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retirement planning

Women and Retirement Challenges

By | 2021, Money Matters, Newsletter | No Comments

The pandemic expanded the chasm women face when planning for retirement. Many women put their careers on hold or significantly reduced their work hours to stay at home becoming educators, primary caregivers, and much more. This has left many feeling ill-prepared for retirement.

Many women, fortunately, had the option to continue working from home. However, according to a report by Qualtrics, only 13% of women working remotely with children at home say they received a pay increase compared to 26% of men. This has only widened the pay gap observed by many working women.

Why is this so important? Women already face many challenges in planning for retirement. Typically, they have shorter career spans, entering the workforce later or working fewer hours while raising a family. They also leave the workforce early to care for aging parents. In both instances, their earning power is impacted and reduces their overall retirement savings and the benefit of long-term compounded growth.

Longevity is another challenge. Women outlive men on average by 5-6 years. When planning for retirement, this means more money is required to provide for those additional years. It is no surprise that 6 women in 10 do not expect their income to last their lifetime. To say it another way, 60% of women expect to run out of money during retirement. It is no wonder women are concerned.

Luckily, it is not all doom and gloom. Women can feel confident about retirement with some advanced planning. A plan will help you understand how your current saving and investing habits will impact your financial goals and can uncover potential shortfalls in retirement income. It will help you determine how to plan for specific milestones and at retirement when to access Social Security to maximize your benefits. It will provide a strategy to manage risk and allocate your assets to outpace inflation. All of this is done with a focus on your personal financial values and goals. Over the following few issues of our Money Matters newsletter, we will dive into some of these planning concerns.

For today, we will start with the most important: saving and investing habits. In the popular book, The Richest Man in Babylon, author George S. Clason points out that a part of everything you earn is yours to keep. This means you need to pay yourself first. Just like you pay your mortgage, utilities, auto loans, etc., start by putting yourself at the top of the budget list. If you are at the top, it is more likely you will get paid. On the other hand, if you put saving at the end of the list, you may not get paid when the money runs thin.   

To have money for future needs, you must love your future self as much as you love yourself today. This might mean giving up a few of the things you enjoy so you can save money for later. However, it is not an all-or-nothing choice. Take, for instance, your retirement savings. Employers provide 401(k), 403(b), or other types of plans where you contribute directly from your paycheck. The employer might sweeten the deal by matching what you put in up to a specific limit. If you are currently saving a percentage of your income, increase that percentage annually or each time you receive a pay increase. Saving 10% to 15% of your income annually will help you prepare for the future and allow you to maintain and enjoy your retirement years.

If you do not have an employer-sponsored plan, do not worry. You can contribute to an IRA or Roth IRA. Here, you can make an annual contribution or, even better, make a monthly contribution. Put everything on autopilot, so you do not have to think about it every month.

The sooner you begin saving and investing, the more compounded growth you will receive. Over time, this can amount to a large part of your nest egg. If you are just out of college with your first job, sign up for your company-sponsored plan. If you are behind the curve and retirement is not too far off, augment your retirement saving with non-retirement accounts. There is no limit on how much you can save in a non-retirement account. There is also no requirement on when or how much money you must take out of the account. You are in complete control.

Now, think about your personal situation. Do you have a plan for the future? Are you saving enough to meet your goals and maintain an enjoyable lifestyle in your retirement years? If you answer these questions with anything other than yes, give us a call. We can help assure you are on track for a successful financial future.

In the next issue of Money Matters, we will cover how inflation impacts retirement income.

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Supersized Retirement Savings

By | 2020, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

If you want to supersize your retirement savings for early retirement or help you make up for lost time, consider a mega backdoor Roth. It can allow you to stash up to another $37,500 into retirement savings, which will grow tax-free. In an environment where taxes may go up because of government debt, this can be a very worthwhile proposition. It is especially beneficial for earners that make too much to contribute to a regular Roth or have too much in IRA assets to do a regular backdoor Roth. Of course, there are hurdles and restrictions.

The first hurdle is maxing out your 401(k) or Roth 401(k) contributions. In 2020, the limit is $19,500, or $26,000 if over age 50. If you aren’t contributing enough to hit these thresholds, then a mega backdoor Roth doesn’t apply. If you are hitting these thresholds, then your normal contributions should probably be pre-tax, and the backdoor Roth can serve as your after-tax savings. (It may not make sense to put all of your contributions into the Roth bucket if you are taxed at 37% federally.)

If you earn less than $124,000 or $196,000 filing jointly, then you are still eligible to contribute to your normal Roth IRA. Make that contribution first, which can be $6,000 or $7,000 if over age 50. If you earn more than the limits, then a mega backdoor Roth is your only retirement savings option.

