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Money Matters

Happy New Year

By | 2020, Money Matters, Newsletter | No Comments

Making 2020 Count Financially 

I’m not one to harp on New Year’s Resolutions, but I do want to make sure you are aware of opportunities that will help you reach your financial goals. I thought I would share a couple of tips you may want to think about, possibly share with your friends and family, and implement for yourself.

Define your goals

From year-to-year, the top investments are going to rotate. We are often asked, “What should I invest in?” A better question may be, “What am I investing for?”  Defining a goal and then matching your investment strategy to that goal will help you stay on track. Keeping your focus on the goal rather than day-to-day movement in the market will help you manage the emotional side of investing. This is critical when market volatility increases.

Put investing on autopilot

We find that over time investors who have a systematic approach to saving are more consistent in their efforts. Waiting until the end of the week, the month, or the year before deciding to put money aside can diminish the urgency of saving and your ability to reach a goal. The 401(k) is a wonderful example; every pay cycle money goes directly into an investment for the future – automatically. Once you make the initial decision to contribute, no further action is required. The same can be done in an account outside of your retirement plan.

Increase contributions for 2020

If you are not making a maximum contribution to your 401(k), consider increasing the amount you will contribute this year, even if it’s a small increase. The limit for 2020 increased to $19,500. Often employees contribute only enough to get the employer’s full matching contribution – which is great! However, with fewer employers offering pension plans, the burden to save for retirement falls to the employees. Saving smaller amounts early on makes a significant difference in how much you will have when you get to retirement. If your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k), consider putting away up to $6,000 in an IRA or Roth IRA.

Make up for lost time

For anyone who will be 50 or older this year – there is at least one advantage – you can make up for lost time. The catch-up provision allows you to sock away additional money for the future. The 401(k) catch-up limit increased in 2020 to $6,500. For IRA and Roth IRA, the catch-up remains at $1,000.

Simplify your portfolio

It is not unusual to have several jobs throughout the course of your career. That being said, having multiple plans with past employers can be cumbersome and difficult to monitor. Consider consolidating these plans, making it more effective to track your investments, and determine if they are on track to help you reach your goals. 

We wish you a prosperous New Year!

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Are you feeling anxious about the market?

By | 2019, Money Matters, Newsletter | No Comments

If your answer is yes, you are not alone. We are emotional creatures. When things get rocky, or we perceive they are rocky, we can make decisions that feel good at the time, but in the long run, are not in our best interest. Let me share an example you may relate too.

You have worked hard and saved diligently for years, and finally, you have reached your financial goal, be it: saving for retirement, building a nest egg for a future purchase, or another purpose altogether. You feel a sense of relief – I did it! Once you reach this target number, every emotion you have regarding the market going forward may be tied to that target number.

How do you feel when you see that number going down? For some, the feeling is panic! All we can think is, “It took me forever to get to this point and I cannot afford to lose anything.” This is an emotional response. You have abandoned future perspective and are focusing only on the here and now. We often see this response to market volatility when someone is getting close to retiring or has retired. Suddenly, our long-term perspective is tomorrow afternoon. We have completely discounted the value of market performance over time.

I realize you may not enjoy looking at charts but bear with me for just a minute. Look at the two charts below. How do you feel about the chart on the left? How do you feel about the chart on the right? Believe it or not, the chart on the left is merely a subsection, representing a 90-day period, from the chart on the right, which illustrates a 5-year period. The difference is when viewing volatility over a longer time period it feels more comfortable than it does when viewed in a short period of time.

It is so easy to adopt a myopic view when emotionally, we feel like we should flee to safety. What the two charts teach us is that volatility is subjective and can be controlled by how often we look at our account balance. Now, look at the next two charts showing the exact 5-year period. The chart of the left represents the market value at the end of each quarter. The chart the right represents the market value each day. My guess is you feel better about the smoother chart to the left.

Managing your emotions during times of increased market volatility is challenging but can be done. Here are a few tips to help you through the volatile times.

1) Try to review your account no more than quarterly.

2) When you hear concerning news in the media remember; their job is to sell headlines and stories not to give personalized investment advice to you.

3) If you are feeling concerned, reach out to us. That is why we are here.

We have information regarding your financial situation, your financial plan, your investments, and the markets. We will give you advice and perspective that will help you stay on track.

*The illustrations are for educational purposes and are not indicative of an actual investment return. The Standard and Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) index is often considered to represent the U.S. stock market. Investments cannot be made directly into an index. Historical performance does not guarantee future results.

