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retirement savings

Book Review – Pension Finance

M. Barton Waring does an excellent job in his book Pension Finance. The book essentially covers what’s wrong with the way conventional accountants and actuaries think using conventional math and accounting practices to justify the payments (or lack thereof) funding corporate and municipal pensions. A concept talked about at length in the book is the idea of long-term average returns and how many pension actuaries rely on them to determine funding. Mr. Waring would argue that there is too much reliance on the long term average returns thus allowing pension actuaries to fund their pensions with less money due to assuming higher rates of return. Instead, one of the areas that may help the crippling pension system in the US is to get realistic about long term returns and use a combination of a smaller returns, and bigger contributions (among others). The book is heavy on the analytic side (great […]

Be Careful of Average Returns

When saving and investing for retirement many folks as well as advisors helping those folks plan save and invest for retirement generally will have the conversation that includes how much they can save per month or year, how much they need at retirement and how long they have to save until retirement. Essentially, all of the ingredients in the previous paragraph boil down to a phrase mentioned many times in financial planning classes as well as courses in finance, investing and business: the time value of money. The time value of money helps individuals and businesses figure out how much they need to save, earn, and spend in order to achieve certain financial goals. What it boils down to is what is a dollar worth, if not spent today, and instead invested and allowed to grow for tomorrow (the future).

Are Target Date Funds Off Target?

  It seems that an easy fix for saving for retirement for many folks is to simply choose a target date fund. Generally how target date funds work is a fund company will have a set of different funds for an investor to pick from depending on a best guess estimate of when the investor wants to retire. For example, an investor who’s 30 years old and wants to retire at age 65 may choose a 2045 fund or a 2050 fund. In this example since the investor is age 30 in the year 2014, 30 more years gets him to 2044. Most target date funds are dated in 5 year increments. If the investor was age 60 and wanting to retire at age 65, then he may choose a 2020 fund to correspond to his timeline. Generally, the goal of target date funds is to follow a glide path […]

Mechanics of 401(k) Plans – Saving/Contributing

Many folks have a 401(k) plan or other similar Qualified Retirement Plan (QRP) available from their employer.  These plans have many names, including 403(b), 457, and other plans, but for clarity’s sake we’ll refer to them all as 401(k) plans in this article.  This sort of retirement savings plan can be very confusing if you’re unfamiliar, but it’s a relatively straightforward savings vehicle. This is the first in a series of articles about the mechanics of your 401(k) plan – Saving/Contributing. Saving/Contributing You are allowed to make contributions to the 401(k) plan, primarily in the form of pre-tax salary deferrals.  You fill out a form (online most of the time these days) to designate a particular portion of your salary to be deferred into the 401(k) plan.  Then, each payday you’ll see a deduction from your paycheck showing the 401(k) plan contribution.  The deduction is before income tax withholding is […]

Why Watching the Stock Market Can Make You Sick

I recently read a fascinating article on the correlation between market declines and admission rates to hospitals. The authors point out that almost instantaneously; the effects of a market decline affect mental health such as anxiety. In a nutshell, the authors describe that expectations about the future play a role in investor’s utility (happiness) today. The research in this article can be beneficial on two fronts. One the one hand, the information can be beneficial to advisors in educating their clients that once proper assets allocation for a particular client is achieved there is little to be gained by logging into an account and watching the daily and even hourly fluctuations of the market. And every asset class will fluctuate – which is why we diversify and allocate assets accordingly such as real estate, large cap stock, small cap stocks, commodities, bonds, etc. It’s important to note that at any […]

New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep

This time of year it’s cliché to make resolutions for the coming year.  Whether it’s to lose weight, stop a bad habit, or begin saving for retirement, many of us set these goals at the beginning of the new year.  And then three weeks into the new year, we’ve left that goal astern – having changed nothing at all. The problem is in how we set goals for ourselves.  For example, we might make the bold statement that we want to lose weight.  Often, that’s all there is to our resolution – but there’s much more to setting a goal than making a statement about it.  There has to be a plan, and some specifics around the goal. If the resolution is to lose weight, first of all you need to put some specifics around that goal: I want to lose fifteen pounds in 2014. Now, how are you going […]

Don’t Forget the Saver’s Credit on Your Tax Return

Did you realize that there is a tax credit available to you for your contributions to retirement plans?  There are income limits, but if you fit the limits, this type of credit can be exactly what you need to get you started on your retirement savings activities. Recently the IRS published IR-2013-93, which provides information about this valuable credit.  The actual text of the bulletin follows. Plan Now to Get Full Benefit of Saver’s Credit; Tax Credit Helps Low- and Moderate-Income Workers Save for Retirement WASHINGTON – Low- and moderate-income workers can take steps now to save for retirement and earn a special tax credit in 2013 and the years ahead, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The saver’s credit helps offset part of the first $2,000 workers voluntarily contribute to IRAs and to 401(k) plans and similar workplace retirement programs. Also known as the retirement savings contributions credit, the […]

Save 1% More This year – Your Future Self Will Thank You!

