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Latest From Blog

The Golden Rules of Financial Planning

Finances are a particular aspect that can make you laugh, cry and at times, a specific mix of both. It tends to go through different ways, and it all depends upon an individual to drive the same. By all means, you need to be capable of controlling your finances and lead a future that is safe. But things are not always the same since it is quite challenging to follow a straight path. For that very purpose, it is quite essential to follow specific rules that will help you out. Formerly known as the golden rules of financial planning, you need to understand and follow them.

Evaluation of your Current Stand

One of the best ways to start the process is to understand your net worth. By doing so, you will be generating an idea about the future and also about the need for improvement. This process needs to teach you all about the ways through which you must never venture since their expenses cannot be managed. If you still move ahead and do it, then you might be carrying a burden that is too much for your shoulders. Hence, understand your net worth and be within limits.

The Attitude of Saving

Soon after considering your net worth, you need to venture into habits of savings. Yes, that’s right. By all means, developing this mentality will help you reach places since it opens the door for a safe future. Ask any expert, and he/she will tell you all about the importance of saving. The ground of significance that it holds is extremely critical, and understanding the same will help you achieve a bunch of benefits. So, develop the right attitude and move ahead to save money.

Never Ignore Taxes

Another critical point that you need to remember is the one involving taxes. As a citizen, you must always follow the law of the land and pay your part to the government. Both financially and economically, this is an important step, and you must do it all costs. Based on your net worth and current revenue, you should move ahead to file your taxes. Numerous benefits also come from this process, and you should never ignore them.

Get Assured

Once you have a clear idea about your income and expenses, you need to move ahead to get everything assured. Yes, we are talking about an insurance policy that safeguards everything, leaving you safe and secure. For this purpose, you should start going through different policies and pick one that will help you out. Valid research should be conducted and contacting an agent might also be necessary. Hence, move ahead into getting assured and lead a life that keeps the problems of finances to a far corner.

Not All My Clients Are Old!

As a financial planner, I meet all kinds of interesting people with fascinating stories to tell. I guess I am a lucky sort. In Florida, you get a lot of snow birds who are escaping winter in Canada and the northern part of the US. They come and go but certain ones stick in my mind. Above all, they love water recreation and most of all the sun. Of course, there are hurricanes and storms to fear; but most of the time the weather is nice and attracts people from far and near.

I counsel people on retirement, but not all my clients are old. Younger folks like to invest in growth stocks and middle aged ones like the income they can get from bonds. I choose what I think is safe and prudent and appropriate. I get good results and return business all the time. Creating a balanced portfolio is my forte. If they are ecologically minded, I put in relevant equities. I appeal to each person’s interests and values. They all have different needs. Sometimes I set up a trust. I get to know the families who want to be in on our sessions.

One interesting client made a huge profit off an app he created. Apps are surefire winners if you are on the right track. There are literally thousands and there is always room for more. Find something people will find easy and useful. He did. Now he wanted to invest for more profit as if he needed it. He had several children and wanted a lasting legacy to bequeath to them. It was years in the future so he had time to let his stocks rise. After he put together a strong portfolio, he wanted to either retire or just take a lot of time off. He loved the water and wanted to travel the world seeking coastlines where he could use his stand up paddle board to his heart’s content. He might even sail extensively but the paddle board would always be along.

I loved this client as he was a gold mine for my business. It would take me months to construct his portfolio and even more to monitor it and update as needed. I know that I can find good places for his money that will keep him happy and sleeping at night. We want to minimize losses and maximize gains. That’s my job and the purpose of investing for anyone. Because he wanted beneficiaries to his account, we couldn’t take big chances. He also needed income to use while traveling. Who knows how long he would be away. It could be indefinite. We vowed to stay in touch so I could inform him of his investments’ status. He could paddle day and night, but had the obligation to pay attention to the market. He left shortly after we met for the last time. Over the months and years, his account grew in size. I reinvested for the future.

