Avoid Blindly Following Random Benchmarks on the Road to Retirement

Investment benchmarks are kind of like all those random signs you pass on the road.

Sometimes, they’re informational. Sometimes, they’re entertaining. But all too often, they’re just downright distracting.

And if you put too much focus on the wrong ones, you could end up hurting your chances of ever getting where you want to go.

When Online Investing Turns Deadly: Lessons from a Robinhood Trader’s Suicide

Unfortunately, all too often, investors do just that. Their attention is diverted by a benchmark that doesn’t necessarily apply to them or their plan — such as the S&P 500 index— and it can lead them astray. Suddenly, they’re moving out of their comfort zone, driving faster than they should, and maybe even taking a wild turn off the road they’re on despite the added risk of getting into a crash or running out of gas.

There’s little point in constantly checking your progress against an index or someone else’s portfolio results if they aren’t relevant to your investment strategy or your unique needs. The only measure you need to monitor is how you’re doing when it comes to your own goals, risk tolerance and timeline.

Here are some things you should be thinking about — and planning for — on the road to retirement.

1. What’s your destination?

A lot of people have no idea where they’re going in retirement. They haven’t even thought about the income they will need to replace when they don’t have a regular paycheck anymore. So that’s the starting point: How much will you need to pull from your investments to have the lifestyle you want? When do you hope to retire? How many years do you expect to be creating your own paycheck? Where will the money come from (Social Security, a pension, your 401(k), a Roth IRA, or some other source) and in what order?

Your income plan will be your roadmap in retirement — but it also will help guide you as you make your way toward that goal.

2. How fast or slow do you want – or need – to go?

Once you know where you’re going, you can choose the right investments for the journey based on the risk vs. the reward. If you jump into an overly aggressive strategy, you might get to your destination faster — or you might not get there at all. On the flipside, a strategy that’s t

Read more: https://www.kiplinger.com/retirement/retirement-planning/601030/avoid-blindly-following-random-benchmarks-on-the-road-to

2020 Tax Deadline: When Are Tax Returns Due This Year?

Attention all procrastinators: The deadline for filing your 2019 federal income tax return, and paying any tax owed, is approaching fast! The due date is now July 15, 2020, which is right around the corner.

The deadline was pushed back from April 15 to help taxpayers, and tax preparers, impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Penalties and interest won't apply if you file and pay any tax due before the extended deadline. (For other government changes and programs in response to the pandemic, see 11 Ways the CARES Act and Other Government Measures Could Help You in 2020.)

Tax Changes and Key Amounts for the 2020 Tax Year Have Your Tax Refund Directly Deposited into Your Bank Account

If you're expecting a refund, e-file your 2019 tax return and opt to have your refund deposited directly into your bank account to get it sooner. The IRS can process electronic returns and refunds much faster than it can handle paper returns and checks.

8 Money-Smart Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund Other Tax Deadlines Extended

The IRS pushed back a whole host of other tax deadlines, too. So, you also have until July 15 to file returns and pay taxes for:

Estimated taxes covering the first and second quarters of 2020;Self-employment taxes owed by sole owed and others; and Estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer taxes.

You now have until July 15 to make IRA contributions for 2019, too. However, be sure that you tell your IRA custodian to apply the contribution to the 2019 year.

You also have until July 15 to fund your health savings account for 2019.

State Tax Deadlines

Don't forget to check with your state's tax agency to see if the filing and/or payment deadline for your state income tax (or other state tax) is also changed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

9 States with No Income Tax

Read more: https://www.kiplinger.com/article/taxes/t056-c005-s001-2020-tax-deadline-is-now-july-15-not-april-15.html

65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On in 2020

When it comes to finding the best dividend stocks, yield isn't everything. If you're an income investor in it for the long haul, you know that steadily rising payouts are a vital factor, too.

For one, dividend increases lift the yield on an investor's original cost basis, meaning today's 1% yield might be much more in the future. They're also indicative of a firm's ability to withstand the ups and downs of the economy, as well as the stock market.

Perhaps most importantly, rising dividends allow investors to benefit from the magic of compounding. As Ben Franklin famously said, "Money makes money. And the money that money makes, makes money."

Enter the Dividend Aristocrats.

