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2018

The Life of a Centenarian

By | 2018, Money Moxie | No Comments

We are experiencing a longevity wave; worldwide more people are living to age 100 and beyond – and Americans are leading the pack. Today’s centenarians are living relatively active lives. The secret may be preparing physically, mentally, and financially.

Physical mobility does not begin at retirement. It’s something you have to work on throughout life. Centenarians who enjoy an active lifestyle do so because they adopted an active lifestyle early on that includes regular physical activity. Finding a like-minded community gives these active seniors a sense of purpose and a reason to make an effort each day. Activities such as pickleball, swimming, and dancing have gained popularity among retirees.

Mental outlook has a significant bearing on a centenarian’s sense of wellbeing. You have met them; these are the people who seem to have an endless smile and a consistent, positive outlook on life – regardless of their personal situation. Keeping an active mind is every bit as important as staying physically active. Staying involved in a community and regularly getting together with friends provide a sense of belonging and help prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Financially, these folks have weathered many changes. Most receive some type of pension along with Social Security benefits, which provide an income base, and investments help supplement their income needs. However, they are facing a challenge they may not have believed would occur. Longevity. The longer they live, the more difficult it will be to maintain their standard of living as inflation takes its toll.

Cost of living increases (COLA) are built-in to Social Security benefits, but many pensions do not provide COLAs. Inflation’s impact steadily eats away at the purchasing power of money. For someone who will be retired for 30 to 40 years, the reality can be disheartening. And while general inflation over a long period of time averages 3 percent, retirees face an even steeper inflation trend when it comes to medical costs, which increase between 5 and 6 percent annually.

You have heard us say it before, but the statistic warrants repeating. A married couple age 65 today has a 50 percent chance that one of them will live to age 92. That is both exciting and alarming. What can you do to prepare financially? Save as much as you can – then save some more!

Pensions are becoming obsolete for future retirees. In 1979, 30 percent of retirees had pension benefits. In 2014, that number had dropped to 2 percent, and the downslide continues. Without a pension to help provide a portion of retirement income, we have to pick up the slack. Rather than living only for today, we must look to the future. This is difficult, especially when faced with “present bias” – weighing today twice as heavy as the future. Planning for a longer life is essential, and it requires a balanced perspective now.

While we cannot make up for lost time, we can start saving more today. Adopt a mindset of preparing for the future. Each year increase the amount you are saving, even if by just one percent. When you reach centenarian status, you will appreciate every dollar you saved. Not sure you are saving enough or what to expect when you reach retirement age? Let us help you determine your retirement goals and map out a plan to get started. If you are closing in on retirement, let us help you create a retirement income plan. We can determine your sources of income when you retire and how to make your nest egg last as long as you do.

 

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Diversifying Your Investments May Lead To Better Outcomes

By | 2018, Money Moxie, Viewpoint | No Comments

Is this as good as the U.S. economy is going to get? This is the question investors have been asking as storm clouds have settled over the stock market. During all this commotion, a silver lining can be seen with a strategy that may be helpful.

The paradigm shift for stocks, which began in October, is reminiscent of a change in early 2000 when a positive run for technology stocks abruptly ended. Unnoticed by some in 2000, the economy was still growing and a rotation of leadership in the stock market presented investors with new opportunities. This is where diversification can help.

Take a look at the graphic below. Diversification lost when the market lost and made less when the market gained. Despite these disappointing facts, the diversified portfolio would have made more money!

Why does diversification make a difference?

  1. Limiting your losses helps.
  2. No one knows when the market will rise or fall, so any strategy attempting to capture the up and avoid the down is unlikely to do well.
  3. While there is no way to accurately predict the future of any one company, the market tends to rise over long periods of time – making losses temporary for those who stay diversified and invested.

As the storms arise, think of diversification as your umbrella. You may still get a little wet, but it will help. Your long-term perspective and optimism will help you hang on until the sun shines – and it will shine again.

