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Archives for September 2017

Is The Recession Really Over?

Although economists say the country has recovered from the 2008 recession, many people nearing retirement age would disagree. In fact, according to a recent study by the Bankers Life Center for a Secure Retirement, only 2 percent of middle-income baby boomers believe the economy has fully recovered. More than half of those surveyed reported that their savings are lower than they were before the crisis, and 40 percent stated they are not earning as much as they used to earn.

Unfortunately, sometimes we have to go through hard times to learn important lessons. Today, more baby boomers have built up an emergency fund to help cushion the financial impact in the event of another economic decline in the future. Many also have started working with a financial advisor to help them become better prepared for retirement — including the potential for downturns that could happen once they’ve stopped working.

One of the lessons to come out of the “Great Recession” is the importance of being financially prepared for retirement. We can help evaluate your current financial situation and make appropriate insurance and investment recommendations to help you work toward your desired financial future. Please feel free to contact us for a no-obligation consultation.

 

The content provided here is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered. It is not, however, intended to provide specific legal or tax advice. Contact us at info@securedretirements.com or call us at (952) 460­-3260 to schedule a time to discuss your financial situation and the potential role of investments in your financial strategy.

Strategic vs. Tactical Asset Allocation

In recent years, the markets, the economy and the global political scene have evolved considerably. We’ve witnessed both remarkable volatility and remarkable resilience in these areas. The reality is that less predictability in today’s economic landscape requires more vigilant risk diversification, coupled with the ability to adapt to a fast-changing environment.

We work with our clients to set financial goals and make strategic and tactical recommendations to help them reach their individual financial objectives. Equally as important, we want to encourage clients to work with us to monitor their financial progress and let us know when their personal or financial situation changes. Investing mirrors life in many ways: You make plans, but they often get disrupted, waylaid or delayed. By closely monitoring your financial strategy, we can help you determine if and when it’s time to make changes.

To this end, it may be beneficial for you to understand the distinction between strategic asset allocation and tactical asset allocation. Strategic allocation establishes and maintains a deliberate mix of stocks, bonds and cash designed to help meet your long-term financial objectives.

Tactical asset allocation, on the other hand, is more market focused. While an investor may set parameters for how much and how long he wants to invest in a certain asset class, he may want to then increase or decrease his allocations by 5 percent to 10 percent over a short time based on economic or market opportunities.

It is important to be aware that tactical asset allocation strategies present higher risks but also the opportunity for higher returns. It’s a good idea to set percentage limits on asset allocations and time benchmarks for when you may want to exit certain positions. Tactical asset allocation is, in fact, a market timing strategy, but its risk lies more in asset categories rather than individual holdings, and a crucial key for this type of allocation is to actively manage that risk.

To help diversify and manage risk, some financial advisors recommend exchange traded funds (ETFs). These are passively managed funds that can be bought and sold throughout the trading day. While ETFs are passively managed, they provide a means for an investor to tactically expand or shrink exposure to a specific asset class in her own actively managed portfolio. Proponents of ETFs favor them because of their low cost, tax efficiency and trading flexibility.

 

The content provided here is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered. It is not, however, intended to provide specific legal or tax advice. Contact us at info@securedretirements.com or call us at (952) 460­-3260 to schedule a time to discuss your financial situation and the potential role of investments in your financial strategy.

Is Feeling Younger the Secret to a Longer Life?

While some people accept getting older as a natural part of life, many others are on a mission to fight the aging process and maintain a youthful attitude and appearance. Although we are often reminded to “age gracefully” – to accept our older selves just as they are – research shows those who stay young at heart may just be on to something.

If you’ve ever experienced the feeling that the image in the mirror doesn’t quite match up with how you feel on the inside, you’re not alone. In 2015, the Journal of the American Medical Association published the results of research conducted over an eight-year timespan.  The initial survey of about 6,500 people ages 52 and older revealed that almost 70 percent of respondents felt three or more years younger than their actual age.

Eight years later, researchers went back and resurveyed the participants. They found 86 percent of the people who reported feeling younger than their actual age were still alive, as compared to 82 percent of the people who felt their actual age and 75 percent who felt older.

