Educational Articles

The Keys to Building Wealth

For many Americans, building true wealth might seem elusive, even illusory considering that many people, who very recently were sitting on six and seven figure 401k plans and home equity values, now feel unprepared for retirement. The lessons learned from the financial crisis is that wealth can be fleeting. However, wealth creation always has been, and still is a process grounded in sound principles and practices that, when applied with discipline and patience, is possible for most people who can understand and embrace the keys to building wealth.

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Managing Investment Risks

In my opinion, it is impossible to predict future stock market returns. Investment models can produce hypothetical returns but they can’t account for future events. So, in my opinion, investors who manage their investments based on market performance or what they perceive as opportunities for better returns have very little control over the outcome.

On the other hand, there may be market risk, interest rate risk, inflation risk and taxation risk. If your investment portfolio is not vulnerable to market risk it may be vulnerable to interest rate or inflation risk. In my opinion, over the long term, taxes may impede returns and portfolio performance. If it were possible to control the risks to your portfolio, then you could try to improve the long term performance of your investments.

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Whole Life Insurance as a Tax Diversification Strategy

For many people, life insurance forms the security foundation of their financial plan. While most financial planners recommend that life insurance be purchased for its protection, and not as a primary savings vehicle, few would argue that cash value life insurance doesn’t have some fairly unique and attractive savings features. When these are considered in the context of a person’s overall savings and investment strategy, they may offer some advantages especially for providing additional tax diversification of income sources.

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How to Create Order out of Chaos with Your Financial Records

It should not take the filing of a tax return or a death in the family to finally create order out of paper chaos so you are not forced to scramble in those critical circumstances. The chances of making costly errors are too great not to take some very simple, albeit essential, measures to get and stay organized all year long. Today you can begin a system of document disposition which will simplify your financial life for you and your family. It starts with knowing what you need to keep, for how long and where to keep them – beginning with the most disposable:

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Saving Versus Paying Off Debt

The saving versus paying off debt is an age-old quandary that has plagued people since the advent of consumer debt. Pose this question to a group of financial planners and the responses will be split, roughly down the middle. While there might be as many advocates for savings as there would be for paying down debt, the broad consensus will likely be that it really depends on the situation.

Much of the debt reduction argument stems from simple math. If you hold consumer debt that costs you 15% and the only available savings instruments yields 1%, then it would seem to be a no-brainer to pay the higher cost debt down. For as much as you can set aside in savings, the net effect is that you would be losing 14% on the money saved. So, the sooner you could pay the expensive debt off, the sooner you can be applying your cash flow to savings. Makes sense, right?

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Longevity Risk: The Biggest Real Retirement Risk You Haven’t Covered

This isn’t our parents’ or grandparents’ retirement anymore. Just a few decades ago, many retirees enjoyed the full benefits of the “three-legged stool” of retirement provide by guaranteed pension payments, savings, and Social Security. In addition, they didn’t have to be very concerned with how much of their income translated into actual purchasing power because, except for the mid to late seventies, inflation was not a big factor for several reasons. Today, the three-legged stool is barely standing on two legs and inflation, even at the lowest levels, can wreak havoc on our lifestyles due to the fact we are living 12 to 15 years longer.

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Planning a Family – What to Save for Right Now

The decision to go forward with your plans to start a family is a joyous one, but it can also lead to increased stress especially if your financial house has not been child-proofed. Considering that, on average, the cost of raising a child now exceeds $300,000, there’s little margin for error for most young families that have other important financial goals to achieve. There’s no reason why you should get caught off guard or caught in cash crunch as long as you plan ahead. The following family planning checklist contains what is deemed by most new parents as being the most essential steps in preparing for a new arrival:

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Planning for the New Normal Retirement

The need for retirement planning didn’t really exist until well into the 1970s. Up to that point, people worked until age 65, spent a few years in leisure through their life expectancy which was about 69. Many retirees of that era were able to coast into retirement with a cushy pension plan. Over the next few decades, as life expectancy continued to expand, as did the number of years in retirement, financial planners came up with simple rules of thumb for determining how much a person would need at retirement in order to maintain his or her lifestyle.

