. Det har varit vissa tecken på återhållsamhet i byggnadsverksamhet, exempelvis att öka oron för länder som exporterar till Kina. Men mycket av vad exporteras till Kina tillbringar en relativt kort tid där innan bearbetas, förpackas och re - exporteras någon annanstans i världen. Om Kinas inhemska efterfrågan försvagas, kommer endast den exporten till Kina som normalt bor i Kina vara sårbar.


För ett land att påverkas av volatilitet i kinesiska inhemska aktivitet, behöver ekonomin vara relativt export-fokuserad eller att sälja typ av produkt som Kina köper för sin egen konsumtion. De senare grupperna är främst råvaruexportörer. Saudiarabien gör nästan 5% av sin BNP genom att sälja olja till Kina, medan Brunei och Chile har mer än 3% av sina ekonomier som exponeras.


Australien, som ofta behandlas som är beroende av kinesiska efterfrågan, har exponering. Dock är endast cirka 2% av den australiska ekonomin beroende av inhemska kinesiska efterfrågan, som är endast något mer än Indonesiens exponering till Kina.


Andra ekonomier knutna till kinesiska inhemska aktivitet är asiatiska ekonomier som är betydande aktörer. Taiwan har mer än 5% av dess ekonomi beroende av fastlandet inhemsk efterfrågan. Malaysia ligger inte långt efter och Singapore har nästan 4% av dess ekonomi vilar på kinesiska aktivitet. Sydkorea, Thailand och Hong Kong sväva omkring 3,5% ekonomisk exponering.


Vad är märkbara är att USA är i hög grad likgiltig för kinesiska ekonomisk verksamhet – lite mer än 0,4% av den amerikanska ekonomin bryr sig om kinesiska inhemska efterfrågan. Europa är likaså likgiltig, med under 0,7% exponering. Den transatlantiska ekonomin helt enkelt säljer inte som mycket i Kina och kommer att vara relativt opåverkade av kinesiska inhemska ekonomiska resultat.


Ett samförstånd-världen är en tråkig värld, och någon skrot av en överraskning är sannolikt att vara sensationsmakeri utlåtanden i år. Kina, är med dess flyktiga data, en utmärkt kandidat för överdrivna uppmärksamhet. Investerare måste hålla huvudet och överväga vad Kina verkligen betyder för världsekonomin före att bli förförd av kortsiktig volatilitet och hype som omger Kinas tillväxt i år.



Yuan Yafei, Sanpower ordförande – "bara konstiga människor kan lyckas"

Hot property: efter att hans första förmögenhet, Yuan Yafei köpte en lägenhet i Nanjings International Trade Center och gick sedan på att köpa den hela byggnaden och, senare, alla andra byggnader i affärsdistriktet


I Presidentsviten Hong Kong Hotell startar Yuan Yafei sin morgonen med ett glas varmt grönt te, ett paket cigaretter och en lång, tjock kubanska cigarr.


"Vill du?" den kinesiska tycoon frågar, bryta sig in i svenska att erbjuda en cigarr innan du startar tillbaka i historien om hur han slutade köpa House of Fraser, den brittiska varuhus kedja som i bättre dagar ägde också Harrods.


Herr Yuan är ordförande i Sanpower, en föga känd Nanjing konglomerat som har fästs upp 89 procent av UK-kedjan i den största kinesiska utländska retail deal i historien.


Sitter framför en enorm kinesiska skärmen målning, säger chain-smoking entreprenören han först hörde talas om House of Fraser för fem månader sedan när en bankir som berättade för honom att det var på blocket. Trots att nästan ingen internationell erfarenhet, beslöt han att House of Fraser lång historia och erfarenhet kunde hjälpa honom att expandera sitt imperium för detaljhandeln i Kina.


"När jag växte, vi har alltid trott att England eller Storbritannien representerade gammaldags kapitalism," säger den 49-åriga herr Yuan genom sin tolk. "Dess kultur var ganska mystiska och fascinerande att kineser, särskilt i min generation."


