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The Ultimate Marathon: Retirement

By | 2013, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Top notch athletes have something in common. Each possesses a strong commitment to endure to the end. Marathon runners spend countless hours working towards a single goal–completing the 26.2 mile run at marathon pace. When accomplished, many begin preparing for the next marathon.

Richard J. Carling personifies a top notch marathon competitor. He began running at age 39, for health reasons, and at age 75 he’s still going strong.  He runs four marathons every year.

In October, Richard will be running in the St. George Marathon, his 145th marathon. I asked Richard how he got started. He said, “Before I started running, I didn’t think I needed a plan to stay healthy, I thought I was fine.” After his health scare he was told he needed to do something and running was recommended. Now he has a plan and a strategy, which he follows to stay healthy and compete in marathons.

A runner’s journey begins with an assessment. Fitness level, personal needs, and race terrain become the basis on which their training program is built. If these areas are not addressed, the runner will have little chance of reaching the goal. For instance, someone with a physical ailment must take precautions to protect themselves from injury. Someone who will be competing at a high elevation, like the Colorado Rockies, must do more than train at sea level. The key is that each training plan is very personalized to the athlete and the goal.

Planning for retirement begins much the same way. First you must determine what it is you want to accomplish. Is your desire to retire at a certain age, or is it more important to maintain a certain standard of living throughout retirement? Once you’ve made your decisions, there must be a strong commitment to reach those goals.

Self-assessment is important when building your plan. If this step is missed, you may find that you are not able to stick to your long-term plan. Think about this, if you invest in something with considerable volatility when emotionally you can tolerate little risk, you are more likely to abandon your plan. On the other hand, you will be disappointed and fall short of your goal if you were expecting market returns over many years but were invested too conservatively.

If you want to run for a lifetime, as Richard has, he says, “You must stay within your limits. This will help keep you healthy and prevent injuries.” Consistency is important. Richard runs 8 miles each weekday and tries to get 20 miles in on Saturday. He says, “If you over train or push yourself too hard, you will have to make adjustments that can set you back in your training.”

Marathon runners, in general, train by running long distances to increase stamina and endurance. They are not running sprints to get ready for the race, nor will they be sprinting during the race. The distance of each run is carefully planned out so that they peak on the day of the marathon.

This same practice is applied to retirement planning. Your plan must be well thought out. What types of investments will best help you reach your goals? My guess is that there will be some investments that are more conservative to provide for your needs as you begin retirement. From there the investment risk may increase based on when the assets will be converted into income. While this may seem obvious, many miss this point entirely. Their plan becomes fluid and investments are made based on the heat of the moment; the well thought out plan is abandoned. Market timing becomes the basis of the investment plan.

Dalbar Inc. released a study on March 26, 2013, regarding investor behavior. The study reveals how emotional, short-term decisions have stunted the performance of equity investors.  In a nutshell, the study shows that over the past 20 years, investors have under performed the market by an average of 3.96 percent per year. When compounded over 20 years, the difference becomes a chasm separating you from your dreams.

The gap in returns can be attributed to bad investment habits. The most common error is chasing performance by purchasing the hottest investments. In other words, investors are often their own Achilles heel.

Endurance, both physical and mental, is essential to a marathon runner. Without it an athlete would fall victim to the overwhelming urge to quit. During the 26.2 miles, the runner’s courage and determination are tested. When asked how he’s able to run such long distances, Richard says, “Everyone hits a wall at around 20 miles. At that point it’s all mental. You don’t worry about the past or the future. You stick with your plan. If you get excited and try to push too hard you’ll crash.” In order to endure, the will must remain stronger than the body.

Along the path to retirement there will be many obstacles. The endurance test will be a matter of commitment and will. If your plan is well thought out, market volatility in the short-term should have little impact on the long-term results of the plan.

If you are committed to following your plan and have the will to succeed, you can protect yourself from financial elements that arise. If you understand that taking a large distribution at the wrong time will jeopardize your plan, you will be less likely to make bad loans to others.

After completing the St. George Marathon, Richard looks forward to running the Honolulu Marathon and then the Boston Marathon where he is 10th overall for running the most consecutive marathons. While he is always focused on the race at hand, when that race is completed, he is looking forward and mapping out a plan for his next race. Go Richard!

Getting to retirement is just one step in the long-term retirement plan. Making sure that your assets allow you to continue your lifestyle throughout your retirement years requires additional sophisticated planning. There will be a whole new set of financial elements, and adjustments may be necessary for this part of the race.

