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By Trilogy Financial
November 11, 2023

Many Americans spend more hours than they’d like managing necessary financial components of life while balancing caring for a family, performing at work and enjoying time with loved ones. Despite working hard to try to strike a perfect balance, financial planning, saving and investing can be tedious and time consuming, and maybe even daunting.

This is where a fiduciary comes in.

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What Is a Fiduciary?

The term fiduciary is thrown around in the financial services world, but few people truly understand it.

A fiduciary is a person or organization that acts on behalf of another person or persons, and puts their clients' interests ahead of their own. A fiduciary has a duty to act in good faith and serve clients by earning trust and confidence. Being a fiduciary thus requires being bound both legally and ethically to act in the client’s best interests.

To the Financial Advisors at Trilogy Financial, it’s more than that. Yes, we believe “fiduciary” means putting clients best interest before our own. However, we take it steps further to demonstrate with evidence that our proposals are in the client’s best interest. The evidence, be it in a financial planning concept or investment strategy, is the key to being a fiduciary.

Why Is It Essential To Work With a Fiduciary?

When a fiduciary presents evidence that their proposals are in the clients best interest, it leads to confidence. That confidence leads to good financial decisions over time. As Life Planners, that is what Trilogy’s Financial Advisors are working towards.

A fiduciary's main goal is to help set clients on an upright financial track through financial behavioral coaching, accountability and to help clients develop a Life Plan. A financial advisor and fiduciary will also help you prepare for retirement by maximizing the profitability of resources directed towards saving plans, develop estate plan strategies and more.

As Advisors, we anticipate individual’s or family’s needs over time, which allows us to be a better fiduciary. We believe a true fiduciary guides clients through life’s roughest patches and toughest situations.

Let a Fiduciary Be By Your Side When Life Planning

Let’s face it…a fiduciary can help ensure your financial goals are aligned in the same direction as your ambitions. Right? Proper financial planning requires objectification of your goals through the hands of an excellent financial partner who can help you with the following.

Help you save for retirement

For many, having $1 million worth of liquid cash and a list of profitable assets by the time they retire is a dream come true. However it’s a difficult dream to work towards for many Americans. That’s where a fiduciary comes in.

The secret to getting the retirement and lifestyle you dream is preparedness and time. The earlier you begin to save, the better. Beginning early allows you to make small contributions that will accumulate to a lump sum amount over a long period. For instance, if you start saving $5,000 every year from your mid-20s, by the time you are 40 years old, you will mostly likely have crossed a quarter a million mark. Remember, you will still be young, energetic, and even determined to save more. Because compounding is so powerful, if you continue saving the same amount by the time you are 65, you could be almost at $1.5 million, more than what you had intended to save.

In contrast, if you start saving at 35, even if you double that amount to $10,000, you may stagnate at $840,000 by the time you hit retirement age. So, the earlier you begin to save, the more you will receive at retirement. But do not be deterred if you are starting later in life. With the right planning, it’s never too late to achieve your goals. A Trilogy Financial Advisor can develop strategies to compound savings through investments and other growth opportunities.

Save for education stress-free

According to Market Watch, an average American will spend over $58,464 on their child's education from primary school to the undergraduate level, doubling the UK's average spend and tripling France's. Now imagine you are the head of a typical American family with more than 3 dependents; you will need almost $200,000 for education alone.  This is a huge dent in a family's finances. Fortunately, a fiduciary can help you save for education and college. Saving about a third of your earnings for a decade with the purpose of spending it on education will take the pressure of school fees off your shoulders.

Grow your wealth

The potential of growing your total net worth is an exciting process. Our Financial Advisors help you to navigate investment opportunities and mitigate risk, serving as guides as you work to grow your investments. At Trilogy Financial, we believe investing is about more than positive returns. Growing your wealth is a tool that can help you achieve financial freedom and live the life you’ve dreamed of. A fiduciary can coach you through building out the investment portfolio that aligns with your unique goals, and empower you to make the meaningful decisions to pursue your life dreams.

Plan your estate strategy

Due to the complex nature of estate planning, estate strategies should be tailored to your unique needs. And each strategy should aim to protect and preserve your assets for future generations.

Regardless of the value of the estate, a fiduciary will help you plan for the estate by:

  • Ensuring your beneficiaries receive what you’ve planned for them after you pass
  • Planning for lifetime gifts through trust and minimization of diminishing estate taxes
  • Helping you to pass assets or a business to your younger generations
  • Identifying powers of attorney to ensure your wishes come true

 

Trilogy Takes a Bold Financial Approach

For us, care is at the center of everything we do as fiduciaries.. We care about each client like they’re an extension of the family. Every day, with every piece of advice, we empower our clients to live wealthy. Ready to explore the benefits of working with a fiduciary? Review Trilogy's Financial Life Planning Tool to see some of the areas of focus we’d suggest on the path to financial freedom.

Bottom Line

A fiduciary helps you make critical financial decisions that are in your best interest, for your Life Plan. Our Financial Advisors work with clients nationwide. Regardless of your location, we have an office nearby or a virtual way to connect from the comfort of your home.

Start Life Planning today.

Fiduciary investment advisory services are only offered through Trilogy Capital (TC), a Registered Investment Advisor. TC markets advisory services under the name of Trilogy Financial (TF), an affiliated but separate legal entity. TC and TF are separate entities from LPL.

By
David McDonough
October 16, 2023

“I won’t be here to spend the life insurance benefit.”

Sure, one of the most popular reasons for buying life insurance is ensuring your family’s financial security after your homegoing. But the truth is, life insurance has many living benefits, too. Some term life insurance policies allow you to access a portion of your death benefit if you are ever diagnosed with a terminal, critical or chronic illness, which you can use however you wish.

Power of cash value

And permanent life insurance has the ability to accumulate cash value. You can use that money for whatever you like, such as for an emergency, a down payment on a house, or college—no questions asked! Or you can let the cash value continue to grow, which could supplement your retirement income.* The choice is yours.

Learn more about life insurance’s living benefits. Contact an Trilogy Advisor today.

Download this comprehensive blog as a concise one-page here: Life Insurance Myth

By
David McDonough
October 9, 2023

In the heart of a bustling town, Ernesto “Peanut” Folks stood as the owner of an auto body repair shop, where years of hard work and dedication had woven into the very fabric of his business. His vision for the future was crystal clear—passing the torch and the legacy of his shop to his son, Ernesto. This is the remarkable story of how life insurance, often overlooked, can emerge as a beacon of hope and resilience when we need it most.

Ernesto “Peanut” Folks was the proud owner of an auto body repair shop, and his plan was to one day pass along the business to his son, Ernesto. Life insurance was never on Peanut’s radar until an insurance professional spoke to him about how it could help him protect the business and its 10 employees.

Downturns in the business would sometimes make it hard for Peanut to make his premium payment. He considered dropping the policy but ultimately kept it in place.

When Peanut was diagnosed with advanced-stage lung cancer, his doctors gave him just six months to live. The treatments that followed kept him away from work, and medical bills mounted.

Given his terminal diagnosis, a provision in his life insurance policy called an accelerated death benefit allowed him to access a portion of the money from that policy while he was still alive. In the months before his death at age 49, Peanut was able to pay off his debts and turn the body shop over to Ernesto, fulfilling his dream.

Talk to an insurance professional about how life insurance can protect your business and your legacy.

Download this comprehensive blog as a concise one-page here: Life Insurance Keeps a Business in the Family

By
David McDonough
September 19, 2023

The pandemic’s economic disruption altered people’s views on a wide range of money topics—from the feeling of financial insecurity to the extra burden of debt, to how best to protect their loved ones, physically and financially. People’s interest in life insurance—knowing they have a need for it—was heightened during the pandemic and remains so, as people take a closer look at their financial security and well-being. The 2023 Insurance Barometer Study, by Life Happens and LIMRA, shows this trend is prevalent among the younger generations, as well as with single mothers.

Single Moms Need the Industry’s Help

Fewer women own life insurance than men, 49% vs. 55% respectively. And that number is even starker for single moms: Just 2 of 5 single mothers (40%) own life insurance. That said, 6 in 10 single moms (59%) know they have a life insurance need gap—meaning they need coverage or more of it (vs. 41% of all adults) equaling about 5 million households. And 4 in 10 (38%) say they intend to buy coverage this year. With 7.9 million single-mom households, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there is a dire need for single moms to
purchase life insurance, or more of it.

The primary reason single moms own life insurance (63%) is the same as the general population: to cover burial costs. However, only 26% say they have it to replace lost income. And more than half (51%) say they are “extremely concerned” about leaving dependents in a difficult financial situation if they died prematurely, vs. 29% of the general population.

That’s not the only area of financial concern. In fact, single moms have increased levels of concern over a wide range of financial issues—often double-digits—over the general population.
• Having money for a comfortable retirement: 58% vs. 44%
• Saving for an emergency fund: 56% vs. 38%
• Paying monthly bills: 50% vs. 32%
• Ability to afford college: 40% vs. 22%

Owning life insurance makes people feel more financially secure: 69% of life insurance owners feel secure vs. 49% who don’t own. For single moms, this is 52% of owners feel secure vs. 30% who don’t own. The good news is that while only a third of single moms (35%) work with a financial advisor currently, more than half without one are looking for an advisor (52%) to help them navigate their finances.

Desire and Need Are on the Rise

Gen Z is growing up—they’re adults now who are in the weeds of financial responsibilities and stresses. Half of Gen Z is now 18-26 years old, which means 19 million young adults are ready for life insurance, most of whom are non-owners; and Millennials, at 27 to 42, are well into their careers and starting families. The study took a look at life insurance ownership among different age groups and found that half of all adults (52%) own life insurance, with 40% of Gen Z adults and 48% of Millennials currently owning it.

As Gen Z starts hitting life milestones such as finding a partner, buying a home and having children, half (49%) say
they either need to get life insurance or increase their coverage. And Millennials are not far behind, with 47% saying so. And they are ready to take action: 44% of Gen Z adults and 50% of Millennials say they intend to buy life insurance this year.

They also want to purchase it where they have become comfortable—online—and that goes for all generations. In 2011, 64% of people said they preferred to buy life insurance in person; by 2020, just 41% felt this way. In 2023, it dropped to 29%.

Education Is Key for Gen Z

There is work to do on educating people about ownership: 42% of all adults say they’re only somewhat or not at all knowledgeable about life insurance.
A quarter of Gen Z and Millennials say that not knowing how much or what kind of life insurance to buy stops them from getting coverage. And 37% of Gen Z and 27% of Millennials say
they “haven’t gotten around to it.”

Across generations, cost is cited as the top reason for not getting life insurance. But only a quarter (24%) of people correctly estimated the true cost of a policy for a healthy 30- year-old, which is around $200 a year.* More than half of Gen Z adults (55%) and 38% of Millennials thought it would be $1,000 or more.

With the current climate adding financial uncertainties to Gen Z and Millennials, including layoffs and inflation, it is imperative that the two age groups learn how to protect their loved ones financially. Education around finances in general, inclusive of life insurance, will be extremely beneficial, particularly for Millennials, who cite the highest overall level of financial concern (39%).

Download this comprehensive blog as a concise one-pager here:Millennials and Gen Z Lead Growing Need for Life Insurance in 2023

 

*Survey respondents were asked how much they thought a $250,000 20-year level term policy would cost per year for a healthy, nonsmoking 30-year-old, which is around $200.

Please source all statistics: 2023 Insurance Barometer Study, Life Happens and LIMRA© Life Happens 2023. All rights reserved.

By
David McDonough
September 12, 2023

No one really wants to think about life insurance. But if someone depends on you financially, it’s a topic you shouldn’t avoid. Are any of these reasons stopping you from getting the life insurance coverage you need? If so, read on!

1. My family can rely on loans or other family members.

We know we can rely on our families for support as we navigate life. However, if you were to die, your family’s world would shift on its axis—emotionally and financially. A time of grief is not the time to crowdsource funeral funds or make phone calls for money every month when bills come due. Life insurance means there can be an affordable solution in place so that doesn’t need to happen.

2. Money is tight. I just can’t afford life insurance.

Bills, rent or mortgage, car payments, childcare, food, gas … and the list grows as your family does. So what would happen to them financially if you died? If you’re gone, so is your income, but their bills and expenses will stay the same. If money is tight, you can’t afford not to have life insurance. It picks up the financial burden for your family when you are no longer there to do it.

3. Life insurance will be a free ride for my kids.

Your parents taught you hard work, and it’s what you’re teaching your children. But life insurance isn’t about leaving your kids a financial windfall. It’s about practicing—and teaching—the principles of personal financial responsibility. Preparing for the future with life insurance is a lesson in goal-setting, budgeting and discipline that ensures your loved ones will be OK financially, which is a valuable lesson to pass on.

Don’t let these myths stand in the way of getting life insurance—or more of it.

Download this comprehensive blog as a concise one-page here: 3 Myths About Life Insurance

By
David McDonough
September 5, 2023

Navigating the intricacies of life insurance can be a daunting task, but at Trilogy Financial, we believe that understanding the basics is crucial in making informed financial decisions. Life insurance, in essence, provides a straightforward solution to a complex question: How can your family be financially safeguarded if the unexpected were to happen to you? Whether it's covering immediate expenses, sustaining a business, or planning for future needs like education and retirement, life insurance offers a safety net. At Trilogy, we're committed to simplifying the complexities of life insurance, empowering you to make choices that secure your loved one's financial well-being.

What is life insurance?

Life insurance is actually a simple answer to a difficult question: How will my loved ones manage financially if I were to die? If anyone depends on your income or the unpaid work you do, they would most likely struggle if you were to pass away. Life insurance pays cash—also known as a death benefit—to your loved ones when you die. It replaces your income and the many non-paid ways you support your household. Your family can use this cash to help pay for immediate and ongoing expenses like funeral costs, daily expenses, a mortgage or rent, and keep a business afloat. It can also be used for future expenses like college tuition, retirement and more.

How much does life insurance cost?

The good news is, life insurance may be less expensive than you think. The cost depends on four main factors: your age, your health, the type of policy and how much coverage you buy. In general, you’ll pay less the younger and healthier you are. To put the price in perspective, a healthy 30-year-old may be able to buy a $250,000 20-year level term policy for about $13 a month.1 That means if you purchase that policy and pay the $13 a month without fail, your loved ones would get $250,000 if you were to die at any point during those 20 years.

What are the different types of insurance?

Life insurance generally falls into two categories:

Term life insurance provides protection for a specific period of time (the “term” is often 10, 20 or 30 years). This makes sense when you need protection for a specific amount of time—for instance, until your kids graduate from college or your mortgage is paid off. Term life insurance typically offers the most amount of coverage for the lowest initial premium, and is a good choice for those on a tighter budget.

Permanent life insurance provides lifelong protection for as long as you pay the premiums. It also provides “living benefits” like the ability to accumulate cash value on a tax-deferred basis, which you can tap into to help buy a home, cover an emergency expense and more. Because of these additional benefits, initial premiums are higher than what you’d pay for a term life insurance policy with the same amount of coverage.

Sometimes getting a combination of term and permanent insurance is the best answer.

How much life insurance do I need?

The amount of life insurance to buy depends on who you want to protect financially and for how long. As a very general rule of thumb, experts recommend having life insurance that equals between 10 to 15 times your gross income. But you may need more or less than that. An easy way to get a working idea of how much you need is to use an online Life Insurance Needs Calculator.

 

Download this comprehensive blog as a concise one-page here: What You Need To Know About Life Insurance

Or click here to watch a short video.

By Trilogy Financial
August 1, 2023

A romance scam, also known as an online dating scam, is when a person gets tricked into believing they’re in a romantic relationship with someone they met online, when in fact their other half is a cybercriminal using a fake identity to gain enough trust to ask — or blackmail — them for money.

Oftentimes, a romance scammer starts on dating sites or apps. But scammers have increasingly started finding targets on social media, too.

After connecting with someone through a fake profile, the scammer will strike up a conversation and start building a relationship by regularly chatting with them. Once they start to trust the romance scammer and believe they have a truthful relationship, the cybercriminal will make up a story, ask them for money, and vanish.

Types of Romance Scams

Some of the most common internet dating scams include:       

Fake Dating Sites: Scam dating sites claim to be legitimate but are actually filled with scammers or underpopulated. These websites are created to mine your information.

Photo Scams: Scammers will convince their target to send their personal information in exchange for intimate photos.

Military Romance Scams: The scammer will pose as a military member, likely deployed. They build trust by using military jargon and titles, then ask for money to cover military-related expenses, such as flights home.

Intimate Activity Scams: The scammer connects with their target on multiple social media websites. Once they become closer, the scammer convinces them to undress and then threatens them with the recordings.

Code Verification Scams: Scammers will send a fake verification code through email or text, posing to be a dating app or website. Once clicked on, it will ask for their personal information, including Social Security number and credit cards.

Inheritance Scams: Scammers will make their target believe they need to get married in order to get their inheritance. In this case, they will ask them to help pay for something like airfare.

Malware Scams: Malware is also common on dating sites. In this case, the recipient will interact with a scammer who sends them a website that looks legitimate; however, it's a page that includes malware.

Tips To Avoid Losing Money To a Romance Scam

  • Protect yourself and older loved ones by raising awareness. Although this can be an uncomfortable topic, make sure you, your family and your friends are familiar with romance scams. The more you know about these scams, the better prepared you are to prevent being a victim.
  • Check in on older loved ones. Scammers are seeking to target those living alone or grieving the loss of a spouse as they are more vulnerable.
  • Limit what you share online.Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
  • Do your research.Research the individual’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name or other details have been used elsewhere.
  • Go slowly and ask lots of questions.Don’t let the individual rush you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
  • Listen to your gut.If the individual seems too good to be true, talk to someone you trust.
  • Don’t overshare personal information.Requests for inappropriate photos or financial information could later be used to extort you.
  • Be suspicious if you haven’t met in person.If the individual promises to meet in person, but consistently comes up with an excuse for cancelling, be suspicious.
  • Don’t send money.Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.

Think you’ve been scammed?

  1. Stop communicating with the individual immediately.
  2. Talk to someone you trust and describe what’s going on.
  3. Report the incident to local law enforcement.
  4. Submit a fraud complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

Dating scams can have devastating consequences on individuals seeking love and companionship online. It's crucial to be aware of the red flags and take necessary precautions to protect yourself from falling victim to these fraudulent schemes. Even if it’s too late to recoup losses, details may help others from becoming a victim.

 

By Trilogy Financial
July 28, 2023

Password managers are a key resource in maintaining your security. They allow you to keep track of your passwords and encrypt them before they leave your device. Some password vaults can also generate and change passwords for you in one click, as well as securely store other types of data like credit card information. Password managers may remind you to change passwords regularly, evaluate their strength, or scan the dark web to check if any of your logins appeared online. A password manager also makes sharing your data with family and friends safer.

When using a password manager, you’ll only need to remember one master password. Combine it with multi-factor authentication (MFA)and biometric authentication to increase your security.

While they can increase your security exponentially, even reliable password managers can’t keep you 100% safe online. Following are a list of possible risks and ways to mitigate them:

  1. Not all devices are secure enough. Password managers can be hacked if your device is infected with malware. Users should invest in a trustworthy antivirus that will secure all devices first and reduce risks.
  2. Not using biometric authentication. NordPass, RoboForm, and Keeper all offer a biometric authentication option, such as requiring a fingerprint or face scan which offers another level of protection.
  3. Utilizing a Bad password manager. Not all password managers are created equal. Make sure the software you use does not lack the necessary security features to effectively protect your credentials at all times.
  4. Forgetting your master password. Select a password manager that has a reset feature or store your master password in some physically secure place. Be sure to enable account recovery options.
  5. Know what data is in your password manager. Be sure to know which accounts are stored in your password manager so in the case of a breach, you know which accounts to take action on, thus leaving the attacker with less time to cause more harm.

In a digital landscape where cyber threats are on the rise, using a password manager is a proactive measure that can overall protect your personal information and maintain robust online security. It simplifies the process of managing passwords, strengthens your defenses against unauthorized access, and provides peace of mind in an increasingly interconnected world. If you don't already, consider integrating a reputable password manager into your digital routine to enjoy the benefits of streamlined and fortified password security.

 

By Trilogy Financial
July 26, 2023

Scammers are pretending to be bank customer service representatives reaching out regarding fraud prevention. Their goal is to get you to reset your login credentials and gain access to your account.

How it works
  1. Scammers, posing as customer service representatives, will call and keep the victim on the phone for multiple hours to “resolve” a fraud issue.
  2. The scammer urges quick action to prevent alleged hackers from draining the victim’s account.
  3. The victim is asked for sensitive information like login credentials and verification answers.
  4. The scammer logs in to the victim’s account to initiate unauthorized payments, bypassing security restrictions via a direct call to the real Fraud Support, all while the true customer is on hold.
Quick Tips
  • Check your account activity frequently and monitor for suspicious transactions.
  • When asked for information that seems unusual, hang up and call the phone number on the back of your bank card or account statement.
  • Read text and email communications fully and pause before responding.
  • Remember that banks and credit card companies will never ask you for your password or your card/account number over the phone.

 

By Trilogy Financial
May 22, 2023

As the cost of living rises, households worldwide feel the squeeze. Inflation impacts everything from groceries to housing to healthcare, and families struggle to make ends meet as they stretch their budgets to the limit.

Recent statistics show the inflation rate in the United States has risen to its highest level in over four decades. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) has increased by 7% over the past year alone. Inflation is a persistent increase in the prices of goods and services over time, leading to a decline in purchasing power of money. It affects the economy in many ways, including households, as it erodes their buying power, making it difficult to afford basic necessities.

A couple seeking help from a financial advisor.
A mature diverse couple shakes hands with a financial advisor.

How Is Inflation Impacting Households Today?

Inflation is affecting families significantly, with prices of goods and services rising rapidly. One area where inflation has a noticeable impact is the cost of groceries. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food prices have increased by 6% in the past year.

Inflation is also impacting the cost of housing. According to the National Association of Home Builders, lumber has increased by more than 167% since April 2020, making building, renting or renovating homes much more expensive.

Other areas where inflation impacts households include transportation, healthcare and energy costs. With gas prices rising, transportation costs are increasing making it more expensive for families to commute to work or travel.

Healthcare costs are also rising, with medical services and prescription drugs becoming more expensive daily. Additionally, the cost of energy, including electricity and natural gas, is increasing impacting household budgets.

 

How We Got Here and Why?

The United States has experienced an increase in inflation in recent years, fueled by a combination of factors, including:

Supply  chain disruptions: The COVID-19 pandemic caused disruptions in supply chains, leading to shortages of goods and raw materials and higher consumer prices.

Government stimulus: The US government has implemented several rounds of stimulus packages in response to the pandemic, flooding the economy with cash and contributing to inflation.

Labor shortages: The pandemic also caused labor shortages in many industries, which has led to increased wages for workers and higher prices for consumers.

Rising energy costs: The cost of energy has increased, with higher prices for gasoline and other commodities, which has increased the cost of goods and services.

Monetary policy: The Federal Reserve has kept interest rates low to stimulate economic growth, contributing to inflation by making it cheaper for consumers and businesses to borrow money.

These factors have all contributed to the current state of inflation in the US. However, inflation is complex and multifaceted; many other factors are also at play.

7 Tips to Help Navigate Inflation

Inflation can be a challenging economic environment for households to navigate. Here are tips from our team of advisors at Trilogy Financial that can help you manage inflationary pressures.

1. Calculate Your Inflation Rate

This measure provides a more accurate reflection of the inflation you are experiencing compared to the general inflation rate reported in the media.

A financial advisor can help calculate your personal inflation rate by analyzing your spending habits and identifying the goods and services that make up your personal consumption basket. This process can involve reviewing bank and credit card statements, examining household bills, and discussing significant lifestyle or spending habits changes to help you track the prices of these items over time and calculate your inflation rate.

2. Create a Cash Management Strategy

A cash management strategy will allow you to preserve your purchasing power and financial stability. A financial advisor can help you create a strategy that aligns with your financial goals and risk tolerance by:

  • Assessing your current financial situation,
  • Identifying your short-term and long-term cash needs, and
  • Recommending appropriate investments that balance liquidity, yield, and risk.

The strategy can involve diversifying cash holdings across different asset classes, using inflation-indexed bonds or money market funds, and considering alternative investments that offer potential inflation protection.

3. Discuss When and How to Use TIPS to Protect Against Inflation

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) are a type of U.S. government bond indexed to inflation. As inflation rises, the principal and interest payments of TIPS adjust accordingly, providing investors with a hedge against inflation. A financial advisor may recommend TIPS if you want to protect your portfolio against inflationary pressures or maintain your purchasing power over the long term. It could involve assessing your risk tolerance and investment objectives and recommending an appropriate allocation to TIPS within a diversified portfolio.

4. Discuss Alternative ‘Inflation-Hedging' Assets

In addition to TIPS, assets such as commodities, real estate and stocks of companies with pricing power can provide inflation protection. A financial advisor can help you choose the right assets for your portfolio by assessing your investment objectives, risk tolerance and time horizon. As a result, they can recommend an appropriate allocation to inflation-hedging assets that balance return and risk, like commodity funds, real estate investment trusts (REITs) or sector ETFs offering exposure to companies with pricing power.

5. Strategize for How to Avoid ‘Tax Bracket Creep' as Income Rises

Tax bracket creep pushes an individual's income into a higher tax bracket, resulting in a higher tax bill. This move can erode the purchasing power of your income and reduce your savings.

A financial advisor can help you strategize on how to avoid tax bracket creep by considering tax-efficient investment vehicles, such as Roth IRAs, tax-loss harvesting and charitable donations.

6. Review Homeowners and Other Insurance Solutions to Avoid Under Coverage

As the value of assets, goods and services increase due to inflation, the cost of replacing them also rises. A financial advisor can help you review your insurance coverage and ensure they have inflation protection from risks.

Advisors can also educate you on the different types of insurance available and their benefits, such as umbrella insurance, which can provide additional liability coverage in case of a significant lawsuit or accident.

7. Reassess Long-Term Inflation Assumptions for Retirement Projections

Inflation can significantly impact retirement savings and planning because it reduces the purchasing power of money over time. Individuals will need to save more to maintain their living standards in retirement.

A financial advisor can help you reassess your long-term inflation assumptions for retirement projections by analyzing your current savings and investment strategies, projecting future inflation rates, and identifying potential gaps in your retirement plans.

From Us to You: Control Your Financial Future

As inflation continues to affect households, you should take control of your financial situation and work with a financial advisor to develop a plan aligning with your goals, risk tolerance and personal situation.

Trilogy Financial is a financial advisory firm dedicated to helping clients navigate the complex world of personal finance. We offer comprehensive services, including financial planning, investment management, and retirement planning.

If you are concerned about the impact of inflation on your finances, contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced advisors. We are here to help you take control of your financial situation and navigate through the challenges of inflation.

Female financial advisor meeting with clients.
Female financial advisor meeting and discussing expert inflation protection tips with clients.

 

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The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual 2. Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal.

By Trilogy Financial
May 16, 2023

Planning for retirement amid changing market dynamics can be stressful, especially as retirement age approaches. Fortunately, there are a myriad of ways to prepare for it, even if you plan to retire early.

OPTIMIZE YOUR RETIREMENT INCOME

One of our top tips is to optimize your retirement income by setting yourself up with a diversified portfolio that offers a solid return. If you are in your twenties, there is a big opportunity to let compound interest work its magic. If you are in your thirties or forties, compound interest may not be as lucrative for you, but there are still plenty of ways to maximize your returns.

Here are some of the different options available to help plan for retirement:

  • SEP IRA – a self-employed retirement plan known as the Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA requires employers to contribute 100% of the accounts' funds and provide equal benefits to all eligible employees.
  • 401(k) – An individual retirement plan for which contributions are not tax-deductible, but withdrawals in retirement are tax-free.
  • Roth IRA – An individual retirement plan for which contributions are not tax-deductible, but withdrawals in retirement are tax-free.

Each option has its differences, so it is important to work with an advisor to identify which is best suited to your situation and your goals. There’s a lot that can go into your Life Plan and we are here to help.

happy woman on piggyback with man enjoying outdoors
Senior couple enjoying happy retirement lifestyle

DEVELOP A BUDGET AND SAVINGS PLAN

Budgeting can make a world of difference. If you haven’t already, establish an emergency fund. This will give you peace of mind and will help pay for any unexpected expenses that may arise. Once you’ve set that money aside, you can plan your monthly expenses, retirement contributions and more with the rest of the income you have.

As you develop this budget and savings plan to get you to your retirement goals, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What quality of life do I want to experience in retirement?
  • What medical expenses do I anticipate?
  • Do I plan on working during retirement?
  • Will I have a flow of income during retirement?

These are all important considerations and will help you develop an actionable plan to achieve the retirement lifestyle you dream of.

DETERMINE YOUR TAX BRACKET AND MINIMIZE YOUR TAXES

In retirement, taxes can eat into your available income, leaving you with less to live on. It's important to remember that taxes don't stop once you're retired. Our financial advisors are here to help guide you take steps throughout your working life to minimize your IRS obligations now and later.

The same basic tax brackets that apply to working taxpayers also apply to retirees. Determining your tax bracket in retirement is just like determining your tax bracket while you’re working – which  is determined by your filing status and taxable income (income minus deductions).

Common sources of retirement income that are taxable include:

  • Distributions from traditional 401(k)s and IRAs
  • Investment income
  • A portion of your Social Security benefits (in some situations)
  • Some pension income
  • Income from work (full or part time)

INVEST TO ADD ADDITIONAL CASH FLOW IN RETIREMENT

If building wealth is your goal, the stock market or other investment strategies are common options. Investments such as annuities, real estate investment trusts (REITs) and income-producing equities can offer additional retirement income beyond Social Security, a pension, savings and other investments.

