Should I Change My Investment Approach In Retirement?

While accumulating assets for retirement, many people utilize an employer retirement plan that allows consistent contributions while investing in a growth model. Their approach is to maximize the matching contribution from their employer and, perhaps, assume more risk than they would otherwise assume because of continued contributions. Let’s review the process of investing during retirement and the differences one will encounter throughout the distribution phase of the portfolio.

The most prevalent concern of any retiree is running out of money. To confront this fear, most retirees make the most critical mistakes with their investments. First, to seek safety in the portfolio, the retiree will change from a balanced portfolio of equities and bonds to a bond-dominant portfolio. Thinking the cash balance approach secures their cash during the contraction of the markets, the larger peril to the portfolio is the lack of participation in the expansion phase of the market cycle. In layman’s terms, the rate of return on most bonds will not be sufficient to maintain the retiree’s purchasing power during retirement. Rising costs of living expenses such as medical care, housing, food and other basic needs will preclude the portfolio from providing excess cash flow to the retiree unless the total portfolio is significant.

To resolve the concern of running out of money, we work with our clients to develop a sound investment approach that addresses inflationary pressure, periodic cash distribution requirements and market risk. One of the most effective tools to combat risk is to diversify. At the time of retirement, many of our clients will participate in an economics lesson. Albeit a short lesson, we simply ask, “how would you feel to be out of money and healthy?” This question is one that causes their face to wrinkle and the eyebrows to furrow. Typically, the answer given us is “I would not feel comfortable at all!” 

Obviously, we knew their answer but the exercise is one that makes them confront what risk truly is in their lives. So many people believe risk to be simply the loss of principal in their account. However, the greatest risk is outliving your means of support to where your longevity is not rewarded with peace and tranquility but rather anxiety. Our independent research has proven that most retirees sleep better at night knowing they will not be subjected to the need for family or state support. Independence is the reward for investing properly.

Seek out the advice of an independent financial advisor that specializes in retirement planning. You deserve a specialist for this phase of life just like your cardiovascular surgeon if you have health issues with your heart. If you have questions regarding your financial future, why not gain assurance that you are making the right decisions for your family? A visit with a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner may give you the confidence you need to live your life in a manner you desire instead of simply existing. 

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Post-Retirement Considerations

Nursing home costs in the United States can easily top $70,000 per year! Assisted living centers may cost as much as $4,000 per month for a one-bedroom private-pay facility. We discuss these lifestyle changes as part of our planning process for retirees. It is not always a popular subject to broach with newly-retiring people because they think of it as a negative. However, as specialists in retirement planning, we believe in educating our clients about all facets of the future that they might control.

Let’s think about the options and find a few methods of mitigating these possible future costs. For one, by maintaining an active lifestyle and sensible diet, one may escape these options or, at least, delay them. Many of our clients have seen the impact on their families’ and friends’ budgets from admissions to a nursing home. These facilities are of great assistance when transitioning our loved ones that experience a period of life in which continual support is warranted. 

Another option to utilizing these types of facilities is to accumulate sufficient funds that will allow you to remain in your own home with assistance provided by nurses’ aides and other medical providers. This option appeals to most of our clients that may simply have mobility issues and cannot provide for all aspects of their daily lives. We evaluate each client’s capabilities to accomplish their activities of daily living (ADL) and assist them in analyzing the impact of potential nursing care in their future financial planning budgets.

The six routine activities of daily living are: eating, bathing, getting dressed, toileting, transferring and continence. Each of us participate in these activities daily. To lose your capability to perform one of these activities may not be the deciding factor to start searching for an alternative to remaining in your home. However, when you lose the ability to conduct three or more of these activities, it is critical that the family consider nursing providers in the home of the individual or seek a nursing home.

To determine the appropriate level of support for a loved one, it is critical that the level of care replaces the daily activities that are not being performed by the individual. It may mean that you simply require an aide in your home for twelve hours per day. As the person’s abilities become more impaired, additional support and possible relocation may be needed.

One of the greatest ramifications of assigning a loved one to a nursing home is the emotional effect on the person. Too often this process is decided without input from the impaired person and the children simply need some relief from the care being required of them. Those of us deciding the fate of any person must consider the infirmed person’s wishes and desires. These decisions are some of the most difficult to make. By keeping the person informed of each step and soliciting their acceptance with the process, you may experience a better transition.

