Smart Financial https://besmartfinancial.com Think Smart. Retire Better. Mon, 04 Nov 2019 16:48:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.4 Understanding Long-Term Care https://besmartfinancial.com/understanding-long-term-care/ https://besmartfinancial.com/understanding-long-term-care/#respond Mon, 04 Nov 2019 16:48:10 +0000 https://besmartfinancial.com/?p=12089 Understanding Long-Term Care
The important question: Are you prepared?

 

Addressing the potential threat of long-term care expenses may be one of the biggest financial challenges for individuals who are developing a retirement strategy.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 69% of people over age 65 can expect to need extended care services at some point in their lives. So, understanding the various types of long-term care services – and what those services may cost – is critical as you consider your retirement approach.1

What Is Long-Term Care? Long-term care is not a single activity. It refers to a variety of medical and non-medical services needed by those who have a chronic illness or disability that is most commonly associated with aging.

Long-term care can include everything from assistance with activities of daily living – help dressing, bathing, using the bathroom, or even driving to the store – to more intensive therapeutic and medical care requiring the services of skilled medical personnel.

Long-term care may be provided at home, at a community center, in an assisted living facility, or in a skilled nursing home. And long-term care is not exclusively for the elderly; it is possible to need long-term care at any age.

How Much Does Long-Term Care Cost? Long-term care costs vary state by state and region by region. The national average for care in a skilled care facility (semi-private in a nursing home) is $85,775 a year. The national average for care in an assisted living center is $45,000 a year. Home health aides cost a median $18,200 per year, but that rate may increase when a licensed nurse is required.

Individuals who would rather not burden their family and friends have two main options for covering the cost of long-term care: they can choose to self-insure, or they can purchase long-term care insurance.

Many self-insure by default – simply because they haven’t made other arrangements. Those who self-insure may depend on personal savings and investments to fund any long-term care needs. The other approach is to consider purchasing long-term care insurance, which can cover all levels of care, from skilled care to custodial care to in-home assistance.

When it comes to addressing your long-term care needs, many look to select a strategy that may help them protect assets, preserve dignity, and maintain independence. If those concepts are important to you, consider your approach for long-term care.

 

 

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A Bucket Plan to Go with Your Bucket List https://besmartfinancial.com/a-bucket-plan-to-go-with-your-bucket-list/ https://besmartfinancial.com/a-bucket-plan-to-go-with-your-bucket-list/#respond Tue, 01 Oct 2019 17:05:42 +0000 https://besmartfinancial.com/?p=11340 A Bucket Plan to Go with Your Bucket List
A way to help you prepare.

The baby boomers redefined everything they touched, from music to marriage to parenting and even what “old” means – 60 is the new 50! Longer, healthier living, however, can put greater stress on the sustainability of retirement assets.

There is no easy answer to this challenge, but let’s begin by discussing one idea – a bucket approach to building your retirement income plan.

The Bucket Strategy can take two forms.

The Expenses Bucket Strategy: With this approach, you segment your retirement expenses into three buckets:

* Basic Living Expenses – food, rent, utilities, etc.

* Discretionary Expenses – vacations, dining out, etc.

* Legacy Expenses – assets for heirs and charities

This strategy pairs appropriate investments to each bucket. For instance, Social Security might be assigned to the Basic Living Expenses bucket. If this source of income falls short, you might consider whether a fixed annuity can help fill the gap. With this approach, you are attempting to match income sources to essential expenses.1

The guarantees of an annuity contract depend on the issuing company’s claims-paying ability. Annuities have contract limitations, fees, and charges, including account and administrative fees, underlying investment management fees, mortality and expense fees, and charges for optional benefits. Most annuities have surrender fees that are usually highest if you take out the money in the initial years of the annuity contact. Withdrawals and income payments are taxed as ordinary income. If a withdrawal is made prior to age 59½, a 10% federal income tax penalty may apply (unless an exception applies).

For the Discretionary Expenses bucket, you might consider investing in top-rated bonds and large-cap stocks that offer the potential for growth and have a long-term history of paying a steady dividend. The market value of a bond will fluctuate with changes in interest rates. As rates fall, the value of existing bonds typically drop. If an investor sells a bond before maturity, it may be worth more or less than the initial purchase price. By holding a bond to maturity an investor will receive the interest payments due, plus their original principal, barring default by the issuer. Investments seeking to achieve higher yields also involve a higher degree of risk. Keep in mind that the return and principal value of stock prices will fluctuate as market conditions change. And shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Dividends on common stock are not fixed and can be decreased or eliminated on short notice.