DETERMINE THE AMOUNT OF RISK THAT IS APPROPRIATE FOR YOU

It is important to keep in mind that all investments come with risk. If you are young, you can probably tolerate more risk. If you are in your thirties or forties, however, you might benefit from taking a lower risk approach. This is because people in their twenties have more time to correct and mitigate losses. A financial advisor can help you decide if you would like to take a low-risk, slow-and-steady approach, or guide you through a high-risk approach with the potential of yielding higher returns.

PAY OFF YOUR DEBTS

It’s important to pay off credit card debt and student loans as soon as possible. Systematically chipping away at debt now, can have a significant impact on your future debts and purchasing power.

A mortgage can be looked at as both a good debt and a bad debt, depending on your goals. Many people choose to rent a home to avoid being tied to a mortgage, and others use that property as a cash-positive asset. Depending on your goals, it’s important to discuss each of these approaches with a financial advisor so they can help guide you through something that will ultimately benefit you and your family.

MAXIMIZE YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS

Navigating Social Security income can be complicated, but there are several ways to maximize your social security benefits, including:

  • Work for 35 years or more
  • Earn as much as you can right up until full retirement age (or past it)
  • If you can, wait until you are 70 years old to claim – this can increase your benefit by 8% a year beyond your full retirement age

The goal is to maximize the income you will receive from Social Security, but the answer for you will depend on your age, current income, marital status, spouse’s income, and the age disparity between you and your spouse. With all the complexities to Social Security planning, there is no substitute for meeting with a trusted financial advisor so you can best navigate your life in retirement.

CONSIDER ESTABLISHING STREAMS OF PASSIVE INCOME

It's important to remember that there are multiple ways to set yourself up for prosperity during your golden years.

These include:

  • Investing in real estate
  • Investing in the stock market
  • Starting an ecommerce business
  • Writing books
  • Earning royalties of any kind
  • Investing in collectibles
  • Investing in gold and silver

In short, it's best to invest in as many financial assets as you possibly can in order to establish streams of passive income so that you are not solely reliant on one source for your earnings and returns.

ESTABLISH MULTIPLE STREAMS OF INCOME

You may want to consider continuing to work during retirement. This provides many people with a sense of satisfaction and purpose, AND you will be able to keep your benefits.

The earlier you establish multiple sources of income the better. Ideally, at least a few of these would be passive.

You deserve to be comfortable during retirement, and planning for this phase of life right now will likely help you achieve your goals, perhaps even surpass them. You have worked hard for most of your years around the sun, and you deserve to relax and enjoy every moment on your own terms during your golden years.

Why Choose Trilogy Financial

Planning your retirement strategy is important but not something to stress over. If you’ve already started saving, one of our certified financial planners can help you optimize your savings, investing and risk approach so you can live the retirement life you dream. However, if you haven’t started planning for retirement yet, there’s no better day than today!

Our Advisors will work with you to develop a deeper understanding of your alternatives, pinpoint practical needs and make plans for the care you and your family deserve. Please contact us to start your retirement planning today.

happy senior couple holding hands and walking on summer beach
You deserve to be comfortable during retirement
By
David McDonough
March 28, 2023

Financial planning involves thoughtfully outlining objectives and setting goals in your Life Plan. With anything, the possibility of running into obstacles, options, and challenges throughout your financial journey is unavoidable. That’s why it is important to implement some sort of checks and balances to mitigate these challenges. Insurance is one of the best ways to account for unforeseen conditions and events in your financial plan. The thought of utilizing insurance can be daunting. It makes the possibility of losing your car or home due to an accident, flood, or fire a reality. That’s exactly why we create a financial plan – to be prepared for the unexpected. Our team is committed to coaching you through the process, so that you can make an informed and confident decision. There are various types of insurance services available that your Trilogy Financial advisor can help you navigate so you can handle the many uncertainties that life throws your way.

Read on to discover these insurance services.

Insurance Services Provided by Trilogy Financial

Every Trilogy Financial Advisor is committed to helping you build the legacy you have always desired to leave through the following services:

Term Insurance

A term insurance policy is the most common form of temporary life insurance. The term usually lasts for a specific “term” of years. Term insurance is also a form of insurance that is rented. Meaning, you pay a monthly premium for the insurance, but it expires after the allotted time frame. The duration can range from five to thirty years.

Term insurance protects liabilities that will cease to exist after a specific period, such as providing extra cashflow for raising children. It is a simple life insurance plan that protects against the possibility of an untimely death. A death benefit is granted if the insured passes away during the policy's stated tenure.

Because death is unpredictable, term insurance plans are essential. The family may experience a significant financial loss if the family's primary provider passes away. A term plan covers the loss. It benefits the family, allowing them to cover lifestyle costs and continue to address their financial objectives.

Permanent Insurance

Permanent insurance can be considered “owning” insurance coverage. Like term insurance, you pay a monthly premium; however, in permanent insurance, the range is continuous and does not end within a time frame.

For instance, even after your children have moved out and your liabilities have diminished, you may continue to carry some form of insurance to cover your loved ones and compensate for your end-of-life needs.

Permanent insurance premiums are more significant than term insurance premiums because, unlike term insurance, the insurance company may never have to pay out the policy. Permanent insurance can be used as an income and an insurance tool. Both a death benefit and a cash value factor are included. You can access the money as the value increases by taking out a loan or a withdrawal, and you can terminate the insurance by withdrawing the cash value.

Long-Term Care Planning

Long-term care planning, at its foundation, entails ensuring that you or a loved one's needs are adequately met when they can no longer care for themselves. Therefore, as you age, having a practical plan becomes more and more crucial. While many maintain their independence well into their senior years, it never hurts to plan.

Any long-term financial plan should consider long-term care costs, especially if you are in your 50s or older. You are unlikely to qualify for long-term care insurance if you already have a disabling condition. Most over 75 applicants will not be accepted by long-term care insurance providers. Most persons who purchase long-term care insurance do so between 50 and 60.

Risk Management

Risk management entails recognizing, assessing and managing risk. A well-executed risk management program is built on a foundation of standardized risk assessments to assist businesses in prioritizing their risk based on its potential impact. This procedure will inevitably reveal hazards affecting the company's fundamental competencies.

As financial Advisors, it is a part of our job to help you navigate your financial well-being, which includes helping you mitigating certain risks. Identifying your risk factors is your first defense, followed by avoiding or limiting risks to your income and survivors. Insurance is your quality line of defense.

Importance of Insurance in Financial Planning

Here are some factors that make insurance an essential aspect of your Life Plan:

  • Financial assurance: You feel safe knowing that the insurance policy will cover the damages in the event of an emergency.
  • Tax advantages: Insurance lowers your taxable income and provides financial benefits.1
  • Risk protection: Insurance prepares you to deal with any financial loss you might suffer in the event of an unplanned circumstance.
  • Meeting your prerequisites: Several insurance policies are available to cover the various risks you can encounter.
  • Peace of mind: Insurance plans assure you that your funds will not be compromised in the event of an emergency.

*This information is not intended as authoritative guidance or tax advice.  You should consult with your tax advisor for guidance on your specific situation.

Why Choose Trilogy Financial

Your financial plan should be strategically in line with your insurance. Our Trilogy Financial Advisors use a comprehensive strategy to offer insurance policies tailored to your specific needs and Life Plan. We understand the risks you face and how to help improve your financial life. Our Advisors will work with you to develop a deeper understanding of your alternatives, pinpoint practical needs and make plans for the care you and your family deserve.

To help you build the life you’ve dreamed, we collaborate with the most reliable insurance firms with a track record of being financial secure and capable of paying claims.

Get Started with a Financial Advisor Today

Everyone has a distinct level of risk, and before purchasing insurance, it is critical to identify risks and establish how to limit the likelihood of them occurring. We understand that everyone has a varying level of comfort and experience in navigating finances and Life Plans. That’s why our Advisors are committed to being both a partner and coach to support you as much or as little as you need, so you can make the best decisions for you and your family.

At Trilogy Financial, our Advisors will guide you through your daily financial decisions to keep you on track and set you up for your real-life goals. If you have any questions concerning insurance or any other element of your financial life, get in touch or visit our website today to book a meeting with an advisor

 

happily discussing insurance plan after meeting with financial advisor
 

 

By Trilogy Financial
March 8, 2023

Estate planning is an essential step to help protect the wealth that you've spent your life building. Meeting with an estate planner will help to create a comprehensive plan that will allow your assets to effectively pass to your assigned beneficiaries. Creating this initial plan can feel overwhelming, and we are here to help you prepare.

Here are five important questions you can expect to discuss with your estate advisor as you start to plan for your future.

How Would You Like Your Wealth to Pass to Your Heirs or Elsewhere?

The basis of your estate plan is where you want to direct your wealth and how you'd like that to happen. No matter how large or small your estate is, you'll need to decide how it should be distributed among children, grandchildren, other family members or favorite charity organizations. For example, this could mean leaving different parties a percentage of your total assets, or leaving one child your business and another child your vacation home.

It’s important to also think about whether you want your beneficiaries to receive their inheritance all at once or not. If you have a disabled child requiring lifelong care on your list, or someone who needs a little extra help managing their money, you may want a trust or annuity structure in place to pay out the inheritance in increments.

What Can Be Done to Prevent Costs and Conflicts for Your Heirs?

Costs for your beneficiaries are most likely to come up if your estate needs to go through probate, which is the process by which a court distributes your assets. In addition to financial costs, there are other reasons to avoid probate. Probate can be a long and exhausting process – meaning, your heirs will not be able to access your estate right away. If you have dependents who will rely on the money in your estate, this can be an especially serious concern. In addition, probate adds your estate information to the public record, which you may want to avoid. There are several strategies your financial advisor might recommend to avoid probate. These include placing assets in a trust and moving funds into joint accounts with your beneficiaries.

Conflict among heirs is another common concern, especially in families where conflict already exists. While the legal documents included in your estate should help minimize disagreements and make it more difficult for someone to contest your wishes, communication during your lifetime is important as well. Disagreements often surround specific items like jewelry or sentimental pieces rather than your financial assets. Labeling these items, writing a letter of instruction and starting to pass on these things during your lifetime can all help make your intentions clear.

How Can You Reduce Your Tax Burden?

After a lifetime of working to earn your money, you likely want to direct your wealth to your loved ones rather than the government. In 2023, only estates valued at $12.92 million (or $25.84 million for some married couples) or more may be subject to the federal estate tax. If, upon your death, the total value of your estate is less than the applicable exclusion amount, no federal estate taxes will be due.

Depending on the state you live in, your heirs or your estate might also be subject to state estate or inheritance taxes. If taxes are a concern for your estate, there are several ways to reduce your tax burden.

One simple option is to start passing money along during your lifetime. Based on the 2022 gift tax exemption limit, individuals can give up to $16,000 per recipient per year. This lets you give money directly to your children or grandchildren while reducing the value of your estate, which will reduce your tax bill. Other options include a marital trust, which allows one spouse to place assets in trust for the other spouse, and an irrevocable life insurance trust, which can pay for life insurance premiums with tax-deductible funds and then avoid estate taxes later on.

Are You Already Working with Financial Professionals?

If you're already working with an estate attorney, a financial planner or a tax professional, it's important for your estate planner to understand the strategies your existing financial team has recommended. You'll want to make sure that all of these members of your team are working together so you aren't paying for duplicated efforts or conflicting suggestions.

If you aren't already working with a financial team, your estate planner may recommend that you do so depending on the details of your estate plan. If you have complex tax concerns, you might need to talk to a tax expert. Depending on the type of trust that you wish to establish, you may need an estate attorney to set it up.

How Will Changes in Your Life Change Your Estate Plan?

Your estate plan should have the flexibility to adapt to changes in your lifestyle, family structure or life expectancy. Your initial plan will be based on your current circumstances, but you should consider potential future concerns and possible solutions.

Divorce and Remarriage

Divorce and remarriage are common life changes that can affect your estate plan. If you remarry, you may not want your new spouse to manage the inheritance of your children from the first marriage. This can create the need for a new trust to be established. In addition, if you have more children in later marriages, you will again need to update your estate plan.

Life Expectancy and Medical Issues

There are other lifestyle considerations that might change as well. For example, if based on your family history you expect to live into your 90s, you might not want to start giving away assets to avoid estate taxes. And if medical issues arise and your life expectancy changes, you will likely need to adjust your plan.

While you won't need to make any decisions based on hypotheticals, it's a good idea to discuss the possibilities.

How to Get Started?

Your estate plan is a key component of your Life Plan. To create an estate plan that addresses the above questions and any other concerns you may have, you'll need to start by finding the right estate advisor. Talk to the Trilogy Financial team to take control of your finances today while maximizing your future opportunities.

Download your free Estate Strategies eBook to learn how to protect your estate.

 

family happy after meeting with estate planner
family happy with estate planning and secure future

 

By
Jim Young
July 21, 2022

Ok now that you’ve recovered from falling off your chair after reading the tile of this blog, let me explain.

Inflation is one of the biggest challenges in achieving, and maintaining, financial independence. The low inflation we have experienced for decades has made many of us lazy when it comes to spending.  Now is the time to put some great habits into place that will reduce your spending now and will help even more when inflation get’s back to historical norms.

Here are some tips:

  1.  The days of clipping coupons seems to be a thing of the past.  Time to resurrect this time-tested way to save money.  Now it’s done electronically.  Click here for a great article on coupon apps.
  2. Bargain shop.  The meat department is the best place to shop for deals.  Supermarkets would rather greatly reduce the price on meat than throw it away.  I’ve seen bargains at 50% off.  And not to worry, the meat is still good.
  3. Dump the name brands.  I am a big name-brand guy however that is changing.  You can save 30-50% on certain items by going with the store brand such as Kroger at Ralphs.  Just today we saved 30% on peanut butter and couldn’t tell the difference.
  4. Use those credit card miles.  If you fly Southwest use their Chase Rewards Card.  This year alone I flew two of us to Hawaii roundtrip and flew myself to NY and used my miles.  Pretty much all carriers have credit cards they use for miles.
  5. If you shop at Ralphs use their Ralph’s Reward Card.  They have a great app that shows you year to date savings.  We have saved $500 so far this year.  You also get fuel points that you can used at Shell Stations.  I’ve saved as much as $.50 per gallon!
  6. This one is real hard for me but try to walk out of restaurants with a doggie bag.  I’m the type of person that if something is real good, I’ll clean my plate (thanks mom!).  But with portion sizes so big you should have no problem making two meals out of one.  Your wallet and belly with thank you!

 

These are just a few habits to help get you through this time of high inflation that could help your plan when inflation gets back to “normal”.

By Trilogy Financial
June 14, 2022

When the market drops, some investors lose perspective that downtrends and uptrends are part of the investing cycle. When stock prices break lower, it's a good time to review common terms that are used to describe the market's downward momentum.

Pullbacks

A pullback represents the mildest form of a selloff in the markets. You might hear an investor or trader refer to a dip of 5-10% after a peak as a “pullback.”1

Corrections

The next degree in severity is a “correction.” If a market or markets retreat 10% to 20% after a peak, you’re in correction territory. At this point, you’re likely on guard for the next tier.2

Bear Market

In a Bear Market, the decline is 20% or more since the last peak.2

 

All of this is normal

“Pullbacks, corrections, and bear markets are a part of the investing cycle.”

When stock prices are trending lower, some investors can second-guess their risk tolerance. But periods of market volatility can be the worst times to consider portfolio decisions.

Pullbacks and corrections are relatively common and represent something that any investor may see from time to time in their financial life, often several times over the course of a decade. Bear markets are much rarer. In fact, between April 1947 and September 2021, there have only been 14 bear markets.3

A retirement strategy formed with a financial professional has market volatility factored in. As you continue your relationship with that professional, they will also be at your side to make any adjustments and help you make any necessary decisions along the way. Their goal is to help you pursue your goals.

 

 

 

________________________________

  1. Investopedia.com, August 23, 2021
  2. Forbes.com, September 20, 2021
  3. Investopedia.com, October 29, 2021
By
David McDonough
May 13, 2022

Have you ever had one of those months? The water heater stops heating, the dishwasher stops washing, and your family ends up on a first-name basis with the nurse at urgent care. Then, as you're driving to work, you see smoke coming from under your hood. Bad things happen to the best of us, and sometimes it seems like they come in waves. That's when an emergency cash fund can come in handy. One survey found that nearly 25% of Americans have no emergency savings. Another survey found that 40% of Americans said they wouldn't be able to comfortably handle an unexpected $1,000 expense.1,2

How Much Money?

How large should an emergency fund be? There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer. The ideal amount may depend on your financial situation and lifestyle. For example, if you own a home or have dependents, you may be more likely to face financial emergencies. And if a job loss affects your income, you may need emergency funds for months.

Coming Up with Cash

If saving several months of income seems unreasonable, don't despair. Start with a more modest goal, such as saving $1,000, and build your savings a bit at a time. Consider setting up automatic monthly transfers into the fund. Once your savings begin to build, you may be tempted to use the money in the account for something other than an emergency. Try to avoid that. Instead, budget and prepare separately for bigger expenses you know are coming.

Where Do I Put It?

Many people open traditional savings accounts to hold emergency funds. They typically offer modest rates of return. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures bank accounts for up to $250,000 per depositor, per institution, in principal and interest.3 Others turn to money market accounts or money market funds in emergencies. While money market accounts are savings accounts, money market funds are considered low-risk securities. Money market funds are not backed by any government institution, which means they can lose money. Depending on your particular goals and the amount you have saved, some combination of lower-risk investments may be your best choice.

Money held in money market funds is not insured or guaranteed by the FDIC or any other government agency. Money market funds seek to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 a share. However, it is possible to lose money by investing in a money market fund.4

Money market mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the charges, risks, expenses, and investment objectives carefully before investing. A prospectus containing this and other information about the investment company can be obtained from your financial professional. Read it carefully before you invest or send money.

The only thing you can know about unexpected expenses is that they're coming. Having an emergency fund may help to alleviate stress and worry that can come with them. If you lack emergency savings now, consider taking steps to create a cushion for the future.

 

 

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

  1. MarketWatch.com, 2020
  2. Bankrate.com, 2021
  3. FDIC.gov, 2022
  4. Investopedia.com, 2021

 

By
June Adams
May 10, 2022

How long do you think it would take a hacker to crack your current passwords?

On average, it takes a hacker about 2 seconds to crack an 11-character password that only uses numbers. See the attached chart that illustrates the time it takes for a hacker to brute force attack your password. A brute force attack is when cybercriminals use trial and error to guess your details. Cybercriminals currently use sophisticated software that can run thousands of password combinations in a minute, but their technology and resources are only getting stronger.

A general rule is that your password should be at least 11 characters, utilizing both numbers as well as upper and lowercase letters. That combination will take hackers 41 years to crack. Regardless of the possible variations, the shorter your password, the easier it is to crack. Check out how long it will take a hacker to crack your password at https://www.security.org/how-secure-is-my-password/.

Lastly, simplify and secure your accounts by using a password manager that creates and stores all your passwords for you.

Strengthen your password security with the following tips:

  • Prioritize the length and complexity of your passwords.
  • Don't use personal information. This can be publicly available and easily accessible by hackers.
  • Avoid using dictionary words as passwords. Cracking tools can easily process every word in the dictionary.
  • Don't reuse passwords. If one account is breached, your other accounts would be vulnerable as well. Rather, use password managers, which are a convenient and secure way to manage complex passwords on multiple platforms.
  • Use multifactor authentication (MFA or 2FA) for especially sensitive accounts.
  • Avoid typing passwords while using public Wi-Fi. Instead, use a VPN or avoid websites that require your login information.

 

 

By Trilogy Financial
April 18, 2022

Financial advisory firms have historically endured a bad reputation ­– either because they were too expensive, or they only helped people with lots of money to invest, or they were trying to sell clients a product or plan that didn’t align with the heart of their goals and situation. Too many Americans don’t think they can afford a Financial Advisor and planning services. Too many of them avoid partnering with an Advisor because they don’t think they have enough money to meet some criteria. But those are often the people who could benefit from a financial coach the most! It’s also the largest population in America. That’s why we founded Trilogy Financial almost 30 years ago – to provide a true fiduciary and financial coach to everyday Americans who want to live the best life possible. Our goal at Trilogy was to create something different, something people hadn’t seen before. And over the last 25 years, we’ve been evolving the firm and honing our practices to improve the financial planning industry and make an Advisor accessible to everyone.

A Purpose Driven Financial Advisor and Coach

In Trilogy Financial’s beginnings, our vision and purpose was to help Financial Advisors be better Advisors so they could help more people. However, as time has gone on, that’s evolved into something bigger. Now our purpose is to help everyday Americans gain financial independence. They are the group of people that often struggle to achieve their financial goals, and we want to focus and help those that need advice. This is the culture we’ve built today. Our Advisors want to help as many people as they can, and we’re on a mission to make those Advisors more productive so that can help provide more for our clients. That is purpose-driven business.

How to Make Financial Advisors More Productive For Clients

Most financial advisory and planning firms have an advisor-led service model, and there’s nothing wrong with that – except that not all Advisors have service as their strong suit. As a Financial Advisor, many people perceive our job is to advise people how to save and spend their money. But we believe it takes more than that to make an impact. We’re striving to build what we call a “trust transfer” where our Advisors spend more time advising clients, building Life Plans, and making recommendations, and a service team does what they do best. This is how we’re optimizing our operations at Trilogy for the benefit of our clients. This service team consists of a group of people with a distinct culture and skillset that will deliver great, helpful service to our clients. This is contrary to what’s “the norm” for financial advisory firms – and that’s exactly why we’re doing it. This is part of our efforts to bring quality financial planning and advice to everyday Americans.

Introducing the Mack Service Center

The Mack Service Center is a robust client experience service center that was Trilogy’s late co-founder Kevin “Mack” Mackintosh’s vision for the firm. His core focus was to build a meaningful client service team to support Advisors so they could do what they do best – financial planning – and provide the clients with a high quality experience. Mack designed and developed the Trilogy Service Team based on what he learned over the years as an Eagle Scout, rowing crew member and in his time in the financial planning business. From day one, he had a clear vision of what Trilogy could accomplish when we all worked together and focused on service. A few years back, he took the ball and really got it rolling for this project. He found the right people to lead it and get it off the ground. Right before his untimely passing in early 2020, he had nearly completed building the Service Center team vision. Following his loss, under the leadership of our founder/President, Jeff Motske, in conjunction with Eric Perkins – we built out the actual Service Center, team, outlined processes, operations and more. Kevin Mackintosh instilled the right attitude, built the right culture and we’re proud to name our Mack Service Center after him so his legacy lives on.

The Future of Trilogy Financial and the Mack Service Center

 Our goal is to have a well-regarded Advisor in front of every everyday American.  Too many financial advisory firms want to work with high-net-worth individuals, but it’s those who are 52 years old with $400,000 in their retirement who really need our support and education to get to where they want and need to be. These are everyday Americans, and they deserve for someone to help them pursue their dreams. And we’re changing that. We rolled out the Mack Service Center team this year to support our Financial Advisors’ current planning efforts with each client. This is our way of connecting the financial planning industry back with the real-life issues of Americans and helping each of them plan and live the life of their dreams.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
February 14, 2022

Re-evaluating your plan and re-evaluating your opportunities is really important. According to Northwestern's 2020 Planning and progress study, 71% of Americans feel their financial plan could use some improvement. So maybe you have a plan, but you're saying, “Maybe I can use some improvement”. At Trilogy Financial we look at the work that's been done in the past. Remember that we're not judging what was done in the past, but we'll look at that and say, is there any way that we can make improvements upon what's been done in the past to help you plan for the future. Understanding that is really important. A plan is not static, it's a living, breathing document, and you want to make sure that you're updating and reevaluating your opportunities on a regular basis.

Another thing to think about is interest rates is we don't know what's going to be in the future. I think this is an interesting one as well. Many Americans for 2020 stayed at home a lot and a lot of them spent less money. Matter of fact, Northwestern Mutual did a study for 2020 on average, people say it's about 10% more money in their personal savings than they did in 2019. Well, why didn't they spend? Some of it was lifestyle – they didn't go out to dinner as much; they didn't go on their vacations- there’s a lot of things that were held back due to all the craziness that had gone on. But there were people that spent on home improvements in other areas as well. People were spending more on their houses because they were living in their houses more. There's a lot of people that saved more or in that period. You might want to evaluate what to do with that savings. Maybe that's the first step in building out a financial plan. Maybe that's the money that should be put towards the college plan. Maybe that's the money that should be put towards lowering your debt overall. Maybe that's money that you should use to increase your path to financial independence. Re-evaluating your opportunities, your long-term financial plan.

I would highly encourage you to re-evaluate those opportunities again. At Trilogy Financial, we do that all the time. We look at current plans and make sure they make sense. Then when you have extra money that's saved, we look at is it working hard for you and is it working hard for your financial why. Maybe you're in a place where you can refinance. Saving money, and refinancing is another really good tool to help create more cash flow and help you get on that path to financial independence.

I'm big on this thing called Financial date nights. Earlier, I talked about the fact that people argue about money, financial date nights once a month, get out of the house, go do something different. I've had people do financial date drives that live in big cities – go have a cup of coffee, have dinner, whatever it is. Get out of the house and talk about your financial whys, talk about your planning, and talk about your goals. Don't argue about them. This is an opportunity for big picture, global type discussions within the couple and then work through those things. And when you need help and more clarity, that's where a financial advisor can really jump in and help you jump-start whatever is going on in your financial plan.

Another thing is to be flexible and willing to adapt. I said this earlier but good financial plans are living breathing documents. In regard to this, all of our clients at Trilogy Financial have their own portal. Inside that financial portal is their financial plan that updates on a regular basis. We can put paperwork in there or documents in there and it's something that's living and breathing. You may need to be flexible with what's going on in your world. Timeframes constantly are getting adjusted. We've had people come in and say, “You know what? I'm thinking about retiring early” or “My companies offering me an early retirement package.”, or “I have to work a little bit longer” for whatever reason. That's just something you update in the plan. College scenarios too. Some kids are deferring going to college and I don't blame them. You didn't pay for online college, and you may want the experience. If that’s the case, you’d go in a different direction. Whatever those things are, be willing, flexible, and adjustable and in communication with your spouse, your partner, or business partner.

Meet and talk with your financial advisor regularly. They should be asking you those questions and they will be updating you on the markets and current events. what I would say are the unknowns or the instability side. The other thing about having that advisor is that joyful accountability. Have an advisor, have a coach, have a financial team – they'll help you stay accountable to do what you say. They're not going to be bugging you, they're going to be reminding you of the good things that you've said during those planning discussions. They're going to be reminding you where you are and they're also going to be praising you when you're doing what you said you were going to do. And when you do that, you make great progress, and when you make great progress, then the plan progresses year after year after year.

How much closer are we to financial independence, that's the conversations that happen over time. So, take action on what you can do, be in control of your knowns, and plan for the unknowns. Again, insurance is a great thing for that. Work with your advisor on the unknown, so you have less anxiety. Be flexible and will be willing to adapt and remember the financial planning documents and plans are living, breathing documents. Life happens, life events happen, and you've got to plan for those things. If you're not working with a trust or a financial advisor investment fiduciary, look to find one that can help you build your own personal plan.

 

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
February 11, 2022

Here’s a tip: Review your spending habits. It's really hard to mitigate or manage financial anxiety if you don't have a clear sense of your spending.

When talking with clients, questions that come up all the time are “Where's my money going? I don't know where all of our dollars go, we’re making a good income, but I don't know where it's going?”. To get cash flow will start answering that question. It will start reducing the anxiety in those particulars because we can't continue this path of “how do I fix this?”. That's what we do as Advisors – we train, and we help people fix and solve those particular problems. I always ask this question, where's my money going? But more importantly, is your money in sync with your financial why? And your financial why is customized, it's, what do you want it to be? And that could be financial independence.

I can tell you in the course of my 30 plus years I’ve sat down with many couples, individuals, and businesses and I've said, “Hey, congratulations, you now have financial independence”. In other words, you don't have to go to work anymore, work is now an option. You can still choose to go to work – you could change jobs, you can do whatever, but you don't need to anymore. You've built up enough that you can replace the income, enjoy the lifestyle that you want to enjoy, spend the time with family, friends, and loved ones that you want to do. And that comes from good planning on the front end and understanding that you can get there much faster if you work with a coach or work with an advisor and understand your cash flow.

It will be liberating once you go through that process, but it does require taking action. Here's some take actions on what you can do. There are the knowns and the unknowns.

In the knowns, we control whether we want to have a plan or not, we control whether we want to do cash flow and budget analysis, we control that reduction. If that's really your number one goal is to get debt-free well, then let's build a plan that makes you debt-free. We control how much is in our emergency fund; so that if we lose a job or income drops, maybe we've got adjustable income or we want to change jobs, we've got this money set aside so we don't have anxiety during that period. We control all those things. We control how much protection we have against risks; you know how much life insurance that we have if we have state documents that are there those are all known things. Now, here's an unknown, you don't what day you will leave this world. Do you have plans in place that make sure that loved ones are protected the way you'd like them protected? Again, you control these areas, these are all things that are in your control.

The one thing I'll say is even though we don't have control over the unknown, we always want to stay informed, especially around new laws and new rules. This is what Advisors do for a living. For instance, if you take money out and the market's down or maybe you took it out and it's taxable- now it bumped your taxes up.  It’s important to meet with your Advisor and to have a coach to help interpret these known rules that are probably unknown to most Americans.  It's probable these types of things will come up and once you pick a strategy, whatever that strategy is, you can't change it.

