IRA and Retirement Plan Limits for 2015

IRA and Retirement Plan Limits for 2015

IRA contribution limits

The maximum amount you can contribute to a traditional IRA or Roth IRA in 2015 is $5,500 (or 100% of your earned income, if less), unchanged from 2014. The maximum catch-up contribution for those age 50 or older remains at $1,000. (You can contribute to both a traditional and Roth IRA in 2015, but your total contributions can’t exceed these annual limits.)

Traditional IRA deduction limits for 2015

The income limits for determining the deductibility of traditional IRA contributions have increased for 2015 (for those covered by employer retirement plans). For example, you can fully deduct your IRA contribution if your filing status is single/head of household and your income (“modified adjusted gross income,” or MAGI) is $61,000 or less (up from $60,000 in 2014). If you’re married and filing a joint return, you can fully deduct your IRA contribution if your MAGI is $98,000 or less (up from $96,000 in 2014). If you’re not covered by an employer plan but your spouse is, and you file a joint return, you can fully deduct your IRA contribution if your MAGI is $183,000 or less (up from $181,000 in 2014).

If your 2015 federal income tax filing status is: Your IRA deduction is reduced if your MAGI is between: Your deduction is eliminated if your MAGI is:
Single or head of household $61,000 and $71,000 $71,000 or more
Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er)* $98,000 and $118,000 (combined) $118,000 or more (combined)
Married filing separately $0 and $10,000 $10,000 or more

*If you’re not covered by an employer plan but your spouse is, your deduction is limited if your MAGI is $183,000 to $193,000, and eliminated if your MAGI exceeds $193,000.

Roth IRA contribution limits for 2015

The income limits for determining how much you can contribute to a Roth IRA have also increased. If your filing status is single/head of household, you can contribute the full $5,500 to a Roth IRA in 2015 if your MAGI is $116,000 or less (up from $114,000 in 2014). And if you’re married and filing a joint return, you can make a full contribution if your MAGI is $183,000 or less (up from $181,000 in 2014). (Again, contributions can’t exceed 100% of your earned income.)

If your 2015 federal income tax filing status is: Your Roth IRA contribution is reduced if your MAGI is: You cannot contribute to a Roth IRA if your MAGI is:
Single or head of household More than $116,000 but less than $131,000 $131,000 or more
Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er) More than $183,000 but less than $193,000 (combined) $193,000 or more (combined)
Married filing separately More than $0 but less than $10,000 $10,000 or more

Employer retirement plans

The maximum amount you can contribute (your “elective deferrals”) to a 401(k) plan has increased for 2015. The limit (which also applies to 403(b), 457(b), and SAR-SEP plans, as well as the Federal Thrift Plan) is $18,000 in 2015 (up from $17,500 in 2014). If you’re age 50 or older, you can also make catch-up contributions of up to $6,000 to these plans in 2015 (up from $5,500 in 2014). (Special catch-up limits apply to certain participants in 403(b) and 457(b) plans.)

If you participate in more than one retirement plan, your total elective deferrals can’t exceed the annual limit ($18,000 in 2015 plus any applicable catch-up contribution). Deferrals to 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, SIMPLE plans, and SAR-SEPs are included in this limit, but deferrals to Section 457(b) plans are not. For example, if you participate in both a 403(b) plan and a 457(b) plan, you can defer the full dollar limit to each plan–a total of $36,000 in 2015 (plus any catch-up contributions).

The amount you can contribute to a SIMPLE IRA or SIMPLE 401(k) plan has increased to $12,500 for 2015, up from $12,000 in 2014. The catch-up limit for those age 50 or older has also increased, to $3,000 (up from $2,500 in 2014).

Plan type: Annual dollar limit: Catch-up limit:
401(k), 403(b), governmental 457(b), SAR-SEP, Federal Thrift Plan $18,000 $6,000
SIMPLE plans $12,500 $3,000

Note: Contributions can’t exceed 100% of your income.

The maximum amount that can be allocated to your account in a defined contribution plan (for example, a 401(k) plan or profit-sharing plan) in 2015 is $53,000 (up from $52,000 in 2014), plus age-50 catch-up contributions. (This includes both your contributions and your employer’s contributions. Special rules apply if your employer sponsors more than one retirement plan.)

Finally, the maximum amount of compensation that can be taken into account in determining benefits for most plans in 2015 has increased to $265,000, up from $260,000 in 2014; the dollar threshold for determining highly compensated employees (when 2015 is the look-back year) is $120,000, up from $115,000 in 2014.