These types of decisions can have a significant impact on your retirement plans. Seek out a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner who understands all aspects of retirement. It is too important of a decision to simply guess.

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How to Confidently Prepare for Retirement

If you are like most individuals, considering the scope of the changes from an active career to retirement brings anxiety and a sense of loss. As specialists in retirement planning, we guide our clients in the process to, and through, retirement to provide confidence in the outcomes for their lives. One method in which we bring confidence to the process is by addressing an individual’s four biggest financial concerns about retirement: 1) paying for healthcare; 2) saving enough money for retirement; 3) liquidating indebtedness; and 4) creating and maintaining consistent, predictable income streams in retirement.

Healthcare costs are one of the most expensive areas of living for retirees. As we age, our healthcare costs may rise. One of our clients is suffering ill health in retirement and her medical expenses average more than $6,000 per month! Proper planning for healthcare expenses is critical before you retire. Not only do you suffer physically but the potential for significant cash need for healthcare may jeopardize the quality of life and the longevity of your assets to sustain you. Analysis of the probabilities for genetic health issues as well as capabilities for current physical activity of the individual will need to be addressed.

Saving for retirement is an area of life that is often delayed until it is almost too late to help the individual substantially. Too often individuals treat their employer retirement plan as a savings account and funds “emergencies” in life with plan loans. I believe this is tremendously detrimental for the long-term viability of their retirement assets. Emergencies can be mitigated by establishing a responsible budget each year and transfer extraordinary expenses to insurance coverages. For example, if you have a home, which is often one of the largest assets of a family, you should maintain adequate replacement value insurance on the property. Failing to do so could result in the family experiencing an exorbitant damage requiring more funds that are maintained in the family reserve account.

Eliminating or reducing indebtedness prior to retirement will provide an individual a higher annual discretionary cash flow. We have assisted many of our clients in a plan to reduce or eliminate debt prior to transitioning to retirement. It is inconceivable to plan for all potential perils and hazards in life but you will experience a more confident retirement by maintaining little or no debt while retired. Again, budgeting is the key to success for debt management.

Without consistent, predictable cash flow streams, your retirement will feel more like a burden than a reward. The secret to adequate cash flow streams in retirement is to start saving early in life and structure a retirement lifestyle that is within your means. Where we have witnessed this challenge is when someone retires without a thorough plan of execution and overspends during the first few years of retirement. The family is now in distress and substantial, critical work must be performed to remedy the situation. 

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Retiring On Your Own Terms

“I want to live by the beach,” said his wife. “I want to live in the mountains,” said the husband. Differences of retirement plans typically exist within the same family. One person may wish to retire in a different environment than the other. Many of our clients come to their complimentary initial consultation without a complete understanding of their spouse’s desires for retirement. Simply because someone is married to another person for many years does not translate to an understanding of that person’s long-term goals and dreams. Communication is critical in all relationships, in a couple pondering retirement plans it is vital.

To help our clients resolve differences of opinion, and desires about retirement, we developed an approach that addresses the three “E’s”: Environmental, Economic and Emotional. To fittingly address the needs of each of the partners, these three “E’s” provide a comprehensive background for each to gain a deeper understanding of the other. This article will provide you considerations for each of the three components of retirement planning.

Environmental considerations are critical due to the impact your surroundings play in the overall happiness and health of a person. For example, scientists have proven that environment affects a person’s overall satisfaction in life attributed to their surroundings. Some people are happier in sunny, warm climates while others enjoy the cold, harsh tundra. By understanding your partner’s thoughts on environment, each of you will gain knowledge about the type of surroundings desired by the other. We work with a client who enjoys mild weather and sandy beaches. To compromise, we divided the year into quarters and accommodated her wish for salty water in the winter and his mountainous terrain for game hunting in the fall of each year. They remain content at their primary residence for six months of the year during seasons that are not extreme. Compromise is the key and extending understanding with a mindset of flexibility helps with the creation of a joyful retirement.

