Webinar in Review: Bridging the Gender Gap

Jacki Roessler Contributed by: Jacki Roessler, CDFA®

Women are gaining numbers in the workforce and are the primary breadwinner in over 40% of American households yet they still lag behind their male counterparts in financial preparedness for retirement.* Learn about the unique obstacles women face and discover tools to overcome them in this eye-opening webinar designed to help bridge the financial gender gap.

If you missed the webinar, here’s a recording:

Check out the time stamps below to listen to the topics you’re most interested in:

  • Women’s Strengths and Obstacles: 2:00

  • Setting the Foundation: 5:30

    • Build a Budget: 6:15

    • Emergency Reserves: 9:50

    • Pay Down Debt: 12:50

    • Monitor Credit: 16:00

  • Planning for your Future: 18:30

    • Retirement Savings: 20:30

    • Investment Strategy: 25:30

    • Estate Planning: 34:15

    • Anticipate the Unexpected: 36:30

  • Protect yourself: 39:00

Jacki Roessler, CDFA®, is a Divorce Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® and Branch Associate, Raymond James Financial Services. With more than 25 years of experience in the field, she is a recognized leader in the area of Divorce Financial Planning.

*Cited from 2012 US Consensus

5 Financial Tips for Recent College Graduates

Robert Ingram Contributed by: Robert Ingram

financial tips for recent college graduates

Congratulations Class of 2019! This is an exciting time for recent college graduates as they begin the next phase in their lives. Some may take their first job or start along their career path, while others may continue their education. Taking this leap into the “real world” also means handling personal finances, a skill not taught often enough in school. Fortunately, by developing good financial habits early and avoiding costly mistakes, new graduates can make time an ally as they set up a solid financial future.

Here are five financial strategies to help get your post-college life on the right path:

1. Have a Spending Plan

The idea of budgeting may not sound like a lot of fun, but it doesn’t have to be a chore that keeps you from enjoying your hard-earned paycheck. Planning a monthly budget helps you control the money coming in and going out. It allows you to prioritize how you spend and save for goals like buying a home, setting up a future college fund for children, and funding your retirement.

Everyone’s budget may be a little different, but two spending categories often consume a large portion of income (especially for younger people early in their careers): housing costs and car expenses. For someone who owns a home, housing costs would include not only a mortgage payment, but also expenses like property taxes and insurance. Someone renting would have the rental cost and any rental insurance.

Consider these general guidelines:

  • A common rule of thumb is that your housing costs should not exceed about 30% of your gross income. In reality, this percentage could be a bit high if you have student loans, or if you want more discretionary income to save and for other spending. Housing costs closer to 20% is ideal.

  • A car payment and other consumer debt, like a credit card payment, can quickly eat into a monthly budget. While you may have unique spending and saving goals, a good guideline is to keep your total housing costs and consumer debt payments all within about 35% of your gross income.

2. Stash Some Cash for Emergencies

We all know that unexpected events may add unplanned expenses or changes to your budget. For example, an expensive car or home repair, a medical bill, or even a temporary loss of income can cause major financial setbacks.

Start setting aside a regular cash reserve or “rainy day” fund for emergencies or even future opportunities. Consider building up to six months’ worth of your most essential expenses. This may seem daunting at first, but make a plan to save this over time (even a few years). Set goals and milestones along the way, such as saving the first $1,000, then one months’ expenses, three months’ expenses, and so on, until you reach your ultimate goal.

3. Build Your Credit and Control Debt

Establishing a good credit history helps you qualify for mortgages and car loans at the favorable interest rates and gets you lower rates on insurance premiums, utilities, or small business loans. Paying your bills on time and limiting the amount of your outstanding debt will go a long way toward building your credit rating. What goes into your credit score? Click here.

  • If you have student loans, plan to pay them down right away. Automated reminders and systematic payments can help keep you organized. To learn how student loans affect your credit score, click here.

  • Use your credit card like a debit card, spending only what you could pay for in cash. Then each month, pay off the accumulated balance.

  • Some credit cards do have great rewards programs, but don’t be tempted to open too many accounts and start filling up those balances. You can easily get overextended and damage your credit.

4. Save Early for the Long Term

Saving for goals like retirement might not seem like a top priority, especially when that could be 30 or 40 years away. Maybe you think you’ll invest for retirement once you pay off your loans, save some cash, or deal with other, more immediate needs. Well, reconsider waiting to start.

