Make The Most Of Your Empty Nest

How to Make Your Empty Nest Time a Prime Time in Your Life

Time flies when you’re a parent. Just when you’ve wrapped your head around the demands and responsibilities of raising a child, you turn around and your little bundle of joy is ready to head out into the world.

This empty nest transition can be very emotional. And in some cases, like children who stay on your health insurance until age 25, the break isn’t as clean as it used to be. But this change should also be exciting! Here are some tips on how you and your spouse can stay positive and make the most out of all your new free time, all that new space, and hopefully, all that extra money.

1. Celebrate!

First off, some major congratulations are in order. Raising children is as rewarding as it is challenging. In order to get where you and your spouse are today, you had to make so many sacrifices, juggle work and family schedules, and carefully manage your finances.

An empty nest fills some parents with sadness and loneliness. But you should focus on the positive. Your kids are ready to be adults. Be proud of them, and of you and your spouse. Pop a good bottle of wine you’ve been saving or treat yourselves to a night out. You deserve it. An exciting new part of your life is about to begin.

2. Readjust your budget.

Children are wonderful. They’re also really expensive! No more sports fees. No more restocking the fridge every other day. Depending on their ages and how much you’re helping with their transition into adulthood, no more school tuition or piggybacking on insurance and phone plans.

Even the smallest of these expenses adds up quickly month after month. Now that they’re in the past, it’s time to make a new budget. You might find ways to ramp up your savings and contributions to your retirement accounts. You also might be able to afford a few more creature comforts or an extra trip or two.

3. Reclaim your space.

If your house suddenly feels a little emptier, well … it is. Too empty? If you and your spouse now have more room than you really need, it might be time to consider downsizing and economizing. Any new homes or neighborhoods in your community that look appealing? Have you considered moving out of state to start a new adventure?

If you’re happy where you are, take back those vacant rooms. Refurnish with a more grown-up touch to create a guest room for visiting friends and family. Give your hobbies and passions their own space by making a crafting room or a library.

Added bonus: if your kids have any trouble “adulting,” they’ll be more motivated to figure things out for themselves if there’s an easel or writing desk where their beds used to be.

4. Reconnect with your spouse.

You and your spouse are going to have more one-on-one time now than you’ve had since you were newlyweds, especially if you’re both getting ready to retire. What things did you used to do together before all those soccer practices and ballet recitals started dominating your schedules? What dream vacations for two have you been putting off? Have your golf or tennis swings gotten a little rusty over the years? Do you have time to cook meals together now?

Another activity that might bring you and your spouse closer is regular visits to your adult children and any grandchildren you might have. Seeing your kids on their own, flourishing at college or raising their own kids, will only deepen the sense of pride you should feel for a job well done.

5. Talk it out.

Major life transitions are often more challenging than we’re prepared to admit. More room, more free time, and more cash in hand are all positive. But the feeling that a large part of your life is over might be hard to shake.

Your blank calendar and lack of routine can be intimidating. Empty bedrooms can feel lonely. And while empty nest blues are often associated with the mother, many fathers suffer in silence. Make sure that you and your spouse are open and honest with each other about what you’re both feeling and get help if necessary.

On the flipside, you might feel overwhelmed in a good way – thrilled by all the options available to you, excited to start something new, but unsure of where to begin.

Again, step one is clear communication with your spouse. Make sure that you are on the same page about what you both want from this new stage of your life. Plan activities that you can do together. But also make space in your new routine for each of you to explore, learn, and grow individually.

Step two: come in and talk to us. We can help you sort through the financial implications of your empty nest and make sure you have the resources to live your best possible life with the money you have.

A Simple Plan to Achieve More and Feel Good About It

A Simple Plan to Achieve More in Life and Feel Good About the Results

Mike Desepoli, Heritage

We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in the short-term and underestimate what we can accomplish in the long-term. The frustration that results is one big reason why so many New Year’s resolutions die before Spring.

But if you use these key strategies that are supported by deeply-held values – and science!  –  you’ll set better goals, achieve them, and feel better about yourself while doing so.

Know your values.

Knowing your values can provide real clarity on what you want to achieve in your life.

So ask yourself, what’s important to you? What makes you excited to get up in the morning? What are the passions and interests that fill your time when you’re not working? Who are the people you do those things with?

Another way to explore your values is to try new things. For example, volunteering at your local church or community center might reveal a passion for teaching or philanthropy that you never knew you had. These active experiments can become even more important as you age and start thinking about how you’ll stay happy and engaged in retirement.

Align your goals with your values.

Behavioral scientists have found that achieving goals is rarely a matter of ability or knowledge. For example, a person who wants to lose weight knows that eating ice cream with hot fudge five nights a week is not compatible with weight loss. Yet, the reason they keep downing that ice cream is often due to a lack of motivation. They might feel the immediate pleasure from the ice cream outweighs (no pun intended) the longer-term result of no weight loss, or worse, weight gain.

The more important a goal is to us, the more motivated we are to achieve it. Asking “Why?” can help you align your goals with your values and increase that motivational component:

  • Why should you stop eating ice cream five nights a week? Because I want to be healthier.
  • Why do you want to be healthier? So that I can live a longer and more active life.
  • Why do you want to live longer and be more active? So that I can do more things with my children and grandchildren.

Now we’ve identified core values – health and family – that are tied to the goal. These values will make the goal more important, and more likely to be reached.

Develop an action plan.

Asking “Why?” helps us move our goal-setting to a higher, value-driven space.

Asking “How?” helps us drill down into specific actions we can take to achieve those goals.

“I want to lose weight” is the sort of goal many people set and then abandon. That’s because it’s too unspecific. You can’t just “lose weight” every day until you hit your desired number.

So ask yourself, “How am I going to lose weight?” An answer like, “I’m going to exercise more” is closer, but still not actionable enough.

So how are you going to exercise more? Take a bike ride through your neighborhood every morning? Jog for 30 minutes after work three days every week?

