Unfamiliar with the Hong Kong protests? Read more about it here.
Longevity can be both a gift, and a curse. This generation of retirees is going to live longer than any in history. Today’s seniors are healthier, more active, and receiving better preventative care. And on top of that, a growing group of scientists is trying to harness technology and modern medicine to slow down the aging process.
Experts call the cumulative effect of these changes to life expectancy “the longevity effect.” They project that extending our years of healthy living can have tremendous benefits both to individuals and to society as a whole.
Let’s look at some of the cutting-edge advances in slowing biological aging, as well as what experts recommend folks can do right now to stay more than just young at heart.
You’ve probably seen products like AncestryDNA that can give you a robust genealogical profile from your saliva. Scientists are continuing to progress on more sophisticated versions of this technology that will be able to use your genes to test for serious diseases. There’s even hope of being able to test for genes that are associated with longevity, and others that could eventually shorten your lifespan.
We all know that the best medicine is preventative. But if scientists can perfect this “road map” for life expectancy, the implications for your financial planning could be enormous. An accurate longevity expectancy could make it much easier to plan ahead for significant medical expenses that might not be covered by Medicare. And if you had a better idea of when you were likely to start “slowing down” later in your retirement, you might enjoy your early retirement years more and worry less about running out of money.
Fighting “Zombie Cells”
The cells in our bodies are constantly dividing. After a certain number of divisions, cells usually die. Those that don’t – so-called “zombie cells” – can build up in our bodies over time and interfere with how our healthy cells operate.
Scientists are looking for ways to clear out zombie cells via “interventions” such as pills. Clear out the zombies, and you’re eliminating cellular environments ripe for things like cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and osteoporosis. The more resistant we are to these kinds of diseases, the greater our longevity will be. And the longer you live without having to cope with a debilitating disease, the longer you’ll be able to work part-time, volunteer, play your favorite sports, and vacation with your favorite people.
In the Meantime
There’s no guarantee that these specific medicines and technologies will be ready for the general public during your retirement. But it is safe to assume that advances both gradual and rapid will continue to improve the quality of your health care.
The most important thing you can do to keep aging in check during retirement is to take advantage of the services Medicare provides right now. That starts with your free “Welcome to Medicare” visit, which will help you and your doctors get a baseline reading of your health upon retirement. Medicare also covers many vaccinations, a wide variety of preventative screenings and tests, an annual wellness checkup, and a depression screening if you’re struggling with the emotional transition into retirement.
These services might not sound as exciting as fighting zombie cells, but they’re the most effective ways to detect significant health problems while it’s still early enough to do something about them.
So while we’re all waiting for the next big medical breakthroughs, old fashioned common sense will go a long way towards a long and healthy retirement. Go to the doctor. Eat well. Exercise. Wear sunscreen. Pursue your passions with a vigor that will keep your body and mind energized.
And any time you want to review how your financial plan will take care of you at every phase of your retirement, don’t hesitate to call us up.
As part of our Life-Centered Planning process, we’ve talked about how market volatility is a normal part of investing. We’ve also discussed how we’ve structured your investments to “weather the storm” and maintain a comfortable level of income for you and your family during turbulent times so you can avoid knee jerk reactions.
But we also understand that even folks who are armed with this knowledge can get nervous during a market dip. What’s important is that you know how to prevent that initial wave of negativity from leading you to rash decisions that could damage your nest egg much worse than a market correction.
Dr. Martin Seay is a specialist in positive psychology, which focuses on strategies that people can use to improve their sense of well-being. Dr. Seay’s ABCDE method can help you work through your reactions to distressing financial news and arrive at a positive outcome.
Let’s walk through an example of how to use this method to avoid making a bad, emotion-based financial decision.
A. Activating Event
Sometimes stress and anxiety can feel all-encompassing. Dr. Seay believes it’s important that we pinpoint the event that triggered our negative feelings.
So, while you might feel general anxiety about your finances, drill down a little deeper. Is your job secure? OK. Are you saving and investing according to your financial plan? Good.
Did you just read on social media that today’s market correction was “THE BIGGEST ONE-DAY DROP IN HISTORY!”
Ahh, there it is. Let’s move on to the next step.
Market volatility can rouse some of our worst instincts about investing. We might fall back on long-buried Beliefs like, “This game is rigged!” We might feel like we’ve entrusted our financial future to powers beyond our control.
As you work through this step, it’s important to ask yourself where your Beliefs come from. Have you been unsettled by widespread media coverage of major financial problems, like the 2008-2009 housing crisis? Have you had negative interactions with the finance industry in the past? Perhaps one of your parents distrusted the markets or made a poor investment that had a negative impact on your family.
Figuring out why you believe what you believe about the markets can help alert you before you fall back into bad financial habits.
Panicked investors who can’t shake negative Beliefs about the markets often make poor decisions during downturns. They think they need to “get out fast” to avoid more negative Consequences, like further losses.
Ironically, cashing out your investments during a market correction usually leads to far more serious Consequences in the long run.
So how can you stay focused on the big picture?
Start by using what you know to push back a little against what you Believe.
For example, we’ve discussed in our meetings that the historical, long-term trajectory of the financial markets has been to rise over time. And now, market averages such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average are near all-time highs. Therefore, when the market does have a temporary drop, we might say, “The Dow was down x hundreds of points today.” It sounds like a big number, but as a percentage, it may just be normal volatility.
We’ve also discussed that “market timing” strategies usually just don’t work. That’s why your portfolio is diversified, balanced, and strategically rebalanced as necessary. Decades of market history have shown that sticking to this type of investment strategy may be more effective – and stable – than trying to jump in and out of the market based on what’s happening in the news right now.
Today’s losses are really just a kind of “tax” that you’re paying on the wealth we’re helping you build for tomorrow.