Economic factors contribute to the retirement quality of all of us. Considering that you have accumulated more than a sufficient amount of assets to live anywhere you wish, economic factors play less of a role in the retirement decision process. However, lets assume you have saved but may have some cash flow difficulty in the future. It is necessary to consider all means of support and the term in which that support will be available. As presented in our last article, the location of your retirement home will be a considerable outcome based on your economic means.

After considering environmental and economic factors, the most influential of these three factors, emotional, must be broached. To illustrate the power of emotions in decision making, we will share this short story. Tom and Linda decided to retire. Tom had his mind made up that he would retire in the mountains with a cabin and enjoy the land around him for his ideal retirement. Linda, often submitting to Tom’s decisions, was in misery in the mountains. Her asthma, allergies and other minor health conditions only worsened in the humid, hot summers in the mountains. She tolerated the first couple of years in the mountains and simply decided to make her wishes known to Tom. After a deep discussion of all the desires for her retirement, it was decided that they would share their time in retirement between the mountains and her beachfront condo she had been dreaming about for many years.

Compromise and consideration of the environmental, economic and emotional factors of retirement will yield the most effective choice for couples. The transition time to retirement is difficult for many people. Seek out someone who understands the needs and desires of retirees as well as possesses the expertise to help design and execute a plan that is pleasing to both partners. Life is short. Focus on these three factors and live life on your own terms!

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Relocation Considerations for Retirement

One of the most difficult decisions in retirement planning is to relocate. If you reside in a state that has a high income tax rate, sales tax rate and/or ad valorem tax, it may be something to consider. During the retirement phase of life, your savings must last beyond your lifetime. To ignore the cost of living could be the difference between truly enjoying a lifetime of income and experiencing worry at a time in life that you shouldn’t.

A recent study of individual taxation by state yielded some not-so-surprising news. California, Hawaii, New York, Connecticut and Illinois are the highest taxing authorities on individuals. These states are currently seeing an exodus of its citizens to lower cost of living states. To eliminate 15% of your tax liability by simply relocating to Texas or Florida, states without individual income tax assessments, may provide the additional savings needed for your savings to last to lifetime.

Another area of consideration is property tax. If a state does not assess an income tax on individuals, it will, in most cases, utilize an ad valorem, or property tax, to generate revenue needed to fund the state’s functions. For example, some people consider moving to Texas due to its absence of individual income tax assessments. However, in most of the counties contiguous to the Dallas metroplex, the rate of assessment for property taxes creates more of a tax burden than one would pay by remaining in Oklahoma.

Personal property tax is another consideration when relocating in your retirement years. States have begun to assess sales tax on automobile purchases versus the excise tax previously charged for such transactions. It may take some of the joy out of your new purchase when you realize the bill from the state could be as much as $5,000! 

Lastly, two of the necessities of life are utilities and food. When considering relocating, the cost of meals and household utilities should be considered. In extreme temperature climates such as experienced in Alaska, the cost of food and utilities, compared to Oklahoma, are very expensive. Due to the lack of fruit, vegetable and dairy production facilities and farms, these important staples of life must be flown into the location. The costs of delivery cause extremely high retail costs for consumers. 

Although Hawaii may be the land of paradise many of us enjoy on vacation, the cost of living on the islands is very high compared to other states. Recently, we enjoyed a stay on Oahu and the cost of a gallon of milk was $7.99! If you are raising kids in your family, it may be cheaper to buy a cow. 

It is important to consider many aspects when thinking of relocating during retirement. Cash flow is the ultimate factor coupled with your ecological requirements. One of the lowest costs of living states is Tennessee but you may wish to see the beautiful ocean shore each day. Trade-offs are a part of our lives. Rate the most important factors for you before undertaking a move to another state.

If you have questions as to how you can create a lifetime income plan, contact a Certified Financial PlannerTM practitioner to assist in the analysis so that you can make the best decision for your family’s needs. 

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Big Changes Affecting Your Retirement

A couple of bills containing significant changes to retirement planning were signed into law by President Trump on December 20, 2019. We will provide just a few of the sweeping changes that affect most of us planning or currently in retirement. The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (commonly referred to as, “The SECURE Act of 2019) is effective for tax years beginning January 1, 2020.