Sanpower äger Nanjing Xinjiekou, en av de äldsta varuhusen i Kina, men som andra traditionella återförsäljare, den står inför motvind från avmattningen i den kinesiska ekonomin och den snabba ökningen av e-handel.


"Varuhuset affärsmodellen inte har förändrats lite," säger herr Yuan. "Men världen förändras vår kund förändras, hur de ska köpa varor, konceptet förändras, så måste vi ändra."


Frågade varför House of Fraser kan hjälpa sin inhemska företag när mycket få kinesiska har hört talas om företaget, säger herr Yuan Sanpower kan lära av varumärket och det tillförsel kedja erfarenhet den har byggt sedan 1849.


"Ett hundra och sextio - fyra år är en lång tid. Det inte är så lätt att bygga och upprätthålla ett varumärke för så lång tid, precis som en människa,"säger han. "Om du kan leva senaste 100 åren... du gör något rätt."


"De är alla samma typ av shopping mall och den kinesiska marknaden är inte tillräckligt stor för att hantera detta antal samma typ av shoppingmöjligheter på samma gång."


Efter rensa halsen och lutar sig över för att spotta i en papperskorgen – en gemensam men avtagande vana i Kina – herr Yuan använder en fyra tecken kinesiska idiom förklara hur Sanpower kommer att gynnas av omvälvningen.


Hans första taktik kommer att lou jing xia shi, vilket kan översättas som "släppa en sten på en man som har sjunkit ner en bra", och innebär att Sanpower kommer att kasta när några av gallerior går i konkurs.


"Vet du jin shang tian hua?" tillägger han, med hjälp av den engelska att han börjat lära sig för tre år sedan – med innebörden att House of Fraser hjälper honom "förgylla Lilja", som uttrycket innebär.


Efter att ha studerat redovisning på college, in herr Yuan i Nanjing regeringen där han arbetade med revision. Han säger att han sändes senare att bli tillförordnad partiledare av en by men efter att skriva en uppsats om jordbruksreformen befordrades för att bli sekreterare till översta kommunistpartiets officiella i distriktet.


Liksom många kinesiska företagare förändrade hans väg på grund av Deng Xiaoping, den förre ledaren som lanserade ekonomiska reformer efter döden av Mao Zedong.


Med Rmb20, 000 (värt $3,200 idag) i besparingar och pengar som lånats från sina föräldrar, ansåg han olika idéer. Han hamnade in i databranschen, bygga "DIY" maskiner monterade från komponenter från Kina.


Jag är mycket säker,"säger han. "Jämfört med business killarna i dessa tider, jag är mer flitig, jag är smartare och jag är en bättre människa och jag är bättre utbildade.


Ekonomin har alltid sin cykel. Jag kan alltid förutse ner backen och jag skaffa mig redo för rätt tid att komma och då kan jag få vad jag vill när den träffar den lägsta. Jag kan alltid ta möjligheter."


Herr Yuan har lite tid för fritid men säger han tycker om läsning och bra mat. Sin favoritdrink är maotai, eldig kinesiska sprit, men han dricker också rött vin. "Jag dricker oftast Lafite. Eftersom jag vet ingenting om vin, dricker jag bara den dyraste saker."


Som han förbereder sig att lämna för flygplatsen där en av hans två flygplan väntar, frågar han skämtsamt att sitt privatliv besparas – trots att han har visat något annat än förekomsten av en son som han kommer att skicka till primär skolar i Storbritannien nästa år – men ger grönt ljus för att skriva att han vill skicka pojken till Eton.


När berättade att skolan är topp-hacken educationally men har en tendens att producera lite udda människor, tänds tycoon.


"Bra! Bara konstiga människor kan lyckas... Jag är väldigt konstigt, bälgar han. "Om du tror att normala, du bara gör och tycker samma som alla andra, då hur kan du bli framgångsrik?"