Your plan to access your income must address a different set of personal needs. Those that will require continued commitment in an effort to reach the ultimate goal– financial security in retirement.

 

*The S&P 500 is an index often used to represent the market. One cannot invest directly in an index. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Data provided by Dalbar Inc.

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If You Think Financial Planning is Expensive, Try Ignorance

By | 2013, Executive Message, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Dear Valued Clients and Friends,

The poor don’t have a monopoly on uninformed financial decisions. Some years ago I was invited to make a presentation to a group at a country club. I passed a clipboard around and asked each participant to write down how much money he or she had lost through poor decisions. After recording the lost amounts, I asked each person to fold the paper over, thus covering his or her answer, and pass the clip board to the next person.

After the clipboard had been passed around the room, I added the losses. Before revealing the group’s cumulative loss, I expected the amount to be in the tens of thousands or, perhaps, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Boy was I wrong. The total cumulative loss was in the millions of dollars!

We routinely find people who have made poor or uninformed financial choices. Assuming you know the smarter choices and rules regarding money, or assuming that something is not a scam, can be disastrous—not only affecting you, but also your spouse and future generations!

You’ve worked hard to accumulate your nest egg. We believe you have to work twice as hard to protect it so that it will last as long as you do. How do you do this? By avoiding unnecessary risk. No one cares, works harder, or stands to benefit more from your financial decisions than you and your posterity.

Prudent planning, especially at key turning points in your life will help you realize the full benefit of your financial choices. But through unwise choices, without a financial guide, you will encounter pitfalls that may turn into serious consequences and losses.

Making a choice is one thing, but is it the best choice for you? We’ve seen clients in tears because they have acted without talking to us first. Making your money last as long as you do requires sophisticated planning. It is both an art and a science. Let us help you determine your financial destiny. It’s a free call and consultation.

Bullish Best Wishes,

Roger M. Smedley, CFP®President

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College Education – A New Path

By | 2013, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

What’s happening to the college experience in America? It’s changing. Not because of the campus environment, but rather because of the financial burden that faces today’s students.

The cost of obtaining a college degree continues to grow at a rapid pace. So, does college still pay off? The answer is yes! However, the path taken to obtain a degree has changed from the traditional route.

Students are getting savvy about spending more for their degree. Reducing costs is a major concern. As a result, many high school graduates are starting their college experience at the local community college. They receive the same level of basic education at a fraction of the cost compared to a private institution. Once the basics are covered, they transfer to their college of choice.

Why pay more to go out of state or to attend an Ivy League? In-state colleges offer a wide variety of academic majors and activities to create a great campus experience. The in-state tuition advantage makes going to these colleges a great investment. In addition, cost conscious students are willing to live at home while going to college. This way they can save on room and board as well as the cost of food.

Technology has had a major impact on college education—not only in the classroom but also as an educational avenue. Some students are opting to take college courses online. Recorded lectures and study materials permit them to attend class at their convenience. This flexibility offers students the opportunity to work and attend college at the same time. For many, technology makes what used to seem impossible, possible.

Many have given up on the traditional college education and are looking for a trade specific education, something that requires less time, a lower financial outlay, and the opportunity to get started in a career while completing required courses.

It’s safe to say that when it comes to education, that students are making the rules based on their individual needs and financial resources.

The focus on various degrees is also changing. Choosing a degree has a significant impact on one’s lifetime earning ability. Those obtaining engineering degrees have the potential to secure higher paying jobs throughout their lifetime than those with literature or education degrees. This being said, it’s important to note that just having a four-year degree, regardless of the field of study, gives students an upper hand when it comes to lifetime earnings. Many employers are not fixated on a specific degree. They believe they can train an employee in the areas they need. However, employers view a college degree as a definite advantage. Typically, these employees know how to manage their time and resources, research information, and solve problems, making them valuable employees.

Regardless of the form of education, the payoff in lifetime earning ability is huge and increasing.

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“The Most Powerful Force in the Universe”

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Those who understand interest, receive it. Those who don’t, pay it. As investors, we believe this and we strive to go one step further. We seek to get paid interest on our interest. We call this compounding interest.

Albert Einstein called compounding interest “the most powerful force in the universe” and “the eighth wonder of the world.”

It is this mathematical force that has driven the Dow Jones Index to new highs and to over 15,000 this year.

Like everything in life there is a catch. It takes time to achieve compounding interest and it involves uncertainty.