That’s where the 70 percent rule came from. People were told that they would only need 70 to 80 percent of their pre-retirement income to preserve their lifestyle throughout their golden years. While that may have worked for retirees back in the 1970s and 80s, it could spell disaster for today’s retirees.

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The Importance of an Investment Philosophy

If you listen to any of the world’s leading investors they will tell you that nothing is more important to long-term investment success than a clear investment philosophy. More important than a sound investment strategy? Yes, they will tell you, because strategy, while important, is nothing more than a manifestation of an investment philosophy. Strategy can evolve as circumstances might warrant; however, an investment philosophy is based on the intractable belief you have in the principles and practices that guide your decision-making. In times of market upheaval and through the dark of uncertainty, your investment philosophy enables you to control your emotions, shut out the noise and focus on the things that really matter over the long term.

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Determining Your Risk Tolerance

Perhaps the most important factor in formulating your investment plan is your risk tolerance; that is, the amount of risk you’re willing to assume in order to achieve your most important objectives. More precisely, your risk tolerance is based on the your financial and emotional ability to withstand negative returns on your investment portfolio.  Before embarking on any investment strategy it is important to know your risk tolerance to ensure that you select the right kind of investments and you are able to set clear objectives. More importantly, when your investments are aligned with the proper risk-reward continuum, you’re assured of many more restful nights.  So, how do you go about determining your risk tolerance?

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Are Advisory Fees Tax Deductible?

It’s tax season again, and a question we get from a number of clients after receiving their year end statements is, “Are my investment advisory fees tax deductible?” And the answer is an equivocal, “It depends.”

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Should You Have a Living Trust?

A will is the foundation of your estate plan and it is essential if your financial affairs are to be settled in accordance with your wishes. If you die without a will, or “intestate” as the law refers to it, essentially the state becomes your executor and your property will be distributed according to its laws. Drawing up a will has become so easy, and it is relatively inexpensive, leaving very little reason why everyone shouldn’t have one. The question becomes whether you should have a living trust in addition to your will.

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Finance Lessons for Your Teen

The current economic environment has caused most everyone to reconsider their personal finances with many people having to drastically change their spending and savings habits. Out of this economic malaise may come an opportunity to finally instill the right habits in your teens that can carry them into adulthood on the right financial footing. Just as our parents and grandparents of the Great Depression era developed deeply ingrained attitudes about finances from their experience, our teens can share in the lessons of today’s “great recession” generation. The first step is to make your teen a partner with a stake in the family financial enterprise.

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Understanding Your True Risk Tolerance is Vital to Portfolio Performance

As anyone would have expected, the extraordinary convergence of extreme stock market volatility, low interest rates, declining home values, diminished retirement savings accounts, and chronic economic sluggishness has taken a severe toll on the American psyche. For many investors, it may have forever altered the way in which risk is perceived and managed.  Understanding your risk tolerance is one of the most important elements of investing; knowing how your risk tolerance effects your investment decisions is vital to the health of your portfolio.

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Retirement Income Planning Requires Realistic Spending Assumptions

If you have read any literature on retirement planning or have received advice from a financial professional, chances are you were presented with the 70% rule, the one that suggests that retirees will need between 70 and 80% of their pre-retirement income in order to maintain their standard of living. There are several flaws with this formula, the least of which is that it doesn’t consider your actual income and expenses at the time of retirement.

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Is an Annuity Right For You?

One of the principal tenets of investing is that no one single investment is right for everyone. Every investment has certain characteristics, risks, and objectives that must match those of the investor, and fixed annuities are no different. Although fixed annuities have become more popular in light of the recent financial turmoil and the carnage it has left behind in retirement accounts, investors should still take care in considering whether they are best suited for them.

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