The new year will continue to bring many opportunities for investors, especially with positive economic growth. There are no guarantees, but the current forecast calls for a 2.5 percent increase.

*Diversification History data provided by Blackrock. Diversified portfolio consists of 60 percent stocks and 40 percent bonds. The S&P 500 is often used to represent the U.S. stock market. One cannot invest directly in an index. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

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How Can I Stay Calm When the Market Isn’t?

By | 2018, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

2018 has been a year of market volatility, and that can be scary at times. When market volatility hits, here are three things that can help you stay calm.

1. Focus on the Long-Term
When we create financial plans, we focus on your long-term goals. When market volatility strikes, think to yourself, “Have my goals changed? Do I want anything different out of my investments than I wanted before?” If your long-term goals haven’t changed, then you are still okay. If your long-term goals have changed, talk to your financial advisor and see what the best course of action is.

Before you make any knee-jerk reactions to market volatility, focus on the long-term. We don’t want to sell out, lock in losses, and not have the opportunity to benefit from the market growth that will come later.

2. Trust Diversification
Investing in a diversified portfolio is even more critical when market volatility is high. We keep our portfolios diversified to help lessen the effects of market volatility. The basic idea of diversification is to spread your investments across many different areas of the market in order to reduce the risk. It usually works when things get rough because you don’t have all of your money in the part of the market that is losing the most.

With your diversified investments, you are likely to still lose in a down market, but you should lose a little less. Most of the time, a diversified portfolio will come out ahead of a non-diversified portfolio after enduring the ups and downs of a market cycle. Remember, diversification works!

3. Volatility = Opportunity
You’ve probably heard this saying your whole life: “Buy low, sell high.” That is the right mindset to have when it comes to investing, and we all know it. However, as humans, our emotions get in the way, and we convince ourselves to do the exact opposite.

Why would we ever be tempted to buy high and sell low? It is common to feel comfortable investing into something that has been going up because we assume it will continue. Again, we believe the trend will continue when the market is falling and is at a low point. As an investor, it is helpful to remember that changing our strategy based on how we feel can often be counter-productive.

Market volatility can create major opportunities to buy in at lower points. Try looking at it this way: if you find a nice coat, you’d be more likely to buy it at 10% off, right? It’s the same way with investing. We want to buy at a “discount” to maximize the value we can get out of an investment. It can be hard to remember this in volatile times, which is why it is essential to have a professional who is experienced and educated in your corner to help you make sound investment
decisions.

 

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Should You Sell Your RSUs?

By | 2018, Money Moxie | No Comments

Companies often give Restricted Stock Units (RSUs) to their employees as compensation for hard work and to retain talent. RSUs are a promise of actual company stock, as opposed to stock options, which are just the option to buy the stock at a future date and have no intrinsic value. The significant RSU restriction is that you aren’t vested until a future date, typically over four years. If you leave the company, the company will retain the unvested shares. The main question is should you sell your RSUs immediately as each segment (or tranche) vests or should you hold on to the shares?

As with all planning, you should look at this as a piece of your financial puzzle, which includes short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals.

On the vesting date, the restricted stock units are converted into actual shares. You don’t pay anything. However, the conversion creates a taxable event and your income for the year will be increased by the value of the shares – REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOU SELL THEM OR NOT.

Let’s say Sally works for XYZ company making $100k. She is given $200k in RSUs vesting over four years. This year, $50k in RSUs are available. When the RSUs are converted, her Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) will be increased by $50k, making her total AGI $150k. Sally may have to pay around $14k more in taxes. (Tax will vary depending on many factors: marital status, spousal income, deductions, etc.). If Sally doesn’t have the $14k in the bank, how will she pay the extra taxes?

In many cases, employees end up selling their RSUs to pay the taxes unless the company’s plan allows some shares to be sold to pay the taxes. As a rule of thumb, an individual shouldn’t have more than 20 percent in their company stock. So, even if employees can sell shares to pay the taxes, you may still want to sell your vested shares. Selling allows you to diversify away from having too much in one investment. You may also sell to use the proceeds for other beneficial purposes, like building an emergency fund, funding your children’s education, or paying down your mortgage.

