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The FIRE Movement – Is It For You?

By Trilogy Financial
October 30, 2019
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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.

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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 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.

Get Started on Your Financial Life Plan Today