If you are reaching the age of 70-1/2 and anticipated taking a distribution from your IRA, or suffer a penalty, the Act extends the date of required minimum distributions to age 72. When the present age of 70-1/2 was applied to IRA distributions, U.S. citizens were living fewer years, on average, than they are now. By increasing the age of required minimum distributions to age 72, the federal government has deferred revenue for another one and a half years which allows continued growth of the retirement funds. Many of our clients do not need or desire the distributions required under previous law. However, the penalty for failing to withdraw the IRA funds was more costly than the effective tax rate applied to the distribution. In other words, it was far cheaper to simply take the distribution and pay the tax bill.

The Act has closed a very effective generational planning strategy used by many people. No longer can your IRA be utilized for multi-generational planning (i.e., your grandchildren could have benefited from a “stretch” IRA strategy in the past). Under the provisions of the Act, the non-spouse beneficiary, or any beneficiary more than 10 years younger than the IRA owner, must take the full IRA value by the end of the tenth year after the death of the IRA owner. Of course, taxation will occur at a much sooner date than previously recognized due to the distribution occurring within ten years of death of the IRA owner. 

Congress and President Trump have expressly acknowledged that children require families to spend money for housing, clothing, food, etc. Another relief item for individuals adopting or birthing children is the use of $10,000 of your employer-provided retirement plan assets without penalty. Although the participant will be required to pay income tax on the distribution, the 10% penalty for early withdrawal will not subject the family to additional burden.

IRAs can be confusing for individuals. To assist you with helpful information, please go to Compass Capital’s Resource Center and watch one of our instructional videos. If you have any questions regarding your particular retirement plan facts, seek out a Certified Financial Planner practitioner and CPA that specializes in families just like yours.

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How To Avoid Common IRA Mistakes

Most retirees have heard the word “IRA” and may not fully understand this retirement savings plan. An IRA, or Individual Retirement Account, is merely a type of account that allows for the owner to grow, tax-deferred, the underlying investments within the account. I often hear people say that “I have an IRA for each year to diversify my investments.” It is often misunderstood that the IRA owner can own one IRA and maintain many different investments within the account. This article will help you avoid some of the common mistakes made by IRA owners.

Mistake Number 1: Avoid ineligible rollovers.

Under the current federal tax code, owners of IRA may rollover the IRA once-per-year. The confusion, and resulting taxable event, occurs when the owner interprets, incorrectly, the “once-per-year” requirement. This descriptor of time means literally one year from the date of the last rollover, not the calendar year. For example, if you performed a rollover on March 1, 2018, and performed another rollover on February 28, 2019, you would be subject to a penalty. 

Mistake Number 2: Missing the 60-day deadline.

A gentleman came to our office recently with a concern about his IRA. After much discussion, we provided him several alternatives to resolve his issue. His concern was due to advice he received from a friend that he could withdraw money from his IRA to purchase a piece of property and then seek financing from his bank to return the withdrawn funds. However, the friend, not a licensed financial adviser, failed to mention the strict timeline for such transactions. The Internal Revenue Code allows 60 days to accomplish the rollover to prevent taxation of the event. In this instance, the man was informed by his bank the process of underwriting the loan would take longer than 60 days. To illustrate the tax cost of this transaction, the man had withdrawn $200,000. The penalty of 10% assessed to the distribution, the man was under 59½ years of age, and the income taxes due now cost the man approximately $80,000! We quickly worked with his local bank to structure a lending arrangement that would allow him to return the withdrawn funds to his IRA within the 60-day mandatory deadline. We solved the problem but the stress it created was unbearable for the gentleman.

There is no IRS relief for missing the 60-day rollover deadline unless you file for a Private Letter Ruling with the IRS which will cost thousands in filing fees and you may not receive relief if your facts do not warrant such. The simple mitigation strategy is to not use your IRA as a lending source. Congress meant for these accounts to be long-term in nature and for retirement purposes.

Mistake Number 3: Failing to Meet a Hardship Exception.

One of the greatest contentions of angst to individuals is when hardship is being experienced by the family and funds in the IRA can’t be utilized for the particular relief needed. Unless the IRA owner experienced a natural disaster that is described in the Internal Revenue Code, the hardship distribution received from the IRA will be taxable and subject to a possible penalty for early withdrawal if the owner is less than 59½ years of age.

