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How Much Cash Should I Keep in the Bank?


How Much Cash Should I Keep in the Bank?

Article from Tim Parker, Financial journalist clearly explains what the majority of Americans might not know about how much they should have available for emergencies.

Written by Tim Parker| Tuesday, October 10, 2018
Everybody has an opinion on how much money you should tuck away in your bank account. The truth is, it depends on your financial situation. What you need to keep in the bank is the money for your regular bills, your discretionary spending and the portion of your savings that constitutes your emergency fund.

Everything starts with your budget. If you don’t budget correctly, you may not have anything to keep in your bank account. Don't have a budget? Now’s the time to build one. Here are some thoughts on how to do it.

The 50/30/20 Rule
First, let’s look at the ever-popular 50/30/20 rule. Instead of trying to follow a complicated, crazy-number-of-lines budget, you can think of your money as sitting in three buckets.

Costs that Don’t Change (Fixed): 50%
It would be nice if you didn’t have monthly bills, but the electricity bill cometh, just like the water, Internet, car, and mortgage (or rent) bills. Assuming you’ve evaluated how these costs fit into your budget and decided they are musts, there’s not much you can do other than pay them.

Fixed costs should eat up around 50% of your monthly budget.

Discretionary Money: 30%
This is the bucket where anything (within reason) goes. It’s your money to use on wants instead of needs.

Interestingly, most planners include food in this bucket because there’s so much choice in how you handle this expense: You could eat at a restaurant or eat at home; you could buy generic or name brand, or you could purchase a cheap can of soup or a bunch of organic ingredients and make your own.

This bucket also includes a movie, buying a new tablet or contributing to charity. You decide. The general rule is 30% of your income, but many financial gurus will argue that 30% is much too high.

Financial Goals: 20%
If you’re not aggressively saving for the future – maybe funding an IRA, a 529 plan if you have kids, and, of course, contributing to a 401(k)or another retirement plan, if possible – you’re setting yourself up for hard times ahead. This is where the final 20% of your monthly income should go. If you don't have an emergency fund (see below), most of this 20% should go first to creating one.

Another Budget Strategy
Financial guru Dave Ramsey has a different take on how you should carve up your cash. His recommended allocations look something like this (expressed as a percentage of your take-home pay):

Charitable Giving: 10%-15%
Food: 5%-15%
Savings: 10%-15%
Clothing: 2%-7%
Housing: 25%-35%
Transportation: 10%-15%
Utilities: 5%-10%
Medical/Health: 5%-10% 

About That Emergency Fund
Beyond your monthly living expenses and discretionary money, the major portion of the cash reserves in your bank account should consist of your emergency fund. The money for that fund should come from the portion of your budget devoted to savings – whether it's from the 20% of 50/30/20 or from Ramsey's 10% to 15%.

How much do you need? 
Everybody has a different opinion. Most financial experts end up suggesting you need a cash stash equal to six months of expenses: If you need $5,000 to survive every month, save $30,000.

Personal finance guru Suze Orman advises an eight-month emergency fund because that’s about how long it takes the average person to find a job. Other experts say three months, while some say none at all if you have little debt, already have a lot of money saved in liquid investments, and have quality insurance. 

Should that fund really be in the bank? Some of those same experts will advise you to keep your five-figure emergency fund in an investment account with relatively safe allocations to earn more than the paltry interest you will receive in a savings account.

The main issue is that the money is instantly accessible if you need it. (On the other side, remember that money in a bank account is FDIC insured.) For more advice, read more about building an emergency fund.

If you don’t have an emergency fund, you should probably create one before putting your financial goals/savings money toward retirement or other goals. Aim for building the fund to three months of expenses, then splitting your savings between a savings account and investments until you have six to eight months worth tucked away.

After that, your savings should go into retirement and other goals – invested in something that earns more than a bank account.

The Bottom Line
The most recent Federal Reserve data from the “Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2015” surveyed Americans and mentioned that “Forty-six percent of adults say they either could not cover an emergency expense costing $400, or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money.”

That doesn’t leave much room for saving.

Most financial gurus would probably agree that if you start saving something, that’s a great first step. Plan to raise that amount over time.
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Source: https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/040915/how-much-cash-should-i-keep-bank.asp?utm_source=personalized&utm_campaign=www.investopedia.com&utm_term=15238859&utm_medium=email

The 401(k): Robbing Americans for 40 Years Now


Why the 40th birthday of the 401(k) is nothing to celebrate

This article from Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad (sold over 30 million copies) clearly explains what the majority of Americans know about their 401(k) plans. 

Written by Robert Kiyosaki | Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Read time: 6 min
This week, the 401(k) will turn 40 years old. For a lot of working Americans, this investment vehicle is all they know about retirement planning. Since they were very young, they’ve been told to sock money away into a 401(k) and when they are ready to retire, they will magically have enough money to live on.

Of course, retirement wasn’t always this way. My dad and many other people of his generation enjoyed a pension plan. Work your entire life as a good employee for a company and they’ll take care of you when you retire.

