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Update on the DOL Fiduciary Rule

By | Featured

In August, the Department of Labor (DOL) proposed to delay the launch of the final portion of the new “fiduciary rule” until July 2019. Part of the rule went into effect in June of this year, mandating that any financial professional making financial recommendations to a client with regard to an individual retirement account (IRA) act as a fiduciary. This means that these financial professionals must provide advice that is in the best interest of their clients, rather than for their own benefit.1

The part of the rule that could be delayed is the requirement that financial professionals who wish to charge commissions sign a “best-interest contract” with each IRA client. The contract provides details as to how they will be paid for their recommendations. It represents the primary enforcement mechanism of the fiduciary rule – with a contract in place, individuals would find it easier to sue to recover losses resulting from poor retirement investment and financial advice.2

Although the new DOL rule hasn’t been fully launched, its effects are being felt. One unintended consequence of the new rule is that some advisory firms have decided to stop offering retirement advice to clients with small account balances. A survey of financial advisors found that 35 percent said they wouldn’t advise clients with IRAs worth less than $25,000.3

With the future of the DOL regulation unclear, some states are considering their own fiduciary rules. In fact, Nevada passed a law in June that holds financial professionals to the fiduciary standard when advising clients on their retirement accounts. The state senator who proposed the bill, Aaron Ford, said he took action because of the uncertainty surrounding the federal law. “I felt it was important to protect Nevadan citizens in the event the federal government wouldn’t,” he told WealthManagement.com.4

Despite the delays in the DOL fiduciary rule, many financial services firms have already invested in making the changes necessary to implement the rule’s standards throughout their firms, so it is unlikely they would halt those efforts at this point – even if the rule were revoked.5

If you have questions about the DOL rule and what it means to you, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. It’s our responsibility to evaluate and assess your financial situation and only make recommendations that are in your best interest, and we do so with integrity and transparency.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Tobie Stanger. Consumer Reports. Aug. 25, 2017. “Why Saving for Retirement Is Getting Harder, and What You Can Do About It.” https://www.consumerreports.org/retirement-planning/why-saving-for-retirement-is-getting-harder-and-what-you-can-do-about-it/. Accessed Oct. 10, 2017.

2 Greg Iacurci. Investment News. Sept. 11, 2017. “DOL fiduciary rule has enforcement gaps — and they could widen.” http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20170911/BLOG03/170919995/dol-fiduciary-rule-has-enforcement-gaps-x2014-and-they-could-widen. Accessed Oct. 10, 2017.

3 Liz Skinner. Investment News. “10 unintended consequences of the DOL fiduciary rule.” http://www.investmentnews.com/gallery/20160505/FREE/505009999/PH/10-unintended-consequences-of-the-dol-fiduciary-rule. Accessed Nov. 7, 2017.

4 Michael Thrasher. WealthManagement.com. June 26, 2017. “Other States Considering Their Own ‘Fiduciary Rules’ After Nevada’s Becomes Law.” http://www.wealthmanagement.com/industry/other-states-considering-their-own-fiduciary-rules-after-nevada-s-becomes-law. Accessed Nov. 7, 2017.

5 Sandra Block. Kiplinger. Feb. 5, 2017. “Why the Fiduciary Rule for Retirement Savers Is Here to Stay.” http://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T047-C000-S003-fiduciary-rule-for-retirement-is-here-to-stay.html. Accessed Oct. 10, 2017.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. 

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Artificial Intelligence: Innovation for Today’s World

By | Technology

Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly changing the way businesses build products and even provide customer service. We now have automated virtual assistants and “chatbots” answering customer service calls.1 We even have self-driving cars being tested for pizza delivery.2

These quantum leaps in technological advances present both opportunities and challenges. For example, the way we have adopted online financial transactions over the past 10 to 15 years has made everything from banking and paying bills to applying for a mortgage so much more convenient. However, as the recent Equifax security breach impacting more than 145 million people demonstrates, housing that much data in one central location creates a single-entry point for would-be hackers.3

That’s one reason we believe it’s important to work face to face with financial advisors you know and trust. Regardless of where technology takes us, there’s really no substitute for personal interaction, particularly when it comes to planning for your family’s insurance, higher education and retirement income needs. We appreciate the value of combining human intelligence with empathy and understanding, and we know our clients do as well. In this rapidly advancing world of artificial intelligence, it’s important to offer both convenience and personal service.