Those are small but solid steps that you can use to develop an action plan. You might even go a little further and join a gym, start a neighborhood walk group, or hire a coach to add an extra layer of accountability and keep you on track. And yes, cut out the ice cream and hot fudge!

Measuring is Motivating.

Whatever goal you set, try to keep score. It could be as simple as pulling out a piece of blank paper and putting a checkmark on it for each day you don’t eat ice cream. We find that the act of keeping score creates its own momentum and can be like a “pat on the back” for a job well done.

Be resilient.

Even a perfectly-set, highly-motivated goal will be challenging. Some lazy Saturday you’ll snooze past your workout. You’ll cheat on your diet. An unexpected home repair might throw off your budgeting goals for the month. But that’s ok! We’re all human. Roll with it that day but then get right back to your plan.

All goals and personal improvements require effort. The grit we need to get over those inevitable humps is its own kind of skill that you can cultivate. Try to push yourself above and beyond your smaller targets. Welcome and accept feedback and criticism that can make you perform better. Prepare yourself to do better tomorrow when your alarm goes off.

And most importantly, stay positive. If your goals truly are aligned with your values, then working towards them shouldn’t feel like punishment. When you experience setbacks, try to embrace them as learning opportunities and adjust your action plan accordingly. And here’s an important piece of advice–when you hit small milestones on your way to big goals, treat yourself. We can all use a little positive reinforcement.

We’re here to help you.

What you aspire to achieve may require a financial commitment. Please contact us and we can discuss your particular situation and see how we can help you get on a faster path to achieving your life’s aspirations.

Sources

https://www.belayadvisor.com/behavior/

https://99u.adobe.com/articles/55219/true-grit-how-to-build-up-your-resilience

Are You Living Your Life On Purpose?

Are You Living Your Life On Purpose?

Lou Desepoli, Heritage

Why, day in and day out, do you do the things that you do?

Because you have to? Is it because you want to? Or is it because you’ve had the same routine for years and you’re used to it?

If you feel like your life is something that just happens to you, it’s time to reassess how you’re spending your time. Financial security, stability, and creature comforts are all important. But feeling that your life has purpose will become more and more critical to your emotional and physical well-being as you age — especially when you finally retire.

A healthy sense of purpose.

Research into the area of human well-being draws a distinction between happiness (experiencing pleasure and avoiding pain) and the feelings of meaning and self-worth that we derive from our lives (1).

Too often, we focus on the former and neglect the latter. This is why the sheen wears off so quickly from a big-ticket purchase. Buying a new car or big-screen TV gives us a quick hit of pleasure. But sooner rather than later, new things become just more things that we’ve accumulated. Once that initial happiness evaporates, we find there’s no additional layer – no purpose – to improve our well-being.

Researchers have also found that people who feel like their lives have purpose live longer and show decreased risk of cardiovascular problems (2). And as you age and prepare for retirement, living with purpose helps to limit your risk of cognitive problems, such as Alzheimer’s (3).

The purpose of work and family.

Most of us tie purpose to the things that we spend the majority of our time doing: working and raising our families. Again, it’s important to draw a distinction between simple happiness and purpose.

A doctor who has to deal with ill people and mortality might not consider her job “happy” all the time. But helping people gives her that critical sense of purpose that rounds out her feelings of well-being.

Taking care of children will, at times, make even the most patient parents want to pull their own hair out. But feelings of love, connection, and responsibility make both happy family vacations and frustrating afternoons in timeout purposeful.

If you feel like your life is lacking purpose, start by looking for misalignment in these two areas. Is your job “just a job” that pays the bills? How could you pivot to a career that uses your unique gifts and skills to create purpose? Or are you working so hard that you’re missing key family events, which are also critical to your sense of purpose? Are there ways to improve your work-life balance?

It’s never too late to start living.

Many people believe that living and giving generously with their time, talents, and/or finances is a luxury they can’t afford, especially once children, mortgage payments, and college tuition enter the picture. However, research indicates that senior citizens frequently cite “dying with their music still in them” as one of the biggest areas of regret when they look back on their lives, meaning, chances they didn’t take, ideas they never pursued, or opportunities they watched pass by. It’s not money they’re regretting, it’s the sense of purpose they missed out on that would have improved their Return on Life.

Of course, not everybody can have that “perfect” job. But even in those situations, think of it not so much about the work you do, but “who you bring” to the work you do. Find ways to bring purpose to even the most mundane jobs and how that work is helping others.

And it’s never to late to find that purpose. Even seniors can discover new passions that will give their golden years purpose if they approach retirement with an active, enthusiastic mindset.

If you’re having trouble getting started, try asking yourself, “Why do I get out of bed in the morning?”

Is it to take care of your family? If so, then consider planning a family vacation for the summer. Coaching your child’s youth sports team. Turning dinner time into a group cooking activity. Or setting a regular monthly date night with your spouse.

If you find purpose in helping those in need, consider finding a volunteer position for a few hours a week.

Do you like to express yourself? Then perhaps start a blog or a digital photography website that you can work on in your free time. Turn that spare bedroom into a craft room.

And if you think your purpose is simply to make more money? Well, then maybe you need to start asking yourself better questions. Remember, money is a means, not an end.

We encourage you to come in and talk to us so that we can start a new dialogue about how your financial plan can help you get the best, most purposeful life possible with the money you have.

 

Sources:
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11148302
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26630073
  3. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/210648

 

 

Savings: Does Your Desire to Save Match Your Reality?

Savings: Does Your Desire to Save Match Your Reality?

Mike Desepoli, Heritage Financial Advisory Group

“The only money that’s really yours is the money you spend.

Everything else goes to somebody else.”

-Teddy Chafolious

That piggy bank we remember from childhood wasn’t just a place to store our birthday money and spare change: it was a lesson, a way our parents encouraged us to get into the habit of saving. Many parents even go so far as to deposit half of any monetary gifts their children receive directly into a savings account, just to drive the point home. Adults who took that lesson to heart might set up automatic deposits into long-term savings or retirement accounts from their paychecks every month – a modern mechanism for implementing this age-old lesson.