In fact, time is your BIG advantage. As an example, let’s say you could put $200 per month in a retirement account, like an employer 401(k), starting at age 25. Assuming a 7% annual return, by age 60 (35 years of saving), you would have just over $360,000. Now, say you waited until age 35 to begin saving. To reach that same $360,000 with 25 years of saving, you would need to more than double your monthly contribution to $445. Starting with even a small amount of savings while tackling other goals can really pay off.

Does your employer offer a company match on your retirement plan? Even better! A typical matching program may offer something like 50 cents for each $1 that you contribute, up to a maximum percentage of your salary (e.g. 6%). So if you contribute up to that 6%, your employer would add an extra 3% of your salary to the plan. This is like getting an immediate 50% return on your contribution. The earlier you can contribute, the more time these matching funds have to compound. 

5. Get a Little More Educated (about money and finances)

Ok, don’t worry. Forming good financial habits doesn’t require an advanced degree or expertise in all money matters. To build your overall knowledge and confidence, spend a little time each week, even just an hour, on an area of your finances and learn about a different topic.

Start with a book or two on general personal finance topics. You can find reference books on specific topics, from mortgages and debt to investments and estate planning. Information offered through news media or internet searches also can provide resources. And you can even find a blog not too far away (Money Centered Blog).

Robert Ingram, CFP®, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® With more than 15 years of industry experience, he is a trusted source for local media outlets and frequent contributor to The Center’s “Money Centered” blog.

Investment risk is real. Here’s how we manage it.

The Center Contributed by: Center Investment Department

Investment risk is real. Here's how we manage it.

Investment risk is real. Every day. Every year. In up and down markets. Even in good times – when, for example, U.S. Equities are performing well – we all can use this friendly reminder:

The management of investment risk is constant in successful investing.

Benjamin Graham, known as the “father of value investing,” dedicated much of his book, The Intelligent Investor, to risk. In one of his many timeless quotes, he states, “The essence of investment management is the management of risks, not the management of returns.” To many investors, this statement may seem counterintuitive. Rather than an alarm, though, risk may serve as a healthy dose of reality in all investment environments.

Our Take on Risk

How do we at The Center attempt to manage risk as we steward approximately $1.1 billion in assets? We:

We have been managing client assets for more than 34 years. We fully understand and appreciate the importance of investment returns. We also know that risk is an important element when constructing portfolios intended to fund some of life’s most important goals, such as sending a child or grandchild to college, funding a long and successful retirement, having sufficient funds for long-term health needs, and passing a legacy to loved ones.

While no one can guarantee future investment returns, our experience suggests that those who follow our risk management tactics may better stay on track with their financial plans. 

If you are a client, we welcome the opportunity to talk more about how your portfolio is constructed. Not a client? We’d enjoy the opportunity to share our experience and review your goals and risk.


Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® and not necessarily those of Raymond James. This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or a loss regardless of strategy selected. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.

Efficient Tax Planning is Year-Round Work

Josh Bitel Contributed by: Josh Bitel

efficient tax planning

While many of us focus this time of year on getting our tax returns done, year-round tax planning excites us number geeks! We really can’t control taxes, right? Well, not exactly. 

Of course, we can’t change the tax rates set by our government, but we can work collaboratively on financial decisions throughout the year that help ensure the greatest possible level of tax efficiency. Let’s look at a few examples:

EXAMPLE #1: FORD STOCK

Say you have a stock position in Ford purchased at $3 a share when “the sky was falling”. Because its worth has greatly increased, your unrealized gain amounts to $20,000. The stock has done so well, you might not want to part with it. You also don’t want to pay tax on that nice $20,000 gain. 

So consider this: If your taxable income falls within the 12% marginal tax bracket, chances are you would pay very little or possibly ZERO tax on the $20,000 gain. You could lock in that nice profit and potentially improve the overall allocation of your portfolio. 

This is a hypothetical example for illustration purpose only and does not represent an actual investment.

EXAMPLE #2: ROTH CONVERSION

Let’s take a look at another real-life example we often see. What if your income this year takes a significant drop, through a job loss, retirement, job change, or other move? Be sure to keep us in the loop, so that we can help you make pro-active tax planning decisions.