Ameriprise Financial Abney Associates Team: Indiens upphov till världens tredje största ekonomi sätter mer press på Kina för att utföra

Med den senaste nyheten att Indien har bara gått Japan för att bli världens tredje största ekonomi köpkraftsparitet, ansikten Kina nu ökande trycket att både hålla fast sin utländska Direktinvesteringar prestanda, BNP-tillväxten och dess tillverkning konkurrenskraft och upprätthålla den inhemska politiska mantra att landet är överlägsen sin största granne.


När det gäller utländska Direktinvesteringar Kinas ökade förra året med 5,3 procent, till en jättestor US$ 117.6 miljarder, om än i långsammare takt ökning än tidigare uppnått. Men även denna siffra förmörkades av de 5 största ekonomierna i ASEAN, som uppnått FDI inflöden av 128,4 miljarder USD. Indiens, var medan mindre på vissa 28 miljarder dollar, fortfarande ökade med 17 procent jämfört med föregående år – en ökning som är tre gånger högre än i Kina, och uppnått under vad inte en helt tillfredsställande skattemässiga eller politiska 12 månader för landet. Det är visserligen sant att indiska prestanda kommer från en lägre ekonomisk bas, det finns vissa trodde att går de investeringar trenderna nu från Kina och andra områden av framväxande Asien – med ASEAN och Indien bland dem.


Om så, finns det några grundläggande skäl för detta. Kina har blivit betydligt dyrare när det gäller arbetskraftskostnader. Det är nu fem gånger dyrare att anställa en arbetstagare i Guangdong än i Mumbai. Tillsammans med det, peka Kinas demografi på det förlora arbetskraft de kommande åren, medan en mycket yngre Indien är att lägga till poolen av tillgängliga arbetstagare. Inte bara Kinas arbetstagare blir dyrare, det finns också mindre av dem. Det är att demografiska som nu börjar initialt påverka arbetsintensiva industrier i Kina, men kommer snabbt filter ner till mindre och medelstora företag med mindre kassaflöde för att skydda dem mot att öka produktionskostnaderna.


Detta är att ha en inverkan på där globala verkställande direktörer se framtida produktion kapacitet flyttar. Enligt 2013 Global Manufacturing konkurrenskraftiga Index utfärdats av Deloitte, Indien för närvarande investera  rankas fjärde globalt. Betänkandet innehåller över 550 enkätsvar från VD: ar runt om i världen och deras perspektiv på de avgörande drivkrafterna att tillverka konkurrenskraft för ett land, en rangordning för varje nation nuvarande och framtida konkurrenskraft, och en översyn av de offentliga politiken skapa konkurrenskraftiga fördelar och nackdelar för viktiga länder och regioner runt om i världen. Studien visar också att Indien kommer att flytta upp från fjärde till andra plats under de kommande fyra åren.


Den största attraktionen för många utländska investerare nu i Kina är utvecklingen av det samma medelklass kundbas. För närvarande står på cirka 250 miljoner, beräknas det uppgå till 600 miljoner 2020, en svindlande ökning. Ännu förutsätter det projektionen också att Kina kommer att kunna hålla fast vid sin tillverkning bas och service hemmamarknaden inom landet. Strategin är nu börjar se mindre sannolikt. Vietnam, förväntas komma in i Kina och ASEAN frihandel att i slutet av nästa år, kommer att kunna njuta av tullfria exporten till Kina på cirka 90 procent av alla produkter som handlas. Med vietnamesiska löner långt lägre än Kina, och en lägre bolagsskatt i görningen, kommer att Kina kamp för att konkurrera med Vietnam inom 18 månader. Ändå måste upprätthålla tillverkning stabilitet och inflöden av utländska investeringar på samma gång. Det är en balansgång att börjar se lite otakt.


Kina står att producera en annan 350 miljoner medelklass konsumenter, alla vill ha moderna produkter, som alltmer kommer att hämtas externt från Kina. Men på samma gång, kommer att skattemässiga skatteintäkter på tullar sjunka. Som inte verkligen balansera böckerna såvitt jag kan se Kina upprätthålla sin beräknade medelklass tillväxt. Eftersom befolkningen åldras, kommer det bli mer beroende av att höja skatterna för att täcka sjukvårdskostnaderna. Ännu i multinationella handel händer precis omvänt.


