In no particular order, here’s a few interesting things I heard and read recently that I wanted to share:U.S. stocks mount milestone-shattering run in 2017 (The Philadelphia Tribune, by Alex Viega) Since the final stock market trading day took place this past Friday, we can now discuss how the markets fared for the year. The S&P 500 closed higher over 19%, and most other US and International indexes grew as well – some more and some less. World stocks, as measured by the MSCI All-Country World Index, rose every month this year, the first time in history that a calendar year has passed without a monthly decline. One word I would use to describe 2017: superb. Other analysts have called it “epic” and stellar”, as this was the best year in the markets since 2013. Some observations of mine throughout the year: relatively low volatility, high consumer confidence, company profits continue higher, a global market that continues to recover/expand, and the fact we didn’t have any substantial pullbacks in 2017. Historically, bull markets don’t last as long as this one – which is almost 9 years old and is the second longest bull market on record. It also goes to show that even though we might know an outcome (i.e. Presidential election), we never really know how the market is going to respond. That’s the tricky part about this business, and where I attempt to help clients see through the noise and help make rational & educated decisions. Enjoy reviewing your year-end statements – it was superb year! Individual Tax Planning Under The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act Of 2017 (Kitces.com, by Michael Kitces) In case you have been living under a rock nor receiving President Donald Trump’s tweets, the big news in December was Trump signing the bill for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in America. This impacts pretty much EVERYONE reading this as most of us will enjoy some tax breaks, at least in the near-term. So I have been busy reading up on the changes that are coming into affect. I won’t try to sum them all up, but I do love the work that industry expert Michael Kitces and team put forth in the attached review of the TCJA. Here are the most common talking points I will be having with my clients: 1. We need to discuss how the change in income brackets, standard deduction increase, and kiddie tax changes affect you. 2. For anyone who has a 529 account for a family member – you are now allowed to make tax-free withdraws up to $10k/year for private elementary schools (not just college and secondary education). 3. Back-door Roth conversion strategies still exist (for the most part) and why they could make sense. Over the coming months, I am sure there will be certain strategies and trends that develop from this new legislation – stay tuned for any new ideas that could apply to you. Americans Have More Credit Cards – and More Debt (NBC News, by Herb Weisbaum) I guess when times are good (see market hitting new highs article above), there can also be some disturbing trends that come out of it as well. Like more people increasing their debt load, more people falling behind on paying that debt off, and the APR on that debt climbing higher and expected to continue. The average American has 2-3 credit cards, and here’s what I usually tell them. First, don’t spend more than what you can pay off next month. Second, I wouldn’t recommend spending more than half of the available credit balance (ideally, keep it under 30%). Third, if you have to keep credit card debt…look for opportunities to transfer balances to lower percentage cards (there are deals everywhere). Lastly, you may not need to have multiple cards but if you do, try to take advantage of the points they offer. Some provide extra points for restaurants, grocery stores, or gas…while others might give bigger bonuses for money spent on travel. So if you are like me and like cashing in your rewards points, use certain cards for certain spending. And if you aren’t using some cards, feel free to close them – it might be hurting your credit to have them open but unused. Happy New Year – Enjoy the light reading!