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What Women Should Know About Social Security

By | 2019, Money Matters, Newsletter | No Comments

Retirement is on everyone’s radar. Whether you are preparing for a future date or beginning retirement now, you need to know where your money will come from once the paychecks stop rolling in.

One retirement income source that is very confusing is Social Security. It is fraught with complicated options. From understanding how your benefit is calculated to determining the best time to begin receiving your benefit, the process can be painful. I want you to understand the nuances so you can be informed about your options and better prepared to make critical decisions.

To begin, almost everyone reading this article is eligible to receive Social Security benefits in some form. However, eligibility for retirement benefits is based on several factors. If you have worked at least 10 years, you are eligible for benefits based on your own earnings. If you are now or have been married, you may qualify for benefits based on a spouse’s earnings. The challenge is knowing which benefit to claim and how to maximize your income.

Something many women are surprised to know is that Social Security retirement benefits may be available even if you never worked outside of your home. If you are now or have been married, you can claim a benefit based on your spouse’s earnings record. This is in addition to what your spouse or ex-spouse will receive. At your full retirement age (FRA), you can receive 50% of your spouse’s benefit at their FRA. For example, if your spouse’s benefit at FRA is $1,800, you would receive $900 monthly. A spousal benefit does not increase beyond FRA. 

If you are divorced and have not remarried, you may be entitled to a spousal benefit. To receive this benefit, you must have been married for at least 10 years. You are entitled to the benefit even if your ex-spouse remarries.

Timing of benefits has a lifelong impact, and you should have a well thought out plan before signing up. For instance, beginning your benefits at the earliest age possible, age 62, will lock you into a reduced benefit for the rest of your life. To receive your full benefit, you must wait until you reach full retirement age. Stop thinking age 65 (that’s for Medicare). When it comes to Social Security, FRA is somewhere between age 66 and 67 – based on the year you were born. But it gets better, for every year you wait beyond your FRA up to age 70, your benefit will increase by 8% – locked in for the rest of your life.

The following chart shows a monthly benefit of $1,800 taken at a full retirement age of 66, and how it would change if taken earlier or later. For example, if taken at age 62, the benefit would be reduced to $1,350, and if taken at age 70, the benefit would increase to $2,376. That’s significant! A $1,026 difference each month – $12,312 annually.

There can be additional downfalls when taking Social Security early. If you take Social Security benefits before your FRA and you continue to work, you may be penalized. If you are under FRA for the entire year, $1 of your benefit will be withheld for every $2 you earn over the annual earnings limit ($17,640 in 2019). The earnings limit is higher in the year you reach FRA ($46,920 in 2019). The bottom line – you may not be getting as much as you think by taking your benefit early.

Understanding Social Security can be difficult and making the wrong decision can be costly. Don’t go it alone. Let us help you analyze your options so you can make the best possible choice regarding your benefit and future income.

If you have not started your Social Security benefit and are over age 55, watch for our Social Security seminar and webinar coming in the fall

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Get in the Right Lane

By | 2019, Money Matters, Newsletter | No Comments

Missing a freeway exit can be extremely aggravating. Once missed, you are required to drive farther away from your destination. It can happen for many reasons; being in the wrong lane, missing an exit sign, or heavy traffic preventing you from getting over. Once you realize you have missed the exit, you immediately begin making corrections so you can exit at the next opportunity.

Financial success can be like the freeway. You may be headed in the right direction, but are you making the right decisions? Here are some behaviors that may keep you from reaching your financial destination:

  1. Spending more than your planned budget. One of the greatest concerns of retirees is running out of money. The goal of a financial plan is to make sure your money lasts as long as you do, even if you live to 100. If you are depleting your nest egg too quickly, you should change lanes. 

  2. Giving money to kids. When adult children are having financial troubles, giving them money may seem like the right thing to do. That is not the case. In most situations, it just prolongs the problem. If you are bailing out your adult children, you should change lanes.

  3. Paying for things you don’t use. This could be a gym membership, a storage unit to hold more stuff, or the RV and toys that rarely get used. Letting go of these things has financial and psychological benefits. You no longer worry that these items are going unused. You can rent an RV for a vacation if you want, and most of the stuff you are storing is of higher value to you than it may be to your kids. Ask them what they would like to have and get rid of the rest. It’s refreshing! If you are paying for things you don’t need, you should change lanes.

