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financial planning

Comprehensive Financial Planning – Explained

Do you know what is involved in comprehensive financial planning? This post gives an overview of the components and how they all fit together.

The Only Thing Permanent is Uncertainty

For the last few months we’ve experienced some uncertain and unnerving events across the US and the globe. Presidential elections, threats of war, terrorism, and political arguing can make weathering your portfolio and financial plan uneasy, if not difficult at times. Add that to the daily responsibilities of your occupation, family, and finances, and we can potentially lose sight of our long-term goals and be susceptible to short-term thinking that may derail our goals and take us off-track from our financial well-being. Financial planners, wealth managers, advisors, are not immune to this uncertainty and the impact it has on our thinking as well. If you find yourself worrying or thinking about the uncertainty, perhaps the next few thoughts can help in your thinking and provide some insight on whether changes are necessary. Have your goals changed? For example, if your retirement timeline is 20 years away, it’s highly unlikely that […]

Create Your Own Luck

“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” The other day I was eating lunch with my kids. After lunch was over I gave them a “treat” from the drawer that we normally house goodies of all sorts. I happened to grab a couple of gold-wrapped chocolate coins. These coins were renditions of the JFK half-dollars. My youngest grabbed her coin and said, “heads or tails?” I quickly said “heads” while she flipped the coin in the air. The coin landed on the floor. Tails. I said, “Well, we both lost.” My daughter quickly exclaimed, “I won daddy.” When I asked her how she won when the coin landed tails she replied to me, “I called both heads and tails.” Win-win. Essentially, my daughter had created her own luck. And I immediately thought, “This is excellent fodder for a blog post. So here we are. The reason why I mention this is […]

Frugality Versus “Buying on Sale”

I wanted to write a brief note on the difference between being frugal and frugal spending. I think it really boils down to the mindset of the individual. Frugality, in my opinion, is making smart purchases when necessary, and forgoing purchasing altogether if not. I also believe that frugality is making purchases that reduce the need to spend more in the future (i.e. buying a quality product for more money in order to reduce or eliminate repair expenses in the future). Frugal spending, on the other hand, is buying something simply because it’s on sale or cheap – regardless of need. For example, many times we see items in the store advertised as “buy one, get one half off” or “2 for $5.00”. It can be easy to fall into this trap of buying these items and leaving the store feeling good about having saved money. Sometimes we may even […]

How to De-clutter Physically and Financially

Throughout our lives we acquire things. This can start at an early age when we were given things as gifts and of course, the childhood tendency to collect and save many of the items that we came across. As we mature into adults, the desire or habit to continue to hold onto things may still linger. This leads to garages, basements, closets, bedrooms, and even storage facilities full of stuff. It can also creep into our financial lives – as we acquire different savings accounts, retirement accounts, or purchase things that continue to be automatically deducted from our bank account (a monthly subscription to a gym, perhaps). Decluttering can have a profound effect on our behavior. It can help lower the stress of trying to keep track of so many things. It can also free up time to enjoy the things in life that are important to us. Finally, it […]

Save Money with an Energy Audit

When we hear the word audit it’s often associated with a negative connotation. However, an audit does not necessarily have to be a bad thing – especially when it can save you some money. I’m talking about having an energy audit done at your home or business. What an energy audit can do is let you know how much energy and utilities your home is using as well as let you know how much energy and utilities your home may be wasting. Of course, wasted utilities means wasted money. Let me give you an example from my perspective. About 5 years ago my wife and I decided to have an energy audit done. We called our local utility provider and inquired about the specific programs that were available. Our utility company was more than willing to point us in the right direction and they recommended a third-party contractor that was […]

Axioms for Graduates

As the spring semester comes to end for high school and college graduates, I wanted to perhaps give some unsolicited advice as these newly christened adults start out on their own and begin making life choices and financial decisions that will impact their future. Resist the temptation to spend everything you make. Instead, do your best to save as much as you can. In fact, it’s possible for a recent college grad to go from making hardly anything during their college years to a decent starting salary. Pay yourself first. Establish an emergency fund of 3 to 6 months of living expenses and save to your 401k and IRA. It’s absolutely possible to save $23,500 annually ($18,000 to the 401k and $5,500 to the IRA). In ten years, without interest or compounding, you’ll have saved close to a quarter-million dollars. All by the time you’re between the ages of 28 […]

Book Review: Financial Advice for Blue Collar America

Kathryn B. Hauer has written a wonderful book on the unique financial advice needs of blue collar American workers – this is a review of that book.

