How To Remain Prudent During Market Cycles

What goes up must come down! Whoever authored this statement of life events and business activities should receive the award for the Most Obvious Statement. However inane the statement, it does contain a little truth when applied to our current economic cycle in the United States.

Factors such as inflation, supply chain disruption, interest rate increases, U.S. Government fiscal policies and continued underemployment in our country have caused significant volatility in the markets. It has been a literal rollercoaster for the various market indices used to measure performance of the exchanges in the U.S.

At the start of 2022, the S&P 500 Index was at 4674.77 and closed on May 6, 2022, at 4175.48. This decline of 16.26% has caused investors to worry about the future of their retirement assets. To mitigate the emotional impact of such a decline, consider past market declines and learn from the period of time after the correction. For example, by remaining calm and investing in a well-diversified portfolio, you will recover your unrealized losses in the future. If you are planning to make a large purchase during a market downturn, it may be fiscally more responsible to consider bank loans which carry a much lower rate of interest. Once the markets recover and the value of your portfolio is an unrealized gain, sell a portion of the investments to liquidate your debt.

Another measure of thriving during market cycles is to utilize noncorrelated investments that respond better to inflationary pressure. For example, real estate is a sector of the economy that maintains cash flow and value during market declines. Think about this approach to your income needs during a period of market contraction. Real estate investors continue to collect rents on a monthly, or some other predictable period, basis no matter the state of the economy. 

Of course, no investment is immune to such historic market events as the Wall Street Crash of 1929 or Black Monday in 1987. The key to facing any market disruption is to not allow emotions to control your decision making. One of my favorite quotes of Warren Buffett, “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful” comes to mind during times we are currently experiencing.

Lastly, remember that you most likely took several decades to amass your retirement assets. The intention of these assets is for them to last you several decades in the future. Unless the need for capital was immediate at retirement, your portfolio will grow and contract as market conditions change. By maintaining a long-term perspective, you will be better suited to investing in positions that are below their book value and allow for a growth opportunity in the future. There are positions that are available for you to make reasonable long-term returns while the overall economy is in contraction.

Keeping perspective and maintaining a well-diversified portfolio will help you weather the storms of the economy much better than attempting market timing. Predicting markets is not an approach that serves you well. If you wish to evaluate your portfolio, contact a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professional. Worry never solved a challenge.

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Staying Focused is the Key

Ask any all-star athlete the secret to their success and they will tell you – focus. This past weekend at The Masters in Augusta, Georgia, Tiger Woods initiated his triumphant return to professional golf. During his post-round interview after he finished the tournament, Woods used the word “focus” several times to describe to the interviewer what his secret was in returning to competitive golf after such a devastating automobile accident.

Life is similar to a sport, perhaps a marathon race. It is difficult for many of us to see the long-term impact of initiating and maintaining a savings plan from age 20 to age 67. As my dad often used the “stick and carrot” analogy, the younger investors can’t taste the carrot due to the overwhelming length of the stick. For those that can maintain the zeal for living a life prepared for unexpected instances that require substantial resources, success is often the outcome.

Younger people look at me with disbelief when I explain the power of compounding to them. To paint the picture in a manner that “shortens the stick and sweetens the carrot”, I ask them to look at their investment account every six months. One of the first statements they utter is “Wow! Look how much I saved and I didn’t miss the money.” Albert Einstein, the great physicist, was credited with a quote about compound interest: “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it. He who doesn’t, pays it.”

To create a system of focus pertaining to your finances, it is critical that you automate as much of the process as possible. For example, if you are participant in an employer-provided retirement plan, your investment funds will be automatically deferred from your paycheck and invested in the manner you direct your employer. This is a simple method of automating your savings and also receiving consistency in the process.

If you work in a company that does not provide an employer plan, you can accomplish the same automation with an ACH (automated clearing house) election. This process works very similarly to that of your employer election. By filing a form with your wealth advisor to transfer a certain amount of money at a fixed frequency, you will not be required to physically write a check, prepare an envelope or worry about finding a stamp to mail the deposit. Your life will be much simpler from an investment standpoint and you can worry about things such as fishing, golf or running.

