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5 Things You Need to Know About Retirement

By Retirement Planning

Saving for retirement is important, but it’s also crucial to stay informed! Now that it’s Financial Literacy Month, we thought it would be the perfect time to discuss some things you need to know.

 

There’s an old saying that goes something like, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” You might have even used it, maybe when you came home past curfew without your parents finding out or poured your juice into the plant when no one was watching. And sure, no one being the wiser might have worked when you were young, but in retirement, what you don’t know actually CAN hurt you.

It’s important to stay informed about not just past trends, but also what you should expect as you make your way through that exciting phase of your life. It can give you a better chance to prepare for obstacles and implement a plan to overcome them. It can also help you take advantage of opportunities, especially as you look to make your money last for a quarter of a century or longer. Let’s go over five things you need to know about retirement.

  1. Market Downturns WILL Happen [1,2]

When you spend between 25 and 30 years or longer in retirement, it’s not a question of “if” you’ll encounter market downturn; it’s a question of “when.” These declines are typically referred to as “bear markets,” which are defined as market drops of 20% or more. If we use the S&P 500 as an indicator of bear markets, there have been 12 instances of significant market decline since the index’s inception in 1957. That means you should expect to face some adversity in the market once every five or six years. So, what are your options?

Well, historically, patience has been the best way to overcome market adversity, as long-term outlooks have always trended upward. It can also be helpful to work with a financial professional who can tailor your portfolio to your goals and tolerance for risk. If you’re more comfortable with risk or have a longer timeline to retirement, you may have more assets invested in the market, whereas those approaching retirement are usually advised to shift more of the portfolio into assets that are fixed, like bonds or bond alternatives.

Rebalancing your portfolio and creating a customized retirement plan as you approach retirement is advised, especially to mitigate sequence of returns risk. Sequence of returns risk is the risk of retirees facing market downturn in the few years prior or the first few years of retirement, meaning they take greater losses on greater asset totals. Again, working with a financial professional to find ways to mitigate sequence of returns risk can be helpful. Sometimes this is done by creating a stream of income with part of your retirement assets to cover your living expenses. This allows you to wait out bear markets with your remaining assets which might remain directly invested in the market.

  1. Decumulation is Just as Important as Accumulation

Yes, we all want to retire as multimillionaires, hitting on our investments and getting lucrative returns. That period of building your assets, investment and making growth-oriented decisions is often referred to as the “accumulation” phase. However, the fact is, it doesn’t matter how much money you accumulate if you don’t have a plan for how to spend it in the “decumulation” phase, after you retire and no longer have employment income coming in. Oftentimes, that plan includes a strategy to create income for your projected lifestyle, as well as a comprehensive budget dictating where that income will go. Additionally, many factors will play a role in decumulation, including taxation, legislation, your life expectancy, your spending habits and more.

We traditionally recommend getting a good idea of how much you plan to spend on an annual basis. That’s how much income you’ll likely need to create, along with a little bit of wiggle room giving you the freedom to cover emergencies or other unexpected expenses. The best way to do this is often by assessing your goals for retirement, then estimating the amount of money you’ll need to achieve them. Then, we can build a budget for you to strictly adhere to in retirement. It’s important to understand that if you start planning for retirement once you’re already there, it might be too late. If you’ve become accustomed to your lifestyle, it can be difficult to make cuts, especially when some retirees actually need more money in retirement than they did while they were working, leading us to our next point.

  1. It’s Never Too Early to Prepare [3,4,5]

Think about it. You reach the most exciting period of your life, your retirement accounts are as well-funded as they’ll ever be, and you have an endless list of things you want to do now that your time belongs entirely to you. Will you want to pull back? Not likely. That’s why it’s important to start preparing for retirement long before you call it a career, giving you the flexibility to course correct if you find that you haven’t saved enough to live comfortably. But how much do you need to live comfortably? Modern estimates say retirees have set that target figure at $1.3 million for a 67-year-old heading toward a 30-year retirement, but working with a financial professional may help you get a more accurate estimate for your unique situation. It might not require that much, depending on your plan.

A 2023 study found that the average person between the ages of 65 and 74 has saved a little over $600,000. Will that be enough? It depends. Working with a financial professional early in your career, developing your own personal retirement goals and consistently devoting a portion of your income to the recommended strategies in your plan can give you a better chance to reach the financial goals you have for your retirement.

  1. Social Security May Not Suffice [6,7]

Social Security figures to be one of the biggest sources of income for most American retirees. In fact, 40% of retirees rely on Social Security for more than half of their income, and 14% rely on it for 90% of their income or more. Sure, it’s a nice benefit, but it was never designed to be a primary source of funds in the first place. It was always a supplementary tool, originally created for the economic security of the elderly back in 1932, when the average life expectancy ranged from age 57 to 63. Now, relying on Social Security has never been more tenuous. Benefits are set to take a hit of more than 20% beginning in 2034 if no action is taken soon by Congress.

Still, action is where the problem lies. The choices appear to boil down to cutting payments for beneficiaries, raising the payroll tax rate or increasing the payroll tax increase limit. So far, all of those options have been met with opposition, presumably making benefits cuts the most likely solution. Granted, American taxpayers will always be contributing to the Social Security trust fund, meaning it’s unlikely the fund is drained completely, but it is running short, making it imperative to use other planning methods. Some of those methods can include saving more and creating more supplemental income streams to provide for your lifestyle.

  1. Risk Runs Rampant in Retirement [8,9,10]

Life expectancies continue to rise, which is fantastic news for anyone who plans to use their retirement years to check off bucket list items and spend time with their families. At the same time, it means spending more money, potentially for 20 years or longer. That can put you at risk of outliving your money, which is known as longevity risk. Then, even if you do save enough to provide for 20 to 30 years of a healthy retirement, you’ll start to introduce new factors that could drain your savings such as inflation, taxes, market, health care and long-term care risk.

Long-term care is one of the key factors that can quickly deplete your funds, and it’s easy to see why. On average, 70% of modern retirees will need some form of long-term care, and 20% will need it for five years or longer. Additionally, the cost for long-term care can run from $64,000 to $116,000 per year, and it’s not covered by Medicare because it’s a lifestyle expense as opposed to a medical expense.

That could mean enlisting in the help of long-term care insurance, which is historically expensive and useless for the 30% who end up not needing the care. Modern policies, however, can combine life and long-term care insurance, providing a pool of resources for long-term care if necessary and a death benefit to beneficiaries if not. But these policies aren’t right for everyone. We can help you compare your options and determine if they match your goals.

If you have any questions about how you can better prepare for retirement, give us a call today! You can reach The Financial Education Group by setting up an appointment with us here.

 

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/investing/bear-market-history/
  2. https://www.investopedia.com/8-ways-to-survive-a-market-downturn-4773417
  3. https://www.wsj.com/buyside/personal-finance/how-much-do-i-need-to-retire-f3275fa7
  4. https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/investing/the-average-retirement-savings-by-age-and-why-you-need-more
  5. https://www.cnbc.com/2023/09/08/56percent-of-americans-say-theyre-not-on-track-to-comfortably-retire.html
  6. https://www.cbpp.org/research/social-security/key-principles-for-strengthening-social-security
  7. https://www.cnbc.com/select/will-social-security-run-out-heres-what-you-need-to-know/
  8. https://www.ssa.gov/oact/population/longevity.html
  9. https://www.aplaceformom.com/senior-living-data/articles/long-term-care-statistics
  10. https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care

 

5 Reasons Financial Planning is Important for Women

By Financial Planning

It’s Women’s History Month! Let’s go over why financial planning is important for women.

While there’s little doubt women have taken major strides professionally and socially over even the past few years, it’s still all too common for them to be left out of the financial discussion. Whether that happens on their own accord or because they simply become an afterthought in the conversation, their exclusion can be extremely damaging not just to their own future but to both members of a couple or an entire family. Well, this month is Women’s History Month, so while there is never a bad time to celebrate the women who mean so much to us, this is the perfect opportunity to discuss their role in financial planning and its importance. Let’s go over five reasons why financial planning is crucial for women.

  1. It Can be Empowering

Whether a woman is a working professional, a stay-at-home parent, a single individual or a retiree, her role goes far beyond the simple financial aspect of the planning process. It should also be uplifting and empowering, giving you a sense of purpose when it comes to both your money and your dreams. It can also build confidence when you truly understand the systems our society is built around, and being financially literate has the potential to make anyone feel like their goals are achievable and they can find the right path, no matter what the future holds.

It’s also about equality. While money isn’t everything, there’s no denying its power and ability to dictate a person’s ability to live a comfortable lifestyle. As an equal partner in a couple, or even as an individual, understanding financial concepts and knowing you have an easy-to-follow roadmap toward your goals can be motivating and inspiring.

  1. Women Live Longer Than Men

According to the CDC, the average life expectancy for women is 79 years, while it’s just 73 for men [1]. While this might not sound drastic, that six-year period can feel like an eternity for those who face any sort of financial struggles. That means on average, women must strategize for six more years of living expenses. While it might be true that if your spouse passes away first you may only have to cover yourself when it comes to costs like medical bills, food, everyday living and more, it’s important to remember new obstacles that potentially come into play. A mortgage payment, for example, might remain the same, while only one person’s retirement money might be coming in.

That’s why planning for adequate retirement income is critical for women. For instance, some pensions are only paid to one spouse. And while you might inherit retirement accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs, you will only receive one Social Security payment going forward if your spouse passes away before you. While it will be the larger of the two checks, it is still necessary to have a plan if your income were to decline.

Additionally, longer lifespans, especially after the loss of a partner, can potentially lead to the need for long-term care, which is extremely pricey and not covered by Medicare.

  1. Women Make Less on Average

In addition to longer lifespans, women tend to earn less than men for a multitude of reasons. In fact, a study from the Pew Research Center showed women earn, on average, 82% of what men earn, which is not much better than the 80% they earned more than 20 years ago [2]. This is true despite social advancements that have led to more women in power as well as further discussion about the gap. Of course, there are many theories about why that gap exists. For example, some women work in different industries offering lower average wages and fewer benefits.

Still, however, even choosing a different career path cannot always help, especially when pay is oftentimes determined by experience or hours worked. The obligation of caretaking, especially for children, typically falls on women, meaning they are sometimes forced to exit the workforce and forgo work experience and potential advancement. Lower wages also mean they oftentimes have less to put away for a retirement that is already longer than the average man’s, and those lower wages might also equate to lower Social Security or pension payments. Simply put, women face more obstacles, possibly further necessitating a proper financial and retirement plan.

  1. Women Are Often Responsible for Loved Ones

As previously mentioned, women are often saddled with the responsibility of exiting the workforce to raise and provide for children, forcing them to forgo opportunities to gain experience and earn more money. Additionally, they may be forced to tap into savings, income from part-time roles or shared income with their spouse to ensure the house is properly run – a full-time job in and of itself. Again, that can leave less money for a woman to contribute to savings and investment vehicles for retirement.

Additionally, caregiving responsibilities do not always end with children. Many women between the ages of 40 and 60, which is often a high-earning period used to sock away funds as you approach retirement, are part of what’s being referred to as the “Sandwich Generation.” In this sandwich, children are one slice of bread while elderly parents are the other, forcing women to be the meat, veggies and condiments between the two to financially support both parties. Furthermore, women make up 60% of the Sandwich Generation, and they spend, on average, 45 minutes per day more than men caring for children and parents [3]. That obligation can make it even more difficult to save for retirement, whether it’s because they’re forced to step away from work or they’re using more of their funds to provide for dependents.

  1. Women Are Set to Inherit the Majority of the Wealth in the US

Presently, women control about a third of this country’s wealth, but we are heading toward a major change in financial power. In one of the biggest transitions of wealth in American history, women are set to inherit the better part of $68 trillion [4]. This should give some women a significant advantage in their own retirement plans.

