Shopping online is especially popular during the holiday season, when many people prefer to avoid the crowds and purchase gifts with a few clicks of a mouse. However, with this convenience comes the danger of having your personal and financial information stolen by computer hackers.

Before you click, you might consider the following tips for a safer online shopping experience.

Pay by credit instead of debit. Credit card payments can be withheld if there is a dispute, but debit cards are typically debited quickly. In addition, credit cards generally have better protection than debit cards against fraudulent charges.

Maintain strong passwords. When you order through an online account, you should create a strong password. A strong password should be at least eight characters long, using a combination of lower-case letters, upper-case letters, numbers, and symbols or a random phrase. Avoid dictionary words and personal information such as your name and address. Also create a separate and unique password for each account or website you use, and try to change passwords frequently. To keep track of all your password information, consider using password management software, which generates strong, unique passwords that you control through a single master password.

Beware of scam websites. Typing one word into a search engine to reach a particular retailer’s website may be easy, but it sometimes won’t bring you to the site you are actually looking for. Scam websites may contain URLs that look like misspelled brand or store names to trick online shoppers. To help you determine whether an online retailer is reputable, research sites before you shop and read reviews from previous customers. Look for https:// in the URL and not just http://, since the “s” indicates a secure connection.

Watch out for fake phishing and delivery emails. Beware of emails that contain links or ask for personal information. Legitimate shopping websites will never email you and randomly ask for your personal information. In addition, be aware of fake emails disguised as package delivery emails. Make sure that all delivery emails are from reputable delivery companies you recognize.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2018

In today’s digital world, massive computer hacks and data breaches are common occurrences. And chances are, your personal or financial information is now susceptible to being used for credit fraud or identity theft. If you discover that you are the victim of either of these crimes, you should consider placing a credit freeze or fraud alert on your credit report to protect yourself.

A credit freeze prevents new credit and accounts from being opened in your name. Once you obtain a credit freeze, creditors won’t be allowed to access your credit report and therefore cannot offer new credit. This helps prevent identity thieves from applying for credit or opening fraudulent accounts in your name.

To place a credit freeze on your credit report, you must contact each credit reporting agency separately either by phone or by filling out an online form. Keep in mind that a credit freeze is permanent and stays on your credit report until you unfreeze it. This is important, because if you want to apply for credit with a new financial institution in the future, open a new bank account, or even apply for a job or rent an apartment, you will need to “unlock” or “thaw” the credit freeze with each credit reporting agency.

A less drastic option is to place a fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert requires creditors to take extra steps to verify your identity before extending any existing credit or issuing new credit in your name. To request a fraud alert, you only have to contact one of the three major reporting agencies, and the information will be passed along to the other two.

Recently, as part of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act of 2018, Congress made several changes to credit rules that benefit consumers. Under the new law, consumers are now allowed to “freeze” and “unfreeze” their credit reports free of charge at all three of the major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. In addition, the law extends initial fraud alert protection to one full year. Previously, fraud alerts expired after 90 days unless they were renewed.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2018

The biggest names in technology powered stock market gains and bouts of volatility in 2017, and the trend continued into 2018. The S&P Information Technology sector index posted a 13.19% total return from January through July 2018, compared with 6.47% for the broader S&P 500 index.1

Wall Street analysts and the business media often refer to well-known technology companies Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (now officially Alphabet) collectively with the acronym FAANG. Others use FAAMG, which substitutes Microsoft for Netflix. Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, respectively, are the four most valuable companies by market capitalization in the S&P 500 index; Alphabet is ranked eighth and ninth (based on two different share classes).2

These tech giants are household names because they already play a huge role in everyday life, but they are also bold innovators with lots of cash on hand. They aim to expand their influence further by developing new products (such as self-driving cars and virtual reality) and disrupting established industries.3

The problem with popularity

Many benchmark indexes are weighted by market capitalization (the value of a company’s outstanding shares), which gives larger companies an outsized role in index performance. The same large-cap tech stocks dominate the index mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that track these indexes, and can also be found among the largest holdings of many actively managed funds.

Spreading investments among the 11 different sectors is a common way to diversify stock holdings. However, investors holding a mix of different funds for the sake of diversification could be surprised by the heavy concentration of popular technology stocks if they eventually fall out of favor and prices fall.

Asset allocation and diversification are methods used to help manage risk; they do not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss.

Mind your sector exposure

Over time, a core portfolio of diversified equity funds can become overweighted in a sector that has been outperforming the broader market. Some investors with large positions in technology stocks may not be aware of the concentration level in their portfolios. Others could be ignoring the risk, possibly because they are overly optimistic about the sector’s future prospects.

Each business cycle is unique, which makes it difficult to predict which sectors stand to benefit in the months ahead. Although there’s little you can do about the returns delivered by the financial markets, you can control the composition of your portfolio. For this reason, you may want to review the sector allocation and risk profile of your investment portfolio, if you have not done so lately.

All investments are subject to market fluctuation, risk, and loss of principal. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Investments seeking to achieve a higher return may involve greater risk. Sector funds tend to be more volatile than the market in general and may carry additional risks.

Mutual funds and ETFs are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

1–2 S&P Dow Jones Indices, 2018
3 The Economist, June 2, 2018
Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2018

On your journey to retirement, you’ll likely face many risks that have the potential to throw you off course. Following are five common challenges retirement investors face. Take some time now to review and understand them before your journey takes an unplanned detour.