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What I’m Watching This Week – 27 October 2014

The Markets

Relief at last: Investors finally regained some appetite for risk as equities got a break from the recent wave of selling. After four straight weeks of losses, the S&P 500 saw a strong bounce. However, the Nasdaq’s rebound was even bigger and the small caps of the Russell 2000 saw their second consecutive week of robust gains. Though the Dow industrials lagged the other three domestic indices, the rally brought the Dow back into positive territory for the year. The Global Dow also recovered from its slump, nearly managing to break even for the year.

The strong showing in equities helped send the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield up as prices fell. Meanwhile, the price of oil stabilized in the low $80s

Market/Index 2013 Close Prior Week As of 10/24 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 16576.66 16380.41 16805.41 2.59% 1.38%
Nasdaq 4176.59 4258.44 4483.72 5.29% 7.35%
S&P 500 1848.36 1886.76 1964.58 4.12% 6.29%
Russell 2000 1163.64 1082.33 1118.82 3.37% -3.85%
Global Dow 2484.10 2409.20 2470.50 2.54% -.55%
Fed. Funds .25% .25% .25% 0% 0%
10-year Treasuries 3.04% 2.22% 2.29% 7 bps -75 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Headlines

  • Sales of existing homes jumped 2.4% during September, according to the National Association of Realtors®. That’s the highest pace of 2014, though the number of sales was 1.7% lower than in the previous September. The $209,700 median sale price was 5.6% higher than a year earlier.
  • Meanwhile, new home sales were up 0.2% in September; the Commerce Department said that put them 17% higher than in September 2013.
  • Consumer prices rose 0.1% in September. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that left the Consumer Price Index up 1.7% for the last 12 months–a level that might give the Federal Reserve some leeway to keep interest rates low. Increases in food and housing outweighed a 0.7% drop in energy costs.
  • China’s growth rate, while still robust compared to the rest of the world, slowed during the third quarter, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The 7.3% increase in the country’s gross domestic product was slightly lower than Q2’s 7.5% and below the official target for annual growth (also 7.5%). Real estate prices and sales continued to be a soft spot in the Chinese economy.
  • After subjecting 150 European banks to annual stress tests, the European Central Bank and the European Banking Authority said only 12 of them needed to raise additional capital as protection against a worst-case scenario. Italy had the most problem banks, with Greece and Cyprus tied for second.
  • Similar stress tests for U.S. banks to be conducted by the Federal Reserve next year will measure how well they would withstand a sharp deterioration in the corporate bond market, especially high-yield bonds issued by highly indebted companies. As in previous years, the tests also will gauge exposure to threats from a variety of factors that include sharp declines in the job market and economic growth, a jump in oil prices to $110 a barrel, and a 60% drop in the stock market. Banks that fail the test could be restricted in their ability to pay dividends or buy back stocks until they address the deficiencies.

Eye on the Week Ahead

Once again, all eyes will be on the Fed as quantitative easing is expected to come to an end. And with recent volatility in the equities markets suggesting investor uncertainty, the first estimate of Q3 gross domestic product is likely to be significant. Also, the release of stress tests conducted on European banks could affect investor perception of the financial system there.

Data sources: Economic: Based on data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (unemployment, inflation); U.S. Department of Commerce (GDP, corporate profits, retail sales, housing); S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Index (home prices); Institute for Supply Management (manufacturing/services). Performance: Based on data reported in WSJ Market Data Center (indexes); U.S. Treasury (Treasury yields); U.S. Energy Information Administration/Bloomberg.com Market Data (oil spot price, WTI Cushing, OK); www.goldprice.org (spot gold/silver); Oanda/FX Street (currency exchange rates). All information is based on sources deemed reliable, but no warranty or guarantee is made as to its accuracy or completeness. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed herein constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any securities, and should not be relied on as financial advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted index composed of 30 widely traded blue-chip U.S. common stocks. The S&P 500 is a market-cap weighted index composed of the common stocks of 500 leading companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy. The NASDAQ Composite Index is a market-value weighted index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The Russell 2000 is a market-cap weighted index composed of 2,000 U.S. small-cap common stocks. The Global Dow is an equally weighted index of 150 widely traded blue-chip common stocks worldwide. Market indices listed are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment.