As “Time” points out, the 401(k) wasn’t built to replace this system of pensions:

  • To be fair to section 401(k)’s framers, the provision was never intended to be a broad-based saving incentive that would serve as a foundation for financial stability in retirement. Instead, it marked a truce between the IRS and firms that wanted to let employees plow their year-end bonuses into pension plans. The IRS sought to tax employees immediately on those amounts, on the theory that the pension plan contributions were equivalent to cash. Congress struck a compromise, which it tucked away in a provision of the 1978 Revenue Act that garnered little notice at the time: employees could delay taxes until they withdrew cash from the plans, as long as the plans satisfied certain statutory criteria (including a requirement that the plans not discriminate in favor of the firm’s highly compensated employees).

Yet, fast-forward 40 years later, and pensions are rare and 401(k)s are everywhere…at least for wealthier workers. Poor workers, well, they have nothing. Turns out that corporations are really good at using “tucked away” provisions to their advantage, and the financial industry is great at selling financial vehicles to people who know little about money.

The 401(k) is a horrible retirement plan

At Rich Dad, we’ve talked for years about how horrible 401(k)s are. My advisor, Andy Tanner, is especially good at sharing the reasons why. You should check out his book, “401(k)aos”.

For starters, you have no control over your money in a 401(k). You literally hand it over to a manager and hope that it will grow. Want to access your money? You can’t, at least not without a hefty fine. And if the market crashes? You’re out of luck because there’s no insurance for a 401(k).

You also are capped on the amount you can invest. So, if you want to invest more than $18,500 a year, you’re out of luck and need to find another investment vehicle. The problem is that most people who invest in 401(k)s don’t know a lot about money or investments, so they’re happy to give away their money, even if they could be putting it to much better use in other investments. Extra money around? They save it, which is potentially even worse.

Another horrible thing about 401(k)s is that the fees from the managers cut significantly into your earnings. As my wife Kim wrote:

  • The first thing you should know is that your 401(k) is sprinkled with hidden fees that are buried in pages of legal paperwork. Legal fees, transaction fees, bookkeeping fees, and more. Plus, the mutual funds in the 401(k) often take 2% off the top.
  • These fees may not seem like a lot when you sign on the dotted line, but over-time, compounding cuts down your returns substantially. Jack Bogle, the Founder of Vanguard, puts it like this: "Do you really want to invest in a system where you put up 100 percent of the capital, you take 100 percent of the risk, and you get 30 percent of the return?"

Finally, there are significant tax disadvantages to investing in 401(k)s. Rather than taxed at the lower capital gains rate of around 15%, they are taxed at earned income rates, which can be twice as much.

The one “good” thing?

With all these things stacked against a 401(k), why in the world would anyone want one and why are they still around?

To answer the latter part, no one has come up with a better idea and implemented it yet. And big corporations and a whole financial services industry would revolt if they were taken away.

To answer the question of why anyone would want one, people don’t know a lot about money and investing, are often ready to believe whatever they are taught about money and investing, and also buy into the lie that they get free money when their employer matches their investment.

The problem is, there’s no such thing as free money. Here’s a story to show what I mean.

Years ago, I had a conversation with a young man about 401(k)s. “I have a question for you,” he said. “I’ve read that you say 401(k)s are the worst investments, but I don’t understand why you say that.”

“What is it that you don’t understand?” I asked.

“Well,” said the young man. “Most employers match your contribution. For instance, my employer matches up to four percent of my salary. Isn’t that a hundred percent return? Why is that a bad investment?”

“It’s a bad investment,” I said, “because it’s your money to begin with.”

He looked puzzled and perplexed.

“Listen,” I said, “if it weren’t for 401(k)s, your employer would have to pay you that money as part of your salary. As it is, they still pay it, but only if you give up four percent of your existing salary in to a retirement account where you have no control. And if you don’t, well the employer comes out ahead. It’s your money, but they’re in control.”

Thinking like an employee

The young man still didn’t look convinced, but I could tell he was thinking hard about it. The reason this young man and many others don’t understand my reasoning is that they only think like employees. As an employer, I know that if it weren’t for 401(k)s, I’d have to pay that money to employees in their salary in order to be competitive.

For me, as an employer, a 401(k) is an advantage because I don’t have to pay the money unless an employee opts in, and if they leave my company too early, I don’t have to pay because they aren’t vested.

A 401(k) steals your money

A study confirms what I’m saying and should help those of you who still find this logic confusing or not convincing. According to Steven Gandel, a study issued by the Center for Retirement Research indicates that, “All else being equal…workers at companies that contributed to their employees’ 401(k) accounts tended to have lower salaries than those at companies that gave no retirement contribution…In fact, for many employees, the salary dip was roughly equal to the size of their employer’s potential contribution.”

Translation, companies that don’t offer 401(k)s must pay a higher salary to compete with companies that do. Those company’s employees simply get their money as part of their salary rather than having to match it and save it in a tax-deferred retirement plan where they have no control and have high fees.