But with a great inheritance comes great responsibility. Without a proper plan or a firm direction for those trillions of dollars, it can be moot. That’s why it’s crucial for women to take an active role in financial planning now. They shouldn’t wait until they actually inherit the money; they should be working with those they might inherit that money from, as well as a financial professional, to gain the right tools and knowledge to purpose that influx of cash for a long, successful retirement.

If you’re ready to become more involved in the financial planning process, please give us a call today! You can reach The Financial Education Group by setting up an appointment with us here.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.cnbc.com/2023/03/01/why-american-men-die-younger-than-women-on-average-and-how-to-fix-it.html
  2. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2023/03/01/gender-pay-gap-facts/
  3. https://www.theskimm.com/stateofwomen/sandwich-generation-costs-women
  4. https://www.cnbc.com/2023/12/12/why-the-68-trillion-great-wealth-transfer-is-an-opportunity-for-women.html

Chris Longworth Featured In CBS News Article About Interest Rates

By In the Press

Chris Longworth Featured In CBS News Article About Interest Rates

 

Interest rate hikes by the Fed mean higher rates paid by banks to savers.

To combat ongoing inflation, the Federal Reserve raised the federal funds rate 11 times between March 2022 and July 2023. Most recently at the end of January 2024, the Fed held rates steady.

In fact, inflation has been moving downward steadily, falling from a peak of 9.1% last year to just over 3% today.

Although no one has a crystal ball, further rate hikes from the Fed aren’t likely. The central bank’s most recent projections actually call for three potential rate decreases at some point in 2024.

While unlikely, if inflation starts rising again, it could mean higher savings rates are on the horizon. If inflation does spike again, the Federal Reserve would be forced to increase its benchmark interest rate, which would mean a jump in savings rates.

Chris Longworth weighed in:

“Interest rates that we can get on our savings at various banks and savings institutions are directly affected by the Federal Reserve and what it is charging,” says Chris Longworth, host of the radio show “The Money Professor” and owner of The Financial Education Group. “As long as they keep turning up the rates, your savings rates will increase equally and as well.”

Read the original article here: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ways-high-yield-savings-rates-could-rise-in-2024/

6 Financial Tips for Couples

By Financial Planning

Money can be a major obstacle for couples. Here are a few ways to overcome it.

Do you remember when you first met your partner? So many things about them might have captivated you. Maybe it was their eyes, their hair or their smile. Maybe you started talking and you fell in love with their outlook on life, their fun-loving attitude or their sense of humor. We’re willing to bet, however, it wasn’t your aligned financial philosophies that initially drew you to each other, even if financial stability was high on your list of priorities for potential partners.

At the same time, maybe that should be something you look for in your other half. Nearly 50% of Americans say they argue with their significant other about money, while 41% of Gen Xers and 29% of baby boomers attribute their divorce to financial disagreements [1]. One of our goals is to give you the stability that can eliminate financial stress, trimming your worries when it comes to your happily ever after. Here are six tips for couples looking to achieve their financial goals together!

  1. Communicate Effectively

Of course, communication is the key to a healthy relationship. It’s no secret. In fact, you’ve probably heard this old adage your entire life, but hearing it is different from comprehending it and acting upon it. Additionally, while it’s important when sharing your needs and overcoming conflict, it’s just as important to have open, honest, confident communication about your finances. In our experience, the majority of the battle is normalizing the conversation. Remember, you’re not just combining finances; you’re combining your entire lives, so this discussion shouldn’t be taboo. To make it easier, it can be a good idea to start with simple topics. Go over things like income, how you feel about different retirement accounts, your experience investing or how comfortable you feel with risk. You can then let the conversation naturally evolve to encompass more complex topics, or you can tackle new problems as they arise. It’s key to consider that you’re equal partners, both in life and in money, and it’s crucial to have these discussions before and during a serious relationship.

  1. Choose a Strategy

Once you’ve broken the barrier to financial discussion, it can be helpful to choose a strategy for how you’ll combine your finances. Some couples, for example, find it easiest to simply combine all their assets, giving meaning to the phrase, “What’s mine is yours.” Others, however, may feel more comfortable keeping their assets separate and handling their own personal expenses. Most commonly, a couple will land somewhere in the middle with a few select combined accounts and some solo accounts. This can help each person maintain some of their individuality and independence while also offering some guidance as to who’s responsible for different financial obligations. Spend some time discussing these options with your partner, and be completely open and honest to foster healthy communication in the present and future.

  1. Set Measurable, Realistic Goals

Identify goals that are important to both of you, especially if you want to achieve them together. Whether those are short- term goals or long-term, this gives you something to work toward, unifying your vision and objectives to keep you on the same page. It can also help you maintain control over your financial decisions and your priorities. Ensuring those goals are measurable and realistic is also important. In addition to the satisfaction that comes with watching yourself climb toward your objectives, reaching measurable milestones can be motivating, pushing you and your partner to continue saving and spending with the future in mind.

  1. Budget Effectively

As a couple, you’re a team. That means working together to reach common goals. There’s also power in finding financial strength together, so constructing a budget, controlling your spending, and expressing your thoughts freely can help you grow as a duo. When building that budget, it’s important to start by having a conversation about your priorities. Lay them out clearly, and work together to determine which expenses are “needs” and which expenses are “wants.” You’ll probably want to prioritize essentials, like food, your home, your transportation, and other necessary living expenses. You may want to move on to outstanding debt, determining how much you can realistically pay down in a given period. As partners, you should also hold each other accountable, knowing that sticking to the budget is what’s better for both. Then, know you can tweak your budget as your circumstances change and evolve.

  1. Choose the Right Financial Partner

The right financial partner or professional can help you develop and work toward your goals. Oftentimes, this means finding someone who understands your current circumstances, is able to read you and your partner as people, and is willing to work in your best interests. This can be tricky, but remember, this is your livelihood we’re talking about. It’s more than understandable if you’re skeptical when choosing someone to control your assets. Additionally, if you think it’s the right time to start working with a professional, ask many questions to determine if they’re the right person to help you achieve your goals. While you may feel like you’re on the hot seat as they ask about your saving and spending, it’s just as much of an opportunity for you to assess how effective or helpful they will be in the construction of your plan or portfolio.

  1. Develop an Actionable Plan

Once you understand your cashflow, habits, budget and goals as a couple, it’s time to develop a plan that offers specific direction and sets you into motion. Oftentimes, this is the blueprint for your future, giving both you and your partner rules to adhere to. It should also be comprehensive, meaning that it accounts for each aspect of your life. Determine how you’ll utilize specific retirement accounts, as well as if you’re comfortable having your money exposed to market risk. You can also explore options for insurance policies, which can be crucial if you want to protect your loved ones in the event of the worst. Furthermore, revisit your plan on a regular basis. Maybe your risk tolerance has changed, you feel you can contribute more to your savings vehicles, your beneficiaries have changed, you need different levels of insurance coverage, or you’re ready to graduate into retirement. Your plan plays a key role in achieving both your short- and long-term goals, and having one that you believe in can make all the difference.

We believe that money should never hinder your relationship. If you have any questions about how you can effectively combine and develop a plan for your finances as a couple, give us a call today! You can reach The Financial Education Group by setting up an appointment with us here.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-common-behavior-is-the-no-1-predictor-of-whether-youll-get-divorced-2018-01-10

6 Key Features of Indexed Universal Life Insurance

By Life Insurance

Indexed universal life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance that offers different benefits to policyholders. Here is what you need to know!

Traditionally, life insurance has been one of those assets someone might hold but hope they never have to use. Often crafted to protect from the worst-case scenario, it’s most known for the death benefit it can offer heirs in the event of untimely death, providing a payout that has the potential to ease both financial and emotional tension. Modern life insurance options, however, can come with different features depending on the type of policy you purchase. Because September is Life Insurance Awareness Month, we thought it would be the perfect time to go over one of those options: indexed universal life (IUL) insurance.

NOTE: When reading this information, it’s important to remember that life insurance may require medical underwriting and sometimes policies can be denied. In general, the younger and healthier you are, the lower the cost of insurance.

  1. The Classic Death Benefit

The classic benefit of every different type of life insurance policy, including IUL, is the death benefit, which is typically paid out to the policy’s named beneficiaries tax- and probate-free in the event of the policyholder’s death. This can give your heirs a nice sum of money to cover things like burial and funeral costs, outstanding debt, and living expenses. It can be difficult to lose a provider, and a life insurance death benefit can ease some of that burden.

  1. Permanent Coverage

IUL policies offer permanence, which can make them a viable option for all ages. Unlike term life insurance, where the death benefit expires when the policy expires—typically in 20 or 30 years—an indexed universal life policy is a permanent policy that offers your beneficiaries a death benefit as long as premiums are paid and the policy is in force. While term policies can offer relatively affordable premiums for young, healthy policyholders, an IUL can lock in and guarantee coverage even if the policyholder develops a condition that would make them uninsurable later.

Increasingly popular [1], indexed life policies are sometimes purchased by healthy seniors as a way to transfer tax-advantaged wealth as part of their estate plan, or seniors may elect to purchase a policy which has long-term care benefits either built in or added as an optional rider to an IUL policy.

  1. Flexible Premiums

One of the key differentiators between whole life and universal life is flexible premiums. IUL policies allow policyholders to determine the monthly premiums they pay based on their desired death benefit and/or cash value in the policy. For instance, if your need for a high death benefit is not as great as it once was, you can pay lower premiums while still keeping your policy in force. Furthermore, the cash value portion of the policy can also be accessed to pay premiums, whether that’s by choice or by the policyholder’s inability to pay monthly premiums. On the other hand, policyholders with the funds to increase premiums to increase coverage can do so, potentially meaning a greater death benefit and a greater cash value.

  1. Accessible Cash Value Portion

Permanent life insurance policies like whole life and universal life offer a cash value portion that is funded by the policy’s premiums. Because the policy’s premiums are paid with post-tax dollars, that cash value is accessible to the policyholder for any reason as a tax-free loan, potentially making IUL a useful source of income for retirement, postsecondary education, a downpayment for a home, or any other major expense. Granted, borrowing from the cash value of a policy does accrue interest per policy terms; however, the cash value in an indexed universal policy also continues to be credited interest as if the borrowed amount is still there, again based on the contract terms. That gives the cash value a chance to keep pace with, or even outpace, the amount the policyholder owes in interest. Furthermore, if the policyholder uses the cash value as a tax-free source of retirement income and never pays it back, the borrowed amount plus interest is simply taken from the death benefit. It’s important to read and follow the contract terms carefully to make sure that the policy stays in force whenever the cash value is borrowed.

  1. Guarantees Provided by Carrier

In addition to being accessible as a source of tax-free income, the cash value in an indexed universal policy also comes with guaranteed principal protection and growth that correlates with a preselected market index. Those guarantees are made by the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company, and they can allow you to participate in at least a portion of the market’s upside without subjecting you to its bottomless floor. This can make indexed universal life a helpful tool for those without the stomach or tolerance for market risk. Depending on investment, saving and lifestyle goals, it can also help to diversify a portfolio with a non-correlated asset class that still offers potential market upside.

  1. Long-Term Care Hybrid Policies

Nearly 70% of today’s 65-year-olds will need some type of long-term care (LTC), and 20% will need it for longer than five years [2]. It’s also important to know that extended stays in long-term care facilities are not covered by Medicare, as they are considered lifestyle expenses as opposed to medical expenses. That means that today’s retirees may want to consider the possibility of needing LTC, as well as a way to cover the potentially exorbitant costs. Modern hybrid policies can give policyholders the option to combine their life coverage with long-term care coverage, eliminating the “use-it-or-lose-it” aspect of long-term care policies of old. If you need the benefit to pay for long-term care, it can be used to pay for those expenses, but if you don’t, it can be converted to a death benefit for your beneficiaries.