But the quote from Teddy Chafolious raises an important point: What are we saving FOR? Many new investors come to their financial advisors with a number in mind: “I want to save $1 million before I retire.” There’s even something of a fad among millennials who work as hard as they can, save as much as they can, and try to retire before age 50.

But why? After all, “you can’t take it with you.”

It’s important to have financial goals, and committing to a regular savings plan is good first step towards achieving them. But if you treat your long-term financial planning as just a series of targets to hit, or numbers you have to drive up as much as possible, your return on investment is going to be a lot higher than your Return on Life – the feelings of happiness and fulfillment that your financial planning should provide you.

How much are Americans saving?

According to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, Americans today are saving a lot less than they have in years past. Personal savings in the United States averaged 8.29 percent from 1959 until 2017. The rate for 2017 is hovering around 3 percent. Experts tie this historically low savings rate to increased household spending, which continues to outpace wage increases, and high levels of revolving debt, like credit cards.

Figures like these drive many people to the opposite end of the spectrum: they save as much as they possibly can, especially if they’re nearing retirement.

Finding balance.

We tend to think that the person saving more is doing a better job of managing his or her money than the person saving too little. But neither extreme is going to maximize your Return on Life. Spend too much enjoying the now, and you might end up having to work much longer than you want to – maybe even all the way through retirement. Save too much too early, and you and your family might miss out on the experiences that you deserve to enjoy with your hard-earned money: big family vacations, a new home, creature comforts, entertainment and culture that will enrich all of your lives.

Worse, new retirees who have spent their lives stuck in “savings mode” often have trouble transitioning to the reward mentality that should provide for a meaningful retirement. These retirees worry so much about running out of money that they often neglect their own wants and needs, to their emotional and physical detriment.

Reality check.

So how do you find that balance between enjoying today and preparing for tomorrow?

First, ask yourself if your rate of savings is in line with your reality. Are you saving so much that you’re not enjoying life as much as you could be? Or are you hovering around that 3 percent savings figure, telling yourself that you’re putting enough money away when you know, deep down, that you’re not?

Next, make an appointment with your Advisor to talk about your financial goals, and your vision for a dream retirement. Work together to find that saving/spending balance that’s going to align your savings with your reality, and hopefully, your goals and dreams. Find that sweet spot, and your money won’t just be numbers on a balance sheet. It will be yours. Don’t have an advisor? Here is a helpful article to show you what to look for.

Overlooked Keys to Being a Successful Investor

Three Overlooked Keys to Being a Successful Investor

Mike Desepoli, Heritage

Does investing strike “fear” in you? We once heard somebody say the word “fear” stands for “False Evidence Appearing Real.” That seems to apply to investing. Here’s why.

The stock market makes some people nervous. This can be especially true for young people who grew up during the Great Recession. Not only did these folks see market volatility at its worst, but they also came away with negative impressions about the financial markets in general.

The truth is that the market is neither a one-way ticket to instant riches nor a dangerous game for insiders only. There is risk involved in any kind of investment, but if you understand how the market operates in the long run, then the rewards can be significant.

By understanding the following three important facts about the market, you might be able to turn “fear” into “False Evidence Appearing Real” and not get scared out of letting your money work hard for you in the market.

  1. The market tends to move in long cycles.

The amount of info we have at our fingertips makes it tempting to check in on our investments weekly, daily, or even hourly. As a financial professional, though, we take a much wider view of the markets. And while past performance is no guarantee of future returns, the history of the market continues to trend upwards.

Consider the S&P 500 Index. If we go back and look at all the bull (upwards) and bear (downwards) markets from 1926 to 2017, the average bear lasted 1.4 years and resulted in a 41% loss on average. However, the average bull lasted 9 years, and gave investors a 480% gain on average, according to First Trust.

When volatility strikes, patience is usually a good course of action. Your financial plan is designed to provide for the rest of your life, not for one bull or bear cycle. Instead of panicking when the market dips, try to think of volatility as a tax that investors pay on the wealth that the market can create.

And if you do find yourself checking in on your investments as regularly as you check your email, maybe think about uninstalling that app—or calling us.

  1. Make consistent contributions to your portfolio.

Besides struggling to accept volatility, many people are skittish about the markets because they feel powerless. Money goes in, and decades later, who knows what’s going to come out. They feel that politicians, corporations, and geopolitical tumult will have the final say in how big their retirement nest egg grows.

However, often times the biggest factor that determines the success of your investments is simply contributing new money on a consistent basis. As discussed above, the market will most likely trend upwards in the long run. The more of your money that’s along for the ride, the bigger those eventual gains will be.

For example, suppose that you decide to invest $10,000 every year for 10 years into your portfolio. In a flat market returning 0%, that $10,000 would account for 100% of your portfolio’s gains. In a modest market returning 6% per annum, that $10,000 would account for 73% of your portfolio’s gains. And even in a bull market, charging ahead at a rate of 12%, your $10,000 would STILL account for more than half of your portfolio’s gains, according to Invesco.

  1. Focus on what you can control.

To be sure, part of investing involves accepting things you can’t control. A hurricane on the other side of the world might rattle the markets for a couple days. A large company might become embroiled in an accounting scandal. The Federal Reserve might make an unexpected interest rate move. Market corrections might follow.

But if you understand volatility and continue to focus on the big picture, you’ll start paying more attention to the things you can control, like a monthly budget that allows for automatic contributions to your investment and retirement accounts.

Better yet, think about setting a goal to ramp up the size of those contributions. Many people try to save or invest 10% of their income. Can you shoot for 15%? 20%? The bigger the contributions, the bigger the payoff when you retire. And if retirement isn’t on your radar, that big investment cushion will go a long way toward giving you a feeling of freedom.

If you’re still unsure about investing in the markets, make an appointment to talk to us. We can help clear away any misconceptions you might have about investing and craft a plan that makes you comfortable about how your money is working for you.

