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Archives for November 2017

New Year’s Resolutions

This is the time we start thinking about setting New Year’s resolutions for the coming year. However, consider for a moment that this tradition may be a bit shortsighted.

Did you know that J.K. Rowling created a detailed outline of all seven Harry Potter books before she began writing? And George Lucas envisioned at least six Star Wars movies before filming the first. The point is, success takes time – particularly financial success. It’s good to set goals each year, such as increasing the amount you invest and finding more ways to reduce expenses.

But ultimately, having a plan is what can help you work toward your financial success. If you haven’t developed a solid plan for your retirement income, or if you believe your plan needs to be revised or at least reviewed by an independent and knowledgeable financial professional, please give us a call. There are many ways to position assets to get them to work harder, to diversify future retirement income sources and to help mitigate the potential impact of market volatility and long-term inflation.

We’re happy to sit down with you to review your current plan or help you develop a new one. It’s good to have New Year’s resolutions to work on in 2018, but it’s more important to help ensure your incremental goals can lead to long-term success. That’s where we can help. As an independent financial services firm, we help people create retirement strategies using a variety of investment and insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.  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.

Investing for the Long Term

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. 

The S&P 500 has nearly quadrupled in annualized returns since its low in 2009. Several prominent market analysts and investment firms suggest this means it’s about time for a market downturn. 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.

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. 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.

Don’t Forget to Leave Time for Leisure

Sometimes it seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day. We make lists and check off the activities we manage to complete — because that makes us feel productive. We might even put fun things on that list — like yoga class, reading for an hour or calling a friend — in case we get too busy to remember to have fun.

But while we’re cramming our days with taking the dog to the vet, picking up prescriptions and dropping by the grocery store on the way home, are we getting enough leisure time? Although it may feel lazy, and maybe even costly, to schedule yourself leisure time, consider that some experts say we can be more productive — do more in less time — if we designate a specific time for leisure.

Keep in mind, there is a difference between leisure time and wasting time. Although it’s nice to be idle on occasion, it may be more beneficial to stay active in your leisure activities. For example, playing golf or a casual game of tennis helps you stay in shape. If you’re indoors, reading a good book could provide intellectual stimulation that an afternoon surfing social media might not.

It’s also OK to allow time for leisure on a whim. If the urge strikes, stop whatever you’re doing and go for a walk. The more unplanned that walk is, the more likely you are to enjoy it. And when you get back to your lists, your chores and office duties, you’ll be all the more refreshed because of it.

Thanksgiving!

This time of year sees turkeys land in the freezer and age old family recipes come out to see the light of day again. While a delicious feast and time spent with loved ones are certainly the highlight of November, I like to pause and reflect on gratitude – the backbone of Thanksgiving.

Did you know that gratitude has proven health benefits? Studies have found that grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, and generally report feeling healthier. Interestingly, they also tend to take better care of their health by paying attention to nutrition, exercise and regular check-ups. All of those factors can contribute to a higher quality of life – and better overall health!

I have not seen a study on this, and yet I wonder whether grateful people have better financial health, as well. Gratitude has shown to have a positive effect on reducing anxiety, encouraging better sleep, and strengthening resilience. In my experience, resilience in particular can be a major contributor to one’s financial health. After all, most people I know have made big and small money missteps on their road to retirement. The ability to bounce back after a setback or a disappointment is key to making progress.

In the spirit of the season, I invite you to consider your own financial situation from the position of gratitude. Don’t judge by what your bank balance is or how your 401(k) is doing, but begin with feeling thankful for what you have. That starting point can give you a balanced perspective and help you unravel any financial concerns you might have.

As you consider your money situation, remember that you don’t have to do this alone. Financial planning can be extremely complex. No matter how smart my clients are or how much money they have saved, there always seem to be those nagging questions in the back of their minds. What happens if I pass away before my spouse? What will I do if I get sick? What will happen to my nest egg if the stock market takes a hit?

I want you to know that having those questions does not mean that you did not do a good job so far. As retirement approaches, most people would benefit from a consultation with a certified financial planner.  

Wouldn’t you rather know for sure that your plan is keeping you on the right track? Peace of mind and access to the right professionals – now, that is definitely something to be grateful for!

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.

When One Spouse Retires First

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?

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.

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. 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. 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. 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.

Ways to Help Increase Retirement Savings and Reduce Your Tax Liability

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+.

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+.

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.

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. 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.

 

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.