Lakeland Ledger articles

The first major stock market correction in over a year appears to be in the rear view mirror, but many investors are still nervous. Market commentators have decided to declare that “interest rates” were responsible for the initial drop in early February, and the President’s announcement on trade policy and tariffs was the reason for the second drop later in the month.

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Legendary investor Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, released his annual letter to shareholders on Saturday. The annual letter from the “Oracle of Omaha” is widely read by financial advisors and individual investors alike. Investors have a very good reason to pay attention to Buffet’s comments. Buffet’s strategy of investing in individual stocks and paying fair prices for great companies has beaten the S&P500 index since 1964. This year’s letter has three lessons every investor should understand.

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Volatility has returned to the stock market! Historically, the long, steady upward march we’ve seen over the past year and a half has been unusual. Even when the economy is good, it is normal for the market to have ups and downs. Occasional corrections are actually healthy for the market, even though when corrections happen they often feel scary.

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We all make hundreds of decisions every day, from what we wear, to where we eat lunch. Many of these decisions are simple and don’t have a lasting impact on our lives. Some decisions are more important, like deciding to buy a house. A few decisions are so important we will feel the effects of them the rest of our lives. Choosing a financial advisor is one of those decisions: having the right planner can be the difference between having a long, happy retirement, and running out of money, dying destitute, and leaving nothing to your children.

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The new year is here! If you don’t already have a financial plan, it’s a great time to work on one. The three most important steps to get started are figuring out how much money you have coming in (your income), how much you are spending (your expenses), and building an emergency fund. Looking at your income will tell you how much money you really have to work with, after taxes. Total up your expenses, subtract them from your income, and you’ll have a good idea of how much your bank account should grow every month if you stick to the plan.

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The end of the year is near! Most of us have spent the past two months engaging in the usual holiday rituals of turkey and eggnog. During this time of year, it’s hard to resist the dual temptations of over-eating and over-spending. Fortunately for all of us who found it hard to resist these bad behaviors, a new year is right around the corner! With it comes the opportunity to start fresh and replace bad habits with good ones.

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