    Like so many other things, practicing financial awareness has few payoffs in the early stages.  Think about exercising, eating right, putting in the extra effort at work, or taking a class to improve your skills.  All of these things have a future payoff for the extra effort that you put into it today.  Small steps matter in all of these areas, and before you know it you’ll look back and thank your earlier self for putting in the work to get where you are today. Below is the list of my fellow bloggers who have written articles showing ways that you can start to increase your savings rate, as well as showing what the benefits can be.  Thanks to everyone who has participated so far – and watch for more articles in the weeks to come! How Much is 1% by Sterling Raskie, @SterlingRaskie Retire Rich With Only […]

You won’t regret it, I promise!

I often have opportunity to speak to young folks who are just starting out with their retirement accounts – this usually happens when we’re looking at ways to reduce taxes, primarily, so we start looking at IRAs and diverting income via 401(k) accounts.  One of the things I point out is that this is an activity that you aren’t likely to look back on in 20 years and say “Gee, I sure wish I hadn’t saved all that money!”  We may have many things we look back on in our lives and wish we hadn’t done them, but I think you’ll agree that saving is rarely in that category. So take the encouragement of my fellow blogging brethren and sistren (you betcha sistren’s a word, regardless of WP’s spell-checker!) and put aside at least 1% more of your income into your savings, starting right now.  You won’t regret it, I […]

Add 1% More to Your Savings

Savings rates in America are really not what they should be.  Studies have shown that, in order to achieve the goal of replacing 80% of your average pre-retirement income you should be saving at a rate around 17.5%.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that 17.5% is the right number for everyone, because pensions and Social Security can help out in replacing some of your income in retirement.  But the average savings rate for all Americans is something just south of 5% – so we can definitely do a better job.  So make the effort to apply at least 1% more to your savings rate this November.  It certainly can’t hurt! Below is the list of my fellow bloggers who have written articles showing ways that you can start to increase your savings rate, as well as showing what the benefits can be.  Thanks to everyone who has participated so far – […]

Bloggers Are Encouraging Adding 1% More to Your Savings Rate

  In November we financially-oriented bloggers have banded together to encourage folks to increase their retirement savings rate by at least 1% more than the current rate.  It’s a small step, but it will pay off for you in the long run.  Given the poor level of savings rate (less than 5%) these days, even this small step will be a big boost for many people’s savings. Below is the list of my fellow bloggers who have written articles showing ways that you can start to increase your savings rate, as well as showing what the benefits can be.  Thanks to everyone who has participated so far – and watch for more articles in the weeks to come! The Journey of $1 Million Dollars Begins with 1% by Richard Feight, @RFeight Give Yourself A Raise by Ben Rugg, @BRRCPA The 1 Percent Solution by John Davis, @MentorCapitalMg Friday Financial Tidbit-What increasing your […]

C’mon America! Increase your savings rate by 1% more!

This November we’re encouraging folks to increase their retirement savings rate by at least 1% more than the current rate.  It’s a small step, but it will pay off for you in the long run. Below is the list of my fellow bloggers who have written articles showing ways that you can start to increase your savings rate, as well as showing what the benefits can be.  Thanks to everyone who has participated so far – and watch for more articles in the weeks to come! THE 1% MORE BLOGGING PROJECT by Robert Flach, @rdftaxpro A Simple Strategy to Maximize Open Enrollment by Jacob Kuebler, @Jakekuebler Take a Small Step: Increase Your Savings by 1% by Jim Blankenship, @BlankenshipFP

Take a Small Step: Increase Your Savings by 1%

As savers, we Americans are not doing a good job.  We’re improving (according to recent data), but still way behind what we should be saving.  But it doesn’t have to be that way – you can take small steps to increase your savings right away, and it doesn’t have to hurt. The Bureau of Economic Analysis recently reported that we are saving at a rate of around 4.6% of disposable personal income, an increase of 0.1% over the prior month.  On a per-person basis, that works out to about $1,831 saved per month, or just short of $22,000 per year.  Since we know that very, very few people are exactly average (by definition most people are going to be something above or below the average), what concerns me is that even those who are a bit above the average are still not saving enough.  And woe to those who are […]