If you wish to automate your savings for retirement, it is critical that you have a plan in place to accomplish your goals. See the advice and create a plan for your future by visiting a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professional. Take control of your future and you will enjoy less stress in life. See you on the pickleball court!

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Prudent Steps to a Secure Future

Our world is experiencing disruption on a global basis. War in Ukraine, inflation at a 40 year high, gasoline prices reflect the 70s, and continued impact of a rampant virus. Have you had enough? Yes, me too. However, my father taught me that words are cheap and action is riches. This was his statement to, “quit griping and start working” to achieve better results.

The people of Ukraine are suffering in ways that U.S. citizens cannot relate. All of us can sleep tonight in a warm bed, eat a nice dinner and drink water that is potable. Medical care is available and jobs are plentiful. Why I am stating the obvious? To provide you some perspective. Life is good in the United States even in the midst of all this disruption.

When experiencing moments of potential recession, it is critical that you review your future plans to determine if small adjustments are needed. It is important that we understand the current economic environment will pass (no, I don’t know when) and life as we know it will return for us. The resilience of our republic continues to amaze me.

The following steps should be considered to provide your family a more secure future. First, review your cash flow spending and determine the priority of these items. Do you actually need a new laptop or is it a want? Is a new car needed or do you simply want one? Also, remember it is better policy to make sound financial decisions based on your current cash flow, savings and needs rather than surrendering to the fancy marketing of the gadgets that make us more comfortable.

Next, reduce debt balance to zero as quickly as possible. The purpose of this is to relieve the pressure on your family’s budget. Any credit card balances should be paid monthly to eliminate the potential cost of credit through high interest rates. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is recommending, next week, a 0.25% increases in the discount rate to be implemented for purposes of slowing the rampant inflation rate in the U.S. Additional rate increases are anticipated through 2022.

Another step is to review your portfolio to determine your true risk inherent in the underlying positions you own. In the past 12 years, the U.S. markets have rewarded equity investors. In the current market contraction, it would be advisable to review your positions for possible gains to protect the overall balance in the account. I am not suggesting market timing. However, I am recommending that you determine a price you would wish to reach before selling your investment positions. For example, lets assume we buy AstroWorld common stock, a fictitious company, for $35.00 per share and set a price of $70.00 at which we would sell the position. One of the greatest investors in history was a man named Peter Lynch. As the manager of the Magellan Fund of Fidelity Investments, his fundamental approach to investing was to perform the same process on each position he bought in the fund. If it was a good approach for him and the fund he managed, perhaps it may be good for your family.

Lastly, keep calm during market correction periods. Panicking only increases the probability that you will make poor decisions that could harm your family’s future for many years. By thinking about your financial decisions with a cool head, the likelihood of taking advantage of market declines allows you to “buy low and sell high”. 

Of course, these steps will not ensure great returns or eliminate risk of loss. However, you will give your family and you the best chance to attain your retirement goals and security for the future.

One of the best methods of gaining confidence that your family’s finances are on the right track is to seek a complimentary “financial checkup” from a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professional. Your investments, like your body, may suffer if proper attention is not given. See you on the jogging trail!

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Buy or Sell?

Life has a way of keeping things interesting. After a long cycle of bull returns, the time for profit-taking has arrived. This is the process of capturing the gains in the investments that have performed well. I will explore some of the factors that are currently active in the economy, the markets and what you can do to maximize your family’s best interest.

The overall economy is improving in the United States. When I state that comment I sort of cringe thinking about the impact that is being felt by the families of our country. Inflation has reached a 40-year high at 7.5% according to tradingeconomics.com. Some of the factors leading to this excessive rate are labor shortages, soaring energy costs and supply chain disruptions. Based on a review of ktvz.com, March and April, 1980, inflation had risen to an unprecedented peace time level of 14.6%. Acknowledging that this rate is extremely high by today’s standards, the highest inflation factor in the United States was experienced in 1778 at 29.78% (Investopedia.com). 

Improvements in market controls, inventory production, delivery methods and banking policies contributed to maintaining a more reasonable inflation experience for many decades. It is not unusual for the people of the United States to be subjected to a 2% – 3% inflation rate in our overall economy. However, in our modern world where we rely on transportation and housing that must be heated and cooled with natural gas or electricity, an inflation rate above 4% begins to reflect on people’s lifestyles.