With that said, we work to keep up with innovations and their applications for today’s world, especially when they may create potential investment opportunities. There are all kinds of innovative things to report. The use of connected devices such as wearables, residential electric and gas meter readers, drones and business self-checkout terminals is expected to grow by 31 percent this year over 2016. Today’s number of 8.4 billion devices in use is projected to grow to 20.4 billion connected devices by 2020.4

AI devices, such as drones, are being adapted for all kinds of creative uses. Researchers in Australia have developed flying drones capable of doing three things:5

  1. Identifying sharks near swimmers and surfers
  2. Amplifying warnings to beachgoers via an on-board loudspeaker
  3. Sending out electrical impulses that irritate sharks and deter them from entering populated areas

One way AI can be more effective than the human brain is its capacity to access and analyze vast more stores of data. As humans, we possess memory and recall, but AI machines can be loaded with an infinite amount of data that can be scanned and identified quickly. Farmers are using this technology via smartphone to take photos of ailing crops, from which AI can pinpoint disease with up to 98 percent accuracy.6

In the construction industry, AI is being used to help project managers track the most egregious potential malfunctions based on plan specifications, phase timing and severity. This helps keep projects on time and on budget with a laser-like focus on safety and quality.7

AI is also having an impact in the retail industry. British fashion icon Burberry requested and uploaded scores of data regarding their clients’ buying habits. This enables frontline retail clerks to make immediate recommendations to complement client selections based on what customers purchased in the past. The intelligence has created a type of personalized shopping service that has proven enormously successful.8

Moreover, the retailer has been able to cut down on counterfeit sales by developing technology that can detect if an item is a Burberry “bootleg” product by analyzing a photo of it.9

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Shep Hyken. Forbes. July 15, 2017. “AI and Chatbots Are Transforming The Customer Experience.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/shephyken/2017/07/15/ai-and-chatbots-are-transforming-the-customer-experience/#31527b2941f7. Accessed Oct. 13, 2017.

2 Amar Toor and Tamara Warren. The Verge. Aug. 29, 2017. “Domino’s and Ford will test self-driving pizza delivery cars.” https://www.theverge.com/2017/8/29/16213544/dominos-ford-pizza-self-driving-car. Accessed Oct. 13, 2017.

3 Bloomberg. Oct. 2, 2017. “Equifax Says 2.5 Million More Americans May Be Affected by Hack.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-02/urgent-equifax-2-5-million-more-americans-may-be-affected-by-hack. Accessed Oct. 2, 2017.

4 Liam Tung. ZDNet. Feb. 7, 2017. “IoT devices will outnumber the world’s population this year for the first time.” http://www.zdnet.com/article/iot-devices-will-outnumber-the-worlds-population-this-year-for-the-first-time/. Accessed Oct.13, 2017.

5 Charlotte Edmond. World Economic Forum. Sept. 4, 2017. “Meet Australia’s beach-protecting, AI-powered shark drones.” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/09/australia-shark-drones-artificial-intelligence/. Accessed Oct. 2, 2017.

6 Jamie Condliffe. MIT Technology Review. Oct. 2, 2017. “OK, Phone: How Are My Crops Looking?” https://www.technologyreview.com/the-download/609028/ok-phone-how-are-my-crops-looking/. Accessed Oct. 2, 2017.

7 Zach Mortice. Redshift. Oct. 2, 2017. “Machine Learning Eases Construction Project Management—and Prevents Catastrophes.” https://www.autodesk.com/redshift/machine-learning-construction-project-management/. Accessed Oct. 2, 2017.

8 Bernard Marr. Forbes. Sept. 25, 2017. “The Amazing Ways Burberry Is Using Artificial Intelligence and Big Data to Drive Success.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2017/09/25/the-amazing-ways-burberry-is-using-artificial-intelligence-and-big-data-to-drive-success/#24388a014f63. Accessed Oct. 2, 2017.

9 Ibid.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. 

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

 

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Assessing Risk

By | Investments

It is common to have a very traditional interpretation when we think of investment risk, such as the belief that stocks are seen as a risky investment, and bonds less so. But many issues have come to light in the past decade that cause us to think about risk differently. For example, there’s the risk of outliving your retirement savings, which is often cited as one of the primary concerns of today’s retirees.1

And that’s just today’s retirees. If you’re still in saving mode, your retirement could be even longer than today’s average retirement.2 Given this potential reality, it may be time for all of us to re-evaluate how we assess risk.

As financial advisors, we spend countless hours helping people develop a financial strategy for the future. That means we continuously research and discuss risk factors, and we understand how to apply them to each individual’s situation. Please contact us if you’d like help assessing what risk factors you need to consider in regard to your long-term financial goals.

Some people are naturally risk averse, and others are enthusiastic risk-takers. Most fall somewhere in between, with attitudes toward risk changing, depending on where they are in in their lives. It’s not uncommon for individuals to take more risks in their younger years, when they have more time to rebound from market setbacks, and then take a more conservative approach as they near retirement.3

If we pursue a strict risk/reward investment strategy, we can still come up short in meeting retirement goals. For example, say you are extremely risk-averse, so you invest all of your money in 10-year Treasury notes in order to generate around $56,500, which is the average annual household income. These securities, which are considered low risk because they are backed by the U.S. government, were paying out around 2.25 percent in October, so you would need to have $2.26 million invested to earn that much – even more if you factor in long-term inflation.4 In this particular scenario, we might say that such a level of risk-aversion is a luxury many of us cannot afford.

