September 2021 Newsletter

September, 2021

Pushing Higher

Stocks surged at the start of last week as investor sentiment improved on news of the FDA’s approval of its first COVID-19 vaccine, a strong housing number and comments by the Federal Reserve Bank-Dallas president that he would support delaying tapering if the Delta variant spread worsened.

Stocks continued their climb through midweek, pushing the S&P 500 to another record high and the NASDAQ Composite above 15,000 for the first time. The S&P 500 and NASDAQ Composite closed the week at record highs following Fed Chair Powell’s comments that Fed is likely to begin winding down its monthly bond purchases (aka tapering) by year-end, though no interest rate hikes were imminent.1

Powell Speaks

At the recent Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium, Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s speech on Friday provided further insights into Fed plans to begin tapering. Powell said that the Fed may likely commence tapering prior to year-end, adding that the wind down of bond purchases should not be seen as a signal for future rate hikes. Powell emphasized that labor market conditions remain short of the Fed’s target for maximizing employment. He also reiterated his case for why inflation remains a transitory phenomenon.1

With a number of Regional Federal Reserve Bank presidents already supportive of tapering, investors may see more definitive steps coming out of next month’s FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) meeting.

Mixed Signals

Are you having a tough time keeping track of inflation's mixed signals? You’re not alone.

Consumer prices in July climbed at their fastest rate since August 2008. Worse, producer prices, which can be an indicator of future price changes at the consumer level, rose at the highest rate since tracking began.2

However, in recent weeks, the stock market has shrugged off the inflation news, believing that the worst is over and rising prices will moderate in the future.

It’s important to remember that the stock market is a discounting mechanism, which means it’s always looking forward. Put another way, the stock market’s price today represents all available information about current and future events. How far forward is the stock market looking? Most would agree it’s “discounting” activity six to nine months into the future.3

Does that mean inflation will be lower in six to nine months? That’s what the stock market is suggesting. But the stock market also has a less-than-perfect record as a discounting mechanism, largely because the future is somewhat unknowable.3

Volatility...What Volatility?

This calendar year has been a smooth ride in the stock market. Through the end of July, there were only four days where the S&P 500 was either up or down 2% or more. As you can see in the following chart, that figure is quite low relative to many of the years since 2001. Also based on this chart you can see that it is hard to decipher any type of pattern. There have been long stretches of time with volatility and conversely long stretches without.4

It can be easy to become complacent while the market is moving steadily in an upward direction. One thing to keep in mind is the road is not always as smooth as it has been so far this year.

Assess Life Insurance Needs

If your family relies on your income, it’s critical to consider having enough life insurance to provide for them after you pass away. But too often, life insurance is an overlooked aspect of personal finances.

In fact, according to a 2019 study conducted by Life Happens and LIMRA, which closely follows life insurance trends, nearly 50 percent of Americans say that they have no life insurance coverage at all, even though over two-thirds of Americans recognize the need to obtain it.5

Role of Life Insurance

Realizing the role life insurance can play in your family’s finances is an important first step. A critical second step is determining how much life insurance you may need.

Several factors will affect the cost and availability of life insurance, including age, health, and the type and amount of insurance purchased. Life insurance policies have expenses, including mortality and other charges. If a policy is surrendered prematurely, the policyholder also may pay surrender charges and have income tax implications. You should consider determining whether you are insurable before implementing a strategy involving life insurance. Any guarantees associated with a policy are dependent on the ability of the issuing insurance company to continue making claim payments.

Rule of Thumb

One widely followed rule of thumb for estimating a person’s insurance needs is based on income. One broad guide suggests a person may need a life insurance policy valued at five times their annual income. Others recommend up to ten times one’s annual income.

Famliy under umbrella

If you are looking for a more accurate estimate, consider completing a “DNA test.” A DNA test, or Detailed Needs Analysis, takes into account a wide range of financial commitments to help better estimate insurance needs.

The first step is to add up needs and obligations.

Short-Term Needs

Which funds will need to be available for final expenses? These may include costs of a funeral, final medical bills, and any outstanding debts, such as credit cards or personal loans. How much to make available for short-term needs will depend on your individual situation.

Long-Term Needs

How much will it cost to maintain your family’s standard of living? How much is spent on necessities, like housing, food, and clothing? Also, consider factoring in expenses, such as travel and entertainment. Ask yourself, “what would it cost per year to maintain this current lifestyle?”