Investor, Know Thyself: How Your Biases Can Affect Investment Decisions

Traditional economic models are based on a simple premise: people make rational financial decisions that are designed to maximize their economic benefits. In reality, however, most humans don’t make decisions based on a sterile analysis of the pros and cons. While most of us do think carefully about financial decisions, it is nearly impossible to completely disconnect from our “gut feelings,” that nagging intuition that seems to have been deeply implanted in the recesses of our brain.

Over the past few decades, another school of thought has emerged that examines how human psychological factors influence economic and financial decisions. This field–known as behavioral economics, or in the investing arena, behavioral finance–has identified several biases that can unnerve even the most stoic investor. Understanding these biases may help you avoid questionable calls in the heat of the financial moment.

Sound familiar?

Following is a brief summary of some common biases influencing even the most experienced investors. Can you relate to any of these?

  1. Anchoring refers to the tendency to become attached to something, even when it may not make sense. Examples include a piece of furniture that has outlived its usefulness, a home or car that one can no longer afford, or a piece of information that is believed to be true, but is in fact, false. In investing, it can refer to the tendency to either hold an investment too long or place too much reliance on a certain piece of data or information.
  2. Loss-aversion bias is the term used to describe the tendency to fear losses more than celebrate equivalent gains. For example, you may experience joy at the thought of finding yourself $5,000 richer, but the thought of losing $5,000 might provoke a far greater fear. Similar to anchoring, loss aversion could cause you to hold onto a losing investment too long, with the fear of turning a paper loss into a real loss.
  3. Endowment bias is also similar to loss-aversion bias and anchoring in that it encourages investors to “endow” a greater value in what they currently own over other possibilities. You may presume the investments in your portfolio are of higher quality than other available alternatives, simply because you own them.
  4. Overconfidence is simply having so much confidence in your own ability to select investments for your portfolio that you might ignore warning signals.
  5. Confirmation bias is the tendency to latch onto, and assign more authority to, opinions that agree with your own. For example, you might give more credence to an analyst report that favors a stock you recently purchased, in spite of several other reports indicating a neutral or negative outlook.
  6. The bandwagon effect, also known as herd behavior, happens when decisions are made simply because “everyone else is doing it.” For an example of this, one might look no further than a fairly recent and much-hyped social media company’s initial public offering (IPO). Many a discouraged investor jumped at that IPO only to sell at a significant loss a few months later. (Some of these investors may have also suffered from overconfidence bias.)
  7. Recency bias refers to the fact that recent events can have a stronger influence on your decisions than other, more distant events. For example, if you were severely burned by the market downturn in 2008, you may have been hesitant about continuing or increasing your investments once the markets settled down. Conversely, if you were encouraged by the stock market’s subsequent bull run, you may have increased the money you put into equities, hoping to take advantage of any further gains. Consider that neither of these perspectives may be entirely rational given that investment decisions should be based on your individual goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance.
  8. A negativity bias indicates the tendency to give more importance to negative news than positive news, which can cause you to be more risk-averse than appropriate for your situation.

An objective view can help

The human brain has evolved over millennia into a complex decision-making tool, allowing us to retrieve past experiences and process information so quickly that we can respond almost instantaneously to perceived threats and opportunities. However, when it comes to your finances, these gut feelings may not be your strongest ally, and in fact may work against you. Before jumping to any conclusions about your finances, consider what biases may be at work beneath your conscious radar. It might also help to consider the opinions of an objective third party, such as a qualified financial professional, who could help identify any biases that may be clouding your judgment.

The New Estate Tax Rules and Your Estate Plan

The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (the 2010 Tax Act) included new gift, estate, and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax provisions. The 2010 Tax Act provided that in 2011 and 2012, the gift and estate tax exemption was $5 million (indexed for inflation in 2012), the GST tax exemption was also $5 million (indexed for inflation in 2012), and the maximum rate for both taxes was 35%. New to estate tax law was gift and estate tax exemption portability: generally, any gift and estate tax exemption left unused by a deceased spouse could be transferred to the surviving spouse in 2011 and 2012. The GST tax exemption, however, is not portable. Starting in 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (the 2012 Tax Act) permanently extended the $5 million (as indexed for inflation, and thus $5,340,000 in 2014, $5,250,000 in 2013) exemptions and portability of the gift and estate tax exemption, but also increased the top gift, estate, and GST tax rate to 40%. You should understand how these new rules may affect your estate plan.