Let’s look at another type of risk. As a general rule of thumb, risk-averse U.S. investors are more comfortable investing in domestic stocks versus those in other countries. This year, that’s working out pretty well, when you consider that the S&P 500 boasted a 14.86 percent year-to-date return as of Nov. 2, 2017.5 However, a lot of countries are doing well these days, so diversifying to include foreign stocks could help improve a portfolio’s overall return while adding the risk-mitigation factor of broader diversification. To put this in perspective, consider that the MSCI World ex USA Index has yielded 15.51 percent and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index is at 25.08 percent for the year as of Sept. 27, 2017.6

It’s also important to evaluate different kinds of risk beyond that associated with individual holdings. There’s the potential risk of not keeping pace with long-term inflation’s impact on the purchasing power of our savings. There’s what’s called “sequence of returns” risk, which means your average annual return over a long timeline may be good, but if you experience declines during the beginning of your retirement years, the risk of loss is much higher.7

There’s also the risk of having significant health problems and needing long-term care. Some people experience this while others don’t, but there’s no way to be sure which camp we’ll fall into – so that’s a potential risk.

While many retirees may believe that their greatest risk is not accumulating a certain amount of money by the time they retire, we believe their goal should be to create a financial strategy that reflects their needs and objectives instead of chasing an arbitrary monetary amount.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Catey Hill. MarketWatch. July 21, 2016. “Older People Fear This More Than Death.” http://www.marketwatch.com/story/older-people-fear-this-more-than-death-2016-07-18. Accessed Oct. 24, 2017.

2 Jeff Stimpson. Forbes. Sept. 5, 2017. “How to Balance Investment Risk and Reward in Retirement” https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2017/09/05/how-to-balance-investment-risk-and-reward-in-retirement/#629608b96ec4. Accessed Sept. 28, 2017.

3 Walter Updegrave. CNN Money. June 21, 2017. “How much investing risk should you take in retirement? http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/21/pf/retirement-investing-risk/index.html. Accessed Oct. 24, 2017.

4 Bruce McCain. Forbes. Sept. 20, 2017. “Seeking Financial Security When Life Changes Strike.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucemccain/2017/09/20/seeking-financial-security-when-life-changes-strike/#589a300c2f0a. Accessed Sept. 28, 2017.

5 CNN Money. Oct. 24, 2017. “S&P 500 Index.” http://money.cnn.com/data/markets/sandp/. Accessed Nov. 2, 2017.

6 eTrade. Sept. 28, 2017. “International calling.” https://us.etrade.com/knowledge/markets-news/commentary-and-insights/international-calling?ch_id=S&s_id=Twitter&c_id=ESOC. Accessed Sept. 28, 2017.

7 Dana Anspach. The Balance. Aug. 14, 2017. “Learn How Sequence Risk Impacts Your Retirement Money.” https://www.thebalance.com/how-sequence-risk-affects-your-retirement-money-2388672. Accessed Oct. 24, 2017.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. 

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Investing for the Long Term

By | Investments

What does the phrase “long term” mean to you? For children, long term can mean waiting for Christmas or summer vacation that feels like a million years away. For young adults, long term may reference how long it takes to pay off student loans. As we get older, we begin to understand that long term can be a really long time – even decades. We may wonder where the years went. Suddenly we’re in our 50s, 60s, 70s or older. Long term tends to be a subjective phrase depending on what stage you have reached in life and what your goals are.

When it comes to investing, its meaning is only marginally clearer. In other words, if we’re encouraged to invest for the long term, how long is that – 10 years, 20, 30? It largely depends on what your financial goals are – a house, college tuition for the kids, retirement and so on. We take the time to help clients define their financial goals and then create strategies using a variety of investment and insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. Give us a call so we can work with you to help you pursue your long-term goals.

It’s worth noting that even an experienced investor can’t say for sure whether they’ve got the right mix of investments for the long term. Take, for example, Jack Bogle, the founder of The Vanguard Group. He recently responded to a question he received from a young investor concerned about how potential catastrophes would impact his portfolio. Bogle replied by sharing his own portfolio mix (50/50 indexed stocks and short/intermediate bond indexes) but said that half the time he worries that he has too much in equities, and the other half that he doesn’t have enough. “We’re all just human beings operating in a fog of ignorance and relying on our common sense to establish our asset allocation,” he wrote to the investor. 1

The S&P 500 has nearly quadrupled in annualized returns since its low in 2009.2 Several prominent market analysts and investment firms suggest this means it’s about time for a market downturn.3 The question is, if you’re a long-term investor, do you sell in anticipation of a correction? After all, if the point is to buy low and sell high, it makes sense to take gains while prices are at their highest before they begin to drop. Or does it?