My Own Retirement Plan

I help people retire by profession so they can live out their dreams with ease. You never want to run out of money and you pray for a long life. One of the dreams might be to own a house at the shore. No matter. It could be the mountains or a lake. It takes years of advanced planning to formulate objectives and fulfill them in your senior years. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing someone’s investment portfolio come to fruition. This is where clever allocation makes sense. Retirement accounts are for income. When you are young, your investments are for more aggressive growth. With the bouncing economy, this all may be a challenge; but it is a worthy task I undertake. You apply everything you know to beat the market and enjoy your profits. You must be devoted to clients’ need first and foremost.

I envision the coastal house scenario because my favorite activity is spending time at the beach. Do you blame me? What is more relaxing and fun. If you asked me about my own retirement plans, it no doubt would include some kind of property steps from the salty spray of the ocean. So I envision this for everyone. As for me, it is my unique dream of course. I will work hard toward accomplishing my goal, as hard as I labor to get it for others. But in the end, their success is my success, too. Maybe I am a bit young to ponder retirement, but as I tell my clients, it is never too soon. If you start early, the accumulation period will be that much greater and you will have saved a sufficient amount of cash.

So here I am mentally at the beach at every stage of my life—young or old. I see myself reclining in the best beach chair ever, one that I bought with care online a year ago. The sturdy canvas fabric supports me with ease and the wooden frame never bends or falters. I can adjust the back so I can lay back and bask in the rays of the sun or I can sit up and play cards or read. It is a reliable way to place yourself on the sand. Give me a sandwich, a thermos of lemonade, a couple of chips, and I am in heaven. The chair is the center of my beach universe. I sit quietly in deep concentration, mulling over all the ways I see this chair in different resorts around the world. It will go with me to the millions of beaches that I have yet to occupy. Travel is the great gift of retirement if you can’t do it young. Each week the list gets longer and more exotic. Only in retirement will I cease traveling and stay put in my own abode adjacent to the edge of the sand. For now, the chair is a symbol and reminder of my lifelong goals.

What Are You Saving For?

Unless you are in the throes of middle age, you probably aren’t thinking much about retirement lately. It always seems so far away and something to put off for a while. Sometimes young people get drawn into a company plan, especially if the company matches the contributions. This is a smart way to start. More often than not, it is the furthest thing from your mind however unless you have a savvy investment advisor as a friend. This is why I always ask clients what they are saving for in the hopes of bringing up the topic of retirement. We can then progress toward a discussion of the investments that will lead them to their goal. You have to focus their attention. I get all kinds of answers. Some people want a vacation home by a lake or the ocean. Some want a mountain cabin, a boat, or a home entertainment center. If they don’t want to get rooted somewhere all of the time, they just want a lavish budget for lots of trips around the world. One person said to me, I will just throw darts at a map and get up and go! It is all about freedom and new experiences.

Some people want to buy a house for their children to help them get a head start in life. Others are open to funding a startup business for the same purpose. Why have the kids wait for their inheritance and they are too old to be entrepreneurs at the starting gate? This is what I call advance planning. These are indeed very responsible parents. Then there are the rest who want to take care of themselves in their senior years without running out of money. They need to have a good investment portfolio in place for this purpose, one that is well-conceived and carefully planned with appropriate diversification. There is a definite art to retirement planning.

After listening to everyone’s wish list and being amazed at the variety of what people think is the good life, I also had to ask myself the very same thing. What would I want to save for? Just like everyone else, I want to be able to get away from it all and enjoy some kind of resort atmosphere where I can treat myself to personal pleasures. In retirement, I see myself in a nice, relaxing hot tub for four. Why four? I want to be surrounded by friends—it’s that simple. No one wants to be alone during moments of recreation. In retirement, you have the time to entertain guests. There is not even a hint of an old folks home. Can’t you just see me with a glass of wine in hand, pouring another for three additional friends? It doesn’t have to be my own hot tub, but I certainly wouldn’t mind. It could be one in an apartment complex in Miami, where the sun seeking folks want to retire.

I Love My Clients!