In this situation, a Roth IRA conversion could make a lot of sense if your income will fall into a lower tax bracket that you most likely will not see again. You would pay tax at a much lower rate, and moving Traditional IRA dollars into a Roth IRA for potential future, tax-free growth could create a monumental planning opportunity.   

SHARING YOUR TAX RETURNS

These are just two examples of the many factors we examine in your financial plan to make sure your dollars are efficiently taxed. You can help us do this work. Sharing your tax return early gives us a much better chance throughout the year to uncover strategies that may make sense for you and your family. 

Many of our clients have now signed a disclosure form allowing us to directly contact their CPA or tax professional to obtain copies of returns and to discuss tax-planning ideas. This saves you, as the client, the hassle of making copies or e-mailing your return – and we are all about making your life easier! 

Josh Bitel is a Client Service Associate at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® He conducts financial planning analysis for clients and has a special interest in retirement income analysis.


While we are familiar with the tax provisions of the issues presented herein, as Financial Advisors of RJFS, we are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Opinions expressed in the attached article are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Every investor's situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon before making any investment. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.

What’s Taking So Long? Dealing with the Frustration of Post-Divorce Financial Delays

Jacki Roessler Contributed by: Jacki Roessler, CDFA®

Post Divorce Finances

I always enjoy talking with former clients after their divorces, but as soon as I heard Margo’s voice on the phone, I knew she was upset. She and her ex-husband, Jim, had divorced nine months ago. Margo shared the frustration that her finances remained tied to Jim’s. The biggest hold-up: receiving her share of retirement assets.

Why was it taking so long? Would the delay have any negative consequences for her?  What, if anything, could she do to expedite the process?

For Margo – and anyone in the same position – preparing and implementing the Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs for short) may delay the process. These legal documents transfer qualified retirement account assets (i.e. 401ks, pensions, etc) after a divorce.

Because the QDRO is complicated, divorce attorneys often refer drafting to outside experts. A preparer typically takes between three and four weeks to draft the QDRO. The draft must be reviewed and approved by both attorneys, signed by all the parties and then submitted to the Judge. It can then take a week to three months to contact the parties with an approval notice or a list of required changes. After notice is received, the plan administrator generally enforces a 30-day hold for either party to object. 

Even if every step goes smoothly, three or four months is a reasonable timeframe. So I first advised Margo to adjust her expectations.

Should she worry about how this delay will affect her finances? If it happens over a market downturn, is Margo entitled to her 50% share of the 401k on the date of divorce or the amount her share is currently worth, which is $25,000 less? Margo didn’t have any input on investment choices while the QDRO was pending, so she believes she shouldn’t have to share in the short-term investment loss.

Even more worrisome, if Jim were to die, remarry, or retire before the QDRO is approved, she could end up with nothing but the option to take him back to court – or even worse, file a claim against his estate.

Margo can take some proactive steps to speed up this process. First and foremost, she has to be her own advocate and contact her attorney and the preparer about the reason for the delay. Whatever the problem, Margo needs to take an active role in solving it. She can also discuss liquidating her share of the retirement assets (inside the account) while the QDRO is pending, to avoid any market loss. While that’s the safest route, she also risks losing a short-term market gain.

As always, whenever you have financial questions, post-divorce, contact your attorney and/or financial expert to see whether you need assistance.

Jacki Roessler, CDFA®, is a Divorce Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® and Branch Associate, Raymond James Financial Services. With more than 25 years of experience in the field, she is a recognized leader in the area of Divorce Financial Planning.


Raymond James and its advisors do not offer legal advice. You should discuss any legal matters with the appropriate professional.

401(k) plans are long-term retirement savings vehicles. Withdrawal of pre-tax contributions and/or earnings will be subject to ordinary income tax and, if taken prior to age 59 1/2, may be subject to a 10% federal tax penalty.

This is a hypothetical example for illustration purpose only and does not represent an actual investment.

A QDRO - Qualified Domestic Relations Order - is a judgment, decree or order for a retirement plan to pay child support, alimony or marital property rights to a spouse, former spouse, child or other dependent of a participant.

Could We See Changes Coming to Fix Social Security?

Robert Ingram Contributed by: Robert Ingram

Changes Coming to Fix Social Security

For the past several years, you may have seen story after story questioning the health of the Social Security system and whether the federal program can be sustained into the future. If you, like many clients, are thinking about your retirement plan, you’ve probably wondered, “Will my Social Security benefits be there when I retire?”.

