How to Handle an Inheritance

December 7, 2022

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Denise and Chris Arand

Denise and Chris Arand

Executive Vice Presidents/Financial Strategists

2011 Palomar Airport Rd
#101
Carlsbad, CA 92011

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October 5, 2022

Getting the Most Bang for Your Savings Buck

Getting the Most Bang for Your Savings Buck

Savvy savers know that if they look after their pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.

So, if you’re looking for places to gain a few extra pennies, why not start by maximizing your savings account?

Granted, a savings account might not be a flashy investment opportunity with a high return. But most of us use one as a place to park our emergency fund or the dream car fund. So, if you’re going to put your money somewhere other than under your mattress, why not put it in the place that gets the best return? Here are some tips for getting the most out of your savings account.

Try an Online-only Account

Your corner bank branch isn’t the only option for a savings account. Why not try an online account? As of May 2022, some banks are offering online checking accounts with rates of 1.25% (some even higher).¹

With the help of technology, you can link one of these high-interest savings accounts directly to your checking account, making moving money a breeze. Say goodbye to the brick and mortar bank, and hello to some extra cash in your pocket!

Check Out Your Local Credit Union

A credit union offers savers some unique benefits. They differ from a traditional bank as they are usually not for profit. They function more like a cooperative – even paying dividends back to members periodically.

A credit union can also be beneficial as they typically offer a higher interest rate than your everyday bank. Membership in a credit union may also have other perks, such as low-interest rates on personal loans as well as exceptional customer service.

Money Market Accounts

A money market account is like a savings account except it’s tied to bonds and other low-risk investments. A money market can deliver the goods by giving you more for your savings, but there are often account minimums and fees. Before putting your savings into a money market account, check the fees and account minimums to make sure they’ll coincide with your needs.

Don’t Use a Parking Place When You Need a Garage

A savings account is a like a good parking place for cash. Its usefulness is in its ease of access and flexibility.

This makes it a great place to keep savings that you may need to access in the short term – say, within the next 12 months.

For long-term saving (like for retirement), it’s generally not a good idea to rely on a savings account alone. Retirement savings doesn’t belong in a parking place. For that, you need a garage. Talk to your financial professional today about a savings strategy for retirement, and the options that are available for you.

Shopping for a Savings Account

Just because a savings account doesn’t offer high yields, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider it carefully. To get the most bang for your savings buck, search out the highest interest possible (which might be online), be aware of fees and penalties, and remember – any saving is better than not saving at all!

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¹ “10 Best Online Checking Accounts of 2022,” Chanelle Bessette, Nerdwallet, May 26, 2022, https://www.nerdwallet.com/best/banking/online-checking-accounts

September 26, 2022

Playing the Lottery is Still a Bad Idea

Playing the Lottery is Still a Bad Idea

A full third of Americans believe that winning the lottery is the only way they can retire.¹

What? Playing a game of chance is the only way they can retire? Do you ever wonder if winning a game – where your odds are 1 in 175,000,000 – is the only way you’ll get to make Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops your everyday uniform?

Do you feel like you might be gambling with your retirement?

If you do, that’s not a good sign. But believing you may need to win the lottery to retire is somewhat understandable when the financial struggle facing a majority of North Americans is considered: 77% of millennials are living paycheck-to-paycheck, as are nearly 40% of Americans earning over $100,000.²

When you’re in a financial hole, saving for your future may feel like a gamble in the present. But believing that “it’s impossible to save for retirement” is just one of many bad money ideas floating around. Following are a few other common ones. Do any of these feel true to you?

Bad Idea #1: I shouldn’t save for retirement until I’m debt free.

False! Even as you’re working to get out from under debt, it’s important to continue saving for your retirement. Time is going to be one of the most important factors when it comes to your money and your retirement, which leads right into the next Bad Idea…

Bad Idea #2: It’s fine to wait until you’re older to save.

The truth is, the earlier you start saving, the better. Even 10 years can make a huge difference. In this hypothetical scenario, let’s see what happens with two 55-year-old friends, Baxter and Will.

  • Baxter started saving when he was 25. Over the next 10 years, Baxter put away $3,000 a year for a total of $30,000 in an account with an 8% rate of return. He stopped contributing but let it keep growing for the next 20 years.
  • Will started saving 10 years later at age 35. Will also put away $3,000 a year into an account with an 8% rate of return, but he contributed for 20 years (for a total of $60,000).

Even though Will put away twice as much as Baxter, he wasn’t able to enjoy the same account growth:

  • Baxter would achieve account growth to $218,769.
  • Will’s account growth would only be to $148,269 at the same rate of return.

Is that a little mind-bending? Do we need to check our math? (We always do.) Here’s why Baxter ended up with more in the long run: Even though he set aside less than Will did, Baxter’s money had more time to compound than Will’s, which, as you can see, really added up over the additional time. So what did Will get out of this? Unfortunately, he discovered the high cost of waiting.

