General Financial Planning

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.

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.

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 Is Tactical Allocation and Why Would I Use It?

The Center Contributed by: Center Investment Department

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You’re probably familiar with strategic investing, picking the amounts of stocks, bonds, and cash that create the foundation of your portfolio. But you may also want to consider another layer of portfolio management.

Investors who overweight or underweight asset classes as perceived market opportunities arise are implementing a tactical allocation.

Typically, a tactical allocation overlays a strategic allocation to help reduce risk, increase returns, or both.

While we believe that the relationship of valuation between markets over long periods will be efficient and will correspond to fundamentals, we also know that over shorter periods, some markets may become overvalued and other asset classes will become undervalued. It makes sense at those times to use a tactical allocation strategy. When executed correctly, a somewhat modified asset allocation may offer better returns and less risk.[1]

A tactical asset allocation strategy can be either flexible or systematic.

With a flexible approach, an investor modifies his or her portfolio based on valuations of different markets or sectors (i.e. stock vs. bond markets). Systemic strategies are less discretionary and more model-based methods of uncovering market anomalies. Examples include trend following or relative strength models.

With a tactical allocation, keep in mind less can be more. Successful execution of these methods requires knowledge, discipline, and dedication. The Center utilizes tactical asset allocation decisions to supplement our strategic allocation when we identify a compelling opportunity. Our Investment Committee arrives at these decisions based on many factors considered during our monthly meetings.

Want to learn more? Reach out to your financial planner or a member of the Investment Department team to learn how The Center uses tactical allocation to manage your portfolio.


[1] All investing involves risk, and there is no assurance that this or any strategy will be profitable nor protect against loss.

Opinions expressed in the attached article are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. 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. Every investor's situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon before making any investment. Prior to

Protect Your Credit by Checking and Correcting These Reports

Josh Bitel Contributed by: Josh Bitel

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t think or worry about your credit score unless you’re getting ready to use it. Your credit report provides detailed information about your credit history and may even make or break your applications for loans, mortgages, or credit cards. Errors or false applications bogging down your score could also prevent you from receiving a better interest rate, for example.

protect your credit by checking and correcting these reports

Tips for checking your credit report

  1. Visit annualcreditreport.com to request your free credit report from your choice of three agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Use all three. You are entitled to a free report from each every 12 months.

  2. Set an annual reminder to pull your report with each agency. Stagger these reminders, so you can check your full report once every four months and keep a closer eye on it.

  3. Review all information, including the basics – addresses, phone numbers, employers, etc. – to spot any errors or discrepancies.

  4. Make sure you recognize all accounts, loans, credit cards, etc. listed on your report.

Fixing or disputing errors

When you notice a problem, first directly contact the credit reporting companies and let them know what information you believe is not correct. You may be asked to provide supporting documentation to dispute a claim as fraud. In some instances, that may be hard, if not impossible, to do. It can be difficult to produce proof that you never opened a credit card, for example. Still, putting forth your best effort is well worth your time.

Second, contact the fraud/security department at the company that reported the fraudulent information. They will send dispute paperwork for you to submit with supporting documentation. Inform them, in writing, that the account was opened or charged without your knowledge, explain why you dispute the information and are asking that it be removed or corrected. Keep a paper trail for yourself.

Also, verify whether the debt has been sold to a collections agency. If it has, make sure they will notify the collections agency that the debt is in dispute. And brace yourself! It could take 90 days (or more!) before you see a resolution. Set a reminder to follow up if you have not heard anything within the time promised. Once you have received confirmation that the fraudulent claim has been discharged, make sure they have also closed the account in your name.

Haggling with credit reporting agencies can be a pain, but the work is a necessary evil. Misreported information could lead to your credit score suffering by as much as 100 points, and unless you review and monitor your reports on a consistent basis, you’ll never know.

Josh Bitel is a Client Service Associate at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®


Repurposed from July 23, 2015 - Previous blog

Why Retirees Should Consider Renting

Nick Defenthaler Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP®

“Why would you ever rent? It’s a waste of money! You don’t build equity by renting. Home ownership is just what successful people do.”

Sound familiar? I’ve heard various versions of these statements over the years, and every time I do, the frustration makes my face turns red. I guess I don’t have a very good poker face!

why retirees should consider renting

As a country, we have conditioned ourselves to believe that homeownership is always the best route and that renting is only for young folks. If you ask me, this philosophy is just flat out wrong and shortsighted.

Below, I’ve outlined various reasons that retirees who have recently sold or are planning to sell might consider renting:

Higher Mortgage Rates

  • The current rate on a 30-year mortgage is hovering around 4.6%. The days of “cheap money” and rates below 4% have simply come and gone.

Interest Deductibility

  • Roughly 92% of Americans now take the standard deduction ($12,200 for single filers, $24,400 for married filers). It’s likely that you’ll deduct little, if any, mortgage interest on your return.

Maintenance Costs

  • Very few of us move into a new home without making changes. Home improvements aren’t cheap and should be taken into consideration when deciding whether it makes more sense to rent or buy.