That’s not what long-term investing is about. The reason returns over 30 years tend to outperform those from, say, five years, is that time is what typically smooths out those periods of volatility. If we continue investing automatically, we may end up buying during those periods of price drops and we can potentially make stronger gains as prices rise again.4

If we base our investment decisions on when the market will take a turn for the worse, we could end up missing out on the future gains that could have been made. Long-term investing may involve patience, unlike children who anxiously await the holidays.

Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal.  No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. It’s important to consider any investment within the context of your own goals, risk tolerance, investment timeline and the composition of your overall portfolio. This information is not intended to provide investment advice.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Andy Clarke. Vanguard Blog for Advisors. July 12, 2017. “Stocks and the meaning of “long term.” https://vanguardblog.com/2017/07/12/stocks-and-the-meaning-of-long-term/. Accessed Oct. 12, 2017.

2 Joe Ciolli. Business Insider. Sept. 15, 2017. “An investing legend who’s nailed the bull market at every turn sees no end in sight for the 269% rally.” http://www.businessinsider.com/laszlo-birinyi-interview-investing-legend-bull-market-sage-2017-9. Accessed Sept. 19, 2017.

3 Paul J. Lim. Money. Sept. 19, 2017. “ ‘Unnerved’: These 5 Big Wall Street Players Are Predicting a Downturn.” http://time.com/money/4943479/wall-street-prediction-stock-market-downturn/. Accessed Sept. 19, 2017.

4 Maya Kachroo-Levine. Forbes. Sept. 18, 2017. “Should You Invest As Usual When Stocks Are This High?” https://www.forbes.com/sites/mayakachroolevine/2017/09/18/should-you-invest-as-usual-when-stocks-are-this-high/print/. Accessed Sept. 19, 2017.

This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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When One Spouse Retires First

By | Planning

It’s easy to think of retirement and dream of a relaxed stroll into the sunset with your significant other by your side. After all, many advertisements repeat this theme with salt-and-pepper-haired couples strolling hand in hand across a beachfront.

Yet, this is not always the case. Anymore, we often see couples retire at different times – perhaps one spouse actually enjoys going to work every day while the other can’t wait to retire. Different retirement times, however, can open financial and emotional rifts for couples. What if the retired spouse enjoys travel, or wants to spend long stretches with family? Did the couple consider the financial impact of one spouse retiring versus both spouses? What if the working spouse is resentful of the time or money the retired spouse spends on activities?1

At our firm, we help with issues related to couples’ financial preparedness for retirement. If you and your spouse are looking toward retirement–either at the same time or years apart – give us a call.

With the proper planning, the financial piece of retirement doesn’t have to play into your marital dynamic. Based on your circumstances, a wide variety of solutions can help provide one or more retirement income streams while allowing an investment portfolio the opportunity to grow—possibly even throughout retirement. Many of today’s retirees hope to benefit from ongoing growth opportunities to help offset the potential long-term impact of inflation, rising health care and long-term care costs, and increasing longevity.

Now, couples with a big age gap may need a totally different set of strategies from other couples. For instance, if you have a significantly younger spouse, it may be more appropriate to invest a higher percentage of an investment portfolio in stocks than it would be for couples closer in age.2

One way the IRS helps out couples with a large age gap is with an opportunity to reduce the size of required minimum distributions (RMDs) from tax-deferred retirement plans, which are generally required to start at age 70 ½. When the account owner is at least 10 years older than their spouse, and the spouse is the named beneficiary, the older spouse can use a different factor for their RMD calculation, which can result in a lower payout. The benefit to this rule is that it gives more of the older spouse’s funds the opportunity to keep growing while the younger spouse continues to work.3 This information is not intended to provide tax advice. Be sure to speak with a qualified professional about your unique situation.

Another retirement income option to consider for age-gap couples is a joint-and-survivor annuity. There are many different types of annuities to choose from, but joint-and-survivor actually refers to the type of distribution option that most annuities offer. If you purchase an annuity and choose this payout option, the annuity will continue to make payments to the surviving spouse, regardless of which spouse dies first.

A 50 percent option will continue to pay out half of the original amount to the survivor once the first annuitant dies, and a 100 percent option, while offering a lower original payout, guarantees the same amount for the life of both spouses.4 This can be a suitable component of a retirement income plan for couples with a significant age gap.