But you have to always ask yourself “Maybe this impacts me, and if I don't know about it, I'm not going to do anything prudent to help myself get on to financial independence”. If you do know about it and your Advisor knows about it, they're going to help you make good decisions that will work well for you in those areas. It's important to understand that there are unknowns out there, and you can plan your best for those unknowns, but it's important to accept that you never have full control of the unknown. So. think about what you do have control of, and make sure that you are making the best decisions for yourself, your family and your loved ones.

 

 

By
June Adams
January 31, 2022

Tax-related fraud and identity theft have continued to grow, with millions of people becoming targets. Scammers need little more than your Social Security number and other general information to file a fraudulent tax return and hijack your tax refund. Taxpayers typically don’t discover the fraud until they attempt to file their own returns, which is why it's essential to file taxes as soon as possible. At the same time, you may want to confirm the appropriate timing with your tax professional. Although 1099s are due by the end of January, custodians may correct 1099s throughout February. If drastic changes happen to a 1099 after you file your taxes, the change can severely impact the amount you owe.

 

Here are some helpful ways to prevent your SSN from being compromised:

  • If you have been a victim of identity theft, complete  IRS form 14039, identity theft affidavit.
  • Respond immediately to any IRS issued notice once you verify the authenticity of the notice. You can do so by calling the IRS directly at 800-908-4490 or setting up your  online account.
  • Get an Identity Protection PIN: a 6-digit number that prevents someone else from filing a tax return using your Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number. Only you and the IRS know the IP PIN.
By
June Adams
January 4, 2022

As scammers get more sophisticated, be sure to protect yourself and your access points, such as your smartphone.

Start by making sure your phone is encrypted. Most phones, such as iPhones, Google Pixels and post-2018 Samsung phones are encrypted by default. Should you have a different model, search online for instructions on how to encrypt your phone.

Be sure to have a secure passcode for your phone. 6-digit passcodes are better than the standard 4-digit. Face or fingerprint recognition is secure as long as you use the phone’s built-in systems rather than a third-party. Utilize your smartphones’ “find phone” feature if it has one. Your smartwatch can also be utilized to locate a misplaced phone.

As your data can be intercepted on Wi-Fi networks that are not encrypted, it’s best to disable the Connect Automatically feature on your smartphone. This usually requires the simple UNCHECKING of a box. If storing payment methods electronically on your phone, only keep debit cards. Most vendors require a PIN to be entered when debit cards are used, adding an extra layer of protection. Lastly, should you be switching to a new phone, factory-reset the old phone after the switch, regardless of who will be receiving the old phone.

Ultimately, treat your phone with the same security as you treat your wallet, if not better.

By
June Adams
December 20, 2021

TSA PreCheck Scams

 

TSA PreCheck is garnering a lot of interest, from both travelers and scammers alike. In addition to pocketing your renewal/application fee, these scammers take your personal information to sell on the dark web or create false identities that can be used illegally. TSA PreCheck scam emails are quite sophisticated, lacking many of the typical red flags such as misspellings, grammatical errors, and slightly-off-looking versions of TSA logos. We recommend that you continue to check the email address and web address of the sender, as well as how they’re asking for payment.

Always verify that the TSA PreCheck web and email address ends in ‘.gov’ – not ‘.com’, ‘.org’ or anything else. If they don’t, these are not official TSA PreCheck communications and you should not provide personal information or payment information. Additionally, don’t purchase or renew a TSA PreCheck membership by clicking on a link you were sent via an email. Instead, go directly to the TSA or Homeland Security website.

The other major red flag comes when it’s time to pay for your renewal or application fees. While there are multiple ways to make a payment for government services, scammers typically only give you the option of using PayPal. If you get an email and suspect it’s a scam, or end up clicking on a bad link yourself, TSA says to do the following:

  1. Report the fraud to your local Police Department.
  2. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission website.
  3. Contact your credit card company or bank and let them know about any fraudulent charges.

In the event that your credit card information ended up in the wrong hands, you will need to work through your bank or credit card company. TSA specifically states on its website that it “will not issue a reimbursement to applicants who attempt to enroll in TSA pre-check through a fraudulent website.”

By
June Adams
July 23, 2021

Data Privacy governs how data is collected, shared and used. When private data gets in the wrong hands, bad things can happen.  Whether you are in the office or working from home, here are a few tips on how to keep your data private:

VARY YOUR PASSWORDS

Use unique, complex passwords on different sites and systems.

PROPERLY DESTROY UNWANTED DATA

Shred unwanted documents and thoroughly wipe devices before discarding them.

ENCRYPT SENSITIVE FILES

Use encryption when sharing or storing confidential data.

LOCK UP WHEN YOU LEAVE

Secure sensitive files and lock computer screens when you walk away.

By
June Adams
May 12, 2021

Beware of Post Covid-19 Scams.

Using bogus surveys or social media posts, criminals are crafting scams to target a new audience as more COVID-19 vaccines are being administered.  Be suspicious of any post-vaccine evaluations/surveys you receive and do not post a picture of your vaccine card on social media.   There may be legitimate surveys and follow-up evaluations that could be conducted, but these details should be clearly provided to you during your final vaccination appointment.

This two-minute video shows the new trends in vaccine scams and why you should avoid posting pictures of your vaccination card on social media.

By
June Adams
May 10, 2021

Weak passwords can compromise the best security tools and controls. With a never-ending list of applications and services that users and consumers access, people may have dozens of passwords to maintain at any given time. Often, the temptation to use familiar terms such as pet names, favorite teams or the names of children or friends can cause risk since much of those details can be discovered by a simple examination of social media.

Creating strong passwords offers greater security for minimal effort. Weak passwords can compromise the best security tools and controls. With a never-ending list of applications and services that users and consumers access, people may have dozens of passwords to maintain at any given time. Often, the temptation to use familiar terms such as pet names, favorite teams or the names of children or friends can
cause risk since much of those details can be discovered by a simple examination of social media.

Under Lock and Key
You can buy a small padlock for less than a dollar—but you should not count on it to protect anything of value. A thief could probably pick a cheap lock without much effort, or simply break it. And yet, many people use similarly flimsy passwords to “lock up” their most valuable assets, including money and confidential information. Fortunately, everyone can learn how to make and manage stronger passwords. It is an easy way to strengthen security both at work and at home.

What Makes a Password ‘Strong’?
Let’s say you need to create a new password that’s at least 12 characters long, and includes numerals, symbols, and upper- and lowercase letters. You think of a word you can remember, capitalize the first
letter, add a digit, and end with an exclamation point. The result: Strawberry1!

Unfortunately, hackers have sophisticated password-breaking tools that can easily defeat passwords based on dictionary words (like “strawberry”) and common patterns, such as capitalizing the first letter.
Increasing a password’s complexity, randomness, and length can make it more resistant to hackers’ tools. For example, an eight-character password could be guessed by an attacker in less than a day, but a 12-character password would take two weeks. A 20-character password would take 21 centuries. You can learn more about creating strong passwords in your organization’s security awareness training. Your organization may also have guidelines or a password policy in place.

Why Uniqueness Matters
Many people reuse passwords across multiple accounts, and attackers take advantage of this risky behavior. If an attacker obtains one password—even a strong one—they can often use it to access other valuable accounts.

Here is a real-life example: Ten years ago, Alice joined an online gardening forum. She also created an online payment account and used the same password. She soon forgot about the gardening forum, but someone accessed her payments account years later and stole a large sum of money.

Alice did not realize the gardening forum had been hacked, and that users’ login credentials had been
leaked online. An attacker probably tried reusing Alice’s leaked password on popular sites—and
eventually got lucky.

Guarding Your Passwords & PINS. Passwords and PINS protect sensitive data and it's critical to keep them safe. Try these best practices to stay protected.

1. Do not write them down – Many make the mistake of writing passwords on post-it notes and
leaving them in plain sight. Even if you hide your password, someone could still find it. Similarly, do
not store your login information in a file on your computer, even if you encrypt that file.
2. Do not share passwords – You cannot be sure someone else will keep your credentials safe. At
work, you could be held responsible for anything that happens when someone is logged in as you.
3. Do not save login details in your browser – Some browsers store this information in unsafe
ways, and another person could access your accounts if they get your device.
4. Use a password manager – These tools can securely store and manage your passwords and
generate strong new passwords. Some can also alert you if a password may have been
compromised.
5. Never reuse passwords – Create a unique, strong password for each account or device. This
way, a single hacked account does not endanger other accounts.
6. Create complex, long passwords – Passwords based on dictionary words, pets’ names, or other
personal information can be guessed by attackers.

 

 

 

By
June Adams
April 26, 2021

Protect yourself from these tax-related scams.

Tax-related scams have become increasingly common, and they happen year-round.  Fraudsters will contact you pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a tax accounting service, or another tax-related agency.  You could receive fake emails, phone calls, letters, or other communications.

Be on high alert for phishing emails. Scammers are attempting to steal information such as tax IDs, account information, passwords, and other valuable data.  Be immediately suspicious of any unsolicited communication (email, text message, letter, or call) that asks you for your Social Security number, login credentials, or other personal information.

Review these helpful FAQs:

  • Will the IRS contact me via email?

The IRS will never initiate contact with you via email, text messages, or social media with a request for personal or financial data. Be extremely careful with any unsolicited email that claims to be from the IRS.

  • What should I do if I receive an email or text message claiming to be from the IRS or another tax service that asked for sensitive information?

Do not reply! Do not click on any links or download any attachments. Forward any IRS-related emails to phishing@irs.gov.

  • What should I do if I discover a website claiming to be the IRS that I suspect is not legitimate?

Do not click on any links, download any files, or submit any information. Send the URL to phishing@irs.gov

  • Are there any trusted resources I can use to identify email scams or websites claiming to be
    the IRS?

The IRS highlights examples of email scams and bogus websites. Find the information online at www.irs.gov/uac/Report-Phishing and https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scams-consumeralerts.

  • What should I do if I receive an unsolicited phone call or letter claiming to be from the IRS that
    I suspect may not be legitimate?

Contact the IRS yourself to confirm any requests made via phone or letter, particularly those that are threatening or demand immediate payment. Visit www.irs.gov/uac/Report-Phishing for phone numbers and other tips.

  • If I receive a suspicious tax-related email while at work, should I notify my company?

Yes! Report suspicious emails to IT. The IT team can help you determine if a message is legitimate. In addition to confirming requests for your personal data, you should verify any email that asked you to provide copies of W2 forms or your coworkers’ tax-related information.

By
Mike Loo, MBA
February 23, 2021

The recently implemented SECURE Act can be confusing to understand. With my free eBook and customized advisory services, I can help you navigate how the SECURE Act may impact your financial strategy moving forward. Curious about what it means for you? Download the eBook for an overview of the SECURE Act. We're here to help.

Download the eBook here

By
Mike Loo, MBA
February 23, 2021

As you approach retirement it's important to explore your options, health-care concerns, and get the best advice to successfully transition into those golden years. Learn how to prepare for retirement and navigate your Social Security benefits. We're here to help.

Download your free eBook to learn more

By
Mike Loo, MBA
February 23, 2021

With proper strategies, you may be able to maximize your opportunities and help manage stress and confusion for your loved ones. Learn the critical details to address when creating your own estate strategies. We're here to help.

Download your free ebook to learn more

By
David McDonough
February 22, 2021

Preparation for retirement is extremely important, and it extends well beyond finances. In addition to knowing how you’re going to fund it, you also need to know what your time will look like when you say you’re done with being a wage earner. With this new lifestyle, you not only need to determine how to fill up the hours in the day, but you also need to determine what your new purpose is. This can be a pretty significant task, which becomes even more complicated when you add another person to the equation. That’s why you need to work on your retirement compatibility with your partner way before you stop working.

Retirement Compatibility is a tricky thing. Statistics show that half of the couples disagree on their retirement age —and a third don’t see eye-to-eye about their expected lifestyle in retirement[i]. This is troubling as there are a lot of logistics you need to determine in this new chapter of your life. Will you be retiring at the same time? Typically, only 1 in 10 couples retire together[ii]. If you and your partner are planning on retiring at different times, you may want to look into how this change affects your health insurance. You may also want to consider re-establishing household roles. Equally important, you will need to find common ground on your retirement budget as it will require commitment from both parties.

Oftentimes, the difficulties in transitioning from a wage-earner to a retiree can go beyond the logistics. Some experience a period of depression as they look for a new purpose in life. As tempting as it may be, that new purpose shouldn’t be your partner. If you don’t plan correctly, you will suffer from what I call too much togetherness. This can be a very real strain on relationships. Instead, look at your life as being divided into “You Time, Me Time, and We Time.” To aid in this transition, you may want to try winding down your career gradually in order to practice retirement. This can prove to be a benefit to both yourself as you experiment with this new stage in your life and your employer as you stay on to train and mentor your replacement.

Start working on your retirement compatibility with your partner with regular financial date nights. Start discussing how you envision that new chapter in your life. What type of lifestyle do you want to live? Will there be a lot of dinners out with friends or home-cooked meals watching your favorite television show? Will you be traveling or developing a new passion? Will you work part-time or volunteer? Communication is key. Share your plans with your partner so that the two of you stay on the same page and prevent incorrect assumptions from being made.

Retirement, a lifestyle of six Saturdays and one Sunday, can be either a wonderful time or a stressful transition, depending on your planning. Make sure you and your partner’s planning extends beyond finances to ensure a smooth and joyous new chapter in your lives.

[i] https://www.fidelity.com/bin-public/060_www_fidelity_com/documents/couples-retirement-fact-sheet.pdf

[ii] https://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/general/retired_spouses.pdf

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine what is appropriate for you, consult a qualified professional.

By
David McDonough
February 18, 2021

What is a fiduciary?

When selecting a Financial Advisor, it’s important to know they will be looking out for you and the money you worked hard for all your life. Not all financial advisors are the same. When considering a financial advisor to partner with, it’s important to know if they are fiduciaries, meaning they will be ethically obligated to work in your best interests to help you reach your goals.

Why choose Trilogy?

At Trilogy, we operate by suitability standards in offering advice and recommendations that are the most suitable to your needs. We aren’t just salesmen looking to sell products that earn the highest commission. We are dedicated Advisors, financial life planners, who use our expertise to guide you to make smart money decisions. We recommend investments and financial products that are the best fit for your life situation.

Trilogy Capital Inc. is a Registered Investment Advisor. We are a fee-based firm. That means some of our Advisors earn commissions from the sales of certain insurance or securities products. While this incentivizes our Advisors to be the best they can be at their job, be assured that they put people first to select the best solutions for you.

You have a team behind you

When you work with Trilogy, you don’t just have just one Advisor, you have a team who have an ethical duty to recommend what’s best for you. We are specialists with decades of experience in wealth management and protection.

Life planning

With our Advisors, you can be sure they have a fiduciary duty of care to work at the highest level of trust in creating and reviewing your Life Plan. When they make a recommendation, it’s because they feel strongly it’s the right fit for you and your needs, in the life stage you are now and for the future.

Investing for your future

Our financial professionals work in a fiduciary capacity with our investment platforms. We value our relationship with you and work to maintain your trust. We look at the big picture and consider all aspects of your life regarding your personal financial situation.

We know managing your finances can be a full-time job. That’s why our Advisors are there for you to ensure your investments are properly diversified for your risk tolerance. We also monitor other service providers working on components of your plan (including investment companies, record keepers and third-party administrators) to make sure they are catering to your needs and in a cost-efficient manner.

Managing risk

Your fiduciary Financial Advisor will review your personal situation to determine where the risk factors are when it comes to protecting your wealth and recommend insurance products that best fit your needs to add peace-of-mind protection. Whether it’s long term care or life insurance – we’re here to set you up for success so you have a solid plan for whatever comes your way in life.

In keeping with our fiduciary commitment to you, we are an independent financial planning firm. That means we don’t own any insurance products. We’ve done the legwork to find reputable insurance companies who have a proven track record of financial security and claims-paying ability, so you can be confident we recommend products that have the credibility you can count on.

A partner you can trust

When you work with Trilogy, you can finally take a breath in knowing you have a partner who will look out for your finances and do what is best for your life situation and help you meet your financial goals. You can get on with enjoying life, not worrying if you have the money to cover it.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
January 21, 2021
Don't get caught up in the here and now. Short-term moves and market timing are not sound financial strategies for your serious long-term plan of pursuing financial independence.  Good planning does, however, require intermediary decision-making. A few things to consider before year-end:

  1. Charitable Giving – To receive 2020 tax benefits, donations must be made by year-end. Be sure to keep a record of all giving for future tax purposes. Other planning strategies to consider are gifting highly appreciated stocks and bunching charitable donations in the same year.
  2. Tax Harvesting – Look for opportunities to sell stocks that have dropped in value to offset potential capital gains liabilities.

As always, we are available to help you with these year-end decisions and keep you focused on your long-term financial plans. Thank you for entrusting us with your financial life. Let’s all remember to be grateful and enjoy this holiday season.

By
David McDonough
January 5, 2021

Awareness is key to change, but you also need action. In fact, you need focused, decisive and immediate action to see change and to get yourself back on the road to financial independence.

There are a lot of decisions to make when forging your way to financial independence, there are also countless paths to each destination and countless solutions to each problem. Most folks are also juggling more than one financial goal: retirement, emergency funds, college education for children. How do you prioritize? How do you find the right solution for retirement or long-term care? All the decisions can be overwhelming, which causes many to check out of their own financial situation. While taking a step back when one feels overwhelmed is a natural response, refraining from taking action can ultimately do more harm than good.

Definitive action can both propel you towards financial independence and protect the traction you’ve already made. The sooner you start investing in your financial future, the more your funds can grow due to compound interest. The longer you wait to address any financial problems, the more these minor issues can snowball into larger issues, which can often be the case with debt. Also, if you haven’t taken decisive action to establish an emergency fund or invest in the proper form of insurance, an unexpected event can derail you further from your route to financial independence.

Our Advisors at Trilogy try to help you take the guesswork out of making a decision. Some of the worst indecision is born from not knowing the results of choosing Option A over Option B. However, our Advisors /Life Planners can run various scenarios for you, showing the consequences of different courses of action – helping you see which decision may be the right one for you. More importantly, they are here to support you through difficult situations, so the rest of your road to financial independence will be smooth sailing.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
October 29, 2020
 

Today, conversations, screens, and ads on how the upcoming election will affect our economy and the American way of life are unavoidable. Naturally, we start to ponder how the outcome might impact our own financial independence. Since market forecasters and economic commentators ever really get it right only part of the time, formulating investment strategy based on “expert” prognostications and financial journalism routinely sets individual investors up for failure.

According to historical analysis, in 19 of the past 23 election years from 1928-2016, stock market returns were positive, no matter which party held office. In fact, during an election year, the S&P 500 has experienced an average return of 11.3%—data that demonstrably counters the stock market doom and gloom headline hysteria generated in the media.

While it is crucial not to be emotionally reactive, it is equally important to plan for economic changes that are realistically possible. Following an election, it is wise to assess how federal policies could impact your plan.

A few takeaways…

  1. Separate your personal politics from your investment decision-making.
  2. Remain calm and focused on your long-term plan: thoughtful planning plus sound decision-making matters.

During his First Inaugural Address, our 32nd President reminded the nation that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” If not kept in check, fear becomes a catalyst for rash decision-making which can impede your path to financial freedom. As always, I am here to talk things through with you, to listen, and to assuage your fear; that’s my job.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
August 4, 2020

Recently, I came across two competing headlines: “Dow Dropped Because the Wheels are Coming Off” and “The Dow is Up Because there are Flashes of Optimism.” On any given day, financial markets swing—one-day values are up and the next they are down. Trying to figure out how to build your wealth by focusing on market ups and downs can be overwhelming. I choose to champion an altogether different approach—behavioral finance. I believe the key to long-lasting financial independence lies in individual behavior inasmuch as it does the markets or various investment tools. Knowing that success lies within you – your choices, your responses to the market, and your long-term habits over time – rather than in the whims of the market, keeps you on the road to financial freedom.

Dangers to your wealth aren’t so much the downturns in the market as they are your own biases and emotions. Behavioral finance requires discipline and rational thought processes which can present challenges for many investors. We may feel obligated to put our kids through colleges we really can’t afford. Keeping up with the Joneses can deplete our savings or prompt us to invest in things that aren’t aligned with our long-term financial plan. And, in times of stress or change, we may be tempted to react by pulling our money out of the market or by doubling down on an investment. Such actions might play out well in our heads but disastrously so in real life. Ultimately, behavioral finance shows us that individuals carry much of the responsibility for their own financial success.

When you assume this responsibility, it becomes clear that you also gain control of your financial future. You have the ability to build wealth and establish a sense of security without worrying about the market. After all, it is the plan and the decisions you make (or don’t make) that have the greatest impact on your journey to financial independence. So, you may wonder, how do I embrace this concept of behavioral finance? First, you have to do some analysis – predominantly on yourself. What kind of spender/saver are you? Is your money going towards your goals and values? Are there steps you should take to limit habits that lead to unhelpful emotional responses? Besides self-reflection, you will need to create a financial plan. Whenever you are tempted to pursue a course of action, pause, and make sure it is in line with your plan’s goals. If it’s not, you must weigh the risks against the rewards. For those situations that require deeper insight, another great tool is a trusted financial advisor. Their expertise and guidance will be an invaluable resource as you strive to build wealth and turn your dreams into reality.

You have a multitude of tools at your disposal once you realize that financial independence is yours to create. It will take work, discipline, and time, but with that comes agency and autonomy. Start planning now so you can start making the decisions and exhibiting the behaviors that will set you up for a prosperous future.

 

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

By
Zach Swaffer, CFP®
May 19, 2020

Top 10 Ways To Improve Your Financial Health

  1. Create an emergency fund (3-6 months fixed expenses)
  2. Identify your priorities/goals
  3. Plan for unexpected life events
  4. Understand your monthly cash flow (money in vs money out)
  5. Discuss finances with your spouse/partner
  6. Reward yourself for hitting financial goals
  7. Save up for large purchases
  8. Use risk tolerances and an allocation strategy for your investments
  9. Give yourself a raise (increase 401(k) contributions)
  10. Have a financial plan and review it annually

 

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine what is appropriate for you, consult a qualified professional.

By
Mark Nicolet, CFP®, MBA, ABFP™
April 15, 2020

When is the “end” of this Coronavirus season? Do we return to “normal” at the end of the summer? I have no idea. However, I do know that when it happens, I will have already given intentional thought to my plan to return because there are some lessons learned and best practices to hold on to during this period of being at home with my family and work. Here are just a few I’d thought I share:

Be Present. Being more present has always been a pursuit of mine. And amidst a shelter-in environment, I’ve been more present without the back and forth to the office. When we are present, we thrive. When we are present, we are listening to our clients. When we are present, we are having more fun with our family. Compare it to being in the zone in athletics. We are solely focused on the conversation or task at hand, making us ultimately more effective as leaders and parents. Be present.

Be Proactive. Even though none of us anticipated the spread of this virus, there have still been plenty of opportunities to be proactive. Despite the uncertainty, a forward-thinking strategy creates freedom and reassurance. Having the flexibility to make anticipated adjustments and then course correct from there helps us weather the difficult days and be ahead over the long-term. This relates to our financial strategy and our day-to-day structure with kids at home. Have a plan, discuss it, and see it to completion. That might result in a strategy to invest in the market with dollar-cost averaging or decide to double recipes so you don’t have to cook as much. Either way, be proactive in life and at work.

Keep Up Good Habits. I have enjoyed the opportunity to connect over Zoom. I’m still improving my ability to read the emotion through the technology but with the effectiveness of virtual meetings, could I plan to only have Zoom meetings on Friday and stay at home? This would give me a few more hours to spend with my family. I don’t think my clients would disagree with that. Give it some thought. Have there been practices at home that should continue? Read for 20 minutes in the middle of the day? Exercise at lunch?

I’ve been grateful for this time and yet I know, this has created immense difficulty for most people. Through my numerous conversations with clients and friends, I’ve been encouraged by the attitude and fortitude these times require. Here’s to having a plan before we return to normal again.

“The most powerful weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. Train your mind to see the good in this day.” –Marc & Angel Chernoff

 

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine what is appropriate for you, consult a qualified professional.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
March 10, 2020

It’s no surprise that I often talk about the need to have a strong, supportive financial team to pursue financial independence. These financial teams can consist of a CPA, an estate planning attorney or a real estate agent, with your trusted financial advisor acting as the general manager of your team. While each one provides a specialized level of expertise, for individuals who are married, there is another person that can make or break your route to financial independence: your spouse. Often, we underestimate the value your spouse brings to your financial house, which is why it is so important to make them the MVP of your financial team.

In order to pursue financial independence, couples must be on the same page and work together towards common goals. For many, though, that is just not the case. Nearly half of U.S. couples argue over finances.[i] These disagreements can be based on resentment over spending rather than saving. Sometimes arguments arise over differing risk tolerance. The heart of these issues lies in goal mismatch, a situation that arises when your combined goals are not aligned. When you and your spouse are not working together towards your combined financial independence, chances of reaching it are slim.

While some couples argue, others simply don’t communicate. Both people in a marriage need to be involved in their finances, agreeing on their financial goals and the steps they’re taking to get there. Being unaware of your financial household, whether it’s because only one person in the relationship is in charge of the household finances or because both parties have decided to keep separate financial lives, simply causes problems. When you don’t know what the other is doing with their money, you can’t be sure that you’re both working towards the same goals in the most effective way. Additionally, you may be setting yourself up for unfortunate complications if your partner unexpectedly passes or becomes incapacitated. Honestly, I’d rather have my clients argue than avoid discussing finances. At least they’re talking about it.

So how do you and your spouse get on the same page? You can start by taking my financial compatibility quiz. Not only will the quiz show you what areas the two of you are like-minded and what areas you need to work on, but it’ll also give you the conversation starters to mine those areas you may not see eye-to-eye on. If you need a little more guidance on what to talk about, you can check out my book, The Couple’s Guide to Financial Compatibility. Also, make sure to get some time for yourself for date night – particularly a Financial Date Night. Make the investment for a babysitter to ensure some consistent quality time where you can have open, honest discussions on big-picture issues and long-term goals. For those really tough topics, you can use a trusted Financial Advisor to help you navigate the conversation.

I am a firm believer in investing in your future. Whether you invest in a book, a babysitter or your time, these investments go a long way to ensure your marital financial health. It’s when you make sure that you’re working together with your spouse that you build a strong and sure route to your financial independence.

 

[i] https://nypost.com/2017/08/03/the-reasons-most-couples-argue-about-money/

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine what is appropriate for you, consult a qualified professional.

By
Mark Nicolet, CFP®, MBA, ABFP™
March 3, 2020

In almost every journal entry I write, I include, “I am grateful for…” and list three to four items from my day that reminded me of how grateful I am. Just last night my wife of 10 years, laughed out at loud as she noticed, I had written, “Popcorn” as I enjoyed a bag in the last minutes of the evening after putting our young boys to bed. It is the little things that make life grand, right?

In light of the deep gratitude I experience on a daily basis, here are 8 financial planning action items I’m grateful for. I know my clients feel the same way because of the significant impact these ideas have over time:

  1. Automatic monthly savings plans into investment accounts.

I am grateful because these plans create structure and commitment.

  1. The proper 401(k) allocation.

I am grateful to help align risk, time frames, performance, and cost with the fund options available.

  1. Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s.

I am grateful because we are in a historically low tax environment and Uncle Sam has already been paid.

  1. Intentional and proactive communication with an Advisor.

I am grateful to help eliminate inefficiencies and “leaking out the back door” with surplus cash flow.

  1. The right insurance solution.

I am grateful for financial reassurance.

  1. An understanding of where my current savings rate ends up at the end of the road.

I am grateful when I can provide clarity to planning so that my clients know what they are actually saving for.

  1. An outside, objective, fiduciary perspective.

I am grateful when a client calls asking about a refinance option, a car purchase, or stock options. Even though I don’t directly manage these decisions, they do have an impact on your financial plan.

  1. Non-retirement investment accounts earmarked for future priorities.

I am grateful when clients can save and grow their money, yet still have access to their funds for that next down payment, big trip, or redoing the kitchen.

Yes, I am grateful for buttery popcorn, but more importantly, I am grateful for the motivation and trust of my clients and business partners.

 

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine what is appropriate for you, consult a qualified professional.

By
Zach Swaffer, CFP®
February 27, 2020

One of the most common questions I receive is how to most efficiently save for education expenses. And I understand why – it’s a daunting prospect! The cost of college continues to rise, and student loan debt can plague you for decades following graduation. There is also a growing realization that college is not for everybody. How do you prepare for an expense that might not actually occur? However, it doesn’t have to be such an intimidating process. In fact, there are several effective strategies you can deploy to efficiently – and effectively – save for your child’s education expenses.

First, you need to determine how much you’ll need to save. Do you plan to cover the whole cost of school or just a portion (for instance: undergrad only, or will you cover grad school expenses for your child(ren)? Once you’ve set a number, your financial planner can assist in calculating a monthly savings rate required to work toward that goal.

The next step is deciding what type of savings account(s) to use. There are different accounts that are specifically designed to save for college, for example: 529 plans and Coverdell Education Savings Accounts. Below are some of the reasons why a 529 Plan and/or investment accounts may be a better solution.

A 529 plan allows you to contribute to an account on behalf of a named beneficiary (in this case, your child). Because the government wants to reward saving for educational expenses, contributions to 529 plans receive preferential tax treatment and are able to grow tax-deferred. You can use the money in the account to pay for qualified educational expenses, tax-free. Contributions to these accounts are also typically deductible on state tax returns. The drawback to a 529 is that the money must be used for qualified education expenses – or you will face tax penalties.

An individual/joint investment account is an account owned by yourself or jointly by you and your significant other. Money invested in this type of account does not receive preferential tax treatment; however, your money can be withdrawn for any reason without tax penalties.