New Obligations

What additional expenses may arise in the future? What family considerations will need to be addressed, especially if there are young children? Will aging parents need some kind of support? How about college costs? Factoring in potential new obligations allows for a more accurate picture of ongoing financial needs.

Next, subtract all current assets available.

Liquid Assets

Any assets that can be redeemed quickly, and for a predictable price, are considered liquid. Generally, houses and cars are not considered liquid assets, since time may be required to sell them. Also, remember that selling a home may adjust a family’s current standard of living.

Needs and obligations – minus liquid assets – can help you get a better idea of the amount of life insurance coverage you may need. While this exercise is a good start to understanding your insurance needs, a more detailed review may be necessary to better assess your situation.

Power-Packed Pumpkin Spice

Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, and Allspice, the spices typically used in a Pumpkin Spice blend, individually each have some pretty excellent health benefits and are delicious and power-packed when combined.  Tiffany Chou, a registered dietitian at Cape Cod Healthcare’s JML long-term care facility, outlined these benefits in the Cape Cod Health News.

Cinnamon – “It has antioxidants and some anti-inflammatory capacity. It’s like a natural preservative for us. Some studies show it can reduce LDL, which is the bad cholesterol. Other studies show that cinnamon can improve the sensitivity of insulin so it’s better able to regulate our blood sugar levels.”

Nutmeg – “Nutmeg also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. One of the interesting things about nutmeg is that it may boost our mood because it has an antidepressant effect. Nutmeg also contains small amounts of fiber, B vitamins and minerals. Too much nutmeg can cause side effects that include hallucination and rapid heartbeat, but the amount in a pumpkin spice is far too small for that.”

Ginger – “Ginger is highly regarded in traditional medicine. It treats nausea and morning sicknesses, and it also has an anti-inflammatory factor. It may lower blood sugar and LDL. Another interesting thing is that it improves brain function. One study showed that it improves brain function for people who have Alzheimer's disease.”

Allspice – “Allspice actually comes from a small berry. It has antioxidants and can soothe an upset stomach and reduce bloating.”

When deciding if you should indulge in a Pumpkin Spice treat, Chou cautioned to be mindful of the sugar content.  “Feel free to have some treats, just remember to keep the portions small and choose carefully,” she said. “A 16-ounce pumpkin spice latte has 50 grams of sugar in it. That would not be a good option for people who have diabetes, or really anybody.”

Food Network has also highlighted the benefits of Pumpkin Spice with an article titled Health Benefits of Pumpkin Spice, As a bonus, they provided a recipe to make your own Pumpkin Spice Blend as detailed below! The addition of cardamom gives this blend another layer of natural sweetness.

DIY Pumpkin Spice Blend

Makes about 1/2 cup


1/4 cup ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons ground ginger

1 tablespoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions: Combine spices in a bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Understanding and Combating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a form of depression related to the change of seasons. Feeling down and discouraged happens to the best of us, but these feelings, when you can’t seem to shake them, might need more attention.

SAD may affect 11 million people in the U.S. each year, and 25 million more may have a milder form called the winter blues.1 The Mayo Clinic defines SAD as a type of depression related to changes in seasons – SAD usually starts in the fall and continues into the winter months. However, there are also occurrences of Summer SAD.7  The main feature of SAD is that your mood and behavior shift at the same time every year as the seasons change.

Other common symptoms6,7 of SAD may include:

  • Feeling sad, cranky, or hopeless
  • Less energy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • More desire to be alone

While this disorder is felt across all demographics, it is more regularly diagnosed in women and is found to occur more frequently in younger adults.  

In an article published by the Cleveland Clinic, they suggest three ways to have a brighter mood and combat SAD.8

  1. Exercise – Moving your body creates good brain chemistry and combats the tendency to be sluggish.
  2. Create social situations – Try to connect with others by meeting up with family, friends, or volunteering.
  3. Use light therapy – Also called phototherapy, light therapy mimics our exposure to the sun, minus the ultraviolet rays. It may improve the mood of a majority of people suffering from SAD.  While it is generally safe and well-tolerated by most people, please check with your doctor if it is right for you.

To learn more about the signs and symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder and discover ways to fight it, continue reading the articles below.  If you or someone you know experiences symptoms of SAD, please speak with a doctor to determine the best individual course of action.

Footnotes and Sources

1. CNBC, August 27, 2021

2. CNBC, August 11, 2021

3., April 28, 2021

4. Morningstar, July 31, 2021

5. Life Happens, 2019

6., September 12, 2020


8., November 12, 2019

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