 

 

Facebook Data Scandal: What you need to know

Facebook data scandal: Here’s everything you need to know

Mike Desepoli, Heritage

Cambridge Analytica is in the midst of a media firestorm. This came after an undercover sting operation caught senior executives boasting about psychological manipulation, entrapment techniques and fake news campaigns. Alongside social media giant Facebook, the London-based elections consultancy is at the center of an ongoing dispute over the alleged harvesting and use of personal data.

What happened

It started with an explosive expose broadcast by Britain’s Channel 4 News on Monday. In it, senior executives at Cambridge Analytica, were caught on camera suggesting the firm could use sex workers, bribes and misinformation in order to try and help political candidates win votes around the world.

How did this initially come to light?

The Channel 4 News investigation followed articles published over the weekend by the New York Times and U.K. newspaper The Observer. The reports sought to outline how the data of millions of Facebook profiles ended up being given to Cambridge Analytica.

In this way, 50 million Facebook profiles were mined for data. Kogan then shared this with Cambridge Analytica, which allowed the firm to build a software solution. The software was used to help influence choices in elections, therefore spurring the narrative of collusion. This was according to a whistleblower, who revealed the alleged practices to both newspapers.

How has Facebook Stock responded?

As you might expect it’s been under quite a bit of pressure the last few days. It is currently off about 10% from recent all time highs made in February. With growing calls for executives to appear before congress, it will likely continue to be under pressure. In the news today, there is a group of investors who have filed a class action lawsuit against Facebook with the intention to recoup stock losses.

What happens next?

U.S. senators have urged Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress. They will likely ask about how the social media giant will protect its users. Meanwhile, in the U.K., Zuckerberg has been summoned by the chairman of a parliamentary committee in order to explain the “catastrophic failure” to lawmakers.

The head of the European Parliament has also said it will carry out an investigation to see whether data was misused.

 

 

Tariffs & Trade Wars

Tariffs & Trade Wars

By Emmet Sullivan , Guest Blogger

 

Many consumers, investors, and ordinary citizens often worry when the word “tariff” is thrown around. Instantly signaling an increase in price in imported goods, the word is almost synonymous with a negative economic impact.  Thinking in terms of the big picture, we need not jump to such hasty, and often misguided conclusions.

What is a Tariff?

First, it is important to understand what tariffs are, and what they hope to accomplish. A tariff is an additional tax imposed on imported goods.  By imposing these taxes on imports, national governments hope to discourage large-scale outsourcing. As a result they hope to spur domestic production by driving import prices up. When the prices of imports go up, the hope is that consumers will look to domestic suppliers for goods they would normally obtain from international sellers.

The current tariff talks in the U.S. are based around metals. Specifically, President Trump wants to impose a 25% tariff on imported aluminum and steel.  The levy is intended to increase demand of domestically manufactured metals by increasing the price of their international substitutes.  This in turn might create a number of job opportunities in U.S. metal production related to the surge in demand.

Trade War?

Many worry that this tariff may result in an international trade war between the U.S. and countries like China and South Korea. There is speculation that trading partners might retaliate with similar tariffs. Therefore, this would make it harder for U.S. producers to export their goods.  However, Canada (the U.S.’s largest supplier of both aluminum and steel) and Mexico (the U.S.’s third largest trading partner) are both exempt from the tariff as part of the ongoing re-negotiation of the NAFTA agreement.

In summation, the tariff should not be an immediate cause for worry. As stated, some of the U.S.’s largest trading partners are exempt from its effects, and some speculate that it has been implemented as a negotiation tool for international agreements like NAFTA. The tariff’s long term effects remain to be seen, but we caution against fear of an economically-harmful trade war at present.

The BIGGEST Blunder Investors Are Making

The Biggest Blunder Investors are Making Right Now

Mike Desepoli, Heritage

 

It’s not all their fault, though, as information is often dumbed down in the interest of simplicity. As Einstein said: “Everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler.”

Unfortunately, often the information provided to average investors has been simplified below the bare minimum. To avoid the blunder, average investors need a bit of sophistication.

To fully understand how to avoid the blunder, let us first illustrate the point. Read on for the blunder and how to avoid it.

The dirty little secret

Many average investors believe the myth that bonds are safe. There is some truth to the understanding that bonds are safer than stocks, but average investors miss an important nuance. If you buy an individual Treasury bond or a bond of a company with a solid balance sheet and hold it to maturity, you will get your principal back. However, this is not the case when you buy mutual funds or ETFs.

Asset Allocation? What asset allocation

Many average do it yourselfers are advised to start with 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds. Of course, adjustments are made based on age and objectives. Investors are told that stocks are for growth and bonds are for safety and income. Many average investors do not understand that they can lose a lot of money in bonds.

All good things come to an end

Bonds have been in a 30-year bull market. For this reason, the bad advice given to investors has not hurt them so far. However, average investors need to know that the bull market has ended.

The big blunder

As stock market volatility has risen, many average investors who want safety are moving out of stocks into bonds. They are doing so because they do not understand the following:

  • They can lose money in bonds.
  • Interest rates are rising.
  • Bonds move inverse to interest rates. In plain English, when interest rates go higher, bonds go lower.
  • Stocks are experiencing volatility because of rising interest rates.

What to do now

First and foremost, do not buy bond funds or ETFs.

Second, it helps to understand that most funds and popular ETFs are concentrated in a handful of stocks that have run up and now pose a high risk.

Third, if you don’t know what you’re doing always consult with a professional.

Fourth, check out Episode 60 of The #AskTheAdvisor Show by clicking here.

 

 

What is a stock market correction? And a few other facts.

What is a stock market correction? And a few other facts you need to know

It’s been a crazy few days on Wall Street.

 

On Tuesday, the Dow plunged 567 points at the opening bell and briefly sank into correction territory before roaring back. On Monday, the Dow took its biggest single day point plunge in history.

Here’s what you need to know about what’s going on in the stock market.

What is a stock market correction?

A correction is a 10% decline in stocks from a recent high. In this case, that was less than two weeks ago, when the Dow closed at a record high of 26,616. A correction is less severe than a bear market, when stocks decline 20% from their recent highs. The stock market’s last correction began in the summer of 2015 and ended in February 2016.

