Stocks bounced in and out of the plus column Monday, as the heavy selling from last week subsided. Wall Street didn't see the big, momentum-selling of previous sessions, but trading remained volatile, and investors are wary of another big downturn. No one's sure whether the wave of selling is over, or just taking a break.
The VIX, which measure volatility, rose to its highest level in more than three months.
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) gave up its modest gains in the final few minutes, losing another 41 points, and extending its losing streak to five days, and more than 600 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) fell 8, and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) lost 44 points.
Among the blue chips, Caterpillar (CAT) rose 6 percent after posting better than expected results and forecasting that sales this year will stabilize after declining in 2013. It also revealed plans to buy back up to $10 billion of company stock.
Merck (MRK) gained 1 percent, moving to a 52-week high. JPMorgan raised its rating by two notches.
United Technologies (UTX) gained 2 percent. A defense industry newsletter said the company is considering the sale or spinoff its Sikorsky helicopter unit.
But some financials remain weak. Visa (V) and Goldman Sachs (GS) both lost 2 percent.
%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Some of the big name Nasdaq stocks fell. Cisco (CSCO) lost 1 percent on a JPMorgan downgrade. The analyst there says the company has a big emerging markets exposure. Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG) and Facebook (FB) all down about 2 percent. But Apple (AAPL) gained nearly 1 percent ahead of its earnings report.
Homebuilders were weak following a Barclay's downgrade. KBHome (KBH) lost 3 percent.
Elsewhere, Charter Communications (CHTR) jumped 4 percent on word that Comcast (CMCSA) is unlikely to make a solo bid for Time Warner Cable (TWC). That reduces the chances that Charter will need to fight a bidding war in its own quest to acquire its larger rival. Comcast gained nearly 1 percent, Time Warner was little changed, and Cablevision gained 4 percent.
Xerox (XRX) lost 5.5 percent on a pair of brokerage downgrades.
And the biotech firm Geron (GERN) slid 15 percent as 20 patients withdrew from a key clinical drug study.
What to Watch Tuesday:
The Commerce Department releases durable goods for December at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
Standard & Poor's releases the S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices for November at 9 a.m.
The Conference Board releases the Consumer Confidence Index for January at 10 a.m.
Federal Reserve policymakers begin a two-day meeting to set interest rates.
These major companies are due to report quarterly financial results:
After Market: Volatility Rules Wall Street as Indexes Drop Again
Nearly one in four people say they don't have money to contribute to retirement after all the bills are paid. It might feel that way sometimes, but if we can find the $50 to go out to dinner every Tuesday night, we can find $200 a month to put in a retirement account. Make this happen, even if you have to do it one dollar at a time over the course of the month.
And if you think putting away $50 a week won't make a difference, consider this: Contribute just $200 a month for thirty years, and if your money grows on average 8% a year, your total contributions of $72,000 will grow to almost $300,000 if put away for 30 years. When you think about it that way, skipping that regular Tuesday dinner doesn't seem so bad, does it?
This is one of the most seductive retirement lies. For a good long while, it is true that retirement is a ways off. (Even if you're 55, it's still at least ten years away.) But the longer you put off saving for retirement, the less interest you'll earn and the more difficult it will be for you to save.
An example: Alex and Jordan both put just over $90,000 in their retirement accounts over the years, but Alex began saving ($2,000 per year) at age 22, while Jordan began saving (about $3,500 per year) 20 years later at age 42. Even though they both put in the same total amount, Alex will have over twice as much money at retirement as Jordan will when they reach age sixty-seven (assumes a 6% annual rate of return). That's because her money had more time to grow, so it was able to make more off of itself than Jordan's.*
Seriously, you have two people who put the same dollar amount into their retirement funds. The one who started twenty years later contributed the same amount, but ended up with less than half as much.
As someone who cares about making my money work for me, this speaks volumes. It turns out that one of the smartest things you can do is simply to get time on your side. This is how you shortcut the hard work-by taking advantage of the power of compounding interest and the fact that you will only have an increasing number of financial obligations pulling at your purse strings as the years go by. So, this is not something you can keep putting off. This is something to tackle today. The time is now.
* Note: This is illustrative and is not reflective of guaranteed profits over time. Actual results may fluctuate based on market conditions.
I bet all the married people reading this are having a good laugh right now. Marriage does not automatically make your financial life easier. The effect of marriage on your finances depends on a host of factors: Do you both work? Do you both make enough to support yourselves? If one or both of you got laid off, could you still afford your rent or mortgage? Are you honest with each other about your spending? Do you agree on your financial goals? Will you have children? If so, do you make enough that one of you can stay home with them? Bottom line: This is an outrageous excuse, and now I am drinking wine.
I hear you. But saving for retirement versus enjoying life now is not an either/or proposition. You can do both. Also, let me put it this way: Yes, you deserve to enjoy
your money now, but you also deserve not to count pennies when you're old.
This is a case of counting chickens before they hatch. You never know what could happen to the inheritance (it could be devoured by medical bills, it could dwindle away in a financial crisis, or you may need it to pay off debts or taxes of the estate). Sure, it would be nice to inherit a windfall and be able to put it toward your retirement, but counting on doing so is not a plan-it's a gamble at best. It's far safer to plan to fund your own retirement and then enjoy your inheritance as a bonus if you do indeed receive one.
Yes, the market is unreliable from year to year, and yes, the value of your investments will dip in a down market. But downswings don't last forever, and historically, over long periods of time, the market has shown solid returns. While past performance doesn't reveal future returns, the S&P 500, for example, has averaged 9.28% annual returns over the last 25 years.
Alternatively, let's say you leave your money under your mattress or even in a savings account bearing 1% interest: You're going to lose the purchasing power of those dollars due to inflation (which is estimated at 3%). Yes, with the market, you're opening yourself up to some risk -- but with risk comes reward.
No one can predict the market. No one. So while it's true that you cannot time your investments perfectly so that they only ever go up, history has shown that if you invest regularly over decades, your investments should experience more ups than downs. So invest for the long haul, and don't fret over minor dips now. If you do, you'll be missing out on an opportunity to amass money later.
Sure, selling your home will free up lots of cash ... but then where will you live? And what if the market is down when you want to sell that home? Remember the housing crisis a few years ago? The one where tens of thousands of near retirees were left without nest eggs after the values of their homes plummeted? This is not your smartest game plan.
Yes, college is a big expense, and you should definitely save for it-that is, once your own retirement needs are taken care of. If you're a parent, it's a natural instinct to put your children's futures before your own. But think about it this way: If you don't save the full amount for your children's college education, you can always fall back on financial aid, grants, scholarships and student loans to help pay your children's way. When it comes to your retirement, however, there are no loans. Let me repeat: There are no loans. All you'll have to live on is what you've saved. For that reason, saving for retirement should be your top financial priority-always. I get that you don't want to saddle your kids or future kids with loans- what parent would?
But remember that if you pay for your children's college and then cannot afford your retirement, you will end up burdening your children all the same. They will feel obligated to help you out-at a time when their own families need them financially.
You may love your work, and it may be the kind of work you can even imagine yourself doing well into your seventies or eighties. But while that's easy to say now, what if you can't find work at that point in your life, or what if you have health problems or family obligations that prevent you from working? While there is nothing wrong with hoping for a best-case scenario, it isn't wise to plan around one. Sock away some money now so you're ready for whatever may come your way. The last thing I ever want you to deal with is a health issue and money concerns at the same time.
Reprinted from the book "Financially Fearless: The LearnVest Program for Taking Control of Your Money" by Alexa von Tobel, CFP®. Copyright 2013 by Alexa von Tobel. Published by Crown Business, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.