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A Lesson from the Decathlon Gold Medalist

By | 2016, Executive Message, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Greetings Dear Friends and Financial Partners,

During this year’s Summer Games, I watched an interview with Ashton Eaton. At the time of the interview, Eaton was the reigning Gold Medalist and world-record holder in the decathlon from 2012. Eaton stated that he had a different mindset today than he had four years ago.

Eaton said his main goal four years ago was just to be there at the Summer Games. To get there, he did everything right physically. He was ready to go.

During the last four years, Eaton believed he had become smarter. This time around Eaton focused on preparing himself for all of the things he would not be able to control—the unknowable. He didn’t want to be surprised. As a result of his efforts, Ashton Eaton once again became the Gold Medalist by winning the decathlon competition in 2016.

What can we learn and how can we benefit from the paradigm shift in Eaton’s mindset?

Eaton’s 2012 training can be compared to our retirement planning. In our preparation we may focus on a financial number and like Eaton we may just be glad to be there. However, retirement is really just the starting line of another race—a race that may be different than what we expected.

There will certainly be unexpected expenses and unforeseen health challenges. Your investments will rise and fall daily in the commotion of the financial markets. How can you manage your assets in a world with so many things you cannot anticipate, let alone control?

Your investment results may ultimately be determined by how you psychologically prepare for the ups and downs of the market. It’s not the stock-market action that you should worry about. It’s your reaction to what’s happening!

At SFS, we can help you identify unforeseen events that may impact your financial well-being. We will create a plan that will help protect your assets and create an income designed to last throughout your retirement years. When the unexpected happens, you can feel confident. You have prepared. Call us.

Bullish Best Wishes,

Roger M. Smedley, CFP®
President

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Uncover Your Creative Genius to Find Fulfillment

By | 2016, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

At a young age, Erik Wahl was told by an elementary teacher that art “just wasn’t his thing.” He colored too fast and was not able to stay in the lines. His teacher’s assessment is hard to believe, especially when seeing him in action creating art on stage in front of an audience. He is amazingly talented.

Erik Wahl - Peyton Manning

Erik is a well-known graffiti artist, motivational speaker, author, and entrepreneur. While on stage, he inspires his audience to look beyond the limitations they and others have imposed, and search inside for their creative genius. Something that he advocates we all possess in some form.

In his mid-30’s, Erik discovered his artistic creativity. With a college education and successful corporate career, Erik was living the American dream. However, the dot.com bubble and subsequent economic downturn brought things to a screeching halt. In Erik’s words, “I lost everything: my money, my investments, my security, my identity.” He found himself without a job and in financial ruin. As he struggled to gain control of his circumstances, he was told to get away from things for a while and do something to help clear his mind – travel or take up painting. With no money to travel, Erik took up painting and the rest is history.

Erik advocates that we all have creative genius. The challenge is to break out of the box that acts as a ceiling on our potential. Often we think of creativity as art. In reality creativity is following your heart, acting on your convictions, and finding passion in what you daily.

If you were to ask a room full of five-year olds which was a good artist, it’s likely all of their hands would shoot up. Asking the same question in a room of adults delivers a much different result. There may be only one brave soul to raise a hand. Over the years, our idea of creative ability becomes skewed and we make unrealistic comparisons. The group of adults are probably comparing themselves to Picasso and believing they fall short. While we may not be Picasso, everyone has some creative talent. It could be that you are a good communicator, or perhaps you think outside the box and find solutions to problems that others had not considered. In both cases, you are using your creative ability.

Applying Erik’s philosophy can help inspire us to live life more fully and enjoy greater success. Regardless of the stage of life we are in – just starting out, raising a family, building a career, or crossing the bridge to retirement – using creativity will help make the journey enjoyable and more fulfilling. Too often we think in black and white, left brain or right brain. The truth is there are two sides to our brain and using both delivers a better outcome. Combining mind and heart, logic and emotion, strategy and soul can deliver powerful results.

Erik is a great example of the principles he promotes. He inspires others by opening their minds to possibilities that most have not considered. He helps others find greater fulfillment daily by bringing passion to all they do. He gives back to the community in his unique way. Erik does not sell the art he creates on stage nor can you commission him to create a painting; rather he champions charities by donating his work. At the conference, where we heard Erik speak, he created several paintings while we watched in amazement. This painting of Peyton Manning was given to Securities America to be auctioned for charity. The painting subsequently sold at auction for $5,500 and the proceeds benefited the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

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Need Help Allocating Your 401(k)?