When the first block of RSUs becomes available, there is typically some downward pressure on the stock price. A growing company can overcome this, but it is also a question of how long you are willing to wait.

If you hold the shares for longer than one year from the vesting date, your growth will qualify for long-term capital gains rates. So, if an RSU was given to you at $20 per share and after one year you sell at $25 per share, you will pay tax on the $5 in growth at the long-term capital gains rate. The risk in waiting is the stock price could go down.

Deciding to sell or hold your shares depends on a myriad of factors including taxes, diversification, company performance, market conditions, and the purpose of the money. Your decision should be based on your overall financial plan that includes short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals. If you need help creating your financial plan or even if you have questions about how to handle Restricted Stock Units, please contact one of our Wealth Managers that can help you navigate the waters of life.

*SFS and its representatives do not provide tax advice; it is important to coordinate with your tax advisor regarding your specific situation.

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You Can Contribute More to Your Retirement in 2019

By | 2018, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Good news is coming for those looking to max out their retirement plans. In 2019, the contribution limits will be raised on most retirement accounts. This opens the door to higher tax deductions, more tax-deferred growth, and better savings ratios.

Employee contribution limits for the 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plans will be raised to $19,000 annually. For those individuals age 50 and older, an extra $6,000 contribution is allowed. The ceiling on SIMPLEs climbs to $13,000 with an additional $3,000 for those 50 and older. Both traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs will jump to a $6,000 annual limit with a $1,000 extra contribution for those born before 1970.

Deduction phaseouts for traditional IRAs of active plan participants will also start at higher levels in 2019, from adjusted gross incomes of $103,000 – $123,000 for married couples filing jointly and $64,000 – $74,000 for single filers. Roth IRA AGI phaseouts will increase to $193,000 – $203,000 for couples and $122,000 – $137,000 for individuals.

If you have questions about how these changes can impact your financial plan, please call us to schedule a review with one of our Wealth Managers.

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Your Leading Indicators

By | 2018, Executive Message, Money Moxie | No Comments

Dear Financial Partners and Friends!

Leading economic indicators are predictive changes that give us clues about the future direction of the economy. Lagging indicators are after the fact. They confirm what has already happened.

Just as the economy has leading and lagging indicators, so does your personal financial preparedness. Regardless of your age, or alternatively, your personal lifecycle, ask yourself where you are in the following questions.

  1. Do you have a three-to-six-month emergency fund that matches your net income?
  2. Are you free of all debt?
  3. If you were to die suddenly, would your family have enough money to live now and through retirement?
  4. Do you have enough money saved for retirement? (See graph below.)
  5. Are the beneficiaries and contingent beneficiaries on your retirement accounts, life insurance policies, etc., the way you desire?
  6. Have you created will(s) and trust(s) and ensured they are up to date?

If you answered “Yes,” to all of these leading indicators, then you are financially prepared for the future. If you answered “Yes,” to most of these, then you are on the right path. If you answered “No,” to most of these, then you should take immediate action. Please come and talk with one of our expert wealth managers who have the experience, credentials, and training to get you to and through your retirement years.

So many changes can take place within a year’s time, that when it comes to your personal finances, it is better to be safe than sorry. The most important people in your life depend on you. Will they be harmed or helped by your preparation or lack thereof?

Bullish Best Wishes,

Roger M. Smedley, CFP®
CEO

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Alternative Gifts for Family

By | 2018, Money Moxie | No Comments

The holidays are just around the corner, and many people are making shopping plans. Let’s face it; shopping can be stressful. Things get expensive and expectations are high during “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Here are some ideas to give the not-so-traditional friend or family member during the holidays. They allow both to focus on experiences rather than exchanging material goods.