The next big hurdle is your 401(k) plan. Only 43% of companies allow for after-tax contributions. In addition, the company 401(k) plan needs to allow for in-service distributions into the Roth. If the plan checks both of these boxes, then the contributions go into the after-tax portion, and the plan administrator can convert those assets into a Roth.

If the plan doesn’t allow for in-service distributions, then you can still put money in after-tax, but the earnings will only be tax-deferred. Usually at age 59½ or at retirement, you can place the after-tax portion into a Roth IRA, and the tax-deferred portion can go into a traditional IRA. This somewhat defeats the purpose as the goal is to get as much as possible into a Roth as soon as possible to allow for tax-free growth.

If you have jumped over these hurdles, then you are ready to stash money away. In 2020, you can put a maximum of $57,000 into a retirement plan, including your contributions and the company’s match. So, if you put in $19,500, and the company matches $5,500, then you can put in up to $32,000 more in the mega backdoor Roth. Talk about supersizing your retirement savings!

The major benefit of a mega backdoor Roth over a regular backdoor Roth conversion is not having to deal with the pro-rata rule. In a normal backdoor Roth, whatever you convert is proportionate across all of your IRAs. So, if you have any sizable amount in pre-tax IRA (i.e., traditional IRA), then you have to convert and pay taxes on the proportional amount converted from the IRA. Depending on the size of your IRA, and if you are under age 59½, this can really hurt. Since the mega backdoor Roth takes place in a 401(k), that pro-rata rule doesn’t apply.

While there are hurdles and restrictions, the mega backdoor Roth can be a great way to supersize your retirement savings. If you have any questions on how this can help you reach your goals, please contact our Private Wealth Managers.

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The Emotional Cycle of Investing

By | 2020, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Emotions are a dominating force that impacts every aspect of our lives. The decisions we make, the interpretation of our experience, even our very personalities are all primarily influenced by our emotions. We are neurobiologically wired to create, feel, and think by emotion. In so many ways, our perceived realities are governed not by facts, but by feelings.

Psychologists believe that emotions drive 80% of the choices we make, while practicality and objectivity only represent 20% of our decision-making. This is because our brain has two sides, the thinking side, and the feeling side. The thinking brain is slow, rational, and objective. It deliberately, methodically, and logically reasons through information. The feeling brain is much faster. It is impulsive, emotional, and unconscious. It is also our default decision-making system.

How often do we describe the reason for a decision by saying, “It feels right?” Yet strangely, the mechanism we rely on most when making decisions is so fickle that it can be greatly altered even by what we ate (or did not eat).

This is why Dave Ramsey said that personal finance is not a math problem, but a behavior problem. Investors are emotional. Thus, they judge investment decisions mainly by emotion. This can have expensive consequences.

Most investors go through a recurring cycle that follows the market. This emotional cycle often leads an investor to make the wrong decision at the wrong time. You have heard the saying, “Buy low and sell high.” Logically, this means buying when everyone is feeling despondent (selling) and selling when everyone is feeling euphoric (buying). This is so much easier said than done.

One of many examples: In 2018, when the S&P 500 lost 4.38%, the financial analytics firm found that the average investor lost more than double that, at 9.42%. Investors lost money because they acted on emotion when markets declined. A study that same year published in the Journal of Financial Planning found that investors who implemented strategies to remove emotion saw returns up to 23% higher over a 10-year period.

As accredited Behavior Financial Advisors and Certified Financial Planners, we can help remove emotion from the equation and make wise financial decisions. Whether it is investments, estate planning, or a large purchase, we can provide the expertise that can make a positive difference in your financial future.

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Living a Financially Balanced Life

By | 2020, Money Matters, Newsletter | No Comments

Applying a balanced perspective has an impact in many areas of our lives, from eating to working to playing. Finances, today and in the future, should receive the same balanced approach.

When thinking of our financial plans, we tend to look to the future, but what about today? It is important to establish financial goals and work towards them, but it is also essential to live your current life with joy.

We work hard and save wherever possible with a goal to enjoy life in retirement. This is commendable and vital if we want to maintain our lifestyle into retirement. However, it is too often that people plan for future adventures and then are not able to enjoy them because of health issues or even death.

Keep in mind the little things.
To stay balanced within your budget, or spending plan, be sure to give yourself some mad money. I am not proposing that you throw caution to the wind, but within your monthly budget, permit yourself to spend a predetermined amount on something that brings you joy even if that means getting an ice cream cone or pedicure. Nothing can take the wind out of your sails or blow up your spending plan quicker than eliminating all of the little things that make you happy.