No financial intelligence? Stick with the 401(k)

Control is an important aspect of investing. As I mentioned, with a 401(k), you have no control over your investments as you generally invest in funds and indexes controlled by brokers, who are controlled by bankers, who invest in companies that are controlled by boards—all of which you have no control over.

If you want to be rich, you must have a financial education and control over your money and your investments. This is why I like to invest in my own business, purchase real estate, and create products. I have a lot of control over those investments. Generally, a good matrix is the more control you have, the higher your potential return. The less control you have, the lower your potential return.

Of course, it takes high financial intelligence to invest in things where you have control because you have to make a lot of important decisions. This is why being forced into a 401(k) probably isn’t a bad thing for most people. This is because most people have little-to-no financial education and wouldn’t know what to do with the extra money other than save it or spend it.

But I expect the average Rich Dad reader to be head and shoulders above the average person in terms of financial intelligence. The reality is that if you’re investing in a 401(k), you’re not making a return on your employer’s match. You’re simply getting what is owed you by your employer.

So, why don’t we celebrate the 40th birthday of the 401(k) but kicking it to the curb? I think that you can find a better way to put your money to work.1

Source: http://www.richdad.com/Resources/Rich-Dad-Financial-Education-Blog/November-2018/The-401k-Robbing-Americans-for-40-Years-Now.aspx?fbclid=IwAR2fz92zsFItre6WXICPeVYGhOVtRN9uUUu0o2YIjZi0qI07Az39iBq7zcY#.W-JY-bovwB8.facebook

How to Stay North When the Market Goes South

Today I spoke with several clients and friends and most of them lost money in the market...again. So how do you stay north when the market goes south? You’ve heard the expression your whole life, but what does it mean when it applies to your finances? Well to begin with, it’s not good.

Here’s the definition from Dictionary.com​:1

go south

verb phrase
to fall or slide down; to decline; to fall in value

Examples
His golf game is going south.

Usage Note
slang; goes south, going south, went south, gone south

The recent stock market downward corrections in 2018 have millions of active and passive investors nervous… again.


Many experts agree that the nine-year bull market is feeling the giant paws of the bear market clawing into their financial breadbasket.

I concur and believe this is only the beginning.  To take you back a bit (6 months), here are a few headlines to consider taken directly from Google on Saturday March 24, 2018.2
"What was once considered an anomaly now seems to be a trend".

My personal favorite is the last one stating Losses are part of the game when investing in the stock market”. Maybe it’s just me, but I've always thought keeping my money is always better than losing it.

Dow closes at 2018 low as trade worries rise - MarketWatch
https://www.marketwatch.com › Markets › U.S. & Canada › Market Snapshot

1 day ago - The benchmark index lost 6% over the week and is down 3.2% year to date. The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -2.43% declined 174.01 points, or 2.4%, to 6,992.67 and posted a 6.5% loss over the week. Weekly losses for all three benchmarks were the steepest since January 2016, when markets were ...

Dow drops more than 400 points into correction, posts worst week ...
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/.../us-stock-markets-set-for-a-sharp-fall-at-the-open-amid...

2 days ago - The major averages posted their biggest weekly loss since January 2016. The Dow and S&P 500 dropped 5.7 percent and 5.9 percent this week, respectively, while the Nasdaq pulled back 6.5 percent. "The market has been priced for perfection ... and that leaves the market vulnerable to surprises. In this ...

MARKET SNAPSHOT: Dow Closes At 2018 Low As Trade Worries Rise
news.morningstar.com/...markets/2018032310549/market-snapshot-dow-closes-at-20...

2 days ago - The major averages posted their biggest weekly loss since January 2016. The Dow and S&P 500 dropped 5.7 percent and 5.9 percent this week, respectively, while the Nasdaq pulled back 6.5 percent. "The market has been priced for perfection ... and that leaves the market vulnerable to surprises. In this ...

Dow Jones and S.&P. Slide Again, Dropping by More Than 4% - The ...

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/05/business/stocks-equities-dow-markets.html

Feb 5, 2018 - The rule book is now changing, a shift that is sending tremors through the financial markets. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index fell by more than 4 percent on Monday, deepening its losses from the previous week and erasing its gains for the year. The Dow Jones industrial average sank by 4.6 percent.

Stocks close down, making February the worst month in two years for ...

www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-financial-markets-20180228-story.html

Feb 28, 2018 - Some of Wednesday's drop was due to a slide in the price of oil, which sent energy stocks to the market's sharpest losses. The S&P 500 ... He told Congress that he's more optimistic about the economy, which led some investors to anticipate four rate increases for 2018, up from three last year. Among the ...

This Year's Stock Market Losses Are Normal

awealthofcommonsense.com/2018/03/this-years-stock-market-losses-are-normal/

This Year's Stock Market Losses Are Normal. Posted March 20, 2018 by Ben Carlson. The recent market correction was unusual in how swift it occurred but the magnitude of the losses shouldn't be unexpected for investors. Losses are part of the game when investing in the stock market. This piece I wrote for Bloomberg in ...