Finally, if you have assets you expect to pass on, you might position some of them in more aggressive investments, such as small-cap stocks and international equity. Asset allocation is an approach to help manage investment risk. Asset allocation does not guarantee against investment loss.

International investments carry additional risks, which include differences in financial reporting standards, currency exchange rates, political risk unique to a specific country, foreign taxes and regulations, and the potential for illiquid markets. These factors may result in greater share price volatility.

The Timeframe Bucket Strategy: This approach creates buckets based on different timeframes and assigns investments to each. For example:

* 1 to 5 Years: This bucket funds your near-term expenses. It may be filled with cash and cash alternatives, such as money market accounts. Money market funds are considered low-risk securities, but they are not backed by any government institution, so it’s possible to lose money. Money held in money market funds is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Money market funds seek to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 a share. However, it is possible to lose money by investing in a money market fund. Money market mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the charges, risks, expenses, and investment objectives carefully before investing. A prospectus containing this and other information about the investment company can be obtained from your financial professional. Read it carefully before you invest or send money.

* 6 to 10 Years: This bucket is designed to help replenish the funds in the 1-to-5-Years bucket. Investments might include a diversified, intermediate, top-rated bond portfolio. Diversification is an approach to help manage investment risk. It does not eliminate the risk of loss if security prices decline.

* 11 to 20 Years: This bucket may be filled with investments such as large-cap stocks, which offer the potential for growth.

* 21 or More Years: This bucket might include longer-term investments, such as small-cap and international stocks.

Each bucket is set up to be replenished by the next longer-term bucket. This approach can offer flexibility to provide replenishment at more opportune times. For example, if stock prices move higher, you might consider replenishing the 6-to-10-Years bucket, even though it’s not quite time.

A bucket approach to pursue your income needs is not the only way to build an income strategy, but it’s one strategy to consider as you prepare for retirement. 

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Your Diversified Portfolio vs. the S&P 500 https://besmartfinancial.com/your-diversified-portfolio-vs-the-sp-500/ https://besmartfinancial.com/your-diversified-portfolio-vs-the-sp-500/#respond Tue, 17 Sep 2019 17:17:03 +0000 https://besmartfinancial.com/?p=11073 How global returns and proper diversification are affecting overall returns.

“Why is my portfolio under-performing the market?” This question may be on your mind. It is a question that investors sometimes ask after stocks shatter records or return exceptionally well in a quarter.

The short answer is that even when Wall Street rallies, international markets and intermediate and long-term bonds may under-perform and exert a drag on overall portfolio performance. A little elaboration will help explain things further.

A diversified portfolio necessarily includes a range of asset classes. This will always be the case, and while investors may wish for an all-equities portfolio when stocks are surging, a 100% stock allocation is obviously fraught with risk.

Because the stock market has advanced so much over the past decade, some investors now have larger positions in equities than they originally planned, and that may leave them exposed to an uncomfortable degree of market risk. A portfolio held evenly in equities and fixed income ten years ago may now have a clear majority of its assets in equities, with the performance of stock markets influencing its return to a greater degree.

Yes, stock markets – not just here, but abroad. U.S. investors have more global exposure than they once did. International holdings represented about 5% of the typical investor’s portfolio back in the 1990s. Today, they account for around 15%. If overseas markets struggle, the impact on portfolio performance may be noticeable.  

In addition, a sudden change in sector performance can have an impact. At one point in 2018, tech stocks accounted for 25% of the weight of the S&P 500. While the recent restructuring of S&P sectors lowered that by a few percentage points, portfolios can still be greatly affected when tech shares slide, as investors witnessed in late 2018.

The state of the fixed-income market can also potentially impact portfolio performance. Bond prices commonly fall when interest rates rise, which presents a short-term concern for an investor. If a bond is held to maturity, though, the investor will receive the promised principal and interest (assuming no default on the part of the issuer). Moreover, a rising interest rate environment may help the fixed-income segment of the portfolio’s long-term performance. New bonds issued in a rising interest rate environment have the potential to generate more yield than the older bonds of similar duration that they replace.