Time

One of the first questions we ask investors is “What is your time horizon?” In other words, “When do you plan to spend this money?”

This is critical because it may take some time to realize the benefits of compounding interest. On June 30, 1993 the S&P 500 was at 450. Fast forward one year and the return was negative 1 percent. Move forward ten years and the total return was 116 percent. Twenty years later, in 2013, the total return was 256 percent!

It pays to be patient with investments. It pays to keep a long-term perspective.

Uncertainty

The stock and bond markets do not travel in straight lines.  There are days when they rise and there are days when they fall. If we don’t accept the uncertainty, then why would we expect to receive a reward.

As investors, we must accept some risk and we believe that over long periods of time, these markets will reward us.

In the last 50 years, the S&P 500 has gained 2,215 percent. Despite this fact, the market was positive only 42 percent of the months. That sounds like a frightening outcome, but the average return for all months was still a positive 0.6 percent.

The good news is that the longer the time period, the more likely an investor is to achieve growth. Positive returns occurred in 53 percent of the years, in 60 percent of 5-year periods, in 80 percent of 10-year periods, and in 100 percent of 20-year periods.

What can we expect in the future?

I believe there is still room for growth. I believe potential for improvement in technology, housing, energy, and employment could fuel this growth.

I expect that the further we look in the future, the more likely we are going to see opportunities to compound returns.

I believe the Dow Jones Index, which currently is flirting with the 15,000 level, is likely to reach 30,000. In my mind it is not a matter of if, but when.

What does all this mean? As we like to say at SFS, “Now is always the best time to invest.”

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5 Ways Rising Interest Rates Will Impact Your Life

By | 2013, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

On May 21st, the Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, announced that the Fed was going to start tapering their bond buying program sometime in the fall. In essence they feel the economy is doing well enough that they don’t need to keep pumping as much money into it. Ironically, the better economy is both good and bad news, depending on your perspective.

The bad news came as mortgage rates jumped about one-half a percent within a month. That left many people wondering how they will be impacted as interest rates continue to rise in the future. Here are five things you should know about how rising interest rates will impact your mortgage, savings accounts, and investments in bonds.

1. Mortgage rates are still low, but are on the rise.

The mortgage rate cruise ship has just started its engine as it prepares for a long cruise to the North. We have probably seen the lowest rates that we will see for a long time, maybe even our lifetime. This isn’t to say that everyone should abandon ship and never plan to move. Life doesn’t work out that way. It just means that if you are planning to move, and the move is in your control, then it may be better to move sooner rather than later.

Interest rates in the 4’s and even 5’s are still incredibly good by historical standards. As interest rates rise, you will either see your anticipated mortgage payment rise, or you will need to look for a slightly smaller and less expensive home. For example, the monthly payment on a 30-year mortgage of $400,000 went up by about $100.2 So, either you will find it in your budget to afford the additional $100 or you will look for a less expensive home.

2. If you are thinking of refinancing, you better do it soon.

Most people with equity in their home and great credit have already refinanced. However, if you have procrastinated, listen to the last call of “all aboard” and get on the low rate cruise ship before it leaves the harbor. If you didn’t have enough equity to qualify before, check again, because “rising (home) prices pushed 850,000 homes into the black in the first quarter.”3 If you are still underwater, you may be available to refinance through HARP. Check out the details at Harpprogram.org.

3. Lock in your rates now, if you are ready to buy.

This may help you avoid any short-term rate spikes. “Most lenders won’t charge for a 45- or 60-day rate lock.”4  Only pay for a longer rate lock if the deals are closing slowly. You should be able to ask your lender about this ahead of time. Also look for a free float down option in case the rates dip a little. Mortgage rates are still close to their all-time lows. So, lock in a rate for a long time, especially if you are looking to get a 30-year mortgage.

In this current environment, an adjustable mortgage makes sense only if you know you will move within a few years. You don’t want to get a 5-year adjustable loan and stay in the home for 30 years.

Rates going up will probably slow down the housing recovery a little, but it won’t be derailed. Rates are going up because the economy is healthier. For savers, the increase in interest rates is a mixed bag.

4. Interest in savings accounts, CD’s, and money markets will increase.

This is good news and bad news. The good news is that the abysmally low rates we have seen for the last few years will go up a little. The bad news is that you probably still won’t keep up with inflation.