The unemployment rate is at historic lows for our country. This rate often touted by politicians to show their outstanding work on the economy is misunderstood by the mass of Americans. To properly understand the application of the rate to the economy, you must consider that underemployed and those individuals not actively looking for work are not considered in developing the rate. For those individuals seeking employment, there are currently more job opportunities than workers to fill them. This is a big plus for our economy. During times of high demand for skilled workers the hourly wage rises. It is simple economics – supply and demand. When demand for something (or someone) rises and the supply (people looking for work) is static or lower, the price for labor will be higher. 

Rising wages are good for workers until they realize the costs of goods rise along with them. Companies will increase prices on goods to cover the increased cost of labor while maintaining the profit margin necessary to continue operations.

Another factor affecting the economy is the supply chain disruption. Goods that are manufactured outside the United States must be imported for sale by businesses to the public. Recently, the shelves of some of the largest retailers have been limited or out of products demanded by the public for their functions in life. Don’t get me started about the “Toilet Paper Run of 2020”. There was plenty of the product for the current needs of people in our country. However, a rumor on social media stoking the fears of people caused a panic to buy greater quantities of toilet tissue. Some of the memes on social media were hilarious! At one point it appeared that toilet tissue would become the currency of choice due to the high value it held in the public’s mind.

All these factors create economic conditions of expansion or, more recently, contraction in the economy. People are subjected to many emotions in life. However, in my 34-year career, I have discovered two emotions that are most prominent when it comes to financial decisions about a person’s retirement and investment accounts – fear and greed. Memory fades quickly from the very positive returns of only a few months earlier when a market correction appears. People who have enjoyed almost 14 years of positive returns in their portfolios are suddenly stricken with the fact that markets can (and often do) go down.

Recently, I asked a client if she would sell her home if it went down in value. The look on her face was as if I had asked her to donate a kidney! Her response was “that is a long-term asset and has tremendous value to me”. I then asked the simple question, “Your retirement account is your lifetime asset. Why do you want to sell it when it is down?” She simply stated, “You are right.” The stock market is the only investment I am aware that people buy when its high and sell when its low. This is the opposite to increasing your overall lifetime return and cash flow.

Buy or sell? Each person must deal with their fear or greed. By remaining calm when others are frantic and scared, you will be rewarded with greater opportunity for growth over a lifetime. Make certain your risk tolerance is properly reflected in a diversified portfolio and your cash reserves will accommodate 90 – 120 days of living expenses. This correction will pass.

Your lifetime of financial security for your family is no laughing matter. To alleviate the stress from worrying about your finances, seek out a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professional to help you build confidence in your future so you can laugh all the way to retirement and beyond.

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Inflation Perspective

If you are living in the United States at this moment and have purchased any food, gasoline, household goods or clothing in the past month, you have noticed an increase in the cost of these items. This unanticipated increase in pricing is due to inflation. The definition of inflation is the increase of demand for certain goods above their available supply to be purchased.

In 2021, the U.S. Government printed significant volumes of money and distributed it back (and yes, it is the citizens’ money) to the people of the country to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. Layoffs, terminations and underemployment were significant during the pandemic and families needed assistance due to a lack of savings (Lesson #1). Economics can be a puzzling subject to many of us but it is recognized immediately and understood at the checkout counter. 

Last Thursday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics issued the most recent inflation statistic for our country. Inflation rose to 7.5% which is a height not seen in the index since President Jimmy Carter was in office. Food, a necessary staple for survival, rose 7.4% during the last 12 months, gasoline has risen 40%, electricity 10.7%, natural gas 23.9%, new vehicles 12.9% and used vehicles 40.5%. On a lighter note, if all of the stress from the higher cost of living causes you to enjoy greater amounts of libation, alcoholic beverages increased only 2.7% in the last year.

The tools of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, charged with keeping the economy running smoothly without such inflationary impact, are to increase rates at which banks may borrow funds to make loans, buy back U.S. government bonds and increasing reserve requirements of its member banks. Each of these actions has a corresponding reaction. For example, by increasing the discount rate for which banks would pay to borrow money from the Fed, the consumer requiring the loan will pay a corresponding higher rate of interest so the bank’s margin, or spread, on the loan will be maintained to cover expenses.

