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Blog 2018-10-22T16:17:48+00:00

Food for Health

We love our bacon. In recent years, this pork delicacy has seen a resurgence in popularity alongside new ways to enhance recipes ranging from bacon-infused macaroni and cheese1 to the not-quite traditional bacon-wrapped holiday turkey.2But just because something is popular doesn't mean it's good for you. According to the World Cancer Research Fund, one way to help reduce your risk of developing cancer is to omit processed meats from your diet. This includes bacon, salami, hot dogs and some sausages, all of which have been linked to an increased risk for colorectal cancer. While beef, pork and lamb also may contribute to cancer risk, the correlation isn't quite as strong.3It seems as if studies emerge every day recommending what we should and shouldn't eat to improve our health. While researchers can draw reasonable guidelines, the reality is we're all different; our various lifestyle choices, bodies and genetic makeup result in individual health outcomes, longevity and quality of life. Because of this, it's a good idea to consider life insurance and to also plan for potential long-term care costs, for ourselves and to help protect our loved ones' financial future. Please give us a call if you'd like to discuss your insurance options.Now's the time to focus on lifestyle choices to help promote a long and healthy life. For example, eggs had a bad reputation for many years. But recent studies show that eating eggs in moderation -- approximately one a day -- is believed to reduce the risk of diabetes [...]

By | August 21st, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Job Trends

For decades, young people were told college was the surest route to financial success as an adult. Get a degree, get a good job.However, this formula seems to be broken. During the recession, jobs for recent college graduates were scarce, causing many to continue their higher education and sink deeper into student loan debt. With minimal wage hikes for some white-collar professions, not all college degrees are paying for themselves. In many cases, they can even be a liability.1On the other hand, skilled trade industries continue to elevate their wages due to a shortage of available workers. Today's high school graduates may find well-paying jobs with benefits right off the bat, particularly if they have motivation and well-rounded resumes. Perhaps most importantly, they must be willing to work hard and learn a new skill. These workers may not earn as much as a college graduate throughout their lifespan, but there's also nothing stopping them from going to college later.2The employment market continues to change, behooving job seekers to be more flexible with goals and expectations. For example, the construction and health/personal-care industries are expected to account for a third of all new jobs through 2022.3Some cities in lesser-populated areas of the country are actively recruiting people to relocate and fill jobs in specialized labor industries. The city of Hamilton, Ohio, offers a $5,000 moving bonus to help pay student loans, while Grant County, Indiana, offers $5,000 toward buying a home.4The trend is also positive for older workers. A new survey [...]

By | August 14th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Long-Term Care Update

Long-term care continues to be a challenging issue in the U.S. It appears the second wave of baby boomers is even more determined to "age at home," while at the same time, they are more likely to suffer from multiple chronic conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.1 This confluence of factors makes it all the more difficult to come up with solutions for long-term care.To complicate matters, insurers that offer long-term care (LTC) insurance have become more particular about offering coverage. According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, more people are being denied coverage across the spectrum of age brackets. The following shows the percentage of applicants declined coverage in 2017:2Below age 50: 20%50- to 59-year-olds: 22%60- to 69-year-olds: 30%70- to 79-year-olds: 44%Not only have sales of traditional LTC policies decreased over the last 17 years (currently one-tenth of the sales in 2000), but there are now far fewer insurers in the marketplace.3Although we often spend a lot of time on planning for retirement, we don't always devote substantial time and resources to how to pay for potential long-term care expenses. We should. Like it or not, long-term care is expensive and likely to take up a large portion of our household budgets later in life. Some insurance products such as life insurance and annuities provide various options you may want to consider. We'd be happy to discuss your options based on your unique situation.People are living longer but continue to develop health conditions that require caregiving [...]

By | August 7th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Various Types of “Economies”

As recently as five years ago, few people had heard of emerging businesses like Airbnb and Uber that allow proprietors to share their personal residences and cars to generate income. This business model is now commonly referred to as the "sharing economy." 1However, just as capitalism morphs, so does the concept of sharing. For example, some Uber drivers actually lease an upscale car to charge higher fares that compete with luxury driving services.2The Great Recession played a hand in encouraging unemployed workers to find innovative sources of income when jobs were scarce, and the sharing economy has been seen as influential in our overall economy's recovery. It's worth considering how we can better prepare ourselves for potential economic declines via job innovation, vigilant savings habits and protecting a portion of our retirement assets through guaranteed insurance products. If you'd like help devising a strategy using a variety of insurance products to help you work toward your long-term retirement income goals, please call us to schedule a meeting.In addition to the sharing economy, today's world is home to a wide array of economic varieties, including:Sharing EconomyAs mentioned, this model focuses on sharing or renting under-utilized assets. One of the primary concerns with this model is trusting others to take care of your personal assets. Some proprietors require an upfront deposit to help defray the cost of breakage or stolen goods. Insurance companies also have gotten into this business by developing policies for reimbursement.3On-Demand Economy This model focuses on providing goods and [...]

By | July 31st, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Family Business Considerations

 Family businesses that manage to survive generation after generation leave not only a family legacy, but also the potential for tremendous wealth. For example, Arkansas-based Walmart is presently the largest business in the world in terms of revenue, earning more than $485 billion in 2017. In 1992, founder Sam Walton passed away and left his retail empire in the hands of seven heirs.1Presently, the Walton family business outranks the wealth of the Koch Industries energy group, which is the second-largest privately owned company. Next in line in terms of individual wealth of business founders are Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway).2These are just samples of the scope of wealth an entrepreneur can amass. However, most small business owners do well just to keep their heads above water. For those who would like to pass their business on to family members, there are basic business management strategies to keep in mind.3 If we can help you develop an insurance strategy to help protect your business, your key executive staff or your legacy, please give us a call.On a day-to-day basis, successful family-owned entities generally follow some well-honed principles to keep family politics out of the business. For example, the patriarch and his four daughters who run the six-generation family-owned business D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. have many varying opinions. To keep the business humming, they agree that it's OK to disagree: "Diversity of opinion is what keeps family businesses strong and spurs collaboration."4It's also a good [...]

By | July 24th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Psychology of Economics

 Countries with a longstanding track record of economic stability and security tend to have the happiest citizens, reports journalist Dan Buettner, who has studied what makes people happy. Education and health care are two primary reasons why, combining to create an upwardly mobile lifecycle.1Mothers with higher education levels tend to have fewer children, and those children tend to be healthier and more productive adults, Buettner says. In turn, they often become successful parents and make more well-informed voting decisions. This enables the next generation to make even higher social and economic gains.2With this in mind, it's worth considering how we can make education and health care more affordable within our own households. College tuition is expected to continue experiencing higher inflation levels than most other household expenses.3 Health insurance and medical inflation is expected to outpace overall economic inflation this year for the first time since 2010.4 If you're looking for ways to help prepare for future health care and higher education costs for you and your loved ones, please set up a time to visit with us.Another interesting, emerging economic trend is that of human workers versus automation. While we can debate the merits of cost savings versus human judgment, there's an underlying theory that technology is not necessarily the key to future economic growth. In fact, in a departure from encouraging more students to study the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math), there's a new movement to better understand the drivers of human behavior and how we [...]

By | July 17th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

For Some Retirees, Home is Where the Debt is

Today's pre-retirees and retirees tend to have far more debt than those in years past. In addition to factors like credit card payments and medical expenses, this generation is seeing the effects of higher home prices and easily obtained low down-payment mortgages in the early 2000s.1Between 2003 and 2016, Americans 60 and older nearly tripled their household debt -- composed of mortgages, home equity loans, auto loans, student loans and credit cards.2 According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, households headed by a person age 75 or older held an average debt load of $36,757 in 2016.3If you're still carrying a fair amount of debt and nearing retirement, we can help you review your household budget to help plan for a more confident retirement. Please give us a call if you'd like to schedule a meeting.One of the challenges in the new tax law is the interest-cap deduction on mortgage loan payments, meaning homeowners with high mortgage balances may be required under the new law to deduct less mortgage interest. The mortgage limit on new homes purchased is $750,000, while the limit on mortgages purchased before Dec. 15, 2017, remains $1 million.These numbers are important if downsizing is part of your debt-reduction strategy.4Another major contributor to debt is the rising cost of sending children to college. Of the 3.5 million Americans who owe an average of $24,000 in Parent PLUS student loan debt, about half of them are parents older than age 50. Worse yet, the number of parents with [...]

By | July 10th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Medicare News

Earlier this year, Congress passed a last-minute budget deal that included provisions affecting Medicare benefits. Specifically, one provision will permit certain therapies to continue beyond the previous caps, subject to conditions. All therapy (physical, speech and occupational) must continue to be classified as "reasonable and necessary to treat the individual's illness or injury." 1  There had been ambiguity in the past as to whether Medicare would continue paying for sessions without measurable improvement. Now, however, therapy sessions may continue per the provider's recommendation. Retroactive for this year, once therapy billing has reached $2,010 (about 20 sessions at $100 per visit), a provider must add an extra billing code to ensure payment. However, if total expenses subsequently pass a $3,000 threshold, they may be subject to medical reviews and audits.2 The federal budget agreement also accelerated the share-cost reduction during the so-called "doughnut hole" period in Medicare drug plans. Starting one year earlier -- in 2019 -- Medicare beneficiaries will pay 25 percent (instead of 35 percent) of drug expenses once they reach the stated annual limit (currently $3,750 in 2018).3 Medicare rules are always changing. It's a lot like trying to make retirement planning decisions throughout your career -- the bar is a moving target. One potential solution is to over-plan and overfund your share of expected health care expenses in retirement. If you're looking for ways to help plan for possible increased health care expenses in the future, contact us.  We'd be happy to discuss your options based on your unique [...]

By | July 3rd, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Consider Having a Backup Plan

When looking ahead in anticipation of Social Security benefits, many people expect to wait until an average age of 66 to make a claim.1 However, Nationwide Retirement Institute's fifth annual Social Security survey found many retirees start drawing Social Security at the earliest possible age of 622 -- frequently the result of being laid off or health issues. Thirty-six percent of respondents reported health problems got in the way of living the retirement they expected, and of those, 80 percent say health problems occurred as many as five or more years earlier than expected.3 This tells us something we already know but are constantly reminded of: Life does not always go as planned. Many financial professionals tell their clients one of the most effective ways to help ensure enough income throughout retirement is to continue working through their 60s. This may not be preferable, but it's an option. Others may plan to work longer but end up retiring for reasons beyond their control. It's good to have a contingency plan. As an independent financial services firm, we help people create retirement income strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. Give us a call if you're interested in finding out more. It's important to have a backup plan because there are many challenges for people working longer. For example, as jobs move further into technology, artificial intelligence and automation, new job skills are constantly required. It's good to challenge the brain, but young college graduates typically have a firmer [...]

By | June 26th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Technology Pros and Cons

Not all innovations are initially successful. Think about the driverless car. It sounded like a great idea -- helping the disabled and elderly retain some independence -- until the first pedestrian fatality involving a driverless car occurred in Arizona this year.1Driverless technology may be a work in progress, but it may still have advantages. After all, the technology could reduce the number of cars on the road and their greenhouse gas emissions. America's parking lots consume more land than Delaware and Rhode Island combined, and the average privately owned car in the U.S. is used only 5 percent of the time, sitting parked the rest of the time.We deal with the pros and cons of new technology every day. We love our smartphones, often relying on them too much -- like when the battery goes dead and GPS navigation disappears. After all, who carries a map in their car these days? These lessons can be applied to other aspects of life, like carrying insurance for an item we no longer use, such as a boat or a lost piece of jewelry. Take stock and see if there are goods, services or habits you do not need and are costing you money. Sometimes our conveniences create more problems than they solve. While you're in the mood to take stock, consider giving us a call to review your current retirement income strategy. We will be happy to help you make sure it aligns with your goals for retirement.Social media is another area that [...]

By | June 19th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Notes on U.S. Infrastructure

The American Society of Civil Engineers has given the U.S. an overall infrastructure grade of D+. Throughout the next decade, it will take more than $4.5 trillion to fix our aging infrastructure -- including upgrades to roads, mass transit, wastewater treatment plants and the electrical grid.1We've reached the mission-critical stage. One industry analyst observed, "We're at the point where our infrastructure is becoming an impediment to productivity and long-term economic growth."2The idea of national infrastructure may remind us of personal retirement preparation. If you are still working and thinking about retirement options, consider your own "infrastructure" situation. First, are you considering relocating or downsizing, or are you committed to aging in your own home? If you prefer the latter, it's a good idea to check out your home from top to bottom to see whether you need any major repairs or maintenance while you're still earning a paycheck.This inspection should include considering a new roof, checking for mold buildup in your crawl space and researching new windows or other energy-efficient features that can help lower your utility bills. Even replacing older appliances could impact your household budget once you're living on a fixed income.Given our dramatic weather pattern swings, we should also prepare for the possibility of a natural disaster that could affect our daily living. Consider how you might plan for a long-term disruption in power or clean water supplies, such as installing a generator, solar panels, tiles and/or a battery pack. While it may seem farfetched, remember that [...]

By | June 12th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Music Plays Instrumental Role in Healing Ailments

Hearing a familiar song from a happy period in your life, such as childhood, can instantly make you feel joyful. It's as if you're right back there -- toe tapping, head bopping and singing along. Just as with our sight, smell and taste senses, positive auditory memories can enhance mood and transport us back to a happier time.The power of music has led researchers to study various applications of music therapy to help people overcome the pain of health conditions, emotional challenges and even the cognitive decline that often accompanies old age.1It's not enough to believe we will all grow old gracefully. This usually doesn't happen without planning. A big part of planning for retirement isn't just how to provide enough income for the rest of our life, but how to help ensure we still enjoy a high quality of life no matter our age.As an independent financial services firm, we help people create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives; just give us a call. As for creating a plan to help enhance quality of life, consider some of these music therapy applications.Music therapy is now a board-certified health profession. With approximately 7,500 practitioners throughout the country, the practice has become prevalent in nursing homes and hospices. The American Music Therapy Association reports about 10 percent of musical therapists work with terminally ill patients in a new discipline called end-of-life music therapy.2A growing body of research indicates music therapy can help [...]

By | June 5th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Demographic Differences

Consider these questions for a moment: Have your outlook and attitude toward politics and culture changed over the years? Or are you the same as always? If you were a conservative young adult, do you hold the same beliefs today? If you were a rebel as a youngster, are you still? Or have you mellowed with age?The study of generational cohorts gives researchers a better understanding of what influences us as we age. What are the factors that influence our beliefs -- parents, education, religion, career path, life experiences or opportunities to travel? Also, how much impact do the economy and social politics have? For example, millennials who saw their parents lose jobs, and even homes, during the economic recession that began in December 2007 may have a different view of the world than they would have if the recession had not been so severe.We do change as we grow older. And certainly, our financial picture changes to reflect our needs, our wants and our goals. As you reflect on what you were like in the past and where you're headed in the future, feel free to give us a call to discuss ways to create a retirement income plan that can help support the path you're on now.For the sake of generational research, think tank Pew Research Center has declared the end of an era. It has officially determined the last birth year for millennials as 1996. Pew defines millennials as anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 22-37 [...]

By | May 29th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

End-of-Life Issues

Before today's modern medicine, people usually died of three things: injury, infections or some type of nutritional deficiency.1 Painkillers may have come in the form of herbal tea or some other applied root, so pain was a fact of life. Life expectancy was much shorter than today, and people often died suddenly or after a period of not feeling right but not knowing why. Most of the time, people died at home surrounded by family and loved ones.Today, not so much. Four out of five Americans die in either a hospital or a nursing home.2 With medical advances, we are a nation both capable of and preoccupied with keeping people alive, including by artificial means.3In accepting our eventual death, we must face the responsibility of preparing our estate and our health care proxy paperwork to help control how we face death. However, many people fail to take these actions. Recent studies revealed that nearly three quarters of adults have no health care proxy, living will or advance directive, and only 42 percent have a will.4Whether sick or well, young or old, it's important to maintain a will, up-to-date financial beneficiary forms and health care directive documentation. If you could use help figuring out what legal paperwork you need to complete, we may be able to refer you to a qualified attorney in our professional network.Today, advanced medical technologies help pull us through events that in a previous era would have been fatal. We can better manage pain and multiple chronic [...]

By | May 22nd, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Ideas for Your Inner Entrepreneur

One of the perks of retirement is having the time to pursue new interests. If you've always dreamed of starting your own business, retirement could provide the perfect opportunity.It's a good idea to get a financial checkup before you go full bore into entrepreneurship. We're happy to help clients review their current retirement income situation and offer strategies through the use of insurance products to help with future retirement income needs. Please give us a call if you'd like to discuss this further.What are the qualities of a successful entrepreneur? According to one angel investor, you don't have to have an MBA. The following are three primary characteristics:11.      1. Talent. You need be able to get things done and have fanatical dedication to your cause.2.      2. Technology. This should never be an after-thought. If you need tech to fund, produce, market, sell and/or distribute your product, then it's just as important as your product itself.3.      3. Traction. Your product is only "a great idea" if people are willing to pay their hard-earned cash to buy it.Marketing is key to selling your product, and networking at trade shows and conferences is often seen as a great way to spread the word. Here are tips to help maximize these networking opportunities:2Don't just sell your product; market yourself. Let those you're talking with know what you're good at and what drives you.If you hate networking, just smile. Look like a friendly person. Think of it as simply meeting new people, not [...]

By | May 15th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

A Look at How America Ranks

In his first year in office, President Trump has promoted his "America first" philosophy. This new focus, with its trade protectionism and tough stance on immigration, has somewhat changed the U.S. narrative on a world scale.1Considering this new emphasis on America first, perhaps it's worth looking at how the U.S. ranks on the world stage, according to various lists measuring financial health, happiness, education and more.One of the most watched rankings for financial health is the annual World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, which covers 137 economies and ranks the U.S. as No. 2. The Global Competitiveness Index measures national competitiveness, which includes a variety of institutions, policies and factors that determine each country's level of productivity. The following are the top 10 countries ranked by the 2017-2018 Global Competitiveness Index:2SwitzerlandUnited StatesSingaporeNetherlandsGermanyHong KongSwedenUnited KingdomJapanFinlandAccording to the recently released "2018 Best Countries" listing from U.S. News & World Report, America is ranked No. 8 behind Switzerland, Canada, Germany, the U.K., Japan, Sweden and Australia.3 The Best Countries rating is based on opinions of over 21,000 people from 36 countries in a wide variety of categories, including business friendliness, entrepreneurship, citizenship, power, quality of life, cultural influence and more.4However, America gets lower marks in the rankings of countries with the happiest residents. The U.S. came in 19th in the 2017 World Happiness Report; Norway was No. 1. This study measures countries by ways they support happiness, such as quality of work, health care and social foundations.5Perhaps one of the reasons Americans aren't [...]

By | May 8th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Future of Medicare and Social Security

There is little doubt that Medicare and Social Security are important programs that help older Americans in retirement, particularly now that so many are living beyond previous life expectancy rates. In fact, past models for savings rates may be failing many older Americans, who represent the only demographic seeing significant increases in poverty rates in recent years. Specifically, between 2015 and 2016, the poverty rate for people over 65 grew to 14.5 percent.1 While younger Americans may still have time to adapt to higher savings rates, the situation is more complex for people who are already retired. If you're fortunate enough to live many years after retirement, you're going to need a well-thought-out retirement income strategy. Using a variety of insurance products, we can help you create a strategy designed to help you to live the kind of retirement you've worked hard for. Give us a call so we can sit down and discuss your retirement income goals. If you haven't yet applied for Social Security, consider developing a strategy to help maximize benefits. If you don't, you could be leaving money on the table. Here's an example of why you should consider all your options: Widows and widowers can file for a restricted application to initially claim survivor benefits while delaying their own benefit until age 70. This will allow their personal benefit to grow by approximately 8 percent a year from full retirement age, which is 65 to 67, depending on when they were born (note that survivor benefits do not [...]

By | May 1st, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Ways to Avoid Financial Scams

According to a recent survey, about two-thirds of adults age 70 and older fall for online scammers. Here are some tips to remember about some of the latest frauds:1Medicare does not employ "sales representatives."Apple and Microsoft do not sell virus protection software for your computer.There is no African prince from Nigeria who needs your help (and your money).  Another recent scam hails from people posing as Amazon customer service representatives on the phone. If you Google a customer support phone number for Amazon, there are a lot of fake ones out there. If you call one of the fake numbers, a representative might ask you for your bank account or credit card information. The best way to contact Amazon is via live chat on Amazon.com. If you need the general support telephone number, it's 888.280.4331.2Be aware that scammers frequently prey on older adults. It's important to remember that if you didn't initiate the call, you can't be sure you're talking to a legitimate source -- so don't give out any personal information. Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to help deal with potential fraudsters:3Don't give the caller personal information, especially not your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number, unless you've verified who you're talking to. If someone has contacted you, you can't be sure who they are. It's better if you initiate the call using the phone number printed on your statement.Don't trust a name or phone number. Con artists make up official-sounding names to [...]

By | April 24th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Insights Into Cybercrime

Although it's taken a back seat to domestic concerns over the past year, cybercrime is still on the rise. Attacks such as "Wannacry" shut down health care systems and businesses across the globe in 2017,1 and the World Economic Forum estimates cybercrimes cost the global economy about $445 billion a year. 2It is a unifying issue that has countries large and small sharing resources and building defense mechanisms to thwart attacks.3It's easy to view hacking as something that impacts only large companies. However, data is a valuable commodity, whether it's stolen from a home computer or a company's customer database.In 2017, there were 1,579 data breaches in the U.S. alone. That may not sound like many, but those breaches yielded close to 179 million exposed consumer records. The Yahoo breach in October 2017 resulted in 3 billion compromised records.4Because headlines focus more frequently on theft of personal data from corporations, it may seem like there's nothing an individual person can do to prevent it. But we can and should deploy the protections cybersecurity experts recommend, such as using complex passwords and changing them often, installing and regularly updating anti-virus software, not clicking on suspicious links and being wary of paying bills and making other financial transactions on public Wi-Fi networks.5Two of the biggest current cybercrime issues in the U.S. appear to be the prospect of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the use of targeted social media to influence voters with false news information. Several popular social networks, such [...]

By | April 17th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Digital Tools for Tax Season

Tax season is upon us. According to the IRS, about 90 percent of taxpayers now file their taxes electronically. The agency touts the service as more accurate, convenient and secure than paper claims, and people usually receive their tax refunds faster.The IRS offers free tax filing assistance to filers who earn $54,000 a year or less, and people age 60 or older.1 For those who prefer to complete their own returns, there are several helpful resources at IRS.gov.At the website, you can find an electronic copy of Publication 17, which provides the general rules for filing a federal income tax return. There also is an "Interactive Tax Assistant" that provides answers to frequently asked questions on a variety of topics, such as whether you need to file a return, who you can claim as a dependent and whether you're eligible to claim an education credit.2Once you've filed a return, you can monitor the status of a refund within 24 hours of IRS receipt using the "Where's My Refund?" tool. It is located at the IRS.gov website, or you can download the IRS2Go mobile app.3 For a general idea of when you'll receive a refund based on when you submitted your return, check out the table here.4If you have questions or would like help completing your taxes, we can refer you to one of the experienced tax professionals within our network. It's a good idea to work collaboratively with your tax professional and your financial professional in order to help maximize [...]

