Social Security: Now or Later?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) released on October 11, 2018 its planned changes for calendar year 2019.  Not surprisingly, to both current beneficiaries and those weighing the pros and cons of starting to collect, the item of greatest interest is the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) planned for the year ahead. More than 67 million Americans will be affected.

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Low Cost Investing is a Thing, Passive Investing is Not

 

Someone has to choose what you own. Back in the day, it was your broker, calling during dinner, suggesting that you sell your Texaco and buy IBM instead. Later, you bought a mutual fund, which allowed you to save money on transaction costs, better diversify your portfolio, and limit your dinner time interruptions to political pollsters. Over the past few decades, indexed mutual funds and ETFs have made great strides in lowering investing costs by extraordinary amounts, but make no mistake, indexing is not passive.
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A MEGA Roth Savings Opportunity Hiding Within Your 401(k)

Looking to enhance your retirement savings beyond maxing out contributions to your employer provided retirement account? Hidden deep within your 401(k) plan rules, may be an opportunity to take advantage of one of the best strategies to come along in years. It’s been dubbed the "Mega Backdoor Roth," and with a name like that, it has to be good, right?

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The Best Retirement Account You Aren't Using

Investors are used to struggling with the Traditional vs Roth retirement question - Do I take the tax savings now or will it be more advantageous to take it later? However, imagine a savings account that provides a tax deduction at the time of contribution, tax-deferred growth inside the account AND tax-free withdrawals.

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Why The S&P 500 Isn't What You Think It Is

 

Summary:

  • The S&P 500 index is size-weighted. A $100 billion company enjoys 10 times the influence over the index as a company whose market capitalization is $10 billion.
  • The top 5 companies consume more than 14 percent of the index, equivalent to that of the bottom 265.
  • The companies in the index are added and removed by real live people.
  • The historical turnover is 4.4 percent, or approximately 22 changes each year.
  • While it feels like today’s top 5 companies can do no wrong, history suggests this dominance is unsustainable.
  • The biggest gains will come while on the journey to the top, not after arrival.
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Can You Live The Life You Want Without Worrying About Money?

Coming soon to a commercial break near you, is a new advertising campaign from the CFP Board that aims to shed light on the higher emotional well-being consumers achieve when engaging with a certified financial planner. You may have seen their previous T.V. spot from a couple of years ago which featured a professional DJ throwing on a suit and convincing prospective clients that he was a trustworthy financial advisor.

That campaign slogan was “if they’re not a CFP pro, you just don’t know.” It was a clever public service announcement pointing to something we’ve written about here before - the importance of understanding where your financial advice is coming from, and whether or not it’s in your best interest.

The latest promotion pivots from pointing out the danger of working with just any “advisor,” to showcasing the potential benefits of engaging in financial planning work. Yet, what seems to get glossed over in all of the excitement to spread the word, as often happens when advisors attempt to describe their services, is a good explanation of what exactly financial planning is in the first place.

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Who Says Money Can't Buy Happiness?

As a financial advisor, most of my career has been focused on strategies to help individuals save, invest and protect their money. The point of accumulating wealth is primarily to assist clients’ in reaching their aspirations, hopes and dreams. With so much time centered on growing wealth, little was dedicated to the other side of the equation – spending it. However, what is the point of working so hard to have “enough” if we don't use it to spend in ways that make us happy? A few years ago, I came across the book Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending. The authors are two behavioral science professors who suggest there may be opportunities to derive greater happiness by changing the ways we spend our money. More money doesn't always lead to more happiness. However, how you choose to spend can have an impact. They outline five key principals which can result in money actually buying happiness.

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How to Predict the Market Like the Experts

 

The highly unlikely 2017 and the more typical 2018 that has followed has me contemplating the difficulty of forecasting how the market will do in the future.  I don’t remember anyone anticipating, in December 2016, a banner year in 2017 via a nice straight line.  Indeed, predicting any given future year’s stock market performance is very difficult, but why don’t you try!

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Financial Planning for Older Adults

 

When Greg Brandt’s father decided the time had come to replace his aging navy blue Buick Park Avenue, the 87 year-old did what any conscientious consumer would do; he scheduled a visit to the local auto mall in Lansing, MI and test drove vehicles that seemed like suitable candidates to meet his budget and transportation needs (1). At each of the dealerships the young salesmen were polite and quite eager to demonstrate the superior qualities unique to their particular brand and model. By the time Greg’s father returned home later that evening, the octogenarian proudly announced he had made a down payment and executed a purchase agreement to trade in the old Buick and take delivery of a new vehicle from the factory manufactured to his specifications. By all accounts, it seemed like a successful outing.

The problems arose several weeks later when it became evident the retired professor had placed factory orders for 3 separate vehicles with 3 different dealers…and made substantial down payments for each. While the auto dealers demonstrated remarkable understanding in helping to unwind the mess, it wasn’t entirely a painless process for anyone.

For most of us, knowing exactly when it might be time to step in and assist an aging parent manage their financial affairs isn’t always quite so obvious. It can be equally as challenging for the person requiring assistance to know when it's the right time to ask for help. Nobody really likes to think about the onset of diminished financial capacity (either for ourselves or for those we are closest to). However, simply ignoring red flags can not only extract a financial toll on a retirement nest egg, it also can impose an emotional toll on family members and loved ones.

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Are Seniors Cybersafe?

 Technology has made incredible strides in the last 25 years, and it will only continue to improve as the digital age advances. The launch of the Internet changed the way we function in society. It has allowed us to stay connected, informed, and involved with just one click. The internet has also provided effortless ways to shop, travel, and manage finances. However, with increased benefits and conveniences comes increased risks. The Internet requires us to remain aware and cautious of these risks. Cyber criminals target older Americans via phishing emails and non-secure website transactions through a facade of charitable donations, health care coverage, dating services, and much more. So, why are seniors easy targets and how can they stay cybersafe?

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