Whether you and your spouse are similar ages or decades apart, and whether you plan to retire on the same day or years apart, you should be planning for the financial – and emotional – components ahead. If you’re ready to plan, we can help.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

 

1 Karen DeMasters. FA Magazine. May 12, 2017. “Who’s Retiring First?” https://www.fa-mag.com/news/couples-retirement-gap-32725.html?section=3. Accessed Sept. 11, 2017.

2 Kerri Anne Renzulli. Time. June 14, 2017. “Money, Marriage and a Big Age Gap: 6 Ways to Make Sure Your Retirement is Safe.” http://time.com/money/4810932/age-difference-relationship-couples-retirement-advice/. Accessed Sept. 11, 2017.

3 IRS. 2017. “IRA Required Minimum Distribution Worksheet.” https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/jlls_rmd_worksheet.pdf. Accessed Sept. 11, 2017.

4 Zacks. 2017. “How Does a Joint and Survivor Annuity Work?” http://finance.zacks.com/joint-survivor-annuity-work-2270.html. Accessed Sept. 11, 2017.

 

Annuities are insurance products that may be subject to fees, surrender charges and holding periods which vary by company. Annuities are not a deposit of nor are they insured by any bank, the FDIC, NCUA, or by any federal government agency. Annuities are designed for retirement or other long-term needs. Guarantees and protections provided by insurance products including annuities are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Ways to Help Increase Retirement Savings and Reduce Your Tax Liability

By | Featured

As we head into the homestretch of this year, two things individuals may be seeking are ways to help maximize retirement savings and minimize 2017 tax liability.

One way to help do so is by contributing as much as possible to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Many employers match worker contributions up to a certain point, so that’s just “free” money going into the account. Plus, the more you contribute, the less taxable income you will have to claim. For 2017, the maximum contribution limit for a 401(k) plan is $18,000; $24,000 for people age 50+.1

If you’re already set up to max out your account, you might consider opening and/or contributing to an IRA. Even if you don’t get to claim a tax deduction for IRA contributions (although IRA contributions can also be made pre-tax, subject to certain limits), you can still benefit from additional retirement savings and tax-advantaged compounding. In 2017, the maximum for an IRA (Roth, Traditional or both combined) contribution is $5,500; $6,500 for people age 50+.2

Here’s a little-known benefit available only for active duty military widows: They can contribute all or part of the service member’s $400,000 life insurance death benefit, and even an additional $100,000 for a combat-related fatality, to a Roth IRA within one year of receiving the payout. Because life insurance proceeds are tax-free, this benefit allows the money to be transferred to a tax-free retirement savings account, which also benefits from tax-free growth.3

Another option for those who are already contributing large amounts to a 401(k) and/or an IRA is to consider purchasing an annuity. An annuity also enables tax-deferred growth, and there typically are no contribution limits.4 There is a wide variety of immediate, fixed rate, fixed index and variable annuities from which to choose. We’d be happy to evaluate your financial situation and recommend  if an annuity may suit your needs and objectives.

One more tax-related bit we ran across: If you’re considering relocating during retirement to a low/no tax state, or even just wonder where your state gets its tax revenues, check out this breakdown compiled by Pew Charitable Trusts.5

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications

 

1 Brighthouse Financial. July 21, 2017. “5 Tips for Tax-Smart Investing.” https://www.brighthousefinancial.com/education/tax-smart-strategies/tax-smart-investing-strategies. Accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

2 Ibid.

3 Jeff Benjamin. Investment News. June 26, 2017. “Military benefit allows widows to put $500K into Roth IRA at once.” http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20170626/FREE/170629938/military-benefit-allows-widows-to-put-500k-into-roth-ira-at-once. Accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

4 CNN. 2017. “Ultimate guide to retirement.” http://money.cnn.com/retirement/guide/annuities_basics.moneymag/index4.htm. Accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

5 Mary Beth Quirk. Consumerist. July 5, 2017. “Should You Move? See How Your State Gets Its Tax Money.” https://consumerist.com/2017/07/05/should-you-move-see-how-your-state-gets-its-tax-money/. Accessed Sept. 4, 2017.

The content provided in this blog is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered. It is not, however, intended to provide specific legal or tax advice and cannot be used to avoid tax penalties or to promote, market or recommend any tax plan or arrangement. You are encouraged to consult your personal tax advisor or attorney.

Annuities are insurance products that may be subject to fees, surrender charges and holding periods which vary by company. Annuities are not a deposit of nor are they insured by any bank, the FDIC, NCUA, or by any federal government agency. Annuities are designed for retirement or other long-term needs.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

 

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Goals-Based Investing

By | Investments

There’s a difference between monitoring an investment and checking its performance on a daily basis. Rather than being concerned about short-term volatility in the market, consider the future purpose or goal of what you want your money to pay for. This is the fundamental idea behind goals-based investing. You don’t just seek out investments that will yield a certain average annual return; you identify other factors that may matter more.1

In goals-based investing, it’s not about how much your investment earns; it’s about how much you need your investment to yield. For example, let’s say you need about $50,000 to pay for your child’s college education. You save diligently from the time he or she is 10 years old through his or her last year in college – 12 years. During that time, you save $37,000. Your investment needs to earn an additional $13,000. There are a lot of factors here that will determine your return, but the point is that your investment need not be overly aggressive to achieve the return you desire. It should reflect how much risk you’re willing to take to yield the amount you’ll need to pay for your child’s education. Not necessarily more. Preferably no less.