This year, U.S. stocks have done well. A portfolio 100% invested in the U.S. stock market in 2019 would have a year-to-date return approximating that of the S&P 500. But who invests entirely in stocks, let alone without any exposure to international and emerging markets?

Just as an illustration, assume that there actually is a hypothetical investor this year who is 100% invested in equities, as follows: 50% domestic, 35% developed foreign markets, and 15% emerging markets.

In this illustration, the S&P 500 will serve as the model for the U.S. market, MSCI’s EAFE index will stand in for developed foreign markets, and MSCI’s Emerging Markets index will represent the emerging markets. Through the end of July, the S&P was +18.89% year-to-date, the EAFE +10.31% YTD, and the Emerging Markets just +7.38% YTD. As foreign and domestic stocks have equal weight in this hypothetical portfolio, it is easy to see that its overall YTD gain would have been less than 18.9% as of the July 31 closing bell.

Your portfolio is not the market – and vice versa. Your investments may return less than the S&P 500 (or another benchmark) in a particular year due to various factors, including the behavior of the investment markets. Those markets are ever-changing. In some years, you may get a double-digit return. In other years, your return may be much smaller.

When your portfolio is diversified across asset classes, the highs may not be so high – but the lows may not be so low, either. If things turn volatile, diversification may help insulate you from some of the ups and downs that come with investing.

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Eight Mistakes That Can Upend Your Retirement https://besmartfinancial.com/eight-mistakes-that-can-upend-your-retirement/ https://besmartfinancial.com/eight-mistakes-that-can-upend-your-retirement/#respond Fri, 02 Aug 2019 15:29:56 +0000 https://besmartfinancial.com/?p=10080 Avoid these situations, if you can.

Pursuing your retirement dreams is challenging enough without making some common, and very avoidable, mistakes. Here are eight big mistakes to steer clear of, if possible.

No Strategy. Yes, the biggest mistake is having no strategy at all. Without a strategy, you may have no goals, leaving you no way of knowing how you’ll get there – and if you’ve even arrived. Creating a strategy may increase your potential for success, both before and after retirement.

Frequent Trading. Chasing “hot” investments often leads to despair. Create an asset allocation strategy that is properly diversified to reflect your objectives, risk tolerance, and time horizon; then, make adjustments based on changes in your personal situation, not due to market ups and downs. (The return and principal value of stock prices will fluctuate as market conditions change. And shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Asset allocation and diversification are approaches to help manage investment risk. Asset allocation and diversification do not guarantee against investment loss. Past performance does not guarantee future results.)

Not Maximizing Tax-Deferred Savings. Workers have tax-advantaged ways to save for retirement. Not participating in your workplace retirement plan may be a mistake, especially when you’re passing up free money in the form of employer-matching contributions. (Distributions from most employer-sponsored retirement plans are taxed as ordinary income, and if taken before age 59½, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty. Generally, once you reach age 70½, you must begin taking required minimum distributions.)

Prioritizing College Funding over Retirement. Your kids’ college education is important, but you may not want to sacrifice your retirement for it. Remember, you can get loans and grants for college, but you can’t for your retirement.

Overlooking Health Care Costs. Extended care may be an expense that can undermine your financial strategy for retirement if you don’t prepare for it.

Not Adjusting Your Investment Approach Well Before Retirement. The last thing your retirement portfolio can afford is a sharp fall in stock prices and a sustained bear market at the moment you’re ready to stop working. Consider adjusting your asset allocation in advance of tapping your savings so you’re not selling stocks when prices are depressed. (The return and principal value of stock prices will fluctuate as market conditions change. And shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Asset allocation is an approach to help manage investment risk. Asset allocation does not guarantee against investment loss. Past performance does not guarantee future results.)

Retiring with Too Much Debt. If too much debt is bad when you’re making money, it can be especially harmful when you’re living in retirement. Consider managing or reducing your debt level before you retire.

It’s Not Only About Money. Above all, a rewarding retirement requires good health. So, maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, stay socially involved, and remain intellectually active.