It’s amazing how just reminding ourselves of what we know to be true can make us feel better about a negative situation. Hopefully at the end of this process, you feel a renewed sense of positivity about this present moment and your financial future.
But we understand that market volatility can be complicated. And as you’re nearing retirement, a downturn can be downright nerve-wracking.
So if you need help walking through your ABCDEs the next time the market corrects, make an appointment to meet with us. We’ll run through the important facts you need to know and decide what moves, if any, we need to make to keep you on track with your financial plan and avoid those costly knee jerk reactions.
How are you going to get the best, most fulfilling life possible with the money you have once you retire? Generosity is key, but it can be costly.
Study after study has shown that retirees who spend their time and money on experiences are much happier than those who just buy stuff. Charitable giving can be a particularly meaningful way to keep yourself active and put your assets to good use. Too much generosity can be costly, so it’s important you follow these steps.
Just as long as you don’t overdo it.
If you’re feeling an increased desire to give back now that you’ve retired, here are some tips on balancing your good intentions with what’s best for you and your family.
1. Do your homework.
Recently, there have been high-profile cases of fraud and misappropriated funds at some very famous charitable organizations. But even if you’re giving to a charity that is run well, you should understand where your money is really going. If you’re happy with your dollars helping a larger organization to pay its bills and employees, great. If you want your money to have a more immediate impact on those in need, consider giving to smaller organizations in your community.
Do some googling and check online watchdog databases to make sure your favored charity is on the up-and-up. And unless you know the organizers personally, avoid online crowd-funding campaigns that aren’t legally accountable for how they use donations.
2. Consider a volunteer position.
Your favorite non-profit or charitable organizations need money. But they also need manpower.
If you’re thinking about working part time in retirement and a paycheck isn’t really important to you, schedule regular volunteer hours instead. You’ll get all the same benefits of having a job: structure, responsibility, camaraderie. Plus, seniors who volunteer report lower levels of stress, an increased sense of purpose, and better physical and emotional health.
3. Teach, tutor, or consult.
When looking for a charitable outlet, don’t overlook the professional skills that you honed over your career.
You might not have the qualifications to teach at a school or university, but you could talk to your local community center about holding a seminar that could benefit your neighborhood. You might be done balancing your company’s books, but there are high school kids who could benefit from your mastery of math. Open your door to local small business owners or recent college graduates who need an entrepreneurial mentor.
4. Make a plan.
It’s a scientific fact that giving makes us feel good. But some seniors may get too caught up in their generosity. They forget that gifts and donations are coming from that same pool of assets that are supposed to keep them safe and secure for the rest of their lives. They may have trouble setting limits and saying no.
There is indeed such a thing as too much giving. You might not think much about writing an extra check or two early in retirement. But seniors have to maintain a long-term perspective on their nest eggs. This generation of retirees is going to live longer, more active lives than any in history. You need to make sure that helping someone today isn’t going to make it harder to cover your health care and cost of living needs tomorrow.
So, if you and your spouse want to make regular charitable donations, it’s important that you come in and talk to us. We can incorporate giving into your monthly budget and retirement income plan. If you want to make your generosity more permanent, we can also help you establish a charitable trust and add sustained giving to your estate plan.
We’re always happy when our clients want to help others. But it’s our responsibility to make sure your financial plan covers your best interests first. Let’s work together on a plan that will make your retirement secure and the world around you a little brighter.
Ever wonder how you can improve your relationship with money? Many people have a complicated relationship with money. Hang-ups carried over from childhood experiences get mixed together with positive and negative experiences from adulthood. Few people ever take the time to reflect on what money really means to them and how they can “get right” with money to make smarter decisions.
Take time to answer these 5 questions and you’ll do a better job of living your best life possible with the money you have.
1. What’s your first money memory?
Your earliest experiences with money probably happened in your home. You saw how your parents earned and managed their money. You probably compared the quality of your family home and vehicles to what you saw at friends’ and neighbors’ houses. An unexpected job loss or illness might have led to some very lean holidays or a skipped vacation. Or, if you grew up in an affluent household, you might have taken money for granted in a way you no longer do now that you’re the one earning it.
Identifying some of these early memories is critical to reassessing your relationship with money. Are you following positive examples towards decisions that are going to improve your life? Or, without even realizing it, are you repeating poor money habits that are going to hurt you in the long run?
2. Do you feel like money is your servant or your master?
Sometimes money makes us feel like we’re a hamster on a wheel, running as fast as we can without ever really getting anywhere. But if you never stop chasing after that next dollar, when it comes time to retire, all you’re going to have is money, and a whole lot of empty days on your calendar.
People who get the most out of their money recognize that it’s a tool they can use to skillfully navigate to where they want to be in life. So, instead of working too long and hard for more money, think about how to put the money you have to work for you.
3. What would you do if you had more money?
You’ve probably read about studies that show lottery winners don’t end up any happier than they were before their windfalls. This is a dramatic example proving some pretty conventional wisdom: money doesn’t buy happiness. That’s especially true if you’re stuck on your wheel for 40 hours every week just chasing more and more money.
If the idea of having more money gets you thinking about all the things you’d buy, it’s important to remember how quickly even the fanciest new car smell will fade.
If you would immediately quit your job if you had enough money to support your family and live comfortably, then maybe you need to think about a more fulfilling career.
Having more money might not “solve” some issues you’re currently experiencing, but asking what would you do if you had more money might lead you to new decisions that improve your current life satisfaction.
4. What would you do if you had more time?
Imagine you don’t have to work. You can spend every single day doing exactly what you want. What does your ideal week look like? What things are you doing? What hobbies are you perfecting? Where are you travelling? With whom are you spending your time?