One concern is that we may have inflation like we did in the ‘80s. So, if you are looking at putting your money in a CD or other investment that is locked up, avoid locking it up for a long time. For example, right now may NOT be a good time to put your money in a 5-year CD paying 1%. Inflation was already 2.1% in 2012.6

If inflation goes up higher, being locked in and earning only 1% would feel like a jail sentence. Another strategy would be to place your money in a one-year CD and roll it into a new CD every year anticipating that rates may go up each time you renew.

5. Bond investors, be cautious.

Since the market crash in 2008, many people have fled the stock market and moved into bonds in search of safety. However, bonds are not without their own risk. As inflation increases, the value of a bond may actually go down.

Many bond investors have seen this firsthand as they have watched bonds in their account stay flat or go down despite the growth in the stock market this year. This is not to say that you should get out of bonds completely. Even aggressive investors often have some bond exposure to help with the unpredictability of the future. However, in a rising interest rate environment you have to pay attention to what types of bonds may still do well and incorporate those bonds into your portfolio.

The good news is that there is a general consensus that the U.S. Economy is healthier and continuing to move in the right direction. However, this will most likely lead to higher interest rates, which can be both good and bad. Pay attention to how you will be impacted and if needed, make some moves now so the impact won’t be a tidal wave.

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Lessons of the Bitcoin

By | 2013, Executive Message, Money Moxie, Newsletter, Viewpoint | No Comments

Bitcoin is a new form of money. It is 100 percent electronic and it just exploded in popularity. In just 6 weeks a Bitcoin went from $25 to $250. What an exciting time for Bitcoin speculators. Why even question it? This is a new electronic age and the possibilities are endless.

Not so fast! On April 10, 2013, the Bitcoin imploded. In just a few hours the value of a Bitcoin fell from $266 to $76.

What is the problem with Bitcoins? Where do we begin? The synthetic currency has no intrinsic value. It represents ownership of nothing. It is not backed by any government. It is not a commonly accepted form of payment. Its owners could be hacked and robbed, or it could be replaced by a more popular made-up currency. The Bitcoin mania may turn out to be one of the most spectacular bubbles of all time.

The term bubble was first used in the early 1700s to refer to wild price fluctuations associated with the “South Sea Bubble.” Another famous episode was the Dutch tulip mania of 1637. In recent history, we have survived the dot com bubble, the real estate bubble, the oil bubble, and possibly the gold bubble.

Why are we so prone to pricing bubbles? Will they ever end?

Greed: The idea that $100 could turn into $150 tomorrow creates fans. That excitement leads them to forget that it is one of the most volatile ways to gamble. Given that it has no real value, it may be more likely to fall 50 percent than rise 50 percent.

Conformity: When opinions converge on an incorrect idea, we call it groupthink or herd mentality. When money is involved, we call these bubbles, and they are dangerous because they can be costly.What should we watch for when trying to detect a bubble?

(1) Insane predictions (with or without good explanation)

(2) Excessive attention as too many people discuss and act like experts

(3) Repeated use of the phrase “this time is different”

(4) Deviation from normal supply and demand because of manipulation

The U.S. stock market has had a string of new highs over the last few months. This in and of itself is no cause for alarm. Hitting new highs is exactly what stocks are supposed to do. That is how investors make money. (Read “Patience is a Rewarding Virtue” from the  previous issue of the Money Moxie.)

How do we know if stocks are in the process of forming a bubble? There are a few simple reasons why investors should not be overly concerned at this point.

(1) Stocks represent ownership of real companies that have value and can grow in value

(2) Valuations of companies compared to earnings are near historical averages

(3) Fundamental improvements in the economy are taking place that support a rise in the market

Bubbles involve a high degree of risk. One way to avoid unnecessary risk is to watch out for investments that don’t have real value or have deviated too far from their true value. Those values are derived from how much the next person is willing to pay.

On the other hand, stocks market gains can benefit everyone who participates. Stocks represent ownership of something real. Time has shown that carefully investing in a diversified portfolio can yield positive results over time.

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What is the Riskiest Part of Your 401(k)?

By | 2013, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

You have control over the most important factors that determine successful retirement savings in your 401(k). You control the contributions, investments, and withdrawals. You are the riskiest part of your 401(k)!

Inherent risk does not exist in a 401(k). Why? A 401(k), 403(b), IRA, or Roth IRA is not an actual investment. These are merely vehicles or accounts that allow us to save money for the future in a tax-preferred environment.