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Tax Moves to Consider in Summer https://besmartfinancial.com/tax-moves-to-consider-in-summer/ https://besmartfinancial.com/tax-moves-to-consider-in-summer/#respond Mon, 01 Jul 2019 17:54:34 +0000 https://besmartfinancial.com/?p=9601

Tax Moves to Consider in Summer

Now is a good time to think about a few financial matters.
Consider making tax moves earlier rather than later. If you own a business, earn significant investment income, are recently married or divorced, or have a Flexible Savings Account (FSA), you may want to work on your income tax strategy now rather than in December or April.
Do you need to pay estimated income tax? If you are newly retired or newly self-employed, you will want to be familiar with Form 1040-ES and the quarterly deadlines. Each year, estimated tax payments to the Internal Revenue Service are due on or before the following dates: January 15, April 15, June 15, and September 15. (These deadlines are adjusted to the next available workday if a due date falls on a weekend or holiday.) 1
Ideally, you would just make four equal payments per year – but if you are a small business owner, your business income could vary per quarter or per season. The risk here is that you will underpay and set yourself up for a tax penalty. Confer with your tax professional to see if you should adjust your estimated tax payments for this or that quarter. 1
Has your household size changed? That calls for a look at your pre-tax withholding. No doubt you would like to take home more money now rather than wait to receive it in the form of a tax refund later. Adjusting the withholding on your W-4 may bring you more take-home pay. Ideally, you would adjust it so that you end up owing no tax and receiving no refund. You can adjust it at the I.R.S. Tax Withholding webpage, or via a paper W-4 form. 2
Think about how you could use your FSA dollars before the end of the year. The Department of the Treasury has modified the rules for Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). The I.R.S. now permits an employer to let an employee carry up to $500 in FSA funds forward into the next calendar year. Alternately, the employer can allow the FSA accountholder extra time to use FSA funds from the prior calendar year (up to 2.5 months). Companies do not have to allow either choice, however. If no grace period or carry-forward is permitted at your workplace, you will want to spend 100% of your FSA funds this year. 3
You could help your tax situation by contributing to certain retirement accounts. IRAs and non-Roth workplace retirement plans are funded with pre-tax dollars. By directing money into these retirement savings vehicles, you position yourself for federal tax savings in the year of the contribution. If you are able to make the maximum traditional IRA contribution of $6,000 in 2019, and you are in the 24% tax bracket, that will allow you to claim a $1,440 federal tax deduction for 2019. 4
While next April may seem far off, this is an excellent time to think about tax-saving possibilities. You have plenty of time to explore your options.
Citations.
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The Problem of Money Paralysis https://besmartfinancial.com/the-problem-of-money-paralysis/ https://besmartfinancial.com/the-problem-of-money-paralysis/#respond Mon, 03 Jun 2019 19:51:14 +0000 https://besmartfinancial.com/?p=9174 The Problem of Money Paralysis
Not making a move may not always be the best move to make.

A decision not made may have financial consequences. Sometimes, we fall prey to a kind of money paralysis, in which financial indecision is regarded as a form of “safety.”

Retirement seems to heighten this tendency. If you are single and retired, you may be fearful of drawing down your retirement savings too soon or assuming investment risks. Memories of this-or-that market downturn may linger.

Even so, “paralysis by analysis,” or simple hesitation, may cost you in the long run. Your retirement may last much longer than you presume it will – perhaps, 30 or 40 years – and maintaining your standard of living could require some growth investing. As much as you may want to stay out of stocks and funds, their returns often exceed the rate of inflation, which is important. Creeping inflation can reduce your quality of life in retirement by subtly reducing your purchasing power over time.

Retirement calls for distributing some of your accumulated assets. Some new retirees are reluctant to do this, even when some of that money has been set aside for goals or dreams. Frugality suddenly reigns: a long vacation, a new car to replace an old one, or a kitchen remodel may be seen as extravagances.

We cannot control how long we will live, how much money we will need in the future, or how well the economy will perform next year or ten years on. There comes a point where you must live for today. Pinching pennies in retirement with the idea that the great bulk of your savings is for “someday” can weigh on your psyche. What does your retirement dream amount to if it is unlived?

If you fear outliving your money, remember that certain investing approaches offer you the potential to generate a larger retirement fund for yourself. If you seek more retirement income, ask a financial professional about ways to try and arrange it – there are multiple options, and some involve relatively little risk to principal.