If you’d like to find out if an indexed universal life insurance policy might align with your unique financial circumstances and goals, we can help! Give us a call today to explore your options and build a plan for your future. You can reach The Financial Education Group by setting up an appointment with us here.

 

Sources:

  1. https://insurancenewsnet.com/innarticle/indexed-life-sales-up-28-drives-strong-q2-for-life-insurance-wink-says
  2. https://acl.gov/ltc/basic-needs/how-much-care-will-you-need

This article is not to be construed as financial advice. It is provided for informational purposes only and it should not be relied upon. It is recommended that you check with your financial advisor, tax professional and legal professionals when making any investment or any change to your retirement plan. Your investments, insurance and savings vehicles should match your risk tolerance and be suitable as well as what’s best for your personal financial situation.

Financial Freedom at Each Stage of Life

By Financial Planning

What does financial freedom mean to you? It could give you the opportunity to pursue personal goals and milestones while shouldering less of a financial burden.

It’s true. Money can’t buy happiness. You can’t simply walk into a store and purchase it over the counter or off the shelf. It can, however, open avenues that allow you to pursue happiness, giving you the flexibility to chase what makes you feel fulfilled, understood and complete. That flexibility is called financial freedom, and it occurs when you’re no longer beholden to restrictions placed upon your goals and your desires by your unique circumstances.

We also truly believe that financial freedom is achievable for everyone, no matter their income level, present outlook or future objectives. But what opportunities does financial freedom typically unlock, and how do those change as you age and progress through both your life and your career? Let’s go over a few phases and milestones as well as the possibilities that may be availed to you through securing your financial independence.

20s

It’s never too early to begin your quest for financial freedom. Similarly, it’s never too early to actually achieve it. In your 20s, it might begin with the ability to start paying off those expensive student loans that can potentially bog you down later in life. You should be in the beginning phases of your career, looking to make your mark, climb a ladder and experience a tremendous amount of growth as you learn who you are in a professional capacity. Use this time to learn and accept the traditional lessons while also voicing what makes you unique, all while collecting paychecks that ideally allow you to pay down high-interest debt, make a down payment on your first home or consider starting your family. While young and spry, financial flexibility can also allow you to travel, plan for a wedding, move cities to chase career opportunities, or start a side hustle or passion project. In your 20s, the possibilities are endless, and detaching yourself from financial limits can help you make the most of your youth. And remember, saving any amount, no matter how small, can have a huge impact on your future financial freedom because of compound interest. As Einstein said, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.”

30s

By your 30s, you might be a bit more settled, either with a family or an idea of when you’ll begin your family. You may also have a better idea of who you are, your goals, your dreams, your passions and your desired lifestyle. Financial freedom in this stage can allow you to indulge in those dreams, potentially with grander vacations, elimination of hand-cuffing debt, continued repayment or payoff of your home loan and car, and the ability to provide for your loved ones. If you’re lucky enough to eliminate debt, it can be a great time to consider saving or investing more for the future while continuing to maintain your current lifestyle expenditures. You can also consider an estate plan or a life insurance policy to protect those who might rely on you, giving both you and your beneficiaries some peace of mind should something happen to you.

40s

Once you reach your 40s, you’re likely quite used to the life you’ve built and the family you’ve raised. You may also be more comfortable financially, as you’re deep into your career and have adapted with the industry you work in. That’s why in this stage, freedom is about satisfaction. With more security in your profession and better backing in your bank account, you could continue to travel, look for a second home and provide for your beneficiaries. Additionally, your children may be reaching the point at which they need to consider how they’ll pay for college. Though parent-owned 529 accounts do figure into how much federal aid a student qualifies for, other methods, such as permanent life insurance policies, may not, making them a potentially valuable tool. At the same time, your parents may be progressing into their next stage of life, and they may need your help whether that’s simply via your time or your funds. Proper preparation may be able to help you accomplish all of these.

50s

If you experienced financial freedom in previous decades and were able to pay off outstanding debt, home loans, car loans, student loans and more, your 50s could be the perfect time to sock money away for retirement. You’re now closer than ever to retirement, making this the most important time to ensure that your accounts are well-funded, you’re prepared to move on to a fixed income, and you’re protected from market volatility in the final years of your career and first few years of your retirement. If you haven’t in a minute, it could also be a good idea to reassess your beneficiaries, your estate plan and your life insurance policy. You may be able to make necessary tweaks and plan to pass your wealth as tax-efficiently as possible. Additionally, if you’ve shored up all aspects of your financial and retirement plans, you may have some flexibility to spend on things like vacations, charities, vow renewals or other recreational expenditures.

60s

In your 60s, you may be on the cusp of retirement or already in retirement. You can file for Social Security at age 62, but it’s important to remember that filing prior to your full retirement age will permanently reduce your benefit. That’s why this could be a good time to do your final pre-retirement planning, which could include the creation of income streams to keep you afloat while you wait until your full retirement age. You may also be in a comfortable enough position to begin looking at vacation homes, pursuing your various hobbies, checking off bucket list items or even just enjoying a little bit of downtime. Grandchildren may also be on the way, or you may already have them. In that case, financial freedom can grant you the power to spoil them, either with memories that will last or with a long-term college fund. Unlike parent-owned 529 plans, grandparent-owned 529 plans do not count when calculating how much aid a student qualifies for, so they may be helpful tools for your grandchildren looking to achieve higher education.

70s

At this point, it’s likely that you’re retired. Not only have you reached your full retirement age; you may have also permanently increased your benefit by waiting through that special birthday. Now, with financial freedom, you may have the monetary means to match your ample free time. The world is your oyster, and with sufficient retirement funds, you can plan fun things depending on your hobbies and your passions. If you enjoy travelling, it could be a great time to take that once-in-a-lifetime trip that you no longer have to request time off work for. You might also be able to tack onto a collection you’ve been building for decades. Maybe retirement simply means more time to spend with friends and family, and now that your time and your finances are flexible, you can develop those relationships without any inhibiting factors.

80s and Beyond

Though you may slow down as you get older, financial freedom never becomes less important. In this phase of life, it may be critical to consider the possibility of needing long-term care. Roughly 70% of Americans over the age of 65 will need some type of long-term care [1], so while it’s nothing to be ashamed of, it can be a good idea to be prepared. Still, however, you don’t have to stop living your life. You can continue to utilize your free time as you please, but your hobbies may change. You may want to prioritize your health and your personal connections. You may also discover that you have a shift in philosophy, finding joy in activities that require less physical activity such as visiting art shows or attending theatre performances. Furthermore, though you should consistently be revisiting your estate plan throughout the years, this is perhaps the most crucial stage. Reviewing your beneficiaries and ensuring that your tax professional and estate attorney are helping you pass your wealth in the most tax-efficient manner possible can help your loved ones attain financial freedom themselves.

Financial freedom may look different for everyone, but universally, it can be the key to unlocking the comfortability and security to achieve your dreams. Give us a call today to see how we can help you design a plan to become financially liberated and bring those dreams to life! You can reach The Financial Education Group by setting up an appointment with us here.

 

This article is not to be construed as financial advice. It is provided for informational purposes only and it should not be relied upon. It is recommended that you check with your financial advisor, tax professional and legal professionals when making any investment or any change to your retirement plan. Your investments, insurance and savings vehicles should match your risk tolerance and be suitable as well as what’s best for your personal financial situation.

Sources:

  1. https://www.singlecare.com/blog/news/long-term-care-statistics/

7 Signs You May be Ready for Retirement

By Retirement Planning

It can be difficult to know when you’re ready to retire, but checking these seven boxes may be a sign that the time is coming.

 

Preparing yourself for retirement can be scary, as so many variables and questions leave timing up in the air and offer little to no confidence when it comes to selecting the perfect moment to quit your job and spend your time doing what you want to do instead of what you have to do. There are, however, strong indicators that may help you realize that you’re ready to retire. While many savers and pre-retirees set concrete milestones and timetables, only a few of the important signs that you can retire comfortably have to do with your age. Here are some ways to know that you might be ready to leave the workforce.

  1. You Have Adequate Savings to Cover Your Projected Lifestyle Expenses

One of the first and most certain indicators that you’re ready to retire is having adequate savings to cover your projected lifestyle expenses throughout retirement. Granted, this will be different for everyone based on desired lifestyle and expected costs, which is why it can be helpful to consult your financial professional as you make your way toward retirement. They can help you determine a retirement budget that suits your spending habits and desired lifestyle, as well as the longevity of your savings in relation to that estimate. It can also be important to consider that your expenses may rise in retirement, as you might work to check off bucket list items you’ve had for years. It’s all part of the planning process that will be unique to you and your goals.

  1. You Are Debt-Free

It’s not typically a good idea to take on a pile of debt while living on a fixed income. With that in mind, ensuring that you have little to no debt when you enter retirement can be paramount to your ability to live your desired lifestyle and have a safe, secure post-career life. This could mean paying off credit card debt you’ve accrued while raising children, but it could also mean tackling home loan bills that never quite seemed to stop arriving in your mailbox. The problem with bringing your debt with you into retirement is that you stop working for your money and you start asking your money to work for you. While that’s the best-case scenario, it doesn’t always work perfectly in, for instance, periods of market downturns, which may force you to drain your savings to pay for necessities.

  1. You Have Secured Multiple Income Streams

Oftentimes, retirement isn’t as much about total savings as it is about income. That income is what you’ll use to cover your projected expenses, meaning it’s integral to your ability to provide yourself with the lifestyle you both want and deserve. In the modern retirement landscape, it can be helpful to secure multiple income streams that can provide different levels of growth and protection, thereby helping you fund your dreams with different sources of funds. Additionally, one retirement account may not suffice. Rather than relying solely on your 401(k), it can be helpful to add other retirement investment accounts or insurance products that match your goals, thereby allowing you to collect income based on which source is the most advantageous at a given moment, something your financial professional should be able to help with. Additionally, those extra income streams can be helpful if you decide to delay claiming Social Security. Simply by waiting past your retirement age, your benefit can be permanently increased by up to two-thirds of a percent each month—a total of 8% for each year you wait—offering an opportunity to enhance your benefit forever.

  1. Those Income Streams are Diversified Between Tax-Free and Tax-Deferred

Diversification of your retirement portfolio and tax-advantaged accounts may not guarantee success in retirement, but it could position you to offset certain tax obligations depending on future circumstances and legislation. On one hand, tax-free saving and investing vehicles, like Roth 401(k)s, Roth IRAs and permanent life insurance policies, can present a more secure option through offering tax-free growth and withdrawals. Additionally, later tax legislation probably won’t affect your withdrawals, and you may avoid required minimum distributions. Tax-deferred accounts, like traditional 401(k)s and traditional IRAs, are funded with pre-tax dollars then taxed as ordinary income upon withdrawal. While this can present an opportunity for greater growth, the tax landscape is ever-changing, potentially causing less certainty in how much you’ll have when you retire.

  1. You Have Liquid Savings

One of the first components of a healthy financial plan, no matter your age, is an emergency fund. The traditional recommendation for an emergency fund is somewhere between three- and six-months’ worth of living expenses, giving you the opportunity to cover necessary costs should you face an unexpected financial hurdle. In retirement, that liquid savings could prove even more important, as you may incur costs you don’t expect while living on a fixed income and drain funds meant to support your lifestyle for decades. As we mentioned above, it’s a good idea to clear most if not all of your debt prior to entering retirement, but having an emergency fund could help you protect yourself from car or home repairs, medical emergencies, part-time job loss and more. This is important even if you’ve shored up your savings and created multiple income streams.