Keep in mind: All figures are for illustrative purposes only and do not reflect an actual investment in any product. Additionally, they do not reflect the performance risks, taxes, expenses, or charges associated with any actual investment, which would lower performance. This illustration is not an indication or guarantee of future performance. Contributions are made at the end of the period. Total accumulation figures are rounded to the nearest dollar.

Bad Idea #3: I don’t need life insurance.

Negative! Financing a well-tailored life insurance policy is an important part of your financial strategy. Insurance benefits can cover final expenses and loss of income for your loved ones.

Bad Idea #4: I don’t need an emergency fund.
Yes, you do! An emergency fund is necessary now and after you retire. Unexpected costs have the potential to cut into retirement funds and derail savings strategies in a big way, and after you’ve given your last two-weeks-notice ever, the cost of new tires or patching a hole in the roof might become harder to cover without a little financial cushion.

Are you taking a gamble on your retirement with any of these bad ideas?

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¹ “What Are the Odds of Winning the Lottery?” Kimberly Amadeo, The Balance, Oct 24, 2021, https://www.thebalance.com/what-are-the-odds-of-winning-the-lottery-3306232

² “Nearly 40 Percent of Americans with Annual Incomes over $100,000 Live Paycheck-to-Paycheck,” PR Newswire, Jun 15, 2021 https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/nearly-40-percent-of-americans-with-annual-incomes-over-100-000-live-paycheck-to-paycheck-301312281.html

September 19, 2022

401(k) vs. IRA—What's the Difference?

401(k) vs. IRA—What's the Difference?

When it comes to building wealth, the best thing you can do is start early and contribute as much money as possible.

But with so many different retirement savings options available, it can be difficult to know where to put your money. Should you open a 401(k) through your employer? Or would an IRA be better for you?

To help you decide, let’s take a look at how 401(k)s and IRAs work, and the pros and cons of each.

A 401(k) is a retirement savings plan sponsored by an employer. It’s a great way to save for retirement because it offers several advantages.

For one, 401(k)s have much higher contribution limits than IRAs. In 2022, 401(k)s have a contribution limit of $20,500, while the limit for IRAs is $6,000.¹

This means you can potentially save a lot more money in a 401(k) if you have income to spare.

Another advantage of 401(k)s is that many employers offer matching contributions. This is free money that your employer contributes to your retirement. It’s a great way to supercharge your savings.

But don’t write off IRAs just yet—they have some advantages of their own.

For one, you don’t need an employer to open an IRA. This makes them a great option if you’re self-employed or if your employer doesn’t offer a retirement savings plan.

IRAs also give you a lot more control over your investments than 401(k)s. With a 401(k), you’re limited to the investment options offered by your employer.

With an IRA, you can choose from a wider range of investments, including stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. This can potentially help you earn a higher return.

So, which is better—a 401(k) or an IRA? The answer depends on your individual circumstances.

If you have a 401(k) through your employer, it’s generally a good idea to contribute at least enough to get the employer match. After that, you can consider contributing to an IRA as well.

If you don’t have a 401(k) or if you’re self-employed, an IRA may be the better option for you.

No matter which type of account you choose, the most important thing is to start saving for retirement now. The sooner you start, the more time your money has to grow.

Happy saving!

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September 14, 2022

Has Your Debt Outpaced Your Income?

Has Your Debt Outpaced Your Income?

Are your finances feeling tight? It may be because your debt has outpaced your income.

Your debt-to-income ratio is a key factor in determining your financial health. This ratio is simply your monthly debt payments divided by your monthly income, multiplied by 100 to make it a percentage.

Banks and other lenders will look at your debt-to-income ratio when considering whether to give you a loan. They want to see that you have enough income to cover your monthly debt obligations. A high debt-to-income ratio can make it difficult to qualify for new loans or lines of credit since it can signal that you’re struggling to keep up with your debt payments.

Fortunately, your ratio is easy to calculate…

First, add up all of your monthly debt payments. This includes your mortgage or rent, car payment, student loans, credit card payments, and any other debts you may have.

Next, calculate your monthly income. This is typically your take-home pay after taxes and other deductions. If you’re self-employed, it may be your net income after business expenses.

Finally, divide your monthly debt payments by your monthly income. Multiply this number by 100 to get your debt-to-income ratio.

For example, let’s say you have a monthly mortgage payment of $1,000 and a monthly car payment of $300. You also have $200 in student loan payments and $150 in credit card payments. Your monthly income is $3,000.

Your debt-to-income ratio would be (1,000 + 300 + 200 + 150) / 3,000 = .55 or 55%.

A debt-to-income ratio of less than 36% is typically considered ideal by lenders—anything more can signal financial stress.¹

If your debt-to-income ratio is high, don’t despair. There are steps you can take to improve it.

First, try to increase your income. That can mean working extra hours, scoring a raise, finding a new job, or even starting a side business.

Second, you can lower your debt. You can do this by making extra payments on your debts each month or by consolidating your debts into a single loan with a lower interest rate.

Making these changes can be difficult, but they can make a big difference in your debt-to-income ratio—and your financial health.