If the investment earns more, you can put those additional earnings in your retirement savings bucket. If it earns less, you may need to tighten the belt on your finances and use more current income to pay for expenses during those college years, or get aggressive about applying for loans and scholarships. The point is, an investment should align with a goal – including its timeline for when you’ll need the money. The timeline can help you determine how aggressively to invest. The longer you have to invest, the more risk you may be able to take.

Just as the timeline matters, so does your age. Young investors with a longer investment timeline usually can be more flexible at choosing riskier investments – as long as those risks are aligned with their goals.2

However, let’s say your last child came later in life. If you will turn 60 before he or she goes to college, you could consider saving for his or her college education via tax-deferred retirement plans. You can start tapping these funds after age 59 ½ and no longer be subject to an early withdrawal penalty, but keep in mind that distributions will be subject to income taxes at that point.

Defining each goal you want to achieve can help guide your investment strategy, which can include the type of account in which you invest, such as a tax-advantaged college savings account or a tax-deferred retirement account. Different goals may call for different types of accounts, so you may need to create an investment strategy for each individual goal and monitor several different types of investments.3

This is where we can help. We’ll work with you to define each goal, establish which type of plan is most appropriate and what types of investments suit your timeline and tolerance for market risk. Then, we’ll help monitor how well those investments stay on track as you work toward your financial goals.

When all of these factions are aligned, you can be less concerned about day-to-day fluctuations. If you think you need to save more, you might want to consider different ways you can generate additional income sources that will allow you to save and invest more.

Perhaps one of the most significant benefits to a goals-based approach is that it makes us think about what we want in life in very tangible terms. Suppose you want to retire to a coastal community. That’s your goal, and how early you get started saving and investing and at what age you’ll want your money can help determine your investment allocations. The return on that investment will ultimately decide how much house you can afford when retiring to your coastal destination. When creating your financial strategy, you should also consider the sort of lifestyle you want to provide your family and how expensive a college you want your children to attend. As with investment risk, trade-offs may need to be made in order to pursue your financial goals.

Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. It’s important to consider any investment within the context of your own goals, risk tolerance, investment timeline and the composition of your overall portfolio. This information is not intended to provide investment advice.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

 

1 Michael Finke. The American College. June 19, 2017. “The Philosophy of Goal-Based Investment Planning.” http://knowledge.theamericancollege.edu/blog/the-philosophy-of-goal-based-investment-planning. Accessed Aug. 30, 2017.

2 Amy Kemp and Dorsey Wright. NASDAQ. Aug. 3, 2017. “The Next Generation of Investors.” http://www.nasdaq.com/article/the-next-generation-of-investors-cm826808. Accessed Aug. 30, 2017.

3 Sunder R. Ramkumar and P. Brett Hammond. Forbes. April 10, 2017. “Goals-Based Investing: From Theory to Practice.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/pensionresearchcouncil/2017/04/10/goals-based-investing-from-theory-to-practice/#462b4018459d. Accessed Aug. 30, 2017.

 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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What Type of Investor Are You?

By | Featured

Each person is unique. We are composed of many variables, such as genetics, family influence, geographic influence and even the birth order among siblings – a veritable combination of the forces of biology and society.1 So when it comes to managing your finances, the debate isn’t about nature versus nurture; it’s both.

For example, consider two siblings raised in the same household: same socio-economic background, same parental influence, even the same level and type of education. Yet one sibling is a saver while the other is a spendthrift. Why is that?

We can’t always control whatever personal characteristics drive our needs, desires and indulgences, but we can learn to manage them responsibly. One way to pursue your financial goals is to work with an objective and knowledgeable financial advisor, a role we’re proud to fill for our clients. We can research and analyze your financial needs and objectives to help match appropriate investment and insurance products for your financial situation.