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Here’s a picture I took on my iPhone, October 26, 2018. This graph clearly illustrates the current market conditions.

So how does one stay north when the market goes south?

One solution I can share.
The clients that I have helped with this dilemma have not been concerned from this down turn because they made decisions and acted to protect themselves from market losses. How? Because they re-allocated only what was needed to cover the income gap for projected essential expenses (after focused discussions and strategy sessions) into…

You guessed it, the annuity. That awful, beat up, misunderstood and bullied financial instrument that falls into the monetary hierarchy between savings accounts / Cd’s and the stock market.

Let me first say, annuities are not for everyone and I do not consider annuities to be an investment in a portfolio. After all it is an insurance product and should not be considered anything else. However, when they are positioned to provide stability, protection against loss of principle and reduction of risk in a financial plan, they are unmatched by any other financial instrument.  

Robert Ibbotson, a renowned financial expert agrees. Ibbotson is a 10-time recipient of Graham & Dodd Awards for financial research excellence and a professor emeritus at the Yale School of Management. Today, Ibbotson's latest research validates that uncapped FIAs (Fixed Indexed Annuities) help control equity market risk, mitigate longevity risk, and have the strong potential to outperform bonds in the very near future.

Suze Orman, an internationally acclaimed personal finance expert has been recommending indexed annuities to shield your retirement nest egg from market volatility for some time. In her NY Times best selling book, “The Road to Wealth,” Suze Orman tells readers that “if you don’t want to take risk but still want to play the stock market, a good index annuity might be right for you.”

True, the circumstances of an individual’s life, goals and retirement needs to be identified, discussed and put in order first before even considering an annuity. Before making a judgement call on whether an annuity should be included in your planning process, I always recommend a little education first. To learn more about annuity basics, read this article on my website: What is an Annuity?

This article is not intended to give you all the details, stats, pros and cons of annuities. Its purpose is simply to illustrate a way to help you keep the money you’ve earned and serve as an alternative to gambling away any portion of your nest egg benchmarked for your essential spending.  Depending on your needs, availability of assets and financial goals, annuities if utilized and set up correctly, can provide a guaranteed solution for predictable income that you can’t outlive.

Most people like receiving social security checks and funds received from pensions but rarely think about or acknowledge the fact that they are annuities.

A final note: As with any bull run, your investments are at an all-time high in gross value (minus the recent decline of market value) which translates into higher purchasing power. If in December 2017 you re-allocated of a portion of your IRA, 401k, 403b and or brokerage account into a tax-deferred annuity, it would have would have bought you more then it will today. 

How much longer will you wait to consider these benefits? When you lose another 4%, 6%, 10%? Something to ponder.

Now you know there is a way… to stay north when the market heads south.

As always, plan wisely my friends...

Finding a reputable and trusted partner to assist you with your financial & insurance needs is of vital importance.  I will work hard to find the best programs, coverage and rates that fits your budget and your needs. Contact me at 949-216-8459 or ccolley@coliday.com


Other articles about Annuities:
What Are Annuities?
Alternatives to Low Paying Bank CD’s

Information and materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. The above information is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, accounting or investment advice.
Coliday / Craig Colley is not giving any financial advice, is not a financial advisor and is not affiliated, employed or endorsed by the SSA, Medicare.gov. or any other government agency.

1)  http://www.dictionary.com/browse/go-south 2)https://www.google.com/searchq=how+to+stay+north+when+the+market+goes+south&oq=how+to+stay+north+when+the+market+goes+south&aqs=chrome..69i57.47458j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8 3)graph https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/05/business/stocks-equities-dow-markets.html

Color of Money Risk Analysis

The Color of Money Risk Analysis assesses your financial picture and provides a roadmap to your overall risk preferences. The output will be a proprietary Color of Money score. This short, interactive analysis is the first step on the road to retirement.

Did my question make you wonder what colors have to do with money? The amount of money we earn, save and spend is driven by our personality and beliefs.

This can also drive the choices we make about what we do with that money. In short, the investments we choose determines the color of our money. It reflects our overall personality, lifestyle and values, as well as our spending and saving methodologies.

Red- These assets have a higher degree of risk. There is good growth opportunity, but preparing for volatility is important with these assets. Red does not mean the assets are dangerous. It simply means you should stop, look both directions and proceed with caution in making your investment decisions.

Yellow- These assets are safer but still call for cautious examination. There are unique growth opportunities and Yellow assets do not carry as much risk as Red assets. You may not have as much growth opportunity as Red money, but you do not need to come to a complete retirement stop before proceeding.

Green- Green money should be labeled on assets that have safety and guarantees. Your growth potential is less than Red and Yellow money, but you may move comfortably through retirement knowing your assets are safe and available to provide the income stream you are looking for in retirement.

Striking a healthy balance with the colors of your money can help you reach your pre and post retirement goals.

Each color of money has unique benefits and features.

Do I Need Life Insurance?

Life insurance has several purposes. Its most important function is to replace the earnings that would cease at the death of the insured. For businesses, life insurance is a way to protect key employees and the business itself. A third purpose is to use life insurance to pay potential estate taxes.