Housing Market “Timing”

  • Home prices have increased quite a bit over the past decade. Many experts suggest homes are fully valued, so don’t bank on your new residence to provide stock-market-like returns any time soon.

Tax-Free Equity

  • In most cases, you won’t see tax consequences when you sell your home. The tax-free proceeds from the sale could be a good way to help fund your spending goal in retirement.  

Flexibility

  • You simply can’t put a price tag on some things. Maintaining flexibility with your housing situation is certainly one of them. For many of us, the flexibility of renting is a tremendous value-add when compared to home ownership.

Quick Decisions

  • Rushing into a home purchase in a new area can be a costly mistake. If you think renting is a “waste of money” because you aren’t building equity, just look at moving costs, closing costs (even if you won’t have a mortgage), and the level of interest you pay early in a mortgage. Prior to buying, consider renting for at least two years in the new area to make darn sure it’s somewhere you want to stay.

Every situation is different, but if you’re near or in retirement and thinking about selling your home, I encourage you to consider all housing options. Reach out to your advisor as you think through this large financial decision, to ensure you’re making the best choice for your personal and family goals.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.


Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler, 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. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected.

New Year Financial To-Dos Help Keep You on Track

Kali Hassinger Contributed by: Kali Hassinger, CFP®

As we settle into 2019, the fresh calendar year provides an ideal opportunity to make plans and adjustments for your future. Instead of setting lofty resolutions without a game plan in mind, might I suggest that you consider our New Year Financial Checklist? Completing this list of actionable, attainable goals will help you avoid the disappointment of forgotten resolutions in February, and you’ll feel the satisfaction of actually accomplishing something really important!

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New Year Financial Checklist

  • Measure your progress by reviewing your net worth as compared to one year ago. Even when markets are down, it's important to evaluate your net worth annually. Did your savings still move you forward? If you're slightly down from last year, was spending a factor? There is no better way to evaluate than by taking a look at the numbers!

  • Speaking of spending and numbers, review your cash flow! How much came in last year and how much went out? Ideally, we want more income than spending.

  • Now, let's focus on the dreaded budget. Sure, budgeting can be a grind, so call it a “spending plan”. Do you have any significant expenses coming up this year? Make sure you're prepared and have enough saved.

  • Be sure you review and update beneficiaries on IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, life insurance, etc. You'd be surprised at how many people don't have beneficiaries listed on retirement accounts (or have forgotten to remove their ex-spouse)!

  • Revisit your portfolio's asset allocation. Make sure your investments and risk are still aligned with your stage in life, your goals, and your comfort level. I'm not at all suggesting that you make changes based on market headlines. Just be sure that the retirement or investment account you opened 20 years ago is still working for you.

  • Review your Social Security Statement. If you're not yet retired, you will need to go online to review your estimated benefit. Social Security is one of the most critical pieces of your retirement, so make sure your income record is accurate.

Of course, this list isn't exhaustive. The final step to ensure your financial wellbeing is a review with your advisor. Even if you don't work with a financial planner, at a minimum set aside time on your own, with your spouse or a trusted friend, to plan on improving your financial health. Do it even if you only get to the gym the first few weeks of January!

Kali Hassinger, CFP® is an Associate Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®

Bond woes: “Why do we own bonds if we think they aren’t going to do well in a rising rate environment?”

The Center Contributed by: Center Investment Department

Hoping for capital gains is not a good reason why you should own bonds. Actually, owning or  buying bonds in this low and rising interest rate environment with the hope that you'll be able to sell them later at a higher price may not work out. BUT…just because you can’t sell this investment at a profit later does not make the investment a bad idea.

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A great real life comparison is a car. We own a car to get our family and us from one place to another, hopefully safely. Many components go into the makeup of a safe driving automobile. The engine is key in making the car go. Stocks act much like the engine of a car.  They make our portfolios go/grow. But, would you ever drive a car that wasn’t equipped with brakes or an airbag? Brakes and airbags are similar to the bonds in our portfolio. Bonds help you control some of the risk of owning stock. For most people, the reason to own bonds is to slow down our bottom-line losses experienced in our portfolio during major market declines. Without this moderation (and sometimes even with it), investors tend to panic when stock prices fall.

So in a nutshell, “Why own bonds?”

They make the scary times less so. When the stock market experiences an extended decline, investors look around for where to turn. Cash and Bonds are usually the place they turn to.A volatile stock market can happen suddenly and unexpectedly. Waiting to add bonds until something happens means you are going to suffer much of the downside before you actually add them to the portfolio. You have to have already had them in the portfolio for them to help. Talk with your financial planner to make sure you have the proper amount of your portfolio invested in bonds so you can hang on to your investments through those difficult times. A portfolio makeup that allows you to stay the course over the long term is much more likely to get you to your destination!


https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-bonds-are-the-most-important-asset-class-2015-06-10 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.

Are You Retirement Ready?

Sandy Adams Contributed by: Sandra Adams, CFP®

In our work with clients, one of the most common questions we get is, “How will we know when we are ready (and able) to retire?”  That can be a tricky question, because there are two sides to being ready for the next phase of your life – the technical side and the personal side.  While certainly you need to be financially secure for the next decades of your life, you also need to be comfortable with the transition from your life as a career individual to what you now wish to become in your next phase – and that is not as easy as it sounds.