There is one situation where waiting may be wise. If you wait to file for Social Security until age 65 or 70, your monthly Social Security benefit will be larger than if you had filed earlier in life. Why? Social Security has what it calls “full retirement age,” or FRA – the age at which you can receive the full Social Security benefit you are entitled to, based on your earnings record.1

If you were born in 1960 or later, your FRA is 67. If you were born during 1954-59, your FRA is 66 (and it gradually increases toward 67, depending on your birth year within that date range).1

Most retirees claim Social Security benefits in their early sixties (eligibility begins at age 62). In a way, they are shortchanging themselves by doing so. Because they are claiming benefits before reaching their FRA, their monthly benefit is smaller than it would be at age 66 or 67 – in fact, it may be as much as 30% smaller. On the other hand, those who claim after their FRA at age 68, 69, or 70 receive monthly benefits that are larger than they would get at age 66 or 67. Roughly speaking, for every year you delay claiming benefits beyond your FRA, you will increase the size of your monthly benefit payment by around 8%.1

Your approach to investing has been created with your retirement in mind. A practical outlook on investing and decisions to work longer or claim Social Security later can potentially help you amass and receive more money in the future.

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Taking Charge of Your Financial Life in Retirement https://besmartfinancial.com/taking-charge-of-your-financial-life-in-retirement/ https://besmartfinancial.com/taking-charge-of-your-financial-life-in-retirement/#respond Tue, 07 May 2019 18:12:17 +0000 https://besmartfinancial.com/?p=8802 Taking Charge of Your Financial Life in Retirement
Delegating responsibilities to others may lead to problems down the road.

When you are putting together a household, it isn’t unusual to delegate responsibilities. One spouse or partner may take on the laundry, while another takes on the shopping. You might also decide which one of you vacuums and which one of you dusts. This is a perfectly fine way to divvy up household tasks and chores.

One household task it’s valuable for both partners to take part in, however, is your shared financial life. It’s important, regardless of your level of wealth or stage of life. Counting on one spouse or partner to handle all financial decisions can create a gap for the other partner. Should the one in charge of the money separate, become severely disabled, or pass away, that may leave the other partner in a bind. A situation like that is probably difficult enough without adding additional stress.

A study conducted in April 2018 surveyed 1,662 American couples, covering households where one partner has primary budgeting responsibility as well as couples where the responsibility is shared evenly. For the latter, 87% of respondents indicated that they were “confident” in taking full responsibility, should it become necessary. For the former, only 52% of those partners who were not actively involved indicated that same confidence.1

 Begin the conversation. If you are the partner who isn’t steering the household finances, ask yourself why. It may be that you have preconceived notions about how difficult it might be to educate yourself to make informed decisions. Maybe you know how to do it, but you would simply rather not be bothered. It’s also possible that you recognize that your spouse or partner has particular expertise in these matters and doesn’t need your help.

Regardless of the reason, it’s probably a good idea that you should at least be able to hop into the driver’s seat, should misfortune strike your household. In that unfortunate circumstance, you should feel confident that whatever the reason or the duration, you won’t have any unnecessary concerns about managing your household’s finances.

For example, what if you have insurance that covers extended care, in case of a severe injury that causes your spouse or partner to be away from work for an indefinite period? How will you be certain that the claim is made? Who will make sure the bills get paid? The job will fall to you.

Getting involved. The good news is that through communication, regular conversations, and a little effort, you can probably learn what you need to know in order to help yourself in these situations. Part of this, too, maybe meeting and getting to know the financial professional who works for your household.

If it’s your first time, start simple. You may find worksheets helpful in guiding you on how to plan out a monthly household budget. There’s software that may help, but a budget doesn’t need to involve anything more than pen and paper if you prefer. You’ll find several worksheets available online. You will also want to talk with your spouse or partner about the monthly budget they use, as it will likely be helpful if you are both on the same page – perhaps, literally.2

The more knowledge you have, the more confident you can become. Starting the conversation is just the first step. It may take you some time to become comfortable in taking a greater role in the decision-making, but when you do, you may feel more confident if the responsibility ever falls solely to you.

Citations.

