How to keep up appearances and laugh all the way to the bank.

I am always concerned as to how my clients are spending. Is a purchase a need or a want? Did you do sufficient research before that big purchase? There are a number of ways to live frugally, but not look like a cheapskate.
Shop at the back of the store first.
It does not matter whether you are shopping for clothing or office supplies, the sale items are always in the back of the store.
Buy used.
We always buy cars that have been leased by someone else, then returned. If you lease a car you must maintain the car and keep the mileage low in order to not pay a big chunk when you return the car. Lease returns end up being good cars to buy due to the good maintenance records, low mileage, and the often still have warranty left.
We also have only bought homes that have been in foreclosure. This may not be a choice for everyone as I did grow up in a construction family, but you can often buy below market.
Buy quality
I am a lover of shoes. I used to buy based only on appearance, not how they were made. My Husband asked me why I didn’t buy better made shoes and then just get them re-soled or repaired when needed. I started buying better made shoes and doing just as he suggested. I still love shoes but am saving money by buying better quality.
How you spend is everything and may make for a more successful retirement.


Who doesn’t love Google?!

I am not referring to owning the stock, I am referring to using Google to answer our urgent and burning questions. Here are a few of the most Googled financial questions:
In Maryland and New Mexico, there are a lot of questions about student loans. There are more questions about how to qualify vs. how to repay them.
People in Maine and Pennsylvania are looking into mortgage calculators. I would guess with the rates still on the low side, people want to know how much they can afford in a house.
Sadly, in Georgia the most Googled financial questions are about Pay Day loans. Many of the questions were about how they work and how you qualify for them. I really hope that is the loan of last resort as they are very expensive loans.
On a happier note, in too many States to list, the most Googled financial question is how 401(k) accounts work. Questions regarding the contribution amounts, fees, when you can/or have to withdraw, etc. were the most popular.
I love Google, but talking to a human can often be better.


Is it time for the bank of Mom & Dad to shut down?

Supporting our kids is something we should do, but there needs to be a time when the Bank of Mom & Dad reduces its hours or shuts down completely. If your kids are well into their careers, it may be time for some tough financial love. Hopefully, you have done your job by teaching them how to budget, save, and spend wisely. It’s nice to be in a position to help, but you don’t want to be a lifelong ATM. If your adult children are still asking you for money, here are a few questions you should feel free to ask first:
Ask what it’s for. No matter the amount, you have a right to ask what the “loan” will be used for.
Set repayment terms. I put the word loan in quotes above due to the fact that often “loans” become gifts. You are not doing them or yourself any favors by not setting terms.
Feel free to say no. You may not be in a position to actually make the loan. If you are not on board as to the use of funds, or you will just help feeding a pipe dream, say no.

We owe it to our kids to teach them fiscal responsibility – do that and you will be able to gift them a lifetime of independence.


“When do I transition my portfolio to bonds vs. stocks?”

I work with a number of clients that are at or near retirement, so this question comes up a lot. Everyone wants to know when they should get out of stock funds and move completely to bonds for income. The simple answer is never. Here are a few points to consider:
First, just because you are retired does not mean that you will no longer being living a full and active life. Many of my clients will live, statistically, 20 years in retirement. To me, that is a long time. Stocks have proven to outperform bonds over the long term and you need growth of a portfolio to keep ahead of inflation.
Secondly, there are a number of stock funds that pay nice dividends. A combination of dividend paying stock funds + bond mutual funds may provide the income you need in retirement while your portfolio continues to grow.
Lastly, I had a conversation last week with a 92 yr. old client who does not wish to change from his moderately aggressive risk tolerance. He likes the growth he has realized, and still has a lot of things he would like to do.

There is no set time at which your portfolio mix has to change. Your lifestyle and health will determine your mix.


It’s time to enter the 21st Century.