The Dividend Aristocrats are companies in the S&P 500 Index that have improved their annual payouts every year for at least 25 consecutive years. It's a mix of household names as well as companies with less name recognition that nonetheless play an outsize role in the American economy, even if it's mostly behind the scenes. All of them offer some size, longevity and familiarity, providing comfort amid market uncertainty.

Even the country's best dividend stocks haven't been 100% immune to the COVID-19 downturn, however. One Aristocrat, retailer Ross Stores (ROST), was dropped from the index after being forced to suspend its dividend in May. A handful of other Aristocrats haven't raised their payouts on schedule, but could still remain in the index as long as they maintain their dividend levels this year and raise again in 2021.

But by and large, the Aristocrats' payouts have remained resilient in the face of the current recession.

Here are the current 65 Dividend Aristocrats – including a few new faces that joined in January 2020, and three more recent additions courtesy of some corporate slicing and dicing. These have been among the best dividend stocks for income growth over the past few decades, and they're a great place to start if you're looking to add new dividend holdings to your long-term portfolios.

20 Best Stocks to Buy for the Next Bull Market Data is as of July 7 unless otherwise noted. Companies are listed by dividend yield, from lowest to highest. The index of Dividend Aristocrats is maintained

Read more: https://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/investing/t018-s001-65-best-dividend-stocks-you-can-count-on-in-2020/index.html

8 Ways You Might Be Cheating on Your Taxes

Whether we're pointing out frequently overlooked tax breaks, explaining how retirement income is taxed or helping you set up your tax withholding, the editors here at Kiplinger want you to trim as much off your tax bill as legally possible. But note the word legally. Yes, we want you to beat the IRS and save on taxes, but only by following the tax code's rules. Save where you can, but pay what you legitimately owe.

Sometimes, though, taxpayers don't always stay within the bounds of the law when filling out their tax return. Of course, there are out-and-out fraudsters who purposely avoid paying the IRS what they owe under the law. However, in most cases, people who don't pay all the taxes they legally owe do so unintentionally. Both the tax code and IRS forms are complicated, so it's easy to make an honest mistake if you're not careful. We know our readers don't intentionally violate the tax laws. (Otherwise, you wouldn't be coming to us for advice on how to comply with the law.) But we don't want you to make inadvertent errors, either. So here are 8 mistakes to avoid so you don't accidently cheat Uncle Sam out of his cut.

Tax Changes and Key Amounts for the 2020 Tax Year

Read more: https://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/taxes/t056-s001-how-you-might-be-cheating-on-your-taxes/index.html

Trade Still Declining, But At a Slower Pace

The trade deficit in May widened to its highest level since December 2018, to a seasonally adjusted $54.6 billion, from $49.4 billion in April – an increase of 9.7%. Trade in services remained in surplus at $21.5 billion, while the nominal goods deficit increased to $76.1 billion.

Both imports and exports fell, but at a slower rate in May.  Imports fell 0.9%, reflecting fewer purchases of capital equipment and automotive goods. Imports have now fallen in six of the past seven months. Exports saw a larger decline of 4.4%, as the U.S. economy was still coming out of lockdown mode. Exports fell across the board, except for consumer goods, which rose by 5%. Industrial exports saw some of the largest declines. Exports of services dropped 2% as demand for travel and transport services dried up. Factories and businesses were still operating at a limited capacity in May. The disruption in global supply chains resulted in an 11% monthly fall in exports of motor vehicles and parts. Exports of industrial supplies and materials also fell sharply. While the monthly decline in trade has eased as the economy starts to get back to normal, both exports and imports are far below their levels of one year ago, down 35% and 30% from May 2019, respectively.

Trade flows should gradually pick up over the next few months as economic activity recovers in the U.S. and its major trading partners. Services trade, however, isn’t going to recover anytime soon with borders still partly closed, impeding travel to and from the U.S. Travel services are down by nearly three-quarters compared with May 2019. The resurgence of COVID-19 cases in some states may keep demand subdued and prevent businesses from operating at full capacity. Thus, the rebound in trade flows is likely to progress in fits and starts.

Sources: Department of Commerce, Trade Data

Read more: https://www.kiplinger.com/economic-forecasts/trade-deficit

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