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retirement savings

Market Returns Aren’t Savings

In 2013 the market and those invested in it experienced a nice return on their investments. The S&P 500 rose an amazing 29.6% while the Dow rose 26.5%. Needless to say 2013 was an amazing year for investors – but try not to make the following mistake: Don’t confuse investment returns with savings. While it is true that the more of a return an investor receives on his or her investments the less they have to save it still does not mean that your returns should take the place of systematic saving for retirement, college or the proverbial rainy day. And by no means should you reduce the amount you’re saving thinking that the returns from 2013 and other bull years will repeat and continue their upward bounty. Investment returns are the returns that an investor receives in a particular time frame. For 2013, if an investor was invested in […]

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 […]

What’s in Store for 2014?

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by a local business journal about our firm’s thoughts as to how the market would react in 2014 and how to best prepare for that reaction. Essentially, the journal was asking us to predict where the market would be in 2014. Most of our clients know the answer I am about to write, which was, “No one can predict the direction of the market with any degree of accuracy.” “If that were the case, (as I told the interviewer) neither she nor I would be having this interview.” In other words, we’d be clinking our glasses on our respective tropical beaches because we’d have gotten filthy rich predicting and timing the moves of the market. Markets are pretty efficient – meaning that the price of any particular stock in any particular sector, industry or country is generally priced based on all available information […]

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 […]

Types of Annuities

  Last week I explained a bit about annuities and am following up this week on the different types of annuities and way to contribute. When a person is contributing to an annuity they are building or increasing the number of accumulation units they buy. As the money in the account builds so does the number of accumulation units. During the payout phase the accumulation units convert into annuity units. The number of annuity units remains the same for the remainder of the annuitant’s lifetime. When it comes to annuities there are a few different kinds that are available. Potential buyers can choose from variable annuities and fixed annuities. Variable annuities allow the policy holder to contribute premiums and then have those premiums allocated to different sub-accounts that invest in various stock and bond mutual funds. The value of the annuity goes up and down with the general fluctuations of […]

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 […]

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, […]

Why Diversify?

Remember Enron? I think we all do. Enron was once a powerhouse company that saw its empire crumble and took the wealth of many of its employees with it. Why was that the case? Many of Enron’s employees had their 401(k) retirement savings in Enron stock. This was the classic example of having all of your eggs in one basket and zero diversification. Let’s say that the employees had half of their retirement in Enron stock and half in a mutual fund. Enron tanks but their mutual fund stays afloat. This means that they lost, but only lost half of their retirement, all else being equal. Imagine if they had only a quarter of their retirement in Enron and the remaining 75% in three separate mutual funds. Enron’s demise is only responsible for a fourth of their retirement evaporating. This could go on and on. The point is that when […]

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? […]

A Money Back Guarantee

  You’ve heard the saying before that there are a few guarantees in life: death and taxes. I’d also like to add another: guaranteeing yourself a rate of return. I get asked this question frequently, usually by someone who’s a conservative investor or someone looking for a “sure thing”. This is what I tell them and I am telling you. Call this your money back guarantee. For the majority of readers, this will come into play as most of you have debt in some form or another. Whether it’s your mortgage, automobile, boat, credit cards, college, many Americans have different amounts of debt all at different interest rates. Typically, your consumer debt (credit cards) is going to have the highest interest rates. Here’s how to guarantee yourself a rate of return: PAY DOWN YOUR DEBT. By paying down your debt you will be guaranteeing yourself the rate of return equal […]

Add Your First 1% to Your 401(k)

Many of my fellow bloggers and I have become concerned about how low the rate of savings has been for Americans in general.  To see a list of all of the articles in the 1% More Movement, check out the article at this link. Since November is traditionally the time when corporate employees make elections for all other benefits, including health insurance, life insurance, and other employee benefits, now is a good time to also consider increasing your 401(k) contributions. For my article, I’m focusing on the employee who hasn’t been participating in a 401(k) plan at all. Your First 1% in Your 401(k) If you haven’t been putting anything at all into your 401(k) plan at all, putting that first 1% into the 401(k) plan can be a little scary.  But you need to know that this is a monumental action.  Getting started with savings is the most important […]

A Nifty Little Trick to Increase Savings

A nifty little trick that can be part of your savings plan is simply this: once a debt is paid off, still treat that payment as a bill – but now direct that bill payment to your bank account, IRA, or employer sponsored plan. Here’s how it works: Let’s say you have a car payment of $250 per month. You’ve worked hard to get the debt reduced and eventually (maybe even early) you pay off your loan on the car. What a feeling! Instead of allocating the money to be spent elsewhere, such as buying another car or spending it on other items you probably don’t need, consider taking that $250 per month and reallocating it to yourself. The easy thing about this is that you’re already used to paying it, you’ve already budgeted for it, why not pay yourself? Also, you can consider putting the payment to yourself on […]

Calling All Bloggers – Let’s Increase America’s Savings Rate in November!

I’m sure that I’m not alone in the financial planning world with my concern about the rate of saving toward retirement across this great land.  Recent figures have shown that we Americans are doing a little bit better of late, at a 5% savings rate versus around 1% back in 2005 – but this is a dismal figure when you consider how most folks are coming up short when they want to retire.  Rather than sitting by idly and wringing my hands, I thought maybe something could be done to encourage an increase in savings – if only by 1%, this can be a significant step for lots of folks.  And now, in November, is the perfect time to do this, as most corporations are going through the annual benefit election cycle, so the 401(k) (or 403(b), 457, or other savings plan) is right at the forefront for many folks. […]

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