  1. You Have Hobbies

While this isn’t necessarily financial advice, having hobbies you really want to pursue can be another sign that you’re ready to retire. Your free time is set to skyrocket, and you’ll need a few ways to spend it to avoid immediately becoming bored. If you don’t currently have hobbies, or ideas of how you’ll spend your free time, it may be a good idea to remain in the workforce a little while longer while you try a few different pastimes. Some ideas include traveling, collecting, learning a new skill, picking up a part-time job, starting a business, golfing, volunteering and more. The possibilities are nearly endless, as long as you’re doing something you love and something that drives you to get out of bed in the morning long after the alarm means that it’s time to get ready for work.

  1. You Have a Plan

Finally, having a written plan that is easy to follow and remain dedicated to is key to a successful retirement, and it’s important to create your plan long before you choose to leave the workforce. A successful plan isn’t just for decumulation and distribution of your various retirement accounts. It’s also a comprehensive map and strategy that outlines ways you will cover your many expenses, including those that simply bring pleasure. Furthermore, though you’ll certainly want your plan to be flexible and malleable, it can be helpful to have an idea of how you’ll use your funds, giving you a better grasp of how much you’ll spend on a monthly or annual basis and how much you’ll want to save prior to entering retirement.

The perfect time to retire will vary based on your unique circumstances, but we’re here to provide you with the education, tools and preparation you need. Let’s explore your options and plan for the retirement of your dreams! You can reach The Financial Education Group by setting up an appointment with us here.

 

This article is not to be construed as financial advice. It is provided for informational purposes only and it should not be relied upon. It is recommended that you check with your financial advisor, tax professional and legal professionals when making any investment or any change to your retirement plan. Your investments, insurance and savings vehicles should match your risk tolerance and be suitable as well as what’s best for your personal financial situation.

Chris Longworth Appears in Authority Magazine

By Financial News, In the Press

As an “finance insider” with a focus on consumer education, Chris Longworth was recently interviewed by Authority Magazine because of his deep insights into the finance industry. He was asked the question, “If your loved one wanted to hire a financial advisor, which five things would you advise them to find out about before committing?

Chris Longworth, Nationally Certified Financial Education Instructor

Here are Chris Longworth’s five tips for finding the right financial advisor:

1) Be very clear about what your goals are for the money you’re investing. This must be very clear and well defined as this makes a huge difference in the type of investment your advisor would recommend.

2) Find out if the advisor is a specialist in any one area of investing. See if that matches your expectations.

3) Don’t be afraid to ask about their background, knowledge, and personal history in the industry. You want to know how long they’ve been an advisor, where they went to school, and what certificates beyond the basics they possess.

4) What is their track record? What is their average loss rate? Do they specialize in lifelong income distribution?

5) This last question has two parts: First, how much money could you lose from any one of your investments? And second, what is your guarantee of income distribution and how much will you get?

Remember, if you don’t do your due diligence and vet your financial advisor, you may end up with not-so-favorable results. One situation involves having your account “churned.” What churned means is that the advisor, instead of working in your best interest, is making trades, and moving investments in your account to rack up commissions on a regular basis.

Take the time to educate yourself about money and investments so that you can make knowledgeable decisions and reduce the possibility of falling prey to unethical advisors.

He continued the interview by explaining that financial advisors are not just for very wealthy people.

Chris says, “The fact that financial illiteracy is at those epidemic numbers mentioned previously means that everyone can use assistance when it comes to managing their money. The best way to get the help needed is to find an academically based advisor that you can trust, have confidence in, and who will help you learn about money management so that you have confidence in the choices you make. I am teaching my clients to make educated choices about their finances in the future. When I help someone and they ask if, at the next meeting, they can bring someone they know or care about to the meeting so they can learn as well.”

“No one is born understanding the complex world of finances. If you are making money and want to fund your future, you can benefit from the services of a financial advisor.”

If you have any questions, please reach out to Chris Longworth. You can easily set up an appointment to speak via Zoom at this link: https://calendly.com/thefinancialeducationgroup

 

 

Read the complete article here: https://medium.com/authority-magazine/chris-longworth-of-the-financial-education-group-on-5-things-to-look-for-when-hiring-a-financial-7e855682422e


 

Christopher Longworth Lauded for Excellence in Finance

By In the Press

Christopher Longworth channels years of varied expertise to his work with Financial Education Group

ANACORTES, WA, July 10, 2023, Christopher Longworth has been included in Marquis Who’s Who. As in all Marquis Who’s Who biographical volumes, individuals profiled are selected on the basis of current reference value. Factors such as position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility, and prominence in a field are all taken into account during the selection process.

Drawing on years of professional experience in finance, Mr. Longworth presently excels as the principal consultant of The Financial Education Group, where he also serves as a certified financial education instructor. Since joining the firm in 2021, he has touted the “wealth defender” strategy for his clients and served as the host of “The Money Professor” radio show. Alongside his work with The Financial Education Group, Mr. Longworth is a member of the Ed Slott Elite Advisor Group.

Outside of his work, Mr. Longworth contributes to his community by donating his time to local school districts. Driven to remain abreast of changes in the field, he himself studies with the Ed Slott Elite Advisor Group, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the National Financial Educators Council, and the Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association. An expert in his field, Mr. Longworth holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance and business from Sierra College and became a nationally certified financial education instructor through the National Financial Educators Council.

While his career has been filled with highlights, Mr. Longworth is most proud of creating businesses and helping others to do the same, as well as excelling in the field of academia. The cornerstone of his success lay in his perseverance and determination, in addition to the mentors he has had throughout his life. Within the next ten to fifteen years, Mr. Longworth aims to continue assisting others by providing solutions to their financial planning concerns.

About Marquis Who’s Who®:

Since 1899, when A. N. Marquis printed the First Edition of Who’s Who in America®, Marquis Who’s Who® has chronicled the lives of the most accomplished individuals and innovators from every significant field of endeavor, including politics, business, medicine, law, education, art, religion and entertainment. Marquis celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2023, and Who’s Who in America® remains an essential biographical source for thousands of researchers, journalists, librarians and executive search firms around the world. Marquis® publications may be visited at the official Marquis Who’s Who® website at www.marquiswhoswho.com.

Are Weddings Worth the Money?

By Financial Planning

While so many people dream of their special day, it’s worth asking the question: Is it worth the price?

Love conquers all, right? It’s a nice thought, but as the price of having a fantasy wedding continues to soar, so many couples are left wondering if it’s worth it to have a grand showcase and celebration for their first moments bonded in holy matrimony.  In fact, the numbers appear to back these concerns, as the average cost of a wedding in 2022 was $30,000, a $2,000 increase from the 2021 total [1]. When the median household income in the United States is just over $70,000, it’s easy to see how a large wedding can upset the delicate financial balance inside your home [2].

Now, we aren’t telling you to elope, arrange for a courthouse marriage or even forgo the ceremony you’ve been looking forward to since you were young. We are, however, suggesting that there might be areas in which costs can be cut, possibly freeing up funds for potentially more important or desirable expenses and luxuries. The Knot, a popular wedding-planning site, assembled a list of just some of the most common expenses you should expect to incur when planning for your wedding, along with their average price in 2022[1].

-Average cost of reception venue: $11,200
-Average cost of wedding photographer: $2,600
-Average cost of wedding/event planner: $1,900
-Average cost of live band: $3,900
-Average cost of reception DJ: $1,500
-Average cost of florist: $2,400
-Average cost of videographer: $2,100
-Average cost of wedding dress: $1,900
-Average cost of wedding cake: $510
-Average cost of catering: (price per person): $75
-Average cost of transportation: $980
-Average cost of favors: $440
-Average cost of rehearsal dinner: $2,400
-Average cost of engagement ring: $5,800
-Average cost of wedding invitations: $510
-Average cost of hairstylist: $130
-Average cost of makeup artist: $120

While this can add up quickly, it can give you a good idea of where you might spend the majority of your budget as well as where you may be able to make some cuts. First and foremost, the guest list appears to be the best place to start. In 2022, couples hosting weddings with 50 or fewer guests spent an average of nearly $15,000, while couples who invited between 51 and 100 people paid nearly $25,000. The average price for a wedding with more than 100 guests was just over $38,000, so trimming your guest list to only those who absolutely must be there can be helpful if you’re looking to bring down the bill [1].

Obviously for some with larger families, this might not be an option, but the average couple spends roughly $266 per wedding guest, so slicing your guest list by 50 people can save you an average of more than $13,000. It’s also important to know that being more selective with your guest list doesn’t necessarily mean that your wedding will be less significant or impactful. In fact, you might even enjoy the feeling of a more intimate wedding with your closest friends and family whom you expect to be around for the rest of your life.

Another great way to save money is by hiring a wedding planner and using a budgeting tool [3]. While the services of a wedding planner average about $2,000[1], the entire job of the event planner is to remain within budget. They may also know other ways of saving or finding deals that aren’t available to a couple that plans for a wedding just one time. Furthermore, whether you’re keeping tabs or your planner is, a budgeting tool can help you track your spending and ensure that you don’t spend in excess on one particular category. It might also help you get more creative and work within your means and imagination, possibly even making your wedding a more personal experience.

Moreover, if you’re certain you’d like to bring your childhood dreams to life, you can save money by planning early. In addition to increasing your options by aligning your timeline with venues and vendors, you might be able to secure a more buyer-friendly rate while still allowing yourself the flexibility to opt for better or more cost-effective options should they avail themselves in the near future. Remember, pushing out your wedding doesn’t lessen the strength of your bond. Marriage is intended to last forever, and extravagance at the cost of debilitating debt can potentially lead to a more difficult happily ever after.

Additionally, your wedding may be more reflective of your financial circumstances than you even realize. For example, it’s important to communicate and prioritize. Work with your partner to find areas in which you’re willing to compromise and areas in which you aren’t. If you’re a foodie and you want to remember how delicious the various dishes were, it might be a good idea to spring for your top choice in caterers. At the same time, if your family doesn’t drink alcohol, you might be able to save around $2,500 by having a dry wedding [4].

So, to answer the original question of whether or not a wedding is worth the money, yes, but it’s probably only worth it if you plan within your means, which can depend on your unique situation, your relationship and your goals. If a grand wedding is within your budget, you aren’t interested in sparing any expense and your pursuit of other goals isn’t hindered, it may be worthwhile to invite extra people or tack on an open bar. However, if you’re looking for a more cost-effective way to show your love, you can explore other avenues or cut costs without sacrificing or devaluing your marriage.

Whether you are planning on paying for your own wedding—or helping your grown children or grandchildren pay for theirs—let’s talk about how a wedding fits into your financial plan. You can reach The Financial Education Group by setting up an appointment with us here.

Sources:

  1. https://www.theknot.com/content/average-wedding-cost
  2. https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2022/demo/p60-276.html
  3. https://www.theknot.com/content/ways-to-save-money-on-wedding
  4. https://www.theknot.com/content/average-cost-wedding-alcohol

 

7 Strategies to Reduce Taxes

By Tax Planning

No matter which phase of life you’re in, you might be looking for ways to trim your tax bill. Here are some strategies to consider!

Nothing is certain but death and taxes. Perhaps a phrase most known for being spoken by Benjamin Franklin, the old adage seems to have held up over the course of centuries as a constant, dogmatic idea that sticks with investors and consumers. Nevertheless, each year around tax time, most of us wonder how we can pay less in income taxes, and the answer to that question is always, “It depends.” Each person’s situation is completely unique to them, and the strategies that may be able to be employed to mitigate or reduce tax obligation vary based on goals and circumstances.