If you’re not sure where to start, contact me! I can help you develop a plan to get your debt under control and to start building wealth.

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September 12, 2022

Inflation is Massacring Your Savings

Inflation is Massacring Your Savings

Inflation isn’t just eating away at your purchasing power—it’s also ravaging your savings account.

If you’re like many people, the interest you’re earning on your money is being completely eroded by inflation. That’s because the annual rate of inflation has been outpacing the interest rates on savings accounts for years.

Let’s look at some numbers…

Let’s say you have $10,000 in a savings account that pays 1% interest. After one year, you would have earned $100 in interest, which sounds like a decent return.

But if inflation is running at 2%, then the purchasing power of your money has declined by 2% over the same period. In other words, the $10,100 you have in your account can buy less than what $10,000 could buy a year ago.

As a result, your real return on investment—or the return after inflation is taken into account—is actually negative 1%.

Now, let’s bring that to the real world—in 2022, the total inflation rate has been 8.5% thus far,¹ while the average interest rate for savings accounts is just .13%.²

That means for every $100 you have in a savings account, the purchasing power of that money declines by $8.50 while the value of your money only grows by $.13.

In other words, inflation is absolutely massacring your savings account.

So what can you do about it?

Simple—find assets that grow at a rate that outpaces inflation.

One option is to invest in assets with high compounding interest rates, such as certain types of bonds. Another strategy is to invest in options that have the potential to generate high returns, such as stocks or real estate.

You could also start a business that can scale quickly and generate a high return on investment.

Whatever strategy you choose, the key is to find an asset that will grow at a rate that can outpace inflation.

So don’t sit idly by and watch as inflation destroys your savings account—take action and find an investment that will help you keep up with the rising cost of living. Otherwise, you’ll end up losing ground financially.

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This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to promote any certain products, plans, or strategies for saving and/or investing that may be available to you. Any examples used in this article are hypothetical. Market performance is based on many factors and cannot be predicted. Before investing or enacting a savings or retirement strategy, seek the advice of a licensed and qualified financial professional, accountant, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.


¹ “Kevin O’Leary’s No. 1 money mistake to avoid during periods of high inflation,” Nicolas Vega, CNBC Make It, Apr 21 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/21/kevin-olearys-no-1-money-mistake-to-avoid-during-high-inflation.html

² “What is the average interest rate for savings accounts?” Matthew Goldberg, Bankrate, Aug. 4, 2022, https://www.bankrate.com/banking/savings/average-savings-interest-rates/#:~:text=National%20average%20savings%20account%20interest,ll%20earn%20on%20your%20savings.

August 31, 2022

How Inflation Impacts Your Savings

How Inflation Impacts Your Savings

It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee!

The reality is that your retirement savings might be losing value every day. It’s because of something called inflation, and it may result in your finding yourself retiring with less than you anticipated. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how inflation affects your savings and what you can do about it.

First, what is inflation?

Inflation is a measurement of how much prices are rising over time. And it’s not just that the price of gas is skyrocketing or some other commodity—inflation affects everything.

That may not necessarily be a problem for you, so long as your wages are increasing with the rate of inflation. Commodities might get more expensive, but your rising paycheck means you can still afford what you need. But if income isn’t keeping up with inflation, an upper-class income today may only afford you a middle-class income tomorrow!

But there’s another danger that inflation poses.

Let’s say you have $1 million dollars in the bank that you’ve put away for retirement. Good for you! You’ve probably already dreamed of how you’ll use that cash once you retire. A new home, a new car, worldwide travel, you name it!

But here’s the rub. Over time, the cost of those items (most likely) will steadily increase. So will the basic cost of living. By the time you retire, your $1 million has far less purchasing power than it did when you first started saving. You haven’t lost money, exactly. Your money has just lost value.

So how can you combat the slow decay caused by inflation?

Start by moving your money away from low, or no, growth places. Your Grandma may not like to hear this, but hiding money in your mattress is an easy way to torpedo its value over the long haul!

Find investments that actually grow over time and help beat inflation. Over the last 100 years or so, the average inflation rate has been 3.1%. That’s the bare minimum rate at which your investment should grow, if you’re using it for long-term wealth creation.

A licensed and qualified financial professional can help you with both of these steps. The sooner you start the process of protecting your wealth from inflation, the more you insulate yourself from the danger of waking up with less money than you’d thought!

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August 10, 2022

Four Types of Self-Made Millionaires

Four Types of Self-Made Millionaires

A 5 year study of hundreds of self-millionaires has revealed their paths to achieving wealth. The findings reveal key insights that anyone can adopt and apply.

Starting in 2004, Tom Corley interviewed 225 self-made millionaires. His goal was simple—discover strategies, habits, and qualities that unite the self-made wealthy.

Along the way, he discovered four distinct types of self-made millionaires.

These are more than abstract archetypes—they represent actionable strategies and attainable goals that you can imitate, starting today.

Here are the four types of self-made millionaires…

Saver-Investors

These wealth builders come from all walks of life. What they have in common is that they save, save, and save. Add a dash—or heaping spoonful—of compound interest, and their savings grow over the course of their career into lasting wealth.