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From a financial-readiness perspective, many clients target age, monetary or benefit milestones to help them determine when they will be ready to retire:

  • “When I have $1 million in assets saved, I will be ready to retire.”

  • “When I am eligible to collect Social Security, I will be ready to retire.”

  • “When I am eligible to collect my company pension OR I have reached my XX anniversary with my company, I will be ready to retire.”

  • “When I am eligible to receive Medicare, I will be ready to retire.”

The real answer is, some or all of these may be true for you, and some or all of these may be false.Every client situation is different and no general guideline can determine whether or not you are financially ready to retire. Unfortunately, it is far more complicated than that. There are numerous financial factors that go into determining financial readiness.Let’s take a deeper look into the issues.

Financial Readiness Issues:

Retirement Savings:

Do you have enough saved?

  • What might your other retirement income sources be (Social Security, Pensions, etc.)

  • How much income will you need (what are your fixed costs versus lifestyle wants in retirement), and

  • What are your longevity expectations (how long might you expect to live based on health, family history, etc.—expect it will be longer than you think!).

Where are your savings?

  • Do you have retirement savings outside of retirement plans?

  • Do you have some after-tax and reserve cash/emergency reserve savings?

  • Do you have different types of accounts to provide tax diversification going into retirement (i.e. IRAs/401(k)s, ROTH IRAs, after tax investment accounts)?

Debt:

Have you paid down your debt or do you have a plan to be as debt free as possible by the time you retire?  This will allow you to control your retirement income for other fixed expenses and wants; it is desirable to have as little debt/fixed expenses as possible going into retirement as possible.

Retirement Income:

A large part to being retirement ready is understanding your retirement income sources, options and strategies and using them to your best advantage.  Take the time to consult with your planner to choose the option that works best for you and your family circumstance.

  • Pensions: Do you understand all your options, including the income options available to your spouse as a survivor upon your death.  We find that in many cases it makes sense to choose an option that includes a lifetime income option for you with at least a 65% survivor income benefit for your spouse if you were to die first.

  • Social Security: While many are under the false impression that because you are allowed to take Social Security benefits as early as age 62, they should, we might recommend otherwise.  For most individuals now approaching Social Security claiming age, Full Retirement Age for claiming Social Security is now age 66 and delaying benefits until age 70 results in an 8% per year increase in benefits.  Knowing and understanding the Social Security benefits, rules and strategies that can be employed, especially for married couples, to ensure the largest lifetime benefit can be an added supplement to long-term retirement income. We find that our most successful married couples in retirement employ a strategy where the lower Social Security earner draws at Full Retirement age while the higher Social Security earner waits to draw at age 70, insuring the highest possible Social Security benefit for the spouse that lives the longest.

Investments:

Preparing for retirement involves making appropriate adjustments to your investment strategy.  You should work with your financial planner to adjust your asset allocation to one that is appropriate for your new goals and time horizon. We find that our most successful retirees tend to have asset allocations ranging from 40% Bond/60% Stock to 50% Bond/50% Stock.

Insurance:

  • For those retiring before age 65 (Medicare eligibility) and without retiree healthcare, finding health insurance to bridge them to Medicare is a must. 

  • Retirement readiness does require addressing the issue of Long Term Care funding Having a plan, no matter what your choice, is something that must be done before retirement.

Estate Planning:

While not exactly monetary, having your estate planning documents (Durable Powers of Attorney, Wills and possibly Trust or Trusts in place) updated prior to retirement is a good idea.Part of this is making sure accounts are titled properly, beneficiaries are updated, and account holdings/locations and management are as simplified as possible going into your last phase of life.

Once you have determined your financial retirement readiness, you need to determine your personal retirement readiness, which may be even more difficult for many folks.  Why?  Many have spent the majority of their lifetimes to this point building careers that established them with titles, credentials and stature. They built reputations, networks, social and business circles and were well respected because of the work that they have done.  And now they are moving from that phase of their lives to another and that means starting over.  What will they be now?  What will their lives mean?  And to whom?

Until you are ready to start the next phase of your life knowing your purpose – what you want to wake up for every day – you are likely not ready for retirement.  Those that have not given the thought to their mission, values, and their “why” for their next phase will be left feeling lost and will likely fail at retirement and find themselves wanting to go back to their former lives.

How can you find your purpose?

  • Ask yourself what is most important to you? (family, friends, spirituality, charity,etc)

  • Ask yourself what are your life priorities? (family, health, knowledge, etc.)

  • Ask yourself what you want to let go of and what you want to give yourself to.

  • Realize that the rest of your life can be the best of your life if you embrace it with an open mind and enthusiasm.

  • Consider reading the book “Purposeful Retirement” by Hyrum Smith if you need more help!

“Am I ready to retire?”  It is not a simple question and there is no simple answer.  It may take months or years to answer all of the questions and make all of the preparations.  If you think that retirement is in your not too distant future, the time is NOW to start planning.  Don’t let retirement sneak up on you…work with your financial planner and be Retirement Ready!

Sandra Adams, CFP® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.