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Retire without Debt

By | 2018, Newsletter | No Comments

Only 38% of American retirees are debt free. The type of debt may surprise you—mortgage, credit card, auto loan, and even student loan. The impact of debt on a fixed income can be distressing as it reduces discretionary spending and, in some cases, forces retirees to cut their standard of living.

Source: Society of Actuaries® 2017 Risks and Process of Retirement Survey – Report of Findings

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Could You Unknowingly Disinherit Your Kids?

By | 2018, Money Moxie | No Comments

The answer is yes! Most people spend countless hours determining how their money will be divided among their family and loved ones. They even go so far as to have it formalized in their will or trust.

Unfortunately, when it comes to naming the beneficiaries on 401(k) and other retirement accounts, most people spend only minutes making this important decision. Furthermore, many have not reviewed the decisions in 10, 20, or even 30 years. A lot can change during that period of time (additional children, death, divorce).

Retirement accounts are distributed based on who is listed on a company’s signed-beneficiary form. Even if you have elected to have your assets divided a specific way in your will or trust, if your 401(k) does not match it will not happen.

Reviewing your beneficiary designations can prevent an undesirable outcome at your death. If you have questions or need help in reviewing your beneficiary designations give our office a call (800) 748-4788.

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Good Planning Could Save Your Retirement

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

As individuals, many of our philosophies and habits about money and finances originate from our personal experiences and from the experiences we have observed from those around us–parents, family, friends.

Good or bad, we engage in behaviors that we believe will bring us financial success and happiness. If we see someone suffer from a financial shock, like the loss of a job, we think: “I am not going to live paycheck to paycheck. I am going to build an emergency savings account so that I will have money to fall back on.”

So, what happens when people plan based on preconceived ideas developed from bad information? This poor planning will kill your retirement dreams. And unfortunately, it’s more common than you think.

I recently came across a report compiled by the Society of Actuaries–2017 Risks and Process of Retirement Survey. The focus was retirement concerns and preparation and overall financial wellness among pre-retirees and retirees. It covered everything from debt in retirement, to housing concerns, to the impact of financial shocks, to working longer. It also covered the sense of well-being and preparedness among pre-retirees and retirees that use an advisor and have implemented a plan.

After reading the report, I was surprised at the percentage of retirees that felt unprepared for the financial aspects of retirement and their income needs. I included some of the highlights in the graphics on the next page. My conclusion? Many retirees have too much debt, poor spending habits, and would benefit from the help of a financial advisor.

We are so grateful for the opportunity to help you, our clients, plan for a successful financial future. We thoroughly enjoy creating each plan, focusing on the known and preparing for the unknown events that may impact you. Thank you for allowing us to help you on your financial journey.

Best Wishes,

Sharla J. Jessop, CFP®
President

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Financially Savvy Women

By | 2018, Money Moxie | No Comments

Just Getting Started

You are starting your financial life with a blank canvas. . . you are the artist. You can create a lifetime of financial freedom if you start with a few simple habits and follow them purposefully.

3 Tips to get you headed in the right direction:

1. Get a handle on your spending and keep debt at a minimum. Save for the things you want rather than borrowing. It may take longer but the reward will be that much sweeter.

2. Determine your top three financial goals—build emergency savings, get out of debt, buy a car, save for a down payment for a home, etc.—and create a plan of action.

3. Let compound interest work for you. Contribute to a 401(k), IRA, or Roth IRA and be sure to capture the full company match.

Settling Into Life

Mid-life offers the opportunity to regroup. Your family has a routine, your career is well underway, and you are looking to the future. This is an ideal time to create or refine your financial plan.

You may have up to 20 years before your retirement dream becomes a reality. Focusing on these items will help you reach your goals:

Increase your retirement contribution. If you are falling short, you still have time to make an impact.

Get rid of mortgage debt before you retire. Debt in retirement can reduce your standard of living and prevent you from living the way you had hoped.

Update your financial plan. Make adjustments if needed.

On Your Own

Suddenly single. . . now what? You may find yourself unexpectedly on your own. While the prospects of being on your own may seem overwhelming, we are here to help guide you through this transition.

4 items to focus on first. Taking control of your financial situation will give you confidence and peace of mind:

1. Sources of income. They may include your salary, insurance proceeds, assets from a settlement.

2. Outgoing expenditures. What expenses will you have monthly and annually.

3. Update documents. Insurance and retirement plan beneficiaries.

4. Review portfolio and plan. This includes investment holdings and options. Make sure they still meet your needs.

Reaping Life’s Rewards

You are living the life you’ve dreamed of and enjoying your standard of living. Count on living a long life. Now is the time to get your house in order—so to speak. What’s your financial legacy? Money . . . or financial values.