Indien, samtidigt är lite efter i allt detta. Dess utvecklingsväg är ofta oregelbunden, och som en demokrati det har saknat den ena parten, enda sinnade enhet som har drivit Kina längs de senaste tre decennierna. Dess BNP-tillväxt har uppträtt på ett betydligt bredare utbud än Kinas från en låg på 3,5 procent förra året, från 9,7 procent 2010, och en förväntad 6,5 procent i år. Som jämförs med en konsekvent Kina slutprodukt av mellan 7-8 procent per år. Men varningssignalerna för Kina finns där. Indien är inte bara ett hem av allt fler arbetstagare (förväntas fördubblas till strax under 1 miljarder 2025) finns på betydligt lägre lön än i Kina, men den har också en lockande inhemska medelklassen – coincidentally samma storlek som Kinas är idag, på 250 miljoner. Det medelklassen också har omfattande köpkraft och ökar. Internationella varumärken nu flockas till Indien för att sälja till den inhemska marknaden. Men ändå, tenderar Indien att falla ner på infrastruktur. Som emellertid förändras – investeringar i infrastrukturer är racing vidare på nära 8 procent tillväxt per år – högre än BNP.


När Indiens infrastruktur gap börjar stängas – och skyltarna är redan där – det tar bara ett par reformer att sparka börjar Indien som både världens tillverkning nav. och dess största konsumentmarknaden. De är skattereformen, som har varit på dagordningen för de senaste tre åren, med avsikt att sänka bolagsskatten från den nuvarande 40 procent ränta till 30 procent, och ytterligare FDI reformer i detaljhandelssektorerna, och särskilt i jordbruk och e-handel. I det senare särskilt har Indien kunnat ge en mycket mer öppen och öppen marknad än i Kina. Med den kinesiska regeringen har vill hålla ett handtag på varje möjligt valuta rörelse ut ur landet, och därigenom övervaka ökningen av sin egen online-återförsäljare, global online detaljhandelsföretag som Amazon och ebay, tillsammans med många andra e-handel företag, funnit gående i Kina mycket tuff. I jämförelse, den indiska marknaden börjar öppna och jättar som Amazon väntar stor utdelning som ett resultat. Enkelt uttryckt, är Indiens marknaden mer öppna för utländska investeringar och deltagande än Kina.


Chris Devonshire-Ellis är den grundande Partner för Dezan Shira & Associates – en specialist utländska direktinvesteringar praxis som tillhandahåller corporate inrättandet, business rådgivande, skatt skattekonsult- och, redovisning, lön, due diligence och ekonomisk översikt tjänster till multinationella företag investera i framväxande Asien. Sedan 1992 har företaget vuxit till en av Asiens mest mångsidiga fullservice konsultföretag med operativa kontor i Kina, Hongkong, Indien, Singapore och Vietnam, förutom allianser i Indonesien, Malaysia, Filippinerna och Thailand, samt sambandskontor i Italien, Tyskland och USA.


The sandwich generation: juggling family responsibilities

At a time when your career is reaching a peak and you are looking ahead to your own retirement, you may find yourself in the position of having to help your children with college expenses while at the same time looking after the needs of your aging parents. Squeezed in the middle, you've joined the ranks of the "sandwich generation."




Your parents faced some of the same challenges that you may be facing now: adjusting to a new life as empty nesters and getting reacquainted with each other as a couple. However, life has grown even more complicated in recent years. Here are some of the things you can expect to face as a member of the sandwich generation today:


-         Your parents may need assistance as they become older. Higher living standards mean an increased life expectancy, and you may need to help your parents prepare adequately for the future.


-         If your family is small and widely dispersed, you may end up as the primary caregiver for your parents.


-         If you've delayed having children so that you could focus on your career first, your children may be starting college at the same time as your parents become dependent on you for support.


-         You may be facing the challenges of "boomerang children" who have returned home after a divorce or a job loss.


-         Like many individuals, you may be incurring debt at an unprecedented rate, facing pension shortfalls, and wondering about the future of Social Security.




