IRS Releases New Round of Regs for Opportunity Zone Funds (ThinkAdvisor)

The Treasury Department has released a new round of proposed regulations governing opportunity zone funds that answers several key questions that have kept potential investors and fund operators on the sidelines.

The zones in which the funds invest are either in or adjacent to depressed communities, and there are over 8,700 spread throughout the U.S. To date, most of the early opportunity zone funds are focused on real estate developments, but the tax benefit is also available for other types of businesses opportunity in the zone.

Why the Longest U.S. Bull Market Has Failed to Fix the Nation’s Public Pensions (WSJ)

Maine’s public pension fund earned double-digit returns in six of the past nine years. Yet the Maine Public Employees Retirement System is still $2.9 billion short of what it needs to afford all future benefits to all retirees.

There is a simple reason why pensions are in such rough shape: The amount owed to retirees is accelerating faster than assets on hand to pay those future obligations. Liabilities of major U.S. public pensions are up 64% since 2007 while assets are up 30%, according to the most recent data from Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research.

It’s National Financial Literacy Month, Take the Financial Literacy Test (FINRA)

See how you compare to the national and state averages.

The Bad

-49% of Americans don’t know what an index fund is

-44% can’t cover $400 out-of-pocket expense

-52% have no retirement savings

-Median household retirement acct bal is $2,500

-66% thought market was flat or down over past 10yrs

The Better

Those with greater financial literacy are more likely to save and plan for retirement, according to TIAA and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center at the George Washington University School of Business.

88% of those who answered between 76% and 100% of the questions on the Personal Finance Index (P-Fin Index) correctly save for retirement on a regular basis. By comparison, only 37% of those who answered less than 26% of the questions correctly regularly save for retirement.

86% of those in the first group have additional savings outside of their retirement plan, compared to 34% of the second group, and 63% of the first group usually track their spending, compared to 54% of the second group.

Furthermore, those with greater financial literacy are less likely to be financially fragile; 85% of the first group could come up with $2,000 if an unexpected need arose in the next month, compared to 25% of the second group.

Borrowing and debt management are the areas where knowledge is the highest, but comprehending risk is where it is the lowest.

“The P-Fin Index is the preeminent annual barometer of Americans’ personal finance knowledge,” says Stephanie Bell-Rose, head of the TIAA Institute. “Understanding the connection between financial literacy and financial wellness was a particular focus this year, to help us create a better roadmap for improving the financial well-being of Americans.”

On average, U.S. adults answered only 51% of the P-Fin Index questions correctly. The survey asked a total of 28 questions on the following topics: earnings, consuming, saving, investing, borrowing and managing debt, insuring, risk and where to find financial advice.

Six Trends in College and University Endowments (CFA Enterprising Investor)

What trends are influencing endowment investing in today’s market?

Among larger institutions, college endowments have been at the forefront of SRI and ESG investing…more than one in four colleges engages in some form of SRI. This could take the form of traditional negative screens or restrictions among faith-based organizations, ESG, shareholder activism, or impact investing. Parsing the data by assets, we find nearly 60% of these institutions apply some form of ESG criteria. 

Global Sustainable Investments Rise 34 Percent to $30.7 Trillion (Bloomberg)

Global socially responsible investments grew by 34 percent to $30.7 trillion over the past two years, lifted by Japanese pension funds, retail investors everywhere and broad, growing concern about climate change.

Money managers around the globe said clients were increasingly asking for sustainable strategies and that climate change became a leading issue for investors this year. Retail investors bought up more ethical funds, according to the report, and now account for about 25 percent of assets, up from 20 percent in 2016.