What’s Fueling the Drop in Oil Prices?

How long will it last? Who wins & loses from it?

Provided by Devin Carroll

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, a barrel of light sweet crude is currently worth well under $60. Prices have dropped more than 25% in a month and almost 45% year-over-year. What is behind this freefall? How long will prices keep dropping, and who does this development hurt and benefit?1

Oil prices haven’t cratered simply because of lessening demand. Make no mistake, waning demand is a major factor – and in its latest 2015 forecast, the International Energy Agency projected global demand for crude weakening further. But this is just part of the story.2

Saudi Arabia has made a punitive political move. It is the big player among OPEC nations, and it sees no

Continue Reading »

What’s The Latest on Social Security?

Recipients get a raise in 2015. Ideas for reform are numerous.

Social Security benefits are increasing 1.7% in 2015. This marks the fourth straight yearly cost-of-living adjustment, following a 1.5% COLA for 2014.1

Next year, the average monthly Social Security payment for a single retiree increases by $22 to $1,328. The average retired couple will get $2,176 per month in 2015 (a $36 monthly increase). A single retiree claiming benefits at the full retirement age of 66 in 2015 could get a maximum monthly Social Security payment of $2,663.1,2

Medicare Part B premiums won’t rise in 2015. They will remain at $104.90 per month for most people. If you’re among the minority of Medicare recipients who buy Part A coverage, you’ll be happy to know that monthly Part A premiums are $19 cheaper in 2015 – they are decreasing to $407. The annual Part B deductible will remain at $147; the Part A deductible will rise from $1,216 to $1,260.3

Relatively few Social Security recipients have annual modified adjusted gross incomes in excess of $85,000 (single filers) or $170,000 (joint filers). Unfortunately, if your 2013 MAGI exceeded those applicable thresholds, you will pay total Part B monthly premiums of anywhere from $146.90-$335.70 per month during 2015.3

Continue Reading »

How to Keep Holiday Spending Under Control

Keeping Holiday Spending Under Control

What little steps can you take to keep from getting carried away? —Provided by Devin Carroll

You’ve seen the footage on the news. You’ve been in the middle of it. You’ve stood in the vexing lines. You’ve circled for the elusive parking spots. Holiday shopping can be downright frenzied – and impulsive.

You don’t necessarily need to go to the mall to feel the pressure and the urges – a half-hour with your laptop or tablet can put you in the same frame of mind.

But how do you keep your spending under control, whether in a brick and mortar store or at home? Here are some tips.

Make a plan. Most people do their holiday shopping without one. Set a dollar limit that you can spend per week – and try to spend less than that. As you plan your financial life – and check on your plan every few days – you may feel a little less stressed this holiday season. In fact, you might want to make two budgets – one for shopping, the other for entertaining.

Continue Reading »