Holding down a job and raising a family in today's world is hard enough without having to worry about keeping the three-headed monster of college, retirement, and concerns about elderly parents at bay. But if you take some time now to determine your goals and work on a flexible plan, you'll save much stress--and expense--in years to come. Planning ahead gives you the chance to take the wishes of the entire family into account and to reduce future disagreements with your siblings over the care of your parents.


Here are some ways you can prepare now for the issues you may face in the future:


-         Start saving for the soaring cost of college as soon as possible.


-         Work hard to control your debt. Installment debts (car payments, credit cards, personal loans, college loans, etc.) should account for no more than 20 percent of your take-home pay.


-         Review your financial goals regularly, and make any changes to your financial plan that are necessary to accommodate an unexpected event, such as a career change or the illness of a parent.


-         Invest in your own future by putting as much as you can into a retirement plan, where your savings (which may be matched by your employer) grow tax deferred until you retire.


-         Encourage realistic expectations among your children; their desire to attend an expensive college will add to your stress if you can't afford it.


-         Talk to your parents about the provisions they've made for the future. Do they have long-term care insurance? Adequate retirement income? Learn the whereabouts of all their documents and get a list of the professionals and friends they rely on for advice and support.




Much depends on whether a parent is living with you or out of town. If your parent lives a distance away, you have the responsibility of monitoring his or her welfare from afar. Daily phone calls can be time consuming, and having to rely on your parent's support network may be frustrating. Travel to your parent's home may be expensive, and you may worry about being away from family. To reduce your stress, try to involve your siblings (if you have any) in looking after Mom or Dad, too. If your parent's needs are great enough, you may also want to consider hiring a professional geriatric care manager who can help oversee your parent's care and direct you to the community resources your parent needs.


Eventually, though, you may decide that your parent needs to move in with you. If this happens, keep the following points in mind:


-         Share all your expectations in advance; a parent will want to feel part of your household and may be happy to take on some responsibilities.


-         Bear in mind that your parent needs a separate room and phone for space and privacy.


-         Contact local, civic, and religious organizations to find out about programs that will involve your parent in the community.


-         Try to work with other family members and get them to help out, perhaps by providing temporary care for your parent if you must take a much-needed break.


-         Be sympathetic and supportive of your children--they're trying to adjust, too. Tell them honestly about the pros and cons of having a grandparent in the house. Ask them to take responsibility for certain chores, but don't require them to be the caregivers.




Your children may be feeling the effects of your situation more than you think, especially if they are teenagers. At a time when they are most in need of your patience and attention, you may be preoccupied with your parents and how to look after them.


Here are some things to keep in mind as you try to balance your family's needs:


-         Explain fully what changes may come about as you begin caring for your parent. Usually, children only need their questions and concerns to be addressed before making the adjustment.


-         Discuss college plans with your children. They may have to settle for less than they wanted, or at least take a job to help meet costs.


-         Avoid dipping into your retirement savings to pay for college. Your children can repay loans with their future salaries; your pension will be the only income you have.


-         If you have boomerang children at home, make sure all your expectations have been shared with them, too. Don't be afraid to discuss a target date for their departure.


-         Don't neglect your own family when taking care of a parent. Even though your parent may have more pressing needs, your first duty is to your children who depend on you for everything.


-         Most importantly, take care of yourself. Get enough rest and relaxation every evening, and stay involved with your friends and interests. Finally, keep lines of communication open with your spouse, parents, children, and siblings. This may be especially important for the smooth running of your multi-generation family, resulting in a workable and healthy home environment.


JPM Fusion Growth: I still believe Japan really is on the mend, says fund boss

President Barack Obama wasn’t the only person to lend his backing to Japan last week, after he arrived in the country on the first leg of his Asia tour to show support over a land dispute with China.


Despite widespread cynicism over the ability of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s reforms – dubbed Abenomics – to boost the country’s fortunes, there is both political and investment support for the island nation.


Tony Lanning, manager of JPMorgan’s Fusion range – each product a ‘fund of funds’ investing in other investment vehicles – says he is bullish on Japan despite a ‘challenging start to the year’.


