Most people have seen bogus emails purported to be from the executors of the estate of Nigerian princes or other obscure foreign notables who want to give them millions of dollars, and sometimes they get bogus calls telling them they can win a lottery sweepstakes or receive debt relief.
We’re in one of the longest-running, biggest wealth-producing bull markets in history, but you wouldn’t know it from the headlines or the gloomy mood of investors. On March 9, the bull market in U.S. stocks, represented by the S&P 500, celebrated its seventh year. The index has risen 194% since closing at 676.53 on March 9, 2009. The Russell 2000 is up 213% over the same seven years. The Nasdaq 100 has gained 311%. Corporate earnings are up 148% from the first quarter of 2009.
America leads the world in economic productivity, total economic output, earnings and wealth per citizen and a variety of other categories. Now we can add something new to the list: time spent in automobiles during our daily commutes to work.
In recent years, a new category of assets has appeared on the scene, which can be more complicated to pass on at someone’s death than stocks, bonds and cash. The list includes such valuable property as digital domain names, social media accounts, websites and blogs that you manage, and pretty much anything stored on the cloud. In addition, if you were to die tomorrow, would your heirs know the passcodes to access your iPad or smartphone? Or, for that matter, your email account or the Amazon.com or iTunes shopping accounts you’ve set up? Would they know how to shut down your Facebook account, or would it live on after your death?
Years ago, the way to most efficiently save on estate taxes was to set up credit shelter trusts that would pour assets from one spouse to another when death occurred, so that both spouses would get the maximum estate tax exemption. In those simpler days, people who didn’t have to pay estate taxes didn’t have to file an estate tax return.
Chances are, you know that it takes steady savings to accumulate wealth. A recent article in Business Insider actually calculated how much you’d have to invest each day in order to become a millionaire.
Any seasoned investor will tell you that buying one stock is riskier than buying a basket of stocks. The underlying concept is diversification—the idea that the movement of the shares of many different companies, taken together, will be smoother than the trajectory of any one of them.
But the ETF market has managed to create composite securities that are even more volatile than individual stocks.