These things often get pushed to the side when we’re busy working. But if your money isn’t providing you with opportunities to spend time doing what you love with the people you love, then your work-life balance might need an adjustment.
5. What would your life look like to you if it turned out “well”?
Hopefully by now you’re starting to think about how your relationship to money could be keeping you from getting the most out of your money.
The successful retirees that we work with don’t look back fondly on the amount of money they made or how much stuff they were able to buy. They tell us their lives turned out well because they used money to make progress towards major life goals. They say their money provided them the freedom to pursue their passions. And their sense of well-being increased as they committed time and resources to health, spirituality, and continual self-improvement.
When you reach retirement age, we want you to look back happily on a life well-lived. Come in and talk to us about how our interactive tools and Life-Centered Planning process can improve your relationship to your money.
There’s also some really great resources you can find at www.investopedia.com to help you improve your relationship with money.
Many folks who have just begun working with us are surprised by how our planning process starts. We don’t begin by talking about IRAs, 401(k)s, or how much you’re saving. Instead, we begin by talking about you, not your money.
Putting your life before your financial plan.
As Life-Centered Planners, our process begins with understanding your life plan. We start by asking you about your family, your work, your home, your goals, and the things that you value the most.
Our job is to build a financial plan that will help you make your life plan a reality.
Of course, building wealth that will provide for your family and keep you comfortable today and in retirement is a part of that plan. So is monitoring your investments and assets and doing what we can to maximize your return on investment.
But we believe maximizing your Return on Life is just as important, if not more so. People who view money as an end in and of itself never feel like they have enough money. People who learn to view money as a tool start to see a whole new world of possibilities open in front of them.
One of the most important things your money can do for you is provide a sense of freedom. If you don’t feel locked into chasing after the next dollar, you’ll start exploring what more you can get out of life than just more money.
Feeling free to use your money in ways that fulfill you is going to become extremely important once you retire. Afterall, you’re going to have to do something with the 40 hours every week you used to spend working! But you’re also going to have to allow yourself to stop focusing on saving and start enjoying the life that your assets can provide.
Again, having money and building wealth is a part of the plan. But it’s not THE plan in and of itself.
The earlier you start thinking about how you can use your money to balance your vocation with vacation, your sense of personal and professional progress with recreation and pleasure, and the demands of supporting your family with achieving your individual goals, the freer you’re going to feel.
And achieving that kind of freedom with your money isn’t just going to help you sleep soundly at night – it’s going to make you feel excited to get out of bed the next morning.
What’s coming next?
So, when does the planning process end?
If you’re like most of the people we work with, never.
Life-Centered Planning isn’t about hitting some number with your savings, investments, and assets. And we’re much more concerned about how your life is going than how the markets are performing.
Instead, the kinds of adjustments we’re going to make throughout the life of your plan will be in response to major transitions in your life.
Some transitions we’ll be able to anticipate, like a child going to college, a big family vacation you’ve been planning for, and, for many of you, the actual date of your retirement. Other transitions, like a sudden illness or a big out-of-state move for work, we’ll help you adjust for as necessary.
In some cases, your life plan might change simply because you want something different out of life. You might start contemplating a career change. You might decide home doesn’t feel like home anymore and start looking for a new house. You might lose yourself in a new hobby and decide to invest some time and money in perfecting it. You might decide it’s time to be your own boss and start a brand new company.
Planning for and reacting to these moments where your life and your money intersect is what we do best. Come in and talk to us about how Life-Centered Planning can help you get the best life possible with the money you have. Visit Our Website to learn more.
One of the reasons that divorce is such a challenging life transition is its public nature. A couple might keep their problems private as they try to work through them. But if a rift opens that can’t be mended, the couple will have to share some very difficult news with friends and family as they separate from one another.
Few of us will have to reveal emotional personal issues to as wide an audience as Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos recently did. The statement that Jeff released on Twitter suggests that he and MacKenzie are trying to make their split as amicable as possible by using three insightful ideas that could help anyone struggling through a divorce.
1. Be open and honest with those closest to you.
“We want to make people aware of a development in our lives. As our family and close friends know, after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends.”
Couples need privacy as they deal with strains on their marriage. But once a decision is made, clear communication with your family, friends, and each other will be very important. That goes double if any young children are in the picture.
The more open a couple is about what’s happening, the easier it will be for you to find the outside support that will help you through this transition. Good dialogue might also help you and your former spouse to focus on the essential tasks at hand, like dividing your assets and updating your essential estate planning documents.
2. Be grateful.
“We feel incredibly lucky to have found each other and deeply grateful for every one of the years we have been married to each other. If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all again.”
Shame, embarrassment, and guilt are common feelings associated with divorce. Playing the blame game or trying to “win” the divorce can quickly turn all those amicable best intentions into bitter personal and legal issues.
Instead, the Bezos statement is a reminder that the end of a marriage – especially a long one – doesn’t erase all of the positive things that came before it. If an amicable divorce is possible in your particular situation, then don’t be ashamed or embarrassed. Cherish those precious shared experiences, like the birth of children, happy vacation memories, the difficult times you helped each other through. Embracing these feelings of gratitude will help ease both you and your partner through this process.
3. Focus on the positives ahead.
“We’ve had such a great life together as a married couple, and we also see wonderful futures ahead, as parents, friends, partners and ventures and projects, and as individuals pursuing ventures and adventures.”
When we work through the $Lifeline exercise, we emphasis that important transitions like retirement, children graduating, weddings, and yes, divorces, are ends in one respect, but also new beginnings. They’re the start of new chapters in your life.
