Liquidity is Everything!

One of the most frightening stories I have heard about a retiree is the one where her daughter came to our office and her face was ghostly pale. No, this isn’t a fictional character. Sadly, this story is too often told and true. Our client’s mother had been talked into an investment that “guarantees her a return with a bonus paid up front”. This particular investment sounds good but the problem was the mother’s age was 89 years young! Suitability is the key word for this type of investment. 

Investments that require prolonged surrender periods, the time at which you can recover your original investment without a penalty, should be skeptically analyzed for appropriateness for the investor. In the present instance, our client’s mother was 89 years of age and the investment had a surrender period of 12 years. Her mother would be 101 years of age before she could recover her $300,000 original investment. I will admit that U.S. citizens are living longer that that experienced in the 1860’s but the likelihood of living to 101 and not needing her funds for medical care is improbable. 

Not only did her mother invest the $300,000, she had very little liquid funds available should in-home aides be required or nursing home care admittance become a necessity. By investing in illiquid, long-term investments, the client’s mother would not experience the type of lifestyle she was accustomed. Diversification is an excellent tool to minimize exposure to this type of danger. These products are not illegal or unusual. The biggest hurdle for many people is that the products are sold by individuals with a benefit for themselves. Commissions on some of these products can be 10% or higher. 

A better alternative is to utilize investments that ladder or vary in maturity. For example, if you need fixed income interest payments, perhaps you would want to purchase individual, highly-rated bonds with varying maturity dates. Some jumbo certificates of deposit may be utilized for laddering purposes so that your interest rates vary depending on the term of the deposit.

If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. There is no substitute for sound, independent, financial advice delivered by a fiduciary advisor. Select someone that does not have a vested interest in the sale of the product but rather the success of the client’s investment in meeting their goals. As a Certified Financial Planner™ professional, it is our policy and process to place the client’s interests ahead of our own. There is another old question I ask some of my financial professional colleagues that brings this thought to light: “Would you invest your mother’s money in the same way as you are recommending your 89 year old client?”. 

Don’t take chances with your financial security. Apply generally acceptable and proven strategies for meeting your family’s needs. Let’s end this column with a quote from Warren Buffet, “Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.” See you on the golf course!

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The Power of Habits

Habits are much easier to form than to change. Good or bad, habits are formed by all of us, sometimes subconsciously. For example, which leg do you place in your trousers each morning while dressing for the day? Do you even think about the process of dressing or is it simply a routine that you follow because you have performed the same process for many years?

What do habits have to do with your finances? Everything! Many of the habits involving finances are passed down from generation to generation. Did you know that by simply saving $200 per month and investing it prudently for a period of 25 years, one could amass one million dollars? My personal habit of saving started when I was a young child. Granted, money was a little more difficult to accumulate in the 60’s and 70’s but I digress.

Analyze your living expenses and keep in mind the following phrase: “If your lifestyle exceeds your income, your outlook will be bleak.” One habit that should be learned by everyone is the habit of saving. For example, lets assume both spouses are working and the family has excessive (or discretionary) cash flow each month. Why not assign that excess to a savings plan for future needs? We inform many of our clients that their income needs in retirement will be approximately 80% – 90% of the pre-retirement income. Many are shocked with this statement! Think about what is happening during the retirement phase of life. Are you simply going to stop driving your car, eating regularly, utilizing electricity and other utilities in your home? Of course not.

Another habit we hope you will consider is the habit of exercise. By “investing” in your physical fitness, you will reap generous benefits later in life. Mobility and wellness are easily maintained in our 70’s and 80’s rather than being developed in the same time period. Start now to develop the habit of quitting, yes, quitting. Quit drinking sugar-loaded drinks and consume water instead. Limit your caffeine intake each day. Stop eating processed foods and refined sugar. If you find your willpower lacking, seek out an accountability partner. These simple steps will start you on a path of fitness that will create adventures unsurpassed in your retirement years. 

By combining your new habits of saving for the future and maintaining your physical fitness, you have conquered a tremendous number of these hardships experienced by most retirees. Don’t fear being in the minority of retirees who maintain their mobility, mental health and financial security. We believe life is far more than money. Actually, to us, true wealth is all those things that money can’t buy and death can’t take away. If you seek to reach your potential in life, seek out a specialist that works with retirees and understands the challenges faced by this amazing group of citizens.

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Three Simple Steps to Secure Your Future

The word “retirement” sounds pretty scary to most people. The reason for this emotion is that they have failed to plan properly and lack confidence in the process. This article will provide you a simple, yet effective, roadmap to reach your retirement objectives.

First, stop thinking like everyone else when it comes to finances. Yes, it is fine to be different. You must understand that your circumstances in life are most likely different from many of your friends. Some employers support their employees in planning for their futures while others do not. Your new mindset should be that of “I will depend on no one but me for my future plans”.

Do you often wonder why the ultra wealthy have the financial security they do when they may have started life in a lesser social/fiscal position than you? Do they know a “secret” formula for success that has eluded you in life? The answer is a resounding NO. However, the ultra rich think far different than the typical person. For example, to accumulate wealth you must do this simple task: 

Invest for retirement first and then spend the rest

If you have a goal of saving ten percent of your income, place this 10% in your retirement and then plan your spending with the remaining 90% of your paycheck. For many of us this will sound very opposite than what we have been doing for our adult lives. Remember, it is OK to be different because you have different dreams and aspirations than anyone else. Don’t listen to the negative comments of the mass population who struggle from paycheck to paycheck with no change. You can make this change rather quickly and simply.

Second, learn to live within your means. This step requires you to know where each of your dollars are spent. To accomplish this, write down every penny spent for a week. Upon the conclusion of the week, categorize the areas you have spent your money and you may be startled when you become aware of where your money went! For example, “Did I really spend $32 on specialty coffee this week?!?” “Do I need all of the subscriptions that I don’t read regularly?” “How did I accumulate a bad habit, like tobacco use, that costs me $40 per week or $160 per month??”

Once you analyze your spending, you will quickly see areas you may derive savings for a better purpose – your future. The most difficult part of this process is writing everything down. To accomplish this, purchase a small notebook and carry it with you at all times. Record every penny you spend for whatever reason. Be honest with yourself. The only person to be cheated by not being honest is your future you.

Remind yourself daily, if not several times per day, the “why” for taking these measures in your life. You deserve a comfortable retirement, in terms you define, and can reach your goals with small steps performed on a daily basis. The action step to take is:

Know where your money is being spent and correct course

Lastly, Step 3 is the most impactful, powerful and simple of the steps to reach your retirement goals – measure your progress and celebrate when reaching small goals. The purpose of this step is to remember that you are on a journey and the lifetime goal is too far away to see. The best method for reassuring yourself of the progress you are achieving is to look for the next step in conquering your next challenge, not the ultimate lifetime goal. The last action step is:

Celebrate small wins frequently!

To assist you in the process of defining your roadmap for the future, you may wish to seek out a financial adviser or CPA that specializes in retirement planning. The price paid by far too many people for failing to plan is very severe. Don’t pay that price, take these simple steps today to design the future you wish to live.

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