Certainly, different actuarial or economic assumptions can influence Social Security’s perceived financial strength and solvency, but it’s clear some steps must be taken. With a system the size and scope of Social Security, one that affects so many people, it's hard to overstate the challenge of finding solutions on which lawmakers and experts can agree.

Funding Social Security - Money In, Money Out

Payroll (FICA) taxes collected by the federal government fund Social Security. How much do we pay? The first $132,900 of an individual’s 2019 annual wages is subject to a 12.4% payroll tax, with employers paying 6.2% and employees paying 6.2% (self-employed individuals pay the full 12.4%).

The government deposits these collected taxes into the Social Security Trust Funds, which are used to pay benefits. Social Security benefits are also at least partially taxable for individuals with income above certain thresholds. For more on Social Security taxation, click here.

U.S. demographic changes pose challenges for Social Security’s financial framework.  Americans are living longer, but birth rates have declined. One implication is that while a growing population draws Social Security benefits, a smaller potential workforce pays into the system.

In its 2018 annual report, the Social Security Board of Trustees projected that the total benefit costs (outflows) would exceed the total income into the trust funds, and the trust fund reserves will be depleted by 2034. Now, the report does not suggest that Social Security would be unable to pay benefits at that point. It estimates that with the trust funds depleted, the incoming revenues would be able to cover about 77% of the scheduled retirement and survivor benefits.

This is still concerning for the millions of retirees collecting their benefits and for future retirees counting on their benefits over the next 15 to 20 years.

So the question is, how can we correct this funding shortfall?

Possible fixes for Social Security?

Ultimately, as with any budget, fixing the imbalances between the Social Security system’s inflows and outflows would involve increasing system revenues, reducing or slowing the benefit payouts, or some combination of both.

There have been a number of proposals discussed in recent years, including:

  • Increasing the Full Retirement Age from age 67

  • Changing the formula for calculating benefits based on earnings history

  • Increasing (or even eliminating) the cap on income subject to the payroll tax

  • Reducing benefits for individuals at certain income levels (“means testing”)

  • Changing how the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for benefits is determined

This past January, the Social Security 2100 Act was re-introduced in the House of Representatives. This series of suggested reforms, originally introduced in 2014 and 2017, has several key items: 

  • Increase the Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) formula for calculating benefits at one’s Full Retirement Age

  • Change the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) calculation, tying it to the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) rather than the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W)

  • Increase the special minimum Primary Insurance Amount for workers who become newly eligible for benefits in 2020 or later

  • Replace the current thresholds for taxing Social Security benefits, from a threshold for taxing 50% of Social Security benefits and a threshold for taxing 85% of benefits, to a single set of thresholds set at $50,000 (single filers) and $100,000 (married filing jointly) for taxation of 85%  of Social Security benefits, by 2020

  • Apply the payroll tax rate for Social Security (12.4% in 2019) to earnings above $400,000

  • Continue applying the the payroll tax to the first $132,900 of wages and exempting income from $132,901 up to $400,000, then apply the tax again to amounts above the $400,000 threshold

  • Increase the Social Security payroll tax rate incrementally from the current 12.4%  to 14.8% by 2043

  • The rate would increase by 0.1%age point per year, from 2020 until 2043

  • Combine the reserves of the Social Security retirement and survivor benefits trust fund and the reserves of Social Security’s disability benefits trust fund into a single trust fund

(Note source data: Estimates of the Financial Effects on Social Security of the “Social Security 2100 Act” ssa.gov/OACT/solvency/LarsnBlumenthalVanHollen_20190130.pdf) 

Interestingly, the first four provisions in the proposed bill are actually intended to increase the benefits for recipients. The first provision would slightly increase the benefit amounts paid to recipients through the new formula. The change to CPI-W gives more weight to spending items particularly relevant for seniors, such as health care, resulting in a potentially higher COLA than under the current structure. The third provision increases the current minimum benefit earned, and the fourth item allows for a higher level of income before Social Security benefits become taxable.

To address Social Security’s long-term solvency, this bill focuses on boosting Social Security revenues by increasing the payroll tax rate over time and making more earned income subject to those payroll taxes. That approach is in contrast with other proposals that would focus on managing the outflow of benefits, such as raising the full retirement age from 67 to 70.