Exemption portability

Under prior law, the gift and estate tax exemption was effectively “use it or lose it.” In order to fully utilize their respective exemptions, married couples often implemented a bypass plan: they divided assets between a marital trust and a credit shelter, or bypass, trust (this is often referred to as an A/B trust plan). Under the 2010 and 2012 Tax Acts, the estate of a deceased spouse can transfer to the surviving spouse any portion of the exemption it does not use (this portion is referred to as the deceased spousal unused exclusion amount, or DSUEA). The surviving spouse’s exemption, then, is increased by the DSUEA, which the surviving spouse can use for lifetime gifts or transfers at death.

Example:  At the time of Henry’s death in 2011, he had made $1 million in taxable gifts and had an estate of $2 million. The DSUEA available to his surviving spouse, Linda, is $2 million ($5 million – ($1 million + $2 million)). This $2 million can be added to Linda’s own exemption for a total of $7,340,000 ($5,340,000 + $2 million), assuming Linda dies in 2014.

The portability of the exemption coupled with an increase in the exemption amount to $5,340,000 per taxpayer allows a married couple to pass on up to $10,680,000 gift and estate tax free in 2014. Though this seems to negate the usefulness of A/B trust planning, there are still many reasons to consider using A/B trusts.

  • The assets of the surviving spouse, including those inherited from the deceased spouse, may appreciate in value at a rate greater than the rate at which the exemption amount increases. This may cause assets in the surviving spouse’s estate to exceed that spouse’s available exemption. On the other hand, appreciation of assets placed in a credit shelter trust will avoid estate tax at the death of the surviving spouse.
  • The distribution of assets placed in the credit shelter trust can be controlled. Since the trust is irrevocable, your plan of distribution to particular beneficiaries cannot be altered by your surviving spouse. Leaving your entire estate directly to your surviving spouse would leave the ultimate distribution of those assets to his or her discretion.
  • A credit shelter trust may also protect trust assets from the claims of any creditors of your surviving spouse and the trust beneficiaries. You can also include a spendthrift provision to limit your surviving spouse’s access to trust assets, thus preserving their value for the trust beneficiaries.

A/B trust plans with formula clauses

If you currently have an A/B trust plan, it may no longer carry out your intended wishes because of the increased exemption amount. Many of these plans use a formula clause that transfers to the credit shelter trust an amount equal to the most that can pass free from estate tax, with the remainder passing to the marital trust for the benefit of the spouse. For example, say a spouse died in 2003 with an estate worth $5,340,000 and an estate tax exemption of $1 million. The full exemption amount, or $1 million, would have been transferred to the credit shelter trust and $4,340,000 would have passed to the marital trust. Under the same facts in 2014, since the exemption has increased, the entire $5,340,000 estate will transfer to the credit shelter trust, to which the surviving spouse may have little or no access. Review your estate plan carefully with an estate planning professional to be sure your intentions will be carried out under the new laws.

Wealth transfer strategies through gifting

Because of the larger exemptions and lower tax rates, there may be unprecedented opportunities for gifting.

By making gifts up to the exemption amount, you can significantly reduce the value of your estate without incurring gift tax. In addition, any future appreciation on the gifted assets will escape taxation. Assets with the most potential to increase in value, such as real estate (e.g., a vacation home), expensive art, furniture, jewelry, and closely held business interests, offer the best tax savings opportunity.

Gifting may be done in several different forms. These include direct gifts to individuals, gifts made in trust (e.g., grantor retained annuity trusts and qualified personal residence trusts), and intra-family loans. Currently, you can also employ techniques that leverage the high exemptions to potentially provide an even greater tax benefit (for example, creating a family limited partnership may also provide valuation discounts for tax purposes).

For high-net-worth married couples, gifting to an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) designed as a dynasty trust can reduce estate size while providing a substantial gift for multiple generations (depending on how long a trust can last under the laws of your particular state). The value of the gift may be increased (leveraged) by the purchase of second-to-die life insurance within the trust. Further, the larger exemptions enable you to increase, gift tax free, the premiums paid for life insurance policies that are owned by the ILIT or other family members. Premium payments on such policies are taxable gifts, so these premium payments are often limited to avoid incurring gift tax. This in turn restricts the amount of life insurance that can be purchased. But the increased exemptions provide the opportunity to make significantly greater gifts of premium payments, which can be used to buy a larger life insurance policy.

