If you’re approaching retirement, you are probably focused on a single issue: Do I have enough money?
This is indeed the crucial question. But as you try to figure out whether you can comfortably retire, I would also encourage you to ponder three less obvious questions.

1. Where are we in the market cycle?

Suppose you retired in October 2007 with a $500,000 nest egg. Those savings were split 60% in the S&P 500 stock index and 40% in the Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index. You used a conservative 4% withdrawal rate, which gave you some $20,000 in portfolio income during your first year of retirement.         

Result? By the end of February 2009, your nest egg would have shrunk to less than $320,000.
What you’re seeing here is the impact of the 2007-09 bear market — and a classic example of sequence-of-return risk.
The big worry: You retire, get hit with a market crash, and the combination of tumbling markets and your rising need for spending money quickly eviscerates your portfolio. Even if markets fully recover, your portfolio may not, because it’s been so depleted.

Fortunately, in this instance, things worked out OK for retirees who stayed the course. According to Baltimore fund manager T. Rowe Price Group, as of March 31, 2014, your portfolio would have been worth almost $515,000. “Looking at this can relieve people of some of their anxiety,” says Christine Fahlund, a senior financial planner with T. Rowe Price. “Lo and behold, after a fairly short period, you’re back to where you started. That’s pretty darn good.”

What if you’re retiring today? It’s unlikely we’re facing another economic meltdown, but there’s plenty of reason for caution. The S&P 500 has almost tripled since its March 2009 low. It yields just 2% and trades at a relatively rich 18 times trailing 12-month reported earnings.

From current levels, U.S. stock returns will likely be modest over the next decade, perhaps averaging just 6% a year, and there’s a chance we could see a nasty selloff. Meanwhile, bonds offer modest yields and they, too, could fall sharply.

With that in mind, you might head into retirement with a cash reserve equal to perhaps five years of portfolio withdrawals.

How much should you allow yourself to withdraw each year, including dividends and interest? Don’t be lulled into complacency by the strong returns of recent years. I would stick with the 4% withdrawal rate that many financial experts now advocate — and be mentally prepared for rough markets.

2. What embedded tax bills do you face?

Let’s continue with our example of a $500,000 portfolio and a 4% withdrawal rate. You pull out $20,000 in your first year of retirement. But how much spending money will you have?  

That’ll depend, in part, on where the money comes from. If you tap a bank account or a Roth individual retirement account, you should have $20,000 in spending money, with no taxes owed. Meanwhile, if you sell stocks held in your regular taxable account, you may have to pay capital-gains taxes.

What if you withdraw from a traditional IRA? The entire sum will likely be taxable as ordinary income.
Thanks to your standard or itemized deduction and your personal exemption, the tax bill on $20,000 may still be quite small — unless you have other taxable income, in which case you could lose a fair amount to taxes. That tax bill will mean less money to spend, so you should factor that into your retirement budget.

3. What are your monthly fixed living costs?

At issue here are monthly expenses that are pretty much unavoidable — things like your mortgage or rent, groceries, utilities, phone, cable TV, insurance premiums and property taxes.
While it’s easy to cut out discretionary spending, such as vacations and restaurant meals, it’s harder to trim these monthly fixed costs.

As a precaution, you may want to ensure you have enough regular income to cover these fixed costs, because you’ll have to pay them, no matter how rough markets get.Where will the money come from? Calculate how much income you will collect each year from dividends, interest, Social Security and any pensions or income annuities. You can supplement that with occasional withdrawals from your portfolio’s cash reserve.

If you won’t have enough regular income, you might delay Social Security to get a larger monthly check or purchase an immediate fixed annuity.           

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Canaccord Genuity portfolio strategist Martin Roberge believes another round of stimulus may be required for risky assets to move into a higher trading range.
The most likely source is the European Central Bank, as he noted that deflationary forces are mounting in the euro zone.
While the negative impact of harsh winter conditions has passed, the much-awaited economic rebound in Q2 may not be as strong as anticipated by many investors,” Mr. Roberge said in a research note.

He pointed out that forward-looking indicators suggest a softening of global economic momentum as the OECD LEI diffusion index dipped for a third month in a row to 65%.

Mr. Roberge also noted that momentum is waning in developed markets and balancing out in emerging-market economics, with recent data pointing to stabilization rather than acceleration in Q2.

But the strategist also noted that a move in the euro above US$1.40 appears to be a pre-requisite for the ECB to embark on a stimulus program.

Mr. Roberge suggested another potential catalyst to send stocks higher could be broader monetary reflation in emerging markets.