Avoid the Trap

Eating and dining out all the time can drain our money and potential retirement savings without us even being aware of it. We get asked from friends to go to lunch, coffee or we find ourselves skipping breakfast and getting in the line at the coffee shop for a scone and latte. Before we know it, we’re left asking, “Where did the money go?” Or worse, “I can’t afford to save for retirement.” What’s happened is we’ve fallen into the trap – a habit really, but it can be broken and we can relearn. Here’s how: The first thing you can do is to pass on that latte or scone all together. Instead, make yourself breakfast at home. Invest in a coffee maker if you don’t have one, and make your own coffee. Then make a nice meal of scrambled eggs and whole wheat toast, a cup of cottage cheese with […]

Opportunity Cost

Nearly every day in our lives we experience trade-offs and make choices affecting whether or not we’ll do something, buy something or do nothing and buy nothing. Some of us will choose to walk rather than drive, some will choose to pack a lunch rather than dine out, some of us will choose to save money while others will choose to spend it. These trade-offs are what can be referred to as opportunity costs; meaning what we’re giving up in order to take advantage of another availability opportunity. Financially, we make the choices all the time; the choice to dine out versus saving the extra money towards retirement; the choice to not save in our employer’s retirement plan so we can have more money to spend today. These opportunity costs can add up. Here’s why. When a person makes the choice to not save in order to spend for today, […]

Book Review: The 7Twelve Portfolio

The 7Twelve Portfolio is an excellent concept for financial planners and novice investors alike. The book is very well written and easy to comprehend as Dr. Israelsen keeps the concepts simple and analogies easy to follow. The crux of the book is regarding diversification and Dr. Israelsen uses the analogy for making salsa as a reference. For example, you don’t have salsa of you just have diced tomatoes and it really doesn’t improve if you simply add some onions and salt. It improves a little bit, but still isn’t salsa. The same is true for diversification. You’re not diversified if you own one stock or bond in your portfolio and have all of your holdings in that one asset. The benefits of diversification begin when you start adding additional ingredients to the mix. This starts to lower risk and help maximize return. This is a concept us nerdy planners call correlation. The […]

The Airplane Analogy

Many parents face the decision during their working years to try to fund both retirement and college education. Some can adequately do both while others are forced to do the best they can with what money they can save. Sometimes parents can get caught up in wanting to save as much as they can for their children’s college education and forgo the need to save for or save more for retirement. When this situation presents itself, I have given my clients my airplane analogy. It goes something like this: Have you ever flown on an airplane before? If you have you know that once you’re scrunched in and belted and the plane makes its way from the gate the flight attendants break radio silence and start with their routine flight instructions. After you’re taught where the exit rows are and how to use your seat as a floatation device they […]

The Crystal Ball

Every so often we get asked by our clients or prospective clients which direction the market is going to go. This is always and entertaining question to get – and some of our “regulars” already know the answer. Having a bit of a sense of humor (albeit dry sometimes) I’ll joke with clients and tell them that the day they handed out crystal balls in my investment class, it was the one time I called in sick – and you only get one chance at the coveted crystal ball. Thus, I forever lost the opportunity to predict the future of the markets. Darn. Inevitably, clients laugh and understand the joke – and take away the underlying theme of the jocularity – that we can’t predict the future, especially in securities markets. But this doesn’t mean we can’t plan ahead. So why do we invest? Why do we save for retirement? […]

Your Employer’s Retirement Plan

Whether you work as a doctor, teacher, office administrator, attorney, or government employee chances are you have access to your employer’s retirement plan such as a 401(k), 403(b), 457, SEP, or SIMPLE. These plans are a great resource to save money into, and some employers will even pay you to participate! Let’s start with the 401(k). A 401(k) is a savings plan that is started by your employer to encourage both owners of the business and employees to save for retirement. Depending on how much you want to save, you can choose to have a specific dollar amount or percentage of your gross pay directed to your 401(k) account. Your money in your account can be invested tax-deferred in stock or bond mutual funds, company stock (if you work for a publicly traded company), or even a money market account. Your choice of funds will depend on the company that […]

Why You Need an Emergency Fund

You may or may not have heard that it’s wise to have an emergency fund. Even if you’ve heard it, you may not be aware of what it means and why you should have one – and more importantly why you need one. An emergency fund is just that. It’s money set aside for a rainy day, an unexpected bump in the road, or for a real emergency or an expense that you haven’t specifically planned for. Examples of those unexpected expenses (borderline redundant – I know) include a car accident, disability, storm damage to your home, losing a job, being a victim of theft, etc. So what makes up an emergency fund? Generally, a good place to start is to have a goal of at least 3 to 6 months of non-discretionary living expenses put away in a relatively liquid account such as a savings, checking or money market […]

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