Before implementing a gifting plan, however, there are a few issues you should consider.

  • Can you afford to make the gift in the first place (you may need those assets and the related cash flow in the future)?
  • Do you anticipate that your estate will be subject to estate taxes at your death?
  • Is minimizing estate taxes more important to you than retaining control over the asset?
  • Do you have concerns about gifting large amounts to your heirs (i.e., is the recipient competent to manage the asset)?
  • Does the transfer tax savings outweigh the potential capital gains tax the recipient may incur if the asset is later sold? The recipient of the gift gets a carryover basis (i.e., your tax basis) for income tax purposes. On the other hand, property left to an individual as a result of death will generally receive a step-up in cost basis to fair market value at date of death, resulting in potentially less income tax to pay when such an asset is ultimately sold.

Caution:  The amount of gift tax exemption you used in the past will reduce the $5,340,000 available to you in 2014. For example, a person who used $1 million of his or her exemption in 2012, will be able to make additional gifts totaling $4,340,000 during 2014 free from gift tax.

Tip:  In addition to this opportunity to transfer a significant amount of wealth tax free, it’s important to remember that you can still take advantage of the $14,000 per person per year annual gift tax exclusion for 2013 and 2014. Also, gifts of tuition payments and payment of medical expenses (if paid directly to the institutions) are still tax free and can be made at any time.

Medical Professionals: A Prescription for Your Financial Health

The demands on medical practitioners today can seem overwhelming. It’s no secret that health-care delivery is changing, and those changes are reflected in the financial issues that health-care professionals face every day. You must continually educate yourself about new research in your chosen specialty, stay current on the latest technology that is transforming health care, and pay attention to business considerations, including ever-changing state and federal insurance regulations.

Like many, you may have transitioned from medical school and residency to being on your own with little formal preparation for the substantial financial issues you now face. Even the day-to-day concerns that affect most people–paying college tuition bills or student loans, planning for retirement, buying a home, insuring yourself and your business–may be complicated by the challenges and rewards of a medical practice. It’s no wonder that many medical practitioners look forward to the day when they can relax and enjoy the fruits of their labors.

Unfortunately, substantial demands on your time can make it difficult for you to accurately evaluate your financial plan, or monitor changes that can affect it. That’s especially true given ongoing health care reform efforts that will affect the future of the industry as a whole. Just as patients need periodic checkups, you may need to work with a financial professional to make sure your finances receive the proper care.

Maximizing your personal assets

Much like medicine, the field of finance has been the subject of much scientific research and data, and should be approached with the same level of discipline and thoughtfulness. Making the most of your earning years requires a plan for addressing the following issues.

Retirement

Your years of advanced training and perhaps the additional costs of launching and building a practice may have put you behind your peers outside the health-care field by a decade or more in starting to save and invest for retirement. You may have found yourself struggling with debt from years of college, internship, and residency; later, there’s the ongoing juggling act between making mortgage payments, caring for your parents, paying for weddings and tuition for your children, and maybe trying to squeeze in a vacation here and there. Because starting to save early is such a powerful ally when it comes to building a nest egg, you may face a real challenge in assuring your own retirement. A solid financial plan can help.

Investments

Getting a late start on saving for retirement can create other problems. For example, you might be tempted to try to make up for lost time by making investment choices that carry an inappropriate level or type of risk for you. Speculating with money you will need in the next year or two could leave you short when you need that money. And once your earnings improve, you may be tempted to overspend on luxuries you were denied during the lean years. One of the benefits of a long-range financial plan is that it can help you protect your assets–and your future–from inappropriate choices.

Tuition

Many medical professionals not only must pay off student loans, but also have a strong desire to help their children with college costs, precisely because they began their own careers saddled with large debts.

Tax considerations

Once the lean years are behind you, your success means you probably need to pay more attention to tax-aware investing strategies that help you keep more of what you earn.

Using preventive care

The nature of your profession requires that you pay special attention to making sure you are protected both personally and professionally from the financialconsequences of legal action, a medical emergency of your own, and business difficulties. Having a well-defined protection plan can give you confidence that you can practice your chosen profession without putting your family or future in jeopardy.

Liability insurance

Medical professionals are caught financially between rising premiums for malpractice insurance and fixed reimbursements from managed-care programs, and you may find yourself evaluating a variety of approaches to providing that protection. Some physicians also carry insurance that protects them against unintentional billing errors or omissions. Remember that in addition to potential malpractice claims, you also face the same potential liabilities as other business owners. You might consider an umbrella policy as well as coverage that protects you against business-related exposures such as fire, theft, employee dishonesty, or business interruption.