Top goals. These are the things that should be top on your list:

Review your income plan. Make sure your money lasts as long as you do.

Update your estate planning documents. Do they meet your goals? Determine the best way to pass assets to the next generation.

Have a family meeting. If you want your family to be involved, they need to know what to expect.

Designate a trusted contact who can help you financially.

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One-Trick Financial Advisors

By | 2018, Money Moxie | No Comments

It pains me to say this of a profession that I love, but too many financial advisors are just one-trick salesmen who want to make a quick buck.

How do you spot a one-trick financial advisor? Their answer to EVERY question is either life insurance or an annuity. However, they won’t tell you that is what they are offering.

You’ll hear phrases like, “If you invest with us you can take your money out TAX-FREE in retirement.” Or “Do you want double-digit returns with NO DOWNSIDE RISK?” These “advisors” are throwing out flashy fishing lures to hook you. Here is what those phrases really mean.

The way you can take out your money “TAX-FREE in retirement” is by using an insurance policy that is either whole life or indexed universal life. You build up cash value in the policy over years and you can take a LOAN that is potentially tax-free.

However, the “advisors” usually don’t mention upfront that this is a life insurance policy. They just want to get you hooked before they share all of the details. They also rarely mention that if you take out too much, then you surrender the policy and may be subject to a large tax bill, blowing up the possibility of tax-free income.

To “avoid DOWNSIDE RISK” you use an indexed annuity–also from an insurance company. You lose some upside potential to avoid some downside risk. Of course, the insurance company takes a healthy cut and the “advisor” gets a nice paycheck too.

However, the sales person usually glosses over the fact that your money will be locked up for 7-10 years and that there are hefty penalties to get out early.

Now, it may sound like I am against insurance and annuities, which is not true. I sell them when they fit a client’s needs. I am against how one-trick financial advisors use them as “the only thing you need.” They tout their products as the hottest-thing-since-sliced-bread, but there is no one-size-fits-all product.

In reality, there are many good opportunities to use life insurance and/or annuities as ONE PART of your plan. However, doing so should be tied back to meeting your goals.

Life insurance is essential to protect your family if you pass away too soon or great if you want to leave a larger inheritance. Indexed annuities are good as a CD replacement for money that you don’t need for 7-10 years. It should typically be 20% or less of your portfolio.

I’ve seen too many good people get stuck in products that they don’t understand and many times don’t even need.

To get what you really need, use a holistic planner with a CFP® designation, like the advisors at SFS. We understand the nuances of investment products and use your goals to determine which to use.

So, if you have any questions about something you heard on the radio or from a friend, call us. We are happy to talk about all investment products–how they work and if they fit your financial goals.

 

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.

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Your Future Is Here. Now What?

By | 2017, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

You’ve worked hard for your future and now it is here. Thirty-six holes, a fishing trip, and a dip in the hot springs–and it’s only Thursday. Now what?

Maybe you have always dreamed of working with 4H or the Boys and Girls Club of America. Perhaps you’ve realized that you need a little bit more income in retirement for the lifestyle you want; or you retired early and want health insurance until Medicare kicks in.

If any of these situations sounds familiar, it might be worth considering an encore career. Some encore careers are part-time roles in similar industries, while others involve finding a new role.

Luckily, there are several resources available for those considering an encore career. The AARP website (www.aarp.org) has a section on encore careers while organizations like encore.org (www.encore.org) aim to create a movement to give back to communities.

There is also another resource that you may be overlooking: SFS. Hopefully, a successful career and your relationship with us has put you on the path to financial freedom.

We can help you develop an income distribution plan using your current assets to subsidize your new, probably reduced income, and to ensure your monthly income is sustainable.

In addition to helping with the transition, we can help you throughout your encore career. We will continue to monitor your financial health and manage income distribution while also providing advice on things like health insurance, Medicare, and Social Security strategies.

Discuss the options for an encore career with us. It can be a great way to continue being involved in your community and it can help with your financial freedom.

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After 35 Years, the 401(k) Dominates Retirement Savings

By | 2017, Money Moxie | No Comments

The people who helped start the 401(k) revolution in 1981 lament what has become of it. At the time, the hope was just to help supplement a traditional pension program. The reality is that 401(k)s have replaced pension plans as the main retirement savings vehicle.

Herbert Whitehouse, a Human Resources executive for Johnson & Johnson, was one of the first to recommend his executives use a 401(k) as a tax-free way to defer compensation. “We weren’t social visionaries,” he says. They were looking for ways to cut expenses and retain top workers. However, because many companies have jumped on the bandwagon, pensions are becoming a thing of the past.

Traditional pension plans do have their weaknesses: bankruptcies could weaken or wipe out the plan, and it is difficult for employees to transfer the plan to a new company.