Enjoy adventure along the way.
Rather than thinking you will take a huge trip when you retire, include adventure and fun in your life now. When you look back on your life, the memories you have with your family and friends will be what you remember. I can honestly say I have not had a client reminisce about days they spent in the office or attending business meetings, or cleaning the house. They talk about time spent with family, traveling, charity work, or doing something they love.

One of our motivations is to help our clients create Life Centered Plans. This is different from a typical financial plan because it focuses not only on saving for future goals but also helping clients use the money they currently have to do things that bring them joy now.

We all have a limited time left to live our lives. I challenge you to spend that time living a financially balanced life!

If you would like more information on Life Centered Planning, contact us at 801-355-8888.

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What To Do With Your 401(k), If…

By | 2020, Money Moxie | No Comments

1: You are still employed by the sponsor company

Keep investing! The 401(k) implements an effective purchasing strategy called dollar- cost averaging. This strategy involves making regular and continuous fixed-dollar investments. But it is more than just a payroll deduction plan. Dollar-cost averaging removes the risk of trying to time the market.

By using dollar-cost averaging in a long-term investment account, the average cost per share ends up being less than the average price per share. This is because you buy less shares when prices are high and more shares when prices are low. In other words, volatility can work in your favor. So keep investing.

2. You are no longer working for the sponsor company but are employed elsewhere

You have some options.

(1) You can take a partial or full distribution. In most cases, this is a taxable event and may carry additional tax penalties. In rare situations, is this a good idea. Speak with a professional advisor before choosing this option.

(2) You can leave your 401(k) with your previous company. You can no longer contribute to it, but it will continue to perform based on the investments you have selected.

(3) If your new employer offers a 401(k) and you are eligible for it, you can roll your old 401(k) into your new 401(k) plan. This is a tax-free rollover, and you will need to select new investments based on what the new plan offers.

(4) You can roll the old 401(k) into an IRA. In most cases, this is what we recommend. An IRA gives the account owner more control, more investment options, and better planning opportunities than a 401(k). Like a 401(k), an IRA is a retirement account with annual maximum contribution limits and early withdrawal penalties. A rollover is not considered a contribution, and therefore any amount can be rolled.

3. You are no longer working for the sponsor company and are not employed

You have the same options as above, with the obvious exception of rolling to your new 401(k). If you are retired, however, the rollover option to the IRA may be even more appealing. When it comes time to take distributions from your retirement accounts, the IRA has some significant advantages. Some of these include better risk management strategies, tax-saving distribution strategies, and avoiding mandatory distributions from Roth accounts.

4. You need financial help due to COVID-19

The CARES Act allows some individuals to take early withdrawals from retirement accounts in 2020 without the early withdrawal penalty. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, have a spouse or dependent diagnosed with COVID-19, or have experienced a layoff, furlough, reduction in hours, have been unable to work, or lack childcare because of COVID-19, you may qualify. Withdrawals may impact your tax liability, so speak with a financial advisor before taking an early distribution.

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The State of Retirement

By | 2020, Money Moxie | No Comments

When asked, “When are they going to retire?” Most people reply with a specific age or date, something they have pinpointed and are looking forward to with anticipation. Unfortunately, only 53 percent of retirees leave the workforce based on their planned time-frame. Forty-seven percent are unexpectedly forced into retirement at an early age. This staggering number supports the importance of having a retirement plan that prepares you for all outcomes, those you anticipate, and those you don’t.

In a Federal Reserve study of non-retirees, 40 percent responded they feel their retirement savings are on track.

Sadly, 25 percent responded that they have not prepared for retirement and have no retirement savings. This can be due to many factors. They may work for a company that does not provide employees with retirement savings options such as a 401(k). Often they feel like they should do something but are overwhelmed and do not know how to start or where to turn for advice. If you are in this situation, please reach out to us for assistance.

The number of DIY investors with self-directed accounts changes as they reach their retirement years. This could be for a number of reasons. One is the complexity of turning a lifelong savings plan into an income-producing plan. Like climbing a mountain, the greatest risk comes on the way down. The same is true with retirement savings. Many fear taking on the wrong type of risk and jeopardizing their future income.

Source for all data: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

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Investing Is Not Like Buying A Refrigerator

By | 2020, Executive Message, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Some people think that investing has been simplified so much that it is like buying a refrigerator: You spend a few hours researching the options and then select a product that will last for 10 years. While there have been significant improvements to simplify investments, there is still a world of knowledge that is needed to select the right investments for your personal goals and time horizon. Buying the wrong refrigerator won’t wreck your retirement, but buying the wrong investment might.

Inside of a 401(k), the participant is the money manager. Because of this, the options had to be simplified. This has given rise to retirement-ready investments that have target dates based on when a participant will retire. We applaud this because most investors don’t know the nuances of investing in large-cap companies vs. small-cap companies, etc. The closer you get to retirement, and the more assets you have, the more important investment selection becomes.