Disability insurance

Your income depends on your ability to function, especially if you’re a solo practitioner, and you may have fixed overhead costs that would need to be covered if your ability to work were impaired. One choice you’ll face is how early in your career to purchase disability insurance. Age plays a role in determining premiums, and you may qualify for lower premiums if you are relatively young. When evaluating disability income policies, medical professionals should pay special attention to how the policy defines disability. Look for a liberal definition such as “own occupation,” which can help ensure that you’re covered in case you can’t practice in your chosen specialty.

To protect your business if you become disabled, consider business overhead expense insurance that will cover routine expenses such as payroll, utilities, and equipment rental. An insurance professional can help evaluate your needs.

Practice management and business planning

Is a group practice more advantageous than operating solo, taking in a junior colleague, or working for a managed-care network? If you have an independent practice, should you own or rent your office space? What are the pros and cons of taking over an existing practice compared to starting one from scratch? If you’re part of a group practice, is the practice structured financially to accommodate the needs of all partners? Does running a “concierge” or retainer practice appeal to you? If you’re considering expansion, how should you finance it?

Questions like these are rarely simple and should be done in the context of an overall financial plan that takes into account both your personal and professional goals.

Many physicians have created processes and products for their own practices, and have then licensed their creations to a corporation. If you are among them, you may need help with legal and financial concerns related to patents, royalties, and the like. And if you have your own practice, you may find that cash flow management, maximizing return on working capital, hiring and managing employees, and financing equipment purchases and maintenance become increasingly complex issues as your practice develops.

Practice valuation

You may have to make tradeoffs between maximizing current income from your practice and maximizing its value as an asset for eventual sale. Also, timing the sale of a practice and minimizing taxes on its proceeds can be complex. If you’re planning a business succession, or considering changing practices or even careers, you might benefit from help with evaluating the financial consequences of those decisions.

Estate planning

Estate planning, which can both minimize taxes and further your personal and philanthropic goals, probably will become important to you at some point. Options you might consider include:

  • Life insurance
  • Buy-sell agreements for your practice
  • Charitable trusts

You’ve spent a long time acquiring and maintaining expertise in your field, and your patients rely on your specialized knowledge. Doesn’t it make sense to treat your finances with the same level of care?

What I’m Watching This Week – 13 October 2014

The Markets

Concerns about signs of weaker growth abroad seemed to outweigh domestic corporate earnings reports last week as volatility went extreme. The Dow industrials saw triple-digit swings four days in a row that wiped out all of the index’s year-to-date gains, and both the Dow and the S&P 500 had their worst weeks since May 2012. By the end of the week, the S&P was down 5% from its most recent high (a 10% drop is considered a correction). Meanwhile, the Russell 2000 fell solidly into correction territory, ending the week down almost 13% from its most recent high in March. The Global Dow also turned negative year-to-date.

The volatility sent investors once again seeking the relative security of U.S. Treasuries. As the price of the benchmark 10-year note has risen, the decline in its yield has accelerated in each of the last four weeks; the 10-year yield ended last week at its lowest level since June 2013.

Market/Index 2013 Close Prior Week As of 10/10 Weekly Change YTD Change
DJIA 16576.66 17009.69 16544.10 -2.74% -.20%
Nasdaq 4176.59 4475.62 4276.24 -4.45% 2.39%
S&P 500 1848.36 1967.90 1906.13 -3.14% 3.13%
Russell 2000 1163.64 1104.74 1053.32 -4.65% -9.48%
Global Dow 2484.10 2493.99 2430.85 -2.53% -2.14%
Fed. Funds .25% .25% .25% 0% 0%
10-year Treasuries 3.04% 2.45% 2.31% -14 bps -73 bps

Chart reflects price changes, not total return. Because it does not include dividends or splits, it should not be used to benchmark performance of specific investments.

Last Week’s Headlines

  • Minutes of the most recent meeting of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy committee showed that members are worried about slowing global growth. The potential domestic impact of dollar strength, which could become more problematic when interest rates increase, also was a concern, as a stronger dollar could make U.S. exports more expensive and weigh on the domestic economy. Members also wrestled with how to communicate any shift in the committee’s expectations about when a rate increase might occur.
  • European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said that the already sluggish European economy seems to be slowing further. Coupled with discouraging economic reports out of Germany–exports fell 5.8% in August, and manufacturing output and new orders also were down–Draghi’s statement raised concerns about the financial health of Europe as a whole. To add to the gloom, the International Monetary Fund also lowered its outlook for global growth next year, though its U.S. forecast was more optimistic.