An increase in the discount rate ripples through the economy and impacts most, if not all, types of borrowing. Credit card and other personal debt will be more costly resulting in fewer people using such credit. The effect of this lowering of activity is that companies will sell fewer goods and, thereby, lowering the inflationary impact because the balance of demand and supply are closer to equilibrium.

As a consumer, there are a few steps you can take to help your family combat this rising of costs. First, review your family’s budget to determine if you had planned any purchases of durable goods or automobiles in the next couple of years. If possible, delay those purchases until inflation has decreased to a more reasonable level allowing the pricing of the items to lower.

Second, increase your savings. The reason for the government sending families in the U.S. thousands of dollars in stimulus and additional, protracted terms of unemployment benefits is due to a lack of savings for these families. Americans are poor savers compared to citizens of other countries. According to statista.com, for the period of 2010 through 2020, the following countries’ households, and their respective average savings rates, are the highest in the world: 1) Austria – 17%; Belgium – 14.3%; Canada – 15%; Czech Republic – 8.1%; and Denmark – 7.7% round out the top five countries.

The United States, in comparison to the above savings rates by countries, had a savings rate in December 2021 of 7.4% according to ycharts.com. To help our families lessen the impact of inflation, which will continue for approximately two years by my research, reduce spending and increase savings as significantly as possible. Further, delay any large purchases of durable goods unless it is absolutely necessary. Increase deferrals and contributions to retirement accounts to help reduce the outlay of funds for taxes.

There are many “tools” that families can use to mitigate inflationary pressure on their retirement accounts, reserve savings and family budget. A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professional can help guide you with your cashflow planning and management process. You should be seeking confidence and comfort during inclement times of the economy. Don’t allow your family’s comfort to be blown about like a ship out at sea when the financial winds blow. Take charge of your financial situation today.

See you on the jogging trail!

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Three Steps to Reduce Risk In Your Portfolio

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if you could predictably earn 8% returns on your portfolio every year and only invest in certificates of deposit? Of course! One problem with this thinking is that you wouldn’t live in the United States of America and the dollar would be worthless.

You face some type of risk every day of your life. While driving your car through town, you may experience an automobile accident. This is the risk of driving a vehicle. You think about staying home and raking leaves. A sudden gust of wind causes a tree limb to fall on your roof causing significant damage to your home. This is environmental risk.

We all seek the best outcomes but many of us do not wish to experience the associated risks involved in the process. The universe works within a risk/reward paradigm. When more risk is accepted, we expect a higher reward. By investing in certificates of deposit, you believe you are undertaking a risk-free investment. Alas, you may expose yourself to interest rate risk, inflation risk, default risk (highly improbable, but a risk nonetheless) and liquidity risk. That sounds like a great deal of risk for an FDIC-insured investment.

Diversify Your Portfolio

The best approach to life is to manage risk, not attempt to alleviate it. The first method of mitigating risk is to fully diversify your portfolio. Diversification does not remove the risk factors but may lower them to a more acceptable level by investing in many different types of investments that are noncorrelated. Simply put, don’t put all of your monetary eggs in one basket.

Inexperienced investors make mistakes that may cost them significant money and time. 

Two emotions generally guide individuals in their investment approach – fear and greed. One of the best methods of taking advantage of the stock market, an auction market in which one entity is selling the shares and another is buying them, is the focus on the emotions of other investors in the market. The famous investor, Warren Buffett, is cited as originating a quote that is used as the premise to maximizing your opportunities in the stock market – “Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful.”

Understand the Investments You Are Buying

The second method of reducing risk in your portfolio is to understand the investments you are buying. Significant hype typically precedes Initial Public Offerings (IPO) as the underwriter is attempting to create a market for a stock. Without a historic picture of the company’s capabilities to generate a profit and pay a dividend, beyond its operations as a private company, the investor is buying based solely on prospective anticipated performance (i.e., hope). Many of the companies going public provide novel products and services not yet proven in the marketplace. For example, many IPOs will list for a price that reflects much higher value than the performance of the company may sustain. After the hype of the issue, realism sets in and the price may fall to a level that is a fraction of the issue price.