Read the Fine Print

As I was reading the paper the other day I came across an ad for a pretty prominent mutual fund broker-dealer. The ad was touting the investment acumen and performance of its mutual funds and fund managers. It mentioned how many of its funds had outperformed category medians over a certain span of years. Then I read the fine print. The fine print stated the following: Rankings are based on total return and do not include the effects of sales charges The rankings were based on the funds’ Class Z shares. Past performance does not guarantee future results. In providing these materials the company is not acting as your fiduciary as defined by the Department of Labor. Let me summarize what these fine print statements mean. First, sales charges reduce returns. In other words, their rankings didn’t include the expenses associated with commissions earned by the salespeople that sell the […]

Anchoring

How we think and the way that we perceive information can have a powerful impact on our decisions. Often, the first piece of information we receive is what we will use for future reference when making decisions – and whether we feel those decisions are good or bad. This is referred to anchoring or anchoring bias and is very well described in Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. Let’s look at an example. Recently, I had a student ask me regarding his benefit package and starting salary he was offered from a potential employer. This student will finish a master’s degree in May and this will be the first “real” job the student will have out of school. Initially, the employer was talking to the student about project management and leadership opportunities. When it got down to brass tacks, the company was talking about a potential starting salary of […]

Sorry to Rain on your Parade

I wanted to take a brief moment to remind our readers of a fundamental investing truth that tends to get overlooked, forgotten, or deliberately disregarded during times of market euphoria. Think about this. If you had a million dollars at the beginning of 2016 to invest and I said that over the year that there would be a Supreme Court vacancy, the Cubs would win the World Series, interest rates would rise, and Donald Trump would become president – would you invest that million dollars in the market? I would bet that many people would not. They would guess that 2016 would be a dismal year for market returns. Yet, in 2016 the Dow returns 13.4% and the S&P 500 returned 9.5%! With all of that uncertainty and the improbable happening, the market still had a great year of returns. Those who stayed invested were rewarded. Those who sold (say, […]

Ruminations on Market Direction

A few weeks ago a prospective client called our office and was looking for help in a few different areas. One of those areas was advice on investment selection and asset allocation. Initially, the individual seemed like they may be a good fit. The individual was mentioning long-term time frames, buy and hold, value, and other terminology that seemed in-line with our firm’s investment philosophy. Then just a few minutes after exclaiming all of that, the individual then mentioned that they were looking for someone who could tell them “what kind of a market we were in” on an ongoing basis. I paused briefly and asked what the individual meant. They told me that they were looking for someone to tell them if we were currently in a growth market, value market, etc. Immediately I knew that this potential relationship would not be coming to fruition. Politely, I told the […]

Planning Without Assets

Many individuals, especially after graduating college have an enormous amount of human capital but very little when it comes to financial capital and investable assets. A common question or concern may be that they are of little interest to financial planners because they don’t have any investable assets or wealth. Let me say that this is both correct and incorrect thinking – depending on the financial planner – and just as important; how the financial planner is paid. Let’s start with the correct version first. Financial planners are paid in a number of different ways from commission, fee-only and fee and commission. Focusing on fee-only planners for a moment, these planners may be compensated by the hour, retainer, or as a percentage of assets the planner manages for the client. If a fee-only planner is only compensated by assets under management, then the planner may not be interested in helping […]

4 Things to Consider About Healthcare in Retirement

As we all are painfully aware, the costs and complexity of healthcare are skyrocketing, and nothing seems to be slowing things down.  Granted, the incoming administration is making overtures to give attention to the problem, but… as we all know, paths to places we don’t want to go are often paved with good intentions.  At this point I would not hold my breath for the next great proposal on healthcare costs, the problem is enormous and not easily resolved. Recent information from Fidelity suggests that a 65-year-old couple who retired in 2016 can expect lifetime healthcare costs to top $260,000 over their remaining lifetimes.  And that doesn’t include long-term care (nursing home or assisted-living) costs. Four Things to Consider About Healthcare in Retirement It’s not solely Medicare. If you haven’t checked into it yet and you believe that Medicare could be your only insurance in retirement, you’re in for a surprise. With the […]

