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retirement planning

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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3 Things You Should Know – CARES Act

By | 2020, Money Moxie | No Comments

Back in March, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed. It was designed as a stimulus bill that would provide relief and assistance to millions of Americans affected by the pandemic. Here are three things you should know about the CARES Act.

No Required Minimum Distributions for 2020
This year, you will not have to take out a required minimum distribution from your qualified retirement accounts. The waiver for this year also includes any inherited retirement accounts.

We know many of our clients also like to take advantage of qualified charitable distributions to donate their required distributions directly from their IRAs to a charity, tax-free. If you are over age 70 ½, you can still do this in 2020. It may even be advantageous for you to donate money from your IRA to a charity. This year, since you won’t be required to take money out, it will require more evaluation than in previous years to determine if it is still beneficial for you.

Unemployment Benefits
Unemployment benefits have been expanded, and individuals will be eligible for an additional $600 weekly benefit through July 31, 2020. Additionally, individuals will also have 13 weeks of federally funded benefits through 2020 for people who exhaust their state benefits. Another added benefit from the CARES Act is for people who would not normally qualify for unemployment benefits like independent contractors, part-time workers, and self-employed individuals. They will now also be eligible for benefits.

Penalty-free Withdrawals from Retirement Accounts
The 10% early-distribution penalty tax that normally applies to distributions made before age 59 ½ is waived for distributions up to $100,000 relating to Coronavirus. You must be impacted by COVID-19 for the waiver to apply; this would include being diagnosed with Coronavirus, being unable to work due to lack of child care available, or being furloughed, laid off, or have reduced hours.

While you will still have to pay income tax on any withdrawal, you’ll be able to spread the payment of those taxes over three years. If you decide to repay the withdrawal back into your account within three years, you will not owe income tax, and it will not be counted toward yearly contribution limits.

*Remember to speak to one of our wealth advisors before making the decision to tap into your retirement account.

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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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A Newlywed’s Guide to Financial Success

By | 2020, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

I’m sure most people reading this article have heard that money is one of the leading causes of divorce. That can be disheartening to hear when you’re planning a wedding. Being a newlywed myself, I have thought a lot about myself and my husband’s financial success and how to achieve our personal financial goals. I also know from observing friends and former classmates that young people often don’t even know where to start when it comes to making good money choices, especially when you add another person to the picture. As I’ve thought about all of this, I have come up with a list of things that will help newlyweds be successful in their financial endeavors.

1. Talk about it – This first one is arguably the most important. Money is often a taboo subject, but it is important to have open communication about money, especially in marriage. It is best to talk about money before you get married, but if you haven’t, talk about it as soon as possible. Make sure you both understand each other’s expectations for your money. For example, let your spouse know if you expect them to talk to you before making purchases over a certain amount. It is essential to be honest with your spouse, especially about any debt you may have.

2. Build an emergency fund – Having an emergency fund should be a top priority for newly married couples. The general rule of thumb is to have 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses saved up for emergencies such as a lost job, family illness, natural disaster, or major home repairs. This will bring security in case disaster strikes.

3. Design and track a budget – Start by reviewing your joint budget for the last few months and assigning dollar limits to each spending category. Remember, a budget is a work in progress. It is okay to make adjustments, especially in the first few months. Tracking your spending after creating a budget is just as important as making the budget. There are many ways to track your spending. Some people use apps; some people use spreadsheets; some people use the envelope method. The envelope method is primarily just using cash for your budget, and once the cash is gone, you’re done spending in that category for the month. This is especially helpful in areas in which you tend to overspend. Try out a few different methods and find the one you like best.

4. Save for retirement – This one is not something newlyweds often think about. Retirement can seem like it is so far in the future you don’t need to worry about it. However, starting to save for retirement when you are young really gives you a leg up. Having time on your side helps you take advantage of compounding interest. Even if you start small, saving something toward your retirement early on can have a big impact. Contributing to your employer-sponsored 401k plan is an excellent place to start.

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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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The Biggest Threat To Your Retirement

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Admit it. Your adult children still live in your basement. Talking about the effects of caring “too much” for adult children by financially supporting them is an uncomfortable conversation, but it is an important one.