Given the shifting trends in higher education, it is my belief that a combination of 529 plan contributions and individual/joint account contributions will help to save for college education. This form of education planning allows for flexibility; for instance, if your child(ren) decide(s) against traditional higher education, you won’t have to pay tax penalties on all of your education savings, as a portion of that savings is held in an individual/joint account with no restriction on how the assets are used.

While education planning is important it is only one component of a full financial plan. If you would like to talk more about education planning and its impact on your personal financial plan please contact me at zach.swaffer@trilogyfs.com

 

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine what is appropriate for you, consult a qualified professional.

By Trilogy Financial
January 15, 2020
By
David McDonough
October 30, 2019

FIRE, an acronym for “Financial Independence, Retire Early” is trending as a new financial lifestyle.  In a nutshell, FIRE promotes extreme savings in your 20s, 30s, and 40s, with the goal of being able to live off passive income from the accumulated nest egg much earlier than typical retirement age.  Some proponents suggest saving 70% of your income until you have collected 25x your annual salary, cutting your working years in half.  Extreme saving is not a new idea, but the phrase has taken off in the last couple of years, creating a cult following online.

Putting aside additional savings to fund a “work optional” lifestyle is a fantastic idea in theory, but most Americans would find it quite difficult to only live on 30% of their income without making DRASTIC changes.  If you are willing to downsize, live with roommates in a cheaper part of town, eat beans and rice, drive an old car/take the bus, and limit purchases, you could be successful at FIRE.  However, this level of deprivation may cause unintended sacrifices that impact your social life and happiness.

Our take on FIRE is to find your happy medium.  For example, you absolutely should increase your savings rate incrementally every year if you can afford to do so, but initially choose an amount that’s attainable.  To help you get started, these are the questions we encourage clients to consider:

1) What is your current cash flow?

Do you have a firm grasp on how much you spend on monthly groceries?  Going out to eat? Gifts at the holidays for friends and family?  The key here is to consider all expenses, not just big-ticket fixed items like your car payment or mortgage.  Once you have an idea of how much you are spending compared to household income, you can then evaluate your current savings rate.

2) Where can you cut back to increase your savings rate?

Can you meal prep on Sundays to avoid going out for lunch during the week?  Can you stay in to watch a movie instead of going to a theater for date night?  Are you willing to have a “no-spend” week?  Some people use tracking software (our firm provides EMoney to our clients) to help set up electronic budgets to alert you when you are close to going over set categories of spending. Alternatively, can you bring in additional income via a side hustle?  Can you work additional hours at work to qualify for overtime pay?  Make an honest assessment to determine where you could potentially improve your cash flow on a monthly basis.

3) Are you debt-free, or leveraging debt appropriately?

A mortgage with a low-interest rate is an appropriate means of financing a lifestyle you want, while potentially building equity via real estate.  If you still have student loans or credit card debt, though, your increased cash flow should go towards paying this off ASAP. Just make sure you have 3-6 months of living expenses built up in an easily accessible emergency savings account as well.

4) Outside of your emergency savings, are your accounts keeping pace with inflation?

Historically, inflation rates average around 3% annually.  This means that your purchasing power decreases, as the cost of goods increases over time. Remember when you could buy a Coke bottle out of a vending machine for a dollar? Your parents or grandparents may even recall purchasing a soda for a quarter!  That’s inflation at work. If you’re planning to retire early, this means you need to account for inflation over several decades. The best way to maintain your purchasing power is by investing excess savings in the stock and bond markets and taking advantage of compounding interest over time. A Financial Advisor can determine the best investment strategy for you.

5) Are your investments in a diversified portfolio in line with your risk tolerance?

Trying to time the market to buy and sell holdings is incredibly difficult to do.  Diversification via broader index funds and investing consistently (to take advantage of pullbacks) has proven to be a more successful investment plan for most Americans.  The concern with the FIRE movement is knowing how risky you can or should be with your asset allocation depending on your time horizon to retirement.  For example, if you are closer to reaching your retirement goal, you don’t want 100% of your assets invested in the stock market.   A comprehensive financial planner can help determine how much risk you should be taking on by looking at your finances holistically, and ensuring portfolios are rebalanced regularly according to your needs.

The road to early retirement is still a long one, so you’ll need to regularly evaluate your progress, reassess as needed, and don’t forget to acknowledge small victories!

Our advice is to push yourself to save more, without going to the extremes of the FIRE lifestyle.  If you would like additional accountability, Trilogy offers progress checks through our Decision Coach process more frequently than annual reviews.  And if you need a road map to help find your path to success, reach out with any questions here.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine what is appropriate for you, consult a qualified professional.

By
David McDonough
October 25, 2019

There are some who see retirement as a finish line. I feel like this is slightly misleading. In actuality, quite a lot can still be accomplished at this time in your life. Rather than viewing retirement as a reprieve from the hustle and bustle, I like to see it as a final chapter to solidify your life’s success. How that looks, though, is entirely up to you.

The first step to ensure your life’s success is determining how you personally define that. This is a big picture question. Think about what you want said about you at your eulogy. What do you want to be known for? How do you want to be remembered when you’re no longer around? Some people focus on family and personal relationships. Others look to leaving a legacy or collecting memorable life experiences. This is clearly a deeply personal definition. Don’t look to the Joneses to define that for you.

Once you make the determination of what you want the next chapter to represent, it’s time to figure out what that looks like for you. Does a focus on family mean weekly family dinners at your home or visiting all the professional baseball fields throughout the United States with your children? Does leaving a legacy mean you want your name on a building or does it mean funding your grandchildren’s college fund? Does collecting memorable experiences mean getting an RV and traveling around the country or high-adrenaline activities like jumping out of an airplane? The clearer the vision, the better you can prepare to make it a reality.

Now the last step is making the proper preparations to see this vision come to fruition. Life can throw you curve balls. Make sure that if it does, you’re prepared. Be sure to have a financial plan and meet regularly with your trusted advisor. Create an estate plan and make sure your affairs are in order to ensure that you finish the victory lap of your life well.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine what is appropriate for you, consult a qualified professional.

By
David McDonough
September 23, 2019

There have been countless news stories about how Millennials are different than previous generations, including their relationship with debt. The principles on debt – the difference between good and bad debt and how to make sure your money works for you – haven’t changed. What has changed are the ways to prepare for retirement and the mountains of student debt that many millennials are struggling under. This large debt slows down their ability to build toward their financial independence, which is a road that many have to pave on their own.

First off, preparing for financial independence has changed. One’s golden years are no longer secured by a pension. More and more people are accepting that preparing for retirement rests solely on their shoulders. The look of retirement has changed as well, with some expecting to continue working because they want to, not because they need to, as well as some embracing the FIRE movement and planning to retire well before 65. For many, the financial landscape that people are planning for has changed.

One of the things that hasn’t changed is what we have historically considered “bad debt”. Credit card debt, high car payments and other depreciating assets, can be harmful to your bottom line. These expenses don’t increase your net worth and often simply distract you from your long-term goals of financial independence. It’s a good idea to keep expenses in this category to a minimum.

Good debt, on the other hand, is money you borrow to ultimately increase your wealth. Historically, student loans for higher education and real estate have fallen under this category as they were seen to be investments that would bring sizable returns in the future. As with any investment, though, you need to critically examine your likely return to make the right decisions. If you are looking at taking student loans for higher education, the goal is for that education to secure a position that will provide you a greater salary. However, if you take out a $100,000 loan to enter a profession that generally generates an annual $40,000 salary, which doesn’t seem to be the best return on your investment. This is the lesson Millennials are laboring under. With $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loan debt[i], Millennials are struggling to make ends meet, let alone build for the future.

Like a series of dominoes, consequences of financial decisions can be far-reaching. Yes, real estate can be a building block to your financial freedom. Yet, many Millennials are delaying buying a home due to their significant outstanding student loan debt[ii]. Additionally, if you’re looking to buy a house that requires a mortgage that leaves you with little funds to contribute to savings or other investments, it may no longer be a good debt option.

In the end, everyone should be looking for ways to invest in their future. You need to be mindful about your money and how it’s working for you. While it’s good to make sure that you’re not throwing your money away, you also want to make sure that your debt is worth the expected rate of return. Everyone has multiple goals, both short-term and long-term. If you plan the right way, you can make sure that the money you have today can work for your dreams for tomorrow.

[i] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/student-loan-debt-i-had-a-panic-attack-millennials-struggle-under-the-burden-of-student-loan-debt/

[ii] https://www.forbes.com/sites/ellenparis/2019/03/31/student-loan-debt-still-impacting-millennial-homebuyers/#6a8ff1073e78

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine what is appropriate for you, consult a qualified professional.

By
David McDonough
September 23, 2019

For many young adults, college is the first time they are independently managing their own money. It can be a time marked with excitement and new opportunities, or anxiety and worry. Financial skills built at this time can have long-lasting benefits. Likewise, money mistakes made now will carry on into their future. That is why about 70 percent of college students worry about their finances[i]. However, with the right skills and habits, this can be a great time to lay a strong foundation for their future financial independence.

The first financial decision that most college students encounter are student loans. Before taking out student loans, make sure to explore other financial aid options, such as scholarships and tuition assistance from participating employers. Also, don’t forget the option of going to local community colleges for the first couple of years. If student loans are an option, it is best to resist the temptation to take the maximum amount one qualifies for. Instead, borrow only what is needed. This will help in the long run. College is an investment, and students need to be sure that their rate of return is worth it.

It is imperative that young people know how to budget, but unfortunately, that’s largely not the case. In fact, 43 percent of college students don’t track their spending[ii]. This is particularly crucial for those who have student loans. You can help your young people early by introducing them to the concept of budgeting well before you’re packing them up for college. A budget is not simply an account of where one’s money goes. It aids in making decisions, establishing financial priorities, and staying aware of how your money is working for you. Please always remind your college students that the less they spend now, the more they’ll be able to move forward in the future.

Another common first for college students is the first credit card. Credit cards are a good tool to establish small lines of credit, but monthly balances should always be paid off immediately. Not only does this avoid late fees, but it also avoids interest building on purchases. Also, protecting personal information is imperative. Students need to constantly be aware of who they are giving their information to and what is being charged to their account.

College is a busy time full of “firsts”. These experiences can have long-reaching consequences. Help your college students prepare a solid foundation to their financial independence by providing them with the proper education and tools for a bright financial future.

[i] https://news.osu.edu/70-percent-of-college-students-stressed-about-finances/

[ii] https://www.affordablecollegesonline.org/college-resource-center/student-guide-to-budgeting/

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

By
David McDonough
September 23, 2019

People are living longer – that’s a fact. Unfortunately, all those additional years aren’t always spent in optimum health. With longevity comes the complicated question of how to pay for the necessary health care for those additional years. Costs for unexpected and long-term chronic care are rarely covered by Medicare. People are having to face these costs on their own. Thankfully, the right type of planning can make this task less daunting.

Long-term care can be an overwhelming topic. The statistics are sobering. 52% of people turning age 65 will need some type of long-term care services in their lifetimes, and 14% will need long-term care for longer than five years. With the median annual cost of adult day care averaging $18,200 and assisted living facilities at $45,000, the financial implications can be staggering. It can sound like a complicated topic, but the way to protect you really boils down to three options.

  • Self-insure: This is the option that many select by default because they don’t want to think about the possibility of illness creeping into their future. It’s a scary option, which they hope won’t happen to them. However, this option typically leaves them unprepared for the medical costs that eventually do occur.
  • Long-term Care Policy: This is a good form of financial protection as it covers your risk but won’t wreck your financial plan. However, the down side with such a policy is that if you don’t use it, you lose it.
  • Accelerated Benefit Riders (ABR’s): Lastly, you can invest in life insurance you don’t have to die to use. These riders in your insurance plan will allow you to receive your benefits prior to death due to terminal, chronic or critical illness. The ABR’s will cover your risk, and you’ll still receive the benefit if you don’t need to use it for long-term care purposes.

Now, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s always best to meet with your trusted financial advisor to find the right option for you. Just know that when you do take the time to plan ahead and find the right option for your particular situation, you’re not only providing for your future but also your peace of mind as well.

[i] https://www.morningstar.com/articles/879494/75-must-know-statistics-about-long-term-care-2018-edition

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

By
David McDonough
July 23, 2019

The road to financial independence isn’t always a smooth one. There are plenty of things that can pop up and derail us from our goals. Sometimes it’s an unexpected turn of fortune, like a sudden loss of a job or a medical crisis. More often than not, though, the things that derail us from our financial goals are our own financial bad habits.

There are a lot of financial bad behaviors that plague every-day Americans: impulsive purchases and overspending, not living within your means, lack of a financial plan for emergencies and the future. One of the most challenging aspects of financial bad habits is how unassuming they seem at first glance. Most of these bad habits appear to have a minor impact in the moment. Yet, living years with these bad habits left unchecked can do more damage to your long-term financial health than some of these situational detours, like the loss of a job or a medical crisis.

Awareness of these bad habits is the key to kicking them. Once you identify what they are, you can put steps in place to work against them. Not sure where your money is going? Make a budget and make sure that where your money goes reflects your values. Are you an over spender? Perhaps avoid those spending triggers like a mall or online vendors and give yourself a cash allowance rather than utilizing credit cards. Do you need to put more money away for an emergency fund or investments? Have money automatically transferred every month to ensure that you’re paying yourself first.

If you’re not sure what your financial bad habits are or how to fix them, working with a financial advisor might be your best course of action. Having a third-party look over your financial house and habits can help identify unhelpful behavior or areas of improvement. Our Decision Coach program was especially designed for those folks who may need some additional accountability and coaching. In fact, if one of your financial bad habits is lending money you can’t afford, a financial advisor can be a great scapegoat as to why you have to start saying No. We don’t mind being the “bad guy” to your loved one if that helps you stay on your path to financial independence.

The path to financial independence can have some pot holes, the most significant being our own self-sabotaging behaviors. However, the proper awareness can bring change. Changing any type of behaviors take time and support, and we’re happy to help those who are committed to helping themselves.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

By Trilogy Financial
July 23, 2019

Like many in my generation, I prefer to subconsciously minimize the odds that I’ll become ill and ignore the reality that I’ll eventually pass. Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that illness and death are inevitable. Enter another subject we tend to ignore: Life Insurance. For many Americans – particularly young and/or single adults, life insurance is nothing more than a plot point in a Hollywood movie or true crime drama: the money collected by remaining relatives after someone has passed. However, life insurance, like health insurance, is just something you need to have. It can provide financial security for your loved ones, cover end of life expenses, and can even provide tax free income.

There are two different types of life insurance: temporary and permanent. The most common form of temporary insurance is Term insurance. Term typically lasts for a specified “term” of years, hence its name. Permanent – on the other hand – stays with you for your entire life, provided you continue to pay the premium, or have developed an account value large enough you no longer have to pay in. There are a wide variety of insurance policies available under the permanent life insurance umbrella, such as: whole life, universal life, variable universal life, and indexed universal life.

To put in another way, Term insurance can be thought of as renting insurance. You pay a monthly premium for the coverage but once the specified term of time is up that coverage goes away. The term can vary from 5 years up to 30 years. With some companies you can continue the policy, but you will have to pay premiums that are a multiple of what you had been paying during the “term” of the contract. It is used to provide protection for liabilities that will disappear after a certain time period ex: raising children, your mortgage, or income replacement. In your 20s-50s you have more people depending on you; therefore, if something were to happen to you (e.g. illness, death) you need an insurance policy that will take care of the people you support. If you pass away, you need enough coverage to pay off any existing debt, provide income replacement, and cover any other miscellaneous expenses associated with supporting your family. This coverage makes a difficult time a little bit easier by reducing the financial burden and allowing loved ones time to grieve without worrying about impending bills. Term insurance is perfect for this type of coverage as it has the lowest premiums and can be structured to disappear once certain liabilities disappear (e.g. mortgage is paid off, kids are out of the house, and your income is no longer critical to the security of your family).

Permanent Insurance, on the other hand, can be framed as owning the insurance coverage. As with term insurance, you pay a monthly premium; however, the coverage stays with you for the rest of your life, not just a specified term of time. Once your family is out of the house and your liabilities are decreased you still want to maintain some level of insurance coverage to cover end of life expenses and provide for loved ones. Permanent insurance is a great choice to cover these remaining liabilities. The premiums for permanent insurance are higher than those for term insurance because, unlike term – where the insurance company may not ever have to pay out the policy- permanent insurance means a guaranteed payout – assuming you’ve paid the premium. At some point the insurance company will have to pay. Additionally, part of these monthly premiums are placed into a cash value account which, depending on the type of policy, earns a fixed or variable rate of return and can provide tax free income. This income can be used to fund an early retirement as it can be accessed prior to age 59 ½ – the age required to legally withdraw from retirement plans without incurring penalties.

But what if you want to access the death benefit in an insurance policy without having to die – sound too good to be true? In fact, some insurance policies allow you to access death benefits before actual death! These policies feature Accelerated Benefit Riders (ABRs) which allow you to accelerate (or, in other words, use) the death benefit while still alive to cover certain terminal, chronic, or critical illnesses. Unlike health insurance, which only reimburses medical expenses, ABRs provide tax free money for you to use as you wish, assuming you have an ABR event. You can use this money for experimental treatments that health insurance will not cover or use it to travel the world. There are no restrictions on how the money is spent.

Now you know about life insurance and the many different options and benefits available to you – consider working with a financial planner to discuss the right life insurance policy for your needs.

If you have questions about insurance or any other aspect of your financial life please do not hesitate to reach out to me at zach.swaffer@trilogyfs.com

This article contains only general descriptions and is not a solicitation to sell any insurance product or security, nor is it intended as any financial or tax advice. For information about specific insurance needs or situations, contact your insurance agent. This article is intended to assist in educating you about insurance generally and not to provide personal service. Guarantees are based on the claims paying ability of the issuing company.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

By
David McDonough
July 2, 2019

Words are power, and each word has its own weight and energy. Words have inspired people to stand up for what they believe in or hang their head down in defeat. Therefore, choosing the right words to describe that which you want to manifest is very important.

For example, when speaking of aspirations for the future, there are those who use the words dreams and goals interchangeably. However, they ae distinctively different in definition and performance. A dream is boundless, fueled by your passion and imagination. However, it is akin to fantasy, with no immediate call to bring it to life. When someone tells me they dream of owning a sports car or starting their own business, I know most of the work to make that dream a reality hasn’t taken place and probably won’t for the foreseeable future.

A goal, on the other hand, is the mapwork to that dream, concrete and behavior-driven. When you have a goal, you have markers, measurements and steps to get to the destination. Setting the right goals, especially when it pertains to financial goals, can have a significant effect on how and when you achieve them. In fact, a guide to good goal-setting has long been to make it S.M.A.R.T.1:

Specific: if we are truly making a map towards our goals, telling ourselves to go in a general direction or for an undefined distance is most likely only going to get us lost. Steps towards our dreams have to be detailed and specific.

Measurable: When a goal is measurable, there is a way to track your progress to stay motivated or identify issues that may need problem-solving.

Attainable: It is admirable to be striving for something grand and lofty. However, it’s imperative that we have feasible goals that we can accomplish to keep us motivated and actually accomplish said goal.

Relevant: Having impressive goals are fine and dandy, but if they don’t move you closer to your overall goals or work against other goals you may have, it may be time to rethink them.

Time Bound: Once something has been stated as a goal, the stop watch has started. There is an expectation of completion, which is necessary to keep us moving forward towards that goal. It may not get completed in the expected timeframe, but just by having a deadline, we can stay accountable.

Based on this description of a S.M.A.R.T., you can see that there is a difference between, “I’m going to start saving money for a house,” and “I’m going to put 15% of my paycheck into a savings account specifically designated for my eventual down payment, and I should have enough saved after 3 years.” One expresses a desire while the other one lays out a concrete plan to achieve the goal.

If one seems to be fueling the other, how can a dream inhibit a goal? Well, one way is when your lifestyle fits with your dream rather than your goals. To achieve many financial goals like saving for retirement or buying a home, one needs to save and stick to a budget. However, if you fail to save and incrementally work towards the goals, it will take longer and longer to see results. Worse is if you choose to skip the incremental steps and live your dreamer’s lifestyle by using credit cards. The debt you accumulate will take you farther and farther from your goals and possible put you in an unfortunate and stressful predicament.

Sometimes when we haven’t developed a goal for a dream, it’s vagueness can work against an already established goal. Perhaps a good friend asks you to go into business with them. If you choose to pour funds into this new endeavor without any parameters, you may find yourself taking funds away from saving for retirement or depleting savings you already had. Of course, if you had outlined your goal on how to contribute to your friend’s business, with specific and timely parameters, the situation could be completely different.

Please understand that I’m not asking you to stop dreaming. In fact, quite the opposite. I happen wake up every day saying, “Dream Big! Work Hard! Laugh often!” I sign letters and thank you notes and end employee meetings with those very words. Dreaming is important.

So please know I want you to dream big and bold. At the same time, I want you to buckle down and create some S.M.A.R.T. goals to propel you closer to your dreams.

https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/smart-goals.htm

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

By
David McDonough
July 2, 2019

Retirement is a big deal, and there are a lot of moving components to plan out. Those issues multiply when there is another individual added to the mix. My definition of retirement is the financial freedom to move into the next chapter of your life, and that next chapter is different for everyone –especially spouses! This is not the time to assume the two of you are on the same page or decide that the two of you will figure it out later. Most people know that I’m a big proponent of talking to your spouse about everything financial, and retirement is no exception.  Be sure to take the guess work out of this process so you can enter the next chapter of your life in harmony.

It’s not uncommon for couples to not see eye-to-eye on retirement. About half of couples don’t agree on what age to retire[i]. Less than 10% of surveyed couples retired at the same time[ii]. And 47% disagreed on how much they would need to save for retirement[iii]. With so many areas to disagree, from where to retire to how to spend your days, how do spouses work together to achieve their cumulative goals?

I always like to recommend the couples start off by taking my financial compatibility quiz. Not only does this show the areas you may not see eye-toe-eye on, but the quiz generates a lot of conversations. Continue these conversations at monthly financial date nights to make sure that the two of you continue on the same path towards the same goals. Talk about the details – at what age do you want to retire, how do you want to spend your days in retirement, and how much of that time will be spent together. Keep in mind that most people have spent over 40 hours a week away from their spouse for decades. Retirement frees up all that time, which can be too much “togetherness” for some couples. This is why I like to take my clients through a discussion on “your time, my time, and our time,” well before it is actually time for retirement. Discussing these things in advance can allow you to compromise on issues before emotions flair and make a world of difference between living together happily in retirement or, in worst cases, filing for divorce.

Once you have an idea of what your retirement goals are, you need to formulate a plan. An experienced financial planner can be a great resource at this time, bringing up things you may not have touched on and running “what if” scenarios for you to see how your retirement dreams can be converted into actionable goals. Please start these discussions early because financial independence takes many forms, but you can’t figure out when you’re going to get there until you plan your route.

Marriage is many things, but ultimately, it is a partnership. The two of you work together to move the household forward. You may not always agree, but you find common ground by talking and sharing and compromising. If you plan ahead and plan together, you can find the right way to your coupled vision of retirement.

Take our FREE Financial Compatibility Quiz here.

[i] https://www.fidelity.com/bin-public/060_www_fidelity_com/documents/couples-retirement-fact-sheet.pdf

[ii] https://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/general/retired_spouses.pdf

[iii] https://www.fidelity.com/bin-public/060_www_fidelity_com/documents/couples-retirement-fact-sheet.pdf

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

By Trilogy Financial
July 1, 2019

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By
David McDonough
May 31, 2019

It’s graduation season, and there’s an excitement in the air about starting a new chapter. Mixed in with this excitement is an element of stress to make the right decisions: decisions on how things should be done, when they should be done and where they should be done. All these decisions are common, but they often distract from the purpose of what comes after high school.

We need to remember that higher education has a purpose. It’s more than an experience. The purpose of a college degree is employment. It is an investment, and as with any other investment, you should be calculating the return on that investment.  Spending $100,000 for a degree that secures a job with an annual salary of $40,000 is not the best rate of return.

There are plenty of creative ways to get a great college education without breaking the bank. Parents can start a 529 plan, the earlier the better, to help cover costs. Students can begin their higher education at a community college or secure college credit via Advance Placement (AP) exams. Additionally, students need to be sure that the field they are spending their time and energy on is going to reciprocate by providing solid career opportunities.

Making the wrong decision is not simply an unwise financial move. It can have lasting implications. Recent figures show that outstanding student loan debt has reached $1.5 trillion[i]. Our younger generation is not only struggling under this debt, they are also pushing off other personal and financial milestones, such as purchasing a house[ii], getting married or starting a family[iii]. These decisions can have long-lasting and far-reaching consequences.

Lastly, let’s not forget the countless parents who put their path to financial independence on hold to financially assist their struggling children. While wanting to financially help your loved ones is admirable, it helps no one to offer assistance at the expense of your own security. Just like when traveling by airplane, you need to put your own oxygen mask on and secure your safety first before aiding others. There are no scholarships for retirement, and you won’t have a financial safety net for the future if you don’t work towards creating it now.

College is truly an exciting time. Our young adults are learning who they are, where they want to go and how they intend to get there. At the same time, we cannot forget that college is a fleeting moment, one that is meant to arm the student with the tools needed to create a brighter and more successful future. Be sure to chat with your students to ensure that this experience does just that, rather than straddle these students with debt and stress.

[i] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/student-debt-just-hit-15-trillion-2018-05-08

[ii] https://www.businessinsider.com/student-debt-preventing-the-us-from-having-normal-housing-market-2019-5

[iii] https://www.bankrate.com/loans/student-loans/student-loans-survey-february-2019/

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Prior to investing in a 529 Plan investors should consider whether the investor's or designated beneficiary's home state offers any state tax or other state benefits such as financial aid, scholarship funds, and protection from creditors that are only available for investments in such state's qualified tuition program. Withdrawals used for qualified expenses are federally tax free. Tax treatment at the state level may vary. Please consult with your tax advisor before investing.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Prior to investing in a 529 Plan investors should consider whether the investor's or designated beneficiary's home state offers any state tax or other state benefits such as financial aid, scholarship funds, and protection from creditors that are only available for investments in such state's qualified tuition program. Withdrawals used for qualified expenses are federally tax free. Tax treatment at the state level may vary. Please consult with your tax advisor before investing.

Disclaimer:

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.

Bonds are subject to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Bond values will decline as interest rates rise and bonds are subject to availability and change in price.

There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.

Investing in mutual funds involves risk, including possible loss of principal.

The principal value of a target fund is not guaranteed at any time, including at the target date. The target date is the approximate date when investors plan to start withdrawing their money.

No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

By
Zach Swaffer, CFP®
May 9, 2019

Whenever new technology enters the world there are two inevitable emotions: excitement and fear. The thrill of new possibilities tempered by fears of new tech failing to live up to the hype. Take, for example: Robo-advisors. A great example of the complexities surrounding emerging tech, Robo-advisors provide automated digital financial advice based upon algorithms and/or mathematical rules.

When Robo-advisors launched in 2008 they were heralded as the dawn of a new era in financial planning. Some experts even believed this advancement signaled the end of financial planning (and real, human financial planners) as we know it. Not so. Over a decade later Robo-advisors are still around; however, they have failed to take over the financial planning world as predicted and in fact many are shuttering their doors or seriously scaling back on size.

So what happened? Why did Robo-advisors fail to eliminate the role of humans in the financial planning process? At the end of the day, it comes down to human connection. While an algorithm can crunch numbers, make predictions, and even offer investment advice, it cannot form impactful and lasting relationships like a real human. Investment selection and management is a part of what financial planners do – but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Real, effective financial planners are there to prepare you for and coach you through life’s unexpected inevitables. What happens when some life event inevitably occurs or you have a pressing question about your financial plan and when you try to get an answer you reach an automated phone tree that leads nowhere? Unlike a Robo-advisor, a financial planner is a real human available to provide advice and support when you need it. Think of them like a coach for your finances!

True, a human financial planner may cost more than a Robo-advisor. But in return they provide much more value. A study conducted by Vanguard found that working with a financial planner can add about 3% to client returns with 1.50% of that coming from behavioral coaching (that’s half the value coming from coaching alone!). When you start working with a planner you are not simply hiring an investment manager. Instead, you are partnering with someone who will work with you as life evolves to achieve your unique priorities. As you progress along your financial journey you form a trusting relationship with your advisor, so whenever you have questions or concerns you know there is a real human you trust who will answer the phone and provide clarity for you.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
April 17, 2019

“Don’t invest and forget.” This is a common sentiment that advisors try to communicate to their clients. We understand the importance of having a solid financial plan, but the plan doesn’t serve you if you set it and then don’t check in with it for years. A financial plan is a living and breathing document. As your life changes, so should your plan because those life changes can cause changes in your goals and your risks.

As you start your adult life, risks are generally low, and timeframes are typically long. You may be single, you may be renting. Should you hit some rough times, not that much may be rocked. This also applies to your investments. If there is a market shake-up, you have plenty of time to wait for the market to correct itself. Therefore, this is the time to be aggressive on your way to financial independence.

However, as your life changes, so does your risk. Perhaps you get married and start a family. Perhaps you buy a house or maybe you start a business. Suddenly, there is more at stake, there is more to lose. Additionally, while there is more at stake, there is less time. There is less time to save, less time to recoup any losses. These changes undoubtedly influence our decisions and our behavior in the market.