When to Rebalance Your Portfolio

Lastly, consider rebalancing your portfolio to its original target allocation when the variance is 5% – 10% above the intended percentage. For example, when your portfolio experiences growth in one asset class, the allocation for the original investments will change. Stocks have performed reasonably well in 2021 and bonds have provided lower yields. After the year has faded, you look at your portfolio and realize your 60/40 portfolio is now 75/25! Good news is that you have a larger portfolio value but inherently gained more risk. By rebalancing the portfolio consistently and timely, you will maintain better control of the risk in the portfolio.

Many investors may receive a benefit from seeking the assistance of a Certified Financial PlannerTM professional to analyze their portfolio. By implementing a few consistent steps in managing your retirement assets, you may increase your probabilities to achieve your ultimate goals. 

See you on the jogging trail!

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How To Secure a Happy Retirement Life

One of the most asked questions from our new clients is “How much wealth do I need to last my lifetime?” The obvious answer is “depends.” To help you quantify your needed savings for lifetime income, we will provide you three areas of life that must master to live the life you choose.

First, you must become a saver, not continue as a consumer. The highest savings rate in U.S. history was reached during the pandemic. Not surprising as most people did not feel safe shopping at local stores and malls but rather ordered online. Granted the online experience for shopping has improved exponentially, it is still not the experience most shoppers seek when a day is planned for the exchange of goods and currency (that is the phrase I use when my wife and daughters go shopping).

The savings rate for U.S. citizens in 2021 was a whopping 13.7% (www.statista.com)! This level of savings exceeds the 11% experienced in 1960. Is it enough to meet the demands of rising costs of living for most people? Perhaps if this savings trend were to continue for a period of 40 years representing the work life of most people, their post-career years would be sufficiently funded.

To bring another statistic into this discussion, the total savings of U.S. citizen in 2021 exceeded $2.3 trillion. This is a staggering amount of money considering the U.S. Government has distributed $4 trillion dollars during the pandemic. The average balance maintained in the 401(k) plan of a 65 years of age and older person is $216,720 according to www.personalcapital.com.

If you seek a lifetime of income, in the realm of reasonable support, it is important that you become a saver on a consistent basis to allow the compounding of investments to perform over a significant period of time.

Second, you must determine what happiness is for you in life. One of our clients was an older woman whose husband predeceased her while she was in her career. Her position was mostly clerical, and she enjoyed her work. During her career, she had the opportunity to invest in the company’s stock through a plan where the employer matched her contributions to buy the stock. The highest salary she earned during her career was $51,000, which was two years before her retirement from the company. Granted she worked for a good company and was fortunate to begin her career with the company while it was a fledgling start up organization.

At the age of 66 and 4 months, coincidentally her full retirement age for Social Security Benefits, we assisted her in filing for her benefits and prepared her for retirement. When we opened the most recent envelope containing her statement from the employee stock ownership plan, she could not help but grin at my expression. Her stock value was $1.5 million! She also was prudent and saved money through her employee retirement plan. The sum of this account exceeded $700,000. She looked at me and asked, “Is this enough for me to retire and keep my lifestyle?” Of course, we needed to perform our analysis and testing but offered her some probabilities that she would be simply fine in retirement.

The moral of the story is that time, once again, is the greatest impact on lifetime savings. Start early, be consistent with contributions and treat the account as your next income stream by never borrowing from the account for current lifestyle needs. Happiness for her was continuing to live in her home, travel to worldly destinations and help her grandchildren with college expenses. She, by thoughtfully planning, is still doing all the things that make her most happy in life.

Lastly, you must protect your health as you prepare for an active retirement. My father was one of those people that worked hard all his life and genuinely enjoyed his career. He suffered a heart attack in his early 40’s that opened his eyes to better care for himself so his future would be enjoyable. After finally retiring at 72 years of age, he has lived a wonderful life in retirement. He is reasonably healthy, has enjoyed cruises to Alaska and continues to do whatever he chooses to keep a smile on his face. 

His father, my grandfather, died in his early 60’s. I always told dad that he would need to take advantage of the opportunities to maintain his health so that he could break the average mortality for males in our family. He smiled that sheepish grin and said, “I am setting a new bar for the Williams men!” 