1. Donate to a charity in the name of a loved one
2. Start a college or UGMA account for children or grandchildren.
3. Create a special memory – go to a play, ball game, museum, zoo, or plan a trip for later on down the road
4. Monthly membership to a club or gym
5. The gift of thought – redeemable coupons for service for your family or loved ones – babysitting, cleaning, homemade dinners, back massages, washing dishes
6. Use the money to travel to see the person for whom you would have bought a gift
7. Participate in Secret Santa like programs
8. Go cultural – pick a country and celebrate how they would from food to traditions
9. Go on vacation during the holiday season
10. Give the gift of time
11. Volunteer together – local shelters, hospitals, etc.
12. Give someone Christmas who can’t afford it – give a meal and or a gift for each of their family members
13. Date nights with your spouse

Hopefully, this gives you some ideas to help create new fulfilling memories instead of filling up the home with more things.

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Where does all the money go?

By | 2018, Money Matters | No Comments

Why does the word budget feel like a personal judgment? Maybe it’s because creating a budget may uncover the spending we know is happening, but don’t want to address. It brings out some feelings of guilt.

Let’s ditch the word budget and call it a spending plan.  Now we are in control. The truth is following a spending plan provides some freedom. Regardless of our age, we need to have a plan. When starting out, a spending plan allows us to have what we need for today while also planning for future needs. It gives us the green light to spend a predetermined amount on things we want and enjoy. Without a plan, we spend first, then save what’s left over. This is a recipe for financial disaster. Too often there is nothing left over at the end of the month. The result, nothing gets saved for the future.

Later in life, we have some financial flexibility and incorrectly believe we no longer need to worry about a spending plan. This is also a recipe for financial disaster.  At retirement are income sources become limited. Making sure our nest egg is available to provide income for the lifestyle we want, throughout our retirement years, becomes paramount. After all, who wants to reduce their standard of living at the time we should be enjoying the fruits of our labor?

Creating a spending plan will take some thought and time but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are some tips:

  1. Look over your expenses for the past year to determine where your money is going. If you haven’t been tracking your spending, begin doing so.
  2. Categorize your expenditures by non-discretionary and discretionary.
    a. Non-discretionary includes things you must have; groceries, mortgage, rent, utilities.
    b. Discretionary includes things you like to have; cable, eating out, entertainment.
  3. Determine your goals – saving for retirement, down payment on a home, travel.
  4. Decide how much you need to put aside to reach your goals. Then break it down to a monthly amount.
  5. Review your discretionary spending to determine where you could cut back in if needed.
  6. Follow your spending plan. In the beginning, it will be hard and may require a few tweaks.
  7. Use an app or excel spreadsheet to help track your spending.
  8. Review and adjust regularly.

Now congratulate yourself. You have taken the first step to financial freedom!

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Long-term Care Aware

By | 2018, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

November is Long-term Care awareness month. So, what is Long-term Care insurance (LTCi) and who needs it? LTCi is insurance to help pay for a care facility because a person can’t perform 2 of the 6 activities of daily living: transferring, continence, dressing, toileting, bathing, and eating.

There are many levels of care ranging from independent living to assisted living to a full-blown nursing home. Going into a care facility for independent or assisted living is mostly a personal decision to be closer to peers or to not be a burden on one’s family. When a person gets to the point that their families are unable to care for them because of physical or mental impairment, they go into a nursing home.

The costs of a care facility correspond with the level of care that is needed. In Utah, the average cost of assisted living is about $3,000, with the average cost of a nursing home being $5,500 per month. Secure units for Dementia or Alzheimer’s patients can cost $7,000 to $9,000 per month. A patient with Dementia can expect to pay about $341,000 in their final five years of life.

Another scary statistic is that 52% of people age 65 will have a long-term care need in their lifetime. However, keep in mind that this statistic encompasses any stay in a care facility ranging from a few days to years. Men and women turning age 65 have a 22% and 36% chance respectively of needing more than one year in a nursing home. Whether you will have an LTC need will depend on factors such as age, lifestyle, and family heredity.