Company Climbers

It’s simple—score a job at a large company, and climb the ladder until you reach a lucrative position. Then use your significant income, benefits, and bonuses to create wealth.

Virtuosos

Got a knack for an in-demand skill? Then you may have serious wealth building potential. That’s because businesses will gladly pay top dollar for specific talents. Just remember—the virtuoso path to wealth requires both extreme discipline and extensive training.

Dreamers

From starting a business to becoming a successful artist, these are the people who go all-out on their passions. It’s an extremely high-risk solution—often, it can lead to failure. But those who succeed can reap substantial rewards.

The types may seem intimidating—after all, not everyone is positioned to drop everything and become a successful entrepreneur. But anyone can apply the basic strategies of the self-made wealthy to their finances…

Income is of the essence

The more you earn, the more you can save. Whether it’s by developing your skills or starting a side business, every bit of extra income can make a crucial difference on your ability to build wealth.

Save, no matter what

Unless you’re set on starting a business, you must save. Corely’s research suggested that saving 20% of your income is the benchmark for the self-made wealthy. Do your homework, meet with a financial professional, and start putting away as much as you can each month.

Invest in your skills Your skills dictate what you can earn. Take a note from the virtuosos—get really good at something that businesses need, and reap the benefits.

What type of self-millionaire could you become?

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¹ “I spent 5 years interviewing 225 millionaires. Here are the 4 types of rich people and their top habits,” Tom Corley, CNBC Make It, Aug 1 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/2022/07/31/i-spent-5-years-interviewing-225-millionaires-3-money-habits-that-helped-them-get-rich.html

August 8, 2022

Moves to Make Before Maxing Your 401(k)

Moves to Make Before Maxing Your 401(k)

Maxing out your 401(k) is boilerplate financial advice.

That’s because so few Americans are on track to retire with wealth—as of 2017, workers age 55-64 had saved only $107,000 for retirement.¹

With such bleak numbers, it’s no wonder financial professionals encourage 401(k) maxing. When possible, it’s a simple strategy that can help you reach your retirement goals and avoid a post-career catastrophe.

But consider this—the 401(k) contribution maximum as of 2022 is $20,500. For a single professional making over $100,000, that’s no big deal.

But what if you earn $60,000? Or have a family? Or have medical bills?

Suddenly, $20,500 seems like a much larger pill to swallow!

The simple fact is that saving shouldn’t be your first financial priority.

Before you save, you should create an emergency fund with 3-6 months worth of expenses.

Before you save, you should secure financial protection for your income in the form of life insurance.

Before you save, you should eliminate your debt to maximize your saving power.

Even then, you may not have the financial firepower to max out your 401(k) and make ends meet. It may take a side hustle to supplement your incomes to increase your contribution ability.

A helpful rule of thumb is to at least match your employer’s contribution. It’s a simple way to get the most out of your 401(k) without overextending your finances.

And above all, consult with a financial professional. They can help evaluate your retirement goals, your cash flow, and steps you can take to make the most of your 401(k).

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¹ “Jaw-Dropping Stats About the State of Retirement in America,” Jordan Rosenfeld, GOBankingRates, May 13, 2022, https://www.gobankingrates.com/retirement/planning/jaw-dropping-stats-state-retirement-america/#:~:text=According%20to%20a%20TransAmerica%20Center,saving%20 for%20 retirement%20is%2027.

July 21, 2022

Mental Health And Money

Mental Health And Money

There is a deep yet often unconsidered connection between mental health and money.

The data is clear as day. The Money and Mental Health Institute discovered that…

  • 46% of people__ with debt have a diagnosed mental health condition
  • 86% of people with__ mental health issues and debt say that debt exacerbates their mental health issues
  • People with depression and debt are 4x more likely to still have debt after 18 months compared to their counterparts
  • Those with debt are 3x more likely to contemplate suicide due to that debt¹

What these statistics don’t reveal, however, is what comes first. Do mental health issues spark financial woes? Or do financial woes spark mental health issues?

The answer, of course, is yes.

The connection between mental health and money can’t be reduced to simple causation. Instead, it’s a spiral where both factors can feed off of each other.

Consider the following pattern…

  • A financial crisis ramps up stress levels.
  • Ramped up stress levels activate negative self-talk.
  • Negative self-talk sparks unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms wreak havoc on the financial situation. And repeat.

This is an example of a financial crisis sparking mental health issues. But notice that a financial crisis isn’t the only situation that can cause the cycle. For instance…

  • An unhealthy relationship ramps up stress levels.
  • Ramped up stress levels activate negative self-talk.
  • Negative self-talk sparks unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms wreak havoc on the financial situation. And repeat.

In short, there’s a two-way relationship between mental health and money. If you’re seeking to start building wealth and changing your life, you must address both. Practically speaking, that means steps like…

  • Reducing financial stress by building an emergency fund
  • Increasing financial flexibility by reducing debt
  • Unlearning toxic self-talk habits that spark anxiety and depression
  • Developing healthy coping skills to alleviate stress

These can be daunting steps if you’re going it alone. That’s why it’s always best to seek the help of both mental health and financial professionals. They’ll have the insights and strategies you need to blaze a different path for your future.