That’s why it can be so important to find an advisor and a tax professional who can work together as a team to help you determine strategies that can lower your bill. To that end, we’d like to share seven strategies for pre-retirees and retirees that you should be aware of but may not apply to your particular situation. Remember, while we don’t handle tax returns, we often function as part of a team alongside a client’s CPA when it comes to future tax-planning scenarios, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.

If You’re Working

Beef Up Your Traditional 401(k) [1]

In general, for those who are able to participate in an employer-sponsored group retirement plan like a traditional 401(k), contributing more to that account can lower your taxes in a given earning year. Contributions to a traditional 401(k) account are made on a pre-tax basis, meaning that they do not count as taxable income. This could lessen your tax obligation, potentially even dropping you into a lower tax bracket for the year. You should see that reflected on your annual W-2 from your employer.

It is important to remember that these contributions are tax-deferred, meaning that you will pay taxes upon withdrawal. There are also limits to how much you can contribute. For 2023, you are allowed to contribute up to $22,500 to your 401(k) plan, plus an additional catch-up contribution amount of $7,500 if you are age 50 or older. If your company provides a matching amount for contributions, in many cases you should consider contributing at least that amount to receive the full match.

Contribute to a Traditional IRA [1]

A traditional individual retirement account, otherwise known as a traditional IRA, is an account independent of your employer that allows you to contribute funds to save and invest for retirement. In terms of tax savings, depending on your income level—or whether or not you or your spouse contributes to a 401(k) or similar plan at work—you may be able to deduct traditional IRA contributions from your taxes.

For those who are married and filing jointly in 2023, you can deduct your traditional IRA contribution if your joint income is $116,000 or less. For 2023, you are allowed to contribute up to $6,500* to your own traditional IRA, plus an additional catch-up contribution amount of $1,000 if you are age 50 or older.

Contribute to a Roth IRA [2]

Though Roth IRA accounts have the same contribution limits as traditional IRAs, they typically function differently and are subject to a few different rules. For example, contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax-deductible because account holders fund their accounts with post-tax dollars. The benefit of paying taxes on the amount contributed is that gains are made and withdrawals are taken tax-free, slicing tax obligation later on.

In 2023, you can contribute the full $6,500*/$1,000 catch-up limit to a Roth IRA if your single-filing income is $138,000 or less or your married-filing-jointly income is $218,000 or less. Single filers and those who are married filing jointly can contribute partial amounts with income of up to $153,000 and $228,000, respectively. You can’t contribute to a Roth IRA if your single-filing income is more than $153,000 or your married-filing-jointly income is more than $228,000.

*In any given year, you can contribute to a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA or a combination of both only up to the $6,500/$1,000 catch-up limit.

If You Have Taxable Investments

Tax-Loss Harvesting [3]

Tax-loss harvesting is a strategy typically used by investors who have experienced losses in their investments. It involves selling those positions while they’re at a lower point, realizing a loss and then using those losses to offset taxable gains. In a given year, investors can claim losses of up to $3,000 to lower their taxable income; however, losses can be carried forward into future years. Oftentimes, investments are sold during market downturns, then proceeds are reinvested with a new allocation.

This has the potential to significantly decrease an investor’s tax obligation while improving overall portfolio returns. It is, however, important to note that, as always, tax-loss harvesting should be undertaken with the help of a financial advisor or professional with experience in investing and tax planning. It is a more complex method of cutting your tax bill and exposes an investor to many variables, including the uncertainty of the market. We’d always advise consulting and working closely with your financial professional who understands your goals and plan.

For Those Close to Retirement

Consider Roth Conversions

A Roth conversion can be a helpful long-term strategy to convert tax-deferred retirement funds into tax-free funds. This allows you to withdraw that money without tax obligation in retirement. The one caveat to this strategy is that you will owe taxes on the converted funds in the tax year that you complete any conversion. That’s why this can be a helpful strategy for low earning years, or for those close to or already in retirement. Retirees may earn less taxable income than they did when they were collecting salary, meaning that taxes owed on converted funds could be taxed in a lower income bracket.

Additionally, those close to retirement can use a series of conversions to avoid being pushed into higher income tax brackets and paying a larger percentage of their funds in taxes later, when annual RMDs (required minimum distributions) begin. Roth conversions allow you to experience all of the perks of Roth accounts, like tax-free growth and withdrawals, no required minimum distributions, flexibility and certainty in future tax legislation, and tax-free passing of assets. It is, however, important to remember that Roth conversions cannot be undone, so it’s always a good idea to speak to your advisor and tax professional before performing one or a series of conversions.

Annuities and Permanent Life Insurance [4]

Annuities and life insurance policies can be a great way to cut your tax obligation if you’re close to retirement or already retired. However, depending on how you fund your annuity, your payments may be taxed differently. For example, if you purchase your annuity with non-qualified money, or money you’ve already paid taxes on, the interest grows and is credited on a tax-deferred basis, so only gains will be taxed at the time of payment. On the other hand, if you purchase an annuity with qualified money, such as money from a traditional 401(k) or IRA, your annuity payments are entirely taxable as ordinary income. Even if you owe income tax on your annuity payments, they will not be counted as part of your combined income by the Social Security Administration, so you won’t pay taxes out of your Social Security benefit for annuities. (NOTE: Yes, you can be taxed on your Social Security benefit—up to 85%!)

Life insurance policies also offer tax benefits to help policyholders and beneficiaries. For instance, the classic death benefit is typically paid out tax-free to heirs, often granting them a nice lump sum to help recover from the loss of their loved one. Furthermore, modern life insurance policies offer benefits to the policyholders themselves. Because permanent policies with a cash value portion, such as whole and indexed universal life policies, are funded with post-tax dollars, they usually allow policyholders to borrow from the cash value of the policy tax-free in retirement, and these amounts are not counted as income by the Social Security Administration either.

For Any Phase of Life

Charitable Giving [5]

Charitable giving can be a great way to help an organization or a cause you care about while also reducing your tax obligation. The rules for charitable giving are relatively simple, as the gifts or donations must simply be made to or for the use of a qualified organization, which generally includes charities, religious organizations and private foundations with tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status. Those making charitable donations also have many options when it comes to the type of gift, such as cash, property, stock holdings or other any other assets that have a determinable market value.

As you may expect, there are limits on deductions for charitable giving. Deductions on long-term capital gains are limited to 30% of a person’s adjusted gross income, while deductions for other contributions are limited to 60% of a person’s adjusted gross income. In retirement, if you don’t need the money and don’t want your income taxes to go up, you can contribute your RMD amount (called a QCD or qualified charitable donation) directly to a charity—up to $100,000 of qualified, pre-tax retirement money can be donated. (After 2023, this QCD limit will be indexed to inflation under the new SECURE Act 2.0.)

You may be able to find effective strategies to cut your tax bill no matter which stage of life you’re currently in. If you have questions about any of these tax strategies which may apply to you, please give us a call to discuss. We are happy to work as a team with your tax professional to help you. You can reach The Financial Education Group by setting up an appointment with us here.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/401k-limit-increases-to-22500-for-2023-ira-limit-rises-to-6500
  2. https://www.fidelity.com/retirement-ira/ira-rules-faq
  3. https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc409
  4. https://www.annuity.org/annuities/taxation/
  5. https://www.fidelitycharitable.org/faqs/all/charitable-deduction-limitations.html

 

This article is provided for general information only and is not to be construed as financial or tax advice. It is recommended that you work with your financial advisor, tax professional and/or attorneys when tax planning.

Chris Longworth, aka The Money Professor, Recently Featured in Major Financial Publications

By In the Press, Retirement Planning

Chris Longworth, founder of The Financial Education Group and Nationally Certified Financial Education Instructor (NFEC), was just featured in the article, “Why Boomers Aren’t Done Learning About Money.”

First appearing in GoBankingRates.com, the article was picked up by MSN, Yahoo Finance, NASDAQ, Yahoo News and several other online publications.

The premise of the article is that baby boomers might be getting older, but they’re not ready to ride off into the sunset and never have to think about anything new—like financial matters—ever again. As an educator in the field of retirement planning, Chris pointed out specifically that baby boomers are not finished learning about money.

“Financial literacy is a lifelong journey that should never end,” Chris Longworth says. “The financial world is continually in flux. Ever-changing rules require boomers to remain educated in order to stay ahead of the curve. These rules even present opportunities for boomers to pass their financial wisdom to the next generation.”

Baby boomers

You might be getting older, but you’re not done learning about money yet.

The article specifically mentions Social Security filing strategies, and money management approaches to investments in the stock market, which may impact retirees who are living much longer lives. (NOTE: There may be options to the stock market that can hedge against market volatility while protecting investment principal.)

Questions about your retirement? We welcome you to set up a meeting with Chris (The Money Professor) at The Financial Education Group here.

 

 

 

Read the original articles:

GoBankingRates.com
https://www.gobankingrates.com/money/financial-planning/why-boomers-arent-done-learning-about-money/

NASDAQ
https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/why-boomers-arent-done-learning-about-money

MSN
https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/personalfinance/why-boomers-arent-done-learning-about-money/ar-AA19s6M9

Yahoo Finance
https://finance.yahoo.com/news/why-boomers-aren-t-done-110047157.html

Yahoo News
https://news.yahoo.com/why-boomers-aren-t-done-110047157.html

Yahoo Finance UK
https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/why-boomers-aren-t-done-110047157.html

AOL.com
https://www.aol.com/why-boomers-aren-t-done-110047948.html

Newsbreak
https://www.newsbreak.com/news/2980218071611-why-boomers-aren-t-done-learning-about-money

Flipboard

https://flipboard.com/@GOBankingRates/why-boomers-aren-t-done-learning-about-money/a-MZpTk8XxT8K7Swr6-FugeQ:a:343157017-fa787a6370

What To Do with Inherited Money

By Financial Planning

Whether planned or unplanned, many are unsure of how to proceed after inheriting money. Here are a few steps you can take to make the most of it.

So, you’ve inherited money. Depending on the circumstances, it may have been expected or unexpected, and it may or may not have come with a great deal of heartache. Nevertheless, too few people know what to do when they inherit large sums of money, imposing more pressure than they might have imagined. Here are a few things you should consider when you inherit money.

  1. Take a Brief Moment to Think

When you first inherit money, it can be overwhelming, but it’s a good idea to take a moment to consider all of your options. Although it’s a myth that all lottery winners end up destitute, there is some truth to the fact that it’s easy to spend too much of a good thing too fast and blow through money that could have cleared debt, funded college costs or paid for your retirement. Know that your hand isn’t forced, and you don’t have to make a decision as to what you’re going to do with it or how you will allocate it on a timeline that you aren’t comfortable with. Additionally, the time at which you inherit money is naturally stressful, and making decisions under duress can cause unforced errors and complications. Take some time to determine a course of action you feel comfortable with and confident in.

  1. Familiarize Yourself with Tax and Inheritance Laws [1,2]

Once you’ve let the initial pressure of the situation dissolve, it’s a great idea to understand the implications of your inheritance. Whether those implications are determined by the terms of your inheritance or the tax obligations on the funds, it’s crucial that you know how the money may or may not be used. For example, even if your inheritance comes with no tax obligations, it can come with time requirements or required minimum distributions. As of the signing of The SECURE Act of 2019, non-spousal beneficiaries must drain an inherited traditional IRA, 401(k) or similar tax-deferred retirement account within 10 years, and that money is taxed as ordinary income unless it is a Roth IRA, potentially pushing you into a higher tax bracket.

It’s important to be aware of the implications of retirement accounts subject to income taxes, but depending on the amount you inherit, you may also owe federal or state estate taxes. The federal estate tax exclusion is currently $12.92 million per person, but it is set to drop back down to 2017 levels of around $6.8 million in 2026. Some states’ estate tax threshold amounts are much lower than federal levels; for example, from $1 million in Oregon and Massachusetts to $9.1 million in Connecticut. It’s important to check with a tax professional familiar with both federal and state tax laws.