This change in risk isn’t done with the flip of a switch. Everyone’s life is different, hitting different life milestones at different times, starting to work towards financial independence at different places and having different goals to work towards. Therefore, computing risk, can be a gradual and complicated process. Working with a financial advisor can help you know when and how to change your risk so that you can steadily work towards the future and protect what you have today.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
April 17, 2019

Now, I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of large tax refunds (see March 1 blog). In fact, if you are consistently getting a large tax refund, you should probably adjust your withholdings so you can dedicate that money to your financial why’s every paycheck. After all, allowing the IRS to hold your money is a bad investment. If you should find yourself receiving one, though, you may be wondering how best ways to use it. It’s only normal to be tempted to do some retail therapy or splurge on a fun experience. However, it’s best to see how you can get your money to work for you before giving in to that temptation.

The very first thing to consider is how much debt you have. Large amounts of debt, whether it be student loans, credit cards or other outstanding financial obligations, can cripple you from saving for your goals. Using your tax refund to pay down debt might be the very thing to get you closer to saving for your goals.

You also want to make sure to bulk up your emergency fund. An unplanned repair, medical expense or job termination can all cost a pretty penny. Without an emergency fund, we may feel tempted to use our credit cards to cover the unexpected expense. As I just mentioned earlier, this simply takes us farther from our goals. Ensuring that we have an adequate emergency fund can make sure that we stay on target regardless of what life may throw at us.

Your tax refund can also be used to work towards your financial independence. Maximize your contributions. If you don’t have a plan, establish one. A little money can go a long way with the help of time and compound interest. Remember: there is no do-over when it comes to saving for retirement, so be sure to do as much as you can now because that time will be here before you know it.

I understand that using your tax refund check to indulge in something today can be quite tempting. More often than not, though, these distractions simply take you off your path to financial independence. You need to make sure that you’re making the money you receive today work to build the life you want to live tomorrow.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
March 12, 2019

A generation or so ago, the path to financial freedom was pretty direct for most. You found a job and saved for a home and a rainy day. When it was time to retire, you collected from a pension and enjoyed your remaining twilight years. Over time, things have drifted away from womb-to-tomb employment and gotten a lot more complicated. Today’s Americans have to be much more proactive with their finances. In this day and age, saving isn’t enough. Make sure your money is working as hard as you work for it.

There are a lot of concerns for the future. Buying a home. Sending kids to college. Making sure that your current career will be around to see you to retirement. People are living longer, so their retirement money has to go farther. Many high costs associated with medical care aren’t covered by Medicare, such as many prescriptions and long-term care. Pensions are no longer viable option for most Americans, and Social Security, a program that was never intended to replace income, no longer provides the level of security people need for their future. There’s a lot to prepare for.

Due to these concerns on the path to financial independence, people need to be mindful of their money. Even the most conservative Americans need to do more than contribute to a standard savings account, which can’t keep up with the rate of inflation. Investing your money will grow it exponentially faster than simply saving due to the power of compound interest. Yet, preparing for the future can be very emotional work. Today’s retirement planning relies far more on the decisions made by an individual rather than a company or organization, which can be a lot of pressure. Fears of not having enough money, a very common concern, can cloud decisions and can prompt people to react rather than plan. This is why an objective third party is necessary. Financial advisors can see past the emotions and help you plan your path to your financial freedom.

In this day and age, there are real and unique concerns that can derail you from the path to your financial independence. Trilogy Financial is here to help you establish your goals and invest your money to help get you where you want to go. It is our mission to ensure that every American, from Main Street to Wall Street, has access to great planning and the tools to establish their financial independence.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
March 7, 2019

A tax refund isn’t winning the lottery. It isn’t a gift. It’s the return of your money, money that you’ve earned that the government has been holding. At a time when you need your money to be working for you, you can’t afford to have your money do nothing, not even earn interest. Rather, your money needs to be working towards your financial freedom.

The issue with a large tax refund is that the money that has been withheld throughout the year could have been working for you all along. Rather than have it deducted, you could have been paying down debt, contributing to your emergency fund or investing it for your future. Yes, you can definitely do those same things with your tax refund. However, now you’ve missed out on the time your money was being held where it could have been earning interest or saving you money by paying off debt sooner.

While I am a firm believer in minimizing your withholdings throughout the year, I know that this shines a light on an individual’s sense of discipline. You need to make sure that you’re applying the additional funds where they need to go, which is not the retail fund or other expenses that aren’t working towards your future. Automatic transfers for both savings and investment accounts make it convenient to get your money to work for you. Another consequence of having a minimal amount withheld throughout the year is that you could owe the government come tax season. Once again, this supports the need for saving and being disciplined with your money.

You’ve put in a lot of hard work for your money. Not only should it be a means to your financial independence, it should be a tool that you can access right away. Take advantage of your money today to ensure that you get where you want to go tomorrow.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.

By
Windus Fernandez Brinkkord, AIF®, CEPA
March 6, 2019

The world of finance is tricky to navigate. With so many options available for your investments, it can seem complicated and daunting when trying to plan for your financial future.

The three buckets principle is a way of simplifying the complex and is suitable for people with substantial savings as well as people who are just starting out. Whether you’re well established in your career or fresh out of college, setting up your three buckets should be a priority.

How does it work?

The three buckets are:

  • Bucket 1: Emergency Funds
  • Bucket 2: The Goal Bucket
  • Bucket 3: Retirement Bucket

Bucket 1 – Emergency funds

Expect the unexpected and make sure you’ve planned financially for it.

Unanticipated costs can be devastating financially. Getting laid off work, writing your car off or escalating medical costs, for example, can set you on the financial back foot for many years.

Bucket number 1 creates a buffer of cash that is only to be used for such emergencies. By having this bucket available, it means that should the need arise you won't be dipping into other savings or going into debt to cover the cost.

How much to save in your emergency fund bucket

Aim to have 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses here. Add up all your monthly costs, such as mortgage, bills, transport costs, and groceries, and that will give you the total to aim for.

Bucket 2 – The goal bucket

This bucket is for your short to mid-term financial goals. Savings for your kid's college, a down payment on a house, or even saving for a vacation can go in this bucket.

How much to save in your goal bucket

This is effectively disposable income so anything left over after you’ve attended to your monthly outgoings and buckets 1 and 3 can be added to bucket number 2.

If you've managed to fill bucket 1 already, you can use that cash to start filling bucket 2.

Bucket 3 – Retirement bucket

It's never too early to start saving for retirement, so you should aim to have this bucket set up as soon as you possibly can, ideally, as soon as you enter the workforce.

How much to save in your retirement bucket?

Aim to save 15-20% of your gross income for retirement. If your company offers a 401(k) plan, deposit part of your bucket 3 money there. If you don't have access to a 401(k) plan, consider a Roth or traditional IRA to maximize your investment.

Bucket 3 is made for investing as you want to maximize your returns for your golden years.

These three buckets will help you successfully save for your future. It's a good idea to attend to buckets 1 and 3 first. Once you have them filling nicely, you can look to start filling bucket number 2.

This simple strategy is easy to follow yet priceless for effective financial planning. If you haven’t got yours set up yet, make it a priority to do so.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Contributions to a traditional IRA may be tax deductible in the contribution year, with current income tax due at withdrawal. Withdrawals prior to age 59 ½ may result in a 10% IRS penalty tax in addition to current income tax.

The Roth IRA offers tax deferral on any earnings in the account. Withdrawals from the account may be tax free, as long as they are considered qualified. Limitations and restrictions may apply. Withdrawals prior to age 59 ½ or prior to the account being opened for 5 years, whichever is later, may result in a 10% IRS penalty tax. Future tax laws can change at any time and may impact the benefits of Roth IRAs. Their tax treatment may change.

By
Zach Swaffer, CFP®
February 28, 2019

Do you want to start investing but fear you will be buying in at the top of the market? Well, what if I told you there was a way to invest in which you could take emotion out of the equation altogether, not only banishing market anxiety but actually taking advantage of dreaded market volatility? Too good to be true? Far from it. The panacea exists, and it’s called dollar cost averaging or, as we call it in the finance world: DCA.

Dollar Cost Averaging is a pretty simple financial strategy: you purchase a set dollar amount (say $300) of securities (stocks, mutual funds, etfs, bonds…you get the idea) on the same day each month. Because you are committed to a set dollar investment the total number of shares purchased will vary from month to month based on the market. In months where prices are increasing you receive fewer shares; however, in months with falling prices your money buys MORE shares.

How does this benefit you? It removes emotion from the investment equation by keeping you from attempting to “time the market” (which has been proven to be impossible) and helps establish the saving behavior necessary for long term financial success. You are not waiting for a certain price to be reached before buying and when markets are experiencing volatility you are not selling and sitting on the sidelines waiting for things to settle down and then attempting to determine when to buy back into the market. Rather, you are using a disciplined strategy to steadily contribute to your long term goals and when the market is on sale, prices are declining, your monthly contribution has more buying power.

Here’s what’s even better: you are most likely already taking advantage of DCA as part of your financial plan, without even realizing it! If you are contributing to an employer sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k) (which you should be!), you are taking advantage of Dollar Cost Averaging by setting aside a certain percentage of your pay and investing it on set days each month. But why limit a DCA strategy to just one segment of your financial portfolio? You can leverage Dollar Cost Averaging to efficiently build individual accounts for shorter or medium term priorities such as travel, a new car, or purchasing a house. It’s not magic or rocket science, but Dollar Cost Averaging can help take advantage of volatility in markets, remove emotion from investing, and establish a beneficial pattern of saving for future priorities.

While dollar cost averaging is a powerful financial tool it is only one component of a full financial plan. If you would like to talk more about the impact of dollar cost averaging on your personal financial plan please contact me at zach.swaffer@trilogyfs.com.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
February 25, 2019

Coming from sunny southern California, there’s nothing quite as nice as an aimless, leisurely drive down the coast. As delightful as that is, it’s not a metaphor for life. Life is complicated and moves fast. It’s easy to get sidetracked. That’s why when it comes to any of your goals, especially financial independence, a clear vision of what you’re working towards and a developed idea of the best way to get there will keep you in route to your goal. Many folks have a general idea of where they want to go. They want to be fiscally responsible, perhaps investing in a home and saving for retirement while still prepared for the financially unexpected. However, 1 in 3 Americans have less than $5,000 saved for retirement and only 16 percent of those surveyed had more than 15 percent of their income saved. We know that most people have good intentions. So why do their actions take them so far away from their goals?

It all comes down to that lack of a map – not having a well-defined goal and detailed route to get there. Yes, it’s good to know that you want to be fiscally responsible, but if you don’t have a detailed definition of what that means, how do you know when you’ve achieved it? What are you saving for? How much do you need to save for retirement and how much do you need in your emergency fund? What other financial goals do you have, and which ones take priority? Lacking those details may make it easier to get distracted by impulse purchases or detoured by a financial commitment that might not be the best for your budget or your long-term financial goals.

Once you have the destination, then you need to determine the most direct route to get there. Do you have a distinct budget for all your needs and your goals? Are you going to have a monthly amount deducted from your account to your savings goals? Have you considered the influences that work against your goals and what you might do to counter them? Having a distinct plan doesn’t mean that everything is settled. Circumstances may arise that distract or reprioritize your goals. Having a definitive plan, though, can help you recalibrate your course and prevent you from being shifted away from your goals long-term.

The road to your financial independence is oftentimes anything but direct. Between relationships, families, career, health and everything in between, it’s easy to lose sight of your goals. Yet, by thinking things through and creating a detailed plan, we can stay on course. Despite every fork in the road, every decision that tempts us away from our goals, we are able to remember what we’re saving for and the right steps we put in place to get there, which makes it easier to stay on course to our financial independence.

  1. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/27/1-in-3-americans-have-less-than-5000-dollars-saved-for-retirement.html
  2. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/15/bankrate-65-percent-of-americans-save-little-or-nothing.html
By
Zach Swaffer, CFP®
February 19, 2019

Let’s talk about employer loyalty. For much of the 20th century, Americans (by and large) followed a standard script: enter the workforce and work for a single company for decades, then throw a retirement party at 65 and cash in a pension – a reward for years of company loyalty. This pension provided retirement income; usually, a percentage of the yearly salary the employee earned while working. American Express established the first corporate pension plan in the US in 1875. By 1960, about half of the private sector employees had a pension. Of course, in 1960 the average life expectancy was 67, meaning that if you retired at 65 (standard at the time), the average pension only had to provide income for two years.

Since 1960 there have been many advances in modern medicine raising average life expectancy to 79. Suddenly, plans designed to cover a few years of post-retirement income were expected to cover retirees well into their 80s and 90s. Companies offering pensions began to realize that their retirement plans were becoming increasingly – sometimes prohibitively – expensive to fund. As pension expenses continued to rise towards the end of the 20th century, many companies were forced to design new systems to ensure their employees were financially secure come retirement.

The 401(k) plan hit the streets in 1980. The employer-sponsored retirement plan was rolled out as a replacement to traditional pensions and has since become the most common retirement savings mechanism in America. In essence, the 401(k) provides a tax-deferred way for employees to set aside wages for retirement. Employees elect to divert a certain percentage of their income each year to a 401(k) account. The diverted funds grow tax-free in that account until the employee retires.

In addition to providing the account, most companies offer a savings-match system. For instance, in a 3% match system, the company would match up to 3% of an employee’s elective contributions to their 401(k) account. The employer match provides a strong incentive for employees to start planning for retirement. If an employee doesn’t divert AT LEAST the match threshold into a 401(k) they miss out on the employer match – in other words, they lose out on free money from their employer.

Let’s talk about the benefits. Funds in a 401(k) account are able to grow tax-free. Because growth is not disturbed by capital gains taxes, accounts are able to grow faster than a standard individual account. Of course, there’s always a catch: money in employer-sponsored plans – like a 401(k) – cannot be withdrawn prior to age 59 ½ without paying penalties. Most plans offer options for the participants to increase their contribution rate on an annual basis, and small increases in contribution rate (even as small as 1%) year over year can make a huge difference by the time you retire.

Contributing to employer-sponsored retirement plans such as a 401(k) or 403(b) – the non-profit version of a 401(k) – is a vital part of preparing for retirement. The money is automatically deducted before your paycheck is cut, making it easy to budget and painlessly save for retirement at the same time.

Contributing to employer-sponsored retirement plans is an essential step towards retirement planning – but it is only the first step.

Please contact me at zach.swaffer@trilogyfs.com if you are interested in discussing the next steps you can take to ensure retirement security.

By
Zach Swaffer, CFP®
February 19, 2019

We all know we should save more. We all want to save more. Yet, month after month we face the same Groundhog Day scenario: paying all of the bills only to realize that – yet again – there is simply nothing left to save. Sound familiar?

Think about it for a minute. In our Groundhog Day scenario, you are dutifully paying every creditor in your life except for the most important: yourself! It’s time to change the narrative: moving forward, think of saving money as paying yourself. You spend all month working hard. You deserve to keep some of the compensation for that hard work. You on board? Great! To keep you honest, we’re going to set up automatic contributions.

Automatic contributions to savings or investments are a crucial step in building a stable financial foundation. Establishing automatic transfers tied to your paycheck schedule ensures that you will pay yourself for all of your efforts at work and invest in your future. It codifies the “pay yourself first” mentality and aligns your monthly spending with your available discretionary income. For example: if I see extra money sitting in my account, I’m likely to splurge on a fancy meal, or buy a plane ticket to visit my sister. Then the end of the month rolls around, and there is no money left over for saving and investment. On the other hand: if I never see the money in my account, I don’t miss it!

By paying yourself first (saving as money comes in), you will see less money sitting in your account and, accordingly, you will spend less. Over time, you won’t even notice the money being set aside. Your spending habits will have auto-adjusted to your new, post-savings cash flow. (I promise!)

One of the best parts of a “pay yourself first” system is that you don’t have to feel guilty about spending the money in your checking account. Having automatically set aside your monthly savings, you’re free to spend the rest of your money as you wish! Regardless of your balance at the end of the month, you can rest easy knowing your financial foundation is secure.

As a financial advisor, I find a “pay yourself first” savings model to be far more successful than any strict budgeting system. Budgets require line item expense tracking and don’t adapt easily to unexpected expenses. Establishing automatic transfers to “pay yourself first” allows you to maintain a more flexible budgeting system – while still sleeping well at night knowing that your saving objectives have been met.

If you would like to talk about establishing an automatic savings plan or your personal situation please contact me at zach.swaffer@trilogyfs.com.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
February 4, 2019

Role models have a very powerful function. They shape values and behaviors in all facets of life, including our relationship with our finances. Knowing the influence they have, it’s obviously important to select the right financial role model. However, many are selected with very little consideration, if any at all. When it comes to something as important as your financial independence, you need to be confident that you’re following the right example to ensure that you and your money work together for your greater good.

There are those who are fortunate to have great people in their lives to provide an example of what to value and how to live. If this good example extends to finances, you are very fortunate indeed. However, good behavior or strong values doesn’t always guarantee a good financial role model. A generous nature doesn’t guarantee a good budgeter. Support in your youth doesn’t mean they planned well for their future. When selecting a financial role model, you need to make sure you’re selecting them based on sound financial behaviors and a relationship to their financial independence that you would like to emulate.

Oftentimes, though, many haven’t realized they have already unconsciously selected a financial role model. They may assume that they are simply reacting to circumstances happening to them. However, their response may be a direct duplication of mom’s ardent saving, dad’s faith in the stock market, or Aunt Flo’s blatant disregard for a budget. When we really stop and study our financial patterns, we realize that we have adopted many financial behaviors that may or may not be aiding us in our path to financial freedom. Without any scrutiny of these behaviors, we may be in for a rude and unfortunate awakening in the future.

Rather than unconsciously mimicking behaviors, we should be consciously selecting a financial role model. As with all decisions, be aware of whose lead you are following and what you want that to mean for your finances. Selecting the right example of financial behavior will pave the way to our goals. Don’t forget that your money and your road to financial freedom is under your control – choose wisely.

By
Mark Nicolet, CFP®, MBA, ABFP™
February 1, 2019

With a long weekend with my sons and my wife out of state for a reunion with friends, we found our way to Home Depot, the library, a car wash, and of course, a local pizza parlor. These small, but meaningful experiences for our boys’ weekend left me appreciating why a commitment to an automatic, monthly savings plan provides clarity and confidence within our day-to-day lives. We ventured out as my wife enjoyed the time with her friends, knowing we had already committed to saving a determined dollar amount, prior to the decisions of this weekend, this week, and this month. Some months naturally are more expensive than others, and outside of December, it’s hard to anticipate which month(s) will squeeze you. So, this confidence can be had when you have ALREADY settled on your 401k contribution, Roth IRA contribution, your non-retirement investment account contribution, your 529 plan contribution, your insurance contribution, and other vehicles you may be using to save for your priorities. There are a lot of options, but when accounts are being funded, the money isn’t available to spend, and you are taking advantage of dollar-cost averaging.

Once in place, what’s left to spend, is up to you. You will still need to manage the groceries, gas, and other (Target, of course), but I’m confident that you can live the life you want to live, spend intentionally, and still remain on course for future financial independence. More income creates more options, yet the behavior of savings is for everyone. If you have a structure, you can make incremental changes as income increases and priorities change. Eventually, you will have worked towards saving 15%, then 20%, and then 30%. It’s easier to retire when you are comfortable when living off of $.70 of every dollar. As a Decision Coach, I help families navigate how to best allocate their income on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis through consistent and intentional communication. This provides an immense amount of clarity when your future priorities are already being saved for, especially when my boys want to grab ice cream on the way home, and I have no hesitation in saying, “Yes.” Please contact me at mark.nicolet@trilogyfs.com if you are interested in discussing your personal situation.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Investing involves risk, including the risk of loss. Dollar cost averaging involves continuous investment in securities regardless of fluctuation in price levels of such securities. An investor should consider their ability to continue purchasing through fluctuating price levels. Such a plan does not assure a profit and does not protect against loss in declining markets.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
January 14, 2019

I am a big believer in personalization in all aspects of life. The road to your goals, financial or otherwise, is paved by the personalized steps you’re willing to take and in the direction you wish to work. Driving all of that should be more than an idea or a simple plan. What is needed is a personal mission statement. A mission statement creates a sense of purpose and authenticity that acts as a compass and drives all your decisions in the right direction.

When creating your mission statement, be sure to keep it brief. Just one to two sentences will do. Approach it the same way you would approach starting your own company, reflecting your goals, your dreams, and your values. At the same time, be sure that it extends beyond your professional life and encompasses your personal life and your lifetime goals as well. Once you have your personal mission statement, be sure to read it or recite it daily.

Lastly, make sure that your actions reflect your personal mission statement. Your mission statement is meaningless if you’re not committing action to it. If your statement reflects your family values, be sure to make time for your family. If your mission statement focuses on financial independence, make sure that you’re sticking to a budget and have an all-encompassing plan. Be sure what you’re doing reflects what you claim to value.

Life can move fast, and everyday decisions can distract from your long-term vision. To ensure that you stay true to what you value and on course with your goals, create a mission statement to act as your compass and ensure that your life truly reflects you.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

By
Mike Loo, MBA
January 9, 2019

A recent survey found that among Millennial parents, nearly half have received financial support from their Baby Boomer parents in the past year, and 69% received financial support specifically for their own young children.(1) Another poll found that 3 in 4 parents with adult children have helped them pay both debts and living expenses.(2)

Clearly, it is common practice nowadays for parents to provide financially for both their adult children and their grandchildren. Many Baby Boomers are at a place where they are financially secure and have the desire to give their kids a leg up from where they were at the same age. For 2019, up to $15,000 can be gifted from one individual to another without having any tax effects. Many parents are reaching that limit with their gifts to their adult children for their own expenses and gifts to their grandchildren to fund their education and contribute towards their future well-being.

When Your Parents Give You Money

One-Time Gifts

The first thing you have to do is decide what to do with the money. Whether or not it is a one-time gift or will be ongoing will greatly influence your decision. If it is a one-time gift, it likely cannot be used to enhance your current lifestyle. Rather, you could use it to strengthen your current position by paying down debt. You could also use it for a one-time luxury, such as a vacation. Another good use would be to invest it to prepare for the future.

Of course, what you choose to do with the money will depend greatly upon your current financial situation and goals. If you decide to save it for the future, that brings up another set of questions. Where should you put the money? What kind of investment opportunities are available? How soon do you plan on needing it? The answer to each of those questions will determine what you do with the money, whether you put it in a money market account, invest in a brokerage account, or use it to fund your retirement accounts.

Ongoing Gifts

Though they are usually more beneficial, ongoing gifts are actually harder to plan for. You have to ask the same questions as above, but you also have many more options. If it will be a regular gift, you could use it to enhance your lifestyle instead of merely paying down debt or taking a vacation. Or you could use it to take advantage of a business opportunity that wouldn’t be feasible otherwise.

The hard part about ongoing gifts is knowing how safe it is to depend on them. If you make decisions based on the gift, what happens if it doesn’t come or is given sporadically? Many people fear sounding greedy or ungrateful if they ask their parents about money that they expected to receive but didn’t. The dependability of the gift money and the kind of relationship you have with your parents should be taken into account when planning for ongoing gifts.

One thing to be careful of, especially with ongoing gifts, is to not let it affect the stewardship of your own money. It is easy to change good habits and loosen the reins on your spending when you have extra money coming in. But is that wise?

Your parents are giving you money because they want to help you. Are they really helping you if you are simply becoming more careless? You should apply the same careful money habits as you would without the gift, even if it creates enough margin where you wouldn’t have to. Remember, what your parents give you is a gift. It is not required nor guaranteed, and you should manage it with that in mind.

When Your Parents Give Your Children Money

A lot of the same issues apply when your parents gift your children money or give it directly to you but for their benefit, especially when you aren’t sure if the gift will be regular and are not comfortable asking.

First, you need to decide if you should use it to meet current needs or future ones. If you save the money for your children’s college education, it could help them pay for a better school, get a better job, and avoid student debt. But if the money is spent today, it could pay for their childcare and thereby enable you to save more for retirement or get a house in a better school district, which could lead to a better education, admission to better colleges, and scholarships to avoid debt. There is no one right answer and it requires careful consideration of your family’s own unique circumstances and priorities.

College Funding

If you do decide to save the money for your children’s future, that brings up another host of questions. Where is the best place to put the money until you need it? A savings account? A 529 Plan? An UTMA? The answer will depend on a number of factors, including how liquid you want the money to be without penalties and how much control you want to maintain over the money. There are a number of options available to you, each with its advantages and disadvantages.

When saving for college, you need to have a target goal in mind. It is important to estimate the cost of college for your child in order to measure how much you need to be investing, the types of investments you should use, and to monitor your progress. Another reason to have a set goal is to avoid overfunding a college account. There should be a stopping point where you no longer invest in a 529 but rather divert the funds elsewhere. While leftover 529 accounts can be transferred to family members or have the funds removed with penalties, it may be better to simply avoid overfunding them in the first place.

Multiple Children

Having multiple children makes things even more complex because it can be hard to keep things fair and equitable. What happens when your parents, who gave a lot towards your firstborn, begin to taper off the gifts with subsequent children? Or perhaps the same amount was given, but it was divided by more and more children? What can you do so that the later children are not at a disadvantage?

Also, what happens when the gifts begin after you already have more than one child? If your parents start funding a college account when your first child is 5 and your second is 1, then the second may end up with a much higher balance upon entrance to college. What can you do and what should you do to help balance things out?

How I Can Help

These are some of the questions that arise when parents gift money to their adult children and grandchildren. Depending on the scenario, things can quickly become complex. Not only do you have to decide what to do with the money, weighing the benefits and opportunity costs, but you have to decide the best way to accomplish your goals with that money.

This is a common situation that my clients find themselves in when they turn to me for help. Together, we first determine the circumstances in which the money was given and the intent behind it. If your parents had a specific purpose in giving you the money, it is often best to honor that purpose.

Next, we discuss how you can use the money in a way that doesn’t distract you from your goals or cause you to become financially irresponsible. We talk through different scenarios in advance and address the “what-ifs” that could occur in each in order to develop a solid plan. My clients really enjoy having me there as a sounding board to bounce ideas off of, as well as to hear my insights based on the experience that I have had myself and with other clients.

If you’ve found yourself the recipient of financial gifts from your parents, or just need someone to help you sort through your own finances, call me at (949) 221-8105 x 2128 or email me at michael.loo@lpl.com. I would love to partner with you so that you can make wise financial decisions to build a secure future for you and your family.

(1) https://s1.q4cdn.com/959385532/files/doc_downloads/research/2017/Millennial-Parents-Survey-Key-Findings.pdf

(2) https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/pay-adult-childrens-debt-poll.php

By
Windus Fernandez Brinkkord, AIF®, CEPA
January 8, 2019

There are so many passwords that people need to remember these days. You have your online passwords, your wi-fi passwords, the passwords you use at work, and more. It can be enough to drive you crazy. By the time you think of yet another original password, you have forgotten the last one. It can be a little easier, however, if you follow the following Dos and Don’ts. DON’T use a password that is easy to guess. That means no password 123 or admin 2018. Don’t use something anyone could figure out, like your birthday, dog’s name, or your address. DO choose a password that only you could figure out, such as the embarrassing moment you never told anyone about or the name of the fish you overfed as a child.

DON’T share your password. Unless it is an account that you and your spouse share, there is no reason to give your account information to someone else. Remind your kids of this too. Many kids give their passwords to friends, which can lead to trouble down the line.

DO make sure your password has a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Each website will have their own rules about what is required. Make sure it is at least six characters long, too, because length can contribute to the security of the password. For example, sTE”vE218 is a lot harder to crack then STEVE218. The trickier you can be the better.

DO use underscores or spaces. If the system will allow you to, this is a great choice. Not many people who are trying to guess a password will consider spaces or underscores. Trying to decide where you inserted them is even harder.

DON’T use the same password for multiple accounts. If someone is trying to steal your information and they figure out one password, you don’t want them to have the keys to your kingdom. It is much smarter to have a different password for each site to protect your assets.

DON’T make your password so difficult that you cannot remember it. If you notice a spider outside the window as you set your new work password and you make your password SPIDER875, there is a good chance that you will not remember it the next day. While the password has to be hard for other people to guess, it should be easy for you to remember.

DO have a password to protect your passwords. If you have all of your passwords saved to your computer and you are the only one that uses your computer, you can add a second layer of protection. Choose the option to have a password on your laptop. Then you can allow Google to save your passwords for each site you visit, but no one can access them because your laptop itself is password protected.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

By
Windus Fernandez Brinkkord, AIF®, CEPA
January 8, 2019

Insurance is a necessary component to creating a financial plan that works well for you, your family, and your long-term goals. It can take just one illness, one job loss, or one car accident to turn your world upside down and crumble your financial plan.

If you have the proper insurance in place from the start, however, you can weather these life-changing moments and keep your goals and dreams on the right trajectory.

  1. Auto Insurance – Auto insurance is a must and not just because the law requires that you carry it. Auto insurance can protect your assets in the case of an accident and make sure that not only can you shoulder liability in an accident but you can also get back on the road with a car that will carry you safely to and from work. Full coverage is especially important if you owe money on your vehicle. No one wants to keep making car payments on a vehicle that was totaled in an accident.
  2. Homeowners or Renters Insurance – You have worked hard to provide for your family and homeowners and renters insurance can protect you and get you back to where you were in the case of a natural disaster or a home break-in. Depending on where you live, you have seen the damage that can be done by tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, and more. Be sure to check that your policy covers the weather most likely to wreak havoc in your neck of the woods.
  3. Life Insurance – Life insurance is absolutely necessary for any individual who supports another individual. So, if you are married or you have dependents, then you definitely want to make sure that their needs are covered if you meet an untimely death. Think about what life would be like for your dependents without your income and choose the amount of life insurance that you need accordingly.
  4. Health Insurance – Health insurance is such a smart choice. Medical costs have skyrocketed and long-term illness or serious injury can drain your savings fast. Having health insurance goes a long way in keeping your household doing well financially in the midst of a health crisis. If you do not receive health insurance through your employer, take the time to talk to your insurance agent about it.
  5. Disability Insurance – If you work you may already be getting this type of insurance through your employer. Look at the specific plan and if you are not getting enough coverage through your workplace then you may want to consider getting some through your agent or broker.