He acknowledges that euphoria over Abenomics has faded, regardless of last year’s 45 per cent rise in the Topix index, which reflects share prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.


Abenomics follows a ‘three-arrowed’ plan: to print money, aimed at boosting spending and weakening the yen to boost exports; to spend on construction; and make reforms and remove barriers that deter private investment.


Experts are concerned over the effectiveness of the last aim, but Lanning has faith and says wage rises are a signal of a turnaround.


He adds: ‘We retain conviction that Japan will reap the benefits of reform and are encouraged by signs affirming this.


‘Wage hikes are seen as key to boosting an economy which has been faced with falling prices for two decades and the recent round of union wage negotiations saw almost all companies in the bargaining process agreeing to wage increases, some for the first time since 2001.’


He manages five funds in the Fusion range – Income, Conservative, Balanced, Growth and Growth Plus, with an ascending level of risk. Within Fusion Growth, he highlights Polar Capital Japan and GLG Japan CoreAlpha as two funds he likes.


The first has exposure to small and mid-sized companies, while the second focuses on attractively valued big-cap companies, such as Sony. But a fifth of Fusion Growth is in UK equities and a quarter is in US shares. And though the percentage invested in Japan has risen, it is still only 8 per cent of the fund.


Each Fusion fund has so far performed in line with its risk profile, with higher returns for higher risks. But as they are only a year old, the funds have yet to prove themselves against rivals.

Financial Advisory Abney Associates: Yen Crosses Gather Downside Momentum On Risk Aversion

After failing to rebound earlier today, The yen crosses seem to be gathering downside momentum before the week closes. Risk aversion is a factor in driving the Japanese yen higher. European indices are generally lower, in particular, with the DAX down -110 pts, or -1.1% at the time of writing. Investors sentiments were weighed down by renewed tensions in Ukraine. US stock futures are pointing to a lower open too. The USD/JPY is taking the lead and breaches 102.02 minor supports and should be heading back to 101.32 level. The EUR/JPYand GBP/JPY are also seen dipping mildly.


Sterling recovers against dollar today as retail sales unexpectedly showed 0.1% mom growth in March. Markets expected -0.4% mom fall. However, strength was limited as BBA mortgage approvals unexpectedly dropped to 45.9k in March versus expectation of a rise to 48.9k. The GBP/USD is held inside tight range below 1.6841 temporary top and the sideway consolidation could extend further. Abney Associates Team A financial advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc., The EUR/GBP is holding in tight range around 0.8230 while the GBP/JPY is already stays around 171/172. The pound is lacking a clear direction for the moment.


SNB president Jordan said today that "the environment remains extremely challenging for both the Swiss economy and our monetary policy." He reiterated that "with interest rates close to zero and a Swiss franc which is still high, the minimum exchange rate continues to be the SNB's most important monetary policy instrument." And, "an appreciation of the Swiss franc would entail a threat of deflation."


Japanese national CPI core rose 1.3% yoy in March, unchanged from February and was below expectation of 1.4%. Tokyo CPI core raised 2.7% yoy in April, versus expectation of 2.8% yoy. Most of the jump in Tokyo CPI came from the sales-tax hike on April. Taking away that impact, Tokyo CPI rose 1.0% yoy, unchanged from March. Also released from Japan, all industry index dropped -1.1% mom in February.


In Canada, the BoC governor Poloz said yesterday that "there is a growing consensus that interest rates will still be lower than we were accustomed to in the past." And, "after such a long period at such unusually low levels, interest rates won't need to move as much to have the same impact on the economy."


Whether you’re saving for retirement, college for your kids or other needs, you may be unsure about what to do next or whether you can do anything at all. That's where we can help. We'll take the time to listen to you and understand your goals and dreams. We'll help you build a plan to get back on track toward reaching them. Working together, Ameriprise Financial Abney Associates Team will work to find investing opportunities in today’s uncertain market that are aligned with your financial goals. Together, we can bring your dreams more within reach.


 Check this out