This illustrates the philosophical differences in how to address the problems facing Social Security, and what makes reaching consensus on a long-term solution so difficult. 

Should I plan for changes to the Social Security system?

With so many factors at play and strong voices on different sides of the issue, the specific reforms Congress will adopt and exactly when they will occur remain unclear. For most clients, Social Security is part of their overall retirement income picture, but a meaningful source of income.

It is important to have at least a basic understanding of your benefits and what affects them under the current system (benefits collected at full retirement age, changes to benefit amounts based on when they are collected, and the potential impacts of taxation on your benefits, just to name a few factors).

Understanding how your Social Security benefits fit within your own retirement income plan can help you stay proactive as you make decisions in the face of uncertainty, whether controlling your savings rate, choosing investment strategies, or evaluating your retirement goals. If you have questions about your retirement income, we’re always here to help!

Robert Ingram, CFP®, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® With more than 15 years of industry experience, he is a trusted source for local media outlets and frequent contributor to The Center’s “Money Centered” blog.


*Repurposed from 2016 blog: Will Social Security Be Around When I Retire?

This information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of the author and are not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Links are being provided for information purposes only. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize or sponsor the third party website listed or their respective sponsors. Raymond James is not responsible for the content of any website or the collection or use of information regarding any website's users and/or members.

Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD Named to Financial Times 400 for 2nd Consecutive Year

Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD Named to Financial Times 400 for 2nd Consecutive Year

Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® is pleased to announce that Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD has been named to the 2019 edition of the 2019 Financial Times Top 400 Financial Advisors. The list recognizes top financial advisers at national, independent, regional and bank broker-dealers from across the U.S.

In addition to working directly with clients and helping them achieve their financial goals, Tim also acts as Branch Manager, RJFS, Partner and member of the firm’s Business Operations Committee. Tim has recently been appointed to the Albion College Endowment Investment Committee and is an active member of the Small Giants community whose mission is putting people before profits. Having gone through Leadership Oakland's program, Tim now serves his community as a member of their Board of Directors.


The FT 400 was developed in collaboration with Ignites Research, a subsidiary of the FT that provides specialized content on asset management. To qualify for the list, advisers had to have 10 years of experience and at least $300 million in assets under management (AUM) and no more than 60% of the AUM with institutional clients. The FT reaches out to some of the largest brokerages in the U.S. and asks them to provide a list of advisors who meet the minimum criteria outlined above. These advisors are then invited to apply for the ranking. Only advisors who submit an online application can be considered for the ranking. In 2019, roughly 1000 applications were received and 400 were selected to the final list (approximately 40%). The 400 qualified advisers were then scored on six attributes: AUM, AUM growth rate, compliance record, years of experience, industry certifications, and online accessibility. AUM is the top factor, accounting for roughly 60-70 percent of the applicant's score. Additionally, to provide a diversity of advisors, the FT placed a cap on the number of advisors from any one state that's roughly correlated to the distribution of millionaires across the U.S. The ranking may not be representative of any one client's experience, is not an endorsement, and is not indicative of advisor's future performance. Neither Raymond James nor any of its Financial Advisors pay a fee in exchange for this award/rating. The FT is not affiliated with Raymond James.

Links are being provided for information purposes only. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors. Raymond James is not responsible for the content of any website or the collection or use of information regarding any website's users and/or members.

Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® and not necessarily those of Raymond James.

2019 First Quarter Investment Commentary

2019 First Quarter Investment Commentary

I love this time of year. In Michigan, the sun starts shining, and we slowly start to come out of our winter hibernation. It is only this time of year when wearing shorts on a sunny, 45-degree day seems completely logical.

I am always surprised by how different March can be from beginning to end; the old saying I learned in first grade, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb,” is rarely wrong. It makes me think about how the first quarter of 2019 has come in like a lion and ended like a lamb. 

Much volatility marked the end of 2018. During the last quarter of the year, markets experienced a very sharp correction, pulling back almost 20% from peak to trough for the S&P 500. Then as 2019 ramped up, markets quickly recovered, and the 2018 correction became a distant memory nearly erased from our statements, melting away like the ice from all of those winter storms.