Why is this happening?

The most immediate reason is a fear of inflation.

 

Last Friday’s jobs report was strong. Wages are rising, and unemployment is historically low. That’s great news for Main Street. But on Wall Street, it raises fears that inflation will finally pick up, and that the Federal Reserve will have to raise interest rates faster to fight it.

How are global markets reacting?

Overnight, world markets followed the United States’ lead and dropped. The Nikkei in Japan closed down 4.7%, China’s main stock index closed down 3.3%, and Australia’s closed down 3.2%. European markets were lower, but not as much as Asia. Stocks were down about 2% in Britain, Germany and France.

What does this mean for the rally?

From Election Day to the record high on January 26, the Dow climbed more than 8,000 points — a remarkable 45%. Many factors were behind the rapid rise: The ever-improving economy and job market, business optimism, record corporate profits, and the big business tax cut, which Republicans made law. The losses in the market since the beginning of last week wiped out about a quarter of that gain. The Dow began Tuesday up about 6,000 points since the election.

Is this the worst decline ever?

No.

Monday’s decline of 1,175 points on the Dow was, by far, the biggest point decline in history. The Dow had never lost more than 777 points in a single day. But in percentage terms, the declines of Friday and Monday are nowhere near the worst. On Black Monday in 1987, the Dow dropped an incredible 22%. That’s the equivalent of a 5,300-point decline today. And on several days during the financial crisis in 2008, the Dow dropped 6% or 7%. Monday’s decline was 4.6%. That was the worst for the Dow since August 2011.

 

Does all of this mean we’re entering a recession?

Stock market declines don’t cause recessions, and they do a pretty poor job of predicting whether one is coming. So while the market plunge might rattle investors and ding consumer confidence, it is not a sign that the economy is in trouble. Unemployment is at a 17-year low. Average hourly wages went up last month the most in eight years. Consumer and business confidence are near record levels. Economists say it would take a much bigger stock market move than Monday’s plunge to change that.

For more information visit us at Heritage Financial Advisory Group and check out the latest episode of The #AskTheAdvisor Show.

Stock Market Sell-Off: Heartburn, Not A Heart Attack

 

4 Ways to ACTUALLY Keep Your Resolutions

4 Ways to ACTUALLY Keep Your Resolutions

By Mike Desepoli, Heritage

 

You might know that 41% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions annually. But did you know that out of those, more than 42% never actually succeed, yet continue to make new resolutions every year? As the saying goes, if change were easy, more people would do it.

Fortunately, there are some simple ways for you to set yourself up for success. Read on to explore some of the most common resolutions and how you can actually make them stick.

Resolution: Manage Time better

Most of us can think of some way we’d like to improve our time management. Whatever you want to make room for, there’s a key strategy that can help you actually make it stick.

Success Tip: Name Your Why

You have 24 hours in a day, but old habits can be hard to break. To make a lasting change in how you’re budgeting your time, first establish your “why”.

Let’s say you want to spend more time with family, or spend an hour a day reading. What’s the reason behind your goal? How will it enrich your life? If you review your “why” regularly, you’re less likely to quit when those old habits come calling.

Resolution: Learn a new skill.

Adding new skills can help you maintain a sharp mind and a sense of purpose in life. It can also be a lot of fun! If there’s something you’ve been wanting to learn, the new year is a great time.

Success Tip: Get Classy

You don’t have to go at it alone. Take a class and let an expert show you the way. There are top quality online classes available for everything from tennis to organic farming to screenwriting. Looking for more in-person experience? Check out the offerings at your local community college.

Resolution: Get Healthy

Whether you want to eat better, sleep more, or amp up your exercise regimen, “getting healthy” is one of the most popular wishes at the beginning of a new year.s

Success Tip: Partner Up

For better or worse, we often tend to show up for other people more easily than for ourselves.

Doing a cleanse? Checking out yoga? Find a buddy to do it with you. Chances are good that someone you know has a similar goal. With a partner who’s counting on you, you’re more likely to stay accountable and get in great shape.

Resolution: Get Organized

The new year’s invitation for a fresh start also extends to your personal space and working environment. But trading a habitual mess for lasting tidiness can feel like an impossible task.

Success Tip: Start Small

Whether you’re looking to empty an attic, declutter your desk, or finally put all those National Geographic in chronological order, keep it simple and flexible.

To get unstuck, ask yourself: “What is one small thing that I can do today?” Just keep taking one small step each day, and you’ll have the job done before you know it.

 

For more information on this topic, check out the #asktheadvisor show episode 53 by clicking HERE

Social Security Finally Gets a Boost

Social Security Finally Gets a Boost

by Kristi Desepoli, Heritage

The cost of living adjustment announced by the Social Security Administration will be impacting seniors collecting monthly checks in 2018. With a 2% increase, this is the largest adjustment since a 3.6% increase in 2012.  In comparison to 2016 where seniors only got a 0.3% increase, and none at all in 2015, 2% can make quite the difference.

In 2017, the average amount a beneficiary receives is about $1360 per month. With a 2% increase in 2018, that would be about another $27.40 per month, or an extra $326 for the entire year.  Although this seems great initially, of course there is a catch.  The higher cost of living adjustment stems from the effect of higher inflation. Best case scenario, seniors are being given enough additional income to keep up with a higher cost of living.

How is cost of living determined?

The annual cost of living increase is determined by taking the average rate of inflation from July through September and comparing it to the same period of the previous year, using an index known as CPI-W. Originally the cost of living adjustment increase was projected to range between 1.6% and 1.8%. However there was a sudden swell in inflation in August and September due to hurricanes Harvey and Irma- ultimately putting a few extra dollars in seniors’ pockets next year.

 

When Was Your Last Financial Check Up?