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¹ “Data Shows Strong Link Between Financial Wellness and Mental Health,” Enrich, Mar 24, 2021, https://www.enrich.org/blog/data-shows-strong-link-between-financial-wellness-and-mental-health

July 11, 2022

The Real Reason You Aren't Saving

The Real Reason You Aren't Saving

“I’ll start saving when I turn 30.”

“I’m too old to save.”

“I’m in too much debt to save.”

“Why do I need to save? I don’t have any debt!”

You may have heard your friends and loved ones say things like this before. You may have even said them yourself!

It doesn’t take much sleuthing to recognize these statements for what they are—excuses. And excuses always suck.

But the fact that people feel compelled to make excuses reveals the truth…

People are afraid of saving.

In one sense, it’s easy to see why. Everyone knows saving is critical. But no one knows the “right way” to go about it. And that ignorance makes building wealth seem mysterious, or even dangerous.

An excuse serves as a justification for avoiding that great unknown. It makes not saving feel like the safer option… for now.

But never saving can have disastrous consequences like…

  • Running out of money in retirement
  • Struggling to cover medical emergencies
  • Constant stress about affording the basics

The choice is simple…

Risk a financial disaster.

OR

Face your fears and start saving.

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to face that fear alone.

Having mentors and companions to aid you on your journey can mean the difference between success and financial shipwreck.

In fact, that’s what I’m here for—to offer insight, tips, and support as you start building wealth and financial security for your family.

So if you’re ready to face your fears and to start saving, let’s chat! We can review your situation, and what it would look like to overcome your financial obstacles.

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June 29, 2022

Sinking Funds 101

Sinking Funds 101

You can put down the life jacket—a sinking fund is actually a good thing!

Why? Because a sinking fund can help you avoid high interest debt when making big purchases. Here’s how…

Put simply, a sinking fund is a savings account that’s dedicated to a specific purchase.

For instance, you could create a sinking fund for buying a new car. Every paycheck, you would automate a deposit into the fund until you had enough money to buy your new ride.

And that can make it a powerful tool. Instead of putting big ticket items on a credit card or using financing, you can instead use cash. It can work wonders for your cash flow and your ability to build wealth over the long haul.

Here are a few tips for making the most of your sinking fund…

Plan in advance

Sinking funds work best when they’ve had time to accumulate—you probably can’t save for two weeks and then expect to buy a car!

First, write a list of all major upcoming expenses on the horizon. List how much you expect them to cost, and when you plan to purchase them.

Then, divide the cost by the number of pay periods between now and then. That’s how much you need to save each paycheck to buy the item in cash. Even if you can’t spare the cash flow to save the full amount, you can at least save enough to lower the amount of debt you’ll be taking on.

Prioritize access

What good is saving for a purchase if you can’t access the money? Not much.

That’s why it’s best if your sinking fund is highly liquid. No penalties for withdrawal. No delay between selling assets and accessing cash. Otherwise, you may find yourself unnecessarily twiddling your thumbs instead of actually making the purchase!

Prioritize safety

Remember—this is for a specific purchase on a relatively short timetable, so you might not want to put these funds in a more aggressive account. The last thing anyone wants is for their car savings to get halved by a bear market. There are other accounts specifically designed for building wealth. This doesn’t need to be one.

So before you make your next big purchase, call up your licensed and qualified financial professional. Give them the details about what you plan to buy and when. Then, collaborate to see what saving for the purchase could look like. It could be the alternative to credit card spending and financing that your wallet needs!

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This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to promote any certain products, plans, or strategies for saving and/or investing that may be available to you. Any examples used in this article are hypothetical. Market performance is based on many factors and cannot be predicted. Before investing or enacting a savings or retirement strategy, seek the advice of a licensed and qualified financial professional, accountant, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.

June 8, 2022

Tax Now or Tax Later?

Tax Now or Tax Later?

If someone asked if you’d rather pay taxes now or later, what would you say?

Paying later is tempting. After all, who likes paying taxes at all? As with most inconveniences, it’s easy to delay, delay, delay.

But here’s an important question. When do you think taxes will be greater—today, or years from now?

It’s impossible to answer.

Looking to history doesn’t really help—income taxes are actually far lower now than they were in the 1930s, 40s, or 50s.¹ So if you pay now, you may miss out if taxes sink even further.

But no one can predict the future. If you opt to pay later, unforeseen circumstances may create a higher tax environment down the road.

So if you’re comparing tax now vs. tax later, it may feel like you might as well toss a coin to determine your strategy. Not a good place to be!

But fortunately, there’s an alternative. Tax never.

And no, that doesn’t mean buying shady nail salons, opening businesses in the Cayman Islands, or committing a felony. It simply means working with a licensed and qualified financial professional to identify time-proven—and 100% legal—financial vehicles.