China has reduced reserve requirements for banks while at the same time putting through stimulus packages aimed at boosting spending on railways and other construction projects.

“Elsewhere, inflationary pressures could be at a tipping point,” the strategist said, adding that Canaccord’s inflation diffusion index for emerging markets is peaking. “A more visible improvement would likely signal the end of the monetary tightening cycle in several countries.”

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China's official manufacturing PMI edged up to 50.4 in April from 50.3 in March but slightly missed consensus of 50.5. The data indicates that manufacturing is just about expanding and adds to HSBC's flash PMI reading which shows that the sector is contracting. "The economy is showing slight improvements due to recent policy measures but there is no sign of a bottoming out," says economist Sun Wencun.

U.K. manufacturing PMI rose to 57.3 in April from 55.8 in March and comfortably topped consensus of 55.4. However, there was another sharp slowdown in the growth of new orders for investment goods, which is a blow to the hopes of re-balancing the economy away from its reliance on consumers. Still, the pound took a leap after the data was released and was +0.2% at $1.6909 at the time of writing.


AT&T has reportedly approached DirecTV about buying the satellite-TV provider in a deal that could be worth at least $40B. DirecTV, whose market cap is $39.5B, is open to a deal. The combined company would have almost 26M pay-TV subscribers vs the 30M that Comcast (CMCSA) would have if it acquires Time Warner Cable (TWC). As with the Comcast-TWC deal, a major question is whether regulators would authorize a tie-up between AT&T (T) and DirecTV (DTV), whose shares were +4.4% premarket.

Sprint reportedly "plans to push forward" with a bid for T-Mobile USA (TMUS) in June or July after lining up financing from six banks. Sprint (S) parent SoftBank (OTCPK:SFTBF) is still talking to T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom (OTCPK:DTEGF) about who would run the post-merger company, with outspoken T-Mobile chief John Legere being the top candidate. The latter company's stock jumped 9.25% in post-market trading.

The Nikkei jumped 1.3% and the FTSE 100 was +0.4% at the time of writing as Japanese and U.K. markets traded while much of Asia and Europe enjoyed a day off for May Day. Investors shrugged off sluggish Chinese PMI figures as the Fed's upbeat statement yesterday boosted the mood. In Britain, strong housing and manufacturing PMI data might also be helping.

Merck is reportedly considering a sale of a portfolio of off-patent drugs in a deal that could fetch over $15B and attract interest from generic drugmakers. The report comes as Merck (MRK) holds an auction to offload its $14B consumer healthcare unit. The company's divestment strategy underscores how large pharmaceuticals firms are shedding smaller divisions that they view as non-core.

Sony's preliminary fiscal-year net loss was ¥130B ($1.3B), 18% above a February forecast of ¥110B and far worse than the company's even earlier FY guidance for a profit of ¥30B. In FY 2013, Sony (SNE) made a profit of ¥43B. For FY 2014, the company will book additional costs of ¥30B for its PC unit, which it is selling, and ¥25B of charges for its overseas disc manufacturing operations amid falling demand. Shares were -3.3% premarket.

Lloyds' Q1 underlying pretax profit climbed 22% to £1.8B as net interest income rose 10% to £2.81B and impairment charges dropped 57% to £431M, while costs fell 5% to £2.3B. Lloyds (LYG) expects to float 25% of its TSB division by the end of June, and to apply for permission to restart dividend payments in H2. Shares were +4.8% in London at the time of writing.

Endo Health Solutions has agreed to pay $830M to settle 20,000 claims - representing a "substantial majority" of the cases brought - that its vaginal mesh inserts caused injuries. The deal adds to the $54.4M that Endo (ENDP) agreed to pay last year to resolve other claims. Peer device-makers have been facing similar lawsuits as well, including Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Boston Scientific (BSX).

The Department of Justice has ended its probe of possible antitrust violations by Chesapeake Energy (CHK) and Encana (ECA) in connection with their land-leasing activities in Michigan in 2010. The DOJ's probe found that Encana "did not engage in collusion with competitors," the company said. However, Chesapeake and Encana still face state charges in Michigan.

LinkedIn, Kraft and Expedia are among the multitude of companies that are due to report their quarterly earnings after the bell today. Analysts expect LinkedIn's (LNKD) Q1 EPS to have fallen to $0.34 from $0.45 but its revenue to have jumped 44% to $466.57M. Kraft's (KRFT) EPS is seen flat at $0.76 as sales slipped 2.1% to 44.45B. Expedia's (EXPE) EPS is forecast to have dropped to $0.15 from $0.25 even though revenue is estimated to have climbed 16.6% to $1.18B.