Exercise regularly, save consistently and find your happiness in life. By preparing prudently today, your tomorrows will be most enjoyable!

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Change — The Most difficult Task To Accomplish

Life happens with – or without – our consent! One of the most problematic areas of life is managing the fast-paced world of ever-changing financial, tax and estate information. In the past two weeks, the United States Congress has proposed more than ten bills, between the Senate and the House of Representatives, to increase tax revenue for the United States of America. Some of these proposed bills would impact your family. Others will impact families with greater wealth. Too often elected officials feel that they must act, whether it is a good outcome or bad one, to give the appearance of working for their electorate. Change is one outcome of working in our government and the impact is real.

As a CERTIFIED FINANACIAL PLANNERTM professional, one of the areas of control we bring to our clients is change. Of course, life is going to change almost daily. However, when you have a plan of action, with an expert in the field of planning guiding you through the maze of change, your probability of achieving your intended outcomes is much higher. Our role is to help you understand the impact of the changes on your personal life and finances. Frequently, you are subjected to changes without your knowledge. Consider inflationary impact on your investments.

One need only watch a few minutes of network television news daily to know her life is being impacted in positive and negative ways. Inflation has risen to 5.4% in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, and may not have reached its peak. How does this affect your life? Think about the different consumer goods you purchase in a typical week. How much has gasoline, milk, bread and medications increased in the past year? Has your income maintained the pace of this increased cost of living? In most instances, the answer to this question is “no”.

What you need is to formulate a plan that considers inflation as a pressure on your family’s budget. One of the economic factors that is pertinacious is inflation. This challenge to the value of a dollar is always a factor in planning. The bigger question is how much will inflation be in 2022, 2023 and 2024? If I knew the answer to this quandary, well, I would be on an island in the Caribbean sipping on an iced tea while watching the sun set. Oh, back to reality.

One mitigating approach to combatting the negative impact of inflation is to invest in assets that are inflation resistant. For example, you wouldn’t wish to buy a 30-year U.S. Treasury Bond while inflation is rising. The impact of inflation on the value of the security is considerably negative. However, you may wish to analyze your portfolio for investments in stocks that are more growth oriented to overcome the inflationary pressure you are experiencing.

Another area of change for which we have no control is the loss of a spouse or other family member. This type of change, we refer to as familial change, is difficult for most families to navigate, particularly when the person was a breadwinner for the family. What do you do now? It is critical that you seek the appropriate counseling from a licensed therapist or group to deal with grief. The next step would be to regain control of your finances. Seek out a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional to help gain clarity of focus and to manage the change to your best outcomes. When you meet with someone to discuss your personal finances, it takes a tremendous amount of trust. The good news is that you will gain significant optimism from the assistance that will empower you with confidence that life is back to your design.

Change will be present in our lives forever. However, you have the power to determine if the changes control you or you control the effects of the changes. One powerful tool in maintaining your control is to have a plan. Contact a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professional to help you gain control of your financial life. See you on the jogging trail! 

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Your Future Depends on It

Life consists of many different, and small, actions that create outcomes in a desired manner. This is a double-edged sword for many of us. Should we wish to purchase a new car or save for the future education of our children? Can we live in the current home or should be buy a much larger one?

The biggest challenge that American citizens face is one of priorities. Our country offers so much in potential personal and financial growth opportunities it becomes overwhelming for many people causing difficulties. Do I wish we had a different system than the current capitalistic markets? No way! However, I do wish to help people make more sound decisions with their hard-earned money.

An analysis of the savings rate, defined as the ration of money saved by individuals or families to their disposable income (income after taxes), reflects periods of time in which savings diminishes far below the required level to sustain the futures of the savers. Based on a review of the personal savings rate in the United States for the years 1960 – 2020, savings ranges were a low of 3.6% in 2007 and a high of 13.7% in 2020. 

The explanations for the differences in savings rates could be many different reasons – concern for the future due to the pandemic as in 2020 or loss of a job due to economic downturn effects. One obvious impact for savings is the need for short-term may be the purchase of large, durable goods such as cars, appliances for the home, etc. Savings for long-term needs may be for the purchase of a home, college education for the children, retirement funding needs as well as many other purposes.