Eye on the Week Ahead

The question of the week will be whether last week’s volatility exhausted negative sentiment or there’s more to come. If domestic Q3 earnings reports and corporate guidance are robust, they might help provide some counterbalance to global pessimism. However, many large U.S. corporations earn a large percentage of their profits overseas; if forward guidance tends to be negative, that could have the opposite effect. Options expiration at week’s end also could affect volatility.

Data sources: Economic: Based on data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (unemployment, inflation); U.S. Department of Commerce (GDP, corporate profits, retail sales, housing); S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Index (home prices); Institute for Supply Management (manufacturing/services). Performance: Based on data reported in WSJ Market Data Center (indexes); U.S. Treasury (Treasury yields); U.S. Energy Information Administration/Bloomberg.com Market Data (oil spot price, WTI Cushing, OK); www.goldprice.org (spot gold/silver); Oanda/FX Street (currency exchange rates). All information is based on sources deemed reliable, but no warranty or guarantee is made as to its accuracy or completeness. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed herein constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any securities, and should not be relied on as financial advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted index composed of 30 widely traded blue-chip U.S. common stocks. The S&P 500 is a market-cap weighted index composed of the common stocks of 500 leading companies in leading industries of the U.S. economy. The NASDAQ Composite Index is a market-value weighted index of all common stocks listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The Russell 2000 is a market-cap weighted index composed of 2,000 U.S. small-cap common stocks. The Global Dow is an equally weighted index of 150 widely traded blue-chip common stocks worldwide. Market indices listed are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment.

Medicare Open Enrollment Period Begins October 15

What is the Medicare open enrollment period?

The Medicare open enrollment period is the time during which people with Medicare can make new choices and pick plans that work best for them. Each year, Medicare plans typically change what they cost and cover. In addition, your health-care needs may have changed over the past year. The open enrollment period is your opportunity to switch Medicare health and prescription drug plans to better suit your needs.

When does the open enrollment period start?

The Medicare open enrollment period begins on October 15 and runs throughDecember 7. Any changes made during open enrollment are effective as ofJanuary 1, 2015.

During the open enrollment period, you can:

  • Join a Medicare Prescription Drug (Part D) Plan
  • Switch from one Part D plan to another Part D plan
  • Drop your Part D coverage altogether
  • Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare
  • Change from one Medicare Advantage Plan to a different Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers prescription drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer prescription drug coverage
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer prescription drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that does offer prescription drug coverage

What should you do?

Now is a good time to review your current Medicare plan. As part of the evaluation, you may want to consider several factors. For instance, are you satisfied with the coverage and level of care you’re receiving with your current plan? Are your premium costs or out-of-pocket expenses too high? Has your health changed, or do you anticipate needing medical care or treatment?

Open enrollment period is the time to determine whether your current plan will cover your treatment and what your potential out-of-pocket costs may be. If your current plan doesn’t meet your health-care needs or fit within your budget, you can switch to a plan that may work better for you.

What’s new in 2015?

Most Part D plans have a temporary limit on what a particular plan will cover for prescription drugs. In 2015, this gap in coverage (also called the “donut hole”) begins after you and your drug plan have spent $2,960 on covered drugs. It ends after you have spent $4,700 out-of-pocket, after which catastrophic coverage begins. However, part of the Affordable Care Act gradually closes this gap by reducing your out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions purchased in the coverage gap. In 2015, you’ll pay 45% of the cost for brand-name drugs in the coverage gap and 65% of the cost for generic drugs in the coverage gap. Each succeeding year, out-of-pocket prescription drug costs in the coverage gap continue to decrease until 2020, when you’ll pay 25% for covered brand-name and generic drugs in the gap.

Where can you get more information?

Determining what coverage you have now and comparing it to other Medicare plans can be confusing and complicated. Pay attention to notices you receive from Medicare and from your plan, and take advantage of help available by calling 1-800-MEDICARE or by visiting the Medicare website,www.medicare.gov. Your financial professional can also help you find the information you need to make decisions about Medicare.