While self-knowledge is important, so is investor knowledge. Knowing how and where to invest isn’t an instinct we’re born with, but takes time and effort. If you’re wondering where you currently stand with financial literacy, consider taking the investor quiz at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).2

Investors tend to fall into various personality types. According to psychologists who study financial psychology, financial personality types can run the gamut from hoarder to social value spender to the ostrich (i.e., the proverbial “head in the sand”).3 To help counteract any obstacles that may be driven by your financial personality, one strategy is to focus on your goals. We may have very tangible components that influence our financial goals, such as the timeline for needing specific funds, the amount we’ll need and our personal tolerance for market risk. These three factors are instrumental in determining where and how to invest your money.4

When it comes to investing with the goal of creating retirement income, designing your retirement plan may become even more complex. Not only should we take into consideration our household budget and all the travel, philanthropic and expensive items on our bucket list, but we also must weigh the potential impact of additional factors, such as:

  • How long we expect to live
  • How long we expect our spouse to live
  • Whether or not our children or grandchildren might need financial help
  • Whether we’ll experience significant health care expenses
  • Whether we’ll need full- or part-time assistance as we age

The point is, even if we are natural savers, ongoing students of financial education, experienced investors or obsessive planners, there are still plenty of unknowns that can potentially knock us off course.

But the more we know, the better prepared we can be.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

 

1 Martha C. While. Money. April 8, 2016. “Blame Your Brothers and Sisters for Making You Messed-Up About Money.” http://time.com/money/4279788/siblings-money-attitudes/. Accessed Aug. 18, 2017.

2 FINRA. 2017. “Investor Knowledge Quiz.” http://www.finra.org/investors/investor-knowledge-quiz. Accessed Aug. 18, 2017.

3 Naomi Rovnick. Financial Times. Jan. 12, 2017. “Six financial personality types — which one are you?” https://www.ft.com/content/5e8da24c-bb09-11e6-8b45-b8b81dd5d080. Accessed Aug. 18, 2017.

4 Michael Finke. ThinkAdvisor. July 3, 2017. “What’s the Point of Investing?” http://www.thinkadvisor.com/2017/07/03/whats-the-point-of-investing?slreturn=1503255710&page_all=1. Accessed Aug. 18, 2017.

This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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IRS News to Know

By | Planning

As we head into the final quarter of 2017, it’s a good idea to stay cognizant of any tax issues that may affect your finances come April 2018. Now is the time to review your investments and income distribution plans to help ensure you don’t trigger additional taxes or penalties later on.

We can help retirees create income distribution strategies that provide a reliable stream of income. As some income-generating strategies could increase your tax liability in a single year, we recommend clients also consult with an experienced tax professional to understand issues regarding their specific situation. We are happy to make a recommendation from our network of professional colleagues.

One common income distribution strategy is to transfer assets from an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan to a self-directed IRA. This move can give some individuals more investment choices. The IRS encourages eligible taxpayers to consider requesting a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer, rather than doing a rollover. However, if you do not conduct a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer, it’s important to understand the rules related to personally withdrawing money from one account and depositing it to another. The IRS allows a 60-day window to do this without penalty. If an individual misses that deadline, he may qualify for a waiver to extend the deposit window. The IRS will generally allow an extension for one or more of 11 circumstances, including the death of a family member or because the taxpayer becomes seriously ill. Furthermore, a taxpayer can use a new self-certification procedure to apply for the waiver of the 60-day period to avoid possible early distribution taxes.1

Speaking of IRAs, one income distribution strategy that early retirees may be able to take advantage of is IRS Rule 72(t). Normally, someone who retires before age 59 ½ would be subject to a 10 percent penalty on early withdrawals from a retirement plan. However, Rule 72(t) waives this penalty for individuals who make a series of “substantially equal periodic payments” for five years or until the retirement account owner reaches age 59 ½ – whichever is longer. The allowable amount is based on life expectancy and must be calculated using one of the IRS approved methods.2 Since every situation is different, individuals are encouraged to consult with a qualified tax professional before making any decisions.

A 2011 rule from the IRS relates to the “portability deadline.” This is the rule that allows a surviving spouse to absorb any unused portion of a deceased spouse’s estate tax exemption amount. The surviving spouse must file an estate tax return on behalf of the decedent in order to qualify for the portability rule, even if the estate is under the filing threshold and typically would not be required to file an estate tax return. A new IRS guideline grants a permanent automatic extension of the time to file an estate tax return just to claim portability, extending it from nine months to up to two years after the decedent’s death.3

Also, as a reminder, 2017 is the first tax year in which taxpayers age 65 and over are subject to the same 10 percent threshold of adjusted gross income (AGI) for deducting unreimbursed medical expenses as all other taxpayers (in previous years the threshold was 7.5 percent for those 65 and over). Eligible medical and dental expenses must be over 10 percent of the taxpayer’s 2017 AGI in order to claim the deduction.4

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

 

1 IRS. April 19, 2017. “2016 Tax Changes.” https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/2016-tax-changes. Accessed Aug. 14, 2017.

2 Investopedia. 2017. “Rule 72(t).” http://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/rule72t.asp. Accessed Aug. 18, 2017.