That might be difficult to see when the pain of a divorce is still raw. But it’s important to open yourself up to new opportunities when they present themselves. You’re about to start your single life all over again. And yes it’s scary. It may not be what you wanted. And you may be bitter. But over time, you may be able to see what awaits you on the other end. It could be traveling that you’ve longed for. Maybe you’ll relocate, start a new career, begin new hobbies, and meet new people. You might have more financial resources at your disposal to explore solo than you did when you were younger and unmarried. And you might approach these experiences with a more mature and grateful perspective, enjoying every minute just a little bit more fully.
We want to help you through all of life’s major transitions, the positives as well as the challenges. If there’s change on the horizon, make an appointment to come in and review the $Lifeline exercise with us. We can help you plan ahead so that the next chapter of your life is the most fulfilling yet.
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.
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.
Is How You Use Your Money Aligned With Your Values?
A hamster in a wheel.
Have you ever watched a hamster running in a wheel? All that running, all that effort, day after day after day … But the poor little critter never really gets anywhere, does he?
Many of us feel the same way about our money.
More specifically, we feel that way about the work we do to get that money. We spend forty hours every week on a wheel, running after a paycheck. And then, first thing Monday morning, we’re back on the wheel, and the whole thing starts over again.
Many folks just keep repeating this cycle, over and over, until they finally retire. They think that stepping off the wheel just isn’t an option because they have bills to pay, college expenses to save for, and a dream to be “financially set” before retiring from work. It begs the question if he we use our money is aligned with our values.
How much is enough?
These are all persuasive arguments that keep people on the wheel. And the hope is that someday, you’ll be able to stop running and enjoy the fruits of all that hard work.
Unfortunately, more often than not, “someday” never comes. If your focus in your work and in your financial planning is just having enough money, you’ll never feel like you have enough. There’s always another dollar to chase, another way to economize so that you can save more.
But for what? Is having more and more money, in and of itself, something that you really value? Does having more make running on the wheel worth it?
You might think that this “never enough” mentality ends once a person retires. In fact, it just transitions into a new, related worry: “Am I going to run out of money?” Again, that “someday” gets pushed back in favor of more saving, more super-conservative living. You might not be working any more, but you’re still just chasing after money.
The wind in your sails.
At the end of the day, your money is not the shore we’re sailing for. It’s not the sea you’re sailing on. It’s not even the boat you’re steering.
Your money is the sail. It’s the tool you use to get where you want to go.
And the wind in that sail is your values.
Just like a good sailor learns how to maneuver the sails to catch the most wind, aligning what’s most important to you with your financial resources is the key to successful financial planning.
So instead of asking yourself if you have enough money, or if you will run out of money, ask yourself a better question:
Am I managing my money in a way that’s improving my life?
We don’t want you just to “have enough money.” We want you to live the best life possible with the money you have.
That starts with thinking about what’s really important to you. The people whom you love. The causes that are dear to your heart. The activities that keep you feeling fit and full of energy. The hobbies that put your unique skills to their highest uses. The opportunities for learning and self-discovery that enrich your understanding of the world and of yourself. The wisdom that you will pass down to your children and grandchildren so that they live their best possible lives as well.
We believe that aligning your financial plan with these values is every bit as important as analyzing your tax situation or managing your investments. Come in and see how our interactive tools can you help plan for your whole life and get more from your money than just more money.
3 Ways to Know When You Are Ready to Retire
There’s a pretty good chance that your parents and grandparents retired just because they turned 65. Today’s retirement is a bit more complicated than that. While age is still an important factor, your ability to connect your financial resources to your lifestyle goals is what will truly determine if you’re ready to retire.
Here are three important markers to cross before you crack open your nest egg:
You’re financially ready.
The most common question we field from our clients is, “How much do I need to retire?” While there’s no magic number to hit, a few key checkpoints are:
- You have a budget. Many clients who are preparing to retire tell us they’ve never kept a budget before. Time to start! If you have any big plans for early in your retirement, like remodeling your home or a dream vacation, let us know so we can discuss front-loading your annual withdrawal rate.
- Your debts are paid. No, you don’t necessarily need to pay off a fixed-rate mortgage before you retire. But try to reduce or eliminate credit card balances and any other loans that are charging you interest.
- Your age, retirement accounts, and Social Security plan are all in-sync. If you’re planning on retiring early, be sure that your retirement accounts won’t charge you any early withdrawal penalties for which you’re not prepared. Also keep in mind that the earlier you take Social Security the smaller your payments will be. Can you afford to live without Social Security until age 70 to maximize your benefits?
- You and your spouse have a health care plan. Medicare insures individuals, not families. If only the retiree is 65, the younger spouse will need to buy health care elsewhere.
You’re emotionally ready.
We spend so much of our lives working that our jobs become a large part of our identities. Rediscovering who we are once we stop working can be a major retirement challenge. To prepare for this emotional transition:
- Talk to your spouse ahead of time. Don’t wait until your last day of work to discuss how both of you feel about retirement. What do each of you imagine life will be like? What are the things you’re excited to do? What are you afraid of? What can each of you do to make this new phase of life as fulfilling as possible?
- Make a list. What are the things you’re passionate about? Something you’ve always wished you knew more about? A skill you’d like to develop? A cause that’s important to you? An ambitious business idea that was too ambitious for your former employer?
- Check that your estate plan is in order. It’s understandable that many people avoid this part of their retirement planning. But putting together a legacy that could impact your family and community for generations can have tremendous emotional benefits. The peace of mind that comes from knowing the people you care about are taken care of can empower you to worry a little less and enjoy your retirement more.
You’re ready to do new things.
Ideally, the financial piece of this conversation should make you feel free enough to create a new retirement schedule based on the emotional piece. Plan your days around the people and passions that get you out of bed in the morning. Some ideas:
- Work at something you love. Take a part-time job at a company that interests you. Turn that crazy idea you couldn’t sell to your old boss into your own business. Consult. Teach. Volunteer.