What’s the lesson here? This study and a variety of others point to the idea that feeling young actually helps us live longer. It’s the idea to stay “psychologically young”: maintaining a positive outlook, staying active physically and mentally, and enjoying a life of quality even into our older years. But how can we feel younger? Here are four tips:

  1. Eat right. Maintain a healthy diet, including plenty of veggies, fruits and protein. Also, make sure you’re getting plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon, nuts and seeds. These help prevent inflammation in your body, which affects you both mentally and physically.
  1. Get some exercise – physical and mental. Feeling younger means moving more. You need to challenge not only your body, but also your brain. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests things like taking a college course, finishing a daily crossword and enjoying an occasional play or performance as ways to stay mentally active.
  1. Set goals for the future. Goals give us something to work toward and look forward to, no matter your age. Your goals can be related to health, family, career, travel or anything that sounds interesting to you!
  1. Look on the bright side. A positive attitude can help you live longer. For example, a Harvard study of 70,000 female nurses found the most optimistic quarter of respondents had a 31 percent reduced risk of mortality. Sometimes keeping a positive outlook on life can keep you going, even when there may be negative external circumstances.

While it pays to think positive and keep a youthful mindset, lifespans of all people in general have gotten longer over the years. If you’re fortunate enough to live many years after retirement, you’re going to need a well-thought-out financial strategy. Using a variety of insurance and investment products, we can help you create a strategy that helps you to live the kind of retirement you’ve worked hard for. Contact us today to get started on your financial strategy for a long life.

 

The content provided here is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered. It is not, however, intended to provide specific legal or tax advice. Contact us at info@securedretirements.com or call us at (952) 460­-3260 to schedule a time to discuss your financial situation and the potential role of investments in your financial strategy.

3 Common Questions About Social Security

While Social Security shouldn’t be relied upon to be the sole source of income during retirement, it can play an important role in your overall financial strategy for retirement. But making sense of the basic ins and outs of Social Security can be overwhelming. Here are three questions people commonly ask as they approach retirement age:

When can I start taking benefits?

While full retirement age is 66 for people born between 1943 and 1954 and gradually increases to age 67 for those born in 1960 or later, you can start receiving Social Security benefits at age 62. Keep in mind, however, that there is a cost to early distribution; your benefits are reduced by about 0.5 percent for each month you receive benefits before full retirement age. For example, those born in 1955 with a full retirement age of 66 and two months who start taking benefits at age 62 will receive about 75 percent of the full benefit.

On the flip side, delaying benefits past full retirement age, up to age 70, increases your distribution amount. If the same individual in the previous example waits until age 68 to take benefits, his or her benefit will increase 8 percent each year after full retirement age. This increase continues until you reach age 70 or you start taking benefits, whichever comes first.

What happens to my benefits when I die?

It depends. If you are married and your spouse is age 60 or older, he or she may be eligible to collect a survivor’s benefit. The benefit amount remains the same as the deceased’s amount, although that amount is reduced if benefits are started before the surviving spouse’s full retirement age. A spouse cannot collect both survivors benefits and retirement benefits based on their own work record. They will collect whichever benefit is higher.

If you have a minor child or children, your surviving spouse (regardless of age) may also be eligible for a survivors benefit until the minor child turns age 16. If you have no surviving spouse or minor children, your benefit remains in the Social Security trust fund and is not paid out to any other named beneficiaries, unless they qualify under the Social Security survivors benefits eligibility rules.

Can I work while receiving benefits?

Yes. However, if you haven’t reached full retirement age, your benefit amount will be reduced if your earnings exceed the limit. Starting with the month you’ve reached full retirement age, your benefits will not be reduced no matter how much you earn. The earnings limit and reduced amount vary according to your age. To find out how much your benefits might be reduced, use the Social Security earnings calculator at https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/COLA/RTeffect.html.

Understanding Social Security can be challenging, but you don’t have to go it alone. Contact us today to learn more about  how to incorporate your Social Security benefits  into your complete financial strategy. We may be able to identify potential retirement income gaps and may introduce investment and insurance products as a potential solution.

 

The content provided here is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered. It is not, however, intended to provide specific legal or tax advice. Contact us at info@securedretirements.com or call us at (952) 460­-3260 to schedule a time to discuss your financial situation and the potential role of investments in your financial strategy.