By | April 10th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Get Creative When Pre-Planning Funerals

Think about how much time we put into planning things like college, a wedding, moving to a new home, having a baby and retirement. Now think about how much time we put into planning for our death. For many people, it's no time at all.Perhaps you've got your estate plan documents in order, but how much time have you put into thinking through and planning for your funeral, burial or cremation? Unfortunately, by you not making these plans, they end up being thrown together at the last minute by bereaved friends and family. That is hardly the time for them to make significant financial and emotional decisions. As for the financial part, we may able to help. Consider earmarking funds for just this purpose and save them in a readily accessible account, or have these costs funded by a life insurance policy -- if you are ready to talk about ways to set aside adequate funding, give our firm a call.Today, the death industry is big business. The cost of a typical funeral in the U.S. ranges from $8,000 to $10,000. The cost of a casket alone can run from $2,000 to $10,000, although if you comparison shop you can find cheaper prices.1 For example, you can buy less expensive caskets online at places like Costco.2If you want to help your family save on costs and avoid making emotional decisions, your pre-planning will go a long way. You don't have to pre-purchase your own coffin, but you could shop around, [...]

By | April 3rd, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Traveling on a Fixed Income

Oh, the places you'll go! Renowned author Dr. Seuss wrote a children's book in 1990 that has become a popular graduation gift for young adults. Part of its message:1"You're off to Great Places!Today is your day!Your mountain is waiting.So ... get on your way!"Perhaps for some people, the time to travel is when they're young -- before they get enmeshed in a job or career, before they get married and have children, before their lifestyle becomes defined by the amount of their first mortgage. Some young adults have the means for planned travel, while others just throw a few things in a backpack and head out.Other people spend their working lives dreaming of going off to Great Places once they retire. But whether you had the opportunity to travel when you were younger or are looking forward to the prospect in retirement, there's no denying that it's going to cost more than a few bucks. In fact, the older we get, the more some of us may expect a certain standard for travel (no youth hostels).To make travel plans a part of your retirement, make it a part of your retirement strategy. In addition to calculating household expenses, consider incorporating a discretionary fund for vacationing away from home. We can help. Schedule time with us to review your current retirement income strategy and help you figure out ways to budget for your retirement travel plans.Traveling once you're on a fixed income can be a challenge, but it's by no means [...]

By | March 27th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Strokes: Symptoms and Treatment Innovations

In the United States, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds. Often referred to as a "brain attack," a stroke is caused by injury to a blood vessel that limits the flow of blood to the brain.1 The causes include some of the same ones that cause a heart attack, including high blood pressure, smoking, being overweight and having diabetes.2In addition, women who began having periods before age 12, experienced a stillbirth, went through menopause before age 47 or have had a hysterectomy are at higher risk of stroke.3It's interesting that although the underlying causes of some of our most serious medical conditions, such as strokes, are well known, some of us don't always pay enough attention. The same could be said for our attitude toward insurance coverage. Intellectually, we may know the ramifications of not having it, but some of us do not seek insurance beyond what we're required to have -- auto insurance to drive a car or home insurance to take out a mortgage. Some employers automatically cover workers with a limited life insurance policy, but for many people, that isn't nearly enough.Insurance is one of those topics, like a stroke or heart attack, for which we should take action to help protect ourselves and our family before a crisis situation. They also are correlated because a disabling or fatal medical condition can leave loved ones struggling financially. Please give us a call if you'd like to discuss your current insurance needs and create a strategy should [...]

By | March 20th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Women’s Issues and Retirement

In 2017, women organized and made headway toward real change, making it a hallmark year for women's issues. The year started with the Women's March in January and ended with the #MeToo movement spreading across the globe.1 In addition, record numbers of women considered running for public office.2The thing is, many of the factors that may disadvantage women could also cause a drag on America's economy. For example, challenges such as pay disparity and responsibility for the majority of caregiving (meaning less time in the workforce) can lead to lower savings opportunities for women. As a result, women are 80 percent more likely than men to live in poverty at age 65 and older, according to a report by the National Institute on Retirement Security.3The upshot is that all women -- even those who are married or in a committed relationship -- need to have their own financial plan, recommends a new study from the Center for Retirement Research (CRR) at Boston College. That doesn't necessarily mean every woman needs her own career or earnings; it simply recognizes that both spouses should be aware of the need to plan for a woman's income sources should she survive her spouse or should the couple divorce.4 Singles and couples concerned about protecting a portion of their retirement assets may want to consider insurance options, such as annuities and life insurance. We would be happy to help assess your insurance needs; just give us a call.It is equally important to work with an attorney [...]

By | March 13th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Finding Neutral Ground on the Internet Rights Debate

It can be confusing when government bureaucrats and the media offer wildly different perspectives on the intent and ramifications of a new controversial policy. This was plainly evident in December regarding the issue of net neutrality.According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the new "Restoring Internet Freedom Order"1 is meant to:Reverse the previous "heavy-handed utility-style regulation of broadband internet access service, which imposed substantial costs on the entire internet ecosystem" in order to "protect consumers at far less cost to investment than the prior rigid and wide-ranging utility rules"Restore the "longstanding, bipartisan light-touch regulatory framework that has fostered rapid internet growth, openness and freedom for nearly 20 years"Restore "a favorable climate for network investment," which is the "key to closing the digital divide, spurring competition and innovation that benefits consumers"2From this perspective, the legislation sounds like a positive. But the Internet Association, a trade association that represents leading global internet companies on matters of public policy, is more favorable of the previous net neutrality policy:"Since its inception, the internet has been governed by principles of openness and non-discrimination. Net neutrality is the legal principle that underpins the free and open internet as we know it today. Simply put, it means that broadband gatekeepers -- Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and other internet service providers (ISPs) -- should treat all internet traffic equally and not discriminate between different bits of data. That's how the internet works today: users can go to any website and access any type of content, whenever they want."3Those who [...]

By | March 6th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Cost of Health Care

Americans spend a lot on health care. In 2016, national health expenditures grew 4.3 percent to $3.3 trillion, which amounts to $10,348 per person.1 It's interesting that you'll find few people who say our health care system is fine as is, and medical services, facilities, drugs and equipment are all reasonably priced. However, there is little consensus on ways to fix the system. Health care is fast becoming one of the most dominant expenses in our lives, right up there with vehicles, a mortgage and college education. Just as we do for other big-ticket expenses, we have to plan and save for health care and even consider a possible contingency plan. Another common feature of big-ticket expenses is that they often are best covered by insurance. If your family history indicates it, you may want to consider going further than health insurance by purchasing disability or critical illness policies. If you could use some help assessing your needs to determine what type of coverage is appropriate for your family, please contact us. Unfortunately, many patients aren't in a position to lower health care costs because they aren't able to control the care they receive. Many situations may offer a variety of treatment options, but patients often rely on their providers to recommend the best course of action. Further, it may be difficult to tell what is necessary and what is discretionary.  In fact, some procedures may be selected by health care professionals in response to internal pressure to increase revenues.2 Others may be [...]

By | February 27th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Second Marriages: Financial Finesse

Of all the questions we ask a potential spouse before tying the knot, they seldom include: "Who are the beneficiaries of your investment plans and insurance policies?""Do you wish to be resuscitated if your heart stops or if you stop breathing?""Do you want your ex or me to be guardian for your children if you die?" These are not exactly the whispers of sweet nothings upon which romance thrives. They are, however, practical considerations couples engaged in a second marriage need to tackle either before or shortly after exchanging vows. In addition to figuring out who pays for what household expenses, spouses should consider plans for health care, saving for the future and estate planning for both the surviving spouse and all beneficiaries.1  Finances are a big part of the marriage contract, and they can be even more controversial when one or both spouses already have experience from prior relationships. According to the American Psychological Association, spouses who share accounts and financial decisions report higher family satisfaction than those who opt to keep their money separate.2  However, it's important to emphasize that this is a highly subjective decision that should be made by both partners based on their circumstances. It may be prudent to work with a financial professional to help determine a household budget strategy, as well as insurance and designated beneficiary decisions to help protect family assets and income from unexpected events. Please contact us if you need such help. Note, too, that how you handle your marital legal affairs may [...]

By | February 20th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

How Losing Sleep Could Translate to a Loss of Money

Some teenagers seem to sleep a lot. As parents and grandparents, we can find this rather aggravating. But the fact is, as we get older, our sleep patterns may change, and our sleep can be less restful.1 Perhaps it's a good idea to let young people sleep in peace while they still can. Scientists say young adults require about nine hours of sleep a day, on average. If they get less than eight hours, they may have a harder time paying attention. Full-grown adults, on the other hand, need an average of seven and a half hours. Unfortunately, studies show about one-third of adults in Western societies get less than that on a regular basis.2 A recent study by the University of Zurich and the University Hospital Zurich found a correlation between chronic lack of sleep and increased risk-seeking behavior. Scientists trace the link to the brain's right prefrontal cortex, which is directly connected with higher risk-seeking behavior. The researchers theorize that when a person persistently does not get enough sleep, this area of the brain does not recover properly, which prompts behavioral changes. Interestingly, the researchers found that study subjects did not notice they engaged in riskier behaviors and therefore were not cognizant of this relationship with sleep patterns.3  The study's authors observed that sound sleep, of the appropriate duration, is critical for good decision making -- especially for political and economic leaders whose daily decisions impact the larger society.4 This advice is also worth pursuing in our own lives. In [...]

By | February 13th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Why It’s Important to Care for the Caregivers

If you picture yourself receiving long-term care at some point, you likely envision a medical professional sitting bedside, tending to your needs. However, the bulk of long-term care in the U.S. is actually provided by family caregivers.1 According to a recent Merrill Lynch study, 20 million Americans become caregivers each year. Moreover, family caregivers collectively spend $190 billion a year of their own money on adult care recipients. And the toll doesn't end there. In addition to 92 percent of caregivers using their own money and/or coordinating or managing finances to aid loved ones:2 ·      98% provide emotional support ·      92% provide household support ·      79% provide care coordination ·      64% provide physical care  Women usually do more caregiving than men, the study found, averaging six years of caregiving in their lifetime compared to four for men. As a result, caregiving can bring more of a financial burden for women because of the time they may need to take away from their careers to care for loved ones.3 The financial burden of caregiving, for both men and women, should not be underestimated. The study shows 53 percent of respondents have made financial sacrifices as caregivers, and 21 percent have dipped into their savings.4 If you're in a similar situation and are concerned about having enough income in retirement, please contact us. We work with clients to create retirement strategies through the use of insurance products that help them work toward their long-term retirement income goals.  Increasing attention is also being given to the psychosocial [...]

By | February 6th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Impact of Income Inequality

As it turns out, income inequality can be an issue for all society, not just the poor. A new study of high-earning clients of a bank's wealth management unit tracked the fortunes of male and female young adults to learn how income inequity would impact their lives. The assumptions had both genders starting out in the job market earning a salary of at least $100,000 and in possession of an inheritance of $1 million.1 The following are some of the study's findings:2 ·      A 25-year-old woman living in a wealthy country earns 10 percent less, on average, than a man the same age.·      By age 85, the income gap will result in the woman having 38 percent less wealth than the man.·      The gap will widen if the woman takes a year off from work or decides to work part time for a while.·      The problem is exacerbated by the fact that women are expected to live longer and must stretch their wealth over a longer period. Retirement planning is challenging enough without the issue of lower wages throughout one's career. Lower earnings mean fewer opportunities to save and invest, in addition to a reduced standard of living. Whether married, divorced or single, we help clients create retirement strategies through the use of insurance products that help them work toward their long-term retirement income goals. Give us a call to learn more. Interestingly, the U.S. women's labor force participation peaked in 2000. At the time, this had a big impact on household income and [...]

By | January 30th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Anticipated Changes in Workplace Demographics

Online shopping has become the norm in the Western part of the world. Experts say mature economies adopted e-commerce quickly because of its strong infrastructure and a trusting financial landscape.1 In other words, consumers could count on receiving goods ordered, vendors knew they would get paid and any conflicts were protected by a reputable credit and court system. These things weren't true in many developing countries, thus e-commerce was slower to gain traction there. However, now that emerging markets have put a secure infrastructure in place, many expect online sales to soar -- which could help bolster those waning economies. The global online market offers new prospects for struggling brick-and-mortar retailers in the U.S. Just about any retailer, large or small, that can adapt its sales model to a global e-commerce market could be poised for massive opportunity.2 That's one of the interesting parallels between life and commerce -- where some doors close, others open; we just need to see where opportunity awaits. The same can be true when planning for retirement. Please feel free to contact us to discuss creating retirement strategies through the use of insurance products that can help you work toward your long-term retirement income goals. Interestingly, one of the biggest economic issues of the day comes from a social phenomenon: As older people are living longer, younger people are having less children. To be exact, the first of the baby boomer generation turned 70 last year while, at the same time, the fertility rate in the United States reached [...]

By | January 23rd, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Retirement Conversations: What Do You Do?

We spend a lifetime working, building a career, raising a family, etc. Then we retire, and some unsuspecting acquaintance asks, "What do you do?" It's a whole new ballgame now. This can be a difficult question for new retirees. Our gut instinct is to identify ourselves by our occupations -- "I'm a lawyer," I'm an office manager," "a teacher" or a "stay-at-home mom." When you spend that much time in one role, it becomes a part of who you are. But is that still who you are once you retire? Some people might say, "I used to be a lawyer." After a while, they may get used to simply saying, "I'm retired." Yet this process of figuring out how to respond may be directly correlated to how long it takes to figure out who we are in retirement.1 Some people spend years dreaming about what they'll do when they retire, so they might answer, "I'm now an amateur golfer." Or gardener. Or grandchild-babysitter. It's worth taking some time to build a retirement identity for yourself; not just to answer that question, but to establish your own purpose for getting up in the morning. One of the keys to the retirement you desire is aligning your lifestyle goals with your retirement income.  Please feel free to contact us to discuss creating retirement strategies through the use of insurance products that can help you work toward your long-term retirement income goals. A recent study conducted by Humana found that the more optimistic people are by [...]

By | January 16th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Innovating to Solve Problems

The 2017 hurricane season was one of the most active of the new century, and scientists are predicting hurricanes will likely get more intense in the decades to come.1 But these predictions for worsening conditions in the future may pave the way for stronger innovation.  For example, the governor of Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in September, suggested the island rebuild its power resources into a microgrid. This strategy means that power outages caused by storms would be more localized so a huge area isn't impacted when one system goes down. It also would accurately pinpoint which grids need repair and better assign resources so that power can be restored more quickly.2  The microgrids could be powered by alternate and renewable resources such as wind and solar energy, which would be better for the environment and less expensive for residents. This type of innovation could avoid the need to completely rebuild infrastructure the next time a major hurricane hits the region.3 There are two issues when considering the catastrophic nature of a disaster like a hurricane. The first is societal - how do we restore power and other infrastructure after a crisis? The second is personal - how do we recover when our homes are damaged or demolished? While we seek and embrace innovations that can lessen the damage caused and hasten our recovery, the current solution is to insure against losses that can devastate us financially.  Other issues that are cropping up in today's society are spurring [...]

By | January 9th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Best Places to Live in Retirement

Many retirees believe the best place to live in retirement is right in their own home. Let's explore some of the "best places" where that home might be located and what it might look like. It's worth noting that the retirement experience varies widely. Some people have the money to relocate or buy a second home. Some people have plenty of retirement funds but choose to remain where they are. Come talk to us if you'd like help in creating a retirement income plan to assist you with figuring out what you may be able to afford. According to a study by U.S. News & World Report on the top states for people 65 and older, Colorado is the best place in America to spend your retirement years. The study evaluated which states are most effective at helping retirees meet their health care, financial and community involvement needs.1 If you have a specific retirement haven in mind, be sure to do some research about it. For health care services, for example, U.S. News publishes a guide to the best hospitals with a searchable database. To learn about a locale's cost of living, consider the Council for Community and Economic Research's Cost of Living Index. To get a feel for an area's year-round climate, check out the interactive climate data tools at the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information.2 Relocating after retirement can be difficult for some people, especially those with close friends and family ties to an area. If this is a concern for [...]

By | January 2nd, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Personal Productivity

Do you ever feel as if you don't get enough done in a day? Many of us tend to do what we absolutely must, tackling easy tasks instead of launching into bigger projects or the pursuit of longer-term goals. In other words, we cook, clean, answer emails and catch up with the day's news - but do we ever start that novel or the side business we've been considering?One of the causes of poor productivity may be lack of a plan. Ben Franklin planned out everything he would do each day at what time, tracked in half-hour time blocks.1 In fact, studies have shown that writing a plan is an effective way of improving productivity. Further, writing out a plan by hand - as opposed to typing it on a computer or smartphone calendar - is even more effective. Apparently, it makes us feel more connected to the material because we use the frontal lobe of the brain for both writing and planning, as well as problem solving.2According to a recent article in Inc. magazine, a few simple habits can help make us more productive. They include setting basic building blocks toward a goal, creating benchmarks for incremental success and using only essential tools - don't spend a lot of time and money unnecessarily.3Some of these tips are also worthwhile practices for retirement saving and budgeting. After all, it's a good idea to have a strategy for retirement income - a written one is best. Focusing on small, regular savings [...]

By | December 27th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Cultural Influences From Abroad

They say variety is the spice of life. A variety of cultural experiences may even contribute to a longer life and cognitive sharpness. A new study links cultural activities, including exposure to other languages, as a strong influence in the way we learn, amass and assimilate new information.1 Some cultural influences may well impact longer lifespans. In Japan, which has one of the world's oldest populations, people live with a philosophy of "ikigai." Roughly translated, this phrase means "a reason to live," or identifying one's purpose in life. To discover one's ikigai, start by answering the following questions:2 ·      What do you love?·      What are you good at?·      What does the world need from you?·      What can you get paid for? This idea of living for something more spiritual than, say, a job or material possessions is also practiced by the people of Costa Rica. Ticos, as Costa Ricans are called, use the term "Pura Vida" to convey a range of greetings, from hello and goodbye to "everything's cool." The real value of the phrase, however, is that Pura Vida reflects the way many Ticos live: relaxed and appreciative of the simpler things in life. This attitude toward life has gained the country recognition as one of the happiest places in the world. To live "Pura Vida" means you're thankful for what you have and do not dwell on what you lack.3 Whether finding your ikigai or living a Pura Vida lifestyle, these influences may be able to enrich an American's retirement, even if [...]

By | December 19th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Prescription Drug Trends

A gene therapy treatment recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use against leukemia is priced at $475,000 for a one-time treatment.1 While it's exciting that new treatments, including prescription drugs, appear to be getting closer to curing society's most lethal diseases, many of us wonder how we can afford them. Even when such treatments are covered by insurance, the pool of insured participants pay the cost in terms of higher premiums. The way drug manufacturers determine pricing has become a controversial topic. In the past, the average cost to bring a new drug to market was reported to be around $2.7 billion. However, a new study on cancer medications has arrived at a much lower number: a median cost of $757 million per drug, with half costing less and half costing more. Drug companies dispute the study, saying the cost doesn't take into account research and development investments made in drugs that fail.2 Meanwhile, health care costs continue to rise, with the average family health insurance plan rising 3.4 percent in 2016 from 2015, outpacing wage growth.3 Even in retirement, when most people qualify for Medicare benefits, health care expenses can be high. Recent estimates project that a healthy, 65-year-old couple retiring this year will need $275,000 to cover their health care expenses in retirement.4 This sum includes paying for Medicare premiums, cost-sharing provisions and out-of-pocket costs, but when you add in over-the-counter medications, dental services and potential long-term care, that figure could be even higher.5  Do you have [...]

By | December 12th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Travel Tips

Anthony Melchiorri, the host of the Travel Channel show "Hotel Impossible," says he prefers to stay in a roadside motel over a luxury hotel - as long as it has good online reviews. In his opinion, the mom and pop ownership model often leads to painstaking efforts for cleanliness, fresh flowers and a home-cooked meal - not to mention personal recommendations for uniquely local places to visit in the area.1 After all, the accommodation industry is all about hospitality, and hospitality is about personal service. It doesn't get more personal than running your own business. We feel the same way about working with our clients. We know you want to talk to familiar people when you call for information. At the end of the day, we're all looking for that extra touch, the human connection, something that sets service above the rest. Please contact us anytime. We are here to help you with your retirement income strategy questions. This desire for the personal touch remains true whether you're at home or traveling. In a recent interview, Mr. Melchiorri offered some interesting advice for planning a vacation. For example:2 ·      If you're booking a hotel, check out its most recent reviews online at sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Even large chains get bad reviews, and some of those roadside motels get charming ones. It pays to check before you book. ·      While you may want to use one of those shop-and-compare websites to find a hotel, once you make a selection go to the [...]

By | December 5th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Tips for Aches and Pains

As we grow older, many of us get wiser. We may become more comfortable in our own skin. We may get better at our jobs, have a more reliable income and begin to collect assets. We can gain a better appreciation of what's important in life. We also can lose things. Some of us lose a degree of innocence and idealism. Some miss their doggedness and fearlessness - while others may find they no longer have the thick hair of their younger years.  We also may have gains and experience losses in our finances. We learn that what goes up generally does come down, but then it can go up again. We develop financial strategies designed to help us weather economic ups and downs. If your life learnings summon the need to protect a portion of your retirement assets and help insure yourself against the risk of financial loss, give us a call. As an independent financial services firm, we help people create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products, including annuities, to custom suit their needs and objectives. We also may experience more physical aches and pains as we age. But there are coping mechanisms for these things, too. For example, a lot of people these days are suffering from pain caused by our modern obsession with gadgets. We are hunched over computer keyboards and smartphones, putting strain on the head and neck. Experts say it helps to take lots of breaks, get outdoors, and do hand and neck stretches. Experience [...]

By | November 28th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

How to Help Avoid Fraud and Scams

The recent security breach at credit rating service Equifax brings home the reminder that each of us must be ever-vigilant in protecting our private information.1 It can be easy to become lackadaisical. We expect companies with which we conduct financial transactions to keep our data secure. Unfortunately, hackers seem to be advancing their skills at a faster rate than large corporations can keep up. Moreover, the tools available to consumers to help protect their data - including credit monitoring, identity monitoring, identity restoration and identity theft insurance - are more reactive than proactive.2 One of the newer recommendations, however, is to freeze your credit report at each of the three national credit agencies - Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. This action stops a credit agency from releasing your information to a third-party request without your permission, eliminating the prospect of someone using your information to open an account without your knowledge.3 While some transactions may leave us at the mercy of third-party security systems, we can still be cautious about how we seek information and who we obtain it from. When it comes to your retirement savings and insurance, you should work with financial professionals you trust. They should be thoroughly vetted for credentials and experience. Also, don't feel compelled to give out personal financial information at your first meet and greet. Unfortunately, one demographic that seems to be vulnerable to fraudsters is the elderly. One report estimated that up to $36.5 billion is scammed each year from older Americans.4 Some of the financial scams that [...]