- Keep learning. Brush up your high school French by enrolling in an online course. Learn some basic web design so you can showcase your photography portfolio or create an online store for your crafts. Sign up for cooking classes and get some new meals in your weekly rotation.
- Get better at having fun. What’s the best way to lower your handicap or perfect your backhand? Take lessons from a pro. The second best? Organize weekly games with friends and family.
- Travel. Planning out a big vacation can be a fun project for couples to do to together. And while you’re looking forward to that dream trip, take a few weekend jaunts out of town. Stay at the new bed and breakfast you keep hearing about. Visit your grandkids. Go on the road with a favorite sports team and enjoy the local flavor in a different city.
If you’re nearing retirement and struggling with these issues, working through the Return on Life tools with us might provide some clarity. Let’s discuss how we can help get you ready for the best retirement possible with the money you have.
For more retirement resources visit the AARP website.
5 Next Steps When You Are Concerned About Aging Parents
As your aging parents begin to settle into their final phase of life, their health, residence, and finances could become a factor in your retirement planning. This is especially true if you are the person your parents have tasked with settling their estates.
There’s no simple way to tackle all the logistical and emotional challenges associated with caring for an aging parent. But these five steps will help you get the help you’ll need to make sure your parent is safe, cared for, and financially secure.
Call a family meeting.
No two families are the same, but in most cases, you’re going to want to gather together all siblings and close family members for an open and honest discussion. If your parent is dealing with a serious and potentially debilitating health issue, don’t sugar-coat the truth. Hiding the facts now will only lead to hurt feelings, resentment, and poor planning.
Depending on the parent’s condition, you might consider dividing up a caregiving or visitation schedule. Even pitching in on small day-to-day tasks like helping mom or dad buy groceries can be a big help.
If you’re contemplating a more serious decision, like assisted living, make sure you give everyone space to voice an opinion. Try to keep the conversation as positive and solution-focused as possible. Employing a mediator or family counselor to facilitate might be a good option if you’re concerned old family issues could boil over and prevent a solid resolution.
Don’t try to parent.
Shifting from the role of adult child to caregiver is going to be a difficult transition for both you and your parent. Don’t try to do too much too soon. Seniors who feel like they’re being “babied” are prone to depression or dangerous outbursts of independence, like grabbing the car keys or refusing to take medication.
A better approach is to try to frame your caregiving as a way of being more involved in your parent’s current routine. Take a seat at dad’s weekly card game. Put the grandkids’ sports and performance events on the calendar and offer transportation. Bring an extra dish to a dinner party. Drive mom to the movies … and let a sibling know the house will be unoccupied for a few hours if there are any cleaning or hoarding issues that need attention.
Gather the essentials.
If your parent doesn’t keep all important documents in one location, now is the time to collect, copy, and file things like:
- Identification (driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.)
- Bank records
- Home deeds and vehicle titles
- Insurance records
- Investment and retirement account records
- Wills and trusts
- Power of attorney
- End of life directives
- Login information for important online accounts (banking, subscriptions, social media)
There may be other documents that are unique to your parent’s living or financial situation. We can help you make a comprehensive list.
Start attending doctor’s appointments. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that will help you familiarize yourself with your parent’s medical condition and aid with any at-home care like prescription drugs.
Also ask your parent to introduce you to his or her financial advisor and attorney. Make sure the relevant professionals have all important information about changes to your parent’s health, mental capacity, or living situation.
Plan for the next steps.
At some point, your aging parent may no longer be self-sufficient. The earlier that you and your close family members decide upon an action plan, the better. Do you or anyone in your family have the room, the time, and the means to take in your parent? How can non-caregiving siblings or other family members chip in on associated costs of living?
In many cases an assisted living facility is a more realistic option. But be aware that your parent’s Medicare plan probably will not cover those costs. If your parent does not have retirement funds earmarked for end-of-life care, you and your close family members may need to hold another meeting to discuss how to pay for a facility.
None of these steps are easy, and none of the associated options your family settles on will be perfect. The sooner you loop us in on how caring for an aging parent might affect your financial picture, the sooner we can get to work on the money side so that you can concentrate on giving your family the love and support it needs during this difficult time.
4 Things to Consider Before Financially Bailing Out Your Adult Children
According to a recent study by TD Ameritrade, 25% of baby boomers are supporting their family members financially (1). Support to adult children averages out to $10,000 per year. That’s $10,000 that boomers aren’t saving, contributing to retirement accounts, or investing.
Can your retirement afford that kind of generosity?
If you fall short of your retirement goals, is the adult you’re bailing out going to bail you out during your golden years?
Before you write your struggling young adult another big check, ask yourself these four key questions:
What, specifically, is this money for?
The key word here is SPECIFICALLY.
Many parents tend to err on the side of protecting their child’s feelings when weighing financial support. We know asking for money can be embarrassing, and we don’t want to deepen that embarrassment. Or we’re worried that if we ask too many questions the child will become frustrated and hide serious problems from us going forward.
These are understandable concerns. But it’s also important that you understand whether your child needs support because of something beyond his or her control (a car accident, serious health issues, unexpected job loss) or because they’re struggling with basic adult responsibilities. If your child is making poor budgeting decisions or settling for underemployment, you may be throwing good money after bad.
Be tactful, but get to the root problem before you decide if your money is the best solution.
What is the real cost to me?
Many parents are already helping their adult children more than they realize.
For example, you might not think much of letting your adult children stay on the family cell phone plan or piggyback on an HBO subscription. After all, it’s only twenty bucks a month, right?
But how long have you been giving your child that monthly free pass? Years? You can also set time limits. For example, tell your child they can remain on the family cell phone plan until age 25 or until they get married, whichever comes first.