I met with a new client today. I always look forward to meeting new people, I think it is a huge perk of the job. It is fun and gratifying to talk to someone about their hopes and dreams for the future and then help them find the path to reach those goals. You can learn a lot about a person this way, and I always walk out of new client meetings feeling like I’ve made a new friend. I don’t know if they always feel the same about me because I’m the one telling them they can’t buy that frivolous—and ultimately regrettable—item next week if they want to retire and take that trip they always wanted, but… I never take that personally. It’s all part of the job!

So, back to the new client. She has a side job where she does custom paint designs on cars. She wants to invest all of the money she earns from her side job into her retirement fund, which I was a little hesitant to recommend. Until I saw just how much she’s making, depending on the design. She showed me a few of them on her phone and told me how much she charged—I couldn’t believe it. I’m in the wrong business, haha! Anyway, she wants to be fairly aggressive with it, too, which is fine with me since she has a decent 401K from her regular job as a manager at a decent sized company. Not that I think I’ll lose all her money, but with the risk strategy she has in mind, at least she has a cushion. Basically, she told me that the car airbrushing is something she’d do for free so she looks at the money as if it fell out of the sky. If it disappears, so what, but if it can make more money for her to expand her hobby (one thing she admitted that she wants is a better paint sprayer for car paint, the one she uses now is more multipurpose) and provide for a fabulous retirement, that would be wonderful. Again, this isn’t a strategy that I would recommend for most clients, but this woman was definitely NOT a typical client!

Then she asked me what kind of car I drive. I have a pretty nice car, I told her, but it’s black and it doesn’t look like anything special. So she offered to do some painting for me and we came up with a design (a very simple thin pink line along the driver and passenger sides that turns into a small flower at the bumper). She explained the whole process to me and it was incredibly cool—first the stenciling and then paint selection, and then she loads up her air sprayer and gets to it.

Now my car is a little bit more reflective of my personality and a lot easier to find out in the sea of black cars out in the company parking lot!

Preparing a Handyman for Retirement

The other day, I met the nicest man. He is in his late 40s and wanted to talk about what to do with his retirement accounts so that he could have more money when he retires. Basically, my field of expertise! My favorite question to ask new clients is, “What do you want most after you stop punching that time clock?” Most people think they will have an answer, and you can see it as they open their mouth. Then they usually close it for a minute and actually think about what I am asking.

Sometimes I get really general answers like “travel,” “spend more time with family.” or “enjoy a hobby” or something equally as generic. It’s like they think it is a test with a right or wrong question rather than a necessary, personal, question to formulate how much money they’ll need to retire. Then I have to ask a qualifier to actually get them to think about it. For example, where would they like to go? Around the world, or around the country? Do they want to fly and stay in luxurious hotels, or buy an RV? On the other hand, if they want to spend more time with family, what does that mean to them? Family that lives in the house with them, or family that lives far away? If far, how far? Are they spread out all over the place, or do they live in the same vicinity as one another? The hobby one drives me crazy. I always have to ask if it is a new hobby they’d like to take up, and if so, what it is, or if it is an existing hobby. They are two completely different things! Usually, if it is a new hobby there is a bunch of money laid out up front (think like photography, for example, if you need to buy a new camera and lenses and the like) or if you already have the stuff you need. The answers I get from clients really give me insight into what is important to them and where to go with their investments.

But this man answered me right away. He told me he wanted to restore classic cars. Something like that I can really run with. We got to talking about whether he would need to add on additional garage space to his existing home (yes), and whether he’d need new tools (yes, he said he would need things like an air compressor and air tools, a storage system, and a bunch of other costly items). I also asked if he already had any cars that he was planning to restore and he said he’s already got one, and he has been accruing parts for it for years. His boss lets him store everything at his current job for now. We talked about the cost of all this for awhile because I am not big into cars. He was able to show me some numbers to allow me to figure everything out.

I was able to show him a great plan for his future, and he left the office feeling very excited and hopeful. It is so nice to be able to tell a client that the thing they are hoping for is a real possibility. When they have that spark in their eyes when they talk about their golden years, I hate to be the one to put that light out. Some people have really unrealistic plans about what they want to do with the very small nest they have put aside, and that is a tough pill to swallow, especially when they come to me too late to do a whole lot about it. So today was one of the good days that make me love my job and I just had to share it.