Disability insurance is important because it keeps your household operating during a long absence from work due to illness or injury.

Now is the time to make sure all of your “insurance ducks” are in a row. Catastrophe may never hit, but if it does, you want to make sure that you and your family are covered.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
January 7, 2019

When we look outwards, most of our world can seem like chaos. Political events impact the market. Technological changes create new employment opportunities and put others to rest. Illness and misfortune affect those we love. It is easy to fall under a sense of helplessness in these moments. The key to weathering these storms is to focus on the elements you can control to make for a better financial future.

The first step is to create a solid plan. Many hope for a good outcome, but hope is not a strategy for a sound future, financial or otherwise. Your plan should reflect personal and financial goals. If you have created a personal mission statement, the goals in your plan should be inspired by that. The key aspect to a plan is that it identifies possible issues and gives you concrete steps to take to weather any storms.

Part of your plan should always include paying yourself first. There are going to be numerous obligations and goals to funnel your finances towards. Be sure that saving for your financial independence is one of them because there aren’t any do-overs when it comes to retirement savings. Just as important as saving is how you save. Make sure to fill your three buckets for more financial flexibility when you retire. The more options you have, the more control you have over your financial future.

After all that work, make sure to protect your plan. Life insurance will cover your debt and obligations, should you pass. Other forms of insurance can also provide during retirement or should you become disabled. Preparing for unfortunate or far-off events is a difficult thing for many to do, but a little planning in this area can protect everything you’ve worked so hard for, for your loved ones and your legacy.

None of us can see the future or know what tomorrow will bring. With a little forethought and planning, though, you can make sure you’re prepared for whatever life throws your way. Be sure to focus on what you can control and those strategies will help you build a better financial future.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
December 17, 2018

The holidays are meant to be a joyous time, one of socializing, gift-giving and charity. Multiple holiday influencers, such as our faith, family and even the media, can impress upon us what celebrating the holidays mean and possibly lead us to overextend ourselves. The result can leave us recovering physically, emotionally, and often, financially. With a little forethought and discipline, though, we can bring in the New Year without suffering from a financial holiday hangover.

The first step is to establish a holiday budget. If married, be sure that this is a joint project with your spouse. Start with a gift list – who do you want to gift and how much do you want to spend on that gift. Be realistic with what you can afford and who warrants a gift. Don’t feel compelled to give one just because you receive one. Most importantly, stay focused on the meaning behind your gift, rather than the price tag. Your recipient will value the thought and care you gave.

The budget doesn’t stop with gifts. Consider all the non-typical expenses that arise during the holiday season; décor, food for entertaining, tips for preferred vendors, dry-cleaning for the holiday parties, hostess and host gifts or dinner tabs, and travel. Also, don’t forget about charitable giving. Including this in your budget will deter you from being influenced by emotion and possibly overextending yourself.

Clearly, when all is considered, this can be quite an extensive budget. Ideally, you want to start saving in January as the last thing you want to do is use a credit card to cover these expenses. For those who find it difficult to stick to their budget, utilizing cash or prepaid cards can help you stay on track. There are many tools available if you’re willing to use them.

This may sound like a lot, but a little forethought and discipline can go very far for you. I wish a happy and healthy holiday season to all. More than that, though, I wish you a happy and healthy new year, free from the financial holiday hangover.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
December 7, 2018

Giving to charitable causes can be a very emotional thing. You’re supporting something near to your heart, possibly with a deep personal connection. However, if you’re not mindful, it is possible to give at the expense of yourself. Be sure you don’t let your heartstrings control your purse strings.

Forethought and planning should extend over all your financial decisions, including charitable giving. For a variety of reasons, many don’t follow a plan. Some give whatever’s left in their budget, perhaps not as much as they’d like or tempting them to give more than they can afford. Others give at the end of the year for the tax break. Alternatively, perhaps charitable giving isn’t planned for at all, which allows one to be swayed by emotion when the right cause comes along. Suddenly, they can be committing based on what they feel rather than what’s best for their finances.

Once you decide to factor your charitable giving into your annual financial plan, you can start doing your research. Not only do you determine which causes you want to support, but you can also investigate various organizations that service that cause. There are many websites that evaluate charitable organizations to ensure that your financial contributions or going where you want. Additionally, having your charitable giving worked into your financial plan allows you to turn down other charitable requests graciously. Should you be approached, you can mention your annual giving plan and that you will consider them for the following year.

Being mindful about your charitable giving also gives you the opportunity to influence your children or loved ones on how to do the same. Your actions become the example to your values. While you needn’t share all the details, you can openly share how you formulated your plan and why. The more people who become aware of how to consciously create an annual giving plan, the more people are actively working towards their financial independence.

I don’t think it’s possible to take all emotion out of your connection to a charitable cause, and I don’t think you should. However, I will always be an advocate of folks proactively working towards their financial independence. The key to that is approaching your finances with reason and logic, relegating our emotions to the backseat and holding firm to your purse strings.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
November 26, 2018

Money is a commonly held taboo topic, like politics and religion. We just don’t feel comfortable talking about them – especially to people we care about. That’s because these topics are tied closely to how we view ourselves. These topics also garner a lot of judgment, and the last thing we want is to be judged on something that we feel is intrinsically linked to our intelligence or sense of maturity. Yet, by practicing a few simple tips, we can start tackling the taboo topic of family finances and get on that path to financial independence.

Be Honest

It is human nature to want to hide things we may not be proud of or want to avoid. Perhaps you charged a bit too much to your credit cards or haven’t saved as much as you planned for all of your family’s goals. You may want to avoid addressing such issues, but those who are part of your financial household need to know the honest, unvarnished state of your finances. Trying to hide the facts will just compound your issues when they come to light – and they will.

Be Frequent

Don’t just talk about money when money is a problem. That’s when stress levels are high and emotions are frayed. What needs to be a level-headed discussion can quickly escalate into an emotional shouting match. Instead, conversations about finances should become routine. If you schedule a monthly financial date night with your spouse, the frequent exposure will minimize the surprise and anxiety from these talks. Ultimately, there will be fewer surprises and more planning to help when unexpected or hard decisions need to be made.

Be Open to Feedback

You and your spouse are a team. Teams succeed by working together towards the same goals. Teammates, though, don’t always see things the same way and may have different approaches to the same objective. That’s why it’s important to get your spouse’s input on how your finances are being managed. Not only does your spouse’s input ensure you’re working towards the same goals, but different perspectives can also provide multiple solutions to financial issues. Most importantly, your spouse feels heard and validated, which is a precious thing to give to the one you love.

Be Non-Judgmental

What causes many to shy away from discussing finances is the idea that they will be judged for things they did or did not do with their money. Did you mismanage your funds and refrain from saving sufficiently? Were you too risky with your investments or not risky enough to provide for the household? To avoid the judgment, most will just avoid talking about their finances all together, which doesn’t often have good outcomes. Avoidance doesn’t help financial situations – it often just prolongs the mess. To help your spouse open up, it is beneficial to allow them to speak openly and freely and to listen without judgment.

I do believe that it is imperative to take the taboo out of talking about money with your spouse. Both of you should foster frequent and honest financial discussions, free of strife and judgment. Doing these things will allow you to solidify yourselves as a strong financial team and set you on your path for collective financial independence.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
November 9, 2018

I personally believe that one of the advantages of doing well financially is to be able to “give back” to causes that are near and dear to your heart. However, when we feel passionate about a cause, the emotional pull can tempt us to financially overextend ourselves. With some forethought, though, you can utilize creative measures that allow you to be generous without breaking the bank.

Your Time

Before you pull out your checkbook, perhaps consider getting your hands a little dirty. Whether it’s cleaning trash from the beach, working at a food pantry or assembling packages for our troops stationed far and wide, nonprofit organizations are powered by people. Even the simplest volunteer work can make a significant impact on an organization in need.

Your Talent

Some of us have specialized talents and skills that can be of value to a charitable organization. If you have an accounting background, perhaps you can offer your services to a nonprofit close to your heart. If you run a landscaping company, you can choose to donate your services to your alma mater. Such specialized services can be of great value to an organization and not make much of a dent in your personal finances.

Your Treasure

Just as there are different types of non-profit or charitable organizations, there are also different ways to financially contribute to them. Many of us are familiar with direct contributions, donations that may qualify to be deducted from your income tax. You could also contribute via donor-advised funds, which allows you to make charitable contributions to specially designated funds at a specific charity, receive a tax benefit from the contribution and recommend grants to be funded by the charitable fund account. Another option is to donate appreciated stock or appreciated real estate, which provides a significant tax deduction. Some choose to leave a charitable donation after they pass via a trust  These gifts in trust can be tricky, so it is advisable to meet with a professional to avoid any issues. Additionally, there are those who prefer to utilize charitable gift annuities, which allows an individual to receive a fixed income after donating money, securities or real estate.

There are as many worthy charitable organizations as there are stars in the sky. When your funds won’t allow you to do more, there are always other ways to “give”. Doing so thoughtfully and creatively can ensure that everyone benefits.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.

  1. https://www.nptrust.org/what-is-a-donor-advised-fund
By
Mike Loo, MBA
November 2, 2018

In 2015, Americans spent $225 billion on long-term care. That’s 7 ½ times what was spent 15 years prior, in 2000. With the great advances we have made in medicine and medical technology, people are living longer. The downside to that is that it means people are more likely to need care and need it longer. In fact, over half of people turning 65 will need long-term care at some point in their lives.(1)

Types Of Long-Term Care

When you think of long-term care, skilled nursing facilities are probably what comes to mind. However, that is actually the last step in the long-term care journey. Most long-term care is not medical; it is simply assistance with basic activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, eating, and going to the bathroom.

Even without serious medical problems, most people become less and less capable of taking care of themselves as they age. Traditionally, people would turn to family for help with such things. However, in our modern era where families live far apart and adult children are already overburdened with careers and children, more and more people have to pay for long-term care services.

The most basic, and least expensive, form of care is homemaker services. Homemaker services do not involve anything medical, but rather things like meal preparation, cleaning, and running errands. The next step up, which does have a medical component, would be a home health aide.

Once basic in-home assistance is not enough, specialized facilities are needed. Care outside of the home can be in the form of adult day healthcare, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes.

Costs Of Long-Term Care(2)

Costs vary depending on the type of care needed and the part of the country in which you live. On an annual basis, the national average goes from just under $48,000 for homemaker services to over $97,000 for a private room in a nursing home, and that number is growing about 3-4% a year.

Things change drastically when you look at specific locations. In San Francisco, homemaker services are more than 150% the national average and growing twice as fast. A private room in a nursing home averages $171,185 a year. Even downgrading to a semi-private room still costs over $141,000 a year. Twenty years from now, that same semi-private room is expected to cost over a quarter of a million dollars.

As you can see, long-term care can be very expensive, especially with the rise of dementia, where people can live a long time while needing care. In 2018, the estimated lifetime cost of care for someone with dementia is $341,840,(3) and it’s probably much higher in a state like California.

Ways Of Paying For Long-Term Care

Because of the high cost, it is important to plan ahead for long-term care. There are a number of ways to pay for care, each with its advantages and disadvantages.

Medicaid

The vast majority of Americans turn to Medicaid for their long-term care expenses. However, it’s not because it’s a great option. Rather, it’s their only option. In order to qualify for Medicaid, you have to have a low income and low assets, so it’s not really something people plan for intentionally.

Self-Insure

On the opposite end of the spectrum from the people that can qualify for Medicaid are those who have amassed enough wealth to self-insure. If you have $50 million in assets, you can afford to pay $170,000 a year for a nursing home and it won’t have a significant impact on your finances.

The danger is that sometimes people take too great a risk thinking they can self-insure. Often, care is needed later in retirement when savings have already been spent down significantly. Having $500,000 in the bank may seem like a lot of money, but long-term care expenses can eat through it very quickly. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a couple to spend all of their savings on the husband’s care only to leave the wife destitute at his passing.

Life Insurance With A Long-Term Care Rider

One option for those that find themselves in between broke and very wealthy is adding a long-term care rider to their life insurance. If you have, or are planning on purchasing, permanent life insurance, your policy may allow you to add a rider that would help pay for your long-term care costs. Using the long-term care option will often lower your death benefit, but many people appreciate knowing they will receive a benefit even if they never need long-term care.

Premium Paying Long-Term Care Insurance

Another option is buying pure long-term care insurance. Like with most kinds of insurance, you pay a regular premium in exchange for receiving a benefit when you need long-term care. One downside to this for many people is that you will only receive a benefit if you end up needing long-term care. As with car insurance where you have to get into an accident in order to get money out of it, if you never need care, you never see your money again.

Asset-Based Long-Term Care Insurance

The final option has been the fastest growing long-term care option over the last decade.(4) It is a combination of long-term care insurance and single premium life insurance, commonly called asset-based insurance.

The way it works is that you pay a large amount up front and then low annual premiums. You have several times your initial deposit available tax-free for long-term care needs. If you never use it or cancel your plan, you usually get your deposit back plus interest. Some plans even include tax-free death benefits.

Choosing A Long-Term Care Option

Looking at the statistics, you can tell that planning for long-term care is an important thing to do. Failing to do so can be a costly mistake. Because the multitude of options available can be complex and confusing, it’s important to work with an experienced financial professional.

An experienced advisor can explain all of your options to you, help you consider the pros and cons of each, and decide which is the best solution for your particular situation. If you want that kind of help choosing a long-term care option, call my office at (949) 221-8105 x 2128, or email me at michael.loo@lpl.com to set up a no-strings-attached meeting.

(1) https://www.morningstar.com/articles/879494/75-mustknow-statistics-about-longterm-care-2018-ed.html

(2) https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html

(3) https://www.morningstar.com/articles/879494/75-mustknow-statistics-about-longterm-care-2018-ed.html

(4) https://www.525longtermcare.com/asset-based-ltci/

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
October 15, 2018

Often, my clients ask me, “How will I know if I’m ready to retire?” It sounds like a simple question, but the answer is anything but. There are so many factors to consider, questions to answer, scenarios to prepare for, that it can all seem very overwhelming. To make things manageable, though, let’s start off with a dream.

We know that retirement can be expensive. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal, participants would need 130% of their salary in retirement to live their ideal retirement life.1 You see, most of us spend money during our free time, and as one of my advisors says, retirement is basically six Saturday’s and a Sunday. If your retirement is filled with lazy days reading in your backyard, your expenses will probably be limited. However, if you plan on traveling, tackling home improvement projects or long-ignored hobbies, all of these come with additional expenses. Additionally, things you may have been able to earn in relation to your job, such as airfare and hotel points for frequent travelers, are no longer as easily accessible once you turn off your wage-earner card.

Therefore, the first step on your checklist is to visualize your retirement. If you’re not sure where to start, simply look at what you do in your current free time and determine if that’s something you would like to do more of when you retire. Not only does this help in your financial planning, but it helps you determine what you want the next chapter of your life to be. It is unfortunately common for retirees to experience depression related to a lack of purpose or identity when they enter retirement with an undeveloped vision of their next chapter. Therefore, the more details you can determine, the better the planning process will go.

For people who are married, things become a bit more multi-faceted to plan. You’re not only figuring out how to occupy your free time, but your spouse is also doing the same, and the two of you need to figure out how you plan to spend your shared time together. Without this planned out, you end up with a lot of togetherness, which can be quite an adjustment to most couples. Not only can differences in your retirement vision impact your relationship, but it can also impact your finances. Take advantage of monthly financial date nights well before retirement begins and solidify your retirement vision.

Perhaps you’ve finalized that retirement vision and discovered you won’t have a lot of expenses. You will most likely have those expenses for a long time though. People live much longer now, on average into their mid-eighties.2 It would be great to assume that those years will be spent in good health, but the likelihood is that your medical expenses will go up. According to the Fidelity Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate, the average couple will need about $280,000 for medical expenses in retirement.3 Even if you stay away from long-term care needs or expensive treatments, annual premiums and out of pocket costs like doctor visits and medications typically cost about $5,000 annually.4 There may be certain elements you may not be able to foresee, but you should still try to plan for as much as possible.

Once you’ve determined what your vision for retirement is, you need to determine how much you’ll need to live that lifestyle. You need to be sure that the income you’ll be receiving will fund that vision. Just to be sure, once that number is determined, try living on that budget for about six months. If you find out that you’re struggling, some adjustments will need to be made, whether that’s working longer or altering the retirement vision. Practicing your retirement lifestyle isn’t merely relegated to your budget. If you typically work 50 to 60 hours a week, start cutting back. Maybe take on fewer projects. Prepare as much as you can for this life adjustment. You’ve worked really hard to get to retirement. Be sure to put in the extra work to make it the retirement of your dreams. Retirement is a massive decision. I urge you not to take it lightly. There is a reason that the five years before and after retirement are considered dangerous. Certain things like pensions, pay-outs and in some cases, social security can’t be undone. The best way to make an informed decision on what’s best for you is to meet with an Advisor who can run the scenarios for you. If you choose to push retirement off, your investments can continue to grow. In the end, you will be putting the proper steps in place to make your retirement dream a reality.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

  1. https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-much-money-will-you-really-spend-in-retirement-probably-a-lot-more-than-you-think-1536026820
  2. https://www.fidelity.com/viewpoints/personal-finance/plan-for-rising-health-care-costs
By
Mike Loo, MBA
October 11, 2018

How much time have you spent thinking about your future death? If you’re like most people, probably not much. Thinking about your death or that of a loved one can bring up plenty of unpleasant emotions, but having a plan to take care of the details can ease some of the stress in a time of grieving. So if you’ve lost someone close to you or just want to create a plan for the future, follow this checklist to help you deal with the financial side of an unexpected death.

Organize Documents

In the aftermath of a loved one’s passing, his or her will is not the only document you will need. In order to do things like request benefits or change the name on car titles, you will also need copies of the following:

Birth certificate

Death certificate

Marriage certificate

Social Security card

Automobile titles

Property Deeds

Insurance policies

Bank, investments, and retirement account statements

If you want to plan ahead, ask yourself: Do you have an organized filing system, or are all your important documents strewn about in different places? As you organize your family’s documents, make sure the appropriate people have access to the information they will need in the event of an unexpected death.

Notify The Appropriate Contacts

There are a few people you will need to contact who will be able to help you through the process of taking care of the deceased’s finances. As soon as you are able, reach out to their financial advisor, insurance agent, attorney, and accountant. These professionals are trained to know how to handle an unexpected death, and they will be able to direct you to the right sources of information and help you make the best decisions possible.

Take Care Of Immediate Financial Needs

When someone close to you dies, there are many time-sensitive tasks that need to be taken care of. These tasks often have a financial element involved. For example, when making funeral arrangements and covering burial expenses, be sure to review life insurance policies and look for any pre-arrangement details or last wishes the deceased may have left. Some expenses may be covered, which will save you a financial headache. Speak to the deceased’s financial advisor to see if there are any easily accessible funds set aside for bills or debt payments that cannot be deferred.

Review Benefits

Surviving family members may be entitled to certain benefits, such as Social Security benefits and perhaps pension benefits, life insurance, and annuities. Contact the human resources department of the deceased’s employer, who can explain and document the following benefits that may be available to you, including:

Life insurance

Healthcare, or extended healthcare coverage through COBRA

Compensation due, such as stick options or unused vacation pay

401(k) or pension

Depending on your relationship to the deceased, you may need to apply for Social Security survivor benefits, update insurance beneficiaries, and apply for settlement.

Manage Their Estate

Finances can get messy when someone dies. Our financial lives can be complicated, so use this list as a starting point for closing accounts, updating information, and taking care of the countless details. Look into whether the deceased had any of the following accounts and contact the institution:

Checking Account

Savings Account

Brokerage Account

IRA

401(k)

403(b)

Health Savings Account

Flexible Spending Account

College Funds

Don’t forget about debts. Debts don’t disappear when someone passes away. Investigate the following and make sure those who are now responsible for these debts are aware of the creditor’s name, outstanding balance, name on the debt, loan terms, and the amount, timing, and method of payments.

Mortgage

Home Equity Line of Credit

Automobile Loans

Personal Loans

Student Loans

Credit Cards

Make sure you don’t forget about recurring household expenses, such as utilities, and how and when to pay them: .

Property Taxes

Electricity

Sewer

Water

Natural Gas

Garbage

Telephone

Cable TV

Internet Service

Landscaping

House Cleaning

Homeowners Association Dues

Other organization membership dues

Work With A Trusted Advisor

Handling the details after the death of a loved one can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it alone. Financial professionals are experienced with these situations and can guide you through the steps that apply to your unique circumstances. They will not only help you take care of pressing problems and concerns, but can also help you feel more secure in a time of financial change. A financial advisor can make sure your affairs are in order, update your financial plan, and implement appropriate strategies to help you stay on track financially.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
October 8, 2018

Your Financial Future Family ties are amazing. These connections, based in DNA, history and genuine care, can prompt many to support their loved ones through times of need, be it emotional, physical and even financial. It is natural to want to support your family, but the players involved can double (or even triple or quadruple in cases of blended families), increasing the financial strain. Since these familial situations can snowball quite quickly, I urge you to focus first on your own financial independence and be sure not to let your parents and your children squeeze your financial future. While many hate to be a burden on their family, it’s actually quite common for people to financially assist other family members. According to Ameritrade’s Financial Support Study, one-fifth of Americans are Financial Supporters, meaning they provide financial support to a parent and/or an adult child.1 A survey conducted by GoBankingRates found that 63 percent of children plan to financially support their parents in some way once they retire.2 On the other end, parents are also financially supporting their grown children. Per Financial Planning OWS, 24% are helping with rent and 39% are paying cell phone bills.3

My primary advice is to always pay yourself first. Be sure to establish a healthy emergency fund and contribute to your retirement. It’s similar to what you hear on airplanes about placing the oxygen mask on yourself before placing it on others. You need to be sure that you are fiscally secure before you provide for those who are financially struggling. This is very sound, logical advice, which can be difficult to follow once emotions come into play.

Most of the decisions I see my clients struggle with are when the emotional and the financials are at odds. When your daughter wants to go to that expensive, out-of-state college that you didn’t save enough for, it’s tempting to try to make it work, whatever means necessary. Or perhaps your son is going through a costly divorce, and the only way you feel you can support him and ensure you see your grandkids is to borrow from your retirement to hire him a good lawyer. These are the moments when you need to be able to tell your child and yourself, “No”. In most cases, there are other options and alternatives in place. They may not be the dream situation, but they will still get the job done. Don’t sacrifice your future for your child’s dream, no matter how compelling. Don’t let emotions cloud good judgment.

On the other end of the spectrum, is a harsh reality. When dealing with parents who may not have planned sufficiently or are in the midst of a financial crisis, be sure that you are communicating as one adult to another. If possible, you may want to tackle those financial conversations early. Some of these difficult financial conversations with parents are tied to medical issues, so be sure to discuss before physical situations become dire.

When you find yourself in the midst of these difficult situations, please don’t forget about your support system. Your financial advisor can act as an unbiased referee in moments of disagreement or emotional struggle. They will likely remember the important financial issues that may slip your mind and will be ruled by numbers rather than nostalgia. At the moments when you need a pragmatic perspective to shine through the cloud of emotions, a trusted financial advisor can be invaluable.

In a time where many people find themselves part of the Sandwich Generation, taking on financial burdens can seem inevitable. Yet, so much can be avoided and accomplished when you act in advance. Start chatting with mom and dad while they’re still in good physical and financial health. Start saving for colleges as early as possible. When you’re proactive, you can prepare. When you’re reactive, people and finances can take a hit.

  1. https://s1.q4cdn.com/959385532/files/doc_downloads/research/TDA-Financial-Support-Study-2015.pdf
  2. https://www.gobankingrates.com/retirement/planning/kids-plan-financially-support-parents-retirement/
  3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolynrosenblatt/2018/07/09/aging-parents-helping-adult-children-financially-unhealthy-results/#321bb1e2ef39
By
Mark Nicolet, CFP®, MBA, ABFP™
September 24, 2018

“What’s top of mind?” is an incredible starting point for a financial planning conversation. A client will oftentimes start with a story, not the balance of their retirement account or what they spent last month on dining out. More recently, children have been top of mind for a lot of families. How should we pay for college? Should we pay for college? I want to save for my child, but have more flexibility than an education account. Education and the cost of college is the obvious priority with kids. I’ll suggest protecting your child with life insurance with accelerated benefit riders as a second priority. Let me explain, after you just tensed up and committed yourself to not discussing.

As a parent, I pray nothing happens to my two sons. Unfortunately, I don’t have complete control of that outcome. Here are three reasons why I’ll suggest life insurance for your child.

Accelerated benefit riders give you access to the death benefit, if your son or daughter experiences a terminal diagnosis, chronic disability, or a critical event. If any of these conditions take place, I’m not going back to work the next day. I’ll living at the hospital, eating restaurant food, and spending money on unanticipated expenses outside of what health care pays for, without having to take a loan on my 401k or deplete my savings account.

A death benefit (unimaginable) provides peace of mind that if the worst were to happen, your family wouldn’t have to think about work, the mortgage, or time off. You simply could spend time together grieving the most difficult time in your life. Enough said.

The cash value growing inside of your indexed universal life policy (form of permanent insurance) creates a saving vehicles indexed to the S&P 500 over the life of the policy. If at a certain point in your now grown child’s life, you can surrender the policy and provide a jump start for their first down payment, wedding, or other significant event in their life, OR even give the policy to your child for them to now pay their own premium and have a level of life insurance in place.

Why don’t I invest my money in the market and have more to give to my child when he/she is grown? I agree with this philosophy, assuming none of the aforementioned events happen while your children are under your roof. Since the cost of insurance for a child is so low, I’m willing to protect my child first, then if nothing happens, I have an opportunity to gift them their starter policy as they start their own career and family. If you have a term policy in place, you can oftentimes add a child term rider for a small additional premium. Cheers to being a parent. If you have further questions about this type of planning, please reach out to Mark Nicolet, CFP®, at mark.nicolet@trilogyfs.com or 303-300-3323 ext. 5227.

This material contains only general descriptions and is not a solicitation to sell any insurance product or security, nor is it intended as any financial or tax advice. For information about specific insurance needs or situations, contact your insurance agent. This doesn't take into account your personal characteristics such as budget, assets, risk tolerance, family situation or activities which may affect the type of insurance that would be right for you. In addition, state insurance laws and insurance underwriting rules may affect available coverage and its costs. Guarantees are based on the claims paying ability of the issuing company.

By
Mike Loo, MBA
September 12, 2018

Before the year’s end, in the midst of the holiday events, travel, and overall busyness, the last thing you want to think about is tackling your finances. But considering how finance-related resolutions are the third most popular New Year’s resolution, why don’t you give yourself a head start on next year’s financial goals by finishing this year strong? Here are ten critical financial actions you’ll be glad you took when the ball drops on New Year’s Eve!

  1. Amp Up Your Retirement Savings

If possible, max out your contributions to your 401(k) by the end of the year to make the most of your retirement savings. For 2018, you can contribute as much as $18,500 (or $24,500 if you are age 50 or older). You might also consider contributing to a Roth IRA. For 2018, you can contribute as much as $5,500 (or $6,500 if you are age 50 or older). Keep in mind that if your income is over $199,000 and you’re married filing jointly, you won’t be eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA.

  1. Use Your Medical And Dental Benefits

Did you have good intentions of taking care of some dental work, blood tests, or other medical procedures? Now’s the time to take advantage of all your healthcare needs before your deductible resets. Dental plans in particular often have a maximum coverage amount. If you haven’t used up the full amount and anticipate any treatments, make an appointment before December 31st.

  1. Verify Expiring Sick And Vacation Time

Depending on your company, your sick or vacation time might expire at the end of the year. Check with your HR department to learn about any expiration dates. If your sick or vacation time does expire, fit in a last-minute vacation, a staycation, or trips to the doctor to use up these benefits.

  1. Use Your Flexible Spending Account

Like your health insurance benefits, you’ll want to use up your FSA (Flexible Spending Account) dollars by the end of the year. Your benefits won’t carry over and you’ll lose any unspent money in your account. Check the restrictions for your account to see what the money can and cannot be used for.

  1. Double-Check RMDs

If you’re retired, review your retirement accounts’ required minimum distributions (RMDs). An RMD is the annual payout savers must take from their retirement accounts, including 401(k)s, SIMPLE IRAs, SEP IRAs, and traditional IRAs, when they turn 70½. If you don’t, you may face the steep penalty of 50% of the distribution you should have taken. To calculate your RMD, use one of the IRS worksheets.

  1. Stay On Top Of Charitable Contributions

If you made a charitable contribution in 2018, you might be able to lower your total tax bill when you file early next year. It can be especially advantageous if you donated appreciated securities to avoid paying taxes on the gains. Along with your other tax documents, find and organize any receipts you have from your donations to charities, whether it was a cash, securities contribution, or another type of gift.

  1. Review Your Insurance Coverages

A lot can happen in a year. As you experience life changes, from the birth of a child to marriage to a new career, it’s important to regularly review your insurance coverages and your designated beneficiaries. Now is the ideal time to review your current insurance policies and make sure they are up to date. You might also want to evaluate your need for other types of insurance you may not currently have, such as long-term care insurance.

  1. Prepare For A Market Correction

We are currently in the longest bull market in history2 and the stock market just keeps hitting record highs3. But we know that what comes up must eventually come down. Prepare yourself and your money by sticking to a long-term strategy, rebalancing your portfolio, and keeping your emotions in check. As long as you are following sound investment principles, only investing long-term money, and keeping your assets within your risk tolerance, you should have no reason to panic when we experience a market downturn.