To protect from these risks, you can either self-insure by dedicating assets to medical care or by purchasing LTC insurance. If you self-insure, you should designate about $300,000 per person for LTC. If you purchase a traditional LTC policy, the optimal age is between 55 and 60, with costs ranging from $50-$200 per month depending on the level of coverage that you get. If you wait until age 65, those costs will double. By age 70 the costs will be about quadruple that amount. LTCi is also costlier for females. There are many different types of long-term care policies, which are beyond the scope of this article. If you have questions about what benefits to look for, please call one of our Wealth Managers.

Keep in mind, even if you don’t have insurance, there is still a backup plan through Medicaid, which is assistance for low-income people of every age. A common misconception is that Medicare (i.e. health insurance for age 65+) will pay for Long-term Care. Medicare will only pay for the first 100 days in a care facility IF that stay is preceded by a hospital stay of at least three days and the condition for admission is the same.

To receive assistance through Medicaid, you will be required to spend down your assets first. The rules are complicated, but generally speaking a spouse will be allowed to keep $102,000 after all other assets are spent down. If you’re single you can only keep $2,000, which may include selling your home. Once your assets are spent down, Medicaid will cover all other costs in a facility that accepts Medicaid patients.

There is also a 5-year look-back rule that will require you to count as assets anything given away in the last five years. So, you can’t gift away all your assets to family 6 months before you need to go into a care facility and then have Medicaid pick up the tab.

Whether you set aside assets or purchase an insurance policy for Long-term Care costs, make sure you have accounted for medical expenses in your retirement plan. As always, if you have any questions, please call one of our Wealth Managers that can help you navigate the Long-term Care waters.

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Lessons of the Great Recession

By | 2018, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

In January 2008, stock markets were near all-time highs, U.S. unemployment was at just 5 percent, and George W. Bush was about to sign the Economic Stimulus Act, which provided tax rebates for Americans and tax breaks for businesses. Americans were unaware that the “Great Recession” had already begun (National Bureau of Economic Research).

The consequences of excessive debt began to slowly spread across corporate America. Several companies were on the brink of failure before being saved, including Bear Stearns (March 2008), Countrywide Financial (July 2008), Freddie Mac (September 2008), and Fannie Mae (September 2008). Each of these was saved by unpopular government intervention.

Then came Lehman Brothers. It was “too big to fail,” and yet it did. At 1:45 AM on September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection—the largest and most complex bankruptcy in American history. It had over $619 billion in loans it could not repay and it marked a tipping point: a moment when investors around the world woke up to reality.

There was too much debt, especially American mortgage debt. In 2008, over 800,000 families lost their homes to foreclosure.1 In 2009, there were around 2.5 million.2 Unemployment doubled to a rate of 10 percent.3

The cost of recovery weighed on the government as it shifted the debt from overburdened Americans to the U.S. deficit (Now over $21 trillion).
The Federal Reserve lowered its rates to zero and kept them there for seven years. When that was not enough, it purchased $4.5 trillion dollars of debt—essentially injecting the American economy with money. It seems to have worked by many measurements.

As the economic recovery firmed, the Federal Reserve began to raise rates. At first, it was cautious. Now, it plans to keep going higher at regular intervals. This change may be an important shift.

One day in the future there will be another recession, but it will be different than the Great Recession.

A lot has changed in the last 10 years. Americans have less mortgage debt. The government has much more. While the housing market is strong, it does not seem to be as inflated as 2008.

For now, move forward with optimism and confidence, but don’t forget the lessons of the past. The risk of another economic downturn is real. Whether it comes in 1 year or 10 years, your personal preparation will be valuable.

 

1. “Foreclosures up a Record 81% in 2008,” CNN Money
2. “Great Recession Timeline,” History.com
3. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
4. “Looking Back at Lehman’s Demise,” Wealth Management

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