  1. Pay Outstanding Debt [3]

After knowing what you’re obligated to do with the money, you can start to explore some of the freedom offered by coming into extra funds. One option that many tend to lead with is paying outstanding debt. Debt can hang over the heads of investors, pre-retirees and retirees, causing stress and potentially getting in the way of greater saving and investing goals. It can be extremely helpful to pay off debt, especially if it comes with higher-than-average interest rates. For instance, while personal loans, credit cards and student loans can be beneficial in the short term, they can be accompanied by unfavorable repayment terms. Paying them off can be a great way to prevent interest from piling up even further. If you are getting close to retirement, paying off your mortgage may also make sense depending on your situation.

  1. Establish an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund can offer flexibility when unexpected expenses arise, and while having one can be extremely beneficial, for some it can be difficult to grow the balance of your emergency fund while trying to maintain your current lifestyle. Committing at least a portion of your inheritance to an emergency fund can mean that you can easily tap into a flexible and liquid account to pay the deductible for a new roof after a storm, replace an appliance that goes bad or afford an unexpected auto repair. Most experts advise putting away at least three to six months’ worth of expenses, but you may want to put away more depending on your age and employment situation.

  1. Invest in Your Future

This can truly mean anything, whether you’re looking to grow your investment portfolio, you want to pay for classes to grow one of your skills or you’d like to provide yourself with the financing you need to start a new business venture. The opportunities for investing in your own future are virtually endless. A larger sum of money can also give you the opportunity to employ different investing strategies, like further diversifying your portfolio. Furthermore, freeing up cashflow so that you can contribute the maximum amounts to your 401(k) and IRA accounts might be a great idea depending on your circumstances, and other retirement strategies could offer lifetime monthly income that could allow you to retire sooner. There’s no doubt that inherited funds can offer you more flexibility and options.

  1. Finance Higher Education [4]

Higher education, attending college or pursuing an advanced degree can offer a leg up, both in the job market and with general skills; however, it can be an extremely expensive endeavor. Using inherited money to fund that further education can be a great way to avoid student loans and achieve the skills you’ll use for the rest of your life. Moreover, it doesn’t necessarily have to be for your own education. There are options like 529 plans for grandparents and permanent life insurance with cash value that can help pay for your children’s or grandchildren’s educational expenses, too—without causing them to qualify for less financial aid.

  1. Speak to Your Financial Advisor

It’s always best to speak with your financial advisor—as well as attorneys and tax professionals—before making any major financial decisions about inherited money. Your team of advisors should work together and have a good grasp on your goals so that they can offer custom-tailored advice that can best benefit you and your family now and in the future.

If you have any questions about inherited money, please reach out to The Financial Education Group by setting up an appointment with us here.

Sources:

  1. https://www.unionbank.com/private-banking/perspectives/protecting-your-assets/inherited-ira-rules-cutting-through-the-confusion
  2. https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2022/12/07/the-estate-and-gift-tax-exclusion-shrinks-in-2026-whats-an-advisor-to-do/
  3. https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/good-debt-vs-bad-debt
  4. https://www.savingforcollege.com/intro-to-529s/what-is-a-529-plan

 

This article is provided for general information only and is not to be construed as financial or tax advice. It is recommended that you work with your financial advisor, tax professional and/or attorneys when you inherit money.

7 Ways SECURE Act 2.0 Could Affect Your Retirement

By Financial News, Retirement Planning

SECURE Act 2.0 was signed into law at the end of 2022. Here are a few ways it could affect your retirement.

After consumers throughout America were forced to endure a harsh financial storm in 2022, the year came to a close with President Biden signing a bill intending to increase and enhance the capabilities of retirement accounts. The bill is commonly referred to as SECURE Act 2.0, and it is the follow up to the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019. It is expected to assist retirees and pre-retirees even further in the pursuit of a comfortable and sustainable retirement. Let’s go over the biggest changes that have already taken effect as well as ones that will roll out over the course of the next decade.

  1. Pushed Back RMDs [1,2]

As of the beginning of 2023, the age at which retirees must begin taking required minimum distributions from their qualified retirement accounts is 73. Previously it was 72, meaning that retirees will now have an extra year to plan for the distribution of their accounts or enact a strategy to minimize taxes on tax-deferred accounts. Furthermore, the RMD age will move back to 75 in 2033; however, in all cases, if you have already begun taking RMDs, you must continue to take them.

Ed Slott, an American financial expert, a CPA and the president of Ed Slott & Co., looks to simplify dates a bit with a quick guide. He says those born in 1950 or earlier should use age 72 as their expected RMD age, while those born between 1951 and 1959 should use age 73, and those born in 1960 or later should use age 75.

  1. Lowered Penalties for RMD Failures [2]

Prior to SECURE Act 2.0, failure to take required minimum distributions 1) in the right amounts, 2) from the correct accounts 3) by the deadline of midnight, December 31st each year could cause you to incur an additional 50% penalty on the amount not withdrawn, a hefty price on what may be your most precious assets in retirement. Now, the penalty for not withdrawing the minimum amount has been reduced to just 25% with the potential to drop to 10% if corrected in a timely manner, which Ed Slott says typically means within a two-year timeframe.

  1. Increased Catch-Up Contributions [1,3,6]

Currently, those over the age of 50 can make catch-up contributions of $7,500—up from $6,500 in 2022—to employer-sponsored plans like 401(k)s, while catch-up contributions of $1,000 (above the total contribution limit of $6,500 for 2023) can be made to either traditional or Roth IRAs by those age 50-plus. It’s also important to know that individuals in higher income brackets may not be able to contribute to IRAs.

Beginning in 2025, those age 60 to 63 will be able to make catch-up contributions of $10,000 to employer-sponsored plans, and the limit will be indexed to inflation thereafter. Additionally, catch-up limits for individuals age 50 or older for both traditional and Roth IRAs will be indexed to inflation beginning in 2024. Ideally, this should give those nearing retirement a chance to grow their accounts as they close in on that important stage of their lives.

  1. Increased Options for Employer Matches [1]

Prior to SECURE Act 2.0, even if employers offered a Roth option for their 401(k) or similar plan, the employer match amount was required to be made on a pre-tax basis to a traditional account, meaning taxes would be owed when that portion of the money was withdrawn. The SECURE Act 2.0 allows employers to offer post-tax matches to Roth accounts, meaning employees pay taxes now but the match amounts can grow and distribute tax-free later.

Additionally, beginning in 2024, employers may match student loan payments with contributions into retirement accounts. For example, if a qualifying student makes a student loan payment of $500, that payment is able to be matched and contributed to a retirement account if it’s within the matching capabilities of the plan, allowing it to grow for the future. This allows students who may be buried deep in student debt to still achieve their employer match in a retirement account, meaning they won’t miss out on valuable contributions due to student loan obligations.

  1. Auto-Enrollment into Employer-Sponsored Plans [1]

Enrollment into new employer-sponsored plans, such as 401(k) and 403(b) plans, will be automatic beginning in 2025. Upon hiring or upon the inception of the 401(k) plan, employees will automatically be added at a rate of at least 3% but no higher than 10%. Despite automatic enrollment, employees will still have the ability to opt out of the plan.

Employers already have the right to remove former employees with low balances from their retirement plans by cutting them a check for the remaining amount if the employee has taken no action to move their money. Beginning in 2024, the definition of a low balance will be more than $1,000 but less than $7,000, and SECURE Act 2.0 portability provisions will allow employers to make a tax-free rollover distribution of a low balance account into an account in the former employee’s name at their new job without their permission.

Other SECURE 2.0 Act provisions include the establishment of the nation’s first lost-and-found database for retirement accounts which will be undertaken by the U.S. Labor Department at some point in the future.

Ideally, all of these changes could help people end up with higher savings when they retire.

  1. New Options for 529 Plans [4]

Beginning in 2024, unused funds from 529 plans, which are tax-advantaged accounts traditionally used by grandparents and parents to help a beneficiary pay for college, can now be rolled over into a Roth IRA on behalf of the plan’s beneficiary.

This could provide a small boost to an individual’s Roth IRA, but you may want to look out for a few distinct limitations to this new option. First and foremost, the 529 account must have been established and in place for at least 15 years. There is a $35,000 limit on funds able to be converted, and that is an overall total, not an annual total.

Furthermore, rollovers will be subject to the IRA contribution limit, which for 2023 is $6,500 (plus $1,000 if age 50 or older), and the beneficiary must have earned income of at least that amount in the year the rollover is completed.

There are still a lot of questions about this provision of SECURE Act 2.0 which must be clarified by lawmakers or the IRS, including the naming or changing of beneficiaries. Prior to SECURE Act 2.0, beneficiaries of 529 plans could easily be changed, and account owners could even name themselves as beneficiaries as long as funds were used for legitimate education expenses.

  1. Increased Flexibility in Annuities [1,5]

Annuities, which are a contract with an insurance company rather than a direct investment in the market, can offer principal protection and a rate of growth guaranteed by the issuing carrier. They have the potential to allow you to participate in stock market upside without experiencing market decline.

SECURE Act 2.0 offers a bit more flexibility in the purchase of qualified longevity annuity contracts, or QLACs, with funds held in qualified retirement accounts. Previous limits held premiums to 25% of an account’s balance and capped them at $145,000, but SECURE Act 2.0 has eliminated the 25% rule and increased the total cap to $200,000, giving retirees more options in the diversification of their portfolios.

If you have any questions about how SECURE Act 2.0 might affect your retirement, please reach out to The Financial Education Group by setting up an appointment with us here.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.fidelity.com/learning-center/personal-finance/secure-act-2
  2. https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2023/01/04/ed-slott-pay-attention-secure-2-0-dates-are-all-over-the-place/
  3. https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-participant-employee/retirement-topics-catch-up-contributions
  4. https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2023/01/30/ed-slott-529-to-roth-ira-rollover-is-no-planning-panacea/
  5. https://www.annuity.org/annuities/qlac/
  6. https://www.schwab.com/ira/roth-ira/contribution-limits

 

6 Ways to Protect Yourself From Financial Downturn

By Financial Planning

Though the United States may avoid a full-fledged recession, it’s undoubtedly a difficult time to be a consumer. Here are some ways to protect yourself.

The fear of a recession looms large, and though it isn’t certain that we’ll enter recession territory in 2023, there’s no doubt we’re in a period of constraint for consumers. Inflation is still high despite the efforts of the Federal Reserve to cut spending with interest rate increases, and 2022 brought the worst annual performance for all three major indexes since 2008[1,2,3].

Understandably, this can cause panic among American consumers and pre-retirees, whether they have assets invested in the market or they’re simply looking to continue with their current lifestyle. With the times, however, our behavior and spending habits must change to give us the best chance to protect ourselves during periods of financial downturn. Here are some things you can do to counter volatile markets and economic declines.

  1. Cut Unnecessary Spending

One of the best ways to avoid a financial crisis is to cut unnecessary spending. That could mean more trips to the grocery store instead of your favorite restaurant, fewer luxury purchases or delaying your upcoming vacation. A properly structured and maintained budget typically accounts for all of your incoming and outgoing funds, so it can likely be a great place to start when looking for places to cut back. You may be forced to make some hard decisions, but the idea is for those decisions to pay dividends in the long run.

  1. Build an Emergency Fund

While an emergency fund might be seen as the most obvious form of protection against difficult financial times, nearly one-in-four consumers don’t have one [4]. Furthermore, 39% have less than a month’s worth of income saved in an emergency fund, and less than half would be able to cover a surprise $1,000 expense. A general recommendation is to have three to six months’ worth of expenses saved in your emergency bucket, giving you some flexibility if you’re forced to access that money. Additionally, you don’t need to make one lump sum contribution to your emergency fund. You can build it gradually, adding little by little until you have a balance you’re comfortable with.