1 – nytimes.com/2019/03/01/business/retirement-finances-couples.html [3/1/19]
2 – thebalance.com/basic-monthly-budget-worksheet-1289585 [3/12/19]

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Certain Uncertainties in Retirement https://besmartfinancial.com/certain-uncertainties-in-retirement/ https://besmartfinancial.com/certain-uncertainties-in-retirement/#respond Mon, 01 Apr 2019 18:00:59 +0000 https://besmartfinancial.com/?p=8290 Certain Uncertainties in Retirement

Two financial unknowns may erode our degree of confidence.  The financial uncertainties we face in retirement may risk reducing our sense of confidence, potentially undermining our outlook during those years.

Indeed, according to the 2018 Retirement Confidence Survey by the Employee Benefits Research Institute, only 17% of pre-retirees said they are “very confident” about having enough assets to live comfortably in retirement. In addition, just 32% of retirees were “very confident” in their prospects for doing so.1

Today, retirees face two overarching uncertainties. While each one can lead even the best-laid strategies awry, it is important to remember that remaining flexible and responsive to changes in the financial landscape may help you meet the challenges posed by uncertainty in the years ahead.

An Uncertain Tax Structure. A mounting national debt and the growing liabilities of Social Security and Medicare are straining federal finances. How these challenges will be resolved remains unknown, but higher taxes – along with means-testing for Social Security and Medicare – are obvious possibilities for policymakers.

Whatever tax rates may be in the future, taxes can be a drag on your savings and may adversely impact your retirement security. Moreover, any reduction of Social Security or Medicare benefits has the potential to increase financial strain during your retirement.

Consequently, you will need to be ever mindful of a changing tax landscape and strategies to manage the impact of whatever changes occur.

Market Uncertainty. If you know someone who retired (or wanted to retire) in 2008, you know what market uncertainty can do to a retirement blueprint.

The uncertainties have not gone away. Are we at the cusp of a bond market bubble bursting? Will the eurozone find its footing? Will U.S. debt be a drag on our economic vitality?

Over a 30-year period, uncertainties may evaporate or resolve themselves, but new ones may also emerge. Solutions for one set of financial or economic circumstances may not be appropriate for a new set of circumstances.

Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle said, “He who could foresee affairs three days in advance would be rich for thousands of years.” Preparing for uncertainties is less about knowing what the future holds as it is being able to respond to changes as they unfold.2

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.
Citations.
1 – https://www.ebri.org/docs/default-source/rcs/1_2018rcs_report_v5mgachecked.pdf?sfvrsn=e2e9302f_2 [4/24/18]
2 – https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/thomas_carlyle_118785 [12/17/18]
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Could Assumptions Harm Your Retirement Strategy? https://besmartfinancial.com/could-assumptions-harm-your-retirement-strategy/ https://besmartfinancial.com/could-assumptions-harm-your-retirement-strategy/#respond Tue, 05 Mar 2019 19:00:26 +0000 https://besmartfinancial.com/?p=8639 Could Assumptions Harm Your Retirement Strategy?
Three common misconceptions to think about.

1 – Assuming retirement will last 10-15 years.

When Social Security was created in the 1930s, the average American could anticipate living to age 58 as a man or 62 as a woman. By 2014, life expectancy for the average American had increased to 78.6. That said, an average like may bely the fact that many retirees could live well into their nineties or beyond.1,2

Assuming you will only need 10- or 15-years’ worth of retirement money could be a big mistake.

2 – Assuming too little risk.

Holding onto your retirement money is certainly important, but so is your retirement income and quality of life. While overall inflation has been below 3% for most of the past 10 years, your personal inflation rate may be higher. In that situation, your dollar gradually buys less and less. If your income doesn’t keep up with inflation – essentially, you end up living on yesterday’s money.

For this reason, a flexible retirement strategy will likely factor in many situations and scenarios; you cannot plan for every single scenario, but considering many possibilities may give you and your financial professional numerous options down the road.

3 – Assuming you will be in excellent health. While it’s true that we lead healthier lives than our ancestors and that medical science and awareness of fitness and nutrition have improved and extended many American lives, that improvement doesn’t cover every issue that comes with advanced age. Extended-care issues can sap away retirement funds.3

Recent findings by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offer some perspective: over a quarter of all people who have turned 65 between 2015-2019 are probably going to need $100,000 of extended care, while 15% of that same group is looking at $250,000.3

For these reasons, a retirement strategy should include some thinking about paying for extended care of this sort. Yes, Medicare can help you with the basics, but an insurance strategy that can accommodate longer hospital stays and care should also be a part of your thinking.3

Remember that good strategies also change over time, and you will probably want some help along the way. Make time to discuss these common assumptions, and how to avoid them, with your retirement professional.