Through the first quarter of the year, the S&P 500 rallied over 13.5%, the MSCI EAFE returned nearly 10%, and the Barclay’s Aggregate US bond index earned a respectable 2.94%.

While the downside in most cases has been nearly recovered for a diversified portfolio, some scars remain and red flags of a weakening economy are popping up (no, they aren’t the kind of flags you see on the golf course).

Yield Curve Inversion?

You may have seen headlines debating the inversion of the yield curve. This is a highly watched recession indicator. Throughout 2018, the yield curve flattened as The Federal Reserve raised interest rates. This year, the flattening has slowly morphed into a potential inversion. In the yield curve chart below, on the left, you can see that very short term rates are higher than even the 10-year treasury rate. However, longer-term rates are still higher, and the two-year yield is not yet more elevated than the 10-year yield, which is the true definition of the inversion. The chart on the right shows how the yield curve looked leading into the 2008-2009 recession. You can see that the long-term rates were no longer upward sloping, but rather flat-to-downward sloping.

 
Source: https://stockcharts.com/freecharts/yieldcurve.php

Source: https://stockcharts.com/freecharts/yieldcurve.php

 

The yield curve isn’t a perfect indicator, as it does from time to time give false signals that are not followed by a recession. However, the flattening and inversion of the yield curve do indicate a shaky economy that is more susceptible to outside shocks.

Many argue this is not a true inversion, and only time will tell. But this indicator does cause us to think a recession could be coming. If the inversion increases, caused most likely by long-term rates falling farther, that would increase our certainty. However, a recession generally follows an inversion by nine months to a year.

The delay happens because an inversion causes banks to tighten their lending standards. Banks make money by lending at a higher long-term rate, paying us on our short-term cash at a lower rate, and keeping the difference as profit. Paying us at a higher rate and loaning at a lower rate makes loans far less profitable. With no room for error in making a bad loan, bank standards become very strict. This alone slows the economy in many ways.

Raymond James Chief Economist Scott Brown recently cited the chart below: “In a simple model of recessions, the current spread between the 10-year Treasury note yield and the federal fund’s target rate implies about a 30% chance that the economy will enter a recession in the next 12 months. At this point, a broad-based decline in economic activity does not appear to be the most likely scenario, but the odds are too high for comfort and investors should monitor the situation closely in the months ahead.” (Source: http://beacon1.rjf.com/ResearchPDF/2019-03/a514efab-1484-4425-9c7a-9db0e0689423.pdf)

 
20190416c.jpg
 

Auto loans showing signs of concern

Auto loans, which hit us close to home in Michigan, have shown early warning signs of trouble. Despite a low unemployment rate and growth in the economy, many people still struggle to pay their bills. As of February, seven million Americans were at least three months behind in their car payments. While the government shut down may be a contributing factor, that is still a shocking statistic and one million consumers higher than in 2010, the last peak coming out of the great recession. The loans in arrears based on percentage don’t look quite as shocking, but the numbers are creeping higher.

 
20190416d.jpg
 

While these and other red flags signal an economic slowdown, we are not yet ready to confirm they signal a recession. Our investment committee is discussing areas of concern within portfolios and where we may want to make adjustments. Areas considered ripe for change include the bond positions.

We have an overweight to what we call “strategic income”, higher yielding positions that carry more credit risk than interest rate risk. While this overweight has worked for many years, we may soon reduce it back to our long-term target and add this into the Core bond portion of the portfolio. Core bonds tend to behave positively in turbulent markets and benefit from the “flight to safety” trade.

Within the core bond space, we have held shorter duration bonds which, during a rising interest rate environment, have less downside pressure as rates rise. Now that the Fed has signaled an end to raising rates for the time being, we have also looked at taking on more duration risk in that portion of the portfolio. When equity markets correct, longer duration bonds tend to perform more positively.

Headline updates:

Brexit receives an extension as Parliament in Britain seized control of the process when the Prime Minister failed, yet again, to put forth a plan lawmakers could support. This resulted in an extension until April 12; in all likelihood, another will be granted.