When there are no financial boundaries set between parents and adult children, the ensuing relational volatility could be a far greater threat to retirement than market volatility. Now, I’m not talking about helping fund a child’s education or paying for a wedding. The real problem begins when parents pay for their adult children’s cars, insurance, food, or even vacations. This may sound ridiculous to some, but studies suggest that 79% of parents provide some form of financial support to their adult children. In fact, just over 50% of parents say they have even sacrificed their own retirement savings to help their adult children.

So, what should you do??

(1) Separate your retirement money from your other money. Keep it off-limits. Retirement money should only be used for retirement! Try to think about retirement money as untouchable.

(2) Try changing up the way you are helping your adult child. Try to figure out ways to help that don’t include giving money, like helping with a resumé or reviewing their budget with them. Don’t come to the rescue too quickly. Rushing in to fix or solve your adult child’s challenges will hinder their opportunities to develop and practice independent problem-solving skills.

(3) Set clear expectations. Helping your adult children get on their feet when they’re down and out is not a bad thing. Just make sure they know what is expected of them. You could tell your children you will help them for a certain amount of time and during that time you expect them to do things to improve their life situation. Keep reminding them of the deadline, talk with them often about their progress, and keep them accountable.

(4) Don’t take on the blame for their struggles. Irrationally blaming yourself for your child’s struggles will likely lead you to enable them by impulsively solving their problems. Parents, of course, are not perfect, but most try their hardest to be supportive and provide their children with a loving home. It is not uncommon to see children who were raised with many advantages end up struggling to thrive as adults, just as it’s not uncommon to see children who have had adverse family lives achieve impressive things.

(5) Remember to take care of yourself too. Parents of struggling adult children are often wracked by guilt and worry, which leads to poor sleep, unhealthy eating, and problems focusing. Worrying yourself sick will not help your child. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help from a professional counselor, friends, family, or support groups for family members of people with addictions or mental illness.

References for studies mentioned:
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/02/parents-spend-twice-as-much-on-adult-children-than-saving-for-retirement.html
https://www.bankrate.com/personal-finance/financial-independence-survey-april-2019/

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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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5 Things You Need to Know About Social Security

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

1) The age you start taking benefits matters

You can start Social Security benefits as early as age 62, but that may not be your best option. If you take Social Security before your full retirement age, the amount you get per month will be reduced. For most people, full retirement age is between ages 66 and 67, depending on when you were born. If you take benefits at age 62, you will only get about 70% of your full benefit. This also works the other way around. If you wait until 70, your benefit will grow 8% per year until age 70. This can be a great way to maximize the benefit you get from Social Security.

2) You may be eligible for a benefit under your spouse’s record

If you don’t qualify for Social Security benefits from your own work record, you may qualify for a spousal benefit. If you are married and your spouse qualifies for Social Security, you are eligible to receive half of your spouse’s Social Security amount along with your spouse receiving their own full amount.

3) Your Social Security may be taxed

Up to 85% of your Social Security could be taxable, depending on what your income is. To figure this out, take half of your Social Security and add that amount to any other taxable income you may have. That includes any money you’re taking out of tax-deferred retirement accounts. If that number is above $34,000 for single filers or $44,000 for married filing jointly, then 85% of your Social Security will be taxed.

4) Social Security was not meant to be the main source of retirement income

The government did not originally intend Social Security to fully replace income for every retiree. It was only ever meant to be a supplement and cover less than half of your income needs. This means you need to make sure your savings for retirement are adequate, so you have enough income in retirement.

5)Social Security is not going bankrupt

Social Security isn’t going bankrupt, but things will likely be changing. Estimations say the Social Security trust fund reserves will be depleted by 2034 unless changes are made. There have been many proposed solutions. None of them are particularly attractive, but something must be done. While nothing is official yet, here are some possible solutions:
-Raising the full retirement age
-Raising the amount of income subject to Social Security tax (currently at $132,900)
-Raising the Social Security tax rate
-Reducing cost of living adjustments, which help Social Security keep pace with inflation
-Reducing benefit amounts

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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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