1. Traveling aimlessly

Setting out on an adventure without a definitive destination can be exciting, but probably not when it comes to saving for retirement. As you begin your retirement strategy, one of the first steps you’ll need to take is identifying a goal. While some people prefer to establish one big lump-sum accumulation amount — for example, $1 million or more — others find that type of number daunting. They might focus on how much their savings will need to generate each month during retirement — say, the equivalent of $5,000 in today’s dollars, for example. (“In today’s dollars” refers to the fact that inflation will likely increase your future income needs. These examples are for illustrative purposes only. They are not meant as investment advice.)

Regardless of the approach you follow, setting a goal may help you better focus your investment strategy. In order to set a realistic target, you’ll need to consider a number of factors — your desired lifestyle, pre-retirement income, health, Social Security benefits, any traditional pension benefits you or your spouse may be entitled to, and others. Examining your personal situation both now and in the future can help you determine how much you may need to accumulate.

2. Investing too conservatively…

Another key to determining how much you may need to save on a regular basis is targeting an appropriate rate of return, or how much your contribution dollars may earn on an ongoing basis. Afraid of losing money, some retirement investors choose only the most conservative investments, hoping to preserve their hard-earned assets. However, investing too conservatively can be risky, too. If your investment dollars do not earn enough, you may end up with a far different retirement lifestyle than you had originally planned.

3. …Or too aggressively

On the other hand, retirement investors striving for the highest possible returns might select investments that are too risky for their overall situations. Although you might consider investing at least some of your retirement portfolio in more aggressive investments to potentially outpace inflation, the amount you invest in such higher-risk vehicles should be based on a number of factors. Appropriate investments for your retirement savings mix are those that take into consideration your total savings goal, your time horizon (or how much time you have until retirement), and your ability to withstand changes in your account’s value. Would you be able to sleep at night if your portfolio lost 10%, 15%, even 20% of its overall value over a short time period? These are the types of scenarios you must consider when choosing an investment mix.

4. Giving in to temptation

On the road to retirement, you will likely face many financial challenges as well — the unplanned need for a new car, an unexpected home repair, an unforeseen medical expense are just some examples.

During these trying times, your retirement savings may loom as a potential source of emergency funding. But think twice before tapping your retirement savings assets, particularly if your money is in an employer-sponsored retirement plan or an IRA. Consider that:

  • Any dollars you remove from your portfolio will no longer be working for your future
  • You may have to pay regular income taxes on distribution amounts that represent tax-deferred investment dollars and earnings
  • If you’re under age 59½, you may have to pay an additional penalty tax of 10% to 25% (depending on the type of plan and other factors; some exceptions apply)

For these reasons, it’s best to carefully consider all of your options before using money earmarked for retirement.

5. Prioritizing college saving over retirement

Many well-meaning parents may feel that saving for their children’s college education should be a higher priority than saving for their own retirement. “We can continue working, if needed,” or “our home will fund our retirement,” they may think. However, these can be very risky trains of thought. While no parent wants his or her children to take on a heavy debt burden to pay for education, loans are a common and realistic college-funding option — not so for retirement. If saving for both college and retirement seems impossible, consider speaking with a financial professional who can help you explore the variety of tools and options.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2018

The New York Stock Exchange Group averaged more than 5.7 million trades per day in 2017, with an average of almost 1.5 billion shares changing hands.1 Many of these trades are more complex than most investors need to consider, but it may be helpful to understand some basic terms and types of trades.

Bid and ask — The bid price is the maximum a buyer is willing to pay for a security. The ask price is the minimum a seller is willing to accept. The difference between them, called the spread, may be as low as a penny for the stock of a large well-known company, but wider for a smaller, more obscure company.

Market order — An order to buy or sell a security immediately at the best available price (though there is no price guarantee). A market order generally will execute at or near the current bid price for a sell order, or the ask price for a buy order. However, the last-traded price, typically the price you see listed on an exchange, is not necessarily the price at which a market order will be executed.

The following order types do not guarantee that the trade will be executed. They typically allow the investor to set a time limit that may range from a day to a year.

Limit order — An order to buy or sell a security at a specific price or better. For example, if an investor wants to purchase shares of XYZ stock for no more than $10 per share, the investor could submit a buy limit order for $10 and the order will execute only if the price of XYZ stock is $10 or lower. If the investor wants to sell at a price of at least $20 per share, a sell limit order for $20 would execute only at a price of $20 or higher.

Stop order (or stop-loss order) — An order to buy or sell a security once the price reaches a specified level, known as the stop price. Investors generally use a sell stop order to limit a loss or protect a profit on a stock they own.

For example, if you own shares of XYZ security that are currently trading at $50 per share, and are concerned about holding the shares in a declining market, you could set a stop-loss order at $48 per share. If the share price declines to $48, your shares would sell at the next market price, which would typically be a little below $48 if the market decline is gradual. However, if trading is interrupted or there are large changes overnight, you could end up selling at a lower price than anticipated.

Stop-limit order — An order to buy or sell a security once the price reaches the stop price, as long as the trading price is at a specified limit price or better. This helps protect against the possibility of a stop order triggering a trade at an unwanted price. To use the example above, you could set a stop price for XYZ shares at $48 per share and a limit at $47 a share. The order would execute when the share price falls to $48 but only as long as it remains above $47.

All investments are subject to market fluctuation, risk, and loss of principal. When sold, investments may be worth more or less than their original cost.

1 New York Stock Exchange, 2017
Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2018