By | November 21st, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Working Longer

Ah, the life questions we face. Young adults contemplate which college to attend and how that might affect their future. Women - and increasingly often, men - ponder whether to stay home and raise children, work or both. People contemplate job changes and relocations. And then, of course, a big question: When should I retire? One report observed that these days, about a third of adults ages 65 to 69 are continuing to work, and one-fifth of people 70 to 74 years old are working as well. The majority of them are working full time.1 If you get to make the decision to continue working all on your own, you are fortunate. Many people are forced to retire earlier than they'd like due to health reasons or because they are let go by their employer.2 If you can continue working, there can be many benefits, such as more time to save for retirement, employer-sponsored health insurance coverage, access to a social network, intellectual engagement and a place to go every day where you feel needed and important. These are all good reasons to work longer. But whether you do so or not, you're going to need a well-thought-out retirement income strategy. Using a variety of insurance products, we can help you create a strategy designed to help you to live the kind of retirement you've worked hard for. Contact us today to get started on your retirement income strategy. If you are planning to work longer, consider that you don't necessarily have to [...]

By | November 14th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Economic Growth Prospects for the Future

Are life-changing innovations a thing of the past in the United States? While today's technology seems to advance in leaps and bounds, one economist believes it won't change the fabric of the average American's life the way inventions like electricity, indoor plumbing and the elevator did in the 20th century.1Yes, the internet is an amazing resource, and smartphones are nearly ubiquitous, but in terms of economic growth and productivity, they have not contributed as much as you might expect. Social media and infinite sources of information actually may serve to reduce our productivity both at home and at work.2Nearly everyone can think of ways innovations have increased productivity, whether it's looking up information online rather than consulting the library or using modern kitchen appliances that make cooking prep and cleanup much easier. However, this increased technology and efficiency may not translate to any improvement in one's financial situation. While technology and online tools can allow you to better monitor your finances, please feel free to contact us for help in assessing your current retirement income strategy. As an independent financial services firm, we help people create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.Today, two of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S. are construction and computer systems design.3 While both of these disciplines certainly have the capacity to improve people's lives and productivity, they are not likely to present the quantum leap of, say, refrigeration.One industry poised for rapid growth is satellite manufacturing. [...]

By | November 7th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Wealth and Income: Some Tax Implications

What do Michael Bloomberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mitt Romney all have in common? When they held public office, each accepted only $1 in annual compensation. President Trump also has chosen to forgo his pay, donating his first-quarter salary - minus an amount for taxes - to the National Parks Service.1Taxes were deducted from the donation due to IRS rules regarding donating income. According to the rules, if you accept income, you are generally responsible for the income taxes levied on it, regardless of the fact that you may then turn around and gift it. You may be able to claim the gift as a tax deduction, but the deduction is against the taxes owed on that income. President Obama worked around this rule by having the reward money for his Nobel Peace Prize paid out directly to charity so he bore no tax liability on those funds.2Clearly, if you're going to be generous with wages or assets, it takes considerable planning ahead to help minimize your tax liability. Indeed, the same goes for the federal estate tax on wealth valued at more than $5.49 million, to which one White House adviser allegedly remarked, "Only morons pay the estate tax." In other words, those who are subject to the tax tend to deploy strategic plans to minimize or avoid it altogether.3Perhaps proactive tax planning is one of the reasons revenues from the current 40 percent federal estate tax have been plummeting, dropping from $25 billion in 2008 to $17 billion in [...]

By | October 31st, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Monitoring Insurance Needs Is a Good Policy

Life insurance is something you purchase, then hopefully don't need to use until many years down the road. But that doesn't mean you should stop paying attention to it. As you age, it's important to monitor the policies you own.Some policies may no longer be needed, while others may be needed now more than ever. It's a matter of evaluating your personal situation as you move through life. Since insurance is meant to help protect us from major financial loss, it's important to continually assess how our goals and needs change over time, and determine if our insurance coverage is aligned with them.1If it's time for you to get a customized insurance review, please give us a call.Many people may assume they no longer need life insurance during retirement. For some, this may be true. Once children are out on their own, retirees who feel they have saved enough to provide income for both spouse's lifetimes are likely to drop their policies.2 However, before making this decision, it's important to review your retirement and legacy goals. Some people decide to keep life insurance during retirement in order to provide a tax-free death benefit for their beneficiaries when they die. This can free up other assets for use in retirement without concerns about whether they will have money to leave to their children.For large estates, policy owners may use life insurance proceeds to help pay state and federal inheritance taxes. Still others may want life insurance to provide the surviving spouse [...]

By | October 24th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Legislative Updates

With so much attention focused on the rifts among and between political parties and the news media, it may seem as if little actual legislation is making its way through our democratic process. However, while President Trump's major initiatives - Affordable Care Act repeal, tax reform and infrastructure improvements - haven't been enacted, Trump has signed more than 40 bills since taking office in January.1Although the political situation may present frustration for people trying to make prudent decisions about their financial future, we remind you that finances are personal. Your financial decisions should reflect your own goals and timeline. We are happy to evaluate your retirement income strategy and make recommendations utilizing insurance products to help you work toward your objectives.Here is an overview of some of the recent legislation Congress has passed:·        Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (H.R. 3364) - This bill requires the president to submit any planned waiver of current sanctions on other countries to Congress, and details new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea for a variety of violations.2·        Securing our Agriculture and Food Act (H.R. 1238) - This bill authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to protect efforts related to food, agriculture and veterinary defense from acts of terrorism and other high-consequence events that pose a risk to homeland security.3·        Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 (S. 1094) - This bill gives the secretary of Veterans Affairs the authority to fire employees through an expedited appeals process, and it makes it [...]

By | October 17th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Retirement Stages

What's so difficult about planning for retirement? You save; you retire; you spend.If only it were that straightforward. Today's pre-retirees and retirees have so much more to consider. Longer lifespans mean longer exposure to the possibility of inflation eroding your purchasing power. And then there are these concerns:- The global economy and its impact on everything from market volatility to interest rates to unemployment and wages- The decrease in company pensions and greater burden for retirees to provide more of their retirement income- The long-term solvency and viability of Social Security- How future legislation and the political environment might impact Medicare It's a lot to think about. That's one reason it's important to work with a knowledgeable financial professional to help you consider the factors that might impact your retirement. The good news is that many retirees now have the time, thanks to a longer lifespan, to plan for and enjoy a longer retirement. When it comes to your retirement income planning needs, we may be able to help with that; just give us a call. As an independent financial services firm, we help people create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.Much as our younger adult life can be divided into stages -- college, job, marriage, family and all manner of advancement rungs in a career -- retirement can be broken into separate categories as well. It's not all travel and country club parties, gardening and golfing, grandchildren and book clubs. In [...]

By | October 10th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Gender Disparities in Retirement

Everywhere we turn, it seems, there's an article or newscast about how women are at an economic disadvantage, especially regarding lower wages. Just imagine how much more women could contribute to economic growth if such disadvantages were eliminated.But we want to work toward counteracting some of those challenges, particularly where retirement income planning is concerned. Even married couples with their retirement savings on track may not be aware of different scenarios that could potentially leave a widow with an income shortfall during her retirement years. We're happy to review retirement income strategies for your household and make recommendations tailored for your financial situation; just give us a call.In the meantime, let's take a look at some of these gender disparities and how they can impact a woman's personal financial future. For example, women tend to borrow more for college undergraduate student loans than men and take longer to pay them back.1Presumably, one of the reasons it takes them longer to pay back student loans is that women, on average, tend to earn lower salaries than men. For example, in the United States, white women are paid about 76 cents on the dollar relative to white men.2 Black women receive only 67 cents per dollar.3 This may seem like a woman's issue, but it's not. In theory, the longer it takes to pay off student loan debt, the less women can save for retirement, and the less women save, the more reliant they might be on Social Security for retirement income. [...]

By | October 3rd, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Making Friends, Strengthening Relationships

In the early days of childhood, we start picking up communication skills that are continually developed throughout our lives. We make close friends, stay in touch with them and make sure we're there for the people we care about.But during retirement, it may take more effort to maintain those friendships. It's important to remember that while we don't typically lose these skills, we might lose the motivation to use them. Here are a couple of good reasons to keep up those social connections in retirement:1·       A study by the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago found that highly social seniors had a 70 percent lower rate of cognitive decline compared to those who were less social.·       Researchers at the University of Alabama Birmingham found that using the internet was associated with a 30 percent decrease in depressive symptoms.As financial professionals, we work with retirees every day helping them create retirement income strategies using a variety of insurance products. We've seen firsthand how easy it is to become more isolated when you stop working. You might find that by attending a financial seminar or client workshop, you'll meet people in the same situation as you. Even if you feel like your retirement income strategy is well-established, we encourage you to continue monitoring your finances and participate in events where you not only have the opportunity to learn, but to spend time with people who may share your same interests and concerns.When pre-retirees were asked what they would miss most about not working anymore, [...]

By | September 26th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Retirement: The New Status Symbol

A lack of savings among many U.S. households could mean a change in the perception of retirement. It used to be a foregone conclusion that once you were too old to work, you retired. That's not always the case anymore.More than a third of U.S. households in prime earning years or later have no retirement savings and no access to a traditional pension.1 It's become increasingly uncommon for people to retire in their early 60s, and those who fail to plan ahead for their future retirement income needs could end up with a retirement lifestyle worse than the one they had while working.This doesn't mean these middle-aged households are broke. Retirement income planning may just not be a priority yet. No matter your age, it's never too late to start building strategies so you can enjoy your post-working years, and as financial professionals, that's what we're here for.It takes diligence and focus to create a retirement income plan. Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, "Plans are worthless, but planning is everything."2 This reiterates the point that planning for retirement should be strategic and committed, while at the same time fluid and flexible. Nobody knows what will happen in the future, but we can help you create a retirement income strategy designed to help meet your specific goals.It can be difficult in the moment, but turning your back on pricey, impulse purchases, such as an expensive car, an outdoor kitchen or backyard pool, can help improve the prospects of your retirement down [...]

By | September 19th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Longevity Revolution

How old do you have to be before you're considered "old"? This number may change depending on the age of the person making the assessment. For example, a child or a teenager might think someone age 40 is old. That view is less likely to be held by a 39-year-old.History indicates you have to reach a lot more birthdays these days to be considered old. One way to judge this is to look at pictures of your parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents when they were your age. Apart from the improved clarity of photographs in the modern era, many of us have fewer wrinkles and an overall healthier appearance than our ancestors.1The data backs this up. A study by a Stanford University economics professor found that back in the 1920s, males were considered old if they were age 55 and up, whereas today that's considered "middle age."2Of course, how we feel can change from day to day. Some days we might feel like a teenager, while other days we feel older than our years. We don't want our clients to have similar feelings of uncertainty when planning for retirement. First of all, we like to help our clients work toward a well-prepared financial future. Second, it's important to  consider that no matter how old you are, you're likely to live longer than your parents and thus should plan for that eventuality. That's why we work with our clients to create retirement income strategies for a retirement income that lasts as [...]

By | September 12th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Changing Job Outlook: Challenges and Opportunities

The workforce in the United States is changing. Some long-standing professions are becoming obsolete, there are fewer manufacturing jobs,1 and some companies are moving their headquarters overseas for tax reasons.2 Then there is the increasing phenomenon of automation and robotics replacing jobs.It's interesting to note, however, that the job market is not fixed. It's not as if people are being replaced by robots, but rather that the nature of work is changing and has different requirements. For instance, there is a steady transition from manufacturing to service industries. While a robot may be able to assemble products, it cannot develop software, health insurance policies or other intangible products and services that encompass so much of our income these days.3As such, today's job market offers unique opportunities for older workers. While some retirees need to work to supplement their income, others may simply get bored and want a new challenge. After all, retirement can go on for decades. That's a long time for a career worker to be out of the workforce. By the same token, that's a long time for savings to provide income. If you're wondering how long your retirement income savings might last, come see us for an independent analysis. We can help assess your current financial situation to see whether it might be worthwhile to consider other retirement income strategies.Another aspect of today's changing job market is the growing shortage of skilled workers.4 When you think about it, this shortage creates an opportunity for retirees who want [...]

By | September 5th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

3 Common Questions About Social Security

While Social Security shouldn't be relied upon to be the sole source of income during retirement, it can play an important role in your overall retirement income strategy. But making sense of the basic ins and outs of Social Security can be overwhelming. Here are three questions people commonly ask as they approach retirement age:When can I start taking benefits?While full retirement age is 66 for people born between 1943 and 1954 and gradually increases to age 67 for those born in 1960 or later, you can start receiving Social Security benefits at age 62.1 Keep in mind, however, that there is a cost to early distribution; your benefits are reduced by about 0.5 percent for each month you receive benefits before full retirement age.2 For example, those born in 1955 with a full retirement age of 66 and two months who start taking benefits at age 62 will receive about 75 percent of the full benefit.3On the flip side, delaying benefits past full retirement age, up to age 70, increases your distribution amount. If the same individual in the previous example waits until age 68 to take benefits, his or her benefit will increase 8 percent each year after full retirement age. This increase continues until you reach age 70 or you start taking benefits, whichever comes first.4What happens to my benefits when I die?It depends. If you are married and your spouse is age 60 or older, he or she may be eligible to collect a survivor's benefit. [...]

By | August 29th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Is Feeling Younger the Secret to a Longer Life?

 "You don't stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing." ~George Bernard ShawWhile some people accept getting older as a natural part of life, many others are on a mission to fight the aging process and maintain a youthful attitude and appearance. Although we are often reminded to "age gracefully" - to accept our older selves just as they are - research shows those who stay young at heart may just be on to something.If you've ever experienced the feeling that the image in the mirror doesn't quite match up with how you feel on the inside, you're not alone. In 2015, the Journal of the American Medical Association published the results of research conducted over an eight-year timespan.  The initial survey of about 6,500 people ages 52 and older revealed that almost 70 percent of respondents felt three or more years younger than their actual age.1Eight years later, researchers went back and resurveyed the participants. They found 86 percent of the people who reported feeling younger than their actual age were still alive, as compared to 82 percent of the people who felt their actual age and 75 percent who felt older.2What's the lesson here? This study and a variety of others point to the idea that feeling young actually helps us live longer. It's the idea to stay "psychologically young": maintaining a positive outlook, staying active physically and mentally, and enjoying a life of quality even into our older years.3 But how can we [...]

By | August 22nd, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

How to Help Avoid Struggling with Caregiver Burnout

Serving as a caregiver for a loved one can be a wonderful thing. It often allows ill or disabled individuals to remain in their own home, surrounded by familiar surroundings. However, it can often take a toll on the person providing care, and can sometimes lead to the caregiver feeling depleted or exhausted. This feeling is commonly known as caregiver burnout.1The National Alliance for Caregiving reported an estimated 43.5 million adults provided care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged loved one in 2014.The organization also reported the average caregiver spends nearly 25 hours per week providing assistance, the equivalent of a part-time job.2While being a caregiver can be rewarding, it can also be emotionally, physically and mentally taxing. Burnout tends to happen when the caregiver neglects his or her own needs -- often without realizing it's happening.If you are providing care for an ill or disabled loved one, it's important to recognize the symptoms of burnout in the early stages. The ALS Association reports some of these patterns as signs of burnout for caregivers:3Irritability and impatienceOverreacting to small things or comments made by othersProblems sleepingAbuse of food, tobacco, drugs or alcoholFeelings of isolation, alienation or resentmentIncreasing levels of stressThe time and money dedicated to helping someone else can also be a drain on the caregiver. While retirees in particular may feel they have the time available to take care of a friend in need, it's important they consider how that kind of time commitment could affect their own energy [...]

By | August 15th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Tips for Bargain Hunters

For many of us, retirement means living on a fixed income, and that often means making a budget and watching expenses. One way to help stay on budget is to shop for the best prices on items that fall within our discretionary income budget.According to Consumer Reports, even though consumers can now buy just about anything they want online at any time of the year, deep discounts for many products still tend to be seasonal.1 For example, the best time to buy summer clothes is halfway through the summer, when stores cut prices to move inventory and make room for the next season's stock.2The following list from Consumer Reports details the best months for buying certain consumer items.3January -- bathroom scales, ellipticals, linens and sheets, treadmills, TVs, winter sports gear and clothingFebruary -- humidifiers, mattresses, winter sports gear and coatsMarch -- boxed chocolates, digital cameras, ellipticals, humidifiers and treadmills April -- carpet, desktop and laptop computers and digital camerasMay -- baby high chairs, desktop and laptop computers, interior and exterior paints, mattresses, strollers and wood stainsJune -- camcorders, ellipticals, indoor furniture, summer sports gear and treadmillsJuly -- camcorders, decking, exterior and interior paint, siding, summer clothing and wood stainsAugust -- air conditioners, backpacks and back-to-school goods, dehumidifiers, outdoor furniture and snow blowersSeptember -- desktop and laptop computers, digital cameras, interior and exterior paint, lawn mowers and tractors, printers and snow blowersOctober -- desktop computers, digital cameras, gas grills, lawn mowers and tractorsNovember -- camcorders, gas grills, GPS and TVs  December --  Blu-Ray players, camcorders, [...]

By | August 8th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Expenses That Come With Caring

We spend our lives caring for others -- at least if we're lucky. One of the greatest treasures in life is having people, causes and pets to care for. Unfortunately, caring for others can have its challenges, including additional stress and financial burdens.Sometimes we get so caught up in making money that we don't pay attention to how much we spend. Some of the money we spend may not really register because we use it to take care of others' needs; what we may deem to be a necessary expense certainly doesn't feel like discretionary spending.But spending is spending, and we all need to take a careful look at how much of our money we use on caring for others, or "care management." These expenses could include the money we spend raising our children, or helping them out when they're older and nearly independent, but still need extra cash now and then.We also should consider the amount of money we spend on elder care, whether for ourselves or loved ones. One recent study found that it costs families more to care for a frail older adult than to raise a child in the first 17 years of life.1 Many families are taking care of seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer's at home for as long as possible, given the increasing price tag of providing full-time care.2  Some insurance products, such as life insurance and annuities, provide various options you may want to considerto help cover the potential costs of some of these [...]

By | August 4th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Retirement: Loneliness Can Sneak Up on You

Even people who have spent a lot of time planning for retirement may encounter unexpected challenges once they're in those golden years. They focus on retirement income planning, which is, of course, important and appropriate -- and we can help you there. They also focus on things they want to do while they're still in good health, such as traveling or playing pickleball. They look forward to spending more time with their spouse and good friends.It can be quite joyful, but the less joyful realization often sets in when a spouse or a close friend passes away. That's when many retirees truly understand they are facing the reality of their mortality. Apart from that, they've also lost a best friend and companion.1Sometimes the pain of loss causes us to want to avoid that pain altogether, which can lead to an even unwitting desire to isolate ourselves. Unfortunately, this can be particularly problematic during retirement, when people are less likely to have scheduled daily interaction with others outside the household.Studies in the U.S. and Britain show the prevalence of loneliness among people older than 60 ranges from 10 percent to 46 percent.2 Additionally, people with low levels of social interaction can experience brain changes that cause them to see other human faces as threatening and, therefore, are less likely to seek social ties.3 It's all kind of ironic, isn't it? With so many people experiencing the same malady, you would hope we could find each other, since companionship would certainly help.One [...]

By | August 1st, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Considerations for Retiring Couples

Retirement is another chapter in your life; one that requires not only planning but day-to-day maintenance once you get there. And if you have a partner in life, it's important to remember that your retirement, like a tandem bike, is built for two. Planning for your own retirement is complicated enough, but doing so at the same time as your spouse can be daunting, with additional details to consider. For starters, you and your spouse may have two completely different sets of needs in retirement.1 One may have health problems requiring expensive medications and frequent visits to the doctor. The other may live 20 years or more after the first spouse dies. Two people. Two different income needs.  When most people plan for retirement, they figure out how much household income they need. Their income sources may include two Social Security checks, a pension or other employer-sponsored plan, and withdrawals from personal savings accounts. But have you thought about how much income would be lost when one spouse passes away? In some cases, the household income may go down to one Social Security check, less pension income and reduced personal savings once lingering medical bills and funeral expenses have been paid. In this situation, it's helpful to know that a surviving spouse may be eligible for a lump sum death payment of $255 from Social Security to help pay for funeral or burial costs.2  Married couples frequently enjoy savings from shared costs by living in one house with one set of utility and [...]

By | July 25th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Influence of Work

Work offers a confluence of possibilities, ranging from satisfaction to frustration to, many days, a little of both. If you work during retirement, here's an interesting revelation: Social Security taxes are deducted from your work paycheck even if you're already drawing benefits. For a lot of retirees, wages from some type of job represent a significant portion of their retirement income.1This is a scenario in which you may be able to increase your Social Security benefits even if you started taking them early. If the annual income you earn in retirement is higher than the lowest inflation-adjusted year of earnings factored into your current benefit, a new benefit will be calculated for a higher amount.2The decision to work or not during retirement is a personal one, based on both financial and lifestyle factors. Please contact us to discuss creating retirement strategies through the use of insurance products that can help you work toward your long-term retirement income goals.When you're making the decision about whether to retire, remember you may have more options than you think. Some people may want to work longer either because they could stand to save more or want to keep their brains engaged -- or both. However, if they've grown tired of their job, they figure they might as well retire. But it doesn't have to be one or the other. Many people go job hunting because they're frustrated with their boss or company and no longer feel they get the respect they deserve.3 You can [...]

By | July 18th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Retirement: Loneliness Can Sneak Up on You

Even people who have spent a lot of time planning for retirement may encounter unexpected challenges once they're in those golden years. They focus on retirement income planning, which is, of course, important and appropriate -- and we can help you there. They also focus on things they want to do while they're still in good health, such as traveling or playing pickleball. They look forward to spending more time with their spouse and good friends.It can be quite joyful, but the less joyful realization often sets in when a spouse or a close friend passes away. That's when many retirees truly understand they are facing the reality of their mortality. Apart from that, they've also lost a best friend and companion.1Sometimes the pain of loss causes us to want to avoid that pain altogether, which can lead to an even unwitting desire to isolate ourselves. Unfortunately, this can be particularly problematic during retirement, when people are less likely to have scheduled daily interaction with others outside the household.Studies in the U.S. and Britain show the prevalence of loneliness among people older than 60 ranges from 10 percent to 46 percent.2 Additionally, people with low levels of social interaction can experience brain changes that cause them to see other human faces as threatening and, therefore, are less likely to seek social ties.3 It's all kind of ironic, isn't it? With so many people experiencing the same malady, you would hope we could find each other, since companionship would certainly help.One [...]