The confusion that causes this mistake to occur is that employer plans generally provide for a hardship distribution. IRAs do not. By statutory language, few exceptions to the penalty application to the distribution apply. Two of the primary exceptions we have seen are higher education expenses for a dependent and a first-time home purchase by the IRA owner.

This area of the U.S. tax laws is very complex. It is vital you seek appropriate guidance before potentially committing the mistake. If you are concerned about your investments and/or your IRA account, you may qualify for a Complimentary Stress-Test. Seek out a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner and CPA to give you the confidence you are in compliance and meeting your retirement objectives.

For additional, free information about investing and tax planning, go to compasscapitalmgt.com where you will find a wealth of information to help you navigate life!

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Last-Minute Retirement Planning Ideas

When you look at the calendar and realize another year has passed, it is time for a few more strategies to enhance your retirement account. Some of these actions may seem simplistic in nature but investing is not as difficult as many people would like you to believe. Investing in a diversified portfolio and rebalancing periodically is about as simple as any process can be for protecting your future.

Before you leave the office for the holiday season, consider reviewing your current portfolio within your employer-provided plan. 2019 has been a year of significant market growth in the United States. Record highs have been reached this year and this is a good result for most equity investors. With such growth in a diversified portfolio it is likely that your risk level within the portfolio has increased, too. 

To maintain the acceptable level of risk you originally desired at the onset of your portfolio development, it is critical to sustain the original allocation. This is accomplished by rebalancing your portfolio based on one of two methods: 1) time; or 2) asset class. This example is purely for educational purposes. When the portfolio was originally established, you may have chosen a 50/50 equity to fixed income allocation. Considering the markets have been very positive on your portfolio and your allocation has expanded to 60% equities. Based on the current allocation, you are now experiencing a greater level of risk than you desire.

By performing the task of rebalancing (i.e., selling your equities and buying more fixed income) you are keeping your level of risk in line with your original target. This strategy is the basis for most theories of portfolio design and risk acceptance. However, you must possess a degree of discipline that does not become greedy when times are good and fearful when the economy is contracting. As an anecdote, we often inform our clients that they must “be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” The stock markets are auction-based markets. Someone must be selling something for someone to buy it. This belief applies to new issues when a company desires to “go public”. The issuer of the stock is asking for a certain price (i.e., Initial Public Offering Price our IPO) and the public may desire to buy at that price.

Another yearend strategy we recommend is a review of the individual assets classes within an allocation. For example, small cap stocks performed excellently in 2017 and declined in performance in 2018. However, in 2019, the asset class is, once again, performing well. I am not saying that you should own small cap mutual funds. As an illustration, you should review each of the different assets classes and determine the inherent risk within your portfolio.

To help our clients control the amount of risk within their portfolios, we developed a system that “stress tests” their holdings and overall allocation. By analyzing the risk of the portfolio, the investor can be more comfortable knowing their portfolio is not invested at levels of risk that cause them worry. Also, we believe diversification must be achieved in market sectors and geographically to control the risk component.

If you are confused by some of the language in this article, don’t let it keep you from moving forward to protect your future security. You may wish for someone to “stress test” your holdings, asset allocation and project potential for your future. Seek out a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner and CPA that can help guide you through the confusion and help you reach your goals in a non-emotional and logical manner. 

For additional, free information about managing your portfolio in a manner that allows you to sleep at night, go visit the Compass Capital Management website. You will find a wealth of information to help you navigate life!

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3 Mistakes Most People Make With Their Retirement

During my thirty year career of guiding individuals to realizing their retirement goals, I have reduced the most critical of mistakes people commit when accumulating retirement assets in their employer’s plan. These mistakes can be overcome and people have a higher probability of reaching their intended goals.

Mistake #1: Making Decisions through Fear

Investing should be performed with a clear mind and thoughtful research being the driver for change. Too often people accumulating for retirement commit the mistake of making changes to their retirement plan account after the negative impact has occurred. This is the equivalent of turning on the hydrant and spraying water on your house after the structure has completely burned to the ground.

We believe everyone should self-assess their goals for retirement. These goals should be attainable. For example, everyone uses the same phrase when thinking about investments: “High return on my investments with no risk.” This, of course, is a fantasy. Risk is present in every facet of life including your employer-provided retirement plan.

