A Sick Market Is Set to Be Tested Further

“Even after bouncing hard off last week’s lows, the stock market has appeared unwell.”

Based on current information from August 2015, Michael Santoli, the author of this article, explains some of the “big” problems that are affecting the stock market and the nation’s economy.  He cites the following major factors that account for the current downward spiral of the U.S. financial markets.

  • Economic slowdown in China
  • More realistic expectations for future economic growth
  • Lower forecasts for corporate earnings growth
  • Uncertainty about the Federal Reserve’s decisions that could impact interest rates
  • The political climate leading up to the 2016 presidential election

One final point:  The month of September is typically the worst month of the year for stocks.  September 2015 should be an interesting month to say the least–get ready and hang on for what promises to be a rough ride.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Point out that economic growth and the financial markets can go up or go down depending on factors like those described in this article. If you sell, what would you do with your money?
  • Stress that a long-term investment program that can even out the ups and downs in the market.

Discussion Questions

Although the stock market has been on the upswing for the last few years, the summer of 2015 has been a rough “ride” for most investors.

  1. If you are an investor and expect that it is time for a correction or downturn in the market, what would you sell some or all of your investments? If you sell, what would you do with the money?
  2. Some financial experts argue that a correction can be a buying opportunity to purchase quality stocks at lower prices. Do you agree?  Explain your answer.

The Retirement Number Secret No One Wants to Tell You

There’s a substantial gulf between the amount of money Americans have actually saved for retirement and what they might need to last throughout their golden years.”

This article reports the results of a survey conducted by the Employee Benefits Research Institute which discovered that nearly three in five people surveyed had saved $25,000 or less for their retirement.  Even worse—more than a quarter of those surveyed had saved less than $1,000.

To help plan for retirement, many financial experts suggest that you need between 70 and 85 percent of whatever yearly income you had during your career in order to sustain the lifestyle you enjoyed prior to retiring.  While these calculations provide a recommended dollar amount to provide retirement income, the same calculations often create two problems.  First, there is often a big gap between what people have saved and what they need for retirement.  Second, the amount of money you need in retirement is based on what’s important to you and the standard of living you want in retirement.  And the you may be the most important part of retirement planning.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Explain why you should plan for retirement early in your career rather than waiting until you are about to retire.
  • Reinforce the concepts of the time value of money and a long-term saving and investing program.

Discussion Questions

  1. Many financial experts suggest you begin retirement planning as soon as you begin your career. What are the benefits of planning for retirement planning sooner rather than later?
  2. How is the time value of money related to a long-term investment program and retirement planning?

Free Financial Coaches Give the Working Poor a Second Chance.

“. . . Financial coaching initiatives that target the working poor have sprung up in communities across the country.”

For low-income wage earners, the idea of paying hundreds of dollars for professional financial help can seem about as far-fetched as buying a winning lotto ticket.  And yet, help is available in a number of the nation’s larger cities including Chicago and New York.  In most cases, the financial coaches volunteer their time and have a background in personal finance or have received financial and investment training.  The participants receive specific suggestions geared to their individual situation that are designed to improve their credit score and help them build a sound financial future.  According to Richard Cordray, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “Having a trusted, well-informed financial coach can increase your odds of financial success.”

For more information, click here.
Note:  There is a short video that accompanies this article.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Point out that often low wage earners don’t have the money to pay a financial coach to help them manage their finances.
  • Describe different situations where the advice from a financial coach could make a difference in someone’s financial future. For example, a coach’s suggestions on how to improve someone’s credit score could lead to obtaining a credit card for emergencies or a short-term loan to bridge the gap between unemployment and employment.

Discussion Questions

  1. Assume you are unemployed and have exhausted your emergency fund.  You are behind on monthly payments including your rent and utilities.  What steps can you take to improve your financial situation?
  2. In the above situation, what suggestions do you think a financial coach could provide that would help you work through this difficult situation?