Investment selection is less like picking out a fridge and more like being the forecaster for a home improvement store. That forecaster must determine beforehand how much is needed of each product, for each department, at the right time of year. If the quantity or timing is significantly off, then it puts the store in jeopardy of decreasing revenue and potential bankruptcy. Because of this complexity, a forecaster needs to have advanced training, education, and experience.

With investments, not only do you have to understand the individual investment, but you also must understand how it is impacted by the different market sectors, business cycle movements, politics, and the world economic environment.

At SFS, we are lucky to have a chief investment strategist, James Derrick, who has his MBA, CFA, and two decades of money management experience. He managed investments through the downturns of 2000-2003 and 2007-2009 when the S&P 500 lost 55% and 57%, respectively.* In fact, other financial advisors hire James and SFS to manage their clients’ money.

Don’t risk your retirement nest egg. You aren’t buying a refrigerator. Choose a money manager with the foresight, knowledge, and experience to help protect you against the downturns while allowing your assets to grow in the good times.

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Medicare Open Enrollment

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Medicare open enrollment is right around the corner. If you are already using a Medigap Plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan, now is the time to make a change if you want. The open enrollment period is October 15th through December 7th every year.

Who needs to pay attention?
Those currently using a Medigap Plan, Medicare Advantage Plan, prescription drug plan, or if during your initial enrollment period, you opted not to purchase additional coverage up and above traditional Medicare Parts A & B.

What is Medicare?
Traditional Medicare is composed of three parts: A, B, and D. Part A is coverage for hospitals and doesn’t have monthly premiums. Part B is coverage for doctor visits, etc. and the base cost is $135.50 per month for most people. This typically comes out of your monthly Social Security check. Part D is prescription drug coverage, which is purchased through a third party and costs around $35 per month.

What is the difference between a Medigap and Medicare Advantage Plan?
Medigap is a supplemental insurance that complements traditional Medicare. It covers most of the “gaps” or holes that are not covered by parts A & B. You can go to any doctor that accepts Medicare.

Medicare Advantage Plans combine Parts A, B, D, and Medigap into one package. They operate like traditional insurance where you are tied to a specific network.

What else should I know about Medigap?
Medigap Plans are lettered from A-N with costs that vary depending on the benefits provided. The most popular plan has been F. However, Plans F and C are being phased out in 2020 as plans are no longer allowed to cover the Part B deductible of $185. If you are currently on one of those plans, you can stay on it, but new enrollees will have to choose a different plan. Plan G is gaining in popularity because it covers everything Plan F covers, except for the Part B deductible. In many instances, the Plan G costs are lower and can be a better value than Plan F anyway.

People that have comprehensive Medigap Plans typically pay more on a monthly basis, but usually don’t have to pay very much out of pocket. If your health is ok to poor and you see a doctor regularly, then this may be a good option for you.

What else should I know about Medicare Advantage plans?
Medicare Advantage Plans, also called Part C, will often cost less than Medigap Plans. It typically has deductibles and co-insurance like traditional insurance through an employer. How it works is Medicare gives an insurance provider a certain amount per year to manage your expenses. If the insurance provider manages your expenses for less, then they make money. Because of that, monthly costs vary significantly with some plans as low as $0 per month.

People that use Medicare Advantage Plans usually pay less monthly, but typically have more out of pocket expenses. If you are in good health and don’t regularly see a doctor, then this may be a good option for you.

What resources could help me research my options?
The website www.medicare.gov has a plethora of information. You can use it to sign up for Medicare or any of its Parts A, B, C, or D. You can also find contact information for Medigap providers. If you would like to speak to a person, you can call 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227).

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Your Success Is Our Success

By | 2019, Executive Message, Money Moxie | No Comments

I was asked by a prospective client why it was so hard to find a good financial advisor. They had been around the valley visiting several of the financial advisors they heard on the radio. They heard about us through a friend and decided to give us a chance.

My response was, “Just because someone screams the loudest, doesn’t mean they’re the best.” Many firms rely on high marketing budgets to keep new people coming in the door. However, these large expenses can often lead to higher expenses for the clients and often leads to high turnover.

We strive to keep our costs low and to maintain our client relationships for the long run. With this intent we don’t spend a lot of money on marketing. We strive to provide incredible service, holistic financial plans, and elite active management. We realize that if we take great care of our clients, they may tell their friends about us, and those friends may become clients. Ninety percent of our growth comes from client referrals.

We realize that trust is not easily earned and harder to keep. Thank you for choosing Smedley Financial as your private wealth manager.

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