Tag

savings

This Is What We Recommend In an Old Bull Market

By | 2019, Newsletter, Viewpoint | No Comments

Economies fluctuate. They always have. They probably always will. These cycles are imperfect and a little chaotic. That’s what makes them so difficult to predict.

Most people would say we are currently in a bull market and we have been in it since March of 2009. That makes it over 10 years old and the longest bull market ever.

Bull markets don’t die of old age. However, some of the current data is positive, and some is negative. That means a recession in the next twelve months is unlikely, but we should expect a rough road ahead.

What should we be doing ten years into an economic expansion? We should get our finances in order. That means more than just our investment portfolios. We should take a good look at all of our savings and spending as well.

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Where to Park Cash

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Let’s say you received an inheritance, or you sold your home or business, or you earned a big bonus. Where do you park your cash while you decide how to make the best use of it? The best short-term account is the one that best matches your needs. Call us to talk about what would be best in your situation. Here are a few ideas to consider:

Savings accounts, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit are FDIC or NACU insured up to $250,000 and offer a fixed rate of return. Other investments are not insured and their principal and yield may fluctuate with market conditions.

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Your Leading Indicators

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

Dear Financial Partners and Friends!

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

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

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

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

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

Bullish Best Wishes,

Roger M. Smedley, CFP®
CEO

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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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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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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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Women Should Save 2 Percent More Than Men

By | 2016, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

In an age where women have an increased influence in the workforce, it doesn’t seem right that women have to save more than men for retirement. However, that is what the research from Hewitt Associates suggests.

There are several contributing factors to this need, some inherent and some that can be corrected. An inherent factor for women is a longer lifespan—living an average of three years longer than men after retirement. The extra 2 percent is needed for the additional insurance cost for a longer life. The lower average yearly salary for women ($57,000) compared to a man’s ($84,000) indicates that a woman should save a higher percentage to match the dollar amount men save. Some correctable factors include: waiting longer to start saving for retirement, investing more conservatively, and not taking advantage of the company match in a 401(k).

Women are able to close the retirement gap by taking a few simple steps.

• Invest early and increase contribution rates. One goal should be to contribute 10-20 percent of gross income into a retirement account. This doesn’t have to be done at once; contributions can be marginally increased each year.

• Ask for advice. Many women feel insecure about managing finances. A wealth management professional can help determine personal risk tolerance and how aggressively to invest money.

• Leave a 401(k) invested. If suspending work due to family reasons, don’t cash out a 401(k)—this avoids taxes and hefty penalties. A 401(k) can be rolled-over into an IRA or professionally managed account.

• Put off retirement for a few years. This may be painful but could mean a great deal down the road. Don’t sacrifice the future for the present.

Women have several challenges that make retirement preparation more difficult. Recognizing these issues and making small changes in their saving and investing habits can have a significant impact.

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Americans Are Taking Control of Their Money

By | 2016, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Do you remember what America was like in 2006? If we could give the year a financial theme, I would label it, “Borrow and Spend!” Buying a home was easy; no verification of employment and no down payment were necessary. An interest-only loan could be obtained without any reasonable expectation of one’s ability to repay the loan.

As a matter of fact, you could borrow up to one-hundred percent of a home’s value, skip a month’s payment, and even cash out any value that had come from the rising price of the home. Leverage was the hot financial fad! Many Americans borrowed as much as they could and bought whatever they wanted!

money

What a difference ten years can make. Contrast 2006 with 2016; today people are taking control of their financial situations, putting themselves in the driver’s seat, and keeping their own hands on the steering wheel. Financial responsibility is much more prevalent.

Disposable income —the money we have left to spend after taxes have been paid—has increased at an average rate of just less than one percent per year over the past ten years. So income is up a little. This makes the fact that personal saving is up very impressive. We have seen the personal savings rate increase from 3 percent at the end of 2005 to 5.5 percent at the end of 2015.

This significant improvement demonstrates a shift for Americans towards greater financial strength. Here are some of the positive outcomes.Americans saving

Reduction in personal debt
Still smarting from the financial pinch of the last recession, cash flow is now king. For many of us the perception of acceptable levels of debt has changed significantly. Debt is financial fragility, which is why Americans again recognize the value of getting out of debt as quickly as possible. Many have taken advantage of low-interest rates and refinanced to shorter-term loans. Paying off short-term loans such as car loans and signature loans is now a priority, and the use of credit card debt has reduced significantly.

Spending less
Knowing what we should do and putting it into practice can be challenging. This is especially true when it comes to living within your means. However, it is possible and it is powerful. No other financial habit is more important!

We have had the opportunity to meet with many people that have adopted the philosophy of a simpler lifestyle. This allows them to enjoy what they have without the pressure to get more “stuff” and then live with the financial burden. Managing spending also impacts our future lifestyle. If we spend everything today…what will we live on in retirement?

Increased accessible savings
After experiencing financial instability, many people have gained a witness of the need for liquidity. Access to emergency money to cover needs for 3 to 6 months has been widely recommended for decades, but it has gained new favor in the last 10 years. The wisdom of this applies beyond those still working. Retirees are also paying attention to liquid savings to make sure they can cover the unexpected emergencies that will surely come.

Focus on planning for the future
A shift has taken place in young people as well. They are saving for their futures at the beginning of their careers. Company-sponsored retirement plans such as 401(k) or 403(b), as well as individual IRA or Roth IRA, are now common to this young generation and they are off to a strong start.

Financial Health

Those who see retirement on the horizon have a new goal. They want to maintain a comfortable lifestyle throughout their retirement years. With fewer pension plans providing retirement income, the burden to provide income during retirement has been shifted to them. Many have hit the ceiling on contributing to their retirement plans and are using additional savings to help them reach their goals.

It is clear that over time all things can change; the market, our spending and savings habits, even our perception of what’s important financially. We have learned many valuable lessons and have made significant strides to improve our financial situations. The next ten years will undoubtedly bring more changes; some will be good and some will be bad. Remember to prepare when times are good and don’t fall prey to the next financial fad. Keep in mind that you are in the driver’s seat.

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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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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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