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Investing Blog Roundup: Taking Winnings Off the Table

There’s no reliable way to know when the next market downturn is coming. For those of us who are still many years from retirement, that shouldn’t be a scary thought, given that a market downturn simply allows us to buy shares at lower prices. But, as Bill Bernstein reminds us this week, a market downturn can be a big problem if you’ve just retired, if your portfolio isn’t prepared for such an event.

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Investing Blog Roundup: Automatic IRA Contributions for Many in Illinois

The state of Illinois recently passed a law that is intended to increase the rate at which people are saving for retirement. When the law eventually goes into effect, businesses that have 25 or more employees and that do not offer an employer-sponsored retirement plan will be required to set up a program in which employees will have 3% of their pay automatically contributed to a Roth IRA. (Employees will have the ability to opt out or change the contribution percentage.) It will be interesting to see what happens.

Jim Blankenship and Dan Kadlec discuss the new law:

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Investing Blog Roundup: Advice/Tips for Writers?

I was recently asked by a new personal finance blogger if I had any writing tips to share. All I really had to offer was my general writing philosophy: Never make two points when you can make one instead. (This applies to sentences, paragraphs, and, perhaps most importantly, articles.)

So, for those of you with experience writing, I’d be interested to hear what tips, advice, or resources you have to share. I’ve enabled comments on this post, so please feel free to click over to the blog and share your thoughts!

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Investing Blog Roundup: Jonathan Clements Money Guide 2015

This week, Jonathan Clements released his new book: Jonathan Clements Money Guide 2015. I received a review copy last week, and I must say that I’m impressed. It is, I believe, the broadest personal finance book I’ve ever encountered — discussing everything from saving for retirement, to buying a home, to 529 plans, to Social Security claiming strategies.

The other particularly unique aspect of the book is its super-timely nature. The most recent version has data that Clements uploaded as of 12/31, so it’s not even a week old.

Because the book is intended to be a reference guide (hence the broad range of topics covered and the emphasis on timely information), it isn’t necessarily meant to be read cover-to-cover. Instead, each section is a stand-alone explanation of the topic in question.

Personally, another use I can see for the book (specifically, the paperback version) is as a loaner. When a friend or family member asks you for information about a given topic, just lend them your copy of the book, with post-it notes on the relevant pages. (This is in contrast to handing them an entire book on the topic, which would be more likely to go unread.)

As far as the writing style, if you’re familiar with Clements’s work at The Wall Street Journal, you know exactly what to expect: no-frills, plain-English explanations.

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Investing Blog Roundup: Tax Extenders and ABLE Act

As of this week, both houses of Congress have passed the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, which retroactively extends several different tax breaks that had expired at the end of 2013. (Now, they expire at the end of 2014.) Among the extended tax breaks are the exclusion for “qualified charitable distributions” from IRAs, the tuition and fees deduction, and the deduction for teacher classroom expenses.

In addition, Congress passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014, which permanently creates a new type of 529 account in which people can save/invest for the purpose of supporting individuals with disabilities. The new accounts will function similarly to education 529 accounts, with one big difference being that a whole list of expense categories other than just education expenses will be eligible for tax-free distributions.

Michael Kitces has more information on both pieces of legislation:

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Investing Blog Roundup: Vanguard Personal Advisor Services

I read this week that Vanguard’s new “Personal Advisor Services” program (which provides asset management, a basic financial plan, and the ability to contact a CFP with any questions for a cost of 0.3% per year) has been gathering assets more quickly than the start-up companies in the robo-advisor space. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise, given Vanguard’s massive size. But it will be interesting to see how quickly the program grows once Vanguard officially takes it out of the test phase and begins marketing it more broadly.

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