Tax-Deferred or Tax-Exempt? Potential Benefits to Having Both

Over the years, you may have heard it’s good to have different “kinds” of money as you head into retirement. A financial advisor may recommend a combination of tax-deferred and tax-exempt financial products, diversifying your money to help take advantage of the tax benefits both types of products provide.

What many people don’t understand, however, is why it’s important to take advantage of the different types of financial products available. What are the potential benefits of utilizing both tax-deferred and tax-exempt products? First, let’s take a look at the difference between the two.

tax-deferred financial product means simply that: You owe taxes on the money, but those taxes have been deferred or pushed back. You haven’t paid any taxes on the contributions or the growth that’s occurred over the life of the product. When you take money out of it, those distributions are 100 percent taxable at ordinary income rates. Withdrawals taken prior to age 59 1/2 may also be subject to an additional 10 percent federal tax.

What types of financial products are tax-deferred? A 401(k), 403(b) or traditional IRA are all examples of tax-deferred investment products. Growth in some types of annuities or life insurance policies may also be tax-deferred.

Tax-exempt means no taxes are owed on qualified distributions made from the financial product. A Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) is a good example of a tax-exempt account. Contributions to a Roth are made with money that’s already been taxed.

So why can it be beneficial to have a mix of tax-deferred and tax-exempt financial products in your financial strategy? Mostly, it gives you flexibility in how you take distributions during your retirement. For example, you might use distributions from tax-deferred products to pay for your fixed expenses every month. If you have expenses that are outside of your “normal” spending — such as a vacation or a large purchase — you could use money from a tax-exempt product and not incur a taxable event.

While it could be tempting to go heavy in tax-exempt financial products when you’re establishing a financial strategy, using a tax-deferred product may put more money in your pocket in the long run. Many people are in a lower tax bracket during their retirement years. If that is the case, you may pay less taxes on distributions during retirement than if you were paying taxes on your contributions up front while still working.

What’s the right mix of tax-deferred and tax-exempt financial products for you? Every situation is unique. If you’re not sure what types of financial products you should be using, give us a call. We can look at your existing financial strategy and make recommendations based on your specific circumstances. We can also help you determine if life insurance and annuities could play a part in your tax-efficient strategy. Our mission is to help you plan for the best retirement possible.

Preventing Elderly Financial Abuse

A recent study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College concluded that many retirees who do not suffer from any cognitive impairment can still manage their money through their 70s and 80s. The study reports that financial capacity relies on accumulated knowledge and that knowledge stays mostly intact as we age.

However, the study points out that it generally is not a good idea to start managing financial decisions in your late 70s and 80s if you haven’t had experience doing this before — such as after the death of a spouse who handled the finances. We work closely with our clients to help them develop financial strategies designed to last a lifetime, with the goal of reducing the need to make dramatic financial changes later in life. However, we are here to address any questions or concerns of our clients no matter what stage of their financial planning. Please give us a call; we’re here to help.

Having a plan for late-stage financial management is important due to the increase in elderly financial fraud. With more than 45 million seniors in America, this is a large and tempting market for scammers. One study estimated that about 5 million older Americans are financially exploited each year. In New York state alone, allegations of elderly financial abuse spiked by more than 35 percent between 2010 and 2014.

In response to this growing problem, several government regulatory agencies have stepped up efforts to help prevent and address elder financial abuse, including the following:

  • The SEC requires brokers to make “reasonable efforts” to identify a “trusted contact” for investment accounts and allows them to prevent the disbursement of funds from the account and notify the trusted contact if the broker suspects abuse.
  • The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, set up a senior help line at 844-57-HELPS (844-574-3577)
  • In 2016, four state legislatures approved a rule requiring advisors to notify adult protective services and state regulators if they detect abuse; 10 more states are expected to adopt similar rules this year, and three other states already had such rules in place.

According to the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, some of the most common ways the elderly are taken advantage of financially are: forging their signature; getting them to sign a deed, will or power of attorney through deception, coercion or undue influence; using their property or possessions without permission; and telemarketing scams. Some of the most likely perpetrators of elder financial abuse are: family members; predatory people who seek out vulnerable seniors; and unscrupulous business professionals. If you believe you are a victim of fraud, contact your local law enforcement, state agency on aging and/or a community senior services group.