  1. Talk To Your Kids About Money

The holidays are usually a time for families to get together and reconnect. Use this time intentionally by talking with your kids about money. No matter how old they are, you can give them sound wisdom that will set them up for success. Make sure they understand the importance of saving for retirement and having the proper amount of insurance coverage. Another way to help your kids financially is to create an estate plan to make sure you leave a legacy and avoid passing down a significant tax burden or legal headaches to your kids. If you’ve already taken the time and energy to create an estate plan, you’ll want to check in periodically to ensure all the documents are up to date and no major details have changed.

  1. Give Without Gift Tax Consequences

It’s never too early to start planning for the legacy you want to leave your loved ones without sharing a good portion of it with Uncle Sam. You may want to consider gifting. Each year you can gift up to $14,000 to as many people as you wish without those gifts counting against your lifetime exemption of $5 million. If you’ve yet to gift this year or haven’t reached $14,000, consider gifting to your children or grandchildren by December 31st.

  1. http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/
  2. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/22/longest-bull-market-since-world-war-ii-likely-to-go-on-because-us-is-best-game-in-town.html
  3. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2018/08/21/stocks-hit-record-highs/922315002/
By
Mark Nicolet, CFP®, MBA, ABFP™
September 5, 2018

As the fall approaches and football season begins, each team has a new energy, a fresh game plan, and oftentimes, a new coach. A new coach brings a different strategy, culture, and mindset. When a new coach arrives, expectations are higher, but remain realistic as fans know winning a championship takes time. With that said, I’m going to argue for a coach who has staying power. Remaining with the same team or school has a long-term impact and provides a consistency that develops into success. John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, said it best, “It takes time to create excellence. If it could be done quickly, more people would do it.” As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and decision coach, I’m committed to long-term client relationships. By developing and strengthening these advisor-client relationships, I will better understand the context of each client’s story and the history of their decision-making, guiding them to their next best decision. I know life will happen to my clients and I will be alongside them for each step, helping them to adjust the game plan and strategy for continued success. I have and want staying power, because I know it benefits my clients over the life of their financial plan. I create this staying power by working on a referral basis, where trust and credibility already exist, because I want to attend their retirement party. I want to see their kids go to college. I want to guide them through a job transition or business venture. Now, be careful, because a coach can get stale and lose the team, so if you need a second opinion on your current plan, or you’re looking for an advisor with staying power, please reach out to me at mark.nicolet@trilogyfs.com.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
August 31, 2018

There are some great advertisements that show you retirees traveling, gardening and enjoying their hard-earned reprieve from the workforce. It gives a great glimpse of how good retirement can be, giving folks something to strive for. However, it’s not the only reflection of retirement. Sometimes there are valleys to go along with those peaks, and one of the most distinct valleys that are experienced in retirement is mounting health care costs.

The financial weight of health care can start off with small steps, or small pills to be precise. Nine out of ten people 65 and older have commented that they have taken at least one prescription drug within the last 30 days.1 As health issues progress, so can treatments, with some people having multiple medications and continuous appointments, not all being covered by private health insurance. According to an annual estimate conducted by Fidelity, the average retiring couple “will need $280,000 to cover health care and medical costs”.2 While many expect to rely on Medicare for their health care costs, the program is not comprehensive. Fidelity’s figure includes deductibles, cost-sharing requirements for certain medications, as well as services and devices that Medicare doesn’t cover, like hearing aids. For the unprepared, these figures can be staggering.

Those who are unprepared can, unfortunately, find themselves sliding into practices where they are not taking care of themselves in retirement. According to the 2018 Economic Well-Being Report, a quarter of adults went without needed medical care because they were unable to afford the cost.3 Those who do go in for medical care can be overwhelmed by mounting medical costs. According to a study done by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “43 million Americans owe a medical debt.”4 Stress-induced by medical issues combined with stress over mounting medical costs is not what people expect to experience in their retirement.

The key to good retirement planning isn’t to plan to maintain your current lifestyle. It is to plan for possibilities and scenarios that may not seem likely today, but that statistics show could impact your tomorrow. While these statistics can be very overwhelming, if you start saving early and work with a trusted financial professional, you can be fully prepared to enjoy your retirement. In the end, you need your finances to be in good health for those moments when your body can’t be.

https://www.iris.xyz/advisor/9-facts-about-retirement

http://time.com/money/5246882/heres-how-much-the-average-couple-will-spend-on-health-care-costs-in-retirement/

https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/2017-report-economic-well-being-us-households-201805.pdf

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/4-tips-keep-medical-debt-overwhelming-174638865.html

By
Mike Loo, MBA
August 30, 2018

Whether we attribute it to a decline in marriage rates, poor job prospects, student loan debt, technological improvements, or generational shifts, times have certainly changed for young adults. One major topic which my clients bring up centers around their adult children moving back home. While this was not a common conversation ten years ago, I come across this topic more often nowadays. I’ve heard statistics such as “a third of young people, or 24 million of those aged 18 to 34, lived under their parents’ roof in 2015”, and look at it as my job as an advisor to provide advice on how to best navigate through this new landscape.(1)

Within this topic, a common question that I try to help my clients answer is this: Should I charge my adult children rent if they move back home? What I’ve found is that every situation is different, so what may work for one family, may not work for another. However, in this article, I hope to provide a framework to consider when trying to answer the question.

Setting Expectations

Depending on your own experiences and values as parents, as well as the specific circumstance of your adult child, you may insist that they live at home rent-free. For example, if your adult child is being responsible by saving a good share of his/her paycheck for a house down payment and you want to reward that responsible behavior by letting him/her live at home rent-free, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. For other parents, such an assistance for an adult child does not make sense, and no matter what the circumstances, would believe it only right to charge for rent if living at home.

No matter where you fall on this spectrum, it is important to set expectations with your adult child. For instance, if you decide that it is out of your comfort zone to charge your child rent for living at home, then what other mechanisms can you put into place to make sure he/she does not get too comfortable? In my experience, I’ve seen parents create timelines and goals, as well as make it crystal clear that the adult child must still pitch in, in other ways such as chores or errands. While it may be a tough conversation initially, imagine the alternative. What if your child gets too comfortable living at home and would rather stay at your “hotel” rather than spread their wings in the real world!

Whether rent is being paid or not, the adult child will have a particular reason as to why they want to or need to live back at home. If they are simply being lazy and are not making an effort towards adulthood, it is crucially important to provide clear expectations. As parents, you want to always help and support, but you never want to enable. Therefore, in this example of being lazy, a parent could set expectations of applying for X number of jobs per week, or something similar.

How Much To Charge For Rent

If you do decide that it makes sense to charge your adult child rent, how much should you charge? In my experience, parents usually charge well below market rates. As parents, you want to help your child out, but you also want to build up their personal finance awareness. How much you charge will also be highly correlated to what your daughter or son can afford, and could change over their time living with you. By having an open conversation and being clear about why you will be charging them, it should not be hard to fall on a number that makes sense for your family.

Alternatives

There are also other ways in which your adult child could pitch in that could be alternatives to paying rent. Such alternatives could be household chores or errands, cooking meals, or even helping parents with their own work. In addition, it could make more sense to have your adult child pay for other household expenses (instead of rent), such as internet, tv, or groceries.

Another alternative could be to make their stay at your home contingent on them depositing money into their own retirement account. This way, you are teaching them how to save and plan for the future.

Finally, if you want to help them grow personally, you can make their stay at your home contingent on community service or volunteering. This is a win-win as well!

Budgeting

This experience can also be thought of as a great teaching moment for your child. Specifically, parents in this situation are in a unique position to extol the virtues of budgeting and personal finance when their child needs it most. If the adult child in your household has to pay you rent and decide how to allocate their small-to-no income, they will quickly learn how to budget. As a parent, you may decide to get creative and instead of using the rent money for expenses, stash it (and maybe even match it) into a savings account for your child. They will be happily surprised with a small nest egg to leave home with!

Other Considerations

Other considerations that I make sure clients consider is their own budget and retirement goals. If your adult child is going to come back home and live there, you’ll want to make sure that adding another adult to the household does not negatively affect your own goals. Because you’d anticipate that household expenses will go up, you must make sure you budget for them, based on your expectations and timeline with your adult child. Again, by having an open conversation with your adult child, I am confident that a reasonable game plan can be implemented with success.

Having this conversation is not always an easy one, but I hope that the considerations above help provide better ways to think about it. If you’d like to discuss your situation further, call my office at (949) 221-8105 x 2128, or email me at michael.loo@lpl.com.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
August 26, 2018

There is one area of planning that gets glossed over, even by the many responsible people: long-term care planning. For so many, it is difficult to plan for something that seems so far removed from their current existence. Many also assume that their current health insurance or Medicare will cover most expenses associated with long-term care. Unfortunately, these mistakes leave them ill-prepared for the expensive reality.

As the US government estimates 70% of individuals who are currently 65 “will require some form of long-term care”.1 Therefore, this is more of an eventuality for most folks than it is a possibility. When an individual’s health starts to decline, hopefully, multiple levels have been put into place. Not only should you be concerned with who will care for you physically, you must all consider who will care for your finances.

Physical Care –The costs for long-term care can be surprising for many, with the average 65-year-old paying approximately $138,000 over his/her lifetime.2 As mentioned earlier, Medicare or private health insurance rarely covers all types and expenses of long-term care. Medicaid assistance varies by state and requires that an individual “must spend down his or her assets and meet other criteria.”3 Additionally, It is important to talk with your loved ones about long-term care options, not only about what one can afford but equally as important, what one prefers.

Ultimately, many end up paying for long-term care from their own finances – 50% according to the Bipartisan Policy Center report.4 To protect your finances and the finances of your loved ones, it is vital to prepare for these possible scenarios. There are many long-term care insurance policies that can provide you the assistance your particular situation needs. The premiums for these policies are much more affordable the younger you are. While some of these policies can get a bit confusing, a financial planner can easily go over these policies and help you determine which one would be best for your particular situation.

Financial Care – The key to financially protecting a client in declining physical or mental health lies in teamwork. The team, which consists of their financial team members (financial planner, tax professional or estate planning attorney), delegates and medical professionals. While we all continue to focus on our own particular role and duties, maintaining a professional relationship does give us the opportunity to share any concerning or unusual behavior concerning our client, as well as execute things quickly and as close to the client’s wishes as possible. Equally important is a Durable Power of Attorney (DPA), which legally allows an individual to designate someone to make financial and medical decisions on their behalf should they become mentally incapable to do so. Having these safeguards in place can save on time and hassle should health matters deteriorate and allow your delegate to focus on more pressing issues.

When so many of us pride our independence and self-reliance, declining health issues can be downright scary. I understand this well as I do my best to set my clients up for financial independence, so they can create the life they want to live. When circumstances step in and disrupt your life, it’s vital to know that you have people to rely on and safeguards to protect you.

1. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/retirement/2017/11/17/retirement-planning-should-include-long-term-care-costs/866344001/

2. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/retirement/2017/11/17/retirement-planning-should-include-long-term-care-costs/866344001/

3. https://www.consumerreports.org/elder-care/elder-care-and-assisted-living-who-will-care-for-you/

4. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/retirement/2017/11/17/retirement-planning-should-include-long-term-care-costs/866344001/

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
August 26, 2018

The one constant in life is change.

It sounds cliché, but it’s very true. Almost everyone will have a moment where change will rock the typical steadiness of your life. A health scare. An unexpected job change. Divorce. A significant drop in the market (i.e., a bear market) as you’re on the verge of retirement. These shocking twists can make us want to scramble and take immediate action to right our suddenly turned around world.

However, sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. When coping with physical imbalance, the key is to focus on a stationary point.1 This allows your brain to make adjustments to maintain your equilibrium. The same applies to other life changes. Fear and frustration may urge you to take some unexpected course of action to address sudden changes, and sometimes these knee-jerk reactions cause more harm than good. In those highly-charged moments, soliciting some professional council, like from a trusted financial advisor, can help us locate that stationary goal and work with us to identify any adjustments that need to be made.

Every time I meet with my clients, I remind them what we’re working towards. Yes, I want to be made aware of any changes they may have experienced, but I also want to remind them what all the decisions we’re making and actions we’re taking are working towards. We planned for the unexpected expenses by saving an emergency fund. For my younger clients, momentary dips in the market don’t necessarily derail us from our long-term goals. In fact, it actually provides purchasing opportunities. Additionally, markets go down, but they are always achieving new high’s long-term. For my clients on the cusp of retirement, these dips were prepared for by diversifying their savings and expanding their emergency fund. With the long-term goals in mind, it’s easier to see the horizon from within the storm.

The trick of it all is to stay focused on the long-term vision of the life you’re trying to create. I’ve learned that this applies not simply to your finances, but other aspects of your life like your career or your family as well. Changes will occur, and your world may get a little rocked, but as long as you take a breath and continue to focus on your long-term goals, you’ll find yourself on sturdy ground once again.

  1. https://www.scienceabc.com/sports/why-focussing-on-something-helps-in-maintaining-balance.html
By
Mark Nicolet, CFP®, MBA, ABFP™
August 22, 2018

Recently, I followed up with a client after the client had been away on a family vacation for two weeks. Prior to that trip, the chaos of summer, work travel, and meetings had prevented the client from following up with me on a minor but impactful recommendation I had encouraged the client to consider in our last conversation. Before I had the opportunity to even say, “Hello,” the client apologized and communicated that I was owed a phone call. Yes, I had encouraged a decision knowing the impact would further strengthen the client’s financial situation, but in my diligence, I didn’t expect a phone call. The definition of diligence: careful and persistent work or effort. I love the simplicity of this definition and the use of the words persistent and effort. From knowing the client, I know the client is incredibly diligent in her own work and personal life. You see, when my client picked up this phone call, and the diligence of my follow up had just replaced the client’s call, eased the burden of the client having to call me back (amidst her intense work schedule), and ultimately resulted in the client making a best decision to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of her plan after re-clarifying the client’s priorities and current time frames.

An ongoing and sound financial plan requires an immense amount of diligence. If you are not ready to double down on this level of diligence on your own, why not hire a Decision Coach and Certified Financial PlannerTM professional to sprinkle the entirety of your plan with some diligence? Have you rebalanced your 401(k) lately? Have you increased your contribution percentage after your last raise? Did you update your life insurance planning after you moved into a new home after your second child was born? Are you planning on saving for that dream trip to Europe, or is that just going to magically happen in the next five years? What are the trading fees on your brokerage account? You have given thought to each of these questions. You have even discussed the answers with your spouse or close friends. Yet, you are busy and these action items are on the top of your priority list on a Tuesday. All of these questions require thoughtful planning with ongoing diligence, communication, and action. As soon as you settle into a plan with the right cash flow, life happens and you will need to adjust the game plan. My client didn’t forget to call me back. My client wanted me to call me back. Yet, my client didn’t call me back and didn’t make up her mind, until I called. Was I upset that I had to follow up several times? Was I frustrated my client seemed non-responsive? Of course not! It’s my career and joy as a Decision Coach. It’s part of my role as your financial planner to be diligent, to hold you accountable, to help you make qualitatively better decisions over time. Do I expect this to take a few follow up calls and three incredibly productive and ongoing quarterly progress checks between annual reviews? Of course! I love crafting a game plan for you. I love when you approach a financial decision and prior to making a decision, you reach out to me. I want your plan to be dialed in, so ultimately, you are living the life you want now, saving for the life you want in the future, as I provide the guard rails of diligence all along the way. A lot happens in a year and all of those little decisions have a significant impact over a long arch of time. Why I am so diligent with your financial plan? So, you don’t always have to be…don’t apologize, let’s just make the next best decision together and I’ll handle the follow up so we can one day celebrate together, not just because you are retiring, but because of the life you lived to get there.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
August 13, 2018

Money can be a complex thing. No, I’m not necessarily talking about the stock market or the emergence of cryptocurrencies. I’m talking about how every financial decision you make affects all the others. It sounds like a simple enough theory, but when it comes time to putting it into action, it’s often difficult to see through.

I see many clients who come in clearly stating their goals: they want to retire, they want to start their own business or pay for the children’s college education. They want to be financially independent. Yet, when we look at what they’re doing with their finances, we find that their actions may be working against their goals. That daily Starbucks habit has a different cost when you calculate how much you’ve spent in a given month that could have been used towards other expenses. For those who are constantly leasing new vehicles, those payments that never end take on a different perspective when you consider how they could have been applied to a down payment for a house.

We see it now with millennials struggling under immense student loan debt. While much of their income is funneled towards basic needs and paying down debt, little is left for necessary things like amassing an emergency fund and saving for retirement, let alone other milestones like purchasing a home. Putting off funding these other items can have a serious detrimental effect down the road. Furthermore, while millennials have grown to be the largest generations purchasing homes1, this major decision has prompted additional complications like borrowing from retirement to afford a down payment or underestimating ongoing maintenance cost. In fact, based on a survey by Bank of the West, 68 percent of millennial homeowners now have regrets about buying their home2 because every decision made truly impacted everything else.

Things can get especially tricky when decisions are being made by more than one person. Couples can have household goals, but if they’re not united in working towards them, these goals can often get sidelined. Perhaps they’re trying to save for a house, but one of them isn’t sticking to their plan. Maybe they’ve been diligently saving for retirement when one wants to take a major withdrawal to start their own business. Sometimes it can be as simple as not even bothering to discuss the household’s financial goals. Very often, if you’re not working together, you’re working against one another.

Please understand, I’m all for enjoying your hard-earned money. Sometimes, though, difficult choices have to be made. Perhaps it’s deciding to put off that trip with friends to pay off your credit card, or eating out less to build up your emergency fund. I remember being in that predicament when my family first moved into our home – we lived without furniture in two of the rooms! You see, the key to your personal financial success isn’t typically making more money. It’s really about being aware of your financial behavior and of how your daily financial decisions impact your long-term fiscal future.

1. https://www.housingwire.com/articles/42748-millennials-lead-all-other-generations-in-buying-homes

2. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/18/most-millennials-regret-buying-home.html

By
Mike Loo, MBA
August 10, 2018

As someone who works directly with clients on helping them with their financial plans and investment decisions, it wouldn’t be too far off to think that I might not do too bad on my own personal investments. Well, truth be told, I have indeed made some high-return investments over the years. The funny thing about that is when I think about “the best investments I ever made”, they are not stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, venture funds, or the like. The best investments that I have ever made came from investing in myself and/or my practice. The returns may be harder to quantify, but I would venture to guess that it has been exponential. Below are my top three “best investments I ever made”:

Going Back To School For An MBA

I’ve always been someone who wants to constantly improve, both as a person and as a professional. In an article that I had previously written, I discuss how an MBA prepared me for my career as a financial advisor. This was a both a huge gamble and a big-time winning investment for me, especially since I initially entered business school without a clear roadmap of where the advanced degree would take me. After going through the MBA program at USC’s Marshall School of Business, the greatest value I gained came from improving my qualitative skills, such as working with people, networking, effective communication, work ethic, and time management. While I already had these skills at a basic level, it wasn’t until after obtaining my MBA that I realized a deeper level of utilizing those qualitative skills in my career.

Hiring A Personal Trainer

Without our health, we will not be able to enjoy all of the great opportunities at our disposal today or in the future. Because of this fact, I strongly believe that hiring a personal trainer was one of my best investments. In this article, I draw several parallels between personal trainers and financial advisors, ultimately discussing the value that both can bring, respectively, to your health and finances.

Investing in my health by hiring a personal trainer is one of my best investments for several reasons:

Education

For most, it may not make sense to have a personal trainer for their entire life. However, the knowledge and education around the body, nutrition, exercises, etc. that you will gain from hiring a personal trainer will reap returns for the rest of your life. By being more aware and knowledgeable than you were before, you may miss out on potential future injuries or poor food choices that can lead to debilitating diseases.

Consistency

We are more likely to stick to certain regimens when we are simply told what to do. By being on a plan and schedule with my personal trainer, I did not have to worry about anything except for showing up and working hard. We were on a consistent regimen, and I saw results; in fact, I lost more than 15 pounds over the course of several months when I compared my heaviest to my lightest weight!

Decreased Future Medical Costs

By being consistently active and doing exercises that I would not normally do on my own, my personal trainer made sure that my comprehensive training program would benefit me in the realm of longevity. Because of that, I decrease my chances of needing to undergo major surgeries that someone who lives a sedentary life may have to undergo. This means less money spent on future medical needs and long-term care.

Spending Time To Imagine And Dream About The Future

Sometimes work, family, and social events take up all of our time. However, if we never stop and take time to plan, strategize, and dream, we will never accomplish our goals, let alone have something to work towards. While it may not seem like an investment, “spending time to imagine and dream about the future” may be the lowest-cost, highest-yielding investment there is.

In this article, I talk about planning ahead and setting financial goals. It is important to be proactive in planning for the future that you want. The key here is to write your goals down, break them into smaller goals, and find someone (or a community) that will hold you accountable. Your success lies heavily in setting “meaningful” goals. When you set goals that are meaningful, you will be much more likely to reach them.

For me personally, I’ve found that in those times that I dedicate to imagining and dreaming about the future, I’m able to create a reinvigorated excitement for what’s ahead. The return from spending time planning for your future should not be discounted. The yield is immeasurable, and all it costs is your time, creativity, and dedication.

The investments discussed above are not what you’d typically discuss with your financial advisor. However, I hope you were able to see how much of a return each of those items have provided me. With that said, if you are contemplating post-secondary education, different ways to invest in your health, how to map out your future goals, or anything else, please do not hesitate to get in touch. You can always call my office at (949) 221-8105 x 2128, or email me at michael.loo@lpl.com.

By
Mike Loo, MBA
July 20, 2018

Over the course of hundreds of conversations with clients, I’ve found that quite a few them have wrestled with the idea of whether they should go back to school for an advanced degree. As their advisor, I am commonly asked if returning to school would be financially beneficial. The risk/return analysis is not always cut-and-dried in this situation. Investing X amount of dollars in a degree program does not always result in an equal or higher return in the future.

The True Value Of Education

Education is about more than just the money. After a recent conversation with a client, I had the realization that while I don’t need an MBA for my job as a financial advisor, the MBA experience itself shaped and molded me to become the advisor I am today. While I did take numerous finance classes to enhance my knowledge and quantitative skills, the greatest value I gained from earning an MBA came from improving qualitative skills, such as working with people, networking, effective communication, and time management. These are skills that I use daily in my current role.

Every experience we go through, especially those that push us out of our comfort zone and require plenty of work and time, leads to personal growth. Had I not gone through the MBA program at USC’s Marshall School of Business, I might not have developed the work ethic required to succeed as a financial advisor, and I could have ended up on a completely different career path altogether.

My Pre-MBA Self

Before entering the MBA program, I had a passion for the financial services industry, but like most college grads, I wasn’t sure how that would translate into a career. I didn’t have a clear direction for my future. I was interested in becoming an advisor but knew that it would be fairly tough to advise people on what to do with their finances when I hadn’t gone through many life experiences myself.

I had always loved the idea of making money and becoming more efficient with what I had, but I was young and dumb (and willing to admit that)! I fell into the cultural mindset of wanting to work typical business hours, earn a large salary, and enjoy life. In essence, I wanted the rewards but didn’t want to do the work involved to achieve those rewards. In my naive way of thinking, an MBA seemed to be the simplest path to achieve this end result. I can tell you that I was so wrong in this assumption!

What I Gained from My MBA

Networking Skills: USC is known for networking. Everything I heard about business school prior to attending was that the most important takeaway from the experience is to network, network, network. Unfortunately, my pre-MBA self was uncomfortable talking with people I didn’t know. I didn’t like to take the initiative to introduce myself and sometimes avoided conversing with people unless I was introduced first. As time went on and I experienced the pressure of competing against my peers and other highly qualified candidates for the same jobs, I was forced to rise to the challenge and become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

This skill alone has helped me immensely in my career when it comes to collaborating with a client’s other professionals, such as an estate attorney or CPA. In order to do a thorough job for a client, it’s often necessary to work with their other professionals to make sure we’re on the same page. In many cases, I’ve reached out to a client’s CPA to make sure they had my contact information so that if questions arise about the client’s investments, they call me rather than my client.

This skill has also helped me in reaching out to client referrals or prospective clients because I’ve found that people often want help with their financial planning, but they might not tell others or take the first step.

Effective Time And Task Management: During my time at USC, multitasking became the norm. If I wanted to effectively balance school, attend recruiting events, revise my resume, participate in mock job interviews, network for potential jobs, and somehow find time for a personal life, I had to become better with time management.

My job today is multi-faceted and includes juggling many tasks, such as answering client questions, servicing and monitoring their accounts, staying on top of changes in the industry, and dealing with changes life throws my clients’ way. Knowing that I was able to handle my heavy load in the past gives me confidence that I can prioritize my work today. Most importantly, I’ve come to realize that with all of these moving parts, it’s impossible to be rigid in only working business hours (again, something I aspired to when I was young and dumb), because not everyone is available from 8 am to 5 pm. Instead, I’ve become flexible with my schedule and instituted taking a day off during the week so that I can occasionally meet with clients on the weekend or do a phone call later in the evenings.

Is An Advanced Degree Right For You?

In my case, obtaining an advanced degree was one of my best decisions. It’s difficult to imagine doing anything else with my life and I am fortunate that I went down this path. If you or someone you know is trying to make this decision, I would love to give you some insight and help you look at the situation from an objective perspective. Or, if you would like to network and see if we could work together, call my office at (949) 221-8105 x 2128, or email me at michael.loo@lpl.com. I’d love to see you thriving in your life!

By
Mike Loo, MBA
July 12, 2018

There may be plenty of factors outside of your control that impact your financial situation, such as the markets, the economy as a whole, or an unexpected illness. But those circumstances may not play as critical of a role in your financial life as you might think. The real dangers to your financial future are the lies you tell yourself when it comes to financial planning. Here are some ways you could be undermining your financial success and some ideas on how to change course.

Lie #1: I Don't Need Help. I Know What I'm Doing

Let’s say you read a plethora of financial planning books, stay up-to-date on the markets, and know all about budgeting software. That may put you ahead of a lot of other people, but there are certain aspects of financial planning that often go ignored even by the most knowledgeable people. Let’s look at a couple of hypothetical examples.

How Often Do You Review?

How often do you refresh your goals, adjust your plan, and determine how and when to make changes? A financial planner does more than just monitor your portfolio. They act as your coach, motivating and guiding you when things get tough. They bring an objective perspective to the table and develop a customized strategy based on your financial priorities. The end result is increased confidence in your financial strategies and decision-making. You don’t want to suffer a financial setback just because you were too busy or too forgetful to keep up with your financial plan.

In Case of Emergency

What if the unthinkable were to happen and you couldn’t make financial decisions? Will your family be able to handle the details and figure out your financial plan? An advisor can offer a holistic overview of your net worth and determine what elements need to be in place to protect your family and your wealth. These are often things you may not be aware of, such as life insurance or a living trust.

Market Research

Investing is tricky business on a good day. Can you manage the emotions, anxiety, and possible second-guessing of your investment choices if you were living on a fixed income and the market were to face a correction? An advisor has tools to evaluate cash flow to help you determine the probability of your money lasting through your retirement years. They can also keep you accountable and committed to your long-term strategy in the midst of market ups and downs.

Lie #2: I Can Always Get Help When I Need It

If you were going on vacation, would you rather have everything packed ahead of time and enjoy your restful break? Or would you prefer to be disorganized and arrive without essential items, forced to then spend your time off running around shopping for things you forgot? When it comes to money, it’s the same idea. When you really need the help, you may have lost your most valuable resource – time. Instead of thoughtfully researching your options and making decisions with a clear head, waiting until you need help will result in a frantic scramble to just get things done.

Whatever it is you experience in life, having a financial planner on your team will help you stay on top of your money and prepare in advance for future milestones and events.

Lie #3: I Don't Need An Advisor, I Have Financial Technology

Financial planning has evolved. Years ago, it was about who had the most up to date information on a company to buy a stock, and the planning industry was mostly concerned with buying and selling stocks and bonds rather than portfolio management. Today, financial planning is more about what’s missing in your overall strategy, what have you not thought of, and what could you be doing that you’re not. On top of that, the financial planning process helps you emotionally connect with your goals so you can get on the right track. Technology, at the present time, can’t do that.

Technology has many good points, but several drawbacks as well. For example, you can find more information than you’ll ever need, but you’ll also come across plenty of misinformation which could lead you astray. It’s not uncommon for someone to research something on the Internet and find just as many pros as there are cons. If you want to save for your child’s college education, you’ll find articles touting the value of using a 529, a Roth IRA, or a Roth 401(k). How do you figure out which one is truly right for you? The abundance of information has created so much noise that in many cases, people don’t do anything at all.

While technology should be used in financial planning, it should not replace the role of an advisor. The importance of what advisors do from a human aspect is help clients sift through the noise and misinformation and encourage them to move forward in taking action.

A Change In Perspective?

Have you ever believed one of these lies? It’s easy to do, but the consequences are real. Don’t take a gamble with your money. Join forces with a financial advisor who can help you make the most of what you have, where you are, and get you positioned for a bright financial future. Call my office at (949) 221-8105 x 2128, or email me at michael.loo@lpl.com for a no-strings-attached meeting to discuss your situation.

By Trilogy Financial
June 26, 2018

Created during the Great Depression as a retirement safety net, Social Security now covers an estimated 96% of Americans. These days, a record high of around 167 million people are working and paying into the system that provides benefits for over 63 million people. In fact, the majority of retirees get more than half of their income from Social Security. Security can be complicated to navigate at times, but since it’s so vital to your retirement income plan, it’s important to make wise decisions and create strategies first.