3 Michael Kitces. Nerd’s Eye View. June 28, 2017. “IRS Extends Portability Deadline (Retroactively) Under Rev. Proc. 2017-34.” https://www.kitces.com/blog/rev-proc-2017-34-automatic-extension-deadline-form-706-portability-dsue-amount/?utm_source=FeedburnerRSS&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+KitcesNerdsEyeView+%28kitces.com+%7C+Nerd%27s+Eye+View%29. Accessed Aug. 18, 2017.

4 IRS. Dec. 15, 2016. “Questions and Answers: Changes to the Itemized Deduction for 2016 Medical Expenses.” https://www.irs.gov/individuals/questions-and-answers-changes-to-the-itemized-deduction-for-medical-expenses. Accessed Aug. 14, 2017.

 

The content provided in this blog is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered. It is not, however, intended to provide specific legal or tax advice and cannot be used to avoid tax penalties or to promote, market or recommend any tax plan or arrangement. You are encouraged to consult your personal tax advisor or attorney.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal.  Any references to reliable income generally refer to fixed insurance products, never securities or investment products.  Insurance and annuity product guarantees are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Assessing Risk in Retirement Income

By | Investments

When it comes to investing, there’s no such thing as a “safe bet.” Every type of financial vehicle has some level of risk, even checking and savings accounts. Back in the 1920s, people believed that the safest place to keep their money was a bank, and they were right. But as they witnessed during the Great Depression, even those assets were not 100 percent safe. Bank runs caused banks to deplete their cash holdings, and they had to call in loans and liquidate assets to try to keep up with withdrawal demands, which subsequently led to bank failures.1 In response, the government created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which insures deposits up to $250,000 per depositor, per FDIC-insured bank, per ownership category.2

Throughout history, bank deposit accounts have generally been considered the safest place to keep assets. However, today’s longer lifespans illustrate that risk takes many forms, including the potential risk of outliving your money if you don’t save enough, have a well-diversified financial portfolio to help outpace inflation and seek out multiple sources for reliable income streams. We can recommend a variety of strategies to help retirees pursue each of these goals, based on individual circumstances. Give us a call, and let’s discuss your options.

Consider even Social Security. The agency projects that by 2034, its Trust Fund will be reduced to the point where it can pay out only 74 percent of promised benefits to retirees. While it’s unlikely this safety net will collapse, Congress will need to take steps to keep the fund fully solvent.3

However, individuals who invest in 401(k)s should be aware that even if their company closes or goes bankrupt, vested 401(k) assets belong to the account owner; the employer or the employer’s creditors can’t touch them.4

Another factor that can potentially affect your retirement assets is the impact long-term inflation can have on cost of living expenses for people who spend 20 to 30 years or more in retirement. Inflation has remained low for many years, and some market experts believe that, as a result, many investors are not well-prepared for a resurgence of inflation.5

With the knowledge that investing offers the possibility of growth but also the risk of loss, it’s a good idea to consider working with a financial advisor to help tailor a financial portfolio to your specific goals, timeline and tolerance for different types of risk. Your financial advisor may also suggest annuities, and although they are not investments, some annuity contracts credit interest earnings that are linked to the performance of an external market index. These types of annuities, often referred to as fixed index annuities, offer a combination of higher interest growth potential and guaranteed income. The guarantees are backed by the insurance company so it’s important to check out the credit rating and financial strength and experience of the issuing insurer.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 History.com. “Bank Run.” http://www.history.com/topics/bank-run. Accessed Aug. 6, 2017.

2 Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. June 3, 2014. “Deposit Insurance FAQs.” https://www.fdic.gov/deposit/deposits/faq.html. Accessed August 15, 2017.

3 Chris Farrell. Forbes/Next Avenue. June 24, 2016. “The Truth About Social Security’s Solvency And You.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2016/06/24/the-truth-about-social-securitys-solvency-and-you/#2590b10b2199. Accessed Aug. 14, 2017.

4 Dana Anspach. The Balance. Nov. 22, 2016. “If My Company Closes, What Happens to My 401k?” https://www.thebalance.com/if-my-company-closes-what-happens-to-my-401k-2388225. Accessed Aug. 14, 2017.

5 Rebecca Ungarino. CNBC. Aug. 5, 2017. “Inflation isn’t stirring, but still the biggest risk to investors even as it’s ‘least apparent’: Brown Brothers.” https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/05/with-inflation-dormant-investors-downplay-risks-to-the-economy.html. Accessed Aug. 6, 2017.

Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal. Any references to reliable income generally refer to fixed insurance products, never securities or investment products. Annuities are insurance products that may be subject to fees, surrender charges and holding periods which vary by company. Annuities are not a deposit of nor are they insured by any bank, the FDIC, NCUA, or by any federal government agency. Annuities are designed for retirement or other long-term needs.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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