To correct for this mistake, learn to keep calm during temporary market disruptions. With the volatility of our current markets, you would be buying and selling all the time and miss the opportunities to meet your goals for long-term growth.

Mistake #2 – Timing the Market

One of our clients informed us that a former colleague of his was constantly buying and selling in his Thrift Savings Plan. His friend thought this approach would prevail for better growth in his account. However, just the opposite has been proven true by economists and researchers of behavioral finance. To believe a long-term perspective can be maintained with such a short-term approach to finances is not a valid one.

To overcome this mistake, each investor should realize he doesn’t possess all of the knowledge of the market and may turn his retirement plan assets into a speculative investment. This does not have to be the case. We firmly believe proper allocation and diversification of your portfolio will keep risk at acceptable levels while obtaining long-term potential for your assets.

Mistake #3 – Borrowing from Your Retirement Savings

As individuals it becomes difficult for us to look at this bucket of money and experience struggle in our lives. Instead of adjusting our lifestyle and budgeting within our means, we use loans from our retirement plans with the understanding that we are “borrowing from ourselves so it isn’t hurting my account”. The fallacy of this statement is that you’re, in fact, providing for a shortfall in your retirement account during possible peak earnings or growth seasons. 

Your plan will require interest to be paid on your “loan”. The rate of interest is usually lower than your market returns and the smaller payments returned to your account may grow but your overall compounding effect will be diminished.

The overall solution to these critical mistakes is to ask for advice from someone that can hold you accountable to a plan that you design for your future. We serve as an advisor as well as life coach for our clients. To be that calming voice of assurance when you are making progress or the soft correction needed when you attempt to deviate from your plan allows us to help you achieve success on your terms.

If you are concerned about your current ability to reach your retirement goals in your TSP, IRA, 401(k) or other employer plan, contact a CPA/PFS or Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner for a complimentary consultation. You may find the answers you need.

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Simplify Your Life, Consolidate Your IRAs

Diversification is a common term heard by most investors. However, its true meaning is sometimes lost. Recently, we were meeting with a new client of ours that is retired. When the woman brought her giant, purple, three-ring binder to the first meeting, we were somewhat puzzled. Near the end of our first meeting, she opened up the binder to reveal that she owned six, yes six, different IRAs with a total of three advisors!

She must have noticed the look of shock on my face and responded with a phrase we hear, although erroneously, that this is a form of diversifying her portfolio. We examined her statements for the different custodians and asked if we could provide her a “second opinion” as to the state of her investments according to her goals. She quickly responded affirmatively and we set the next meeting.

After much review of the statements, we noticed a trend among the various advisors. Each advisor had taken a similar strategy to helping the client meet her lifetime income goals! Further analysis explained what we previously thought about her approach to diversification – the client had not truly diversified her portfolio but had concentrated her portfolio, inadvertently, by never informing the advisors of her use of multiple advisors. In other words, she was highly concentrated in certain assets classes within her total holdings that exposed her to significant risk. We use the term “overlap” to describe the result of using several advisors that essentially invest in the same assets classes.

During the second meeting we verified her goals, risk tolerance and cash flow needs to confirm our understanding. We provided her a consolidated report of all six IRA statements and she was alarmed at the problem she created with so many accounts. After explaining our recommendation of diversification in many different forms – asset classes, geographically, market sectors, etc. – she was ready to simplify her life. 

By combining all of her IRAs into one account, she reduced the amount of paperwork necessary to be maintained for tax purposes and monitoring of her investment positions. Additional diversification was achieved by including asset classes not previously in the portfolio that would reduce her exposure to risk while maintaining her need for immediate cash flow each month. Her smile was all we needed to see to know that we had provided her the highest level of response and service as well as a resolution to a worry she had been carrying for some time. She also through away the giant, purple binder!

If you have multiple accounts with multiple advisors, you should consider a simpler approach to achieve your desired result with a consolidated account of truly diversified investments. We have a saying in our company, “To make things complex is simple. To make things simple is complex.” In other words, let us help you make life simple that you can enjoy retirement on your own terms. Stress? We don’t think it’s necessary when you work with a retirement planning specialist. 

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