The Mueller investigation results have come to a close. According to Ed Mills, Raymond James Managing Direct of Washington Policy, “The conclusion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation finding no coordination or collusion with the Trump campaign related to Russian election interference, and a Department of Justice verdict seeing no case for obstruction, offers a significant near-term political boost to President Trump, alleviating one of the big unknown DC policy risks on the market. It also has the potential to have a real impact on the President’s remaining first-term agenda, particularly on trade negotiations with China or domestic issues such as the budget or infrastructure.” (Source: http://beacon1.rjf.com/ResearchPDF/2019-03/e0fc4341-4031-486e-a5fa-bcf05d9d7c2b.pdf)

The Federal Reserve officially paused its rate-hiking cycle through 2019. The Fed also has decided to slow, and eventually stop, reducing its balance sheet by selling off the Treasuries it owns. Low rates for longer terms seems to be the theme for the near future. This affects how we will position our bond portfolios. The investment committee will this month discuss the potential of adding more duration to our core bond portfolio. This area also tends to behave positively during market pullbacks and recessions and, usually, the more duration, the better.

Trade talks with China seem to be moving in the right direction, with very slow progress. This will likely continue to hang over the markets for months to come. The next leg up of the equity markets could depend on progress here.

Negative yields around the world again, still? As of the end of February, 17% of the world’s investment-grade debt is trading with negative yields. In Europe, as of the end of March, more than 40% of government debt was trading at a negative yield – making U.S. bonds still the best kid on the block. (Source: Natixis) 

If you are interested in learning more about our process, please don’t hesitate to reach out with a phone call or email or visit the investment management page of our website. We thank you for your continued trust in us!

Angela Palacios, CFP®, AIF®
Partner
Director of Investments

Angela Palacios, CFP®, AIF®, is a partner and Director of Investments at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® She chairs The Center Investment Committee and pens a quarterly Investment Commentary.


Any opinions are those of Angela Palacios and not necessarily those of Raymond James. The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. There is no assurance any of the trends mentioned will continue or forecasts will occur. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. The case study included herein is for illustrative purposes only. Individual cases will vary. Prior to making any investment decision, you should consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation.

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Consider these options and strategies to pump up your Social Security benefits

Nick Defenthaler Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP®

As a frequent speaker on Social Security, I’ve had the pleasure of educating hundreds of retirees on the nuances and complexities of this confusing topic. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that, unfortunately, many of us do not take the decision about when to file as seriously as we should.

your social security benefits

In 2018, the average annual Social Security benefit was roughly $17,000. Assuming a retiree lives for 20 years after receiving that first benefit check, you’re looking at a total of $340,000 in lifetime benefits – and that’s not accounting for inflation adjustments along the way!

We work to help our clients receive nearly double that amount each year – $33,500 – which is close to the maximum full retirement age (FRA) benefit one can receive. Assuming the same 20-year period means nearly $700,000 in total lifetime benefits. It’s not unreasonable for a couple with earnings near the top of the Social Security wage base to see a combined, total lifetime benefit amount north of $1,500,000 as long as you are award of the decision process.

As you can see, the filing decision will be among the largest financial decisions – if not THE largest – you will ever make!

Longevity risk matters

Seventy-five percent of Americans will take benefits prior to their full retirement age (link #1 below) and only 1 percent will delay benefits until age 70, when they are fully maximized. In many cases, financial and health circumstances force retirees to draw benefits sooner rather than later. But for many others, retirement income options and creative strategies are oftentimes overlooked, or even taken for granted.

In my opinion, longevity risk (aka – living a really long time in retirement) is one of the three biggest risks we face in our golden years. Research has proven, time in and time out, that maximizing Social Security benefits is among the best ways to help protect yourself against this risk, from a retirement income standpoint. Each year you delay, you will see a permanent benefit increase of roughly 8 percent (up until age 70). How many investments offer this type of guaranteed income?

Let’s look at the chart below to highlight this point.

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You can see a significant difference between taking benefits at age 62 and at age 70 – nearly $250,000 in additional income generated by delaying! Keep in mind, this applies for just one person. Married couples who both had a strong earnings history or can take advantage of the spousal benefit filing options receive even more benefits.

Mark’s story

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a gentleman named Mark after one of my recent educational sessions on Social Security. As we chatted, he made a comment along the lines of, “I have just close to $1.5 million saved for retirement, I just don’t think Social Security really matters in my situation.” I asked several probing questions to better understand his earnings record and what his benefit would be at full retirement age.