Quiz: What’s Your Financial SPF Factor?

“So put aside that beach read for a few minutes and take this quiz to assess your financial SPF factor.”

While most people recognize SPF as standing for sunscreen, SPF–as defined in this article stands for Save, Protect, and Fund.  After a brief explanation of each SPF financial term, the article asks 11 questions that someone can use to help gauge their financial knowledge and financial planning skills.

At the end of the quiz, you are also told how your answers stack up and then the article provides suggestions about how to improve not only your score, but also your ability to plan for your financial future and retirement.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Stress the importance of effective financial planning over your lifetime.
  • Begin a discussion about the benefits of long-term investments.
  • Review time value of money calculations.

Discussion Questions

  1. How can financial planning help you obtain your goals and objectives?
  2. Why should you begin investing sooner rather than later?
  3. A common problem for some people is they don’t have the money they need to begin an investment program. Given your current circumstances, what steps can you take to “find” the money to start an investment program?

New Crisis Possible, But, Not Like 2008: Geithner

“Even with the challenges in the U.S. economy, America is a ‘lucky country.’ “

During a CNBC interview, former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said the market reforms after 2008 put “much more capital into the system” and “much tougher rules on risk-taking.”  He went on to say that the reforms are strong enough, if they’re not eroded, to buy this country a relatively long period of financial stability.

Although the American economy is doing relatively well and making steady progress at the present time,     a financial crisis will happen again at some point.  Still the structural reforms undertaken after 2008 can serve to mitigate any future damage.  Mr. Geithner concludes that if a financial crisis does happen in the future, the Federal Reserve and the government would need to act again.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Discuss how the economy affects the lives of the average U.S. citizen.
  • Point out specific steps the government took to stabilize the economy and the financial markets during the economic crisis that began in 2008.

Discussion Questions

  1. How does a healthy economy affect you and your family? How does a weak economy affect you and your family?
  2. At a time when many people believe the government is too involved in the lives of individuals and business, should the government take steps to stabilize the economy and financial markets during an economic downturn? Explain your answer.

Why Should I Invest?

“Simply put, you want to invest in order to create wealth.  It’s relatively painless, and the rewards are plentiful. “

This article from The Motley Fool website explains why investing is a smart idea.  The article begins with information about the importance of goals.  Then asks the question, “What are you saving for?”.  The article also explains the power of compounding and provides specific examples to illustrate how time, rate of return, and age can make a tremendous difference.

The article also summarizes 9 common pitfalls to avoid including: doing nothing, starting late, investing before paying down credit card debt, etc.

Note:  this is one of a series of articles provided by The Motley Fool website.  Hopefully, students will use this article as a starting point and will use more of the educational materials available on this site.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Stress the importance of beginning a savings and investment program sooner rather than later.
  • Explain the power of compounding examples in this article to illustrate the difference in potential returns.
  • Discuss the 9 common pitfalls that often keep people from starting a savings and investment program.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the advantages of starting an investment program sooner rather than later?
  2. Where can you get the money you need to begin a savings and investment program?
  3. What do you consider the biggest pitfall that keeps you from starting a savings and investment program?

How Much You Have to Earn to Be Considered Middle Class in Every US State

“Pew defined middle class households as those earning 67%-200% of a state’s median income.”

A recent analysis from Pew Charitable Trusts’ Stateline blog found that the middle class shrunk in every state in the U.S. between the years of 2000 and 2013–the most recent data available.  This article by Libby Kane and Andy Kiersz also provides a detailed table that displays the median income and middle class incomes for each of the 50 states.  Finally, the information in this article points out that the definition of middle class often depends on where you live.  For example, you can feel middle class even if you earn$250,000 a year in some areas of the country which is about five times the $52,250 median income for the entire United States.

For more information, click here. 

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Discuss what it means to be middle class in the United States.
  • Stress how income relates to financial planning, investing, and the time value of money.