A popular strategy for withdrawing from your retirement nest egg, the 4% rule, was developed in 1994 by William Bengen. This rule went under the assumption that if retirees only withdrew 4% from their retirement accounts, adjusted for inflation, their nest egg would last at least 30 years. This rule also assumes that the investment mix is one of 60% equities and 40% bonds, which at the time bonds were paying 5%, well below what they are paying today.
Another assumption is that the 4% rules is based on life expectancy vs. income needs. Spending in retirement is anything but static and simply adjusting for inflation does not allow for emergencies or major health issues.
Our tax system is another issue that may blow up the 4% rule. Currently, we all expect to pay less in taxes under the new tax laws. These laws will expire, and we have seen that tax laws can be ever changing. Add to that the various types of retirement accounts to draw from and the 4% rule simply does not apply anymore.
When planning for retirement, try to factor in some fluid spending in retirement, and make sure to review your accounts and spending annually.


A taxing question.

I have been asked this question a number of times in the past few weeks, most recently by two men that are past age 70 but still working at their corporate jobs.

Q: “If I am older than 70.5 years but am still contributing to my 401(k), do I need to take withdrawals?”
A: Withdrawals need to be taken from any standard IRA, or Rollover IRA that you may have, but if you are contributing to your company 401(k), you do not need to take required withdrawals from that account.


It is not too soon to think about your tax return.

2018 will bring a change that should be positive for most taxpayers – a lower tax bill. We are mid-way through the year, so now is the time to look at your potential tax-saving moves.
First and foremost, if you are still working and not contributing the maximum to your retirement account, do it now. You either send the money to Uncle Sam or yourself – I think your pocket is the better choice.
Check your deductions as the standard deduction has been increased for 2018. The standard deduction for single tax filers is $12,000 and for joint filers, it is $24,000. If you are just at the line between itemizing and using the standard deduction, try “bunching” your deductions. One way to do this is to pay your property tax for 2018 and 2019 this year to be able to itemize. Please keep in mind, you may have to use the standard deduction next year by bunching deductions this year.
If you have a lot of medical expenses, 2018 brings a lower threshold to qualify. For 2018, the medical expense threshold has dropped to 7.5% of adjusted gross income vs. 10%. Keep in mind that the threshold returns to 10% in 2019, so you may want to bunch in this area also.
By looking at your potential 2018 tax bill now, you will not over pay your estimated tax, thus giving Uncle Sam an interest free loan all year.


When was the last time you answered these questions?

I love my career. I get to help my clients plan for their children’s or grandchildren’s education, family trip, retirement, family legacies, and many more financial concerns my clients bring to the table. While going through the planning process, I ask a lot of questions, some of which are tough to answer, but the answers are vital to a plan that has meaning. How long has it been since you answered some of these questions:
Do you know how much you save or spend each year?
What is my current net worth?
Am I borrowing money the most efficiently?
How much am I investing in my own human capital or that of my children and grandchildren so they can earn the most during their working years?
Do I have the proper choices in my retirement or 401(k) plan and is it enough to allow me to retire when I intend to?
Do I have the proper amount in an emergency fund?
If something were to happen to me, will my family be able to put everything together?
Do I have the proper amount of insurance so my family will be taken care of if I die, become disabled or am sued?
Does long term care make sense for me?
What is my risk tolerance and how much risk am I taking right now?
Have I named the proper beneficiaries on my insurance policies and retirement accounts?
What is my greatest extravagance?

I’m sure there are a number of important questions that I didn’t include on this list. I’d love to hear yours so that I can write about them in the future.


It is a myth!

Planning for retirement takes a lot of factors into account and there are a lot of myths to plan for that many neglect. These myths can ruin a retirement – let’s look at a few so your retirement will not be ruined.
Your income needs will drop.
Many people think because they will not be commuting, wearing dress clothes, or having business lunches, their spending will decrease. This is a big myth. Hobbies, travel, and especially heath care costs will add more in the expense column than any suit or commute will ever add. You should plan on your retirement income starting at as much as 80% of your pre-retirement expenses just to be safe.
You will work past “standard” retirement age.
For many of us today, a family health crisis, especially from our parents, as well as how much we have saved, means we are working longer than first expected. As many as half of those who wish to work past the standard retirement age actually do. Layoffs, as well as the reasons previously mentioned, are the biggest causes of retiring earlier than planned for.
You will only need to draw 4% from you accounts to maintain your retirement.
Inflation does not stop for the retiree. Many people are living much longer than in past generations and health care costs are rising at a pace faster than inflation.
If you plan for the worst, you will be prepared for the best in retirement.