  1. Pick Up an Extra Job

One way to supplement the difference in difficult times is to pick up an extra job to increase your total income. Though your finances often seem cut-and-dried, this is one area where you have the freedom to be a bit flexible and creative. Some ideas for an extra job include freelance or contract work, consulting, starting your own business, or even finding a part-time role at a local establishment where you already enjoy spending time, like a golf course. The possibilities are nearly endless, allowing you to have some fun with this secondary source of income. And who knows? It could lead you down a different career path that leaves you even more satisfied than your primary source of income does.

  1. Prioritize Financial Obligations

Market volatility, inflation, high interest rates, supply chain issues and other economic factors can be scary, but they’re even scarier when compounded with outstanding debt. It can always be a good idea to tackle debt to avoid falling into a situation where you’re beholden to that debt, seemingly allowing you little-to-no flexibility with your income. The sooner you enact a plan and clear that debt, the sooner you can begin building your emergency fund, making larger contributions to your retirement accounts or enjoying the perks of increased financial freedom.

  1. Look for Advantageous Investment Opportunities

While there are certainly no guarantees when it comes to investing in the market and no current iron-clad ways to dictate market performance or protect yourself from declines, opportunistic investors with a long time-horizon to retirement can take advantage of dips. Investors may be able to utilize these periods to their benefit by entering the market at a low point, or they could use a strategy called dollar cost averaging to continue investing or putting away money in their 401(k) at consistent intervals, thereby lowering their average cost per share. Though the big three indexes were down in 2022, they have a sustained history of long-term growth, potentially making declines a favorable time to enter the market.

  1. Use Protection-Based Strategies

Though growth can be enticing, sometimes protection for what you already have can be even more important. Diversifying your portfolio with a protection-based asset class, such as an annuity or a permanent life insurance policy, could be helpful through guaranteeing principal protection and index-linked growth. Despite allowing you to participate in market upside, these policies are not investments. Rather, they’re contracts with issuing insurance companies, and the guarantees are made by the claims-paying ability of those companies. These products and strategies can help you create a tax-free stream of income in retirement while protecting you from market volatility on the way there. If you think a protection-based approach may be the right strategy for you, we can help you decide based on your unique circumstances.

If you have any questions about protecting yourself from financial downturn, please reach out to The Financial Education Group by setting up an appointment with us here.

 

  1. https://www.macrotrends.net/2526/sp-500-historical-annual-returns
  2. https://www.macrotrends.net/1319/dow-jones-100-year-historical-chart
  3. https://www.macrotrends.net/1320/nasdaq-historical-chart
  4. https://www.marketwatch.com/picks/this-is-the-surprising-generation-least-likely-to-have-even-1-000-in-savings-and-heres-what-they-need-to-do-about-it-01650321688

 

This article is for informational purposes only and is accurate to the best of our knowledge. It is not to be taken as investment or tax advice. in all cases we recommend that you work with financial, tax and legal professionals to find the strategies best suited to your individual situation.

 

Your 2022 Year-End Financial To-Do List

By Financial News

The end of the year is upon us. Here are some tasks to check off before 2023 arrives!

 

As the year wraps up, it can be a great time to take financial inventory. Your circumstances are constantly changing and evolving, and the proper financial plan is not meant to be a set-it-and-forget-it thing. With the end of the year presenting the perfect chance to revisit your goals, here are a few areas you may want to check in on before we flip the calendar to 2023.

  1. Review Your Financial Plan

The proper holistic financial plan isn’t just about your investments or your retirement. It also accounts for budgeting to achieve long- and short-term goals, making sure you have adequate insurance to hedge against financial risks, planning for wealth transfer to your heirs and/or charities, looking ahead with a plan to mitigate taxes—really every aspect of your financial life. As the year comes to a close, it can be a great idea to reassess your financial circumstances and make necessary adjustments to your financial plan. Maybe your goals have changed. Maybe you’re on a fast-track toward goals you expected to take longer to reach, so you can move some dates up. Remember, it’s always important to make sure that your beneficiaries are up to date annually on all of your accounts, investments and insurance policies. This time of year, while it’s in the front of your mind, you can use the tools and resources at your disposal to update and to reinvent your financial plan to more closely match your situation.

  1. Adjust Your Monthly Budget

A budget is an important part of any financial plan, and having one can be a great way to keep track of where your money comes from and where it goes. Now that we’re in the final month of the year, you may be in a good position with a clear vision as you revisit your budget and adjust as needed. Maybe you received a nice annual bonus or raise, or maybe you’ve recently had a baby and haven’t had a chance to fine-tune your budget through the sleepless nights. No matter your circumstances or the new milestones and stages of life you reached in the past 12 months, it can be a really good idea to take a look at how your income keeps up with your expenditures and tweak accordingly.

  1. Review Your Investments

It’s important to understand that diversifying with different asset classes can help protect your portfolio from market volatility, which is especially important as you get closer to retirement. Most traditional retirement accounts like 401(k)s have funds invested in the market, so they are not protected from market risk. This may be perfectly fine when you’re young, but as we saw with the high inflation, higher interest rates and increased volatility of 2022, it can cause panic for retirees, pre-retirees and people who are risk averse. Be sure that your overall portfolio positions you with a level of risk you’re able to tolerate, and that your retirement is protected.

  1. Recalibrate Your Retirement Account Contributions [1,2,3]

Your retirement accounts may be your greatest assets when it comes to funding a comfortable and stable lifestyle in retirement. As you traverse your career and attempt to carve out a lifestyle that will be sustainable once you get the chance to quit working and chase your retirement dreams, it’s important to know how much you’re allowed to contribute to your various accounts. For example, in 2022, the contribution limit is $6,000 for traditional and Roth IRA accounts, and it is $20,500 for 401(k)s. In 2023, those limits will increase to $6,500 and $22,500, respectively. If you’re 50 or older, you’ll also be able to make catch-up contributions of up to $1,000 to your IRA and $7,500 to your 401(k) as soon as the new year hits.

  1. Take Your RMDs [4]

Unfortunately, your retirement accounts cannot be left to grow tax-deferred forever. If you turned 70 after July 1, 2019, you must begin taking annual required minimum distributions, or RMDs, starting at age 72. The amount you must withdraw is typically calculated using life expectancy as determined by the IRS. Failure to adequately withdraw funds will result in a 50% excise tax, which is considerably higher than even the highest federal income tax withholding rate. Luckily, accounts growing tax-free, such as Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s do not have RMDs, but the deadline to withdraw the minimum amount from tax-deferred accounts is Dec. 31. If you’ve reached the age at which you must take the distributions, it can be beneficial to ensure that you’ve withdrawn the proper minimum amount from the right accounts to avoid a hefty penalty.

  1. Spend Money Left in Your FSA [5]

Health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs) offer a chance for those with employer benefits to cut medical costs by contributing pre-tax dollars that are allowed to be used for qualifying expenses. Unlike HSAs, however, FSAs do not typically allow you to roll your excess funds into the next year. You may have a grace period provided by your employer, but even the grace period often comes with a limit as to how much can roll over. Some ideas to avoid losing funds left in your FSA include booking general wellness appointments like visits to the eye doctor, annual physicals and dental cleanings.

  1. Talk to Your Financial Professional or Advisor

The job of a financial professional, planner or advisor is to offer complete and personalized service for your holistic plan. That means assisting you with your unique circumstances and goals, helping you set realistic and reachable objectives while inspiring you to stretch farther and drive harder toward your ideal portrait of a comfortable lifestyle. Whether you’re looking to check off all of these boxes as the year ends or start 2023 with fresh goals, we can help!

If you have any questions about your end-of-year financial checklist, please reach out to The Financial Education Group by setting up an appointment with us here.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-participant-employee/retirement-topics-ira-contribution-limits
  2. https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-participant-employee/retirement-topics-401k-and-profit-sharing-plan-contribution-limits
  3. https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-participant-employee/retirement-topics-catch-up-contributions
  4. https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-participant-employee/retirement-topics-required-minimum-distributions-rmds
  5. https://www.goodrx.com/insurance/fsa-hsa/hsa-fsa-roll-over

The Importance of Having an Estate Plan

By Financial Planning

A proper estate plan can protect your assets and your family. Here are some answers to questions you may have!

October is National Estate Planning Awareness Month, so now is the perfect time to discuss the importance of having an estate plan. We get it. It’s something nobody wants to think about, especially your loved ones, who can’t imagine living without you. But estate planning is a necessary part of the financial planning process. It helps ensure that everything you’ve worked so hard to accumulate gets passed on according to your desires in the most tax-advantaged manner possible.

Moreover, no financial plan is truly complete without an estate plan. The ideal financial plan preserves and protects your assets throughout your life all the way through your retirement, helping ensure that you don’t outlive your resources, but it also accounts for your legacy and wealth transfer at the end of your life. Without an estate plan, your assets, whether that be money, real estate, possessions or even precious family heirlooms, could end up in the wrong hands.

Let’s go over some commonly asked questions to make the estate planning process more understandable and easier to approach.

What is an estate plan?

An estate plan is a detailed, documented plan for what will happen to your assets when you’re gone. It’s intended to ease the transition following death by directing the transfer of your things. The most commonly known document in an estate plan is your last will and testament, which specifically lists and designates all of your assets to your beneficiaries. It also names an executor who is in charge of making sure the beneficiaries listed in the last will and testament receive what they are entitled to and that all of your final affairs and financial matters are settled. In the case of minor children, your last will and testament also specifies who you wish to raise your children in the event that both you and your spouse have passed away.

Additionally, an estate plan can contain other documents like trusts, health care directives or living wills, and powers of attorney. Your comprehensive estate plan is essentially a plan for the worst, should you be unresponsive, unable to make a decision or deceased [1].

Why is it important for me to have one?

There are many reasons to have an estate plan, the most important of which likely being the bequeathing of your assets to specific beneficiaries. Without proper documentation, the best-case scenario sees the correct distribution left up to chance, the courts and your heirs. The worst-case scenario means all-out war inside your surviving family.

An estate plan can also save your family from unnecessary tax burden. Oftentimes estate plans and financial plans come together to determine the most tax-efficient distribution of your property and accounts. You’ve worked so hard your entire life, both for your family and for yourself. Chances are, you’d love to see that money in the hands of those you love rather than in the pockets of the IRS [2].

Aren’t estate plans only for the ultra-rich?

A common misconception is that estate plans are exclusively for those with multiple million-dollar estates, priceless artwork or valuable shares in major companies. But that just isn’t true. In fact, those with fewer assets may have an even greater need for tax-efficient estate planning so that their families are protected during a potentially financially devastating time.

But even the rich are often unprepared. The unfortunate truth is that 67% of Americans don’t have an estate plan [3], but anyone with a family or assets should plan for the future, whether you’re handing down the majority stake in a large corporation, a vacation home or the remaining balances of your retirement accounts.

No matter the amount of assets, an estate plan can save your family headaches, time and tears by predetermining ownership before they are thrust into one of the most stressful endeavors of their lives. It’s worth it to strategize in life so that when your time comes, your family can spend their time properly grieving instead of worrying—or fighting—about how to split your belongings.

Things will sort themselves out, even if I don’t have a plan, right?

Well, technically, yes. Things will sort themselves out. But you’ve spent your entire life in the driver’s seat, making decisions that matter for you and your family. If you pass away without an estate plan and legal documents, small decisions are left to your extremely emotional family, and major decisions are left to probate court in what is usually a very costly and lengthy process.