The Importance of an Annual Financial Check Up

By Kristi Desepoli, Heritage

 

It’s crazy to sit back and think about everything that can happen in a year. With all of the curveballs that life throws your way, it’s important to adjust accordingly.  When it comes to financial success, it’s critical to have a plan in place and make adjustments as things change.  What may have been important last year, may not be as important this year, and it’s imperative to assure your plan aligns with what is significant to you and your goals.

Here are three reasons why an annual financial check up should be at the top of your to-do list:

Your retirement plan may no longer reflect your goals.

Along with everything else, our priorities tend to change. What many see retirement looking like at one point, can often change drastically after the addition of grandchildren, real estate purchases, or any other major life-changing event. Even in the event that your goals remain the same, and no major life changes occur, sitting down annually to review and make any necessary adjustments is critical in assuring that your retirement dreams become a reality.

Your insurance needs and beneficiaries may need to be updated.

Insurance can serve as a great protector against the unexpected, but it is always smart to sit down and take a look at your needs annually. Make sure that you have the proper amount of coverage in all of the right places. For example, when it comes to life insurance, as your family grows it may be best to increase your amount of insurance to protect your loved ones. Additionally, although most people typically make changes to their wills after major life changes, more often than not other accounts get overlooked when it comes to those changes. Assets in retirement accounts pass directly to the beneficiaries that you designate within the account. Because of this, it is vital that you review your beneficiaries annually to be sure they are up to date.

Your investing goals might have changed.

Since our priorities change from time to time, during your annual financial review it is important to evaluate your current investment strategy. If things have changes, you can be sure to make adjustments as necessary. Even in times where your goals may have remained steady, it is vital to also look at different economic factors. Real estate conditions, interest rates and inflation, all determine whether your portfolio needs adjusting based off of those factors.

 

For more information on financial wellness check out The #AskTheAdvisor Show Episode 22

Backdoor IRA’s for High Income Earners

Backdoor IRA’s – The Dirty Little Secret

By this point in the year, most of us have filed our taxes and the 2016 tax year is behind us. Not many people have taxes on the mind and they will probably put off re-visiting the topic until next year, however; there is no time like the present to plan for how you can save on your future tax payments. If you are looking to pad your retirement savings, a backdoor IRA may be just the remedy for you.

What you need to know

Roth IRAs are a very popular and attractive investment vehicle for many reasons, and they are a great vehicle to facilitate a backdoor IRA.  The accounts are funded with after-tax dollars, withdrawals in retirement are tax-free, and any earnings in the account are tax-deferred.  Unlike the Traditional IRA, Roth IRAs are not subject to required minimum distributions during retirement, which makes them very appealing when it comes to tax planning.

Unlike with a Traditional IRA, there are income limits to opening a Roth IRA which has left many people earning high salaries believing it is not an option for them.  The law states that a single person with an annual adjusted gross income of $133,000 or more, and a married couple making more than $196,000 cannot directly fund a Roth IRA.  Despite this limitation, there have been no income limits placed on converting funds to a Roth IRA.  This allows for strategic planning to have more tax-free money available in retirement.  For high income earners, this is a fantastic planning tool.

How to do it

This work-around is called a “backdoor” approach.  Most high-income earners are most likely contributing the maximum allowances to their 401k plans. This means additional contributions can be made to a non-deductible Traditional IRA.  The backdoor approach would then have these investors turn around and move/convert those dollars to a Roth IRA.  Because the funds are coming from another retirement account, they are not considered to be a contribution.  The advantage to converting these funds is the tax-free growth that is provided in a Roth IRA. Deploying backdoor IRA’s is a little used strategy because it is widely unknown. Make sure to consult your finance and tax professionals before deploying this strategy.

For more information on this and other strategies for high earners, visit us here.

5 Cost Saving Tips for Business Owners

5 Cost Saving Tips for Business Owners

Every small business owner is concerned about retaining profit, and how to make their bottom line grow. One of the ways that small business owners are able to run their business in a profitable manner is by strategically apply cost-saving practices.

Here are five cost-saving tips for small business owners:
Seek Used Equipment

One of the big ways that businesses can save money is by purchasing used or refurbished.  When looking to replace electronics, such as a printer or copier, it is always smart to research refurbished options.  In most cases, these items have been repaired or had parts replaced, and typically come with some type of warranty.  When in the market for office furniture, there can be a huge price savings between new and used.

Teleconference

Meetings can be costly, and really add up quicker than you realize- especially when they aren’t local.  Rather than spend the extra money on travel and hotel-stay, opt for a teleconference.  Many different providers offer teleconferencing services- both for conference calls, as well as video.  This can be a great option to help save both money and time.

Reduce Paper Use

Not only is cutting down on paper use good for your company’s bottom line, but also for the environment.  A few ways to implement this includes: printing/copying double sided, reusing wasted paper for notes, and customizing margins to get the most printed on one page.

Pay Invoices Early

Many different vendors offer discounts to incentivize businesses to pay invoices early.  The most common offer would be a 2% discount off of the total when businesses pay in full within the first 10 days of the 30-day window.  This can provide a huge cost-savings to businesses.

Utilize Social Media for Advertising

In comparison to traditional advertising, such as television commercials and billboards- social media advertising can be just as effective and much more affordable.  The cost to run an ad can be significantly less expensive, and producing the ads is also relatively cheap.  It is also very popular to utilize social media for advertising without actually paying for promoted advertising space.  With time and effort, you can build a following organically to reach many current and prospective clients without actually spending any advertising dollars.

About the Author

Kristi Desepoli is an associate financial advisor at Heritage Financial Advisory Group. Heritage specializes in investment management and financial life planning for business owners, executives, and doctors.

 

 

6 Steps to Get Out of Debt

6 Steps to Get Out of Debt

Unfortunately there are no classes in high school or college that teach you how to pay off a loan or credit card, but there are plenty of companies out there willing to lend you the money you need for your next big purchase. Knowing that a portion of your hard earned money will be going towards digging yourself out of a hole instead of wealth preservation can be discouraging; but that doesn’t mean you can’t cover up that hole and walk away debt free.