Delay Benefits

Social Security benefits are calculated using complex actuarial equations based on life expectancy and estimated rates of return. Deciding the best time for you to claim your benefits depends upon how you compare to the averages. As of today, a man turning 65 is expected to live until age 84.3 and a woman of 65 until age 86.6.

If based on your health and your family history of longevity, you believe you will live much longer than that, your overall lifetime benefit will be greater if you delay claiming your benefits to increase your benefit amount. If the opposite is true and you see little chance of making it into your mid 80’s, you would receive a greater lifetime benefit by taking it sooner, even though it is a smaller monthly payment.

Several helpful calculators are available on the Social Security Administration website. With the Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator, most people can receive an estimate of their benefit based on their actual earnings record and manipulate the numbers to reflect different strategies. They also have Social Security Benefits Calculators that can be used to calculate future retirement benefits.

Research Investment Opportunities?

While it will differ for everyone, research from Fidelity shows that most people need to replace between 55% and 80% of their pre-retirement, pre-tax income after they stop If you are in a position where you will not be reliant on Social Security to cover your basic needs in retirement, you may be better off claiming early and investing your benefit amount in an effort to earn better rates of return. In this way, although you’d start with a smaller monthly payment, you may end up with more money than if you had waited to receive the Social Security Administration’s increased payment due to the growth from your investments.

Which Coordinate with Your Spouse

If you are married, you have the choice to receive your own benefit or a spousal benefit of50% of your spouse’s benefit. By coordinating properly, married couples can increase their total monthly benefits.

The Society of Actuaries recommends that the lower-earning spouse begins collecting benefits early while the higher-earning spouse waits as long as possible. That way, you can make use of the lower benefit while maximizing the higher benefit. In most situations, it is the husband with the greater benefit and the wife with the lower one. Women also tend to live longer than men. By following this strategy, you not only maximize the husband’s retirement benefit for use while he is alive, but it also maximizes the wife’s survivor benefit when he passes away.

Consider the Effect of Additional Income on YourBenefitsSubmit

Once you reach full retirement age (FRA), having earned income will have no effect on yourSocial Security benefit payments. However, if you begin receiving benefit payments before FRA, your earnings will decrease your payments.

Income Earned the Year You Reach FRA

The income restrictions change in the year in which you reach FRA. That year there is a higher limit; $45,360 for 2018. Once your income exceeds that limit, your Social Security benefit will be reduced by $1 for every $3 you earn. For example, if between January 1 and your birthday you earn $48,360, you have earned $3,000 more than the limit. That $3,000 excess will reduce your Social Security payments by $1,000. As soon as you have your birthday and reach FRA, though, there are no more limits. You can earn as much as you want and it has no effect on your Social Security retirement benefits.

Continuing to work into retirement may be beneficial even if your current benefits are reduced. If your income is within the top 35 years of your earnings, you will increase your aim, which is the average used to calculate your benefit. By continuing to pay into SocialSecurity as a worker, you can increase your retirement benefit even after you have begun collecting it.

Work with an Experienced Professional

A 2015 Voya Retire Ready Study found that those who consult a financial professional are more than twice as likely to have calculated how much income they need to live a rich life in retirement. Working with an experienced professional can help you navigate your SocialSecurity options and optimize your total lifetime benefit. If you have any questions or would like to see how Social Security will impact your retirement plan, I am here to help. Take the first step by reaching out to me for a complimentary consultation by calling (949) 221-8105 x 2128 or emailing michael.loo@trilogyfs.com.

By
Mike Loo, MBA
June 21, 2018

Regardless of where it comes from, getting an unexpected chunk of change usually makes for a pretty good day, week, or even year. But if you aren’t intentional about what you do with your extra cash, you could follow in the footsteps of many lottery winners who squander their winnings and end up unhappy and broke.1  Even if the gift you receive isn’t a significant amount, you’d be amazed at how some smart planning can make a big difference down the road. Let’s look at some ways you can you use your raise, refund, or windfall to get ahead financially.

  1. Pay Off Debt

Big debt, small debt, it doesn’t matter. Debt is debt. Start with high-interest debt and work your way down. Did you know that the average American household carries over $16,000 in credit card debt and pays an average of $1,292 in interest annually?2  Sure, using your extra influx of money to reduce debt isn’t as fun as going on a trip, but think of the satisfaction you’ll feel when you see your balance decrease, knowing that you are saving yourself thousands of dollars in interest in the long run.

  1. Beefing Up Your Retirement Savings

Even if you diligently contribute to a 401(k) or IRA, chances are you aren’t maxing out those accounts. Let’s say you receive a $3,120 tax refund, the average amount according to the IRS.3  You then deposit that $3,120 in an IRA and see a 7% rate of return annually. In 20 years, you will have earned approximately $8,000 on that investment due to compound interest. Let’s go a bit further. If you invest your tax refund every year for 20 years, your retirement savings could see a boost of almost $150,000! If you’ve received a raise, use some of it to increase your contribution percentage right away. That way, you won’t get used to living with that extra money and it puts you ahead for the future.

  1. Invest In Education

Most of us dream of our kids going to a great school and getting a solid foundation for their future career, but have you considered how much of an investment it will take to get them to that point? The numbers can be daunting. These days, a high school graduate can expect to pay upwards of $200,000 for an undergraduate degree at a top school4 and over $10,000 each year for in-state tuition alone at a public institution.5  The costs will vary depending on room and board and other educational costs, but either way, it’s a lot of money.

One option is to open a 529 account with your tax refund and, once again, let compound interest help you get ahead. Not only will your investment pave the way for your child’s future, but it could also give you a tax break.

  1. Build Your Emergency Fund

An emergency fund provides you with a cushion for those times when life gives you lemons. If you don’t have readily available savings, something as simple as an unexpected car repair or medical bill could derail your finances. Or, if you know you have a large purchase or a life milestone approaching, such as welcoming a baby into your family, having an emergency fund will help you avoid digging into long-term savings or going into debt to cover costs. You can’t put a price on the peace of mind that an emergency fund will give you, so think about investing some of your tax refund to boost your short-term savings.

  1. Be Generous

Giving your tax refund away may not help you get ahead, but it could make a lasting impact on someone else’s life. Find a charity or cause that is close to your heart and pay it forward. Your gift could also help you when the next tax season rolls around. Just make sure to get a receipt for your contribution and itemize your deductions.

Have You Received Some Extra Cash?

It’s okay to treat yourself when you find yourself with excess income, but don’t splurge just because the money is there. Make a list of your financial priorities and then map out how your additional money could give your financial future a boost. If you would like guidance on how to use your raise, refund, or windfall, call my office at (949) 221-8105 x 2128 or email me at michael.loo@lpl.com.

By
Mike Loo, MBA
June 13, 2018

Retirement is one of life’s most significant milestones. Not surprisingly, it’s both an exciting and worrisome prospect for many Americans nearing those Golden Years. According to a 2016 Gallup poll, 64% of Americans are worried about not having enough for retirement, 51% worry they won’t be able to maintain the standard of living they enjoy, and 60% are concerned they won’t be able to pay the medical costs of a severe illness or accident. One of the best ways to alleviate uncertainty is planning ahead.

What Will I Do with My Time and With Whom Will I Spend it?

Just as you would plan for the financial elements of your retirement, it’s equally important to plan how you will live out your retirement years. One of the biggest decisions you will make when you retire is where you will live. For example, maybe you want to live near your children part of the year and vacation a portion of the year somewhere else. Or perhaps you can’t imagine leaving the home you’ve spent years building and improving. Your housing will affect your finances, spending, and daily activities.

Next, address how you will spend your time. No one entirely escapes a daily schedule. Your daily retirement schedule doesn’t have to confine you, but it will help you fill your day and plan ahead. Start by establishing a balance of short, medium, and long-term goals. Short-term goals could include cleaning up the house, going to the gym, planting a vegetable garden, taking a vacation, or visiting family. Medium-term goals may be redesigning your yard, remodeling your home, taking a class, or planning for an extended vacation abroad. Long-term goals could be learning a foreign language, mastering a musical instrument, obtaining a new degree or certificate, writing a book, or building a vacation home. Whichever goals you define, the idea is to identify an extensive list of options so you can stay busy, maintain some control of your daily schedule, and have different activities to which you can look forward. Additionally, consider with whom you will be spending your time and enjoying these activities. If you and your spouse are not used to spending a lot of time together, know that there may be an adjustment period as this newly found together time can create tension in your relationship that hasn’t existed in the past.

How Much Will I Need in Retirement?

While it will differ for everyone, research from Fidelity shows that most people need to replace between 55% and 80% of their pre-retirement, pre-tax income after they stop working, to maintain their current lifestyle. After working hard throughout your career to save for retirement, now comes the critical decision of determining how much you can safely withdraw to replace your income while still having enough to last through your retirement. When taking withdrawals from your portfolio during retirement to pay for expenses, there is a risk that the rate of withdrawals will deplete the portfolio before you reach the end of retirement. Since you may know that stocks have historically earned an average of 8% a year, you may erroneously assume that you can afford to withdraw 8% of the initial portfolio value each year, plus a little more for inflation. However, 8% is an average, and while in some years, the numbers may be higher, in others, they will also be lower – and in some years, much lower. To protect yourself from the uncertainty of the market, you may want to consider limiting your withdrawals to 3 or 4% initially.

Ultimately, choosing a withdrawal rate means weighing your desire for increased spending in relation to your willingness to reduce spending. This relies partly on your attitude towards spending, and partly on your risk capacity. If you have Social Security and a substantial pension that is payable for life, then you have more capacity for risk in taking withdrawals from your portfolio. If not, you may need to reexamine your goals and expense categories to make sure they line up with the funds you have available.

Which Retirement Fears Could Prevent Me From Retiring?

A Retirement can be both exciting and terrifying for some people, as it’s such a significant transition in one’s life. As you plan for your retirement, it’s important to consider any fears you have that may prevent you from retiring. Through working with my clients, I’ve found there are a few common fears. First, some who have spent so many years dedicated to their career may fear they’ll lose their identity. Often, lawyers, doctors, teachers and other professionals may wonder what their purpose is if they’re no longer serving others. This is where it’s essential to return to the first question here and identify how you can find meaning in your new schedule. Second, many worry they could run out of money. While it’s impossible to predict the exact amount of money you will need, a financial plan can provide a roadmap that gives you probabilities of how long your money can last. Working with an advisor to review different scenarios may offer you more confidence. Lastly, another common fear is high taxes. While there’s no avoiding Uncle Sam, there are legal ways to mitigate your tax burden and make the most of your earnings. Consult with a tax advisor to give you an idea of how much of your withdrawals you’ll take home versus paying in taxes.

How Will I Address the Issue of Long-Term Care?

While some expenses go down once you retire, others can increase, such as healthcare costs. On average, a couple both age 65 can expect to spend between $157,000 and $392,000 on healthcare costs alone throughout their retirement years — a 29% increase over the past 10 years. This estimate assumes enrollment in Medicare health coverage but doesn’t include the potential added expenses of a nursing home or long-term care that a retiree may require. Long-term care insurance covers the cost of services that include a variety of tasks you may need help with as you age. For the past 20 years that long-term care insurance has been available, cost was the most significant hurdle for most people. Today’s long-term care policies offer more flexibility and benefits than in the past, and there are now more options and affordable choices that are designed to fit almost any budget. The most well-known option is a standard long-term care insurance policy, where you pay a premium in exchange for the ability to receive benefits if you need them. This is a “use it or lose it” policy, so won’t receive any benefits or money back if you don’t end up needing longterm care. If you don’t like the idea of a “use it or lose it” policy, you may consider a hybrid product, such as buying a life insurance policy with a long-term care rider. With this type of policy, you invest in a standard cash value life insurance policy and select your long-term care coverage terms in the rider. If you end up requiring long-term care, there are available funds. If you don’t need long-term care or if you don’t spend the total benefits available, your beneficiaries receive a death benefit payout upon your death.

Next Steps

Taking the first steps for retirement planning can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to face it alone. An advisor can help you create a personalized retirement roadmap, work, through various retirement scenarios, and help you identify what you will do during retirement to make the transition less stressful. As an advisor who works closely with many couples and families, I want to help you address your retirement questions and feel confident about your future. Take the first step by reaching out to me for a complimentary consultation by calling (949) 221-8105 x 2128 or emailing michael.loo@trilogyfs.com.

By
Diane Zing, CSA
June 11, 2018

Paying taxes is inevitable. The key to being as efficient as possible about how much one pays in taxes requires careful consideration of the big picture. And while many people simply want to know if they can have a tax-free retirement, it really starts with being clear about how and when taxes get paid…and to defining what a “tax-free retirement” actually means. For example, if someone is striving to have income during retirement that is tax-free AT THAT TIME, then there are a plethora of investment and insurance products out there that could help defer taxes on earnings, and potentially, have tax-free withdrawal benefits for some types of accounts. But that doesn’t mean retirement is “tax-free”.

Let’s clarify what a few of the most common types of taxes are:

Income Tax – taxation on earned income can occur on many levels; local, state and federal. The amount a person would have to pay varies greatly on their situation. And, there are various types of tax credits that could affect the amount of taxes that would be paid on income. Any earned income that is deferred into a qualified retirement account generally means that taxes on that income won’t get paid at the time it is earned, but when that income is taken at a later date, during retirement, taxes are paid at that time. The idea that paying taxes on income later, when one might be in a lower income tax bracket, might prove more beneficial. But a) there is no guarantee what the tax rates will be in the future, and b) there may be several other factors with a person’s overall taxation that could affect what is perceived as a benefit. A tax professional is the best person to help folks evaluate what kinds of strategies are best for their overall situation. At the end of the day, SOME form of income tax will be paid, either when it is received upon earning, or when it is withdrawn from a qualified plan “down the road” in retirement.

What can be done to possibly reduce these taxes? Speak to a tax professional about what tax credits might apply, and also review with them if itemized deductions can play a role in reducing taxation.

Sales Tax – taxation occurs on state levels for various goods and services that get purchased. The percentage of taxation is usually based on the price of said goods and/or services. But that percentage charged can vary greatly from state to state, or even within different municipalities. There are a few states that don’t have any sales tax on most goods and services.

Excise Tax – taxation that is applied to specific types of goods; gas, cigarettes, beer, liquor, etc. These are typically nicknamed as “sin products”. Taxes received for these particular products are generally used to help raise money for bringing awareness to the potential dangers of these products.

What can be done to manage sales and excise tax? Not much. These types of taxes are very hard to “manage”. Changes in lifestyle; consumption of goods that fall within this category, will obviously affect the amount of sales taxes paid.

Property Tax – taxation that is applied to property owned. Taxes received tend to go towards local municipality needs. The amount of property taxes charged is usually based on a percentage of the value of the property.

What can be done to manage or alleviate property tax? Renting instead of owning might prove beneficial with alleviating property tax. However, there may be tax benefits also lost by being a renter instead of an owner. Again, a tax professional is best for helping to calculate what the tax benefits are for both scenarios.

It might not be possible to have a completely tax-free retirement, but by working with a financial professional and a tax professional, the ability to strategize investments and manage how taxation occurs could prove very beneficial. It’s not just about saving and investing…it’s about being as savvy as possible with the decisions along the way.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
June 7, 2018

Your retirement savings, which is the means to your financial freedom, should be set up in the same way. There is no way to accurately predict what life will be like during the course of your retirement. Based on the climbing US debt, it is safe to assume that tax rates may increase. Unanticipated expenses may arise. Life is never predictable. Therefore, you need your money to be ready to work for you. In my experience, one of the best ways to ensure this is by utilizing three types, or buckets, of savings.

The first bucket is comprised of your traditional retirement investments like a 401(k), 403(b), or 457 plan. These plans are very popular and easily accessible as most employers offer them. Contributions grow tax-deferred and can be automatically deducted from one’s paycheck. However, what was a tax benefit while saving becomes a tax-trap once you retire as those funds will be taxed once they are pulled out. Another thing to consider is what the tax rate will be like at that time. I always ask my clients, “Do you think taxes will have gone up or down by the time you retire?” No one ever says down. Therefore, if all your retirement funds are in this first bucket, you are suddenly at the mercy of the government on how you utilize your retirement money. This is not financial freedom.

However, more buckets mean more options. Let’s consider that you also have retirement savings invested in a second bucket containing tax-free funds. This is typically comprised of Roth IRA’s or Roth 401(k)’s. Although Roth 401(k)’s are not highly promoted or even included in a lot of employer-offered plans, they are a very powerful saving tool. Your contributions grow tax-deferred and are distributed tax-free. With the addition of this second bucket or savings, you suddenly have a little more flexibility on how you access your money.

The final bucket is one that isn’t on most people’s radar. This bucket should be comprised of the investments in your portfolio of stock equities. The gains on these investments are taxed as capital gains. Historically, capital gains tax rates are significantly lower than typical income tax rates. If these investments are sold properly, they can provide another option when trying to manage how your money works for you.

As you can see, multiple buckets of retirement savings seek to provide you with freedom and tax control. If taxes are high, utilize your second bucket. If taxes are lower, feel free to dip into your first bucket. You can work with your financial advisor on what investments belong in which bucket, as well as to dial more or less into these buckets depending on tax rates and what your needs are. This flexibility is key to securing your financial freedom in retirement.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Investing involves risk, including the risk of loss.

By
Mike Loo, MBA
June 6, 2018

Approaching retirement can sometimes be as overwhelming and nerve-wracking as the transition into your Golden Years. You may start reflecting on what you’ve accomplished thus far in life and what you envision still achieving.

As you near the finish line, here are four things to do in the last ten years of your career.

Create a List of Things You Want to Accomplish in Retirement

The first step is understanding your goals for your retirement. What lifestyle do you envision maintaining? Will you travel? Will you live in the same home? What will you do during the day? As much as you may enjoy golf, you may tire of doing it every day for weeks on end.

Creating a list of retirement goals gives you something to look forward to, and may even motivate you to save more aggressively to reach your retirement goals faster. For example, if you imagine enjoying plenty of family vacations in retirement, you may need to establish a vacation fund.

You may instead envision spending your time volunteering or enjoying hobbies, be it woodworking, gardening, or painting. Regardless of how you choose to spend your time, make plans for it. If you don’t, other family members may be planning out your time for you. For example, you may become the default caretaker for your aging parents, especially if your other siblings are still working. Or you may become the “full time” babysitter for your grandchildren because your children assume you aren’t doing anything all day.

Pay Off Debt

The less debt you have when you enter retirement, the better. Review all current debts you face and compare interest rates and balances. This can help you decide which to pay off first. Once you’ve eliminated credit card and auto debt, see how you can aggressively pay off your mortgage. Not having a mortgage could significantly reduce your monthly expenses and make a considerable impact on how quickly you deplete your savings.

Along with tackling debt, take care of the big-ticket items now, rather than delaying them. These include replacing your home’s roof or other expensive repairs, updating old appliances, addressing your long-term care needs, and keeping your car in good working shape. It’s ideal to do this now while you still have a paycheck rather than when you’re retired and trying to live off of your savings.

Plan Out Your Expenses and Create a Budget

A common question pre-retirees ask is, “will my income sources cover my needs in retirement?” A budget is helpful throughout life but can be particularly beneficial during retirement when your income may be more limited.

Start by creating a budget that includes your essential expenses (housing, healthcare, and food) and your discretionary expenses (such as traveling, entertainment, and dining out). With this list, match essential expenses with guaranteed income, such as setting aside your Social Security benefits to pay for your healthcare. Then, look at your other savings and income to cover your discretionary expenses.

If your projected expenses don’t match your income and savings, you’ll either need to reconsider your expenses or increase your retirement income. These 10 years leading up to retirement can serve as a “trial run” to help instill a higher level of confidence that you can live off a certain level of income once you retire.

Hire a Financial Advisor

How much should you contribute to your 401(k)? What types of investments make the most sense for your circumstances and goals? Often, it’s not until we face a significant decision or make a mistake when we realize that we weren’t equipped with the proper knowledge. And then it may be too late to find help or rectify any missteps we make.

A financial advisor isn’t just there to hand you a financial plan and set you on your way. Think of an advisor as your lifelong financial partner. He or she can provide education, objective advice, and ongoing guidance as you encounter new challenges and opportunities.  This could mean adjusting your strategies, or simply reassuring you of your progress. With education and a reliable partner available to answer your questions, you can feel empowered to make informed decisions.

Next Steps

You don’t have to go at it alone and plan for your retirement on your own. At this point in your life, you should work with an advisor who can help you create a personalized retirement roadmap and work through various retirement scenarios, not just help your money grow. As an independent financial advisor, I want to help you address your retirement questions and feel confident about your future. I can work with you to establish a retirement strategy that integrates your goals and needs. Take the first step by reaching out to me for a complimentary consultation. Call my office at (949) 221-8105 x 2128, or email me at michael.loo@trilogyfs.com.

By
Jeff Motske, CFP®
May 29, 2018

We live in a dynamic and inspiring time. Advancements in healthcare are doing wonders for retirees. Many are living longer, in greater physical health, maintaining their mobility and independence. However, there has also been a growing impediment to that independence – dementia. This syndrome that characterizes the decline of cognitive functions and encompasses degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s is impacting more and more every year. While it can be very uncomfortable to consider yourself or a loved one suffering from such an illness, living in this age of dementia makes planning for its onset a necessary endeavor.

The statistics are sobering. Those who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease can typically live four to eight years after the initial diagnosis. However, there are also those who can live up to twenty years after their first diagnosis. As this is a disease that wrecks the mind, not the body, some can live up to 5 years in long-term care, rather than the typical two years of other illnesses. Needless to say, the costs of care can be staggering. With expenses ranging from various prescriptions, personal care supplies, limited or long-term care services, there is clearly a lot to plan for. Many rely on Medicare to cover the expenses. Yet, Medicare does not cover everything, oftentimes paying up to 80% of costs, only covering fees that are considered “medically necessary” and taking time to determine what falls under that qualification.1 When you or your loved one is struggling daily with the complications of dementia, hope can seem far off or entirely out of reach.

Due to the subtle ways symptoms can first appear, many can go years without a diagnosis. Unfortunately, that does not mean that the illness is not affecting their lives. While there are specific stages of decline with various forms of dementia, financial matters are generally impacted immediately. Memory suffers, with individuals forgetting to stay current with their bills or having issues understanding their bank and account statements. With subsequent stages, financial skills, along with others, decline further. It can be a rapid and steep decline. An individual’s independence, financial and otherwise, can be compromised very quickly.

This is why it is very important to discuss financial and legal matters once a loved one has been diagnosed, regardless of whether it may feel awkward or uncomfortable. The sooner these conversations take place, the better. There is a lot of information to cover and a lot of decisions on the possible future to make. Most importantly, the earlier the conversations are started, the more of a role the diagnosed person will have. At the end of the day, that is what we all want, for our loved one's wishes and desires to be upheld, even when they may no longer be able to vocalize them.

In addition to helping our loved ones afflicted with these diseases, we cannot forget the loved ones providing the assistance. The strain that can get placed on a familial caregiver can often get overlooked. If not adequately planned for, some will dip into their savings and sell their investments to cover the mounting costs to care for their loved ones. Additionally, the stress of the situation can detrimentally impact the physical and emotional health of the caregiver, which can put both individuals at risk.

Clearly, there is a lot to consider, and for many, it is easy to get overwhelmed, flounder in all the unfamiliar information and overlook that which we are not well-versed on. This is where your financial professional can assist you, both in the midst of this difficult time and also well before the actual diagnosis. They can help you make decisions and preparations, as well as educate you on the myriad of things you may not be aware of but need to know. Additionally, Trilogy Financial advisors are trained to not only identify when clients may be exhibiting symptoms of dementia but to continually monitor these behaviors as well. We truly do take our clients’ well-being seriously. Many individuals I have encountered have two distinct fears about growing older. The first is running out of money. The second is becoming a burden to their family. With dementia, those two fears can become a reality. However, with the proper preparation and planning, they don’t have to be.

Sources: 1. https://www.medicareresources.org/faqs/what-benefits-does-medicare-provide-for-alzheimers-patients/

By
Windus Fernandez Brinkkord, AIF®, CEPA
May 24, 2018

When planning for retirement, you need to look at multiple sources of income and be sure that some of the income sources are tax-free. The more, the better. So, how do you plan for a retirement income stream that minimizes overall taxation?

Four Instruments that Provide tax-free Retirement Income

Here are four great ways to provide yourself with tax-free.

  1. Roth IRA is a great retirement investment that can result in a steady stream of tax-free retirement income as long as they are considered qualified. However, you must qualify for an IRA and the requirements are adjusted year by year as is the amount eligible for savings. Withdrawals prior to age 59 ½ or prior to the account being opened for 5 years, whichever is later, may result in a 10% IRS penalty tax. Future tax laws can change at any time and may impact the benefits of Roth IRAs. Their tax treatment may change.

If you do qualify, money put into a Roth IRA is taxed when you receive it, so it is not taxed again when it is withdrawn. In 2018, the eligibility requirements are:

  1. Single or head of household, earning less than $120,000 to fully contribute to a Roth IRA.
  2. Married filing jointly or a qualified widow(er) earning less than $189,000 to fully contribute to a Roth IRA.
  3. Married filing separately earning less than $10,000 to fully contribute to a Roth IRA. (Note that those married but filing separately can use the limits for single people as long as they have not lived with their spouse in the past year)
  4. Municipal Bonds and Funds provide income distributions not taxable by the federal government though they are may be subject to state income tax. Because they are not subject to federal income tax, interest paid on these bonds is typically less than taxable bonds.

There is no income limit to investing in tax-free municipal bonds and funds.

  1. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are available if your employer offers health insurance using an HSA. Combined contributions by the employer and employee to this account as of 2018 can be as high as $6,900.00 for qualifying plans.

Following the rules about which expenses are reimbursable, no taxes are paid on withdrawals.

In addition, the HSA funds and earnings can be held until retirement then uses to provide tax-free income by reimbursing the holder for past and current allowable expenses which include Medicare premiums.

  1. Roth 401(k) or 403(b) allow Roth contributions inside these accounts making those contributions and their subsequent retirement earnings, tax-free. These accounts are not subject to income eligibility limits but they are subject to taxes in the year that contributions are made.

Making the Most of Your Home

Another way to make a smart investment for your retirement is to pay off any mortgage that you have on your home before you retire which allows you to live in your home for the cost of property taxes and home insurance alone.

For many retirees, this is a huge reduction in their monthly expenses allowing the money be used elsewhere.

By
Rebecca DeSoto, CDFA®
May 23, 2018

Technology provides ample flexibility when it comes to making purchasing decisions these days. You are no longer required to go somewhere, talk to anyone, or spend a great deal of time comparing options. The internet is a convenient place that is accessible wherever you are, doesn’t require you to talk through your purchase with a sales representative, and allows you to spend as much or as little time researching your decision as you’d like. This can make life more efficient and simpler, but when it comes to important decisions like purchasing life insurance, you run the risk of simplifying the decision too much, not fully understanding what you’re purchasing, and purchasing a policy that may not provide the most flexibility and options later in life when you need it most.

There is no shortage of information available about life insurance on the internet. A lot of it has negative connotations. From policies that historically haven’t provided what was promised, to salespeople coaxing consumers into products, and one size fits all advice. Most people come in with the base knowledge that they need term insurance if they have a spouse and children they want to protect financially if they pass away. Combine these two factors and people generally use the internet to find an inexpensive policy. However, when making a decision about life insurance there are a few important factors to consider besides simply the cost and the amount of insurance, namely living benefits or accelerated benefit riders, and whether the policy has a cash-value component.

While all policies are required to have a terminal illness rider, meaning the insured has the option of utilizing the death benefit prior to passing away if diagnosed with a terminal illness, not all policies come with a chronic or critical rider. A chronic illness rider can accelerate your death benefit if the insured is diagnosed with an illness and unable to perform two of the six daily activities of living (bathing, continence, dressing, eating, toileting, and transferring). Considering how expensive long-term care insurance can be these days, having a chronic illness rider on a life insurance policy can provide some level of affordable protection (depending on your age when you get the policy). The critical rider can apply to injuries or illness and can include things like heart attack, stroke, paralysis, severe brain trauma, and diagnosis of invasive cancer. Having these riders in addition to one that protects against terminal illness adds a much more encompassing level of protection to the insured that can provide flexibility and options in an unplanned emergency.

Life insurance can also have a cash-value component or investment vehicle in addition to providing protection. Cash-value in a permanent life insurance vehicle is one of the only ways to build non-taxable income in retirement besides a Roth IRA. Other than the tax benefits, it can also enhance your plan with diversification and stability. It generally has some level of protection, called a “floor” that assets invested in the stock market wouldn’t have, meaning there is protection against the downside while allowing the investor to take advantage of positive markets.

Whether or not you choose a policy that has all of these components, it is important to consider which benefits are meaningful to you and are worth paying for. It can be hard to determine the pros and cons without talking to a licensed professional that has your best interest in mind and it can be difficult to really understand what you’re purchasing just by browsing the internet for the least expensive policy. Just like any insurance, the ideal situation is not needing it. But if you do, you’ll be happy you did your research and understand the vehicle you chose.

This material contains only general descriptions and is not a solicitation to sell any insurance product or security, nor is it intended as any financial or tax advice. This article is intended to assist in educating you about insurance generally and not to provide personal service. Guarantees are based on the claims-paying ability of the issuing company. If you need more information or would like personal advice you should consult an insurance professional. Riders are additional guarantee options that are available to an annuity or life insurance contract holder. While some riders are part of an existing contract, many others may carry additional fees, charges, and restrictions, and the policyholder should review their contract carefully before purchasing.

If you decide to downsize after retirement and have lived in your home for at least two years out of the last five from the date of sale, you can exclude up to $250,000 in capital gains from the proceeds and almost double that if you are married.

Get Started on Your Financial Life Plan Today

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