What you can do about rising Medicare premiums

Since Medicare’s inception in 1966, the Part B premium had risen an average of 7.7 percent per year. But in 2017, it increased nearly 28 percent for certain Medicare recipients. It turns out there is a way for you to limit those cost increases. The question is, should you?

Let’s start with a quick review of Medicare. Part A, hospital insurance, covers in-patient hospital stays, surgeries and post-hospital skilled nursing care. If you have contributed to Social Security for 40 quarters or more, you are entitled to Medicare Part A coverage once you reach age 65 at no cost. You also may be entitled to Part A coverage without having to pay a premium through your spouse or based on other extenuating circumstances.

Why are global stock markets performing so well this year?

The year 2017 is shaping up to be one of the best years in a generation for international stock market investing.

For the first time in any year, the Morgan Stanley Capital International All Country World Index has posted a gain every single month through October. The media will offer all kinds of explanations, most of which are speculative and unsupported. Pick your cause: low oil prices, low interest rates, improved gross domestic products, Trump, Obama. In the end, no one really has any clue about what drives the investment markets.

Not paying attention to IRA rules can prove costly to contributors

Most people I speak to are aware of the 10 percent penalty for withdrawing from an IRA prior to age 59 1/2. But there also are penalties for contributing too much in a given year or for not withdrawing enough each year in retirement. Which is worse? By far it’s the latter.

The penalty for making excess contributions to your IRA – more than $5,500, or $6,500 if you’re over age 50 – is only 6 percent of the excess amount. That’s less than the penalty for withdrawing too soon. As long as you withdraw the excess amount prior to Oct. 15 of the year the tax is due (that’s Oct. 15, 2018, for the 2017 tax year), no penalty will be imposed.

Better Business Bureau: beware of scammers on Facebook Marketplace and meet in person

Facebook Marketplace may be a great place to find deals on items for sale in your neighborhood, but like any online classified site, watch for warning signs before handing over money. The Better Business Bureau reports Facebook Marketplace scams on its BBB Scam Tracker, especially for big-ticket items such as used cars and RVs.

How the scam works

You are shopping on Facebook Marketplace and spot a listing that looks like a good deal, so you contact the seller. The seller replies, claiming that he or she is out of the country, in the military or otherwise unavailable. Instead, the person tells you they are using “eBay,” “Amazon” or another reputable third-party company to sell and ship the item.

Protecting your online assets

Much has been written about the recent Equifax data breach. While I will share ways to keep credit data safe, I also will emphasize other common-sense precautions to keep online data safe.

A few weeks ago, an especially concerning security breach affecting 143 million Americans took place when Equifax, a leading online aggregator of consumer spending, personal and financial data, was hacked.

Picking winning stocks can be a losing strategy

Here’s a simple question: Which has had better historical returns, stocks or one-month U.S. Treasury bills?

The answer is pretty much of a no-brainer. Since 1926, Treasury bills have returned a paltry 3.5 percent annually on average, versus more than 10 percent for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. But that’s the average return for all large-company stocks.


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