Enter the 401(k) with the promise that an employee could have enough savings for retirement. Teresa Ghilarducci, who directed the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis offered assurances to Union Boards and even to Congress that 3 percent savings would be enough. She now admits the first calculations were a little “too rosy.”

There were other issues policy makers didn’t take into account, such as workers yanking the money out of the 401(k) or choosing investments unsuitable for their ages.

Only 61 percent of eligible workers are currently saving. A whopping 52 percent of households are at risk of running low on money during retirement.4 These are scary numbers. It is no wonder people fear running out of money more than they fear death.5

The nation’s policy makers and some states have made proposals or started initiatives to help change the behaviors of savers and companies. One proposal would mandate retirement savings and the system would be run by the Social Security Administration. However, we are a ways off from having a solution to a societal problem that could be compounded by the Social Security trust fund running dry by 2034.6

The onus is on each one of us to save for retirement and implore our parents, children, friends, and even neighbors to help patch the holes in a sinking ship by saving for retirement.

The bright spots are the people that have benefited from the 401(k). For example, Robert Reynolds could retire comfortably at age 64 after saving for 3 decades. He says the formula is very simple, “If you save at 10 percent plus a year and participate in your plan, you will have more than 100 percent of your annual income for retirement.”7

Like it or not, we live in a world where 401(k) accounts have nearly eliminated pensions. Your financial future is your responsibility. So, make a personal commitment to save for your future.

 

1. The Champions of the 401(k) Lament the Revolution They Started, Wall Street Journal, Jan 2, 2017
2. The Champions of the 401(k) Lament the Revolution They Started, Wall Street Journal, Jan 2, 2017
3. The Champions of the 401(k) Lament the Revolution They Started, Wall Street Journal, Jan 2, 2017
4. The Champions of the 401(k) Lament the Revolution They Started, Wall Street Journal, Jan 2, 2017
5. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/older-people-fear-this-more-than-death-2016-07-18
6. http://money.cnn.com/2016/06/22/pf/social-security-medicare/
7. The Champions of the 401(k) Lament the Revolution They Started, Wall Street Journal, Jan 2, 2017

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Gambling – with Your Retirement?

By | 2017, Money Moxie, Viewpoint | No Comments

To encourage better investment behavior, the Nasdaq stock exchange plans to reward investors willing to commit. In 2016, the exchange introduced plans for an “Extended Life Order.” In today’s fast-paced world, how long a commitment does the Nasdaq want for an extended life trade? One second!

Information travels fast in 2017 and the stock market seems to hit highs every week. Nevertheless, I believe it is the patient, long-term investors that should benefit the most.

It’s hard to define long-term perfectly, but it is a lot more than one second–possibly somewhere above 315 million seconds, which is around ten years.

With this in mind, I think it is a good time to consider what kind of investor we want to be and what attributes we need to be successful.

Speculator/Gambler
Investing is different than gambling in many fundamental ways. However, it is still possible for investors to speculate with their savings. A speculator trades often based on short-term events hoping that a price will continue to rise or fall—anticipating a quick exit in a couple months, weeks, days, or less.

Investor
An investor purchases ownership in a company to help it raise money for profitable projects. As an owner, investors may even receive dividends.

Attributes for Success
To help determine what kind of investor you are, ask yourself, “How much would you accept in a year instead of $1,000 right now?”

Let’s hope your answer isn’t too far off one thousand dollars. The greater your number, the less financial patience you have—and patience is crucial to gaining wealth. It impacts spending, savings, and investing.

Combine patience with a little courage and then an investor truly has a chance at participating in the long-term opportunities that the markets have to offer.

Warren Buffett is one of the wealthiest individuals in the world. He built his fortune by being greedy when others were fearful and fearful when others were greedy. He purchased stocks in some of the most frightening times like during the Great Recession of 2008-2009.

Is Buffett a speculator or an investor? He certainly has patience and courage. When asked about his ideal time frame for holding an investment, Warren Buffett replied: “Forever!” Now that is an “extended life” commitment!

 

Sources: “Enhancing Long-Term Liquidity-Nasdaq Introduces the Extended Life Order” Nelson Griggs, Nasdaq.com, August 18, 2016
“Investor or Speculator: Which One Are You?” Jason Zweig, WSJ, December 10, 2016

Research by SFS. The Dow Jones index is often considered to represent the U.S. stock markets. One cannot invest directly in an index. Diversification does not guarantee positive results. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and may not actually come to pass. This information is subject to change at any time, based upon changing conditions. This is not a recommendation to purchase any type of investment.