Abercrombie & Fitch has nominated four new independent directors as part of a peace deal with activist investor Engaged Capital, which had been agitating for an overhaul. Four current directors will make way for the new board members. Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) CEO Mike Jeffries looks set to keep his job even though Engaged had wanted to replace him amid falling sales. Shares were +1.5% premarket.

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Automated trading systems, in all its forms, is a rapidly growing trend in the financial markets. The liquidity added by automated trading helps the entire marketplace by making it more efficient for everyone. While we may never know what, if any role, an automated trading snafu played in the May 6th market flash crash, one thing is for certain: automated trading systems has changed the battlefield of electronic trading.  

Fill This Form To Get More Detailed Information

Investors have been wading through a flood of earnings over the last few weeks, but the focus turns back to the Federal Reserve and economic matters on the last day of the month.

The Federal Reserve wraps up a two-day policy meeting and issues a decision on interest rates at 2 p.m. ET. Investors have been monitoring its moves to reign in economic stimulus measures. The Fed is expected to reduce its asset purchases by another $10 billion.

U.S. stock futures were declining in advance of the opening bell.

Employment and economic growth is also on the agenda: ADP will release its monthly national employment report at 8:15 a.m. Then the Bureau of Economic Analysis will release its initial estimate of first quarter U.S. GDP at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Related: Fear & Greed Index

In corporate news, Time Warner (TWC, Fortune 500) and Hyatt Hotels (H) are among the companies reporting earnings before the opening bell. Weight Watchers (WTW) is reporting after the close.

Shares in Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA) are rising by about 4% in London trading after the oil giant reported better-than-expected quarterly results and hiked its dividend.

Takeover talk continues Wednesday, with shares in the French company Alstom (ALSMY) rallying by 8% in Europe after General Electric (GE, Fortune 500) bid $13.5 billion to take over the firm's power divisions. German firm Siemens (SI) may yet make a counter offer.

Shares of Twitter (TWTR) were falling by about 11% in premarket trading after the company posted uninspiring first quarter results.

Related: Five years later, TARP price tag hits $40 billion

U.S. stocks closed higher Tuesday. The Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 ended solidly higher, while the Nasdaq finished up 0.72%.

Over the course of April, the Nasdaq has declined by just over 2%. The S&P and Dow have eked out minor gains. 

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The stock market slide in recent days, after the S&P 500’s 30%-plus surge last year, doesn’t represent the bursting of a bubble.

That’s crucial to consider, given the comparisons made by some pundits between the current market and that of March 2000, when tech stocks started evaporating.

Whatever else you might say about today’s stock market, it is nowhere near as overheated as it was 14 years ago. And that’s not a subjective view. My conclusion is derived from a data-driven focus on objective measures that were identified by the leading academic study of investor sentiment. That study, by Jeffrey Wurgler and Malcolm Baker, who are finance professors at New York University and Harvard Business School, respectively, was titled “Investor Sentiment in the Stock Market.”

The professors identified five indicators of investor sentiment that, over the past half century, were highly correlated with investors’ mood swings between the extremes of pessimism and exuberance.

Not surprisingly, the indicators showed a record level of investor optimism in March 2000. The picture they’re painting today is far different.

1. Volume of IPOs. There were 123 new issues in the first three months of 2000, according to University of Florida finance professor Jay Ritter. There were 58 in the same period this year, according to Ritter.

2. IPO returns. In 2000’s first quarter, the first-day return of the average initial public offering was an incredible 96%. During the first three months of 2014, it was 22%.

3. Dividend premium. The professors, in a study, focused on the relative valuations of two groups of stocks: those of established, dividend-paying companies versus those of more speculative firms. They theorized that, as exuberance reaches extreme levels, investors become bored by established, dividend-paying companies. In March 2000, speculative companies on average had a 43% higher valuation than the dividend-paying stocks. The comparable premium today for stocks in the S&P 1500 index is 26%, according to data from FactSet.

4. Share turnover. Over the first three months of 2000, NYSE-listed stocks’ turnover rate was an annualized 89%. For the first quarter of this year, it was 58%.

5. Share of corporate cash derived from equity issuance. Corporations increasingly turn to the equity markets to raise money during periods of speculative excess. The equity share stood at 20% for the first three months of 2000. The most recent data from Wurgler, covering three months in late 2013, showed the equity share was 11%.