By | July 11th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Checking Up on Health Care Expenses

If there's one thing every adult demographic in America values, it's maintaining good health. People with medical conditions may be interested in topics like new medical technology, pharmacology or national changes to health care insurance. Meanwhile, those without serious medical issues want to know how they can stay that way, through nutrition, exercise, weight loss and preventive screenings. It's a national conversation, and not one that's likely to diminish any time soon. The 6.5 percent growth rate in medical expenses has plateaued recently, according to business consulting firm PwC, but the company's researchers see signs the rate will increase again in the near future.1 This isn't just a reflection of the cost of health care insurance, but also the prices charged by facilities, physicians and specialists for the drugs and therapies necessary to treat medical conditions. Escalating health care usage and prices contribute to the increase of insurance premiums, deductibles, copays and coinsurance.2 Whether you're working or retired, the issues of finances and health care are inextricably interwoven. You can't really think or plan about one without considering the other. This is true whether you're covered under employer-sponsored insurance, a plan from the individual market or a government-sponsored plan. As financial professionals, we work with clients in each of these situations to help ensure their retirement income plan takes into consideration current and potential medical expenses in the future. If you need help assessing your retirement income needs, please contact us for help. Ultimately, the message the health care industry is promoting is that people [...]

By | July 5th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

All Things Pharmaceutical

The White House recently launched a task force aimed at addressing the nation's opioid addiction crisis, headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.1 According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the majority of drug overdose deaths that occur today involve an opioid.2Prescription drugs are a nuanced example of how positive innovations can have negative consequences. Certainly new medications developed over the past three decades have contributed to healthier people and longer lifespans. But they are not without drawbacks.The number of reported drug side effects has increased by five times since 2004. The proliferation of drugs prescribed to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis and diabetes are among those with the most challenging side effects.3It's worth observing that many things come with possible drawbacks, even those that may be entirely appropriate for you -- like diabetes medication. The same holds true when it comes to decisions related to finances. While many financial vehicles, including insurance products, feature benefits to help enhance your situation, it's important to understand the possible downsides as well. If you're considering purchasing insurance now or in the future, please allow us to help you fully understand both the advantages and disadvantages that may be associated with the purchase.Perhaps even more disconcerting than negative side effects to medications is that many people aren't taking full advantage of today's pharmaceutical wonders. A recent study found that up to three out of 10 prescribed medications are never filled and about half of those filled for the treatment [...]

By | June 27th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Psychological Impact of a Divisive Election

Before 2016, the American Psychological Association's (APA) annual Stress in America surveys showed money, work and the economy were the biggest sources of stress in people's lives.1 During the 2016 presidential campaign season, however, doctors began reporting patients were increasingly anxious due to issues candidates highlighted in speeches and interviews. 2The APA's most recent survey discovered top stressors now include personal safety and the threat of terrorism. The survey also found more than half of Americans reported the presidential election itself was a significant source of stress.3This is hardly welcome news, considering all the other things we have to be concerned about in life, such as health care, career and finances -- and often, those three are intertwined. Many people choose their jobs based on benefits like health insurance, and salary and personal financial confidence are almost always correlated.The link between health and finances can be challenging during retirement. If you're having trouble figuring out how to plan for retirement income, including the possibility of increased health care expenses -- just give us a call. Some insurance products, such as life insurance and annuities, provide various options you may want to consider. We would be happy to discuss your options based on your unique situation.Last year's election even put pressure on some relationships and marriages, particularly when one spouse supported Donald Trump and the other didn't.4 These types of rifts also were evident on social media sites, with lifelong buddies "unfriending" each other on Facebook when learning the other's political [...]

By | June 20th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

As You Age, Keep Looking Forward

Many people spend a large portion of their lives taking care of people like their spouse, children, siblings and older parents. Here's a message for those in their later senior years: Don't stop now.As we age, our concerns start to change. Some people may become preoccupied with ailments and difficulties in their living situations, and others gradually may stop taking care of themselves or their homes. Some of us start looking back instead of forward. But it doesn't have to be this way.Certainly, every stage of life has its challenges and issues. From forging a career to buying a home, raising a family and juggling a myriad of financial priorities, each stage seems to bring a new focus to the foreground while others subside. During retirement, many people face health and financial challenges. We work with pre-retirees and retirees to help them develop a retirement income strategy, adjust the strategy if needed, and help address the challenges of making money last and leaving a legacy for family. Please let us know if we can help you with any or all of these stages.It's important to get much of your retirement and estate planning completed as early as possible. This planning includes documents like a basic will, durable power of attorney and health care proxy.1 You should work with an attorney to ensure all aspects of an estate plan are covered.However, other pressing matters can create day-to-day concerns and stress. Dr. Lee Ann Lindquist, chief of geriatrics at Northwestern University's Feinberg [...]

By | June 13th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Russia, Beyond the Headlines

These days, people have all sorts of opinions about Russia. Even beyond politics, images come to mind of fur-lined parkas and frozen tundra - hard and cold weather conditions, despite the fact that parts of it have a humid, subtropical climate.1 Perhaps we should take a moment to see Russia for its more positive attributes: captivating storied traditions, picturesque landscapes, and a rich and influential culture in the arts, including classical music, ballet and literature.2A few of the hallmarks of transitioning into retirement and aging gracefully are to stay engaged by continuing to learn and explore - perhaps even cultures that are less familiar. With so many Russian-based headlines in the news today, it may be worth taking a deeper look into the history and culture of Russia as well as other countries to see how their philosophy and lifestyles have evolved. Discovering these insights can help us better understand our own outlook when it comes to politics, culture and human nature.Our biases and our prejudices can be  influential factors in our decisions, including financial ones. And that's not always a good thing; sometimes it helps to be a bit more objective. That's where we can help. We can assess our clients' lifestyle and financial objectives without subjective biases. As an independent financial services firm, we help people create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.One good habit to retain throughout a lifetime is reading. Research shows that reading can help keep [...]

By | June 6th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Simplify Your Life

Life has its highs and lows. Sometimes when we go for a long stretch -- everybody in the family is healthy, finances are on track, you're enjoying yourself -- we get that nagging feeling that our good fortune just can't last. Often, that's true. There's inevitably a repair needed on your car, an appliance breaks down or you fall and twist your knee. You deal with it and life just keeps carrying on.One of the ways to help keep balance in life is through discipline. Establish a fixed fitness routine that you enjoy so that it's easier to sustain, make plans to visit with friends and family on a regular basis to nurture important relationships and create a retirement income strategy with the goal of providing for you and your family in the future. Just as maintenance is one of the keys to good health, discipline is one of the keys to financial confidence. If you'd like to discuss creating retirement strategies through the use of insurance products that can help you work toward your long-term retirement income goals, please give us a call.There also are small and easy ways to make our lives simpler. You can find freshly termed "life hacks" while surfing the internet. Some of these ideas are quite ingenious, like the myriad ways to use an office binder clip: cable catcher, razor safety cover, toothpaste tube squeezer, money clip or emergency cuff link. Discover dozens of clever ways to use household objects to make life easier, [...]

By | May 30th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Will Bank Changes Lead to Withdrawal From Human Interaction?

The investment banking struggles that contributed to the 2008 recession prompted stronger regulations for the finance industry. Unfortunately, some of the rules created to keep the larger banks in check also impacted smaller community banks, which have suffered as a result.1However, the Trump administration's goal to cut regulations by 70 percent to 80 percent in various industries could have an impact on banks of all sizes.2 This is just one more anticipated change for a banking industry that was already poised for substantial shifts.Some experts project bank tellers may soon be replaced by more cost-efficient artificial intelligence,3 and e-banking is expected to displace as many as one-third of brick-and-mortar branches in the next decade.4While technology, and possibly even artificial intelligence, certainly has its place in the financial world, it's unlikely to entirely replace the necessity for human assessment, guidance and recommendations. One reason is that it's important to trust the person who is helping you work toward your retirement income goals. As financial professionals, that's something we strive to provide for our clients. Please feel free to contact us to discuss how we can help you create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit your needs and objectives.Of course, it's still important to embrace technology, with the hope that companies go about it the right way. Another concern as technology becomes more prevalent is the battle over private data. In recent years, many apps and websites have encouraged consumers to input financial data regarding bank and [...]

By | May 23rd, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

How Government Regulations May Impact the “Average Joe”

We tend to take government regulations for granted. They can be annoying, like having to sign the HIPAA privacy notice before a doctor's visit, or time consuming, like the yearly requirement of filing a tax return.But as the new presidential administration begins rolling back financial regulations, some people may wonder how they might be affected. In fact, there's a near-even split among Americans who think we don't have enough regulation of the financial industry (49 percent), and those who think we have too much (42 percent).1Opponents say regulation hampers economic growth. Others disagree, saying that some regulations have proved effective at enhancing economic growth at the household level. Take, for example, the 2012 rules requiring 401(k) plan sponsors to disclose certain expenses related to administration and management of plans so participants understand how the fees impact their account value.2 Although the rules did not mandate how much plan sponsors could charge, 401(k) fees have declined in nearly all market segments.3 Let's take a look at another controversial regulation: The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009. The law was designed to eliminate hidden fees that came from such practices as increasing interest rates on existing balances or applying payments to balances with the lowest interest rate.4 Four years later, researchers at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business found that the credit card act was directly responsible for saving credit card holders about $20.8 billion a year.5 Unfortunately, there is little the average citizen can do to change [...]

By | May 18th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Will We Ever Close the Gender Gap?

Every year, the World Economic Forum updates its Global Gender Gap Report, which measures gender disparity across 144 countries and tracks this progress over time. The report pays special attention to the gaps between women and men with regard to health, education, economy and politics.1Although the corporate "glass ceiling" has been broken by a growing number of women, the 2016 gender gap report shows that progress is slowing down for working women both in North America and Europe, while the Middle East and North Africa regions showed the most improvement.2 The report projects that:        Western Europe will close the economic gender gap in 47 years         Latin American and the Caribbean are on tap to close the gap in 61 years         South Asia may not reach parity for another 1,000 years         North America has been moving backward since 20063         At the current pace, it will take approximately 158 years to achieve gender equity in America4One of the high-growth industries that lacks female participation is technology. Although women comprise about half of the U.S. workforce, they account for less than a third of employees at technology companies. 5For decades, educators have tried to reverse this trend. In fact, the number of women studying computer science in college rose to 37 percent in the 1980s, but that number began declining in 1985, and in 2013, women accounted for only 18 percent of bachelor's degrees in computing. Further, after gaining [...]

By | May 9th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Work Less, Spend Less: How Retiring Boomers may Impact the Economy

The economy has grown, in large part, because consumers are spending more money. It remains to be seen whether that trend will continue as more of the massive baby boomer generation approaches retirement.Even before people retire, many tend to slow down their spending habits. Part of this is lifestyle driven; by age 50, most consumers have bought a home, furnished it, sent their kids off to college and are reining in their household budget.1If this sounds familiar to your situation, it's a good time to take a look at your retirement income plan. We can create a strategy through the use of insurance products that can help you work toward your retirement income goals, and the sooner you start saving for retirement, the better.  The highest years for earning often come just before retirement but that's also the time with the least amount of growth in income. According to studies conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, young adults see the fastest income increases. Those increases slow mid-career, and by the time we're in our 50s, our hard-earned salaries could represent negative real wage growth.2Given little to negligible income increases during the latter stages of a career, it is more likely older workers are saving their money for retirement -- not pouring it back into the economy. Recent research revealed that 80 percent of baby boomers are cutting back on how much money they spend. Among them:3·         54% reduced discretionary expenses·         47% reduced recurring monthly expenses·         35% have [...]

By | May 2nd, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

A 100-Year Lifespan: Ways to Help Increase Enjoyment

The average life expectancy of a baby born in the U.S. today is 80 years. However, this prediction assumes prevailing patterns of mortality at the time of birth stay the same throughout a person's life.1In reality, patterns of mortality improve over time thanks to discoveries and innovations in nutrition and medical science. If you extrapolate the data to represent the same pace of mortality improvement in the future, people up to age 30 today can reasonably expect to live to an average age of 100.2However, just as important as how long you live is how well you live. Below are some ideas on steps you can take to help ensure you enjoy your retirement years.  One way to prepare for an active retirement is to engage in work-life balance early in life. Many people work long hours and don't take enough vacation time. Over time, this can lead to mental and physical exhaustion. If we don't take care of ourselves when we're younger, we have less chance of enjoying a higher quality of life when we're older.Or, consider your perspective - are you pursuing your own happiness or trying to find meaning in life? Studies have demonstrated that the pursuit of happiness may not be as good for our well-being as the pursuit of a more meaningful life. In other words, being directed and motivated by valued life goals, which often can take more effort and cause more stress, may be more rewarding. To illustrate, consider the rewards of raising [...]

By | April 25th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Power of Mindfulness

It seems everywhere you turn these days, from news shows to news articles to local advertisements, there's this idea of promoting "mindfulness" in our day-to-day lives. Mindfulness is generally accepted as focusing one's mental state on the present moment, being completely aware of all elements around us.Some financial professionals have expanded this idea of mindfulness to financial management. In an effort to help achieve this, some people practice a no-spending day, no-spending week or no-spending month. By avoiding expenses at all costs, we are forced to assess if and why we need to make certain purchases.1 For example, if you go into a store for one item, you shouldn't leave with six more. Likewise, you might find you end up consuming all of the canned foods in your pantry before you feel the need to buy more.Recognizing the difference between wants and needs is probably the biggest benefit to conducting a no-spend day.2 It's also a good way to allocate your retirement income streams to help ensure your money doesn't run out. In other words, you could designate steady and reliable income streams (such as Social Security, a pension or an annuity) for necessities such as food and utilities in retirement, while any other variable income can be used to pay for occasional indulgences.There's a growing body of research that supports this idea that mindfulness-focused activities, such as meditation and yoga, can help decrease anxiety, depression, stress and pain, as well as help improve general health, mental health and quality of life. [...]

By | April 18th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Health Tips from Around the World

These days, it's difficult to tell if America is still the greatest country in the world or one that has slipped from its pedestal. Perhaps it depends upon the measuring criteria. It is widely documented that the U.S. spends more on health care than any other country, with a total bill of $3.2 trillion last year.1Despite this tremendous investment in health care, an analysis of 14 developed nations showed life expectancies for people at age 65 are shorter in the United States. American women ranked last in longevity among the 14 developed countries, and men were second to last. Some experts suggest this is due to universal health care and more generous retirement benefits offered in other developed countries.2Cost, particularly during retirement, may be a factor in how well health is maintained during the later years in life. If you're considering creating a retirement income strategy that includes planning for potentially increasing health care costs in retirement, we can introduce you to various insurance product options.While the federal government considers different ways to reform America's health care delivery and payment system, it's worth considering what other countries do to produce better results. On an individual basis, we can each learn new ways of managing our own health by considering tips from other countries.For example, the Dutch are big on bicycling. The average citizen bikes more than 600 miles a year -- not just for recreation, but also to and from work. As a result of this constant source of exercise, [...]

By | April 11th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Medicare Reform Outlook: Uncertain

With a new administration in the nation's highest office, there is growing debate about Medicare reform.The federal program, which helps provide health insurance to those over 65 and certain younger people with disabilities, is partially funded by participant premiums and a 1.45 percent payroll tax, matched by employers. Yet, it routinely exceeds its funding sources, according to researcher Philip Moeller.1Lawmakers, lobbyists and entities have set forth various proposals to modernize Medicare into a program that could essentially pay for itself. One recommendation is a premium support system, in which the federal government would pay a set amount for each Medicare beneficiary toward the purchase of a health insurance plan; this is often referred to as a defined contribution or voucher approach.2Whether the Medicare program changes, we're prepared to help you make adjustments to your retirement income strategy to help with future health care expenses; give us a call.Yet, the outlook on possible Medicare changes is uncertain as different voices compete on how to fix the program. One of the most prominent advocates of Medicare reform, House Speaker Paul Ryan, has set forth a plan that provides premium support, guaranteed coverage options, competitive bidding among plans and higher assistance for seniors with lower incomes or greater health care needs.3The Committee for Economic Development has proposed similar reform incentives to expand competition among Medicare Advantage plans. Under the committee plan, seniors would receive a geographically benchmarked premium subsidy and pay for the balance of Advantage plans based on the coverage they prefer [...]

By | April 4th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Higher Education Cost Inflation Helps Lead to Legitimizing of MOOCs

Almost 40 percent of high school graduates accepted for college admission ultimately do not attend the following year. The reason? College is expensive: The average college graduate emerged with about $30,000 in student loans in 2015.1So you've got to wonder, is it worth it to graduate with that much debt, especially these days when job security can be a challenge? Parents all over America may ask themselves this question. After all, for decades a college education has been considered the key to getting a good job and pursuing an upper-middle-class lifestyle. But with stagnant wages, many college students may not find jobs that pay enough to cover those student loans while still paving the way for their financial future.Thankfully, there is a movement to open up access to college education. One online education phenomenon that has exploded in popularity since 2011 is the MOOC, or "massive open online course." They started out being free, short courses available to anyone with access to the internet. Today, many prestigious universities offer these courses, including Caltech, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Oxford and the Sorbonne.2With such widespread, even global, acceptance, many in education are pondering whether MOOCs offer a solution to two common problems with our higher education system: access and cost. Today, 93 percent of the global population lacks the ability to receive a higher education for geographic or economic reasons, and MOOCs can help to avoid conflict with both.3There are several reasons why college tuition has increased so much. One is that individual [...]

By | March 28th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

U.S. Housing Market Update

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose from 3.5 percent to 4.25 percent after the presidential election. While higher rates might deter potential homebuyers -- particularly young first-timers -- residential real estate is expected to continue being a seller's market throughout 2017.1Meanwhile, the fate of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac remains unclear. These government-sponsored enterprises have been managed by a federal agency since the housing slump in 2008. Trump's pick for Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, has indicated that his top priority is to privatize these mortgage giants.2The real estate market bodes particularly well for retirees who have paid off their mortgage. While many retirees prefer to stay put in their longtime homes, it may be worth considering downsizing to a smaller place that is easier to maintain. Today's market provides a wide range of potential homebuyers willing to pay top dollar for homes in areas with low inventory.3Many retirees looking to downsize are in the same boat as other homebuyers: Plenty of motivation but not enough options from which to choose. In this situation, many are considering new construction, including the lower-cost "tiny house" trend.4Those in the market for a new home can even custom build a smaller home designed to make life easier as they age, featuring no stairs, wide hallways, easily accessed storage areas and some of the new smart-home technological conveniences to help them stay in touch with loved ones.5For those who haven't retired, or aren't prepared to downsize just yet, one possibility may be purchasing a smaller [...]

By | March 22nd, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Prescription for Retail Therapy

How much do you use of what you buy? Research reveals that Americans throw away 30 percent to 40 percent of the food they purchase.1 That's just food, most of which you see daily and toss out regularly as it goes bad. But what about the things that don't go bad -- the sports equipment in the hall closet, the coat you bought for one trip or the shoes you love but never wear?Why do we buy so much?Maybe it's because shopping carts are bigger. That's right; today's average shopping cart is three times as big as when they were first introduced in 1938.2 Here's another interesting tidbit: Customers buy more impulse items when they grab a handheld shopping basket instead of a cart.3 Perhaps that's because we go into a store knowing we want only one or two items but get a higher sense of fulfillment if we add just one or two more to the basket -- because there's room, and we can.Retailers conduct research on how to encourage consumers to spend more money. There's an entire industry devoted to studying shopping habits. Therefore, the more you know, the better you can identify retail traps. It's not that you shouldn't buy things; it's that you shouldn't buy things you don't want or need, so it's good to identify when you're about to fall into a retailer's trap. After all, the less you buy, the more you save. And the more you save, the better we can help you [...]

By | March 14th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Take a Look at Life Insurance

Middle-aged adults have a plethora of middle-aged financial priorities. It's hard to even call them priorities because each one is important; it's just a matter of spreading the money you have across a variety of different needs.In fact, a typical mid-life checking account might include payouts for a mortgage, college tuition, a savings account, an IRA, a life insurance policy, and a long-term care insurance policy -- and that's not even including the 401(k) contribution that is taken out of a paycheck before it gets deposited.If you struggle with trying to figure out which financial priorities are most important or how to allocate a portion of your retirement savings among the many insurance product options, we can help. In fact, there are insurance products that can help with multiple priorities so you don't have to spread your assets so thin.Take life insurance, for example. There are many different kinds, and one of the main differences is between term and whole life. With a term policy, you purchase a death benefit amount and determine how long you want to hold the policy; it doesn't pay out anything unless the owner passes away during the term. Whole life features a cash value account, which, over time, can build up a balance you can access, if needed.1First and foremost, life insurance is there to help take care of your loved ones if you pass away. While many employers provide some life insurance coverage for employees, it may not be enough to avoid the [...]

By | March 8th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Future of Globalization

There was a time, at the end of the 20th century, when globalization was celebrated. We became more connected with the rest of the world. We could communicate and share information in real time without cost, nations benefited from strong imports and exports, and companies could improve their bottom lines by utilizing lower-cost suppliers and workers throughout the world.These days, perhaps not so much. Globalization has become a target for both opportunity and opposition, largely responsible for higher unemployment in developed nations and the protectionism movement.While exposure to different cultures, values and beliefs offers benefits, there is revitalized interest in intra-country government spending on infrastructure and employment.1It's easy to see why the topic of globalization would be divisive: what looks like a threat to some looks like opportunity to others. However, no matter what perspective you have, we are here for you. Let us help you stay focused on your long-term retirement income goals, regardless of global and local economic events.  It is likely that, moving forward, globalization will be downplayed but not eliminated. Rather, at least one observer purports that countries, including the U.S., may expend more effort and resources on "regionalization" with neighboring countries.2One negative consequence of globalization, combined with the 2007-2009 recession, was higher unemployment in the U.S. This unfortunate circumstance hit young people particularly hard.3 But interestingly, the phenomenon of young adults moving back home with their parents also is characteristic of a global trend. According to one report, the following percentages represent 15- to 29-year-olds [...]

