Americans are Saving Energy by Staying at Home

Information and communication technologies are radically transforming modern lifestyles. They are redefining our concept of “space” by turning homes and coffee shops into workspaces. (This article was written in a coffee shop.) Instead of going to the theater, many people sit in the comfort of their homes and stream movies. Online purchasing of food, groceries and consumer products has transformed shopping. Personal interactions, from the casual to the intimate, are increasingly virtual instead of face to face. How can we measure the impacts of these changes? Time diaries are one tool for quantifying lifestyles and trends. A time diary is a survey in which people list what they do and for how long, from waking up in the morning to going to bed at night. Along with our colleague Roger Chen, we analyzed data from 2003-2012 from the American Time Use Survey, which is conducted annually by the U.S. Bureau …

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FINRA Rules Take Effect to Protect Seniors & Vulnerable Adults from Exploitation

Financial abuse of seniors is devastating to those who should be enjoying their golden years. A 2015 report by True Link Financial says seniors lose more than $36 billion a year to financial abuse, and the financial industry has been looking for ways to address the privacy and safety concerns of older investors. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a self-governing private body, issued a rule to help that went into effect in early February. “The bottom line for this new rule is to install safeguards to either prevent potential financial exploitation or stop ongoing exploitation of impaired seniors,” says Clifford Caplan, a certified financial planner at Neponset Valley Financial Partners. With widespread reports of huge amounts of funds being siphoned off from unsuspecting investors’ accounts, FINRA has finally stepped in establish a mechanism and procedure to stop this abuse, he says. Here’s what you need to know about the new …

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Basic Facts of Life Insurance

Thinking of a future without ourselves in it, is not the most pleasant of thoughts. . .however, it is necessary to do so for the financial security of your family. Life insurance may provide you with the opportunity to bequeath money to your survivors, while at the same time, provide the necessary liquidity to help pay estate taxes. This, in turn, may allow your assets to pass undiminished to your heirs. As a general rule of thumb when purchasing life insurance, it is usually thought that you would need eight to ten times your salary in order to take care of your family’s needs. A more accurate formula may be as follows: Determine the amount needed to help meet specific needs such as providing funds for college, paying off your mortgage, or giving money to an heir. Label this figure as [A]. Determine the amount necessary for the support of …

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State of the Housing Market in 2018

State of the Housing Market in 2018: Location, location, retirement As we look toward 2018, the housing market continues to show few signs of slowing down, although there are hints of developing headwinds. While it’s true that housing prices are very much geographically based, across the entire U.S., experts are predicting home prices to rise about 4.5 – 5.5% this year. Let’s examine a few facts and predictions: Current State of Housing  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, home ownership stands at about 64%. As the end of 2017, the median home value in the United States was $203,400. From 2012-2017, the median sales price of existing homes has increased by the following amounts: 6.6%; 11.4%; 5.8%; 6.5%; 5.1% and 5.8%. The low inventory has driven up the median home value by 48% since 2011. Existing home sales are projected to be unchanged at about 5.6 million after rising 6.3%, 3.8% …

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What is the VIX and What Does it Mean?

Often referred to as the “investor fear index,” the VIX is technically the ticker symbol for the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, which shows the market’s expected volatility. First introduced in 1993, the VIX has evolved over the years and today it is a widely referenced measure of market risk – on a forward basis. That “forward basis” qualifier is important as it calculates future volatility and does not look backwards. A Calculated Index The VIX is calculated daily, similar to the S&P 500 Index. But whereas the S&P 500 Index is calculated based on the stock prices of 500 companies (technically there are 505 companies, but that’s another story altogether), the VIX uses the price of options on the S&P 500 and estimates how volatile those options will be between the current date and the option’s expiration date. Much like the individual stock prices of the 500 companies …

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