If you die during your earning years, your family could suffer a severe economic loss as a result of losing your current and future income. Unfortunately, your family would still have to pay its regular bills, the mortgage, and outstanding debts, and perhaps even continue saving for college and retirement. Unless you're independently wealthy, achieving these goals may be virtually impossible for your family with the loss of your steady income. Life insurance offers a way for your family to continue living comfortably and without worry.

Employers often purchase life insurance policies on key employees to insure against the loss of services or income that might result after an employee's death. Here, the proceeds from the policy are paid to the company. Life insurance works for business partners too, where one business partner purchases a policy to insure against the financial loss that might result from the other partner's death or to buy out the partner's heirs.

Life insurance is also used to pay potential federal estate taxes. Since these taxes must be paid in cash, life insurance can be a good way to ensure the fulfillment of this obligation.5

 4. https://us.axa.com/axa-products/life-insurance/questions/why-do-i-need-life-insurance.html 5. gradientfinancialgroup.com Newsletter  Insurance products and services are offered through Craig Colley | Coliday and is not affiliated with Gradient Securities, LLC. Some of these materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. The above information is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice.

Social Security for Married Couples

Social Security Claiming Strategies for Married Couples 1

Deciding when to begin receiving Social Security benefits is a major financial issue for anyone approaching retirement because the age at which you apply for benefits will affect the amount you'll receive. If you're married, this decision can be especially complicated because you and your spouse will need to plan together taking into account the Social Security benefits you may each be entitled to. For example, married couples may qualify for retirement benefits based on their own earnings records, and/or for spousal benefits based on their spouse's earnings record. In addition, a surviving spouse may qualify for widow or widower's benefits based on what his or her spouse was receiving.

One claiming strategy that has been used to boost Social Security income was recently eliminated by new rules contained in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. However, depending on your age, you may still have a limited window to take advantage of this strategy before the new rules take effect. It can be used in a variety of scenarios, but here's how they generally work.

File for one benefit, then the other

To file a restricted application and claim only spousal benefits at age 66, you must have turned age 62 by January 2, 2016. At the time you file, your spouse must have already claimed Social Security retirement benefits or filed and suspended benefits. If you were born in 1954 or later, you will not be able to use this strategy because under the new rules, an individual who files a benefit application will be deemed to have filed for both worker and spousal benefits and will receive whichever benefit is higher. He or she will no longer be able to file only for spousal benefits and will not be able to switch from one benefit to another at a later date.

A second strategy that can be used to increase household income for retirees is to have one spouse file a restricted application for spousal benefits at full retirement age, then switch to his or her own higher retirement benefit later.

Once a spouse reaches full retirement age and is eligible for a spousal benefit based on his or her spouse's earnings record and a retirement benefit based on his or her own earnings record, he or she can choose to file a restricted application for spousal benefits, then delay applying for retirement benefits on his or her own earnings record (up until age 70) in order to earn delayed retirement credits. This may help to maximize survivor's income as well as retirement income, because the surviving spouse will be eligible for the greater of his or her own benefit or 100% of the spouse's benefit.

This strategy can be used in a variety of scenarios, but here's one hypothetical example that illustrates how it might be used when both spouses have substantial earnings but don't want to postpone applying for benefits altogether. Liz files for her Social Security retirement benefit of $2,400 per month at age 66 (based on her own earnings record), but her husband Tim wants to wait until age 70 to file. At age 66 (his full retirement age) Tim applies for spousal benefits based on Liz's earnings record (Liz has already filed for benefits) and receives 50% of Liz's benefit amount ($1,200 per month). He then delays applying for benefits based on his own earnings record ($2,100 per month at full retirement age) so that he can earn delayed retirement credits. At age 70, Tim switches from collecting a spousal benefit to his own larger worker's retirement benefit of $2,772 per month (32% higher than at age 66). This not only increases Liz and Tim's household income but also enables Liz to receive a larger survivor's benefit in the event of Tim's death.


1.https://www.foremostadvice.com/fmaweb/Advisor/PresentationCenterDetails.aspx?iplf=gb&cat=GovernmentBenefits 2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/13/how-to-say-i-love-you_n_6652608.html 3. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/brownie-batter-truffles.html?oc=linkback  5. gradientfinancialgroup.com Newsletter  Insurance products and services are offered through Craig Colley | Coliday and is not affiliated with Gradient Securities, LLC. Some of these materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. The above information is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice.

Course Corrections to Consider

Retirement planning course corrections to consider4

It’s no secret that millions of Americans are approaching their retirement years with meager savings and high anxiety about their financial security. And a recent study from Merrill Lynch and Age Wave reveals steps that Americans are willing to take to get their retirement back on track.

The overwhelming majority (88 percent) of people surveyed said their primary objective is peace of mind, while just 12 percent say they want to accumulate as much wealth as possible. But peace of mind means different things to different people:

  • 57 percent report they want to live comfortably within their means.
  • 39 percent say they want to have the financial resources to live the life they choose.
  • 34 percent want to feel they could handle a major unexpected expense.
  • 25 percent want to feel confident they won’t outlive their money.
  • 17 percent want to provide for their family if something happens to them.