By | March 1st, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Sleep and Other Surprising Economic Factors

As a result of all modern society's demands, researchers say people are sleeping less than ever. Common sleep inhibitors include stress, alcohol consumption, smoking, lack of physical activity and excessive electronic media use.1Sleep deprivation may be detrimental to one's health, but there's an economic toll as well. One recent study found that as much as 3 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP) is lost due to the collective impact of worker sleep loss (and hence, productivity).2Another factor impacting our economy is timing. It may sound oversimplified, but the concept of "what goes up must come down" often applies to business cycles. For example, Barack Obama took office during one of the lowest points of the business cycle, so regardless of his policies there was generally no way to go but up.3This is an interesting point, especially in a new year with a new presidential administration. Presidents are going to come and go. Business cycles are going to flourish and decline. And people are going to work and retire.There is also a correlation between happiness and economic output, but not in the way you might think. One 2016 index showed many Western countries with high GDPs actually ranked low on the scale of happiness. There are no European countries in the top 10, the U.K. ranks 34 and the U.S. comes in at a dismal 108. What are the factors that lead to long-term happiness among citizens? Costa Rica, which is in first place, got rid of its military back [...]

By | February 22nd, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

For the Health of Marriage

Turns out marriage can do more for your heart than fill it with love. A recent study found that, among other health benefits, married people have a higher probability of surviving a stroke.1They are also more likely to survive major surgery, have fewer heart attacks, be less likely to have advanced cancer when diagnosed and more likely to survive it longer, have a lower chance of becoming depressed and, generally, live longer than those who remain single. Scientists have put forth various reasons for these health benefits, ranging from stronger immune systems to taking fewer risks to living a healthier lifestyle.2Financial health can also be impacted by the dynamics within a marriage. If a husband doesn't pay the household bills, he may not appreciate how much it costs every time he leaves the hose running after he washes the car. A wife, on the other hand, may not know where the couple's financial accounts are held or who to consult for emergency cash should her husband become incapacitated.That's why we believe it's best for both spouses to be a part of the conversation when meeting with a financial advisor. It's important to build a relationship of trust, and that can be difficult to do if one spouse is left out of meetings and annual reviews.While marriage is often about sharing, it may also be a good idea for each spouse to establish his and her own credit history, even if they share a credit card account, as it is likely [...]

By | February 15th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Looking Through the Glass Ceiling

The Women's Rights Movement began in 1848 to enable women to have representation in decisions impacting their social, civil and religious rights.1While Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential candidate from a major party, was not elected this year, women take their right to vote very seriously. In every presidential election since 1964 (2016 results not yet available), the number of women who voted exceeded that of men.2Another area where women have made up ground, but are still working to pull even, is the wage difference between genders. This gap can also be a hindrance for women when it comes to saving for retirement. For example, while women are more likely than men to work for employers that offer retirement plans, far less are eligible to participate in those plans because they work part-time or for a shorter time span. As a result, nearly 12 percent of baby boomer women who have participated in the workforce end up retiring in poverty.3From paying bills to participating in large-scale financial decisions, it is important for women to take an active role in their own retirement planning. One thing to consider may be setting up separate retirement income streams for each spouse to ensure household income is not significantly reduced should one spouse die or become incapacitated.Self-employment is one area that might seem free of glass ceilings, but new research reveals a lack of capital funding available for women. Reasons cited for this include not having enough collateral necessary to secure a loan, gender [...]

By | February 9th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

What it Means to be Disenfranchised

Disenfranchised people are those who feel deprived of a legal right or privilege. The number of people disenfranchised within the United States is part of the reason Donald Trump, a candidate without a history in politics, was elected to office. While much of the country is recovering from the Great Recession, there continues to be a lag for many disenfranchised Americans.1For some, there's a feeling that they can't afford anything anymore. One poll found that a large swath of middle-class Americans long for quality jobs, affordable health care and child care and both economic and financial security.2Over the past three decades, America's economy has moved from manufacturing-based jobs to service-based jobs. This gradual process transformed the job market. Even with today's low unemployment rate, there are jobs available, but in many cases, those who need the job may not have the skills and experience that the position requires or it may not pay the wages they are looking for.3Americans dissatisfied with the health care initiatives introduced by Barack Obama reported a variety of motives for voting Trump. A common complaint was that premiums seemed to increase every year. Others went deeper, saying Trump's proposals would promote personal responsibility rather than guarantee health care for those who are "lazy and entitled." Sixty-six percent of Trump supporters said the economy is "rigged for people receiving government assistance."4The combination of expensive health care options, a difficult job market and overwhelming debt, and it's easy to see why some have become so disenfranchised. How [...]

By | January 31st, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Possible Perks and Perils of Buying Coastal Property

All over the world, from Miami to the Maldives, rising sea levels threaten coastal real estate.Scientists say the daily high-water mark has been rising by nearly an inch a year in places like South Florida. During extraordinary high tides, saltwater even sneaks up the driveways of some multi-million dollar coastal homes.1 While projections vary, the general consensus is that sea levels could rise by anywhere from 3 to 6.5 feet by the end of this century. 2 Many people dream throughout their careers of owning a piece of real estate on the water, perhaps as a retirement first or second home. While oceanfront property demand remains strong and communities are still being developed, the potential effect of climate change is beginning to cast a shadow over this dream.3 According to the federal government, eight out of 10 of the most expensive natural disasters in U.S. history were caused by hurricanes.4 For anyone intending to purchase property near the ocean, it's an issue that should not be ignored. It's a good idea to speak with an experienced property and casualty insurance agent to understand a homeowner's responsibilities regarding coastal property. If your heart is set on the waterfront, a real estate agent with experience selling these types of properties can be helpful. Buying coastal properties requires a certain amount of due diligence. For example, it's wise to find out:5 ·         The different types of mortgage loans and qualifying criteria, because a loan for waterfront properties can take a lot longer than a normal home loan·         Whether [...]

By | January 24th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Tips for the Modern Traveler

Traditional vacation prep used to entail choosing a budget destination, buying some traveler's checks and heading to the airport just in time for your flight. For many, that list of things to do has changed drastically. "Wellness travel" has become a big draw for vacationers who are willing to spend around 140 percent more than the average wanderer in pursuit of wellness opportunities. Wellness venues include treatment amenities ranging from spas, meditation, yoga, Pilates and kickboxing classes to personal nutrition and  detox programs.1 If wellness is what you're looking for, then prepare for some extra expense. One of the pitfalls of vacations is that we tend to overspend because, well, we're on vacation. Before you even start shopping for airline tickets or hotel rates, it's a good idea to establish a reasonable budget that you can afford to spend. Another thing you may want to consider is buying travel insurance, which about 30 percent of travelers now purchase. Policies range from minor to comprehensive "cancel for any reason" coverage. Remember that travel insurance is best purchased for large-ticket risks, so you don't necessarily need to buy it for "nickel-and-dime" expenses. Keep in mind, the older you are, the more likely you may need medical care while on vacation.2 Looking for the best credit card to use for traveling? If you're going abroad, use one that doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee. Many levy anywhere from 1 to 3 percent extra on every purchase -- and that's on top of any increases caused by currency [...]

By | January 17th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Looking Through the Glass Ceiling

The Women's Rights Movement began in 1848 to enable women to have representation in decisions impacting their social, civil and religious rights.1 While Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential candidate from a major party, was not elected this year, women take their right to vote very seriously. In every presidential election since 1964 (2016 results not yet available), the number of women who voted exceeded that of men.2 Another area where women have made up ground, but are still working to pull even, is the wage difference between genders. This gap can also be a hindrance for women when it comes to saving for retirement. For example, while women are more likely than men to work for employers that offer retirement plans, far less are eligible to participate in those plans because they work part-time or for a shorter time span. As a result, nearly 12 percent of baby boomer women who have participated in the workforce end up retiring in poverty.3 From paying bills to participating in large-scale financial decisions, it is important for women to take an active role in their own retirement planning. One thing to consider may be setting up separate retirement income streams for each spouse to ensure household income is not significantly reduced should one spouse die or become incapacitated. Self-employment is one area that might seem free of glass ceilings, but new research reveals a lack of capital funding available for women. Reasons cited for this include not having enough collateral necessary to secure a loan, gender [...]

By | January 10th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The State of Real Estate

Thanks to price and sales growth, the U.S. housing market outperformed the U.S. economy in the first six months of 2016. Part of that success is demographic driven: Older millennials are looking to grow their families and buy their first home at the same time that some baby boomers are downsizing in preparation for retirement.1However, the market for existing homes is still struggling as a result of low inventory, which helps explain why 10 percent of homes sold this year are newly constructed, up 2 percent from a year ago.2After mortgage rates remained relatively steady over the past few years, many projections expected a substantial increase in 2016. However, they remained in the 3 to 4 percent range for most of the year,3 and the number of home sales due to an inability to pay mortgages dropped to a nine-year low.4Meanwhile, thanks in part to this low-rate environment, residential home prices reached an all-time high in the third quarter of 2016 -- higher than even the pre-recession peak.5Like so many areas of the economy, the housing market experienced a shakeup in the immediate aftermath of the election. There was a slight bump in the 30-year mortgage interest rate to 4 percent, a move that typically drives housing prices down.6 Given the dynamic between interest rates and housing prices, coupled with the fact that the President-elect is a real estate guru, it will be interesting to see how the housing market evolves under the new administration.Recently, a couple of new studies [...]

By | January 3rd, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The 60-Year Career

Now that people are living longer, many are also working longer. Just imagine, if you start working regularly at age 20 and don't retire until age 80, that's a 60-year career. While it's not as common today, traditionally, many workers would spend their entire career working for the same employerTake, for example, 86-year-old Detroit native Angelo Fracassa. He retired this year after working for the IRS for 60 years. He has an accounting degree, an MBA and was responsible for bringing new computer technology on board about the time most of his peers were retiring.1Today, however, more workers are reinventing themselves and purposely pursuing different types of careers all in one lifetime. Retiree Bob White is one of them. He went from a stint in the Air Force to meteorologist to ordained minister to self-published novelist.2After spending decades at an office job, some people enjoy the transition to a freelance career. There are plenty of options that allow you to put your skills to use, plus you can work from home with low overhead and lots of flexibility. One of the biggest challenges to starting out may be marketing yourself to find clients. For example, it can take a year or more to get a freelance writing business going.3Fortunately, opportunities in the job market have grown for baby boomers who want to keep working toward a 60-year career.4 Whatever your career ambitions, it's a good idea to evaluate your finances before making a career change. Sometimes it can be a [...]

By | December 30th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The 60-Year Career

Now that people are living longer, many are also working longer. Just imagine, if you start working regularly at age 20 and don't retire until age 80, that's a 60-year career. While it's not as common today, traditionally, many workers would spend their entire career working for the same employerTake, for example, 86-year-old Detroit native Angelo Fracassa. He retired this year after working for the IRS for 60 years. He has an accounting degree, an MBA and was responsible for bringing new computer technology on board about the time most of his peers were retiring.1Today, however, more workers are reinventing themselves and purposely pursuing different types of careers all in one lifetime. Retiree Bob White is one of them. He went from a stint in the Air Force to meteorologist to ordained minister to self-published novelist.2After spending decades at an office job, some people enjoy the transition to a freelance career. There are plenty of options that allow you to put your skills to use, plus you can work from home with low overhead and lots of flexibility. One of the biggest challenges to starting out may be marketing yourself to find clients. For example, it can take a year or more to get a freelance writing business going.3Fortunately, opportunities in the job market have grown for baby boomers who want to keep working toward a 60-year career.4 Whatever your career ambitions, it's a good idea to evaluate your finances before making a career change. Sometimes it can be a [...]

By | December 30th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Taxing Questions

At the end of October, the IRS made several announcements regarding taxes in 2017. Information available for the new year now includes tax rates, standard deductions, exemption amounts and more. While the standard deduction for various filing groups is set to increase by $50 or $100, an additional standard deduction of $1,250 is available for seniors (or the blind); $1,550 if the individual is also unmarried and not a surviving spouse.1 It's a little late in the year to be changing tax laws for 2017, but there was one instance in 1993 under Bill Clinton's administration when a tax law went into effect retroactive to the beginning of the year in which it was passed.2 There's always plenty to think about at the end of the year, but don't overlook opportunities to prepare for next year's tax return in December, such as making charitable donations or maxing out contributions to your retirement accounts.3 Before Congress looks ahead to 2017, it still has tax issues to be dealt with by the end of this year. Common tax breaks set to expire at the end of 2016 pertain to mortgage insurance premiums, medical expense deductions and tuition deductions. It's possible for tax breaks to be extended now that election season has ended, but there are no guarantees.4 One thing both presidential candidates agreed on was the need for tax reform. The Brookings Institution5 and the Tax Foundation6 offer detailed views of several tax policy options that could be up for debate next year, along with their [...]

By | December 20th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Get in the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Whether you want a little extra income or just want to get out and interact with new people, tapping into your entrepreneurial instincts can fill many needs in retirement. Here are a few examples of fun, money-generating ideas people have come up with recently. Remember photo booths -- a printed strip of quick takes for a buck? These have regained popularity as a must-have activity at many weddings. One woman capitalized on the demand by purchasing a photo booth and pitching it for local wedding receptions. The side gig now generates a six-figure revenue.1 It's a good reminder that being an entrepreneur doesn't necessarily mean coming up with a brand new product. You can also use your own talents to do something you enjoy and get paid for it. Mega-entrepreneur Martha Stewart said she's seen a trend in product makers expressing their own spirit, with less focus on what the market wants. For example, if you sew aprons, add special, personalized messages on the front to make them unique.2 Another idea is to create a business that charges less for things people need. For example, if you and your neighbors believe your city or county charges too much to pick up curbside garbage, invest in a truck and do it yourself for less.3 Advertise that you'll retrieve and return trash cans to the backyard and still charge less than the city. Perhaps you enjoy cooking for large groups, but your family has spread out across the country. If that's the case, consider cooking for [...]

By | December 13th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Drug Prices: The Power of a Celebrity Tweet

When drug manufacturer Mylan increased the list price of EpiPen last summer, it suffered the wrath of celebrity backlash. Actress Sarah Jessica Parker publicly criticized the company for raising the price of its emergency allergy treatment to $608.1 EpiPen, which has been around for decades, cost less than $100 when Mylan originally acquired the product in 2007. The company declined to comment on the price hike, but cited high-deductible health plans as a reason consumers now pay so much out-of-pocket for drugs.2 If you think health care expenses are high now, imagine what they could be if they continue on this trajectory. One recent study asserted that, because health care inflation is dramatically higher than regular inflation, someone who retires this year may encounter $33,000 or more in total health care expenses during retirement than someone who retired in 2015.3 When planning for retirement, it's important to factor in the potential increase of medical costs and other expenses, in addition to possible reduced expenses,  such as mortgage payments and work commuting. We can help you create a retirement income strategy through the use of insurance products that you can feel confident about. While increasing pharmaceutical prices aren't a new controversy, Parker's celebrity status may have helped bring the issue into mainstream discussion. She posted on Instagram that she would no longer purchase the company's products, urging them to "lower the cost to be more affordable for whom it is a life-saving necessity."4 The new-found spotlight on drug prices has generated some pretty interesting revelations about [...]

By | December 6th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Opposites Attract: Couple Finances

It's very common for a married couple to have vastly different financial personalities. One may be frugal and the other a big spender. As we all know, money can be the source of some pretty big challenges in a relationship. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 73 percent of couples said their financial approach differed from their partner's. Thirty percent of couples argue over finances at least once a month, and 5 percent admit to having their own individual account that their other half doesn't know about.1 While you could say arguing is just another form of communication, there may be better ways of conveying money matters in a relationship. For example, many couples set a maximum amount that each partner feels he or she can spend without consulting the other. This survey discovered the average sum is $400. However, that amount is lower with millennial couples ($100) and higher among baby boomers ($500). Interestingly, 21 percent of couples don't know how much their significant other has in his or her personal retirement account, such as an employer 401(k).2 Traditionally, employers have provided the means for retirement income or savings vehicles but not offered much guidance in preparing for retirement. While more are making a concerted effort to help workers understand how much income they'll need during retirement through various tools and resources,3 it's important to work with your financial professional to build a retirement income strategy tailored specifically to your household's needs and objectives. If you and your significant other haven't really [...]

By | November 29th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Being Wise in a Smart World

These days, it seems like everything's getting smarter. Smart phones, smart cars, smart appliances, smart technology. Maybe we take things like this for granted, but you can start typing any phrase into Google, and the computer will finish it for you. That's pretty darn smart. Unfortunately, our increasingly smart world creates a host of new problems that accompany all the advantages. For example, these innovations are more vulnerable to security and privacy hacking1 and could be more costly to maintain and repair. After all, who do you call when you can't turn off your smart oven remotely with your cellphone? Your cellphone carrier, internet provider or an appliance repair company?In New York City, they've launched smart sidewalks -- kiosks where passers-by can charge their phones or look up information on a tablet with internet access.2 But like many new innovations, there are unintended consequences, like people blasting music from the computer at all hours and even looking up inappropriate content at city intersections.3 Unfortunately, even members of the younger generation who have grown up with smart technology, are graduating college and finding it difficult to land jobs that utilize all this smart technology. Some have lamented that recent graduates lack the knowledge and skills they need to land a job and succeed at their new careers.4 You would hope some things, like your oven and your cellphone, wouldn't require professional assistance. Your finances, however, may be another matter. As a financial professional, we are here to help you create a retirement income strategy through the [...]

By | November 22nd, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Jobs After Age 55

The good news is 62- to 64-year-olds experienced the largest increase in jobs between 2007 and 2014.1 The not-so-good news is that many of those jobs are not of the upscale, high-paying variety.2 New research from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College offers insights into the type of work that older people are securing today:3  ·     -    The jobs are high on service and low on physical labor·     -    Service jobs: managers, sales supervisors, accountants, real estate sales, property management·     -    Low-skilled jobs: truck drivers, janitors, nursing aides, child care, retail, cab driver·     -    Valued skillsets: dependability, outdoor work·     -    Jobs that pay around 10 percent less than those of younger workersA survey of households and individuals from the latest census found that, between 2008 and 2012, older workers (62+) with a college degree had less than a 50 percent chance of finding work, while those without a college degree had only a 35 percent chance.4 During an economic downturn, it's not uncommon for employers to lay off employees, and many older workers end up getting more pink slips than others. One reason may be because they tend to earn more, so some workplaces may be inclined to hire younger, lower-paid employees to improve profit margins.5 While this may sound like age discrimination, lawsuits along those lines have become harder to win. In 2009, a court ruling made it more difficult for workers to sue for age discrimination. Plaintiffs must now prove [...]

By | November 15th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

LTC Considerations

Long-term care insurance (LTC) has experienced some growing pains in recent years. Sustained low interest rates and coverage limitations have made it difficult for some to find policies that meet their needs.1 As a result, many LTC insurers have exited the business because they couldn't make a profit.Today, there are only 14 carriers still writing stand-alone LTC policies in the United States, and only about 8 percent of U.S. adults own this type of insurance.2 As a general rule, LTC benefits are triggered when a policyholder can no longer perform two of six designated "activities of daily living" (ADLs) due to physical or cognitive impairments, or if he or she requires substantial supervision due to a severe cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer's disease. 3 The six ADLs are: eating, bathing, dressing, the ability to move from bed to chair, continence and using the toilet independently.4 Some individuals may experience mobility issues that require help bathing and dressing, yet cognitively they remain sharp and otherwise healthy for many years. Of all people age 65 and older, 75 percent will eventually need long-term care, and mental disorders, such as Alzheimer's, account for half of all LTC claim dollars paid.5 The LTC industry has changed substantially over the past decade. With lifespans extending longer than ever, many carriers have altered policies to incorporate benefit restrictions. As a result of some contracts being held longer than expected, some of the companies that still offer LTC policies have had to raise premiums and reduce benefits.6 In addition to stand-alone policies, there [...]

By | November 8th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Far-Reaching Applications of Insurance

When most people hear the word "insurance," the things that come to mind may be home, auto or life. However, the scope of what can be covered by insurance extends far beyond everyday needs. Unfortunate as it may be, the news is often filled with natural and man-made disasters. The role insurance plays in these situations may not make the headlines, but when something goes wrong, insurance can make recovering from a setback less stressful.Here's a look at some national headlines you may have heard about over the past few months, and how insurance came into play in the aftermath:     When a rocket blows up on takeoff, like the multimillion dollar SpaceX rocket did at Cape Canaveral in September, is all lost? The answer is no, thanks to the coverage of space insurance policies. The space insurance industry receives around $750 million in premiums each year to cover about 50 space launches, with a one in 20 failure rate. Interestingly, despite the fact that it's an expensive and volatile business, premiums for space rockets are actually dropping, closing in on the lowest rates in history.1  Sadly, people in Louisiana are learning the hard way that flood damage isn't covered by standard policies such as property or business interruption insurance. Many people mistakenly believe that if you don't live (or own a business) in an authorized flood zone, you don't need flood insurance. The reality is about one-third of flood claims are made by owners who are not in flood zones.2  As technology use [...]

By | November 1st, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Health Care Spending Trends

For the 40+ year period of 1961 to 2002, health care expenses followed a pretty steady upward trend, thanks to things like the introduction of Medicaid, coverage expansion and occasional price increases.1 But between 2003 and 2007, that rampant growth slowed down considerably, and the impact of the recession was felt from 2008-2013.2 Many Americans lost their health care insurance during this time period or stopped going to the doctor because of the money they had to pay out of pocket. Several drug patents also ran out during this 10-year stretch, so the market began to be flooded with new, cheaper generic drugs.3 Since then, however, spending has creeped back up. The cost of large employers providing insurance to their workforce is projected to increase by 5 percent in 2017, while premium increases for public exchange plans are expected to average about 10 percent.4 Employers report they plan to offset increases by:5 Managing pharmacy spending for high-cost specialty drugsIncreasing enrollment in high-deductible health plans with tax-advantaged savings accountsSteering plan members to hospitals and medical centers with a good track record for treating things like back, knee, cardiac and infertility issuesMoving to benefit designs that require employees to participate in health-related activities to reduce employee cost-sharing Pharmaceutical costs represent approximately 20 percent of employer medical spending, and are increasing at a rate that accounts for roughly half of medical cost inflation.6 Just recently, drug manufacturer Mylan NV came under fire for its 500 percent price increase (since 2007) for the EpiPen emergency allergy injection.7 Meanwhile, specialty [...]

By | October 25th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Pension Matters

When it comes to preparing for retirement, headlines about underfunded pensions can be troubling. One study found that 21 state pensions held less than 40 percent of the assets needed to pay benefits. To make up for that shortfall, each taxpayer would have to contribute an extra $1,385 per year.1 While not every worker in America is fortunate enough to have an employer-sponsored pension, it appears that even some who do may still have reason for concern. If you're contemplating other options that could help you save for retirement in the event that your pension is underfunded, it may help to meet with a financial professional. We can discuss your individual situation and recommend insurance products to help create an additional retirement income stream. One of the issues associated with traditional pensions is the lack of portable benefits for many public workers. In some instances, when teachers move to new states, previous years of service don't automatically rollover and pension benefits stop growing.2 The same holds true for many police officers and firefighters.3 However, not all news on the pension front is negative. Many public pensions have become more flexible in allowing workers to retain their pension benefits even if they switch jobs.4 In addition, a new report from the National Institute on Retirement Security revealed that most public retirement systems that offer defined benefit pensions are on track to provide modest, but stable and lasting retirement income, for their workers.5 In fact, the study found that these plans are highly cost-efficient compared to [...]