By | 2014, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

One of the most common questions we get at SFS is “How should I invest my 401(k)?” This is a critical question, especially considering that 18% of retirement assets are tied up in these accounts (source: Investment Company Institute). Managing your 401(k) may be the most important place to place your financial focus after managing your spending.

First things first—start saving now. Starting early is the best way to get compounding rates of return to work in your favor. Remember, Albert Einstein called compounding rates of return the “8th wonder of the world.”

Next, take advantage of free money by getting the full match your employer offers. Not all 401(k) plans include a match, but if yours does, then make sure you get the full benefit. The rate at which you save is far more important than the rate of return you get. So, keep saving for the future.

Now let’s get into the investing nitty-gritty. Every person must decide how much risk to take in his or her savings. Your risk tolerance should be based on your ability, willingness, and possibly your need to take risk. It will be different than that of your friends and coworkers. It may even be different than that of your spouse.

Your ability to take risk includes factors like your overall financial situation and your time horizon. The more savings you have, the more risk you can take. The longer you plan to invest, the more risk you can take. Why? Your chances of positive returns in stocks go up the longer you invest.

Willingness to take risk is more difficult to determine. The essential question is how well will you be able to handle a drop in the value of your investments? If you view a fall in the stock market as an opportunity to buy more then you may have a high tolerance for risk.

When it comes to picking investments, the easiest route is to find an investment that approximates your retirement date. These all-in-one solutions provide some diversification. While diversification is far from a guarantee, it is still a good way to help manage risk. The pitfall of the retirement date choices is that these don’t take into account your personal situation (health, income, assets, debt, etc.) and they may not even disclose exactly how they are invested.

If you choose to select your own mix, be careful. Selecting the hottest performer last year can get you in a lot of trouble. Distributing your account balance evenly into each option is certainly not the way to go either.

This is where a little research and help from a professional can help. Give us a call. We can help you navigate the 401(k) maze.

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What’s Your Happiness Index?

By | 2014, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

We have all heard the adage “Keeping up with the Joneses.” For many, this adage reflects a perception of happiness – seeing what others have and believing it creates an abundance of happiness in their lives. In reality, the desire to have more often results in less satisfaction.

When asked, most people would say if they had $_______ more (you can fill in the blank), they would be better off, financially speaking. It’s hard for most Americans to believe someone earning a handsome six figure income, say $400,000, can feel broke. But it happens.

This “getting ahead” mentality occurs at all income levels and generally has the same effect. As our income increases, even slightly, we think: “How can I spend this additional money?” More often than not, the answer is a purchase. Maybe it’s upsizing your home, moving to a better neighborhood, getting a new car, or buying a recreational toy. There is no limit to the human desire to have more.

We’d like to introduce a new idea. Perhaps getting ahead doesn’t mean buying more stuff. After all, what exactly are we getting ahead of? Contentment and happiness come when we are comfortable living within our means.

happiness

Financial Freedom
Debt does not create freedom. The treadmill of borrowing more money to buy more stuff gets tiresome and stressful. We become so focused on finding a way to pay for our lifestyle we seldom really live in and enjoy the present. Freedom comes from having enough discretionary income to cover the unexpected curve balls life can throw your way. Discretionary income provides the flexibility to slow down and enjoy the life we are living and the lifestyle we are striving to create.
Contentment Creates Happiness
This in no way implies that we shouldn’t strive to improve our lives and better our circumstances. The point we are trying to make is that using someone else’s lifestyle as a measuring stick for our personal happiness generally has the opposite effect. If we never feel we measure up financially, we’re going to be hard pressed to feel happy or content. Setting realistic expectations and balancing wants and needs is a starting point.

From there we must break down our income to first cover non-discretionary needs. This would be a roof over head, food on the table, electricity, etc. Then we prioritize wants and determine how to use current resources to cover these items. At the end, there should be discretionary money that is not appointed to any specific goal, other than creating excess cash – savings.

The Happiness Index
Balancing our wants with the ability to pay for them is a challenge. There have to be trade-offs. Buying the newest high-end luxury car may result in a high level of debt. On the other hand, a beat up jalopy with high miles may not last long. The idea is to purchase a vehicle that meets your needs and that you can reasonably afford. That way you feel good about the purchase and still have some cash flow flexibility. This decision making process is your happiness index.

Each time you spend a large amount of money or commit monthly cash flow to an ongoing expense, ask yourself, “How will this financial transaction impact my happiness?” Applying this technique will help set you on a positive financial course. In the words of author Mitch Anthony: “Be content with what you have right now. If you can’t enjoy it now, you won’t enjoy something
better later.”