Til next time, keep making your money work for you!

Budget Now, Live It Up Later

Budgeting

The issue of budgeting is something every working person deals with. The idea of budgeting now to pay for retirement later is one of those topics I disagree on with many of my peers. The reason is simple. People have to strike a balance between do not put off until tomorrow what you can do today, and being financially secure in your retirement years. You can have it both ways, and I will explain my idea of how you can have your cake and eat it too.

Basic financial planning dictates you must have a budget. It is not an option. Whether you have a little money or a lot, a budget is essential for everyday living. Part of a sound budget is having an emergency fund. Unless you hit such a bad streak of luck that every year has an emergency packed into it, you can take yur emergency fund every year and put what is left into a retirement fund. You may not be able to do it every year, but the rule of retirement savings is the sooner you start, the less time it will take to make your retirement goals.

How this is different than creating some type of special retirement budget plan is beyond me. Personally, I think it is a mistake to take tomorrow for granted just as much as I think that you should not plan for the future. There has to be a happy medium, and my view is that if people plan to increase their income by just 10 percent a year, meaning that there will be times working a full time and part time job for a period is necessary, you can increase your retirement savings over time and still take advantage of the opportunities life gives us today to enjoy. The younger you are to incorporate this “extra work” mentality, the sooner you will be able to create a stable retirement situation.

I am not suggesting that you live irresponsibly or fail to consider your future when you are younger, though that often is the mentality of people. Your youngest years are the ones where you have the most time, energy, and optimism to make the necessary budget adjustments. Those adjustments are slanted towards saving more because you are not likely to be married or have any significant debt that will suck up a good portion of your income. One difference between today’s economy and that of 40 years ago is that the age when you can start making decent money as a teenager starts much earlier. That means you can begin saving and still have the money to do most of what you want.

My Plan for the Money They Wanted to Charge to Put in My Flooring

Who doesn’t love to remodel and renovate? I see upgrading in my future. In fact, I need new living room flooring and have estimated the cost for installation. As far as the materials go, you calculate your square footage and then do the math. That’s my strongpoint by the way, but frankly I wasn’t ready for the price of putting a simple layer of carpeting in place. I see that they make up for any discounts by adding to labor. Many companies have you by the throat.

But not me. As a frugal person, I don’t want to pay for something at the top of the scale. It’s a small job and doesn’t merit a major expense. So I have decided to either do it myself or get help from a friend. With carpeting, you need special tools and a few idle hours—nothing more. You staple down the padding and lay the final covering on top before securing it in place. Investing in a good electric staple gun is far less than a one-time, one-room installation. Plus, I will have the device on hand for other types of household jobs. You never know when you will want to decorate for the holidays or a special event. You may want to put up posters in the neighborhood on telephone poles or your business card on the supermarket bulletin board.

My work is all about making money work best for people’s needs. That means saving here to apply it there. In other words, if you add up the myriad of things on which you overspend, you will soon have a pool of money that will grow proportionately. I try to find the best investment vehicles for people’s savings to ensure they beat inflation for one thing, and have some funds for retirement for another. There are short and long term goals involved. My own plan for the money they want to charge for installation is targeted for a money market fund. When it gets to a certain level, the balance will be transferred to a less liquid but more profitable growth account such as a mutual fund or annuity.

You have to be vigilant with your savings. Usually, we don’t put in enough and have to race to the retirement finish in our early senior years. They call this the run for the roses. This blog today is dedicated to the little things in life we can forego if we want to build a nest egg. Installing your own carpet is just an example, used symbolically, to set your sights on the future. If the years roll by and you have not set sufficient money aside, you will be hard pressed to retire.

It takes financial planning with a professional to assess your status now and anticipate your needs in the years to come. He or she will calculate the compounded growth of current investments so you can see your likely retirement scenario. It is a wise person who takes matters into their own hands–the same kind of person I suspect who installs their own carpeting! Let’s hope that is you.

