When it comes to meeting and exceeding your financial goals, the first step is always to come up with a reasonable and achievable budgeting and savings plan. The following steps can help you get a handle on your expenses and establish a clear plan toward building your savings and meeting your financial milestones.
1. Look into your company retirement plans: saving a small amount of money per month, directly from your paycheck is an easy way to get started. Even if you only elect to save a small percentage of your salary, many companies offer a match on a percentage that you choose to save.
The clients we encounter and develop relationships with come from all walks of life. Each person’s story is different. As is the case with all things, not everything is as it seems from a distance. This is an important thing to be cognizant of, especially as financial advisors and planners because it is our job to identify what we can do to help people make changes in their lives that will benefit them financially, but more importantly give them a feeling of confidence and self-empowerment.
We met Jeanette at a financial independence session that we held a few years back. She was in her mid-fifties and had been divorced for two years. Jeanette confided in us that her marriage ended due to infidelity on her husband’s part and that it had been difficult to let go of the pain and anger that those circumstances caused her.
With all the hype about the latest Avengers movie, it got me thinking about how we all can become superheroes in our every day lives. You may already be a superhero to your spouse, to your kids, but how can we become financial superheroes? Fidelity did a study a number of years ago. They looked at all of their accounts and they wanted to find out which accounts performed the best: what were the investments? How often did the account trade? How many “tweaks” did the account holder perform over this given time period? What Fidelity found out was very surprising. The clients whose accounts performed the best were the clients who forgot they had an account at Fidelity.
As an investment advisor and partner to our clients, it is our responsibility to put stock market and investment news in proper perspective. While the media is reporting daily on market fluctuations and speculating on what might happen in the short term, it is our duty to help guide you through the ‘noise’ and stay focused on what truly matters when it comes to your financial plan and your portfolio.
It is not completely outlandish to feel a sense of uneasiness about investing in our current market climate. Unprecedented growth and increased volatility leave us wondering when the next market “crash” will occur. Political and economic influences are on the forefront, as investors scratch their heads in concern with everything from trade wars and maintaining economic allies, to inflation.
Investment fads are nothing new. When selecting strategies for their portfolios, investors are often tempted to seek out the latest and greatest investment opportunities.
Over the years, these approaches have sought to capitalize on developments such as the perceived relative strength of particular geographic regions, technological changes in the economy, or the popularity of different natural resources. But long-term investors should be aware that letting short-term trends influence their investment approach may be counterproductive. As Nobel laureate Eugene Fama said, “There’s one robust new idea in finance that has investment implications maybe every 10 or 15 years, but there’s a marketing idea every week.”
The Greek witch-goddess Circe gave her son Telegonus a poisoned spear to protect him on his journey to find his father Odysseus. When Telegonus finally found Odysseus he inadvertently killed his father with the magic weapon. This is similar to some of the consequences we may inadvertently incur when we try to administer well-meaning advice to someone who is coming to us for help or guidance.
I recently had this experience with a new client who came to us to discuss the challenges she faced with her finances. She was recently widowed and under an enormous amount of stress concerning her investments because her husband had handled all the family’s money. When she entered the conference room she appeared very nervous. We tried to set her at ease by playing soft music as we usually do when meeting with all our clients. We curiously watched her open her carton of statements and documents. Many of her documents were out of order and looked as if they had been filed haphazardly inside a wastepaper basket! Even before she spoke, her eyes reflected a plethora of misfit investment information, peppered with the sad assurances that her husband had instilled in her before he had suddenly passed away.
All we have to do to create the future is to change the nature of our conversations, to go from blame to ownership, and from bargaining to commitment, and from problem-solving to possibility.
Peter Block, American Author
Remember the days when you were young and saved your money to buy something you really wanted? When you brought it home it was yours. You could repair it if it broke. The inner parts were relatively easy to understand. After you used it for a while it did not become obsolete; you could sell it to one of your friends, so he could enjoy it too.
Times have changed. Our cell phones now contain software that is not ours and we sign a licensing agreement to use it. We may own the shell of the phone, but we rent the technology. We don’t even wait for the phone to become obsolete. Many consumers crave the technology so much, they line up in droves for the next new upgrade.
“The future’s uncertain but the end is always near.”
Jim Morrison, the Doors, “Roadhouse Blues”.