How to Make Your Saving Automatic

Sometimes it can be difficult to save for emergencies or for retirement. While physically not demanding, the mental strain can be a hump that is hard to get over. In other words, we experience a little bit of “pain” or mental anguish if we have to physically hand over money or write a check. So how can we overcome this anguish? Automate. First, determine how much you need for an emergency. This can either be to start the fund or to replenish amounts that have been used. Generally, it’s a good idea to have 3 to 6 months of non-discretionary expenses (expenses that don’t go away if you lose your job or become disabled) set aside in an FDIC insured bank account. Some individuals may find it more comforting to have 6 to 9 months or 9 to 12 months. It’s up to you. For retirement, I recommend saving 15 […]

6 Year End Tips for a Financially Productive 2017

As 2016 comes to a close in a few weeks and we start into 2017, here are some good tips to consider to start 2017 off with some good strategies that will hopefully become habits. If you’re not doing so already, set up your payroll deductions to save the maximum to your 401k. There’s plenty of time to your payroll allocated so your deductions start coming out on the first paycheck in January. The 2017 maximum contributions are $18,000 for those under age 50 and $24,000 for those age 50 or older. To deduct the max, simply take the number of pay periods you have annually and divide it into your maximum contribution amount. This will allow you to save the maximum amount over 2017. Consider doing the same to maximize your IRA contribution. Those limits are $5,500 (under 50) and $6,500 (over 50) respectively. Check your allowances on your […]

Student Loans Are Not Carte Blanche

For many college bound and current college students, the arrival of the financial aid reward can seem like winning the lottery. For some students, this sum of money is more than they’ve seen (in one sitting) in their entire lifetime. The temptation to think of it as a “paycheck” rather than what it is – a liability – can often lead students to make less-than-optimal decisions when it comes to allocating those borrowed dollars. When it comes to student debt it’s helpful to think of it as just that – debt. This is money that is supposed to go towards the costs of higher education. If and when you are in the position of getting your reward money, consider the consequences of using the money to finance unnecessary purchases. Remember, this is debt. It will have to be paid back someday and with interest. When you get your financial aid […]

What to Expect After the Election

Now that the election has come and gone I wanted to send a note on what we should expect for the next four years and beyond. Really, these are no big predictions, but at times we may tend to forget our long-term goals in the hype and excitement of short term events. Expect volatility. Volatility is the norm, not the exception. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that markets will fluctuate, gyrate and generally have many ups and downs over the next four years and beyond. Think of it this way, would we expect any higher returns on our investments if markets were always calm and stable? No. Volatility is the price (risk) we pay for expected higher returns. We can diversify and maintain focus, but volatility will never go away. Expect change. As the saying goes, the only thing that is permanent is change. Do I know what […]

Should I Pay Off Debt or Save for Retirement?

Over the last few weeks I’ve gotten quite a few questions from individuals ready to graduate college and start embarking on their first job. As is often the case, many of these individuals have varying amounts of student debt but also understand the importance of saving for retirement. Naturally, a common question is should they pay off student loans or save for retirement. Here’s my take. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there are few ways to receive guaranteed returns. One of those ways is by paying down debt. This is an example of a guaranteed rate of return that is also risk free. By paying off a loan early, the interest that would have normally gone to the lender ends up in your own pocket. The good news is that the debt is retired faster, and the individual experienced zero volatility exposure compared to investing in the market. On […]

Foresight from Experience in Planning

We can make a difference in our own lives if we make a simple change in our outlook. If we changed from a hindsight to a foresight perspective, many things about our society could improve dramatically. This foresight can help with retirement planning, marriage, and any major event in our lives. I don’t mean that we should disregard history – of course not. On the contrary, we need to use history to provide us with foresight into the potential outcomes of our choices. The experiences we’ve encountered (and our friends/families/acquaintances have experienced) can help us to predict the outcome of various choices and decisions that we make in the future. Consider these factors: The divorce rate in the U.S. has been high for a very long time, causing a great deal of heartache and expense, not only for the couple but for family and friends as well. And one of […]

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