The risks come in other areas, most of which we have the ability to control. This article will discuss four of the most misunderstood risks: investment risk, active user risk, savings rate risk, and self-plundering risk.Investment Risk

Within the 401(k) or qualified retirement account, there is generally a wide variety of investment options. These include different sectors of the market and ranges of risk, as measured by volatility. These options can be conservative, aggressive, or anywhere in between.
We cannot control what the world stock and bond markets do, but we do have some control over how our money is invested and how much risk we are going to take.  As participants, we choose which of the investment options we will use. This requires us to know which mix of the options will meet our investment risk tolerance, emotional needs, and time-frame.

Active User Risk

We drive the level of risk. If we choose investment options that are too aggressive, we increase our risk. If we do not diversify among the options, we increase our risk. If we change investment options in response to information we hear or read, we may increase our risk.

The chart to the left shows how volatility in the market changes from year to year. Investors evaluate each year based on the ending market price. Was it positive or negative? Participants tend to forget that even though a year may have ended positive, we could have experienced significant volatility mid-term. Take for instance 2009. The market ended up 23.5 percent by year end. Looking back, it’s easy to forget that during that year the market was down 27.6 percent.

These periods of volatility can cause investors to get sidetracked. They forget their long-term plans. They try to outguess the market by moving in and out. These decisions are often based on emotion, and it is generally to their financial detriment.

On the flip side, some participants remember the volatility and become risk averse. They forget that over time they have experienced more positive years than negative. They forget their long-term objectives and become too conservative.

Savings Rate Risk

We have seen a significant decline in the personal saving rate among Americans. While a 401(k) allows contributions up to $17,500 each year ($23,000 for those 50 and older), many make minimal contributions. Just like investing too conservatively, saving too little will leave many far short of living a desired lifestyle at retirement.

One of the benefits of a 401(k) is that you can make systematic investments directly from your paycheck. You don’t have to sit down and write a check each month. It happens automatically. Not only that, the company may offer a matching contribution. That’s free money! Our clients experience greater success when their savings plan is set on autopilot.

At any time, investors have the ability to increase their investment amount. Unfortunately, as raises and bonuses come, rather than increase their contributions, investors often allow the raise or bonus to be absorbed into their cash flow.

Self-plundering Risk

Participants who view their 401(k) as a savings account or emergency fund fall prey to this particular risk. They access their money by taking loans or withdrawals, diminishing the opportunity for long-term growth. Even if a participant takes a loan and pays it back, they will experience opportunity loss. This is the difference between the interest rate they paid themselves through the loan and the market returns they missed out on. The difference becomes more significant when you compound the missed opportunities over their working years and throughout retirement. Taking early withdrawals is even more damaging. Participants not only miss out on long-term savings and compounding returns, but they will also pay taxes and penalties. The taxes are based on marginal tax rates, but the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty is exact.

For example, say that a participant has a 25 percent federal tax rate and a 5 percent state tax rate. If they were to take a $20,000 withdrawal from their 401(k), they would lose $8,000 (40 percent) to taxes and penalties, netting a meager $12,000. Suddenly that withdrawal doesn’t sound so enticing.

There are many misconceptions regarding risk when it comes to 401(k)s. We want to make sure you are well informed about the benefits and risks in these accounts.

As we see it, a 401(k) is an ideal vehicle that provides us with a tax-preferred way to save for the future. Will a 401(k) be enough to support someone in retirement? Probably not. While most companies offer a company-match to 401(k) participants, many no longer offer pension plans. This makes it paramount that we save more on our own for retirement.

Our investment decisions, savings habits, and our willingness to stick to a plan can prevent us from increasing our risks. Working with one of our wealth consultants can help you make the most of your 401(k) opportunities and avoid some of these risks. Having a plan and making educated choices is just the beginning.

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Can We Really Be Energy Independent?

By | 2013, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments
U.S. Energy Production is on the RiseMajor developments that have led to a boom in the energy industry have placed the United States on track to becoming the largest energy producer in the world, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia.1

 

In the State of the Union address, President Obama indicated that “we’re finally poised to control our own energy future.  We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years.”2

 

According to a Citigroup report titled Energy 2020: Independence Day, “U.S. oil and gas production is evolving so rapidly—and demand is dropping so quickly—that in just five years the U.S. could no longer need to buy oil from any source but Canada.”

 

The International Energy Agency predicts that “the United States will overtake Saudi Arabia to become the world’s biggest oil producer before 2020, and will be energy independent 10 years later.”

 

New technologies like hydraulic-fracturing, or “fracking,” have made the extraction of oil and gas from shale rock profitable.