Citations.

1 – ssa.gov/history/lifeexpect.html [2/19/19]
2 – pbs.org/newshour/health/american-life-expectancy-has-dropped-again-heres-why  [11/29/18]
3 – kiplinger.com/article/insurance/T036-C000-S002-how-to-afford-long-term-care.html [1/31/19]

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Your Emergency Fund: How Much Is Enough? https://besmartfinancial.com/your-emergency-fund-how-much-is-enough/ https://besmartfinancial.com/your-emergency-fund-how-much-is-enough/#respond Tue, 05 Feb 2019 16:35:26 +0000 https://besmartfinancial.com/?p=7638 Your Emergency Fund: How Much is Enough?

An emergency fund may help alleviate the stress associated with a financial crisis.

Have you ever had one of those months? The water heater stops heating, the dishwasher stops washing, and your family ends up on a first-name basis with the nurse at urgent care. Then, as you’re driving to work, giving yourself your best, “You can make it!” pep talk, you see smoke seeping out from under your hood.

Bad things happen to the best of us, and instead of conveniently spacing themselves out, they almost always come in waves. The important thing is to have a financial life preserver, in the form of an emergency cash fund, at the ready.

Although many people agree that an emergency fund is an important resource, they’re not sure how much to save or where to keep the money. Others wonder how they can find any extra cash to sock away. One recent survey found that 29% of Americans lack any emergency savings whatsoever.1

How Much Money? When starting an emergency fund, you’ll want to set a target amount. But how much is enough? Unfortunately, there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer. The ideal amount for your emergency fund may depend on your financial situation and lifestyle. For example, if you own your home or provide for a number of dependents, you may be more likely to face financial emergencies. And if the crisis you face is a job loss or injury that affects your income, you may need to depend on your emergency fund for an extended period of time.

Coming Up with Cash. If saving several months of income seems an unreasonable goal, don’t despair. Start with a more modest target, such as saving $1,000. Build your savings at regular intervals, a bit at a time. It may help to treat the transaction like a bill you pay each month. Consider setting up an automatic monthly transfer to make self-discipline a matter of course. You may want to consider paying off any credit card debt before you begin saving.

Once you see your savings begin to build, you may be tempted to use the account for something other than an emergency. Try to budget and prepare separately for bigger expenses you know are coming. Keep your emergency money separate from your checking account so that it’s harder to dip into.

Where Do I Put It? An emergency fund should be easily accessible, which is why many people choose traditional bank savings accounts. Savings accounts typically offer modest rates of return. Certificates of Deposit may provide slightly higher returns than savings accounts, but your money will be locked away until the CD matures, which could be several months to several years.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insures bank accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs) up to $250,000 per depositor, per institution in principal and interest. CDs are time deposits offered by banks, thrift institutions, and credit unions. CDs offer a slightly higher return than a traditional bank savings account, but they also may require a higher amount of deposit. If you sell before the CD reaches maturity, you may be subject to penalties.2

Some individuals turn to money market accounts for their emergency savings. Money market funds are considered low-risk securities, but they’re not backed by the federal government like CDs, so it is possible to lose money. Depending on your particular goals and the amount you have saved, some combination of lower-risk investments may be your best choice.2

Money held in money market funds is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Money market funds seek to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 a share. However, it is possible to lose money by investing in a money market fund. Money market mutual funds are sold by prospectus.2

Please consider the charges, risks, expenses, and investment objectives carefully before investing. A prospectus containing this and other information about the investment company can be obtained from your financial professional. Read it carefully before you invest or send money.

The only thing you can know about unexpected expenses is that they’re coming – for everyone. But having an emergency fund may help alleviate the stress and worry associated with a financial crisis. If your emergency savings are not where they should be, consider taking steps today to create a cushion for the future.

Citations.

1 – cnbc.com/2018/07/02/about-55-million-americans-have-no-emergency-savings.html [7/6/18]
2 – investor.vanguard.com/investing/cash-investments [12/13/18]

 

 

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