Getting out of debt requires a plan and commitment. Here are six simple strategies to help you pay off any kind of debt:

Figure out how much you owe

Gather your statements, and log onto those accounts to see how much you owe for each account. Make a list of your accounts, the balances, and the interest rates being charged.

Rank your debts in order of size or interest rate

Next, you need to decide the order you want to pay off your debts. One strategy is the “snowball method.” This is where you start with your smallest debt, and work your way up to the bigger ones. The idea is that as you are able to check accounts off of your list as being paid off, you gain both a confidence and mental boost to keep on going. Another strategy would be to tackle the most expensive debt first. Find the account with the highest interest rate, and pay down that debt. Once that is paid, move onto the next highest interest rate, and so on. Doing this will ultimately have you paying less over the life of your loans.

Know how much you’re spending

It is important to know how much money you have coming in vs. how much money you have going out. After you have a good idea of the amount left over every month, it will be much easier to determine the amount you can comfortably devote to paying down your debt.

Allot cash for minimum payments

Although earlier we established what debt we would like to pay down first, we can’t forget that the rest of the accounts have the minimum payments that need to be made each month. It is important to take these minimum payments into account before allocating extra funds to the first debt on your list to pay off.

Automate your payments

Regardless of if you’re making a minimum payment or throwing extra money toward the debt to get it paid off, it’s always a good idea to make your payments automatic. It’s as simple as a few clicks online or a quick phone call to set up. Not only will you be sure not to miss a payment, but it’s a little bit easier to part ways with your money when you don’t have to manually make the payment every month.

Reduce your regular expenses

Many times we don’t know just how much we’re spending on certain things until it’s all laid out in a budget. Setting a limit to the amount of money you allocate to different categories on a monthly basis is a good way to free up extra cash to put towards your debt. It’s always a good idea to check back each month and see how you can improve your spending habits, and make any changes to better suit your needs. If you would like additional help on budgeting, you can find resources here.

About the Author

Kristi Desepoli is an associate financial advisor at Heritage Financial Advisory Group. Heritage specializes in investment management and financial planning for business owners, executives, and doctors.

7 Reasons a Roth IRA May Be for You

7 Reasons a Roth IRA May Be a Good Idea for You

By Mike Desepoli, VP of Heritage

 

It’s almost the tax filing deadline. During April, many people take advantage of the opportunity to reduce taxes by funding a Traditional IRA. While that makes sense for some Americans, others may benefit by contributing to a Roth IRA that offers no immediate tax break, but has other tax advantages, such as tax-free growth potential and tax-free income during retirement. Some people may realize the greatest benefit by having both types of IRAs.

Unfortunately, IRS contribution rules limit investors, who are younger than age 50, to making contributions of just $5,500 to all IRA accounts during 2015 and 2016. If you’re age 50 or older, you can save $6,500. Before making a 2015 contribution, consider the advantages of Roth IRAs, including:

Tax-free growth potential.

You won’t get a tax break today, but any earnings in a Roth IRA growth tax-free.

Tax-free income.

Distributions taken from a Roth IRA are tax-free, too, as long as certain requirements are met*. That means the income from your Roth IRA is protected from future tax increases.

No required minimum distributions.

You can leave the money in your Roth IRA until your heirs inherit it. You can’t do that with a Traditional IRA. At age 70½, you must take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from Traditional IRAs. Generally, RMDs are taxable and, if an RMD is not taken when it should be, a hefty penalty is assessed.

Penalty-free early distributions.

You don’t have to be age 59½ to take a penalty-free distribution from a Roth IRA as long as the distributions are used for higher education costs, qualified home purchases, unreimbursed medical expenses, or specific other expenditures.

Improved tax diversification.

When a portfolio is ‘tax-diversified,’ it includes taxable, tax-deferred, and tax-free accounts. Different types of accounts offer different kinds of benefits. For example:

  • Taxable accounts offer immediate access to funds. Money that is saved or invested in taxable accounts – like brokerage or banks accounts – have already been taxed and can be spent at any time.
  • Tax-deferred accounts offer tax breaks today. For instance, contributions to 401(k) and 403(b) plan accounts are made with before-tax money so the contributions are not included in taxable income today. The downside is IRS penalties may be assessed if the money in these plans is distributed before retirement. (Another potential benefit of tax-deferred accounts is employer-matching contributions, which can help you accumulate retirement assets more quickly.)
  • Tax-free accounts offer a tax break in the future. For example, contributions to a Roth IRA are made with after-tax dollars but any earnings grow tax-free and distributions may be tax-free. Having tax-free income during retirement may help you stay in a lower tax bracket.
Open an account at any age.

Anyone, of any age, who has earned income, can open a Roth IRA. So, you can fund a Roth IRA for yourself any time. You can also fund one for a child or grandchild who works, and give him or her a head start on saving for retirement.

Contribute as long as you work.

While contributions to Traditional IRAs must stop at age 70½ (when RMDs begin), that is not the case with Roth IRAs. As a result, Roth IRAs provide legacy and estate planning advantages Traditional IRAs do not.

 

If you’re planning to open or fund an IRA before April 15 for yourself or someone you love, and you’re not certain whether a Traditional or Roth IRA is the right choice, talk with your financial professional. He or she can review your portfolio and help determine which may best suit your needs.

To find out if a Roth IRA is right for you, talk with a financial advisor today.

Trump Agenda in Doubt?

Trump Agenda in Doubt After Healthcare Fail?

By Mike Desepoli, Heritage Financial Advisory Group

It was supposed to the first step in the Trump administrations plan to make America great again. While nothing on the Hill comes easy, with a congressional majority a victory was expected. After 7 years of publically campaigning for a shot to fix healthcare, the republicans failed spectacularly to do just that. Unable to gather the necessary votes for a full repeal and replace of Obamacare, they opted to scrap the vote and move on. It leaves you to wonder how they had 7 years to come up with a comprehensive replacement plan and failed.

Future plans in doubt?