Look at your financial goals. Are you on target to reach your financial destination? If not, I challenge you to make a lane change – make the needed corrections and continue to move forward. Don’t let anything keep you from reaching your financial destination. Having a plan can keep you headed in the right direction and the right lane.

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Women Face Unique Challenges. Good Decisions are Essential.

By | 2019, Executive Message, Money Matters, Newsletter | No Comments

This year marked the 4th anniversary of our Just for Women conference and the launch of Smedley Financial’s Just for Women community. Hooray!

We want to thank the women who have participated in our community. Together, we have created a meaningful experience that engages, empowers, and educates women of all ages and from all social and economic backgrounds.

Women face many unique challenges when it comes to financial security: longer life expectancies; the likelihood that they will be in the driver’s seat, financially speaking; reduced pension payouts and retirement account balances due to periods away from the workforce to raise children or care for an aging parent. This reality makes it even more important that they set precedence regarding finances. Women should become more educated, build financial confidence, and most importantly–make good financial decisions.

Good decision-making will have a more significant impact on financial success than skill and talent combined, regardless of your gender. Dalbar, an independent research firm, has confirmed this. Their 25 years of research has found that investors’ performance has suffered significantly due to poor decision-making. Decisions which have been emotionally based or made in the “heat of the moment” tend to end with poor results.

This issue recaps some of the highlights of our Just for Women conference. If you were not able to attend, please make it a priority to join us next year — mark your calendar for May 8, 2020. Hopefully, our women’s community will help ignite a financial passion in everyone who participates.

If you would like to receive our Just for Women – Money Matters email, send us a request at [email protected] Provide your name and email, and we’ll make sure you receive the next issue.

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Your Values Matter

By | 2019, Money Matters | No Comments

When it comes to money, your values matter, why? If what you value most and your goals are not in alignment, you will experience a state of financial and emotional conflict. Your ideals and your actions will not match up, making it difficult to reach your goals.

Here’s an example of a value and a goal that would be in alignment. If family is important to you, then you value time spent together and want to take care of them. Your goal would be to protect your family financially if something should happen to you. Your actions might be to provide money to cover debts, pay for children’s college, replace your income, and provide end of life care. You would make saving for emergencies and retirement a priority, so you are prepared to live a dignified retirement, you would have legal documents and beneficiary designation in good order to protect your loved ones.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to personal values. They can be anything from Family, to Independence, to Education. There is no prerequisite to what you value; it is the culmination of your life experiences, education, and beliefs. The trick is which values are most important.

What are your top 5 values? You may be able to name two or three right off. Then you may go into a stupor, wondering “What else do I value”? Sometimes it is not easy to identify our top 5; it takes time and thought. If you find yourself stumped let me know; I can help.

Your decisions and actions have the most significant impact when it comes to reaching your goals. They have more to do with your financial success than the market or the investments you choose.

That’s why your values matter!

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Is Your Heart Making the Decision?

By | 2019, Money Matters, Newsletter | No Comments

Women generally have huge hearts and can sometimes let their hearts lead their financial decisions. Even the most educated and most successful women can let their hearts influence their financial decisions. Here are some examples of how women may be dealing with financial situations:

–    Children ask for money for the latest thing(s), and mothers usually say yes. When mothers spend too much money on their children, they may not be saving enough for retirement.

–    Women who allow their husbands to handle every aspect of financial decisions may find themselves in crisis when a spouse is injured, they are divorced or widowed and discover they are unprepared to manage all facets of their financial life.

–    Single women – those who never marry or who are divorced – are often uncomfortable with finances and may even be bored with financial matters. Still, they are anxious about being financially secure now and in the future.

As women, we need to take control of our financial life and be honest with ourselves and others in our relationships.  We are generous with our love, time and money and we shouldn’t stop being kind, generous people, but we must be sure that our acts of generosity are not depleting our financial future and retirement plans.  We must learn to say “NO” out of love, not out of fear. If you pay for a child’s college education, will it jeopardize your future retirement? This act of generosity could potentially create financial stress for years into the future. Your act of charity should never put you at financial risk.

Women need to set financial limits. Our goal should be to raise financially independent, successful children. While it may seem reasonable to help a family member, continuing to pay expenses for grown children will not help them become financially successful adults. It might feel like tough love, but in the big picture, it truly helps everyone. 

Make financial decisions that support your financial goals and secure your financial future by taking time to think through the situation and process the outcome. Lead with your head, not your heart. Being financially smart will help you secure your goals and achieve financial success.