 

In Utah, towns like Vernal and Roosevelt have had an influx of workers as oil companies race to develop new oil wells. The energy boom in Utah is just a microcosm of what is happening in the nation. More energy production creates jobs, which pump money back into the economy.  It reduces our reliance on foreign countries, which allows us to control our own future.

 

Unfortunately, energy independence by itself may not lead to lower gas prices. Canada is completely energy independent, yet their gasoline costs about the same as ours. This is because there is a global market for oil and there is one price at which it is sold.3 We may only see a decrease in prices if the cost of oil drops globally.

 

Fracking also gives us access to vast natural gas reserves. Some estimates indicate we have over a 100- year supply if consumption remains at 2010 levels.4 Higher supply and lower prices are leading to more manufacturing in the United States.

 

Many power companies are switching to natural gas to fuel their electric plants. Natural gas burns cleaner than coal. Therefore, it is easier for power plants to meet emission standards. This abundance of natural gas has also made energy bills more palatable for cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.

 

The potential benefit of energy independence is not without its hurdles. Environmental concerns, limited infrastructure, and water restrictions have slowed progress. Despite these hurdles, the race towards energy independence sprints forward. Energy independence has become a reality that may improve the economy and your pocketbook.

 

(1) Mark Thompson, “U.S. to Become Biggest Oil Producer – IEA,” CNNMoney, 11/12/12.
(2) http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/02/12/remarks-president-state-union-address.
(3) David Kestenbaum, “Energy Independence Wouldn’t Make Gasoline Any Cheaper”, NPR, 10/26/12.
(4) Gerri Willis,”What Obama Can’t Take Credit For in SOTU,” Fox Business, 1/24/12.
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A visit to the NYSE!

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SFS’s Vice President, Sharla Jessop, had the opportunity to visit the New York Stock Exchange yesterday while attending a national peer to peer study group in New York City, NY. During her stay, she will discuss strategies and ideas to better serve SFS’s clients.

Sharla Jessop at the NYSE

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Top Concern for Small Business Owners: Rising Health Insurance Costs

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A recent study by the National Federation of Independent Business ranked “Cost of Health Insurance” the number one concern for small business owners.1 This comes as no surprise as there has been much uncertainty over the impact of the Affordable Care Act, AKA “ObamaCare.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that “while ObamaCare won’t take full effect until 2014, health insurance premiums in the individual market are already rising, and not just because of routine increases in medical costs. Insurers are adjusting premiums now in anticipation of the guaranteed-issue and community-rating mandates starting next year.”2 The largest impact will be for individual coverage, where health care costs in Utah are expected to increase somewhere between 65% and 100%.3 Small employers are also expected to feel a disparate impact. Large employers will be impacted the least.

Whether you supply health insurance for your small business employees or you get alone with individual coverage, you can expect premiums to increase.

While understanding that costs will most likely increase, we also need to remember that one of the benefits of ObamaCare is that many small business owners, employees, and individuals can gain access to healthcare where they didn’t have access before.

For small business owners, there are specific rules governing how your business will be impacted next year based on the number of employees you have. For example, if you have less than 25 employees, you may actually qualify for a tax credit if you contribute 50 percent or more toward employee health insurance. Employers with 25-50 employees will have access to SHOP, the Small Business Health Options Program,
where employers can go to find coverage from a selection of providers in the marketplace. Open enrollment begins October 1, 2013.

It isn’t until you have 50 full-time equivalent employees or more that you may be subject to an “employer shared responsibility payment” beginning in 2014. It is important to understand how all of these rules may impact you. For greater detail please visit SBA.gov and IRS.gov and search for the Affordable Care Act.

So, what should you be doing as a small business owner? First, make sure you understand all of the changes and how they will impact you going forward. Then, if you feel like the cost of your insurance is increasing dramatically, shop around. Smedley Financial Services has access to individual and small business health insurance plans. We can give you a second opinion to see if you can save money or if there is a different type of plan that is more suited to your business structure.

There are so many changes happening in health care that it is hard to keep up. However, with a little research and some expert advice you can remove some of the uncertainty in your life.

1. “Uncertainty Dominates Top 5 Small Business Concerns,” National Federation of Independent Business, http://www.nfib.com/research-foundation/priorities.
2. Merrill Mathews and Mark E. Litow, “ObamaCare’s Health Insurance Sticker Shock,” Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2013.
3. Merrill Mathews and Mark E. Litow, “ObamaCare’s Health Insurance Sticker Shock,” Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2013.

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