Many investors are losing valuable sleep listening to the misguided, canary-in-the-coal-mine commentators expounding on an imminent stock market crash due to a future recession (the “R” word). Paradoxically, if too many investors believe the same thing, as fate would have it, the “R” might just become a self-filling prophecy! On the other hand, the Wall Street axiom “a bull market climbs a wall of worry” may also suggest that too much negative investor sentiment may have the opposite effect and the market will continue to rise. It may make more sense to refrain from prognostications. The great investor Warren Buffett said, “Short-term market forecasts are poison and should be kept locked up in a safe place, away from children and also from grown-ups who behave in the market like children." -- 1992 Berkshire Hathaway Chairman's Letter.
As Hurricane Season ramps up and with Sandy only a few years down in the history books, it is important to consider what plans you and your family have in place in the event of a natural disaster. Disasters rarely give us a heads up. The best we can do in the face of disaster is have a plan and build a Financial Emergency Kit. Having these essential items safe, secure, and at the ready, in case the unthinkable occurs will save a lot of headache and heartache. There are various websites, including Homeland Security’s government webpage and the Red Cross, which can help. In this article we will go over some of the basic essentials everyone should have stored safely in case of emergency, specifically relating to your finances.
If you are a high-income earning professional, you may need to take additional steps to ensure you are saving enough for retirement. Many investors find that maximizing their company retirement plans may not be enough. You want to make sure you are saving enough in your income-earning years to maintain a similar lifestyle in retirement. Here are some tips to get you there:
Use your HSA as a savings vehicle
Health Savings Accounts are what we call triple tax free. This means that contributions made into HSAs are not just tax deductible, but the earnings are tax-deferred and the withdrawals are tax-free as long as they are used for qualified medical expenses the scope of which is very broad.
It’s the little things you begin with that matter most! The wisdom found in the Tao Te Ching says the long thousand- mile journey begins under one’s feet by taking small steps! If you are hiking and climbing a mountain you take one little step at a time. It is unrealistic to think you can physically run to the top.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are receiving intense media coverage, prompting many investors to wonder whether these new types of electronic money deserve a place in their portfolios.
Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin emerged only in the past decade. Unlike traditional money, no paper notes or metal coins are involved. No central bank issues the currency, and no regulator or nation-state stands behind it.
How do we know if we will have enough saved for retirement?
Over the last few decades, more and more workplaces left the traditional pension-retirement, and changed over to a more individually focused retirement plan, with the emergence of 401(k)s. Less responsibility is placed on the employer to ensure their employees have enough for retirement, and more responsibility is put on the shoulders of employees to ensure they are saving enough into their retirement plans to one day be able to replace their income. Recent studies have shown that one-third of baby boomers have no money saved for retirement. On top of that, boomers have more debt than previous retiring generations. They will have to spend more out of pocket on health care.[i] These are scary statistics. Cost of living has continued to climb, with food and housing costs up 60% from 1996. Education costs are rising, and have increased eight times faster than wage growth[ii], and medical and childcare costs have doubled over the same time frame.[iii] It is not merely the fault of the average person for not stashing enough away; people have less money in their pockets to allocate to savings!
The good thing is, with a little forward thinking, there are ways to improve our retirement outlook In this article, we will go over some steps that can help you to prepare financially for your later years.
“There's no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love. There is only a scarcity of resolve to make it happen.”
—Wayne Dyer, author and new-age thinker
This past year we (Walter and I) wrote a book, “The Millionaire Within”. We are proud to announce that it has been published and that it is available for sale on Amazon! We chose to write it in order to share our experiences working with clients to help them change their perceptions about money. People often seek financial consultation to gain insight into “new” investing strategies or promising stock trends for the coming year. What we know is that trying to predict an unpredictable market is as futile as spending your last dollar in the hopes that more will come out of thin air.
Bulls and Bears
Many experts consider investing in the stock market the best way to grow wealth, especially if you are young and have a long investment time horizon. However, it can be difficult to avoid much of the daily market “noise,” and you may start to question your financial decisions. Such seemingly extreme volatility can have even the most steadfast investor feeling a little unsure on occasion. The deluge of unprecedented news and the responding economy may leave investors questioning how best to proceed. Better to hunker down and ride it out? Sell? Invest in more conservative products?