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6 Mistakes Could Send You Over The Retirement Cliff

By | 2014, Newsletter | No Comments

Retirement is a balancing act. It’s like a person walking on top of a wall. On one side is a cliff with a pool full of sharks. On the other side is a white sandy beach surrounded by blue water and a cabana set up waiting for you with a tall glass of lemonade. If you make a big mistake with your money in retirement, you can find yourself being eaten alive. If you are wise with your money, you can find more comfort and relaxation. Below are six critical mistakes that have the potential to devastate a retirement plan.

Lack of communication
You need to communicate your expectations for retirement and what it looks like. Discuss how much money you will need in order to accomplish all of the activities you want to do: travel, home remodeling, etc. Know what money is intended for major expenses and what money is intended for monthly living expenses. If you spend too much on large one-time expenses, you may seriously jeopardize your monthly income.

No measuring stick
Many retirees have no way of knowing if their money will last through retirement. In part, this is because they are not using a measuring stick. As a general rule of thumb, you should not spend more than 4 percent of your retirement assets per year. Another good benchmark is a 4-year checkup. After 4 years of retirement, if you have more money than what you started with, you should be on the right track. At Smedley Financial we use an elegant system that tracks yearly progress and lets you know whether you are going to outlive your money.

No spending plan
Too many people spend more than they should and don’t realize it until it is too late. Once they realize the mistake, they have to dramatically change their lifestyle. You should create and live by a monthly spending plan. When looking at potential expenses, evaluate how they will affect your goals. For example, helping out children can be one of your goals, but it might compete with your needs for security and independence. It is usually the hard decisions like this that seriously harm a retirement plan. With children, set clear and simple boundaries. Explain that you are taking care of yourself so they won’t have to.

Investing extremes
Many people believe that at retirement they should put their money in the bank. Others feel they need to make up for lost time and invest aggressively. Both approaches have problems. Conservative investors often underestimate the negative impact of inflation over time. You may be in retirement for 30 or 40 years. Conversely, overly aggressive investors may lose their shirts as evidenced by the recession of 2008-2009. To address these issues, take a balanced approach that doesn’t have you investing at the extremes.

No plan B
Most people assume that bad things happen to others. We realize bad things can happen to us as well, but often act as if we are willing to play the odds that it won’t. Consider this sobering fact: at age 65, a typical married couple in good health can expect to spend $260,000 on healthcare costs during their remaining lifetimes. Have a plan B in place to cover unforeseen expenses like long-term care costs, medical expenses, and home repairs that are not covered by insurance.

Falling for a scam
As always, if it seems “too good to be true” it probably is. On April 30, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) halted an IRA scam in Utah that cost investors $22 million. The company had been “paying” 12 percent on paper, but when investors tried to get their money back they were given the runaround. As with most scams, it is unlikely they will recover their money. Look out for red flags. Don’t jump in just because somebody promises great returns. Look for a track record for the product and for the company. Even if the investment seems like it is on the up-and-up, it may be a good practice to dip your toe in the water before you jump in with both feet.

Retirees get into financial trouble in dozens of ways. If you feel like you are being eaten by sharks, don’t despair. Seek out a trusted professional at Smedley Financial to help get you back on track. If you have managed to avoid these six common mistakes, give yourself a pat on the back, sit down in your private cabana looking at the crystal blue water, sip some lemonade, and enjoy the beauty of retirement.

 

  1. http://money.cnn.com/2007/08/13/pf/expert/expert.moneymag/
  2. http://www.retirementoptimizer.com/
  3. Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, “What is the Distribution of Lifetime Health Care Costs at age 65?” March 2010
  4. http://www.thinkadvisor.com/2014/04/30/sec-halts-ira-scam-that-cost-investors-22-million
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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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The American Dream (and the Cost of Procrastination)