Is Your Pension Enough?

pension-fund

No small number of people do not even consider asking this question because they do not have a pension. There was a time 50 years ago where having a pension was considered to be common for most people. Today, many people look at their 401k plan as a pension, so I will take a swing at answering the question by talking some about both.

For those who have a pure pension, one that the retiree’s employer pays for exclusively with no contributions made by the employee, it, as usual, will depend on the average annual salary of the employee over the length of their employment. The average is an important number because often retirees will work for 30 years at the same company, but their overall salary increases are only slightly above the rate of inflation. When it comes time to retire, that benefit from the average salary may not be enough to provide a comfortable retirement income.

If the future retiree is making an above average wage, then there is a good chance the pension in and of itself will do more than get them comfortably by through the retirement years. That said, this does not say that people should not also have a savings strategy as well. More than just a second source of retirement income, the old saying “do not put all your eggs into one basket” applies her as well. Should anything happen that will delay or even bankrupt your pension plan, you could be facing a lot of cold winters and cancelled plans. How much you should save is going to depend on how much confidence you have in the future of the company you work for, though too much confidence is usually a bad thing. Times have changed.

As for the 401k planners, maximizing as much of your employee contribution as possible, currently set at $18,000 per year, is one of the best investments you can make. The 401k is one of the most flexible retirement options available, and if you have regular monthly deductions that add to the employer’s contribution, it makes your nest egg much fatter. As for whether you should plan on living off of it, like the average annual salary issue with the pure pensioner, that will depend on how much you make and for how long.

One aspect of the 401k plan that I am particularly fond of is the fact that you can take a loan from the accumulated proceeds of your plan. Besides being an immediately available emergency fund during your employment, it can fit into your retirement strategy by using it to pay off the remainder of your mortgage shortly before retiring. Remember, your mortgage will be taking roughly one-third of your retirement income if it is not paid in full. If you can get a lower rate of interest using your 401k loan option, then that will take a significant amount of pressure off of your retirement living expenses.

One benefit that cannot be overlooked in how effective your pension will be in retirement is your Social Security check. There are many arguments for and against depending on it as a source of retirement income, but unfortunately for many people it is their only source of income. Adding it to your pension income will make a difference, especially if you are still paying down your mortgage.

A good rule of thumb to follow is: the more sources that your retirement income comes from, the less likely you are to encounter a major shortage of income due to financial or economic conditions.

Reverse Mortgages – Pros and Cons

Reverse Mortgages

Reverse mortgages are an area of some controversy in the financial community because some people think they take advantage of the financial weakness of retirees and older people. One thing I have pointed out consistently in my blogs is that having a mortgage that is paid off takes considerable stress from your monthly living expenses. What a reverse mortgage does is basically take advantage of the value of your home to add another source of monthly income by taking out a loan using the house as collateral.

One way this is an advantage is when the home you are living in is not going to be passed along as an inheritance. For examples, single retirees or retirees without children may not have anyone in particular to give their home to upon their death. Using the value of the home to enjoy a higher standard of living will make their retirement years more enjoyable.

Another instance when a reverse mortgage is beneficial is when Social Security is the sole source of income for the retiree. There is no doubt that the second source of income will significantly benefit retirees, and is a solid alternative to either selling their home or living day-to-day because of their lack of retirement income.

But there are some negatives that go with the decision. The most obvious one is that the reverse mortgage may leave no inheritance, or a meager one, to the children or relatives. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, for some people the issue of family looms huge when making retirement income decisions. It should come as no surprise that children are some of the most ardent opponents to reverse mortgages.

A second downside to the choice is that the bank who will be parsing out the monthly income checks will charge a number of fees for the loan. This is no surprise to people who deal with banks, but the problem is in the math. As an example, if you have a home worth $50,000 and you go with a reverse mortgage, you may choose to take a monthly check for $2,000 over 25 years. That approach calculates to a loan period of 25 years. But when you add fees into the equation, that period could be shortened by 3 to 5 years.

Generally, the reverse mortgage is considered to be a last resort by responsible financial advisors and planners. That is something I agree with.

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