Are you helping with larger monthly expenses, like student loan or car payments? When will it finally be time to pull the plug?
Our advice: get it all down on paper. Make a spreadsheet that accounts for the financial support you’re already giving your child, large and small. Seeing how even small expenses accumulate over time will be eye-opening for both of you and help inform a good decision.
What are the terms of the bailout?
This is another area that parents tend to tiptoe around because they’re afraid of insulting their children. But do you know of any bank that’s going to loan your kids money indefinitely, charge no interest, and ask for no repayment? Then why should your money be subject to such lousy terms?
Your children have to understand that your generosity is not open-ended, especially as you near retirement age. You’ve probably made many sacrifices for them already. You should not sacrifice your financial security or the nest egg that is meant to support you in retirement.
If your children want you to “be the bank,” then you have every right to act like one. Set clear terms in writing, including a repayment schedule. In more serious cases, you might want to bring us a copy of this agreement so that we can include it in your estate plan.
How else can I help?
It’s very likely that your child spent 16 or more years in school without learning a single thing about managing money. Financial literacy just isn’t taught in schools. This knowledge gap could be a big reason your young adult is struggling.
A BMO Wealth Institute survey found that two-third of parents give money to adult children when a sudden need arises (2). Does your child need money suddenly because he or she doesn’t know how to budget? Help find that balance between covering current expenses and contributing to savings and investment accounts.
Housing and transportation expenses can be a shock to recent college grads. You could help your child negotiate a car lease. You might help a child who’s already chasing after the Joneses by counselling against a rash home purchase that will stretch his or her finances thin.
Introducing your underemployed child to some of your professional connections might lead to a significant career upgrade.
One key connection you should be sure to tap: your fiduciary advisor! We’re always happy to help our clients’ adult children get on their feet. We consider this a service to our clients because we know that the less you’re worried about supporting your children, the more secure your own retirement goals will be.
Stocks Remain Bullish in 2nd Quarter
July 9, 2018
What a rollercoaster of a quarter!
When it comes to the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) Sentiment Survey, respondents tend to be more bullish than bearish about U.S. stock markets. The survey’s historical averages are:
- 5 percent bullish
- 0 percent neutral
- 5 percent bearish
As the second quarter of 2018 began, investors were feeling less optimistic than usual. (About 36.6 percent were bearish and 31.9 percent bullish.) Their outlook was informed by a variety of factors, according to an early April article in The New York Times, which said:
“First there was the risk that the economy might be growing too fast, which could prompt central banks to hike interest rates sooner than expected. Then there was the risk of a trade war ignited by the White House imposing tariffs on certain products, an action that quickly prompted countries like China to erect trade barriers of their own. Next came the threat of a government crackdown on technology companies, after revelations of their misuse of customer data.”
As the quarter progressed, investor optimism increased on signs of economic strength. In early June, CNBC reported the economy appeared to be “operating close to full employment, with an unemployment rate at 3.8 percent, inflation still hovering at or below 2 percent, and business and consumer confidence strong.”
How did corporate earnings do this quarter?
Robust corporate earnings helped spur optimism, too. FactSet Insight wrote, “The S&P 500 reported earnings growth of 25 percent for the first quarter – the highest growth since Q3 2010.” In mid-June, the AAII survey showed 44.8 percent of respondents were feeling bullish, 21.7 percent were bearish, and 33.5 percent were neutral.
As talk of tariffs and trade wars resumed, investor optimism plummeted. By the end of June, just 27.9 percent of respondents were bullish and more than 39 percent reported they were feeling bearish. AAII explained:
“Many – but not all – individual investors anticipate continued volatility and/or think that the current political backdrop could have a further impact on the stock market. Trade policy is influencing some individual investors’ sentiment as well. While many approve of the Federal Reserve’s plan to continue gradually raising interest rates, some AAII members are concerned about the impact that rising rates will have. Also influencing sentiment are valuations, tax cuts, earnings growth, and economic growth.”
Despite a downturn in bullishness, major U.S. stock indices moved higher last week.
|Data as of 7/6/18||1-Week||Y-T-D||1-Year||3-Year||5-Year||10-Year|
|Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks)||1.5%||3.2%||14.5%||10.1%||11.0%||8.2%|
|Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.||0.0||-4.9||5.6||3.5||4.0||0.8|
|10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)||2.8||NA||2.4||2.3||2.6||3.9|
|Gold (per ounce)||0.4||-3.2||2.5||2.5||0.3||3.2|
|Bloomberg Commodity Index||-1.4||-2.2||4.6||-4.5||-7.5||-9.4|
|DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index||1.9||3.2||9.0||9.2||9.3||8.9|
S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.
Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.
there’s a carbon dioxide (CO2) shortage. really, it’s true.
Many people agree the world has too much CO2. It’s the reason representatives from countries around the world signed the Paris Climate Agreement. They committed to “adopt green energy sources, cut down on climate change emissions, and limit the rise of global temperatures,” reported National Public Radio.
The effort has been less successful than many had hoped, according to the International Energy Association (IEA). After several years without increases, energy-related emission rose by 1.4 percent in 2017. That’s the rough equivalent of putting 170 million more cars on the road, reported Scientific American.
Emissions rose primarily in Asia, although the European Union (EU) saw increases, too. The biggest decline was in the United States. There’s a certain irony there, since President Trump announced he would withdraw from the agreement in June 2017, reported The Washington Post.
Despite realizing a 1.5 percent increase in emissions, the EU is experiencing a shortage of food-grade CO2. The Economist reported:
“Food-grade CO2 is a vital ingredient: it puts the fizz in carbonated drinks and beer, knocks out animals before slaughter and, as one of the gases inside packaging, delays meat and salad from going off. A shortage of the stuff has therefore created havoc in food makers’ supply chains.”