These include…

Roth IRAs/Roth 401(k)s Health Savings Accounts Indexed Universal Life (IUL) Insurance 529 College Savings Plans Municipal Bonds

Each vehicle has specific rules, limitations, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s absolutely critical that you consult with a financial professional before you start leveraging these tools. Remember, you don’t need to flip a coin to make financial decisions!

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¹ “History of Federal Income Tax Rates: 1913 – 2021,” Bradford Tax Institute, https://bradfordtaxinstitute.com/Free_Resources/Federal-Income-Tax-Rates.aspx

June 6, 2022

Retiring in a Bear Market

Retiring in a Bear Market

Is a slowing market challenging your peace of mind about retirement?

It’s no wonder why—losing wealth on the cusp of retirement can suddenly lower the quality of your post-career lifestyle.

And worst of all, it can seem unavoidable. If you turn 67 during a bear market, what are your options for avoiding a retirement disaster?

The first, most obvious solution is to keep working. Take the loss on the chin, push through, let the recovery buoy your savings, and retire at the top.

The drawbacks? It could delay your retirement by 3 to 5 years.

Even worse, you’ll then likely face the temptation to retire at the TOP of the next bull market. And if you don’t plan accordingly, your retirement savings and income could get hammered during the almost inevitable bear market that would follow.

The second, far more powerful strategy? Taper your risk as you approach retirement.

Why? Because it can make you far less vulnerable to market fluctuations. Whether you retire at the top or bottom of the market becomes less important for your retirement outcome.

That’s why it’s absolutely essential to meet with a licensed and qualified financial professional ASAP. They can review your goals and situation to determine what level of risk works best for you. They can also help you taper your risk exposure as you get closer to retirement.

And if you’re ready to retire but skittish about the market, they can help you weigh the pros and cons of taking the plunge or waiting it out.

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May 11, 2022

An Introduction to Crowdfunded Real Estate

An Introduction to Crowdfunded Real Estate

Home tours and late night toilet repairs.

That’s what most people think of when they hear the words “real estate.” You’re either an agent or a landlord. You’re either selling homes, or fixing up diamonds in the rough and renting them out.

But you probably don’t think of the word “app.” At least, not yet.

That’s because there’s a new way of owning real estate—crowdfunding.

Here’s how it works…

You’ve probably noticed that real estate is wildly expensive. Even before the housing insanity of 2021, few had the cash to buy land, homes, or commercial lots outright. The traditional method to get around this was to take out a loan. It was a barrier that limited real estate to either financial institutions, the wealthy, or scrappy home flippers.

But what if you could team up with dozens of other people to buy a property? Say you and twenty people pitched in on a home in a promising neighborhood with good schools. You split the rental income, and when the home gets sold, you cash your share of the profits.

Suddenly, real estate is far less intimidating—you can pool your resources with others to buy a stake in a property, without shouldering all the risk or responsibility yourself.

But that’s not all. If enough people pitch in, you could hypothetically start buying apartment complexes, supermarkets, even a skyscraper!

That’s the power of crowdfunding.

And recently, it’s taken off. The past few years have seen a surge in online real estate crowdfunding platforms.

The model is simple. You give the platform money, either as a lump sum or monthly deposit. They use your money to buy promising properties. You get dividends and appreciation. They get a fee for managing your money.

And for many platforms, you can simply download an app and make decisions about how much you want to contribute and see how your properties are performing from your phone.

Let’s be clear—this is NOT a recommendation to start crowdfunding real estate purchases. Far from it. It’s still a new industry which is relatively untested. As with all financial decisions, it’s best to consult with a licensed and qualified financial professional first.

But it’s worth knowing about this new way of owning property. Only time will tell if it becomes a staple of wealth-building strategies, or if it fizzles out.

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April 25, 2022

Lessons From the Super Frugal

Lessons From the Super Frugal

The world of the super frugal can be an overwhelming place.

In a sense, it’s inspiring. The creativity and grit of the super frugal are sure to put a grin on your face. You may even find a few fun money saving projects that are worth your time. Saving money with french toast? Sign me up!

However, there’s a fine line between inspiring and weird, and the super frugal sometimes cross that line. Could reusing a plastic lid as a paint palette save you money? Sure! The same is true for bartering with store clerks. Will you get funny looks? Almost certainly.

It’s not that funny looks are bad. There’s wisdom to defying the crowd and marching to the beat of your own drum. But sometimes there’s a good reason to raise an eyebrow at super frugality…

That’s because it can miss the point.

Your financial top priority must always be providing for those you love. In this day and age, that means building wealth.

Some people may need extreme measures to do that. Let’s say you have deep credit card debt or a spending problem. Coupon clipping, saving on utilities, and thrifting may help you knock that debt out faster and free up the cash flow you need to start building wealth.

But don’t mistake the means for the end. Obsessing over coupons, stressing over recycling, and cutting too many corners can reach unhealthy and even pathological extremes. That doesn’t create wealth and prosperity—it can just cause more suffering.