According to research performed by Jack Caporal of The Motley Fool, 40% of Americans are afraid they won’t be able to retire because of setbacks caused by the pandemic. One method of mitigating the impact of economic emergencies beyond your control is save more money. I know, this is simply said and difficult to accomplish.

To reach your goal of saving more for the future, you must be honest with yourself and know exactly where you are today. If you are saving 3% of your after-tax income and wish to be saving 10% of after-tax income, this is quite a large difference in your lifestyle. One of the best means of saving for the future is the pre-tax contributions to your employer’s retirement plan. If you don’t receive the money in hand, the likelihood that your lifestyle will not conflate to a higher level is remote. My mother’s old adage of, “Out of sight, out of mind,” bears out this truth about money.

Second, record and analyze every penny of after-tax dollars that you spend over a two-week period. Earnestly think about the future and how you might be able to limit your spending in areas that aren’t positive in your life such as smoking or tobacco use. By saving the money he would have spent on cigarettes, my older brother informed me that he had an additional $3,118 in his savings and, as a bonus, felt better about himself. If that isn’t a win-win situation, I don’t know that I could think of one!

Cash flow management is the foundation to financial success. All things spring from the flow of cash and assets in our lives. Live your life as you wish; however, if you want to live longer, quit worrying about the daily costs of life and truly enjoy your senior years, you must start today. One of the best actions to start saving and stay focused on the long-term perspectives you wish to achieve is to seek out a coach or someone that can give you honest advice for your best interest. A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional can help you plan for the best outcomes in your life. What you do today is critical for your life. Your future depends on it.

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Basic Economics; Complex World

There have been times when the world around us seemed like it was always a sunny day and when it wasn’t rainbows appeared boldly in the sky. Recently, most Americans are feeling isolated and anxious because of factors beyond their control. The pandemic has forced us to abruptly change our lifestyle from one of hope to one of despair and desperation.

I have some good news and bad news. First, the good news is that the world is never bad in and of itself. Your interpretation of the world’s events causes you to perceive your current situation as bad. The bad news is that many of us lack the will, vision and desire to turn the current events into positive ones.

One of my favorite pastimes is watching people. I don’t mean watching them for purposes of finding humor but rather to understand why and how they may be feeling about life. Too often the hard times are written on their faces, hands and the gait of their walk. Life has a method of breaking people based on outcomes from poor decisions. 

A young mother and her very small daughter were in a convenience store recently while I was purchasing gasoline for my car. As I watched the little girl, of maybe three or four years of age, relentlessly asking her mother for some food to eat, the resounding decline of her mother rang loudly in my ears. She was told that they didn’t have any money for food. As I thought about this situation, I quickly decided to act by purchasing some food and drinks for the little girl. When I reached the counter to pay for the food and hand it to the little girl, I noticed the mother was ordering cigarettes and slowly found the money to pay the attendant.

This simple, yet excellent, example of economics popped into my mind. When faced with a decision that impacted them both – the buying of food to eat – the individual purchased something that only the mother could utilize for satiation. Addictions of all types are experienced, and holding captive, too many people in world. Poor choices with money cause even greater harm to the family unit when more wholesome choices were obvious.

After asking the mother if I could give the little girl the food and drinks, I saw a smile radiate on the little girl’s face like the noon-day sun! The two of them made their way out the door and a stranger came up to me and, with a haughty tone in his voice, said, “I wouldn’t have bought them food! Didn’t you see her buy the cigarettes?” I smiled and simply replied, “For me, it was only economics and kindness to buy the little girl some food. For her, it was the difference between going hungry and losing hope. You see, we live in a complex world that functions on simple, basic economics.”

The moral of this story is that each of us has limited means. What we choice to do with this resource can be an investment (buying a little girl food to help and provide hope) or simply an expense (cigarettes). The former pays dividends many times over. The latter causes greater pain when the goods are used up.

Before making spontaneous purchases for items, you may not have the means to buy, think about the type of use of your funds. Are you making an investment or simply spending money? The difference is enormous.

It takes producers and consumer to maintain an economy. Next week we will investigate the savings rate in the United States and provide you some strategies to help you become an exponential, economic saver.

Until next week, be a help to someone in need. Help change their life by applying this simple lesson in economics. You will be the one who receives the dividends of goodwill!

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