The EU’s food-grade CO2 is a harvested by-product of processes for making ammonia and other chemicals, reported The Economist. Three of Britain’s five ammonia plants have been closed because farmers are using less fertilizer, and CO2 does not deliver enough revenue to keep the plants running.
Let’s hope the shortage of CO2 doesn’t affect the supply of beverages available to World Cup fans.
Weekly Focus – Think About It
“My garden is an honest place. Every tree and every vine are incapable of concealment, and tell after two or three months exactly what sort of treatment they have had. The sower may mistake and sow his peas crookedly; the peas make no mistake, but come up and show his line.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
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.
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.
4 Ways to Feel More “At Home” in Your Home
Do you feel “at home” in your home?
Your home is often the biggest financial purchase you’ll ever make. But is it also giving you the emotional payoffs you hope for?
Your home is an important part of your financial plan because we have to consider your rent or mortgage, utility bills, maintenance, and taxes as part of your monthly and long-term financial picture. But to get the best life possible with the money you have, your home should also be a safe place that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed.
Here are four things to consider when trying to make your residence feel more like home.
Your personal touches.
In this age of social media humblebrags and free two-day delivery, it’s never been more tempting to get sucked into “Keeping up with the Joneses.” But if you’re always trying to surpass you neighbor’s latest big splurge, you won’t be creating a space that’s truly yours. You’ll just be buying a copy of someone else’s idea of home.
Forget about the celebrity Instagram boards, and instead think about how to make your house reflect your family’s passions and stories. Turn an unused bedroom into a crafting workshop or personal study. Bring those old family photo boxes down to a framer and breathe new life into your walls. Brighten up shelves with mementos from favorite trips.
If you’re considering additions or backyard amenities, try thinking about these changes in terms of the experiences they can create for you and your loved ones. Sure, a swimming pool sounds nice. But a new deck and some green space might be a more versatile and welcoming environment for big family parties. Upgrading your kitchen might allow your inner gourmand to blossom into a truly talented cook.
Or maybe you create a personal space at a second home, like a lakeside cabin for fishing trips, or a condo with access to world-class golf and tennis.
Your personal comfort.
Sometimes less flashy upgrades to your living space have the biggest impact. A brand-new mattress isn’t as exciting as a backyard hot tub, but you’re certainly not going to spend 8 hours every day soaking!
If you’ve been sleeping in the same bed and slumping on the same couch for close to a decade, do some furniture shopping. Get some new pillows and sheets, or an ergonomic computer chair. These improvements aren’t just cosmetic – they’ll help you rest better and feel better.
Many of us also live with little quirks that have a negative impact on how we feel about our homes: that room in the back that doesn’t get warm enough in the winter, a leaky faucet, a living room with enough lighting for TV but not enough to read by, that nightmare hallway closet that’s going to explode someday. Minor household repairs and good old-fashioned spring cleaning can bring some welcome calm to the clutter we all accumulate.
Your personal geography.
Real estate pros like to say the three most important qualities in a home are: location, location, location. But the perfect spot for your first home out of college might not be the perfect place to get married, raise kids, and start your own business. Once your kids move out of the house and have families of their own, your feelings about where you live might change yet again.
Your home city or state might become more or less appealing to you over time as well. Beloved businesses and restaurants close. New establishments take their place. Friends come and go. The cost of living can fluctuate.
If your community no longer provides you the same comfort, activities, social circle, and engagement that it once did, it might be time to consider a move. This could be another reason to explore buying a second home for extended weekends closer to your family or vacations that allow you to explore your passions.
Your personal journey.
As your life changes, your experience of home will change along with it, especially as retirement nears. The big family homestead might become a difficult empty nest for you and your spouse to maintain as you age. The familiar comforts of home might start to create a restless sort of discomfort. You might feel drawn to new places, new people, and new experiences to keep your golden years fresh and stimulating.
Or, like more and more retirees, you might decide that your current home truly is where your heart is. You might “retire in place” and give your current home some TLC that will prepare it for the next phase of your life.
So what does “home” mean to you? Make an appointment to come in and talk to us about creating a financial plan that will provide you with as much comfort as your favorite reading nook.
You can make request an appointment with us by clicking HERE
For more great resources from the AARP, check out their website.
Why Delay? You Can Start Improving Your Health Right Now!
A Common Scenario.
A busy 40- to 50-hour work week, kids that need shuttling to and from school and extracurriculars … and a gradually decreasing metabolism.
Young, working couples with no kids may have more time to be active and healthy. Long morning walks. Three trips to the gym every week. Playing organized sports with friends. Cooking their way through gourmet recipes.
Then life happens. Children. Promotions at work that lead to more responsibility and longer hours.
A couple’s free time together begins to dry up. Softball night turns into crashing on the couch for a few hours before bed. Weekend bike trips or trivia nights turn into weekend rushes to and from kids’ soccer tournaments. Gourmet cookbooks are replaced by fast food menus.
Then there’s the money crunch. Even couples with a financial plan in place tend to worry more about money once a mortgage, car payments, and children enter the picture. Many couples start pinching pennies at the expense of their creature comforts and well-being. New clothes and a replacement for that worn-out mattress aren’t as important as saving for college tuition or eventual retirement. Frozen meals and take-out are quick fixes when there’s so little time to cook a good meal before your daughter’s dance lessons.
The risks involved when we start neglecting our health are real, and harder to correct as we continue to age. But there are emotional consequences as well, especially if one spouse slips out of shape faster than the other. Innocuous suggestions like, “Let’s take a trip to the farmer’s market” or “How about we re-start our gym membership?” can feel laced with criticism. A loss of confidence, feelings of depression, and inattentiveness to basic hygiene and appearance can follow. Money – already the most common source of marital friction – will continue to be a barrier to self-improvement. Unhealthy people don’t like being told they’re unhealthy, and will often put off preventative care, like annual checkups.