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Retirement is Full of Surprises

By | 2017, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Retirement was only a few years away for Dan and Patti, and they knew it was time to get everything in order. Living in sunny southern California was wonderful, but they felt it was not the best place for them to retire. It was crowded, the cost of living was high, the traffic deplorable, and it would not allow them to be debt-free at retirement. All things pointed to finding a new city to retire to.

Five years ago, Dan and Patti started their search. Resources, such as Forbes 10 best places to retire, helped them create a list of potential cities. Some cities were easy to check off–they didn’t meet Dan and Patti’s list of must haves:

  • Small but with services including a hospital and modern medical facilities
  • Home price that allowed them to retire debt-free
  • Outdoor activities
  • Favorable tax structure
  • Growing economy
  • Community activities like continuing education

By 2015 they had created a short-list and began visiting the cities to get a feel for the local culture and people.

One year from their proposed retirement date they started planting the seeds in their new city. They purchased a home that could be rented until they were ready to move. They started preparing their home in California to go on the market. The wheels were in motion.

Throughout this five-year process they planned, reviewed, and updated their retirement and income distribution plans. This helped them feel financially confident about this exciting, but unnerving, life transition. It also gave them the financial framework to make their important decisions.

Today, Dan and Patti are living their retirement dream. They are excited about building their new network of friends, doctors, and social connections in their new community. Their new favorite saying is “We don’t have to if we don’t want to because we are retired!”

Some of the challenges they faced throughout the transition into retirement:
Timing the sale of their home
Continuation of medical coverage for a younger spouse
Slow response from employer’s human resource department regarding retirement benefits
Keeping important papers close at hand during the move
Finding temporary place to live until their new home was ready
Small things such as getting a library card while temporarily living outside of the city

Controlling your own time
Less stress and more fun is how Rolayne describes retirement. After a long and rewarding career she decided it was time to turn in her walking papers and she hasn’t looked back. Rolayne says she is busier now than she was before, but now she sets the pace.

Retiring gave Rolayne more time to help care for her aging father before he passed away; something she is thankful she was able do.
She lives an active lifestyle and as an outdoor enthusiast, regardless of the season, she can be found taking a hike or snow shoeing in the mountains. She also enjoys the flexibility retirement offers so she can spend more of her time volunteering for her church. Basically, she is doing what she wants, when she wants and loving every minute.

Retirement is delightful; however, there was some trepidation getting to this point. Navigating health care in retirement was a big concern. Rolayne found that putting the various pieces of Medicare and supplemental coverage together was frustrating and overwhelming.

While there are numerous resources available, it was still difficult to make sure she had the right coverage for her situation. Rolayne sought help from a health insurance professional who could review her options and help her find the right coverage.

Without a pension to provide a stable monthly income, Rolayne knew she needed a plan for using the nest egg she had created. Longevity runs in her family; her income distribution plan is designed with the goal of helping her nest egg provide income throughout her retirement years.

Looking forward to retirement
Retirement should be an exciting phase of life. While transitioning from a career into retirement can be stressful, a plan can help relieve some of that stress and provide a better understanding and framework for this chapter of life.

Using years of experience, we have helped clients navigate the many obstacles of this transition. Let us help you.

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How Much Should You Save For Retirement?

By | 2017, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Research shows that we, as Americans, are saving far too little to support retirement lifestyles similar to our current lifestyles. There are three major headwinds that make things worse: people are living longer and will need more money, companies are doing away with pension programs, and Social Security benefits may be reduced if action isn’t taken to shore up the Social Security trust fund.

The pendulum has swung from the World War II generation of savers to the Baby Boom generation of spenders. Inertia has a way of making the pendulum swing back to where we will become savers again.

A perfect example is the Millennial generation. Their first financial experience is the “Great Recession” of 2008 and now they are outpacing the other generations for retirement savings. Rather than wait for outside forces to compel you, start to supersize your savings to make sure your retirement will be everything you dream.

Reference the infographic to see how you stack up to other people in your age group. The infographic shows how many times of your salary you should have saved, an example of how much that is, and what the median savings amount is per age.

Notice how the people in their 20s and 30s are on track for retirement savings. It is really in 40s, 50s, and 60s where people fall behind. This is due to a myriad of reasons such as not saving enough, losing a job, or a major medical expense.

If you are on track for retirement, congratulations. Keep up the good work. If you feel like you are behind, don’t despair. The best thing you can do is to get your ship sailing in the right direction: Get out of debt, pay down your mortgage, and start socking away money.

You should be saving 10-15 percent of your own money towards retirement. If that doesn’t seem possible, try to increase your retirement savings by 2 percent now and then increase it 1 percent each year.

Saving for the future is not always easy, but it is worth it. If you want a personalized analysis to see if you are on track for retirement, please contact one of our private wealth managers.

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