The bottom line? None of the five sentiment indicators shows the market today to be as overheated as it was in March 2000.

To be sure, equities may be overvalued. And, in any case, the market is more than overdue for a 10% correction. But the bears go too far when they try to advance their argument by claiming that we’re in a bubble that is analogous to the one that occurred in March 2000. 

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Are you considering about going into stock trading? Do you need to brush up on your skills? Do you need to know where to start and being? Look no further than your own computer. The internet is filled with information, yet only a few websites reigns supreme in educating you. So here are the top 6 best online Stock Market Education Websites (And they are free).

StockTradingToGo.com - Stock Trading to go offers educational articles to read on the best investment books to read, how to do stock trading online, Day Trading tips, and the most important 10 question you need to ask your investment broker before you being, plus so much more. On this site as well you get a handy stock market dictionary guide filled with the entire stock market lingo you may encounter so you are never left in the dark. You also get information on.
  • Best online Stock brokers
  • Personal Finance
  • General investing
  • ETF’s (Exchange Traded Funds)
  • Stock Orders
  • How to Read Stock Charts
WallStreetSurvivior – This is free online stock trading game you can play. What better way to learn except by doing. Here you can take all your stock market know how you have learned and test it in this online virtual world. The stock market world is not for the weak so what better way to test your chops in this fun game. The game also features some contests too for a chance to win real money.

FreeInvestinglessons.com - You get a 8 part in depth video series all about stock trading.
Part 1: You learn about the difference between stocks and shares, and bonds.
Part 2: Will deal in investing.
Part 3: Deals in some knowledge of how stocks are bought and sold and tax information.
Part 4: Talks about where you should invest and how much effort is required on your part once you do.
Part 5: Explains what to do when you purchase a stock and what happens after.
Part 6: Delves in how to read the stock charts so you can follow your stocks.
Part 7: Gives you building your stock portfolio tips, and when to diversify.

Roboticstockstrader.com - This is a best site for stock market traders. Here you can find out the game changing technology which can convert your trading loss into profit. Here you can learn how technology is helpful in trading. These systems are known as Automated Trading Systems this is a game changing technology. If you are a beginner in stock market or a expert trader this will very useful for you all.

Stock Market For Beginners Guide - This is a great site for beginners to learn the ins and outs of stock trading. The choices of topics are in-depth not just an overview. You can read about what stock trading is exactly to learning about what a penny stock is and how to invest in them. There is no order you have to read each section either so this site is good fit for your beginners as well as your mid -level Traders.

Technitrader.com – Quoted to being the best stock trading learning website ever, and it well could be. They offer free personalize lessons which you can customize to fit your needs, whether you need a little or a lot of training. Each course is constructed to your needs and you can take it on your own time, at your own level. This is not a site to just read and learn it’s an actual course, with actual interaction with the teachers.

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1. Understand the benefit of change. First, ask yourself if you need to change. Then, ask yourself what you need to change. Identify your current habits and ponder the benefits of changing them. Perhaps while trading you are feeling negative emotions such as stress, anxiety, temptation, or frustration. And ultimately, these emotions cause you to make poor, impulsive and self-destructive decisions. Write down what would happen if you were no longer feeling such negative emotions. That is, what would happen if you were able to remain calm and clear-headed while trading?

2. Dissect the proposed change and benefits. Find as many holes in the prospective change as you can. Don’t just convince yourself that things will become better if you change. Make sure the grass actually is greener on the other side of the fence. Be clear about what you want to change and how you will go about it. Write down the benefits that will take place if you do indeed change.

3. Recognize the situation that triggers your self-destructive action. Write down those all-too-familiar conditions, or circumstances, that lend themselves to activating negativity within you (e.g., all the things done, or said, that push your buttons). Also, write down how you are going to consciously recognize them during the day as they happen. Now, next to each item, write down what systems and processes you will implement to avoid letting that situation become emotional.

4. Create new habits. Having recognized the situation(s) that trigger your bad habit(s), you now need to identify and implement the new actions, or habits. Think about what exactly this would be for you and write your answer next to each item. Example, your negative habit when trading is to worry about getting into the market quickly so as not to miss out on a great opportunity and yet, by being impatient and not waiting for the right set-up, you recognize that you may be rushing presumptuously into a bad trade. Knowing this, write down that when you recognize the rising emotion of stress or anxiety—feeling like you are missing out—that you will consciously remind yourself that there is no such thing as the trade of the century, that there are over a thousand trading opportunities in a day and this isn’t the only one.

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