More importantly, what does it mean for the future of the Trump agenda and their grandiose plans? In terms of the financial markets, the focus immediately turns to tax reform. A large part of the recent run up in stocks has been attributed to the expectation of tax cuts. It has been viewed as a near certainty that with a congressional majority that the republicans could easily and swiftly pass a tax reform bill. However, when you take into consideration their lack of unity on the issue of healthcare suddenly tax reform is no sure thing.

It is worth noting that President Trump has indicated that they will move on from healthcare and deal with taxes. I think the initial thought in the wake of the healthcare defeat was that they would keep trying their luck there before moving on to item two of the agenda. That prospect has investors worried that tax reform may not be coming any time in the near future.

In the markets..

There is likely to be a lot of volatility in the weeks and months ahead as the market grapples with the new reality that even the Republican party appears divided. There is no doubt the administration expects resistance from the Democrats.  But I don’t think anyone expected this type of division in their first shot to pass a major bill. Whether or not they will be prepared to regroup and move on undeterred remains to be seen. Make no mistake, investors around the world will be waiting anxiously.

The Added Value of Financial Advisors

The Added Value of Financial Advisors

By Mike Desepoli, VP of Heritage Financial Advisory Group

As financial advisors we are often asked whether it is worth the cost to hire a financial advisor. I know, very ironic. After all, there is a cost to make you money. People say they can listen to the news to find out where and how to invest, so, “Wouldn’t I be better off just keeping that fee for myself?” That is an excellent question with an answer that depends on many factors.

Good financial planning decisions extend well beyond where and how you invest. Two major research efforts have attempted to quantify how good financial decision making can enhance one’s lifetime standard of living. It is important to understand what this research means, because this may not always equal a higher portfolio return in the short term. Financial advisors have a range of tasks they manage for clients, and how well they do it can add to the bottom line of your portfolio.

The research identifies how good decision making can enhance sustainable lifetime income on a risk-adjusted basis. The ability to spend more than you could have otherwise can be interpreted as meaning that the assets earned a higher return net of taxes and fees to make that spending possible.

Recent research conducted by financial giant Vanguard took a closer look at the value a financial advisor can add in real percentage terms. Their research indicates that overall, the estimate for value added by an advisor annually is 3%. While there are many different aspects of the financial planning process, they found that advisors add value in 3 key areas.

Portfolio Construction

Constructing a well-diversified portfolio that is both tax and cost efficient is one of the ways a financial advisor helps increase your investment returns. They will also help make sure you stay diversified, and don’t fall victim to the temptation to put all your eggs in one basket. Many do it yourself investors find themselves chasing the latest hot stock, usually at the tail end of a long run. Investors without a plan will ultimately buy high, sell low when they run out of patience, and repeat the process into oblivion. Having a well-constructed portfolio accounts for just over 1% of the overall annual return.

Behavioral Coaching

Your advisor has the ability and the time to evaluate your portfolio investments, meet with you to discuss your objectives, and help get you through tough markets even when your emotions try to get in the way. All of these factored together potentially add value to your net returns over time. The single greatest cause of failure in the investment markets can be attributed to emotional decision making. It is no secret that people are emotionally with their money. We work so hard for it who can blame us. However, allowing your emotions to cloud your judgement and decision making is sure to drag down your portfolio. Work with a financial advisor who will keep you calm, cool, and collected even when the chips are down.

Wealth Management

This part of the job entails making regular changes to your portfolio to help reduce risk. It also involves helping clients navigate withdrawals in a way to help limit the taxes they will pay. Many investors incur taxes that could have otherwise been avoided or delayed had they navigated their withdrawals differently. It is very important to understand the taxable status of money that you are transferring or withdrawing from your account. If you are dealing with a retirement account, it is imperative to know if the funds are pre or post tax. We’ve come across many folks in our travels that created a taxable mess by simply being uninformed. If you don’t know, ask your financial advisor or accountant.

About Heritage

Heritage Financial Advisory Group is a Long Island based Financial Advisor that specializes in investment management and financial planning. We work primarily with families, entrepreneurs, and Doctors to create financial strategies that have a lasting impact. For more information, say hello to our team of professionals.

 

Daily News: Mike Desepoli

How to know what you’re really paying your financial advisor

Mike Desepoli, Daily News Contributor

March 1, 2016

Looking for a financial advisor? Wondering how you’ll pay him or her — and just how much?

There are three types of advisers you can work with. The first will charge you commission; the second, a management fee on the assets handled; and the third, a hybrid of the first two approaches. But all might also charge you hidden fees.

When you’re working with a financial adviser — regardless of what type of adviser they are — it is important to understand not only how they’re being compensated, but what are the fees that aren’t so transparent.

Many advisers themselves don’t understand all the hidden fees and expenses associated with asset management.

So how can you be sure what you are paying?

Ask!

Any adviser with a transparent business model will be happy to explain all costs incurred in any investment program. After all, shouldn’t you know exactly what you are paying for?

Some good questions to ask include:

How will you get paid for investments you recommend?

Will you be paid commissions on investments or other products you sell?

Do you receive payments from mutual funds or investment companies you recommend?

Aside from what I pay you, what other costs will I incur?

It is extremely important for investors to do their homework when choosing a financial adviser. Advisers should be able to directly answer your questions and have detailed, documented proof of fees and fiduciary standards.

One of the most important responsibilities of an adviser is to ensure that fees are both reasonable, and clearly communicated to the client.

If your adviser isn’t holding up their end of the bargain, it may be time to shop around.

Take control of how your investments are being managed and the expenses that you’re paying. It is your right to have access to transparent information about your account.

About Mike Desepoli

As a financial advisor and accredited investment fiduciary for Heritage Financial Advisory Group, Mike Desepoli serves as a wealth management resource to business owners and executives, assisting them in making proactive, personal financial decisions. Mike’s vision is to help clients live for today, as well as plan for tomorrow. He believes in making the complicated simple, by educating his clients so they can feel more confident about the decisions they make regarding their financial health.

To view more of Mike’s work for The Daily News, you can visit them on the web at http://www.nydailynews.com/authors?author=Mike-Desepoli