Discussion Questions

  1. While the median income for the United States is $52,250, the median income and the middle class incomes for each state vary. What factors account for the difference in these income amounts from one state to the next?
  2. Assume you are offered a new position within your company that will pay $6,000 more than your current annual salary. If you take the new position, you will have more responsibility and it will require that you work longer hours and travel away from home and family on a regular basis.  Do you feel the extra money is worth the changes that will be required if you take the new position?
  3. If you decide to take the new higher-paying position, what would you do with the extra money?

How This Couple Retired in Their 30s to Travel the World

This is a very interesting interview that describes how one young couple decided to take charge of their finances, pay off their debts, and accumulate a nest egg to fund an early retirement.    

When Jeremy graduated from college, he started working for Motorola and earned $40,000 a year.  But his desire to keep up with his friends, family, and co-workers led him to buy a new car and a three-bedroom home.  He was quickly in debt, but fortunately he realized he wanted to live debt free.

Using an interview format, this article describes the steps Jeremy (38) and Winnie (33) took to save enough money to retire while they were in their 30s.  It also describes their current lifestyle and how they spend their money and time since they retired.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Explore why people often feel the need to keep up with friends, family, and co-workers.
  • Discuss the specific steps that Jeremy and Winnie took to take control of their finances.

Discussion Questions

  1. What steps did Jeremy and Winnie take to get out of debt? Would you be willing to take these steps in order to live debt free?
  2. Once Jeremy and Winnie were debt free, what techniques did they use to save and invest their money?
  3. Jeremy and Winnie retired in their 30s. Does the idea of retiring in your 30s or 40s, or 50s appeal to you?  Explain your answer.

Inside Warren Buffett’s Childhood Home

“Within these hallowed halls live the memories of Buffett buying his first stock–six shares of Cities Service.” 

Warren Buffett is known for being frugal.  His conservative, frugal nature may have started in his childhood home.  This article provides a link to a video that provides a bit of history about Warren Buffett and allows you to tour the home where Buffett bought his first stock–six shares of Cities Service.  It’s also the place where he cooked up one of his first business plans to buy a six-pack of Coca-Cola for a quarter and sell sodas for a nickel each.  Take a look and enjoy a bit of history about the second-richest man in America.

For more information, click here. 

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Explore some of the reasons why Warren Buffett has been successful not only in investing, but also in life.

Discussion Questions

  1. Warren Buffett started investing when he was very young. He purchased six shares of Cities Service stock.  From that first investment, he went on to build an empire.  What advice do you think Mr. Buffett would give a beginning investor today?
  2. Mr. Buffett is so rich that he could buy just about anything in the world. And yet, he is still known for being frugal.  How do you think this frugal nature affects his investment philosophy and his lifestyle?

3 Ways to Diversify Retirement Savings Beyond Stocks

“Reluctant to put more of your hard-earned money aboard the roller coaster known as the stock market?  Then it may be a good idea to diversify your retirement savings with other assets, which can reduce your overall risk.”

In this article, Cliff Goldstein suggests three different alternatives that could help you increase the diversification in your investment portfolio.  Of course each investment alternative–real estate, peer-to-peer lending, and precious metals–comes with risks that should be carefully considered before making any decisions.  Along with the potential risks for each investment, the advantages of each investment  alternative are described in this article.

For more information, click here

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Reinforce why investors should use asset allocation to diversify their investments.
  • Point out the reasons why some people choose real estate, peer-to-peer lending, and precious metals in place of or in addition to more traditional investment alternatives.

Discussion Questions

  1. Pick one of the investment alternatives in this article–real estate, peer-to-peer lending, or precious metals. What are the advantages of the investment you chose?  What are the disadvantages of the same investment?

2.  Assuming you had $75,000 to invest.  Would you use one of the three investment alternatives described in this article or would you prefer a more traditional investment in stocks, bonds, or mutual funds?  Explain your answer.