Only 8 percent of survey respondents feel personal finances can be discussed openly, while the remainder consider the topic a private matter or one that can be discussed with a spouse or partner or only very close family and friends. It would certainly help if older workers and retirees would share their ideas and insights with their family and friends.

What changes are people willing to make to enhance their  financial security in retirement? Here are steps the survey found Americans are willing to take:

  • 90 percent would be willing to cut back on their expenses. Perhaps they can focus on spending just enough to meet their basic living needs and what truly makes them happy.
  • 79 percent would seek financial advice. In this case, they’ll want to make sure their advisers are qualified and act in their best interests.
  • 77 percent would increase the use of tax-protected retirement accounts.
  • 75 percent would seek expert advice on how to pay lower taxes. Note that this may not be a good use of time for Americans with meager savings, since they could already be in a very low tax bracket when they retire.
  • 66 percent would sell real estate or other personal belongings. Finding the best way to deploy home equity is a good use of time for older workers and retirees who own a home but have modest retirement savings.
  • 64 percent would postpone taking Social Security. This is a smart move for many retirees.
  • 43 percent would withdraw the cash value from a life insurance policy. Such people would want to explore their options: some policies allow the holder to convert the policy’s cash value into a lifetime annuity.

In addition to taking these steps, older workers would be wise to develop a strategy for generating lifetime retirement income, explore their options for continuing to work and make sure they have adequate medical insurance that supplements Medicare.

As you can see, your financial security in retirement has many moving parts. It is well worth spending hours and days planning for peace of mind in your retirement years, so you can go enjoy the rest of your life.5

1. http://travel.aarp.org/articles-tips/articles/info-09-2014/fall-foliage-trips-photo.html#slide3 2. Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright, 2017 3. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/13801/apple-butter-spice-cake/ 4. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/retirement-planning-course-corrections-to-consider/5. https: //www.forbes.com/sites/robertlaura/2017/05/26/7-of-the-best-retirement-quotes-to-get-you-to-and-through-it/#5baea2db6c2b 6. gradientfinancialgroup.com Newsletter  Insurance products and services are offered through Craig Colley | Coliday and is not affiliated with Gradient Securities, LLC. Some of these materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. The above information is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, financial, insurance, tax, legal, or accounting advice.

Get a Bigger Social Security Benefit

How to Get a Bigger Social Security Retirement Benefit  1

Many people decide to begin receiving early Social Security retirement benefits. In fact, according to the Social Security Administration, about 72% of retired workers receive benefits prior to their full retirement age. But waiting longer could significantly increase your monthly retirement income, so weigh your options carefully before making a decision.

Timing counts

Your monthly Social Security retirement benefit is based on your lifetime earnings. Your base benefit--the amount you'll receive at full retirement age--is calculated using a formula that takes into account your 35 highest earnings years.

If you file for retirement benefits before reaching full retirement age (66 to 67, depending on your birth year), your benefit will be permanently reduced. For example, at age 62, each benefit check will be 25% to 30% less than it would have been had you waited and claimed your benefit at full retirement age (see table on next page).

Alternatively, if you postpone filing for benefits past your full retirement age, you'll earn delayed retirement credits for each month you wait, up until age 70. Delayed retirement credits will increase the amount you receive by about 8% per year if you were born in 1943 or later.

The chart below shows how a monthly benefit of $1,800 at full retirement age (66) would be affected if claimed as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. This is a hypothetical example used for illustrative purposes only; your benefits and results will vary.

Early or late?

Should you begin receiving Social Security benefits early, or wait until full retirement age or even longer? If you absolutely need the money right away, your decision is clear-cut; otherwise, there's no ''right" answer. But take time to make an informed, well-reasoned decision. Consider factors such as how much retirement income you'll need, your life expectancy, how your spouse or survivors might be affected, whether you plan to work after you start receiving benefits, and how your income taxes might be affected.5

1Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2016.2  http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/jack-olantern-history/interactives/halloween-by-the-numbers3 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2016.http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/cheesy-squash-casserole-recipe.html#lightbox-recipe-image 5 gradientfinancialgroup.com Newsletter  Insurance products and services are offered through Craig Colley | Coliday and is not affiliated with Gradient Securities, LLC. Some of these materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.

How Earnings Affect Social Security

How Earnings Affect Social Security 1

If you begin to receive Social Security retirement (or survivor's) benefits before you reach full retirement age, money you earn over a certain limit will reduce the amount of your Social Security benefit. In 2016, your benefit will be reduced by $1 for every $2 of earnings in excess of $15,720*

The chart below shows the effect of annual earnings of $10,000, $20,000, and $30,000 on a $12,000 annual Social Security benefit ($1,000 monthly) for someone who hasn't yet reached full retirement age.