If you are faced with a decision and need additional information or maybe just a sounding board, reach out to us and let us help you think through your options. Together we can find the right solution for you.

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An unexpectant caregiver

By | 2019, Money Matters, Newsletter | No Comments

As we welcome in the New Year, I want to give you some food for thought. New Year’s resolutions come and go – some fulfilled, some forgotten. What if you can do one thing in 2019 that will benefit you and those you love? Would you take the time to consider it?

I want to share the recent experience of a close family member of mine. This woman is kind, loving, and if it were in her power, would do anything for anyone – especially those in her family.

Unexpectedly, this woman found herself in the role of primary caregiver to her single sister. Her sister had been financially self-reliant and remarkably independent throughout her life. She was diligent in putting money aside from her earnings to help supplement her income during retirement. What she didn’t plan on were unforeseen medical events that left her completely dependent on the help and support of others.

After many months of cancer treatments, she experienced a stroke, which severely limited her mobility and slowed her speech, leaving her dependent on others for her care. Luckily, she had an older sister who stepped up and took over. Unfortunately, there were no legal documents granting anyone access to medical information, financial information, or allowing them to make decisions on her behalf.

As you can imagine, this created many difficult hurdles. Not only were there medical treatments that needed to be coordinated, there was also the issue of what insurance was available to cover the numerous hospital visits and the ensuing stays in rehab and care facilities. Add to that the dilemma of what money was available to pay for coinsurance, deductibles, and prescriptions. And what about her ongoing bills at home, how would they be paid? It was an unbelievable challenge. It took time, patience, and a great emotional toll.

This situation is not uncommon. We see it all too often. We believe that if we plan financially for the future, everything will be okay. In some cases that is true. What most of us tend to overlook is the emotional impact on those who would so willingly step up to take care of us should the need be presented. Instead of planning for the unforeseen, we unwittingly tie their hands and create unnecessary emotional stress on those we love. Waiting until next week, next month, or next year may be too late. Do it now! Make it a priority for the new year. Take the time to meet with your financial advisor and an estate planning attorney. Create the documents that will minimize the burden on those you love.

Estate planning documents generally include: Will, Trust, Medical Power-of-Attorney, Medical Directive, and Durable Power-of-Attorney. Depending on the complexity of your situation and what you are trying to accomplish, other documents may be needed. An attorney can advise you on the right documents for your personal situation.

Wishing you a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!

 

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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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Giving Back

By | 2018, Money Matters | No Comments

Finding opportunities to give back was a consistent theme among the participants at the Just for Women 2018 conference. We agree. Giving has an empowering effect on the giver, the charity that serves a need, and most importantly, on the recipients. The desire to give back is innate – not generally driven by financial benefits. Having said that, there are ways you can give that benefit both you and the charity; financially speaking. Here are two that you may want to consider.

Donation-in-kind. If you have an investment in a non-retirement account, you can donate the investment directly to a qualified charity. By doing this you completely avoid capital gains taxes. Furthermore, if you itemize your taxes, you can claim the value of the investment, on the day it was donated, as a deduction. The key benefit is that the charity receives the full value of the donation tax-free. One caveat; you must have owned the investment for at least one year and one day and it must have increased in value.

Qualified Charitable Distribution. If you have reached the wonderful age of 70½, congratulations! Uncle Sam has been waiting for this day. It is at this age that you are required to take money out of your retirement accounts; i.e. IRA, 401(k), 403(b). This is called a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) and will occur every year going forward. If your retirement account is an IRA, you can choose to have the money you are required to take out – all or part – go directly to your favorite charity, taking advantage of the Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) option. The benefit to you – you do not have to claim the distribution as income or pay tax on the money that comes out. This is valuable because the distribution will not have a negative impact on your Medicare Part B premiums. The benefit to the charity – it receives the full value of your donation; tax-free.

I have the pleasure of working with the Utah Parent Center, a local charity that has served families of people with disabilities for over 35 years. I have been impressed by the positive influence they have on so many lives. While they have served more than 25,000 individuals, there are many more who could benefit from the services they provide. However, they need the support of our community to provide services to those additional people. One family’s story is below.

If you would like more information on making a donation-in-kind or qualified charitable distribution using your investments call our office at 801-355-8888. To donate directly to Utah Parent Center, use this link: https://utahparentcenter.org/donate/.

Together, we can make a difference.

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