If you or your spouse are struggling with a similar scenario, take a moment to work through the following questions and suggestions together:
Questions to Ask
Are you and your spouse able to maintain your health without any financial stress?
Do you and your spouse regularly confirm your health and overall well-being with your doctors?
Is your level of physical activity higher or lower now than it used to be? If you’re about to retire, do you anticipate a more or less active lifestyle?
What are some physical recreational activities that you enjoy?
What is a recreational activity you’ve never tried, but deep down always wanted to try?
How old is your furniture, especially your bed and mattress?
How many fresh meals do you and your spouse cook and eat at home every week?
Steps to Take
- Get up and get out there! Admitting that you need to get moving is the first step! Hopefully, many more will follow!
- Hate going to the gym? You’re not alone. Instead, incorporate some daily exercise into your routine. How about a bike ride through your neighborhood or a local park every morning? Carve a few hours out of your schedule for a weekly tee time or tennis lessons. Take small breaks during the day to stand, get away from your computer, stretch, or take short walks.
- Don’t ignore your creature comforts! The cost of a new mattress you’ll sleep on for the next ten years will be a lot less than the cost of braces and trips to the chiropractor.
- You are what you eat! Planning out a week’s worth of healthy, fresh meals will make your grocery bills much more manageable. You might even find that healthy organic and farm-fresh items aren’t as expensive as they seemed.
- The best medicine is preventative. Spotting potential health concerns as early as possible will keep both you and your bank account from hurting.
A Better Return on Life
The better you and your spouse feel individually, the better you’re going to feel together. An interest in improving your health can lead to new activities and interests that you’ll enjoy pursuing together well into your retirement years. After all, when you finish working and the kids are out of the house, you’ll need to find a whole new routine. Sports and active recreation are great places to start, both to keep you moving every day and as inspiration to see more of the world once you have more time to do so. Today’s daily walk around the block might lead to a hiking trip in Yosemite one day that neither of you will ever forget.
If you’re struggling to stay active as you age, or worried that you can’t afford a healthier lifestyle, come talk to us. We’ll help you review your budget, analyze your long-term financial plan, and offer suggestions on how to get the best life possible with the money you have.
Giving: How To Do The Most Good Without Disrupting Your Financial Plan
Many studies have shown that charitable giving provides greater happiness than buying more stuff. Eventually, you get used to your fancy new car, and the enjoyment it provides goes down. But giving forges feelings of connectedness and community that don’t fade away.
Incorporating charitable giving into your financial plan is a great way to make sure that your generosity is aligned with the things that are most important to you. Some forethought about these key issues will also make sure that your good intentions don’t throw off the rest of your long-term planning:
Have a purpose.
The most effective charitable giving is thoughtful and intentional. It may be helpful for you and your spouse to ask yourselves some questions that will narrow your focus, such as:
- Do we want to give to a national or local cause?
- Are there pressing issues in our community that we feel we can help impact?
- Do we have any personal connections to causes, such as medical research or support for the arts?
- Want to support friends or family by contributing to causes that impact their lives or fulfill their passions?
- Do we want to support a religious organization, such as our church?
- Are our charitable impulses motivated by on-going problems, such as education or homelessness, or would we rather position ourselves to react to events such as natural disasters
Do your homework.
Once you’ve settled on a cause, do some research on potential recipients. Visit the local nonprofit you’d like to support and meet with its leadership team. Is the organization running itself responsibly? Are there good, competent people in charge? Will these people get the job done? Don’t sink your money into a well-intentioned black hole.
If you’re looking to give to a national organization, keep in mind that even some of the biggest names have come under fire lately from watchdog groups for misusing donations. Make sure you’re giving to an organization that’s doing what it says it’s going to do with your money.
Also, remember that big organizations – even non-profits – have to manage things like overhead, salaries, and insurance. Are you happy supporting the organization itself? If you want to see your money in action more visibly, you might be happier giving locally.
Beware the internet.
Whenever something bad happens in the world, our inboxes and social media are flooded with donation links. Read before you click. Be especially wary of crowd-funded campaigns on sites like GoFundMe. The cause may sound worthy, but these sites do not provide meaningful oversight on every campaign. Your money could be going to a cause, or it could be going straight into a scam artist’s pocket. You’ll never know for sure unless you know the person organizing the campaign.
Find out what will do the most good.
There’s more than one way to give. Maybe the local adult literacy center needs volunteer tutors as much as it needs money. Perhaps you’d feel more fulfilled helping out at your church’s food bank than you would feel by writing a check. Taking a more active role in a cause that’s important to you might be the most valuable thing you can give.
However, if you want to help with large-scale problems outside your own community, like hurricane recovery on the other side of the country, money is usually the most effective way to contribute. Unlike toiletries or canned goods, money doesn’t have to be boxed and shipped. You’re better off contributing to large, trustworthy organizations that already have systems and pipelines in place.
Know your limits.
Especially as you near retirement age, your giving should be a planned part of your budget. Don’t make a large one-time contribution that’s going to force you to dip into an emergency savings fund. Don’t sign up for a recurring gift that’s going to put a strain on your monthly bills. If you can’t give as much money to a cause as you’d like, think about supplementing a smaller contribution with regular volunteering.
Sometimes our best intentions get us into the most trouble. It’s great that you and your spouse want to use your money to try to make the world a better place. But your comfort and happiness are important too. Even the wealthiest people have to say no.
If you are ever in doubt, let your core values be your guide. Apply the same principle to your giving as you do to the rest of your life-centered financial plan: use the money you have to get the best life possible. With a little planning, you’ll make life better for those around you as well.
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.
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?
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.
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