By | 2013, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments
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Most of us hold in our hearts the dream of someday spending our time doing things that bring only fulfillment to our lives and shrugging the requirements outlined by the careers we have chosen. This dream is better known as retirement. Unfortunately, there is a growing trend among Americans—the propensity to “do it tomorrow.”
It is hard to imagine that we unwittingly defeat our own dreams. Here are some insights and a few disturbing facts on how that happens.
Cost of Procrastination
The cost of procrastination
Every year that we fail to put money aside for the future has an impact on our future dreams. For example, let’s say Rich is 25 years old and saves $100 each month for retirement. By the time he is 67 he will have saved over $307,000 (assuming a 7 percent rate of return). Contrast that with Joe who saves the same amount each month and the same growth rate, but waits to start his plan until he is 40. When Joe reaches age 67, he will have saved just over $97,000. That’s a $200,000 difference.
In order for Joe to catch up to Rich by age 67, he would have to save $317 per month. The difference becomes even greater if Rich and Joe contribute to a 401(k) plan where the company matches contributions.
Every year that we delay saving for the future has a significant impact on our ability to reach our financial dream. This is true whether we are 25, 45, or 65. Lack of action thwarts any financial goals.
savings
The result of procrastination
Among U.S. workers, 57 percent said that they have less than $25,000 in total household savings
and investments, excluding the value of their home, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
Since 1973, we have watched the savings rate in the United States drop steadily from its high of 11 percent. In February 2013, the personal saving rate was a paltry 2.6 percent. At this rate it’s no wonder that 28 percent of Americans said they are “not at all confident” that they have saved enough for retirement.
The decline in savings couldn’t come at a worse time. Today’s retirees are faced with longer life spans and higher retirement costs. All of this at a time when only 3 percent of us have a defined benefit plan (pension) through our employers. In addition, we face changes to Social Security benefits. The old three-legged-stool approach to saving for retirement is no longer a viable analogy. The stool has now changed to a pogo stick and we are at the center. The burden to plan and prepare for retirement has been shifted almost entirely to us.
With everyone sounding the alarm, why are we not heeding the call? Simply said, it’s our financial behaviors. Goals are not physically impossible to reach; we simply lack the self-discipline to stick to them.
The battle within
On a daily basis everyone faces the battle between our present self and our future self. We paint a picture of what we want the future to look like, whether it’s retirement, moving to a new home, or building a nest egg. We have a good feeling about the future we’ve projected. But to get to that future point we have to overcome our present self.
Our present self is in power today while our future self is nowhere to be seen. Sure, we want to be happy in retirement, but in order to make that happen we have to feel pain right now. There is only so much money in each paycheck. Saving will require us to give up something we want right now. There’s the pain! We see saving for the future as an immediate loss. It forces us to deviate from our desired lifestyle. We may have to give up something we want now—a bigger home, a new car, or a vacation—to have the lifestyle we want later. We are constantly forced to make decisions that deny us of immediate gratification and quite frankly, it’s hard.
The commitment device
Sticking to our goals first requires us to set goals. We are not generally driven or motivated by facts and figures. Decisions are strongly driven by our emotions.
How do we feel about the outcome of a decision? Incorporating the emotional side of planning with the facts, will help us to create a commitment device. The value of a commitment device is that we can attach a feeling, present and future, to the decisions we make.
What is most important to us today? How do we want the future to look? What lifestyle do we want to live during retirement? These are just a few of the ideas that must be considered when designing our future dreams. Our answers help direct us in creating a template that can be used in our financial plan.
In creating financial and retirement plans for our clients we begin with their personal values and goals. This helps us to match the present self with the future self in mapping out a plan to help reach those goals. By meeting with our clients regularly we help keep them focused on the end result.
The three legged stool approach to retirement savings is no longer a viable analogy.

The three legged stool approach to retirement savings is no longer a viable analogy.

Maybe it’s time for you to create a plan. Maybe it’s time for an update or review. Or perhaps you know someone else who could benefit from having a plan. Contact one of our wealth management consultants and find out how we can help. Your success is our goal.
Research by Smedley Financial Services, Inc.® For illustrative purposes only. Not intended as an actual situation or as a recommendation. Sources: Employee Benefit Research Institute and U.S. Department of Commerce.
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Becoming Financially Aware

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

Dear Valued Clients and Friends,

Over the years, people I randomly see will almost always ask my opinion about the market, gold, the economy, etc. They might say that they successfully got out of the market, but they never knew when to get back in. As a result they never did get back in the market.

I simply tell these good folks that “making those tough decisions is exactly what we do for our clients at Smedley Financial.”

Our best clients are those that have a good financial education. By that I mean they understand what we are striving to do for them in terms of protecting and growing their wealth. This is all done with respect to our clients’ goals, resources, ages, and risk tolerances. We don’t want our clients to outlive their resources. We want their money to last as long as they do!

Investment management and financial planning are not simply one-time events, but rather they are ongoing, living, and dynamic processes. Regular communications and visits are more essential than ever with respect to life’s events, financial and otherwise.

We invite you to come in and see us or call us so that we can be of the most service and benefit to you.

Bullish Best Wishes,

Roger M. Smedley, CFP®
President

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