In distributing your assets, courts can often be more expensive and time-consuming than need be. Tack on the fact that the legal system doesn’t understand your family’s history or dynamic, and it becomes a recipe for trouble. As someone who does understand how your family operates, which members deserve which assets and which members are able to be responsible for what they inherit, you can simplify the process by organizing an estate plan while still alive and sound of mind.

How do I start the conversation?

Determining how your family proceeds when you’re gone is no easy task. It can be just as difficult, or maybe even more difficult, for your children who have never been forced to live without you and the support you offer.

In our experience, we’ve found that the earlier the conversation begins, the easier it is to have. It’s always simpler to plan out of luxury than necessity, and estate planning is no different.

Communication is key. Talk to your heirs and loved ones about what your desires are, and ask them about theirs. You may be surprised to find out that it’s the sentimental items they want rather than the expensive ones. By having a clear plan that’s communicated well beforehand, years prior to any eventuality, you can avoid permanent family rifts and resentments later.

How can I get started with my estate plan?

Once you’ve consulted your heirs, or your parents if you are the heir, it’s important to accept that you’ll need help to complete a legally-recognized estate plan.

Ideally, your financial professional and your estate attorney should work together. Your financial professional can bring an estate planning attorney to the table, or work in conjunction with yours. What the financial professional does is find tax-advantaged vehicles and efficient ways to transfer wealth that an attorney may not know about or have access to, while the attorney brings the legal expertise, knowledge of state laws, and ability to generate all the needed legal documents.

Remember that it’s equally important to revisit and review your estate plan periodically, preferably every year. Life continually evolves as you acquire new assets and your family grows and changes.

If you have any questions about your estate plan, please reach out to The Financial Education Group by setting up an appointment with us here.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/what-is-estate-planning#what-are-the-main-steps-in-estate-planning
  2. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/wealth-management/122915/4-reasons-estate-planning-so-important.asp
  3. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/11/67percent-of-americans-have-no-estate-plan-heres-how-to-get-started-on-one.html

4 Recent Innovations in Life Insurance Policies

By Life Insurance

Life insurance is no longer constrained to the inflexible policies our parents held. Here are some of the latest additions and innovations to give you more options than ever.

Today’s life insurance policies are not the policies our parents and grandparents grew up with and purchased. They offer more features and more customization, at a price lower than many consumers expect to pay.

In fact, a recent study showed that more than 50% of people assume that the cost of life insurance is three times higher than it actually is [1]. Furthermore, 44% of millennials, a group whose net worth continues to rise more rapidly than any other generation [2], overestimate the cost of term life insurance by more than six times.

Price, however, isn’t the only barrier holding people back from looking at what life insurance has to offer. Lack of information, explanation and time to research options, combined with the fact that no one enjoys thinking about and planning ahead for their own death, can make life insurance a tough subject.

New life insurance policy features are designed to quell those worries, as insurance companies look for more ways to build client-oriented policies. Here are some of the latest innovations in the life insurance industry:

  1. Cash Value Component and Living Benefits

Life insurance used to be exactly what it might sound like: insurance for your life. In the event of their unexpected death, policyholders wanted to protect their families, usually by purchasing term life insurance. Term life insurance covers policyholders for a predetermined period of time, typically for a low monthly rate.

Now, carriers offer whole and universal life insurance, which are permanent policies with a tax-deferred cash value component that allows retirement planners to create another avenue to build a nest egg, or savers to save for other things, like college or self-funding a business startup venture. Though the cash value component often increases the monthly premium costs, with these types of policies, the cash value can grow at a rate guaranteed by the claims-paying ability of the insurance company.

One advantage of universal life as opposed to whole life is flexible premiums, allowing you to increase or decrease your premium and the amount that goes toward your cash value. Indexed universal life, a type of universal life insurance, can offer principal protection with market upside potential in correlation with a market index or indexes. (It’s important to understand that indexed universal life is a contract between a consumer and an insurance company, and unlike variable life insurance, isn’t actually subject to stock market risk.)

Permanent life insurance policies that can build cash value can be a good option for healthy younger investors with time and low likelihood of death in the near future. Depending on their situation, healthy retirees can also sometimes benefit from single-premium permanent life insurance which can provide tax-advantaged retirement income.

  1. Long-Term Care Hybrid Policies

Just as no one enjoys planning for their own death, no one likes to imagine needing long-term care. Unfortunately, 70% of people currently age 65 or older in America will need long-term care, with 20% needing support for longer than five years [3}. Additionally, Medicare does not cover long-term care, necessitating some sort of plan to pay for long-term care to avoid the accelerated depletion of funds in retirement.

One solution to the problem is a modern life insurance and long-term care hybrid plan. Obviously, the main sticking point and fear when it came to traditional long-term care insurance was the potential for not needing long-term care, and that fear was completely rational and well-founded. Older policies were “use-it-or-lose-it.” If you didn’t end up needing long-term care, all of those premiums you paid through the years were for nothing.

Now, hybrid policies provide flexibility. Policyholders have the ability to use their benefit to fund long-term care if they need it. If they don’t need it, it becomes a death benefit provided to their beneficiaries.

  1. Riders

One of the biggest expansions in life insurance is in the way you can customize a policy to your needs using a wide array of options available as riders that can be added to an insurance policy. A guaranteed insurability rider, for example, allows the policyholder to purchase more coverage without additional medical examination. It can be helpful to have a guaranteed insurability rider if you expect changes in circumstances that would have affected your original premiums.

Accidental death riders are also common, usually doubling the death benefit in the event that the policyholder dies in an accident. Additionally, accelerated death benefit riders can give the policyholder access to the death benefit if diagnosed with a terminal illness [4]. The amount accessed is typically subtracted from the death benefit, meaning that the policyholder’s beneficiaries receive a smaller death benefit, but it’s yet another example of a feature allowing access to funds during life.

  1. Better Support for Policyholders

Whether it be because of life insurance riders or enhanced operations, life insurance does not have to be difficult to obtain. Modern technology, increased access to better medical information and simplified underwriting have helped innovative companies that are always looking for ways to reach broader audiences with better products.

With an independent financial advisor who works with multiple insurance companies, you can find the insurance policy that suits your own unique situation and budget, with the most beneficial features and/or riders for your needs.

If you have any questions about life insurance and the latest advancements, please contact us! To reach The Financial Education Group, set up an appointment with us here.

 

 

 

Sources:

  1. https://lifehappens.org/research/life-insurance-is-on-peoples-minds/
  2. https://www.cerulli.com/press-releases/millennials-want-more-advice-and-are-willing-to-pay-for-it
  3. https://www.annuity.org/retirement/planning/average-retirement-income/
  4. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/07/life_insurance_rider.asp

 

What is COLA, and How Does it Affect Retirement?

By Financial News

The COLA on Social Security is projected to increase benefits by more than 10%. How does that affect your retirement?

Inflation in the United States is at a 40-year high, and the entire country seems to be feeling the squeeze of rising prices, regardless of income level. Though the debate over the cause of current inflation rates rages on, one thing seems to be certain: the cost of everyday goods, like rent, gas and food, continues to rise [1].

Understandably, that leaves American consumers with questions and concerns. First, as the value of the dollar decreases, which lifestyle adjustments can be made to compensate for the loss in buying power? Second, won’t somebody do something?

This year, the Federal Reserve has taken action by raising interest rates several times in an effort to curb spending and cut demand, ideally forcing the price of goods down, or at the very least, leading them to stagnate [2]. But lately, the Fed has been criticized by experts worried that their actions may not be having the desired effect, but instead may be bringing on a recession.[3]

So, what other actions does the government take to protect people from inflation? For retirees and those collecting Social Security benefits, the Social Security Administration began implementing an annual COLA almost five decades ago.

What is a COLA?

No, it’s not the tasty drink you order when you first sit down at a restaurant. COLA stands for “cost-of-living adjustment” and was first introduced by the Social Security Administration in 1975 in an effort to counter inflation for beneficiaries relying on those funds [4]. Beneficiaries of Social Security, which include individuals who have reached the age of 62 or have qualifying disabilities, can receive an increase in their benefit based on the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or the CPI-W.

For example, at the beginning of this year, Social Security beneficiaries may have noticed their checks increasing by 5.9%. That increase didn’t happen by chance or because of a missed decimal point in the accounting department. It was a carefully constructed adjustment based on 2021’s inflation rate, ideally giving those living on fixed income a chance against rising costs.

And next year’s COLA for 2023 could be the highest we’ve seen since 1981.

How does this affect retirees?

Retiring isn’t easy, and there’s a reason workers open IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement accounts, like 401(k)s, early in their careers to begin building for the future. Retirement comes with a great deal of financial risk, and one of the biggest contributors to that risk is inflation.

Retirees often live on fixed incomes, withdrawing money from savings accounts, retirement accounts, pensions, annuities, investments and Social Security to cover their living expenses. Though a proper financial plan accounts for inflation, it can be difficult to foresee spikes like the one in 2022, potentially upsetting expectations of how long your money will last. Though imperfect, the COLA can offer retirees increases to one of their main sources of income in retirement, hopefully offsetting change that can occur over the course of decades.

What is the next COLA expected to be, and when can I expect it?

A recent COLA projection made headlines with an eye-popping number. The Senior Citizens League estimates that Social Security beneficiaries could see a 10.5% COLA, meaning that the average monthly benefit could increase by about $175[5].

That estimate has steadily climbed over the past few months, though it’s certainly not yet set in stone. The Social Security Administration will announce the next COLA in October, and it will go into effect in January of 2023.

Are there any problems with COLA?

Though an increase in your Social Security check might sound entirely positive, there are drawbacks to COLA and the problems it aims to correct. The COLA is intended to cover the difference between the current cost of living and the previous year’s cost of living, but it is possible that the extra money in your benefit will only partly cover your increased living expenses.

The COLA is not directly aligned with inflation, so it is possible for inflation to rise faster than Social Security’s adjustment. For example, in 2021, inflation climbed 7% [6] while the COLA only increased by 5.9% [7]. Similarly, the Social Security COLA can remain unchanged year over year, just as it did following 2009, 2010 and 2015 when inflation rose 2.7%, 1.5% and 0.7%, respectively [8].

While not completely reflective of each other, the COLA and inflation do correlate, and inflation is currently outpacing wages. In fact, in 2021, wages actually saw a 3.5% drop when living costs are accounted for [9]. Though this doesn’t directly affect Social Security beneficiaries, the Social Security trust funds are built by contributions from income taxes [10]. It stands to reason that inflation’s outpacing of wages would mean that the Social Security trust funds, which currently project to only be able to pay at their current rate until 2035, would deplete even quicker [11].

So, as someone who collects Social Security or hopes to in the future, what can I do?

First and foremost, we would always recommend speaking with your financial professional to assemble a proper plan for your retirement. The right financial plan can be the difference between having adequate funds for your desired lifestyle or running out of money. Social Security is only one income stream, and backup plans with alternative sources of funds are vital.

If you have any questions about your Social Security benefit, please ask! To reach The Financial Education Group set up an appointment with us here.

Sources:

1. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/coming-up-consumer-price-index-for-may-11654862886

2. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/investing/another-75-point-fed-rate-increase/

3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathanponciano/2022/07/27/fed-raises-interest-rates-by-75-basis-points-again-as-investors-brace-for-recession/

4. https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/colasummary.html

5. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/07/13/social-security-cost-of-living-adjustment-could-be-10point5percent-in-2023.html

6. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/01/12/cpi-december-2021-.html

7. https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/colaseries.html

8. https://www.thebalance.com/u-s-inflation-rate-history-by-year-and-forecast-3306093

9. https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/29/economy/worker-wages-inflation/index.html

10. https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/factsheets/WhatAreTheTrust.htm

11. https://www.thestreet.com/investing/social-security-2035

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