So take lessons from the super frugal. Find a few money savings projects that you enjoy. Maybe do a spending cleanse. But keep your eye on the ultimate prize—building wealth for you and your family.

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April 20, 2022

Are You Ready?

Are You Ready?

It’s not a question if buying is better than renting. It’s a question of when you’ll be ready to buy.

That’s because rent money is lost to your landlord forever.

A homeowner, though, has the chance for the value of their house to increase. It may not be an earth-shattering return, but there’s a far higher chance that you’ll at least break even from owning than renting.

Even with its advantages, owning a home isn’t for everyone… at least, not yet. Here are a few criteria to consider before becoming a homeowner.

You’re ready to put down roots. If you’re not yet prepared to live in one place for at least five years, home ownership may not be for you.

Why? Because buying and selling a home comes with costs. As a rule of thumb, waiting five years can allow your home to appreciate enough value to offset those expenses.

So before you buy a home, be sure that you’ve done your homework. Will your job require you to change locations in the next five years? Will local schools stay up to par as your family grows? If you’re confident that you’ll stay put for the next five years or more, go ahead and start planning.

You can cover the upfront costs of home ownership. The upfront costs of buying a home, as mentioned above, are no laughing matter. They may prove a barrier to entry if you haven’t been saving up.

The greatest upfront costs you’ll face are the down payment and closing costs. A down payment is usually a percentage of the total purchase price of your home—for instance, a home priced at $200,000 might require a 20% down payment, or $40,000.

Closing costs vary from state to state, with averages ranging from $1,909 in Indianna to $25,800 in the District of Columbia.¹ These include fees to the lender and property transfer taxes.

The takeaway? Start saving to cover the upfront costs of purchasing a home well in advance. Your bank account will thank you!

You can handle the maintenance costs of home ownership. Say what you will about landlords, but at least they don’t charge you for home repairs and maintenance!

That all changes when you become a homeowner. Every little ding, scratch, and flooded basement are your responsibility to cover. It all adds up to over $2,000 per year, though that figure will vary depending on the size and age of your home.² If you haven’t factored in those expenses, your cash flow—as well as your airflow—might be in for trouble!

Do you have residual debt to deal with? The great danger of debt is that it destabilizes your finances. It dries up precious cash flow needed to cover emergency expenses and build wealth.

That’s why throwing a mortgage on top of a high student loan or credit card debt burden can be a blunder. You might be able to cover costs on paper, but you risk stretching your cash flow to take care of any unplanned emergencies.

In conclusion, owning a home is an admirable goal. But it may not be for you and your family yet! Take a long look at your finances and life-stage before making a purchase that could become a source of stress instead of stability.

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¹ “Average Closing Costs in 2020: What Will You Pay?” Amy Fontinelle, The Ascent, Sept 28, 2020, https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/research/average-closing-costs/

² “How Much Should You Budget for Home Maintenance?” American Family Insurance, https://www.amfam.com/resources/articles/at-home/average-home-maintenance-costs

April 13, 2022

Can You Create a Will Without An Attorney?

Can You Create a Will Without An Attorney?

The short answer is YES. You can create a will without an attorney.

There are dozens of templates you can download and use to draw up your estate plan. It’s fast, easy, and convenient.

But the real question isn’t IF you can create your own will. It’s if you SHOULD.

Your will is fundamental to your financial legacy. It’s a legal document that must meet specific qualifications and standards because it’s going to control how your loved ones will receive the wealth and assets you’ve worked so hard to amass.

Any oversight with your will could result in the mishandling of your estate. Your assets could end up in the hands of the wrong people. At the very least, it could cause a legal headache for your family.

If your estate is simple, you might be able to navigate those challenges alone.

But you’ll most likely need an attorney if you…

  • Own a family-run business you want to pass to your children.
  • Plan to pass your wealth to a step-child or step-children.
  • Want to disinherit someone in your existing will.

In other words, you should hire a lawyer if your will is anything more than boilerplate. Otherwise, the risk and consequences of errors become too high.

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April 11, 2022

Discover Your Retirement Number

Discover Your Retirement Number

How much money will you need to retire?

It’s a question that has no single answer. Everyone has different financial needs that arise from their specific situation.

But there are methods and tools you can use to discover your personal retirement number. In this article we show three ways to estimate how much you need to save for a comfortable retirement.

Use an online retirement calculator. The beauty of retirement calculators is that they’re simple. Input some data about your savings, and you’ll get an estimate of how much you’ll have in retirement. They’ll let you know if you’re on target for your retirement goals.

Always take retirement calculators with a grain of salt. They’re each built on different algorithms and assumptions, so expect a range of results.

They also don’t know you personally, or your situation. You may have specific needs and plans that they can’t take into account.

Here are a few retirement calculators you can try…

The 4% Rule. This is the tried and true strategy for discovering your retirement number. It takes a little math, so grab your calculator!

First, let’s assume your income is $60,000 per year.

Next, let’s say that your annual retirement income must be 80% of your current annual income. So that’s $48,000.