By | October 18th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Spending Influences

Everyone has their own unique way of spending money. Even people who live in the same house or grew up under the same parental influences can turn out drastically different. Some people are minimalists while others simply like to buy stuff. A variety of factors can shape our values when it comes to spending and how we approach money. For example, the recession of 2007-2009 taught us a lot about how Americans spend money. Some learned to "tighten the belt" and have never stopped. Others "tightened the belt" for a while, but then eventually went back to their spending ways. Interestingly, while the former set may use their saving and spending habits to help better prepare them for retirement, it's the latter that has helped spur our economy back to recovery.1 However, while retail sales in the first half of 2016 were solid, by midsummer they became unexpectedly flat as Americans cut back on discretionary spending.2 This could be attributed to the summer heat and the lack of desire to go out and spend money, but online buying tends to shore up areas that experience seasonal influence. Perhaps it's the uncertainty of the presidential election and concern that, regardless of who wins, an economic downturn could follow. Gas prices are down and incomes have gone up this year, but one change in consumer habits has vexed retailers: people are now more inclined to make purchases that enhance their lifestyle and well-being. 3 For example, more people tend to buy "experiences" facilitated via travel or athletic [...]

By | October 11th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Men in Contemporary Society

With an increased focus on the pay disparity between genders, women in the workplace are a frequent subject of studies. How many work? How many out-earn their husbands? How many make less than their male peers? Meanwhile, we don't often see many studies about men. Just how are men faring in today's society? For starters, they're still the majority household income earners. In the U.S., only 15 percent of men earn less than their spouses, a number that skews more toward the younger generations than older men.1 Traditionally, men have handled many aspects of finances in the household, including making decisions on insurance options. Today, however, it's important for wives to be involved in these decisions. After all, women tend to live longer and may have to deal with the financial aftermath of their husband's passing -- ranging from issues such as a decreased pension to Social Security benefits to how to request a life insurance payout. We encourage both members of a couple to meet with us when discussing their long-term retirement goals. Please feel free to schedule a meeting during which we can review your retirement income strategy with the both of you. Another study found men may reap more benefits from work, or at least from working long hours. Women triple their risk of cancer and heart disease if they work more than 60 hours a week, while men tend to get healthier the longer they work.2 Men who work between 41 and 50 hours a week have a lower risk [...]

By | October 4th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Life at Home is Your Business

With a businessman running against a career politician in this year's presidential race, one topic of discussion has been the pros and cons of running the country like a business. The idea has been broached before, with several past presidents boasting more business than public service experience. In fact, 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney once said, "I'd like to have a provision in the Constitution to say that the president has to spend at least three years working in business before he could become president of the United States."1 With that said, it may not be a bad idea to consider our own financial situation within the context of running a business.2 For example, you don't want to carry more debt than your current income can cover, and always be mindful of cutting expenses as a means of increasing your savings. If you're looking for ways to be confident about your financial future while maintaining your current lifestyle, we can explore insurance options to help you work toward that goal. Much like a business, most households possess two types of assets: Their own labor and financial capital. One of the keys is to convert the proceeds from today's labor into capital to support the family -- both now and after you retire.3 During the recession, 15 percent of millennials were unable to find jobs, adding to the issues they faced while starting out adult life, including some with student loan debt. While many are now employed, millennials, in general, have learned early on the [...]

By | September 27th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Entrepreneurs on the Rise

Entrepreneurship plays a vital role in the growth of the U.S. labor market. The number of jobs created from startups peaked in the late 1990s before declining steadily through the first 10 years of the 2000s.1 However, from the ashes of the recession comes a phoenix of entrepreneurship. In a recent study, 66 percent of American millennials reported wanting to start their own businesses.2 Admittedly, one of the best times to take risks is when you're young and have little to lose, but inexperience and lack of capital make it tough to get a business off the ground. However, today's "gig," "on-demand," online economy is highly conducive for startups. Recent estimates project the number of people working these types of independent jobs will rise to 7.6 million by 2020 -- up from 3.2 million Americans today.3 One major question budding entrepreneurs must answer is, "what do I want to be when I grow up?" Youth may be the time to take some risks, but few young adults have identified the means by which they intend to make their fortune and mark in the world. Alas, that sage advice to "do what you love" can take some time to figure out; many college grads don't know what that is yet.4 While out in the workforce gaining experience, their entrepreneurial efforts may span the range of freelance writing and graphic design to starting their own house cleaning, moving, landscaping or childcare business.5 While jobs like this are popular starter options for people just entering the working [...]

By | September 21st, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

What’s New With Social Security?

Before the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 passed, the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund was projected to be depleted sometime this year. Congress shifted tax revenues from the Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund to keep disability benefits fully funded. However, Social Security still faces long-term shortfalls under currently scheduled funding and expenditures.1 While Social Security disability benefits are a good backstop, you may wish to consider purchasing your own disability insurance, particularly if you're self-employed. And since government disability benefits don't kick in for at least five months (and even a private insurance policy may have a waiting period), you also should consider setting aside an emergency fund. If you've retired and are taking Social Security benefits, but also have other substantial income such as wages, self-employment, interest or dividends, you may owe federal income taxes on Social Security benefits. Joint return taxpayers with a household income between $32,000 and $44,000 could pay income taxes on up to 50 percent of benefits. If reported income is more than $44,000, you may have to pay taxes on up to 85 percent of your benefits.2 If you're receiving Social Security benefits but have not yet reached full retirement age, earning extra income could result in some of your benefits being withheld. For example, if you earn more than $15,720 a year, $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $2 in earnings above that limit. The year you hit full retirement age, both your earnings limit and benefit amount increase, and in the [...]

By | September 13th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

America’s Founders: Entrepreneurs and Opportunists

Our nation's forefathers were reputed for their progressive views, business-minded principals and pursuit of independence through the establishment of a new government. It might help to consider these tenets as we aim for our own goals in our careers and retirement. Earlier this year, author Edward Lenge published a book based on the writings of America's first president. The book, titled "First Entrepreneur: How George Washington Built His -- and the Nation's -- Prosperity," offers tremendous insights into how this former military general and entrepreneur approached his job as "CEO" of the country. For example:1 His mom infused in him the principle that industry and morality should work in concert.He approached running the United States as if he were running a business, with the goal of long-term success and sustainability.When he first became President, there was much political division, uncertainty and fear. Washington's priorities were to build up the nation's credit, establish a stable currency, build the national infrastructure and keep the peace.One of his first tasks was to eliminate the country's international debt, then equivalent to trillions in today's dollars.To tackle the debt issue, he hired Alexander Hamilton to work with him in a capacity much like today's Federal Open Market Committee. Washington set the goals and strategy, while Hamilton developed many of the concepts for implementing economic policy.Washington advocated free trade, believing that interconnected reliance would help various factions realize common interests and work together for peaceful relations.Washington grew to oppose slavery, believing that oppression restricted motivation and innovation, which [...]

By | September 6th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Will New Health Care Provisions Hold Up Long Term?

New incentives and physician payment updates put in place by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act have helped fix short-range physician payment issues, but as the Boards of Trustees for Medicare noted in its June 22 report, these changes raise some long-term concerns.1 The board is concerned these measures will not adjust for economic conditions such as inflation, or for the normal upward trend of physician costs. In addition, the board questions how much the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will help in the long run. The act contains 165 provisions designed to reduce costs and improve the quality of care delivered through the Medicare program. The Trustees believe the cost-reduction measures will continue to work if health care providers are able to realize productivity improvements at a faster rate than experienced historically. However, it's their opinion that if the health sector can't transition to the more efficient models of care delivery currently being tested, the availability and quality of health care for Medicare beneficiaries may suffer.2The good news is that, since 2008, national health spending growth in the U.S. has been below historical averages, even when you factor in that more people now have health insurance coverage.3 That said, even a healthy 75-year-old can expect to spend upward of $5,000 per year in out-of-pocket medical expenses.4 Naturally, that number is much higher for any retirees who suffer a chronic condition at some point. One thing to consider when planning for retirement is how you will pay for possible increased health care [...]

By | August 30th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

For Some Businesses, Success is All in the Family

Twenty-five years ago, business analysts thought the traditional family business model would eventually become extinct. But here it is in 2016, and some of the largest brand names in America are still owned and operated by their original families: Walmart, BMW, Tyson, Samsung, Kohler, Christian Dior, Mars, Ford and Comcast. In fact, public and private family companies represent approximately 80 percent of firms throughout the world.1 Some benefits of family-owned business include the ability to show other family members the ropes of the business at a young age and an inherent trust among co-workers who are related. Employing family members may also lead to a workforce that's more interested in running the business than on just turning a profit in order to appease shareholders. That values-based sense of customer service and loyalty to employees is part of why family businesses are often more stable and geared for long-term success. Naturally, for a business to be successful long-term, business owners need to be conscientious in their succession planning. Too often, second-generation businesses fail because a family member with the wrong skill set, too little experience or uninterested lack of interest was put in charge in an effort to "keep it in the family." Worse yet, by one set of metrics, the survival rate for a third-generation business is only 10 percent.2 Businesses should consider two tracks for succession planning: (1) a long-term CEO or operational manager and, (2) an immediate -- albeit temporary -- plan for someone to step into a management role in [...]

By | August 23rd, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Americans Entertain Entrepreneurial Ideas

When it comes to TV shows and movies, Americans have shown a recent obsession with the rise of entrepreneurs. "Shark Tank" is an annual Emmy nominee, and the feature film "Steve Jobs" took home a couple Golden Globes earlier this year. Perhaps it's because many people lost their jobs during the recession, or maybe it's because new technology and the "gig economy" has enabled more opportunity, but people seem to enjoy watching others rise to prominence as a result of their ideas and hard work. A look at the numbers may explain why so many Americans can relate to self-starters. One report revealed that one in three workers in the U.S. is a freelancer.1 Another found that all of the net employment growth in the United States since 2005 could be attributed to alternative work. Interestingly, the same study found that there are two types of mindsets among workers in "alternative" positions:2 84% of independent contractors prefer to work for themselves77% of temp-agency workers would prefer a permanent jobIt seems a majority of people tend to seek out work best aligned with their mindset and employment prospects. But perhaps there is a middle ground: Using a part-time independent job to supplement income from a more secure job. For example, take a look at Uber workers. Two-thirds of the company's drivers have other full-time jobs, and 48 percent have college degrees. It's also been a popular income stream for those approaching or near retirement, as 25 percent of drivers are aged 50 and up.3 Certainly the [...]

By | August 16th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Retailers Innovate to Meet Shifting Needs

You can tell a lot about people by reviewing their purchase receipts. Where they shop, what restaurants they favor, where they prefer to buy gas. So, what can you tell by evaluating a huge database of receipts submitted over time by a large population of people? Retail trends. When researchers from Wharton School of Economics studied generational buying behavior, they determined millennials spend more money with new, high-tech merchants such as Uber, Lyft, Zappos and Zulily. Baby boomers, on the other hand, frequently shop at Costco, Home Depot, Macy's and QVC. Millennials do more digital shopping; many boomers still go into stores. Millennials buy more gift cards than other generations, and they prefer buying e-cards because it's easier and the recipient can't lose them. Another interesting finding is that while boomers usually just buy gas at convenience stores, millennials actually go in and buy groceries, too. In fact, convenience appears to be a driving force among millennials, who prefer to place their Starbucks drink order via the app so it's ready when they enter the store.1 Integrating newly created channels for sales, like online service or an app, has been easier for new retailers than older ones. In many cases, despite the fact that a store may have a website where customers can shop online, most of the older brick-and-mortar stores still look the same as they did 20 or 30 years ago.2 That may be comforting to older shoppers, but some younger shoppers find them dated and inconvenient. Some innovative retailers have also [...]

By | August 9th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Banks Dialing Up Mobile Services

New technology continues to be rolled out to make banking more convenient than ever. According to Federal Reserve research data, 53 percent of smartphone owners with a bank account have used mobile banking. Over 17 million customers at Wells Fargo alone use mobile banking, making it the fastest-growing channel in the company's history.1 Wells Fargo also announced plans for a mobile wallet that will integrate the bank's debit and credit cards with its existing mobile apps for Android users. By the end of summer, customers will be able to make in-store purchases by tapping an Android phone at payment terminals worldwide. Eventually, Wells Fargo Wallet will enable customers to use an ATM without a debit or ATM card, although the bank says less than half of its ATMs will be enabled for this feature by the end of the year. Bank of America was the first to introduce this cardless feature at the bank's ATMs, which requires a simple tap on the ATM screen. The company expects its cardless technology to be available at 5,000 Bank of America ATMs by year-end, with beta tests already established in a handful of large metropolitan areas (Boston, Charlotte, New York City, San Francisco and Silicon Valley).2 Javelin Research reports that 29 million more U.S. adults used smartphones and tablets to conduct banking transactions than last year. Indeed, the increase in customers willing to open new accounts via their mobile devices is startling:3 33% opened accounts with a mobile device in 2015, up from 17% in 201430% enrolled in mobile [...]

By | August 2nd, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Minimum Wage Still Raising Concerns

During this politically charged election year, one of the driving issues involves wages: Gender inequality, overall income inequality and the controversial movement to increase the national minimum wage. The fast food industry would likely feel the most effects from a minimum wage increase, and recently some of the largest companies have announced varying plans of action if a raise is instituted. McDonald's said it wouldn't reduce jobs in light of a mandated wage increase, as its focus moving forward is on customer service. A former CEO of the company pointed out that this may not be the best fiscal approach, as it's more costly long term to pay workers $15/hour than it is to install a $35,000 robotic arm that bags french fries. The cost may be worth it, as recent numbers demonstrate that McDonald's focus on employee wages and benefits has improved its customer service scores, which increased by 6 percent in the first quarter compared to the same period last year. However, this philosophy is hardly widespread. The CEO of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's recently hinted that the overall food and beverage industry would likely engage in more automation if the government mandates a higher cost for labor.1 The thing about wages is that there is a minimum standard by which a person can live, and any amount of money earned above that reflects his or her lifestyle choices. If you're not earning what you need to meet all of your expenses -- including saving regularly for retirement -- then you may [...]

By | July 26th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Who is the Middle Class Now?

The definition of middle class can vary depending on who you ask. A young college graduate with a $22,000 entry-level job may consider herself middle class because her parents were, she graduated from college and she's just starting her white-collar career. A married blue-collar worker with two children making $41,000 a year may consider himself middle class because the family owns a lovely three-bedroom home in the Midwest and their kids attend a good public school. According to standards followed by Pew Research, these people would be considered "lower income." Pew categorizes middle-class household incomes as ranging from $42,000 to $125,000, and upper-income households as having incomes of $125,000 and above (measured with assumptions regarding household size and geographic cost of living).1 Unfortunately, even those who truly fall under the "middle-class" category aren't always in an optimal financial position. In a recent survey, people across all income thresholds responded that they would have a difficult time coming up with just $1,000 to pay for an emergency expense. This is how the numbers broke down:2 ·         75% of people in households earning less than $50,000·         67% of people in households earning between $50,000 and $100,000·         38% of people in households earning more than $100,000 It's worth repeating that more than one-third of households earning more than $100,000 a year don't have $1,000 set aside in an emergency fund. The thing about emergencies is that we don't adequately plan for them. We happily auto-transfer money from our paychecks to our 401(k) plans each month, but pay for out-of-pocket car [...]

By | July 19th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

There’s no Ceiling on the Number of Housing Possibilities

America has long been dubbed the land of diversity, and our wide range of tastes is certainly reflected in our housing choices. There's something for every preference, whether it be the architectural style (colonial, post-modern, Tudor, Victorian), the siding (wood, brick, stucco, vinyl) or the locale (urban, rural, coastal, plains). However, popular trends do tend to dominate the real estate market, and recently those trends have been fluctuating based on economic factors. For example, in the 1990s, we saw the birth of the "McMansion" -- large, newly constructed homes boasting 4,000+ square feet.1 A bastion of the middle class, these homes were often generic in style, supersized and built quickly, hence the nod to the McDonald's style of dining. However, nickname aside, these homes gave up-and-coming families the "we've arrived" stamp of respectability and affluence. When the recession hit, many of these houses began to lose equity, and the not-so-big-house became the trend once again. In recent years, we've also seen downsizing to the extreme, in the form of "Tiny Houses," a 100 to 1,000 square foot hut no bigger than a camper, many of which are on wheels for convenient relocation.2 Many retirees have found a happy medium in retirement by "right-sizing" their homes after the children move out. Moving to a smaller house once the need for kids' bedrooms disappears provides the dual advantages of lower living expenses -- such as reduced property taxes, utility bills and maintenance, as well as a more convenient means to "age in place" without the [...]

By | July 12th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Longer Life Means Longer List of Considerations

"As a man grows older, his medicine cabinet grows bigger."That quote, from the 1948 film "Heaven Can Wait," certainly seems to hold true 60+ years later as lifespans stretch longer than ever. One in seven Americans are 65 or older, and there are now approximately 70,000 Americans living past the age of 100 -- twice as many as there were 20 years ago.Living longer is definitely a positive, but as it becomes common for Americans to live deep into their 80s and 90s, there's also a need to save more for retirement. Inflation and medical expenses will continue to rise, and if you retire in your 60s, retirement could last upward of 30 years.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Nursing in an Aging America," from NursingSchoolHub.com, June 1, 2015.]If you believe you have sufficient retirement assets but are worried about making them last a lifetime, please contact us. We have retirement income strategies using a variety of insurance products that may be appropriate for your situation.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "3 Things You Can Do to Increase Your Chances of Living to 100," from Health magazine, April 18, 2016.]Of course, one way of funding a long retirement is to work longer. This enables older workers to save more and delay taking Social Security, which will increase their benefits. Many may not have enough saved up to retire in their early 60s, but Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, said 85 percent of households [...]

By | July 5th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Taking Stock of Changing Financial Landscape

A recent report says 30-year returns won't be as high as they were in the 20th century. According to the McKinsey Global Institute's stock and bond market research, a 30-year-old today will have to work seven years longer, or nearly double how much money he or she needs to save for retirement, to compensate for these lower returns. [CLICK HERE to read the article, "Why investors may need to lower their sights," from McKinsey Global Institute, April 2016.] While none of that sounds like good news, it's important to know that there are positives. Just as the markets have changed, so has the financial industry. There are insurance products available to help provide reliable sources of income. With certain insurance products, like annuities, you can create a steady stream of fixed income, which is what most people need in retirement. Remember that guarantees and protections provided by insurance products including annuities are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer. We are happy to review your current situation to see if adding insurance products to your retirement income strategy is appropriate for your objectives and situation. Feel free to schedule an appointment for more information. [CLICK HERE to read the article, "Stress is One Reason People Retire," from Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, April 28, 2016.] [CLICK HERE to read the article, "U.S. Economy Expands to 0.5% Pace, Weakest in Two Years," from Bloomberg, April 28, 2016.] Rather than create a retirement income strategy, many people just plan to work longer. [...]

By | June 29th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Taking Your Best Shot at House Hunting

It's that time of year again. Homeowners have been painting, repairing, trimming and planting in an effort to get their properties ready for the spring real estate selling season. It's an annual ritual that, according to those in the industry, hasn't created enough volume in recent years. Perhaps this year we're poised for a change. If you're in the market for buying or selling, don't underestimate the impact changing homes could have on your financial situation. Remember that overreaching for a real estate purchase could potentially impact your financial plans for the future. It's always good to review a home buy within the context of your complete financial picture -- particularly before you make any big decisions. Let us know if we can help you with your long-term retirement goals. [CLICK HERE to read the article, "Existing-Home Sales Spring Ahead in March," from National Association of Realtors, April 20, 2016.] [CLICK HERE to read the article, "Home sellers see strongest appreciation since the recession," from MarketWatch, April 21, 2016.] When you're looking to sell, remember that shoppers and lenders are more guarded in home purchases these days, and they often won't spend more than what a home's currently valued at. It's important to check recent comparable home sales to help you establish an accurate market price. Also, never underestimate the power of staging and sprucing. There's a fine line between making a house look homey and leaving it so cluttered with personal items that it's hard for a potential buyer to see it as their own. [...]

By | June 21st, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Consumption Isn’t Always a Dirty Word

The word consumption can take on a variety of meanings, some good and some bad. In the old days, consumption was an expression used to describe tuberculosis, presumably because the disease seemed to "consume" the body by drawing away its energy and weight. Today, it's far more common to hear about the negative effects of overconsumption and its contribution to our nation's obesity issues. [CLICK HERE to read the article, "Why Tuberculosis Was Called 'Consumption,'" from TodayIFoundOut.com, March 17, 2014.] [CLICK HERE to read the article, "Personal Income Decelerates in February" from U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, March 28, 2016.] When it comes to food and drinks, the U.S. may be going overboard on consumption, but that's not necessarily true when the word is used in a financial sense. As an economic term, consumption refers to the purchase of goods and services by individuals -- aka consumers. It's what drives our economic growth. We believe what we consume reflects our lifestyles, and the amount we consume compared to what we earn can have a significant impact on our savings for the future. For some, thinking about tomorrow is a vague and difficult exercise. That's why we offer guidance to our clients to focus on today: What can you do now that will help you in the future? [CLICK HERE to read the article, "U.S. Bottled-Water Consumption to Surpass Soda This Year: Chart," from Bloomberg, April 14, 2016.] [CLICK HERE to read the article, "Here's What Moderate Alcohol Consumption Really Looks Like," at U.S. News [...]

By | June 14th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Crisis Management: Focus on What you can Control 

How do you choose what to worry about? In the 24-hour news cycle, we’re hit from all directions with the latest “crisis” the world is facing. Obesity. Sleep deprivation. Student-loan debt. A shortage of biscuits. It’s constant and can be exhausting. That’s not even taking into consideration the “crises” we experience in our own personal lives — things like avoiding mistakes at work or keeping track of appointments for yourself and relatives. It’s hard to be concerned about refugees in Europe when you’re trying to keep your affairs in order on the home front. [CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Great British Biscuit Crisis is finally over,” from The Independent, April 7, 2016.] [CLICK HERE to read the article, “The American Health Crisis That’s Bigger than Obesity,” from The Fiscal Times, April 6, 2016.] Then, somewhere at the edge of our consciousness, there are our retirement income concerns. Have we saved enough? Will it last to the end of our lives? Long-term retirement income planning can be one of the most challenging and personal issues we face. Since none of us know how long we’ll live, we don’t know how much money we’ll need. But we believe there are some certainties. Those nearing retirement can likely expect a Social Security payout, and Medicare can help offset health care expenses as we grow older. But these programs alone aren’t intended to fund your retirement lifestyle. As a financial professional, we’re here to help you use your current retirement assets to [...]