Source:  Social Security Administration, 2015

*Special rules apply in both the year you reach full retirement age and the year you retire if you have not reached full retirement age. If you are interested in learning when is the best time to apply for Social Security Retirement Benefits please call us at 949-216-8459 to set up a complimentary appointment to review your situation.

Four Common Questions About Social Security 4

As you near retirement, it's likely you'll have many questions about Social Security. Here are a few of the most common questions and answers about Social Security benefits.

Will Social Security be around when you need it?

You've probably heard media reports about the worrisome financial condition of Social Security, but how heavily should you weigh this information when deciding when to begin receiving benefits? While it's very likely that some changes will be made to Social Security (e.g., payroll taxes may increase or benefits may be reduced by a certain percentage), there's no need to base your decision about when to apply for benefits on this information alone. Although no one knows for certain what will happen, if you're within a few years of retirement, it's probable that you'll receive the benefits you've been expecting all along. If you're still a long way from retirement, it may be wise to consider various scenarios when planning for Social Security income, but keep in mind that there's been no proposal to eliminate Social Security.

If you're divorced, can you receive Social Security retirement benefits based on your former spouse's earnings record?

You may be able to receive benefits based on an ex-spouse's earnings record if you were married at least 10 years, you're currently unmarried, and you're not entitled to a higher benefit based on your own earnings record. You can apply for a reduced spousal benefit as early as age 62 or wait until your full retirement age to receive an unreduced spousal benefit. If you've been divorced for more than two years, you can apply as soon as your ex-spouse becomes eligible for benefits, even if he or she hasn't started receiving them (assuming you're at least 62). However, if you've been divorced for less than two years, you must wait to apply for benefits based on your ex-spouse's earnings record until he or she starts receiving benefits.

If you delay receiving Social Security benefits, should you still sign up for Medicare at age 65?

Even if you plan on waiting until full retirement age or later to take your Social Security retirement benefits, make sure to sign up for Medicare. If you're 65 or older and aren't yet receiving Social Security benefits, you won't be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B.

You can sign up for Medicare when you first become eligible during your seven-month Initial Enrollment Period. This period begins three months before the month you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and ends three months after the month you turn 65.

The Social Security Administration recommends contacting them to sign up three months before you reach age 65, because signing up early helps you avoid a delay in coverage. For your Medicare coverage to begin during the month you turn 65, you must sign up during the first three months before the month you turn 65 (the day your coverage will start depends on your birthday). If you enroll later, the start date of your coverage will be delayed. If you don't enroll during your Initial Enrollment Period, you may pay a higher premium for Part B coverage later. Visit the Medicare website, www.medicare.gov to learn more or call the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213.

Will a retirement pension affect your Social Security benefit?

If your pension is from a job where you paid Social Security taxes, then it won't affect your Social Security benefit. However, if your pension is from a job where you did not pay Social Security taxes (such as certain government jobs) two special provisions may apply.

The first provision, called the government pension offset (GPO), may apply if you're entitled to receive a government pension as well as Social Security spousal retirement or survivor's benefits based on your spouse's (or former spouse's) earnings. Under this provision, your spousal or survivor's benefit may be reduced by two-thirds of your government pension (some exceptions apply).

The windfall elimination provision (WEP) affects how your Social Security retirement or disability benefit is figured if you receive a pension from work not covered by Social Security. The formula used to figure your benefit is modified, resulting in a lower Social Security benefit.5


1 4 5 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2016.2  http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/jack-olantern-history/interactives/halloween-by-the-numbers 3 http://www.recipeboy.com/2014/09/nutella-cheesecake-pumpkin-bread/ 6 http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving  5 gradientfinancialgroup.com Newsletter  Insurance products and services are offered through Craig Colley | Coliday and is not affiliated with Gradient Securities, LLC. Some of these materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.

Bridging the Gap

Resolving Projected Income Shortfalls: Bridging the Gap  1

What is a projected income shortfall?

When you determine your retirement income needs, you make your projections based on the type of lifestyle you plan to have and the desired timing of your retirement. However, you may find that reality is not in sync with your projections and it looks like your retirement income will be insufficient for the rate you plan to spend it. This is called a projected income shortfall. If you find yourself in such a situation, finding the best solution will depend on several factors, including the following:

  • The severity of your projected shortfall
  • The length of time remaining before retirement
  • How long you need your retirement income to last

Several methods of coping with projected income shortfalls are described in the following sections.

Delay retirement

One way of dealing with a projected income shortfall is to stay in the workforce longer than you had planned. This will allow you to continue supporting yourself with a salary rather than dipping into your retirement savings.

What it means

Delaying your retirement could mean that you continue to work longer than you had originally planned. Or it might mean finding a new full- or part-time job and living off the income from this job. By doing so, you can delay taking Social Security benefits or distributions from retirement accounts. The longer you delay tapping into these sources, the longer the money will last when you do begin taking it.

While you might hesitate to start on a new career path late in life, there may actually be certain unique opportunities that would not have been available earlier in life. For example, you might consider entering the consulting field, based on the expertise you have gained through a lifetime of employment. This decision may involve tax issues, so it may be beneficial to review its tax impact with a tax professional.