We were able to determine that at age 66, his benefit would be nearly $33,000. Mark was 65, in good health, and mentioned several times that his parents lived into their early 90s. Longevity statistics suggest that an average 65-year-old male has a 25 percent chance of living until 93. However, based on Mark’s health and family history, he has a much higher probability of living into his early to mid-90s!

If Mark turned his benefits on at age 66, and he lived until age 93, he would receive $891,000 in lifetime benefits. If he waited until age 70 and increased his annual benefit by 32 percent ($43,500/yr.), his lifetime benefits would be $1,000,500 (keep in mind, we haven’t even factored inflation adjustments into the lifetime benefit figures).

I then asked, “Mark, if you had an IRA with a balance of $891,000 or even $1,000,000, could we both agree that this account would make a difference in your retirement?” Mark looked at me, smiled, and nodded. He instantly understood my point. Looking at the total dollars Social Security would pay out resonated deeply with him.

All too often, we don’t fully appreciate how powerful a fixed income source can be in retirement. It’s astounding to see the lifetime payout provided by Social Security. Regardless of your financial circumstance, it will always make sense to review your options with someone who understands the nuances of Social Security and is well educated on the creative ways to draw benefits. Don’t take this decision lightly, too many dollars are at stake!

Feel free to reach out to us if you’d like to talk through your plan for Social Security and how it will fit into your overall retirement income strategy.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® He contributed to a PBS documentary on the importance of saving for retirement and has been a trusted source for national media outlets, including CNBC, MSN Money, Financial Planning Magazine, and OnWallStreet.com.


Sources: 1) https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/retirechart.html 2) https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/social-security/articles/2018-08-20/how-much-you-will-get-from-social-security The information herein has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. This information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making a decision and does not constitute a recommendation. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.

What happens to my Social Security benefit if I retire early?

Kali Hassinger Contributed by: Kali Hassinger, CFP®

Did you know that the benefit shown on your Social Security estimate statement isn’t just based on your work history?

what happens to my social security benefit if I retire early

The estimated benefit shown on your statement assumes that you’ll work from now until your full retirement age.  And, on top of that, it assumes that your income will remain about the same that entire time. For some of our clients who are still working, early retirement has become a frequent discussion topic. What happens, however, if you retire early and don’t pay into Social Security for several years? In a world where pensions are quickly becoming a thing of the past, Social Security will be the largest, if not the only, fixed income source in retirement for many. 

Your Social Security benefit is based on your highest 35 earning years, with the current full retirement age at 67.

So, what happens to your benefit if you retire at age 50? That is a full 17 years earlier than your statement assumes you’ll work, which effectively cuts out half of what is often our highest earning years.

We recently had a client ask about this exact scenario, and the results were pretty surprising! This client has been earning a great salary for the last 10 years and maxing out the Social Security tax income cap every year. Her Social Security statement, of course, assumes that she would continue to pay in the maximum amount (which is 6.2% of $132,900 for an employee in 2019 - or $8,240 - with the employer paying the additional 6.2%) until her full retirement age of 67. She wanted to make sure her retirement plan was still on track even after stopping her income and contributions to Social Security at age 50.

We were able to analyze her Social Security earning history, then project her future earnings based on her current income and future retirement age of 50. Her current statement showed a future annual benefit of $36,000. When we reduced her income to $0 at age 50, her estimated Social Security benefit actually dropped by 13%, or $4,680 per year. That’s still $31,320-per-year fixed income source would still pay our client throughout retirement. Given the fact that she’s working 17 years less than the statement assumes and she has the assets necessary to support the difference, a 13% decrease isn’t too bad. This is just one example, of course, but it is indicative of what we’ve seen for many of our early retirees. 

Social Security isn’t the only topic you’ll want to check on before making any final decisions about an early retirement.

You’ll also want to consider health insurance, having enough savings in non-retirement accounts that aren’t subject to an early withdrawal penalty, and, of course, making sure you’ve saved enough to reach your goals! If you’d like to chat about Social Security and your overall retirement plan, we are always happy to help!

Kali Hassinger, CFP®, CDFA® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® She has more than a decade of financial planning and insurance industry experience.


Any opinions are those of Kali Hassinger, CFP and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. There is no assurance any of the trends mentioned will continue or forecasts will occur. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. The case study included herein is for illustrative purposes only. Individual cases will vary. Prior to making any investment decision, you should consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Raymond James and its advisors do not provide tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.