By | June 7th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Equal Pay Debate Worth Another Look 

What are we aiming for when it comes to equal wages these days? Sometimes it seems like a moving target. For example, should two workers doing the same job get the same pay? Or should the person who performs better receive more income, and is that judgment arbitrary or based on strict, measurable criteria? Should a worker be paid based on his or her market value, such as one movie star’s box office pull versus another’s? Using those criteria, there might not be a more interesting case study than the U.S. women’s soccer team. Male athletes generally make more in this country because they generate better TV ratings, sell more tickets and pull in more advertising dollars. But compared to their counterparts on the men’s national team, these numbers all fall in favor of the women’s squad. Following the women’s 2015 World Cup title and qualification for the 2016 Olympics, something the men’s team failed to do, the disparity in talent may be greater than ever. Yet the men are still making more, leading the women to speak out against the unequal pay and consider a strike. The controversy mirrors one that has been growing nationwide as a result of pay difference between genders. As debates continue over raising the minimum wage and instituting equal pay, it’s interesting to consider how we value people within the work landscape. [CLICK HERE to read the article, “California on track for $15 minimum wage,” from BBC News, March 31, 2016.] [CLICK HERE to [...]

By | May 31st, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

We’re Living in a Digital World 

Madonna, David Bowie, Lady Gaga: Some of the most successful entertainers in show business have been renowned for reinventing themselves. But, when you think about how much our lives have changed over the years, reinvention has become a part of our everyday routines as well. Twenty-five years ago, we had to stay at home if we were expecting a phone call. We had to go inside the bank to deposit our paychecks and withdraw cash. We paid our bills through the mail and lamented the rising cost of a single stamp. But, it’s the 21st century, and now most tasks can be done electronically or virtually. The way we communicate with each other, conduct business, learn new skills and information, and even entertain ourselves has been transformed. It’s also changed the way we manage our finances. If we maintain a life insurance or annuity policy for you and you’d like to learn more about how to get online access to that policy, please don’t hesitate to contact us. [CLICK HERE to read the article, “After 20 Years, It’s Harder to Ignore the Digital Economy’s Dark Side,” from Harvard Business Review, March 11, 2016.] [CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why Estonia Is Letting Entrepreneurs Become ‘E-Residents,’” from Harvard Business Review, March 9, 2016.] It’s truly amazing how much the digital era has changed society. Amazon has all but eliminated the need for a traditional bookstore. Google has rendered encyclopedias obsolete, and GPS has turned maps into relics suitable for framing. [...]

By | May 24th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Statistics on Centenarians Don’t Always Make Sense

While it’s true that people, in general, are living longer than ever, unfortunately there’s no guarantee that applies to everyone across the board. A recent study showed men and women in the lower 25 percent of socioeconomic status have not achieved the same average longevity as those in the highest quarter. We believe the reason this type of data is important is because raising the full retirement age for Social Security benefits may create a disadvantage for lower-income Americans. [CLICK HERE to read the report, “Does a Uniform Retirement Age Make Sense?” from Centre for Retirement Research at Boston College, January 2016.] In our opinion, retirement income planning is not just something wealthy people should do. We believe individuals at every income level can reasonably expect to retire. But those without sufficient retirement assets may have to rely more on government benefits, including Social Security. If you’re reading this blog, you may be thinking about your own retirement income planning. As a financial professional, we are here to help you create a retirement income strategy that you can feel confident about through the use of insurance products. [CLICK HERE to read the article, “Retirement Benefits” from Social Security Administration, January 2015.] Meanwhile, despite what the statistics say, even those who are in the lowest quartile can live to 100 and beyond. Just look at some of the oldest people alive today. Currently, the oldest man is 112. Did he live an easy life? In a word — no. Israel Kristal [...]

By | May 17th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Flipping the Script on the Gender Pay Gap

Despite increased efforts to narrow the financial gap between men and women, there's still no shortage of cultures that prioritize males when it comes to divvying up the monetary spoils.In China, when divorcing couples can't agree on how to divide their assets, the family home typically goes to the men, even though Chinese women (and their parents) contribute to more than 70 percent of mortgages and 90 percent of cash purchases of homes. Because homes are often registered under the man's name, the wife forfeits that investment by law.This is one of the common practices still in existence today that demonstrates the old Chinese saying: "Raising a daughter is like watering someone else's garden."[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Watering the gardens of others," from The Economist, June 12, 2015.]However, the financial world's dated viewpoints on men and women aren't just limited to foreign countries. In the U.S., males are often trusted to handle the family investments, something author Meredith Jones says should change in her new book, "Women of the Street: Why Female Money Managers Generate Higher Returns (And How You Can Too)."Jones writes that women's specific characteristics can, in some situations, offer higher value. Women tend to be more conservative when it comes to money management, both personally and professionally, and a Vanguard study revealed that during the 2007-08 financial crisis, accounts led by women lost 13 percent, while accounts led by men lost 16 percent.Women were less likely to sell at or near market lows, and thus [...]

By | September 1st, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Feeling Stressed? Find Some Green.

It's not easy being green.That signature line delivered by Jim Henson's Kermit the Frog, and later covered by Frank Sinatra and countless others, has taken on a variety of meanings over the years. One way the classic Muppets song applies to the world today is the difficulty in finding green areas in urban neighborhoods.Imagine being a youngster in a low-income family, looking outside and, instead of seeing a tree to climb or grass to play in, being surrounded by man-made structures and the dangers of gang violence.Earlier this year, research from Stanford University found that growing up in an environment sans nature's bounty can have a direct impact on a person's overall physical and mental well-being. The lack of green areas in urban neighborhoods may even impede the maturity of children's brains and be a factor in their economic decline.Whether it's growing up in a rough neighborhood or keeping track of the bills in an upscale community, people of all ages and economic statuses face some form of stress. The best way to combat this is confidence, something we're here to provide as your financial professional.Knowing that you've received professional advice and have proactively created a plan to secure your financial future as well as that of your family can help relieve anxiety. Through years of saving and hard work, you've put yourself in a position where you can enjoy the world around you: taking walks, enjoying a sunset unobstructed by pollution and gazing upon the bloom of flowers.Several children [...]

By | August 25th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Don’t Spend Summer in Hot Water

Everyone slips up from time to time. It's human nature.But some mishaps are easier to make up for than others. A misstep in your financial decision making can have significant and far-reaching ramifications, which is why it's generally a good idea to run your ideas by an objective professional to avoid regrets in the future.Some recent headline-makers provide good reminders about the benefits of fully thinking through ideas before acting on them.Anyone can say the wrong thing, but if it happens when you're in the spotlight, as Donald Trump was when he announced his candidacy for presidency -- that's tricky business.His comments about illegal immigrants from Mexico caused a firestorm of media attention, with interesting repercussions.Detractors have been swift in both criticizing the billionaire mogul, and in some cases, even cutting business ties with him. Conservative supporters have defended his comments, but many remain silent for fear of further disengaging the Latin voting community.And still others defend his right to free speech. Yes, it's a right, but is it always a good idea?[CLICK HERE to read, "Transcript: Donald Trump announces his presidential candidacy," from CBS News, June 16, 2015.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "Macy's just dumped Donald Trump merchandise," from Fortune, July 1, 2015.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "And Now, What Mexico Thinks of Donald Trump," from The New York Times, July 2, 2015.]Historically, we've seen many high-profile leaders and celebrities commit gaffes. Some paid the price and eventually recovered to varying degrees, like Martha Stewart after serving [...]

By | August 18th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Health Care Reform Here to Stay

If there were any lingering doubts about the long-term sustainability of the Affordable Care Act (also known as the ACA or Obamacare), a recent Supreme Court ruling assured the health care overhaul is here to stay.Not only does the King v. Burwell ruling handed down by Chief Justice John Roberts put the ACA on firm ground for the future, it also puts to rest challenges of the health law's tax rules from opponents hoping to exploit loopholes.A few lines pulled from the Supreme Court ruling:"We cannot interpret federal statutes to negate their own stated purposes.""Congress passed the ACA to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them."Roberts' decision may go a long way in clarifying the ACA's intentions, but for the average person, it's understandable if all the legislative, medical and financial arguments remain clear as mud. Health insurance is a complex issue at both the state and national levels, but as your financial professional, we know that what matters most is how the law affects you individually.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "What to Take Away from the Supreme Court Decision on Health Care," from The New York Times, June 25, 2015.][CLICK HERE to search the Rate Review database, "Find Rate Review Information about Your Insurer," on Healthcare.gov, accessed June 24, 2015.]Talks of the 2016 presidential race have already started picking up as new, high-profile candidates throw their names into the ring. In that regard, it can be difficult to predict what changes are on the horizon. But, as King [...]

By | August 11th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Heat of Negotiations

As we approach the dog days of summer, the world's elected officials are pouring on the heat in political debates ranging from Euro debt to global trade agreements.Greece and its creditors have been arguing over how much debt Greece must repay each year. The discord has led others in the European Union -- even Great Britain -- to question if the single currency experiment is worth the time and effort. Years after the global recession, unemployment remains high, the population is aging fast and Eastern Europe has not recovered as quickly as expected.Bear in mind that the EU is comprised of 28 separate countries operating as a single free enterprise market. Perhaps it's understandable that 28 nations, combining different languages, cultures and history, can't come together easily in agreement.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Greek Drama: Why the Negotiations Risk Europe's Future," from Knowledge@Wharton, June 10, 2015.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "Greece Gets Temporary Lifeline, Turns Hope to New Summit," from The New York Times, June 19, 2015.]But can you say the same about one country (the United States), composed of 50 states that all speak the same language and share basically the same history?The gulf in our nation's capital continues to be as deep and divisive as the vast oceans that separate us from the world's other developed countries. The most recent debate on tap has been the odd web of global trade negotiation legislation in the U.S., featuring the Republicans aligned with the Obama administration in a rare coalition. [...]

By | August 4th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

What’s That You Say?

People are notorious for saying things they don't actually mean, particularly during an argument. On the flip side, saying things that have a different meaning than what's intended is human nature and often the cause of an argument in the first place. After all, no one is a mind reader.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Cracking the Code," from Psychology Today, March 6, 2015.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "How to Be a Better Mind Reader," from Psychology Today, Nov. 4, 2014.]This dichotomy creates an interesting dilemma for market researchers, particularly those who invest in focus groups to get feedback on new products. Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, was famously prolific regarding customer input, having once said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse."Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs also was a big proponent of not listening to customer words, but rather to their needs. He's quoted as saying, "It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Bridging the Gap Between Actual and Reported Behavior," from UX Booth, May 19, 2013.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "Why Steve Jobs Didn't Listen to His Customers," from The Huffington Post, Sept. 28, 2014.]It's also not an uncommon phenomenon that people will say what they think in writing, but not face to face. In recent years, the Internet has provided a popular forum for readers to [...]

By | July 28th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Overthinking Retirement Income Planning

You can't pick up a newspaper or magazine or scan Internet headlines today without seeing something about the challenges of retirement and new surveys about how unprepared people are. Yes, it's a concern. But consider for a moment that, really, it's a personal one.You can solve your own concerns -- you don't have to tackle them on a national scale. To that end, break down your retirement income planning process into bite-sized steps, engage the help of financial professionals and do what's necessary to start moving forward with planning for retirement. Then move on to the rest of your life, keeping retirement income planning on the peripheral.When you're actually in retirement, it's important to stay on task but not obsess. Recognize that the first five years you may be working toward some of your long-awaited goals, like travel or starting a new venture. The important thing to bear in mind is that you probably won't keep spending money at that same pace throughout your golden years. Those first few years you may run through some savings, but bear in mind that will eventually need to let up.After a while, take a serious look at your retirement assets and review your budget. Is your retirement spending on track? Do you need to cut back or look at other ways to potentially increase your income?[CLICK HERE to read the article, "5 things to think about on your journey to retirement," from Vanguard, May 4, 2015.]One of the keys to a successful retirement is [...]

By | July 21st, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Bad Behavior

Five of the world's biggest banks recently pleaded guilty to colluding to manipulate currency and interest rate markets. Apparently, by agreeing not to buy or sell at certain times, the traders protected each other's positions and suppressed competition in the foreign exchange market.Collectively, these banks will pay penalties totaling $5.6 billion to the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Reserve. But according to a Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics, this fine represents one tenth of a percent of the daily volume of the foreign exchange market. Moreover, at least one of the banks is an admitted three-time repeat offender.Yet in return for the guilty plea, these banks secured exemptions, waivers and settlements from regulators and are allowed to conduct business as usual going forward -- and no one goes to jail.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Are Financial Penalties Enough to Deter Banks' Bad Behavior?" from Knowledge@Wharton, May 21, 2015.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "Rigging of Foreign Exchange Market Makes Felons of Top Banks," from The New York Times, May 20, 2015.]In sports, the most recent scandal was conspired by leaders of FIFA, the governing body of the soccer world. Forty-seven indictments were levied on soccer officials and sports marketers for racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering over a time span of nearly quarter of a century. A total of 14 people -- including nine senior officials with FIFA -- are accused of perpetuating a corrupt scheme involving more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks.Just days after news [...]

By | July 14th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Business of Risk

Cyber threats have created an interesting conundrum in which the criminal perpetrators are frequently more tech savvy than those responsible for preventing their crimes or apprehending them. And the situation, at the moment, doesn't really show signs of improving.Several national security experts recently issued recommendations to help address the problem. They referred to the issue as a "black elephant -- a dangerous crossbreed between the 'black swan' risk (capable of producing unexpected outcomes with enormous consequences) and the 'elephant in the room' (a large problem that is in plain sight)."[CLICK HERE to read the article, "We Don't Need a Crisis to Act Unitedly Against Cyber Threats," from Knowledge@Wharton, June 1, 2015.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "RSA Conference: Is Hiring Hackers a New Thing?" from Adeptis Group, May 6, 2015.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "Security Companies Hire Hackers, Ex-Spies to Fight Cyber Attacks," from Bloomberg, April 14, 2015.]While hackers certainly present a grave risk at the national level, frequently the outcomes are more personal. Sure, it's a real blow to companies like Target and Home Depot for their data to be hacked, but ultimately it's their customers who may suffer more relative damage.And as great as technology is, the more we integrate it into our lives, the more risk we face of being personally "hacked." For example, what a wonderful convenience to be able to lock and unlock our homes and cars using our cellphones, even when we're out of town. But consider the benefit to a criminal who hacks into a [...]

By | July 7th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

City Planning for a Better Future

The plight of elderly citizens tends to dominate news headlines. Topics like Medicare, Social Security, health care and long-term care are often referred to as "senior issues." But as the larger population continues to age -- and not die -- many more issues will come to light, and we may even drop the word "senior" when referring to them. After all, when issues are large-scale and mainstream, they are seldom relegated to only one demographic.Consider, for a moment, how a large population hampered by vision and mobility issues would be able to function in an environment dominated by cars. Urban cities can offer boundless challenges while rural landscapes may be marked by fewer resources and potential isolation. With America's cities and towns facing a crossroads of serious infrastructure and public resource considerations, many are working on plans for a long-term safe and sustainable living environment.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Aging forces cities to rethink everything," from LifeHealthPro, May 5, 2015.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "How Will Boomers Reshape U.S. Cities?" from Governing.com, Sept. 2012.]Given the attention sparked by the recent Amtrak collision in Philadelphia, transportation investment is high on the national radar. The seemingly unrelated issue of national obesity should also be part of that conversation, as the rise in weight gain is often correlated with fewer "green spaces" for daily exercise and the rise of non-walking-friendly communities in which families must drive for groceries, school, work and just about every other activity.According to a new report by the Urban [...]

By | June 30th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Make a Long Life Worth Living

Robert Browning once wrote, "Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be." Today, the average life expectancy in America is 81 for women and 76 for men. But those are averages. The reality is that some people will die earlier and others will live much longer. Those who live longer are not always inclined to celebrate their extended life expectancy. As they grow older, they face daily challenges, such as changes in appetite and sleeping patterns, declining health, reduced mobility, increased isolation, depression and the loss of friends, not to mention dwindling finances.Consider these facts:Today, the average retiree has only $42,000 in savingsWomen retire with 66 percent of the retirement savings of men, live on average six years longer and have greater medical expenses80 percent of women are single during their later years of life80 percent of older adults suffer from at least one chronic condition and 50 percent have at least two[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Rethinking Retirement in the 21st Century," from The Huffington Post, May 1, 2015.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "Review: 'Caring for Mom & Dad' on PBS Looks at Elder Care Struggles," from The New York Times, May 6, 2015.]A recent study found that intellectual activities, such as playing music or reading, can help ward off Alzheimer's by an average of nine years. Research shows that people who didn't attend college benefit even more from such intellectual pursuits.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Social and Emotional Aging," from National Center for Biotechnology Information, [...]

By | June 23rd, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Going Global

Not everyone has the opportunity to travel. But doing so can open up a world of opportunities -- not just in learning more about the world, but in expanding the way we think. Just seeing life lived in ways other than how we grew up can help us understand different perspectives.We often criticize young adults who eschew college or delay entering the workforce because they want to travel the world and "find themselves." However, the opportunity to experience other lands and lifestyles, without concerns like a mortgage or finding a good school district, may make many adults envious -- just not the parents of graduating college students.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "3 Reasons to Skip Graduate School and Travel Instead," from Brazen Careerist, Dec. 31, 2014.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "Graduating Senior Visits 11 Countries During College, All Expenses Paid," from Texas A&M Today, April 28, 2015.]Traveling abroad is also a great way to flex foreign language skills. For students, this makes the two to four years spent conjugating verbs in another language seem more relevant -- useful even. For older folks who travel and speak as the natives do, the mental process of thinking in one language but speaking in another is a recommended exercise in acuity. It can help the mind stay sharp and ward off dementia.One study found that speaking another language also causes you to process information in that language. In other words, speaking in German can affect the way you think and feel.[CLICK HERE to [...]

By | June 16th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Taxes Filed. Now What?

In a 1789 letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, Ben Franklin wrote, "Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."It's interesting that while the Constitution has changed only minimally since 1787, the tax code changes all the time.Now that we're well and through this year's April 15 tax deadline, hopefully you are one of the 113 million who filed your return on time and paid any taxes owed. If not, you at least should have filed for a tax extension for your 2014 federal income tax return. Bear in mind that, even if you filed for an extension, any amount you may owe was still due on April 15. Otherwise, the very next day the clock started ticking and penalties and interest will accrue on any outstanding amount you owe.Late filing penalty: Typically five percent of the tax bill for each month (or part of a month) that the return is late, up to 25 percent of the tax billLate payment penalty: Typically 0.5 percent of taxes owed for each month after April 15Late payment interest: The interest rate equals the federal short-term rate plus 3 percent (set quarterly)[CLICK HERE to read the article, "The Quotable Franklin," from UShistory.org, accessed April 24, 2015.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "IRS Reports Tax Filing Numbers as Expected, Issues Statement on Refund Delays," from Forbes, April 21, 2015.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "It's Tax Day. You haven't [...]

By | June 9th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Trends in Jobs and Education

It's that time of year. Student graduates have crossed the tassel from one side of the cap to the other, parents are both teary-eyed and relieved, and millions of wide-eyed young adults will be flooding both college campuses and the workforce.For young college grads just entering the job market, the news is upbeat. One recent survey found that employers are planning to hire 9.6 percent more graduates in the U.S. than they did last year. Not surprisingly, the most hirable major continues to be engineering, the degree of choice for approximately 72 percent of companies. Other popular majors are business (68 percent) and computer science (58 percent). Sought-after personal traits for first-timers aren't that much different from what companies seek from experienced workers: critical thinking, problem solving, being a team player, professional demeanor and strong work ethic.[CLICK HERE to read student profiles, "The College Degrees and Skills Employers Most Want In 2015," from Forbes, April 15, 2015.][CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast, "Podcast: Which countries are top in IT?" from World Economic Forum, April 17, 2015.]For high school graduates, the competition to get into the top universities continues to be fierce. However, schools today aren't just looking for all A's and high test scores, they want "well-rounded" students, which means even 4.0 students might benefit by playing a sport, musical instrument or joining other school organizations.This year, some students have been accepted into Ivy League schools without the standard qualifications. For example, the daughter of a second-generation teen mom and five-time [...]

By | June 2nd, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Surprising Findings

Sometimes, hidden among the gloom and doom news headlines and economic predictions, we find little nuggets of information that surprise and can even make our day.For example, thanks to national budget cuts, fewer taxpayers are being audited. The average taxpayer's chance of being audited has dropped by 23 percent in the past three years, and the news is even better for higher-income earners who are usually more likely to get audited. For those earning $200,000 to $1 million, the chance of getting audited is 2.2 percent (more than twice that of the average income earner). Those earning more than $1 million have a 7.5 percent chance. However, even those rates are continuing to drop.The only exception is the expatriates. More stringent regulation of off-shore assets has resulted in a higher number of American taxpayers who live abroad being audited.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "The IRS Has New Favorite People to Audit," at Bloomberg, April 9, 2015.][CLICK HERE to read the report, "2014 IRS Data Book," at IRS.gov, March 2015.]Many retirees or near-retirees often consider moving to another location when they retire, or even just downsizing to help save money. Regardless of whether they stay or go, most report they're happy with their decision. A full two-thirds of retirees say they currently live in the best home of their lives. Another point of interest is the number of retirees who do decide to settle somewhere new: 64 percent say they're likely to move at least once during retirement.Where are they moving? Recently, [...]

By | May 26th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

3 Tips for Doing Something Better

You see those article headlines all the time: "10 Tips for ..." blah blah blah. The writer claims to have simplified some common problems we all face -- losing weight, achieving happiness, getting along with your boss at work -- into three, five, or 10 nuggets of no-fail wisdom. Often we find two or three that are useful and ignore the rest because they seem benign or we've already tried them and know they're no panacea for success.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Numerals in headlines quantify value, draw readers," from Wylie Communications, April 3, 2015.]Sometimes it's helpful just to remember that life is a journey, not a destination. After all, the sooner you get to a destination the sooner your journey ends. And when it comes to living, well, that's not a good thing.So here are a few insights garnered from recent Internet articles that may be more helpful than doing a kale cleanse or trying your sister-in-law's new miracle diet.1. Relocate to a happier place.The happiest people in the world reportedly live in Europe -- namely Denmark. In fact, retired Danish women claim the highest order of cheerfulness, consistently reporting a happiness score of 8.5 out of 10. According to recent research, geography does play a factor in happiness, which is probably less of a revelation for people who live in excessively cold or depressive surroundings. For those in sunnier climates, they probably recognize and appreciate this fact on a daily basis.A second indicator of happiness is income -- [...]