Now, divide that by 4%…

$48,000 ÷ 0.04 = $1,200,000

Using the 4% Rule, you would need to have saved $1,200,000 to retire on 80% of your current income ($1,200,000 ÷ $48,000 = 25 years).

The Income Scale. This strategy, recommended by Fidelity, is more of a rule of thumb.¹

It aims for you to save 10x your annual income by age 67. It provides benchmarks along the way…

-1x by 30 -3x by 40 -6x by 50 -8x by 60

The only issue with this strategy is that 10x your income may not be enough for a comfortable retirement. For instance, a family earning $60,000 per year would only have $600,000 saved!

Each of these tools will help you estimate your retirement number. But the best way to discover your true number is to meet with a licensed and qualified financial professional. They can help you consider all the variables that may impact your retirement, and how to prepare.

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April 6, 2022

Understanding the Inverted Yield Curve

Understanding the Inverted Yield Curve

Inverted Yield Curve. It’s a phrase you may have heard before. More financial gibberish, right?

Wrong.

Paying attention to the yield curve is critical because it may indicate there’s a recession on the horizon. And as of March 29, 2022, it inverted for the first time since 2019.¹

What Is the Yield Curve?

The yield curve is simply a graph that shows the interest rates of different types of bonds. With a normal yield curve, bonds with lower lifespans (i.e., maturity) have lower interest rates. That’s because they’ll face less inflation and need less growth to keep up. By that logic, bonds with longer maturities have higher interest rates.

Put simply, if the yield curve is normal, a bond with a two year maturity will have a lower interest rate than a bond with a thirty year maturity.

So what happens when that gets inverted? Bonds with short maturities have higher interest rates, and bonds with long maturities have lower interest rates.

Why is that a big deal? Because it’s consistently correlated with economic recession. There have been 28 inverted yield curves since 1900, and 22 have correlated with recessions.²

And the average lead time from when the yield curve inverted to when the recession began was around 22 months.

This is not to say that you should start buying land in West Virginia or emergency rations. These are unprecedented times, and there may be other factors at play. But it’s at least a check engine light for your finances. Are you prepared for job instability? Is your emergency fund fully stocked? The time to start preparing for these possibilities is now. Meet with your financial pro today to make sure you’re prepared for whatever the future holds.

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¹⁺² “Explainer: U.S. yield curve inversion - What is it telling us?” David Randall, Davide Barbuscia and Saqib Iqbal Ahmed, Reuters, Mar 29, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/business/finance/us-yield-curve-inversion-what-is-it-telling-us-2022-03-29/

March 24, 2022

The Complete Guide to Buying Happiness

The Complete Guide to Buying Happiness

You’ve probably heard that money can’t buy happiness. But what if it could?

What if you were able to find a way of spending your money that made you happy, and the more you spent on it, the happier you became? Doesn’t sound possible, does it? But it IS entirely possible.

At least, that’s the premise of a paper written by scholars from Harvard, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Virginia. The title? “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren’t Spending It Right.”

The thesis? If you spend money right, it makes you happy. If you spend money wrong, it makes you feel… well, meh.

Here’s what they found…

Buy experiences, not things. The researchers found that people tend to be happier when they spend money on experiences rather than things. That’s because experiences provide us with opportunities to create memories, which can be recalled and enjoyed long after the experience is over. And as you get older, those memories become constant sources of joy, satisfaction, and happiness.

So if you’re looking to spend your money in a way that will make you happy, focus on things like travel, getaways, skydiving, sunsets, long walks, and conversations. Those will remain with you for the rest of your life.

Help others first. It’s a fact—social relations are critical for happiness. The better your relationships, the greater your happiness.

So it follows that one of the best ways to spend your money in a way that will make you happy is to help others. This could mean donating money to charity, or simply spending time with friends and family.

Focus on little pleasures. Another way to spend your money in a way that will make you happy is to focus on little pleasures. This one seems counterintuitive—shouldn’t you save a whole bunch of money and spend it on something fancy?

However, the paper cites research that frequency is more powerful than intensity. Is eating a 12oz cookie better than eating a 6oz cookie? Absolutely. But is it two times better? Probably not. It’s a concept called diminishing marginal utility—the more you indulge in something, the less enjoyable it becomes.

What does that mean? Frequent day trips beat rare but epic vacations. Fun, quiet date nights once per week beat going all out twice a year.

Pay now, consume later. Again, this seems counterintuitive. But it makes sense when you think about it.

Consider the all-too-common alternative—buy now, pay later. First off, this model encourages rampant spending. Without facing immediate consequences, it’s just too tempting to rack up debt and buy stuff you don’t need.

But more than that, it entirely removes antici…

.. pation from the equation. And that’s half the fun!

So instead of whipping out the credit card, save up. Pay cash. Delay gratification. You’ll enjoy your purchase more, and you’ll be happier overall.

So there you have it! The complete guide to spending your money in a way that will make you happy. Just remember—experiences over things, helping others first, little pleasures, and pay now, consume later. Follow these tips, and you may find that your money’s doing its actual job—making you happy.

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