Effect on Social Security benefits

The Social Security Administration has set a "normal retirement age" which varies between 65 and 67, depending on your date of birth. You can elect to receive Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62, but if you begin receiving benefits before your normal retirement age, your benefits will be decreased. Conversely, if you elect to delay retirement, you can increase your annual Social Security benefits. There are two reasons for this. First, each additional year that you work adds an additional year of earnings to your Social Security record, resulting in potentially higher retirement benefits. Second, the Social Security Administration gives you a credit for each month you delay retirement, up to age 70.

Effect on IRA and employer-sponsored retirement plan distributions

The longer you delay retirement, the longer you can contribute to your IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plan. However, if you have a traditional IRA, you must start taking required minimum distributions (and stop contributing) when you reach age 70½. If you fail to take the minimum distribution, you will be subject to a 50 percent penalty on the amount that should have been distributed. If you have a Roth IRA, you are not required to take any distributions while you are alive, and you can continue to make contributions after age 70½ if you are still working. Minimum distribution rules do not apply to money in qualified retirement plans until you reach age 70½ or retire (whichever occurs later), unless you own 5 percent or more of your employer. >

Save more money

You may be able to deal with projected retirement income shortfalls by adjusting your spending habits, thus allowing you to save more money for retirement. Depending on how many years you have before retirement, you may be able to get by with only minor changes to your spending habits. However, if retirement is fast approaching, drastic changes may be needed.

Make major changes to your spending pattern

If you expect to fall far short of your retirement income needs or if retirement is only a few years away, you may need to change your spending patterns drastically to save enough to cover the shortfall.

You should create a written budget so you can easily see where your money goes and where you can reduce your spending. The following are some suggested changes you may choose to implement:

  • Consolidate your loans to reduce your interest rate and/or monthly payment. Consider using home equity financing for this purpose.
  • Reduce your housing expenses by moving to a less expensive home or apartment.
  • Sell your second car, especially if it is only used occasionally.

Make minor changes to your spending patterns

Minor changes can also make a difference. You'd be surprised how quickly your savings add up when you implement several small changes to your spending patterns. The following are several areas you might consider when adjusting your spending patterns:

  • Consider buying a well-maintained used car instead of a new car.
  • Get books and movies from your local library instead of buying or renting them.
  • Plan your expenditures and avoid impulse buying.

Continue saving during your retirement

Don't think of your retirement date as your deadline for saving. Instead, continue to save money throughout your retirement years. Saving may become more difficult after retirement as a result of reduced income and potentially increased medical expenses. Putting away just a little each month can make a significant difference in how long your money will last.

Note that some of the powerful tax-deferred savings vehicles you took advantage of while working may no longer be available to you during retirement. To participate in a 401(k), for example, you must be employed by a company that offers such a plan and must meet the employer's eligibility requirements (e.g., length of service). IRAs only allow you to contribute earned income (i.e., job earnings) and generally don't permit any contributions after age 70½ (except in the case of Roth IRAs).

Re-evaluate your standard of living in retirement

If your projected income shortfall is severe enough or if time is too tight, you may realize that no matter what measures you take, you will not be able to afford the lifestyle you want during your retirement years. You may simply have to accept the fact that your retirement will not be the jet-setting, luxurious, permanent vacation you had envisioned. Recognize the difference between the things you want and the things you need and you'll have an easier time deciding where you can make adjustments. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Reduce your housing expectations
  • Cut down on travel plans
  • Consider a less expensive automobile
  • Lower household expenses

How much money should I keep in a savings account for emergencies?

Answer: You might consider putting away three to six months' worth of living expenses for emergencies. If you lose your job, or become disabled and don't have adequate disability insurance, you'll need that money to pay your regular monthly expenses, such as mortgage payments, insurance premiums, groceries, and car payments, until you can find another job. Similarly, if your car breaks down or your spouse has a medical emergency, you'll want to have the necessary cash to pay the bills. You don't want to be faced with an immediate need for cash, only to discover that you don't have any.

You may have already set up an emergency fund. Did you put the cash in a five-year certificate of deposit (CD) or other long-term investment? In an emergency, you will need to get at those funds immediately. You can certainly pull your money out of the CD early, but you'll pay a penalty. It's better to keep some funds more liquid, in a traditional savings account, a money market deposit account, or a six-month CD, for example. That way, the cash will be readily available when you need it.

Finally, keep your emergency fund separate from your everyday accounts. You might even want to use a different bank. Unless you are extremely disciplined, you'll be tempted to spend those extra funds if you keep them in your checking account. Remember, if you can put off an expense until next week, it is probably not an emergency.5


1 3Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2015. 2 http://www.womansday.com/home/organizing-cleaning/tips/a109/100-ways-to-get-organized 4 http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/quinoa-salad-recipe0.html  5 gradientfinancialgroup.com Newsletter  Insurance products and services are offered through Craig Colley | Coliday and is not affiliated with Gradient Securities, LLC. Some of these materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.