By | May 19th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Best-Laid Plans

A recent survey revealed that six out of 10 Americans believe they are inadequately prepared for a financial emergency, and only 50 percent feel that they are overall financially secure. For most, planning for retirement is one of their biggest worries. This stress is further exacerbated by the fact that most Americans reported having experienced a financial setback last year -- something along the lines of reduced income, hospital bills, the loss of a spouse, or a major repair bill for their home and/or car.[CLICK HERE to read the report, "How Much Should Workers Save for Emergencies?" from Hello Wallet, accessed April 3, 2015.]Perhaps even more illuminating, 21 percent of Americans say they are not planning to retire. At all. Unfortunately, even the best-laid plans can go awry -- and that includes a plan to continue working. Many manual labor jobs are simply impractical to continue after a certain age or long-term, wear-and-tear on the body. In the white collar-world, a larger number of better-educated employees are delaying retirement or electing to work to some degree during retirement. In fact, more than half of the highest-income quartile of those 65 and older worked in 2013.When you think about it, this could create kind of an interesting phenomenon: Higher income earners may continue working to a very old age while lower-income earners retire to a life of (albeit low-income) leisure.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Americans' Financial Security," from The Pew Charitable Trusts, March 5, 2015.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "The five [...]

By | May 12th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Longevity Decisions

People over age 90 are now the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. By mid-century, this population is expected to quadruple. Many researchers currently are studying what the commonalities are for longevity and whether we can replicate them either in lifestyle choices or perhaps even pharmaceutically.A "60 Minutes" episode last year revealed some interesting findings about people over age 90, based on data originally gathered on this group back in 1981. Some marked commonalities among this group included:Exercise every day is correlated with a longer life. As little as 15 minutes a day is effective, but 45 minutes a day is ideal (even more ideal than two hours a day). Also, it isn't necessary that the exercise be intense or all at once -- it can be spread throughout the day through walking, gardening, housework, etc.Taking vitamins has no impact on longevity.Clean living is not a factor; people who drink alcohol tend to live longer than those who don't. And not just red wine -- all types of alcoholic beverages, up to two servings a day.Coffee drinking -- consuming the caffeine equivalent of one to three cups a day is consistent with longevity.Engaging in non-physical activities, such as book clubs and bridge, are consistent with a longer life. The more activities, the better.Eating -- not worrying about food intake is a common theme. In fact, moderate weight gain as you age is OK; being underweight is a negative factor for longevity.One study from Brigham Young University further contributed to [...]

By | May 5th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Happy Breeds More Happy

In the 20th century, the typical retirement lasted about 10 to 15 years. These days, if you retire in your 60s, your golden years could last upward of 30 years or more. The more people recognize this, the more it becomes evident that we can't work our careers in quite the same manner anymore. Working for 40 years -- particularly in our more materialistic culture -- typically won't provide enough income to both live and save for a retirement that could last nearly the same amount of time.Longevity experts are now calling for a revolution in the workplace, one that enables people to work longer. For one thing, it doesn't help our economy to have our most knowledgeable and experienced workers completely out of the workforce. On the other hand, few people want to work for 50 or 60 years without taking a break. So, why not take a break?[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Retiring retirement?" from Fidelity, Feb. 4, 2015.]Today's longer life expectancies behoove employers to consider more flexible and part-time options for people. Employers may need to consider options for employees to move in and out of the workforce periodically. In other words, being out of workforce for a few years shouldn't hurt a person's ability to find a new job.With this new approach to work, young people could travel the world for six months to a year at an age in which they can truly soak in that experience. They could enter the workforce and work long [...]

By | April 28th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Funny About Money

Money is both basic and complicated. It enables us to get the things we want, yet people are often reluctant to talk about how much they make, how much they have or how much they pay for things -- even to their own family.In fact, according a recent survey of affluent investors:62% said they do not plan to tell their children about their net worth -- everThe lower their net worth, the less likely they are to tell their children75% of business owners said they do not tell their kids about their financial situationOf the 38% of investors who did tell their children about their net worth:- 61% said they did so in case something happened them- 56% said they wanted their children to understand the implications of major financial decisions, such as their college choice- More than 50% said they spoke to their children about the family's net worth once they reached age 21 or older [CLICK HERE to read the article, "Over half of wealthy people don't tell their kids what the family is worth," from Business Insider, March 4, 2015.] [CLICK HERE to view the video, "The Mistake 80% of Parents Make with Allowance," from Time.com, March 6, 2015.]One of the newest innovations in money is "virtual currency." The most popular version is bitcoin, which was created in 2009 but no one knows by whom -- the person used the alias Satoshi Nakamoto. That may seem incredible, but bitcoin is no joke. Bitcoins can be used to buy merchandise anonymously all over the world [...]

By | April 21st, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

2015: Beyond the Cold

As parts of the country dig out from under the snow this winter, it's important to remember that, despite life's uncertainties, you can always count on one thing: Spring will come.It may be a small comfort, but it never fails that sunshine, warmer temperatures, blooming flowers, leaves appearing back on the trees and people enjoying themselves outdoors has a calming, hopeful effect on so many.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Unrelenting snowfall darkening our moods," from The Boston Globe, Feb. 10, 2015.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "How Spring Opens the Mind," from The Atlantic, March 21, 2014.]This year, economic experts believe there is much to be positive about. 2015 started on strong footing with lower oil prices, higher jobs reports and, according to one analyst, positive indicators that wages are finally going to pick up. While home-buying numbers fell, the average sale price of houses rose. These factors combine for a potential bottom-line impact on household budgets and individual purchasing power. This is great news domestically and abroad, since consumers drive about two-thirds of the U.S. economy.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "A year of wow," from Fidelity Investments, Feb. 20, 2015.]Before 2007, there were 10 postwar recessions that ranged in length from six to 16 months. The 2007-09 recession, which officially lasted 18 months, is recorded as the longest and most severe recession in the postwar period.One of the most important tenets of moving forward with a positive outlook is to remember where you've been. First off, recognize that we survived [...]

By | April 14th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Keep Calm and Carry On

During World War II, the British government used a poster campaign to help the general public prepare for and deal with the realities of war on their personal lives. The first poster was encouraging: "Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution will Bring Us Victory." The second was a bit menacing: "Freedom is in Peril."The third and most well-known, "Keep Calm and Carry On," was ironically never even distributed. It was scheduled to be posted should Germany invade Britain, but that never happened. Perhaps it has been the most enduring missive due to its more tempered message -- both realistic and reassuring.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Keep Calm and Carry On, The Real Story," from The Churchill Centre, Mar. 7, 2012.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "So what is this Keep Calm and Carry On thing all about then?" at Keepcalmandcarryon.com, accessed Feb. 20, 2015.]Throughout the recession, we looked for hope. Instead we got a slow, lumbering recovery -- both here and abroad. But apparently we don't need a booming global economy to carry on. Great times may be great, but as we've witnessed over the last few years, good times aren't so bad either.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Stock markets keep calm and carry on," from Reuters, Feb. 18, 2015.]You may be familiar with the oft-quoted adage that you can't control the things that happen to you, but you can control the way you react. According to a recent Forbes article, there are five surefire ways to help adjust your attitude [...]

By | April 7th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Love and Marriage

As the song goes, "love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage." Interesting then, that if you don't put the horse in front of the cart, things go awry. Perhaps it is the same with relationships.Only about half (50.5 percent) of Americans ages 18 and over were married in 2012, which is a significant drop from nearly three-quarters (72.2 percent) in 1960. However, 70 percent of American adults confirmed they were in a committed relationship of some sort.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "5 facts about love and marriage," at Pew Research Center, Feb. 14, 2015.]As the traditional transition of romantic relationships into marriage continues to shift, so too does the conversation regarding gender roles, both in and outside the home.Gender disparity continues to persist in the professional world. The degree however, depends upon your perspective. In one study, 72 percent of male senior executives agreed that much progress had been made toward women's empowerment and career progression. However, among female executives, about the same percentage (71 percent) disagreed with that statement.Stereotypical roles of men and women still run quite deep, regardless of how far society progresses. In short, while people often theoretically support the advancement of women, perceptions of women in the work environment show there is an underlying bias. This is evidenced in a Fortune magazine research report that analyzed how men and women were labeled in personnel reviews: 76 percent of feedback on women included descriptions like "abrasive," "judgmental" and "strident." Only 2 percent of reviews [...]

By | March 31st, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Consumption

In society, consumption means a variety of things. Economically speaking, the term refers to the purchase of consumer goods. In ecology, consumption refers to the natural food chain. And finally, the antiquated definition of consumption refers to tuberculosis -- the infectious disease of yore.Today, we generally speak of consumption as a positive economic force. After years of high unemployment and low consumer confidence, people are finally building a financial foothold and beginning to spend money again. Of course, like the disease, consumption can become infectious to the point that it leads to over-spending and living beyond one's means. Then, too, exuberant consumption can lead to a greater schism in wealth inequality, because some people can afford to spend more discretionary income while others would be wise to save it.Recently, at least one retailer claimed that if we don't spend beyond our needs, the overall economy will suffer. As voices call to limit consumer spending and over concerns for over-consumption of ecological resources, the head of the world's second-largest fashion retailer said the poor will suffer most if we decrease consumption. Instead of limiting typical buyer behavior and possibly leading to higher prices and loss of jobs, he advocates that companies be more innovative in their raw materials and manufacturing.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "CEO of H&M: reducing consumption will create a social catastrophe," from The Guardian, Feb. 3, 2015.]The reality is that consumer consumption is critical to our economy, representing approximately 70 percent of U.S. economic activity. In the final [...]

By | March 24th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Power of Confidence

In January, American consumer confidence reached an 11-year high. The University of Michigan consumer sentiment index rose to 98.1, up from 93.6 in December, which is the highest level since January 2004.Thanks to lower gas prices, more people said they are likely to buy a car than in any other time in the last decade. Folks also indicated they were back in the market for big-ticket household items -- which may well need to be replaced by now -- such as a washing machine or vacuum cleaner.While the job market remains at an uptick, workers today admit they still feel less secure about retaining their jobs than workers did back in the late 1970s. They fear not just losing their job -- but not being able to find a comparable job if they did. Alas, although the economic recession technically ended more than six years ago, its scars still run deep.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Consumer Sentiment Brightened in January to 11-Year High," from Bloomberg, Jan. 30, 2015.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "Worker's expectations about losing and replacing their jobs: 35 years of change," from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2015.]With those levels of remaining uncertainty, it's no wonder our economy has moved so slowly to recover. Confidence plays a tremendous role in everything we do. Whether competing in sports or just trying to accomplish goals in daily life, how you feel about your chances for success can help tip the scales one way or another.For example, a psychology [...]

By | March 17th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Retirement Income Tips

A lot goes into retirement income planning. You have to estimate how much you're going to spend years from now, when sometimes it's difficult to know what you're going to spend this year. Cars break down. The roof leaks. The furnace needs to be replaced. Life is a cornucopia of who-knows-what will happen next.In addition to knowing what you'll need once the paychecks stop coming in, you'll need to consider what tax bracket you'll be in. You'll need to project how your assets will fare from now until and through retirement. Yet if there's one thing we know, it's that we can't predict the markets and we can't rely on historical performance to repeat itself.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Winging It in Retirement?" at The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Jan. 22, 2015.]Then there's the issue of health. Some people are fortunate and suffer only the minor aches and pains of getting older. Others develop more serious chronic conditions, both mental and physical. Taking screening tests and conducting a comprehensive family history can help spot genetic predispositions to certain conditions. But even then, some people who are predisposed go unscathed, while others with no genetic markers acquire some unsuspecting ailment that changes their retirement plans.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Careful planning can ease retirement's health costs," at CNBC, Jan. 20, 2015.]This income planning process for retirement can seem bleak, but perhaps it's only a matter of approach.Remember when you saved for your first car, or your first home? [...]

By | March 10th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Wage War Wages On

The hacking incidence at Sony may have hurt actor Seth Rogen and the release of his film, "The Interview," but it was a boon for actress Charlize Theron. After leaked emails revealed her male co-star Chris Hemsworth was being paid $10 million more than her in their film, "The Huntsman," she successfully renegotiated equal pay for equal work -- the longtime behest of gender equality activists.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Charlize Theron Negotiates $10M Raise after Sony Hack Reveals Male Costar Was to be Paid Millions More," from Think Progress, Jan. 12, 2015.]A recent study revealed the extent of geographical reach of unequal pay among men and women. In every state in the U.S., men make more money than women. Among the wealthiest women, the vast majority acquired their wealth as relatives of wealthy men. [CLICK HERE to read the report, "Men make more money than women in every single state across the U.S. -- with Louisiana's $16K gender wage gap being the widest," from DailyMail.com, Jan. 15, 2015.]In Washington, the debate over raising the national minimum wage is expected to continue. Critics argue that a mandatory increase, on top of the employer health insurance mandate, would be devastating to businesses and a major setback in unemployment levels.However, the Peterson Institute for International Economics recently tackled the question of whether raising the pay of low-skilled workers at large corporations can lead to higher productivity. It reports a plethora of advantages, including lower turnover, less absenteeism, less supervision, better health, improved productivity, [...]

By | March 3rd, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Political Environment: The Battle Begins in Earnest

The economy is in good shape for starting a new year, but lines have already been drawn in the sand where our political engine is concerned. Republicans have a long list of pent-up priorities, including the Keystone Pipeline, repealing portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and reversing the president's executive action enabling about 5 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S.Though wielding somewhat less power, Democrats and the administration will continue to focus on tax reform, infrastructure funding and foreign trade.[CLICK HERE to read the report, "CIO Outlook: Themes for 2015 and Beyond," from Merrill Lynch, Winter 2015.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "GOP agenda for Congress: Challenge Obama, prove they can govern," from CNN.com, Jan. 6, 2015.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "With GOP Congress incoming, Obama plots his 2015 strategy," from CBSNews.com, Jan. 3, 2015.]Despite holding a majority in both houses of Congress, Republicans may have trouble overturning previous legislation. However, there are strategies available to help them. One is the budget reconciliation process, a one-time per year tactic that requires only 51 votes in the Senate as opposed to the 60 needed to overcome a Democratic filibuster. Note that this tactic may be used only for budget-related items. For example, it could repeal tax subsidies offered on the health care exchanges, but it cannot be applied to the individual or employer health care mandates.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Republicans eye reconciliation route in bid to repeal Obamacare," from The Washington Times, Jan. 1, 2015.][CLICK [...]

By | February 24th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

2015 Outlook

Last year left the U.S. in decent financial shape. Oil prices tanked and the U.S. dollar surged. Inflationary pressure is low, and the stock market ended the year strong. The analysts at Fidelity believe this positive environment should continue at least early into 2015. The economy is in a mid-cycle expansion with solid employment gains and wage increases - although not yet across the board - and the outlook for consumers is good.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "December 2014 Market Update," from Fidelity, Dec. 12, 2014.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "Five themes for 2015," from Fidelity, Dec. 23, 2014.]Over at Merrill Lynch, analysts are similarly positive. They expect the economy to expand by 3.3 percent in 2015, energized by consumer spending now that individual debt has been reduced. On the job front, analysts expect the economy to generate around 240,000 jobs a month and the unemployment rate to continue dropping.[CLICK HERE to read the report, "CIO Outlook: Themes for 2015 and Beyond," from Merrill Lynch, Jan. 2015.]In the real estate market, housing prices are expected to continue rising but not at the same high growth rate as 2014. Thanks to predicted higher mortgage rates, there will be fewer buyers and the face of those buyers is expected to change. That's because millennials (young adults under the age of 35) are projected to overtake Gen X (those 35 to 50 years old) as the largest group of homebuyers in the U.S. this year.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Housing Outlook [...]

By | February 17th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Where Does the Money Go?

In December, Congress passed the federal budget for fiscal year 2015 at the last possible moment, avoiding yet another government shutdown. You have to wonder why this is such a difficult process.Within our own households, there are often two people -- sometimes with diametrically opposed opinions on how money should be spent -- who fight these battles and resolve them on a daily basis. Few families that have the resources available let things fester to the point where the mortgage or utilities go unpaid or they fail to shop for food. In other words, if we have the money, we would never let our household shut down while we argue over who gets a gym membership this year or who gets a new car.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "What's in the spending bill? We skim it so you don't have to," from The Washington Post, Dec. 10, 2014.]Like most households, there are certain expenses that must be paid and are non-negotiable. Then there are those that are more subjective. In the finance world, we call that discretionary income. Once all the necessities are paid for, we get to determine how we want to invest or spend the excess money. Since the national budget is largely funded by taxes, many people and politicians believe that taxes should be cut and there should be no excess income. However, mostly politicians battle over where that excess funding should be spent, such as toward social programs, border patrol, the military or job growth. [...]

By | February 10th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

American Pride

Bye China. Bye India. Buy Trenton. Who can forget the catchy 1980s union advertising jingle, "Look for the union label"? You can check out one of those ads at the link below -- it's almost worth a look for the retro-fashions alone.[CLICK HERE to view, "Look for the Union Label 1981 classic ad," from YouTube.com, uploaded Aug. 2009.]After years of slow economic growth, has America truly recovered? Perhaps not for every single person in the country, but pride in Americana appears to have rebounded nicely. Take the manufacturing industry, for example. Cheaper labor overseas resulted in the loss of 5.8 million factory jobs between 2000 and 2009. Yet since the financial crisis, economists report there has been a renaissance in American manufacturing. An estimated 150 companies have "reshored" (moved positions from overseas to the U.S.) since 2010.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "ANALYSIS: The Renaissance of U.S. Manufacturing Is Real but Maybe Not What You Think," from International Business Times, Feb. 4, 2014.]Just recently, New Jersey passed a bill requiring all public contracts to use goods made in America. Some testimonies against the "Buy American" bill predicted that state departments' inability to select cheaper foreign goods could increase the cost of living in New Jersey by 20 percent. Despite this, the majority of the New Jersey Assembly voted in favor of the bill, many reasoning their vote was about patriotism and the importance of confidence in the competitive abilities and quality of American manufacturing.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "'Buy American' [...]

By | February 3rd, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

City Burbs

The housing market continues to experience mixed results, depending on the area of the country and demographics. For example, while the homeownership rate for seniors is 80 percent, about 40 percent of those over 65 were still making house payments in 2010, according to a 2014 report from the joint center for housing. While many seniors prefer to stay in their own homes, those that are moving tend to seek out homes located near urban centers. Recent trends lean toward walkable city areas with a multigenerational population rather than retirement communities.However, as the job market improves, real estate insiders believe more young adults will enter the first-time homebuyers market. For 2015, some of the hottest projected residential markets include Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Des Moines, Iowa. The latter two boast large populations of millennials attracted by job growth and affordability.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Older Americans a Pillar of Housing Market with High Ownership Rate," from Bloomberg, Dec. 8, 2014.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "10 Hottest Housing Markets for 2015," from CNN Money, Dec. 7, 2014.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "Top Metro Areas Poised for Uptick in Baby Boomer Home-sales," from the National Association of Realtors, Dec. 10, 2014.]Urban centers are on the rise. The Brookings Institution reports that urban counties are growing more quickly than a decade ago, while suburban growth has slowed. The housing market in suburbs has suffered most notably due to the tightening of mortgage lending standards and fewer jobs. Young adults [...]

By | January 27th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Low Oil Prices: Who Wins, Who Loses?

The national average price for a gallon of gas is less than $3, with further decreases expected. But that's nothing new. Bear in mind that oil is a commodity, so its price varies according to cycles of supply and demand. For example, in 1986 and 1998, oil dropped below $10 a barrel. In 2008, prices made a dramatic drop from $145 a barrel in July to $33 by mid-December. In early December 2014, oil was about $66 a barrel.For folks looking for extra cash during this holiday season, lower gas prices are a welcome relief. One of the positives that accompanies low oil prices is an increase in consumer discretionary funds, which in turn leads to spending and can stimulate economic growth. The phenomenon also presents substantial savings for companies that rely on gas for transportation needs, such as national retailers, trucking and airline industries. Excess revenues can be redeployed for other needs, such as more jobs.One of the drivers of increased oil production, and therefore lower prices, is the innovation of fracking. Its prevalence in the U.S. has led to less dependence on the global oil industry. Countries that are large oil importers, such as China and India, enjoy greater savings as a result of paying lower prices.[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Slide in Oil Prices Is Blessing for Most," from The New York Times, Dec. 5, 2014.][CLICK HERE to read the article, "Don't Fear an Oil Bust," from Slate, Dec. 5, 2014.]However, lower oil prices don't benefit everyone. Take [...]

By | January 20th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Retiree Ingenuity

For many, the mind stays sharp as long as it continues to be challenged, and the trend of retirees working and living longer proves just that. Take Hugh Lyman, for example. When he retired, this small business owner pursued a long-standing passion as an inventor. Fascinated with the possibilities of using 3-D printer technology, he felt the expense of the plastic filament used was too high. So he developed his own version using lower-cost plastic pellets, cutting the cost of the material from $40-50 a kilo to $5. Apparently the cost of the original material was inflated due to a patent, so he invented his own workaround. Sometimes it takes a good bit of work experience to understand that there are alternate ways of achieving the same goal. [CLICK HERE to read the article, “How an 83-Year-Old Inventor Beat the High Cost of 3D Printing,” from Time, March 4, 2013.] However, not all retirees can afford to quit work and pursue their passion. One recent study asserted that the decline of company retirement benefits is a primary factor keeping older employees working longer than ever. [CLICK HERE to read the article, “Older Workers Clog the Employment Pipeline,” from MarketWatch, Sept. 30, 2014.] At age 70½, individuals can no longer make traditional IRA contributions, but they may continue Roth IRA contributions as long as they are earning income from a source other than a pension, annuity or required minimum distribution (RMD). If they work past age 70 for an employer with a 401(k) plan, they [...]

By | January 19th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Is Your Retirement Just a Number?

Throughout our lives, we are identified by numbers. Social Security number. Employee ID number. Driver’s license number. The amount of money that you make. The number of children and grandchildren that you have. The value of your home. Fortunately, those numbers are simply points of reference; they don’t truly define who we are. Our personal accomplishments do this. Our career. Our family. The way we respond in stressful situations. The way we treat people on a daily basis. But as we near and enter retirement, we are once again focused on a number: How much money might each of us need saved to live the retirement lifestyle we desire? If you watch the ads on television, you may get the impression that there’s one magical number out there for all of us that can make all of our retirement dreams come true, but that is not the case. [CLICK HERE to read the article, “Finding Your ‘Magic Number’ for Retirement Savings,” from CNBC, Aug. 27, 2014.] [CLICK HERE to read the article, “IRS Announces 2015 Pension Plan Limitations; Taxpayers May Contribute up to $18,000 to their 401(k) Plans in 2015,” from the IRS, Oct. 23, 2014.] One of the nice things about getting older is the wisdom that accompanies age. If you are in or approaching retirement, you’ve most likely learned by now that there’s no one thing that defines you and your happiness. Our lives, our challenges and our accomplishments are complex. So is our income. Throughout a professional career, income levels vary. [...]

By | January 19th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments