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Topics: Retirement Planning Advice

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.

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
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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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
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

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
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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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/

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.

March 21, 2018

When it comes to choosing your 401(k) lineup, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by your options. It’s likely why more than 70% of 401(k) plans include at least one target-date fund. Also known as lifecycle or age-based funds, target date funds were created to simplify the investment choices for 401(k) plan contributors. Depending on your company’s 401(k) plan, they may be named something like Target Date Fund 2050, meaning you anticipate retiring around 2050. Target-date funds give employees the option of choosing one fund that diversifies their investments among stocks, bonds, and cash (the allocation) throughout their working life.

Considered a “set-it-and-forget-it” investment option, some investors choose target date funds as a default so they can avoid having to rebalance and update their portfolio allocations over time. The theory is that younger participants, having more years until retirement, can take higher risks in order to achieve higher expected returns. Since the funds focus on a selected time frame or target date (usually retirement), its asset allocation mix becomes more conservative as that date approaches. The percentage of stocks is reduced, and the percentage of bonds and cash is increased.

While target date funds may help encourage employees to participate in their company’s 401(k), there are a few misconceptions about how they work, and it’s important to understand these considerations before choosing your 401(k)’s investment lineup.

Target Date Funds Can Significantly Vary

Many investors get caught up in the year attached to a target date fund. If they change jobs and contribute to a different 401(k) plan, they may assume the target date fund is the same as their previous plan. Or, they believe that a 2050 target date fund is nearly identical to a 2055 target date fund.

However, target date funds with the same target date can significantly vary in their portfolio lineup. Fund families typically have their own unique approach with their target date funds, meaning a John Hancock target date fund likely won’t offer the same ratio of stocks and bonds as a Fidelity plan.

Take a look at this example from InvestorJunkie:

The percent of equities at age 65 significantly differs between target date families. When each of the target date funds has its own fee structure, mix of assets, and risk tolerance, it’s nearly impossible to measure performance between these funds.

Target date funds don’t just vary by their lineup. They can also have different fees.

As we can see in the chart above, the expense ratios considerably vary based on the target date and the target date family. Fidelity Freedom is more than 0.5% higher than Vanguard, which can take a toll on your portfolio when you’re investing for several decades.

Should I Invest in a Target Date Fund?

Like Though not a panacea, target date funds offer a reasonable alternative to the often confusing world of too many investment choices. Ultimately, there isn’t a single recommendation one can make for everyone. Each person has unique needs and circumstances, and they need to be taken into consideration when selecting their 401(k) lineup.

Before choosing a target date fund, there are a few factors to consider.

What do you want the fund to do for you?

Do you want a fund that is at its most conservative allocation when you retire or a fund that will take you through retirement? A target date fund’s allocation changes based on a set timeframe. If your fund is designed to help you get TO retirement, the amount invested in stocks will substantially decrease as you near your retirement date.

A fund that’s designed to get you THROUGH retirement changes allocations based on your life expectancy. These funds will have a greater amount in stocks at retirement than the to funds and thus be higher risk. Knowing which type of fund you own is critical to your ability to assessing its riskiness, along with its long-term expected returns if you are able to stay the course with it through troubled times.

What are the funds’ target allocations?

Whether it’s a to or a through plan, what are its target allocations? How are decisions about allocation made and do those choices complement your needs?

What's your risk tolerance?

Target-date funds can be more aggressive or more conservative than expected. During the 2008 financial crisis, many investors with 2010 target-date funds suffered severe losses because they didn’t realize their portfolio was invested in more stocks than they thought. Would you have stayed invested if the fund had struggled in 2008? If not, perhaps you should look at a more conservative option.

What are the fees?

Target-date funds can often cost more than other funds because they’re known for their long horizons, and their fees will vary by target date family and target date. If you are more cost conscious, you may prefer to invest in index funds.

Choosing Your 401(K) Lineup.

When there are a plethora of investment options from which to choose, take the time to understand what you want from them and find a fund that meets your needs. If you would like to discuss target date funds or other 401(k) options. I encourage you to reach out to me. Call my office at (949) 221-8105 x 2128, or email me at michael.loo@lpl.com.

The target date is the approximate date when investors plan to start withdrawing their money.

The principal value of a target fund is not guaranteed at any time, including at the target date.

No strategy assures success or protects against loss

September 27, 2017

When you put the words, “retirement,” “investments” and “risk” in the same sentence, most of us will automatically think about market risk, you know, the possibility for an investor to experience losses due to overall performance of financial markets1.  According to the 2014 Annual Retirement Confidence survey, 88% of retirees are worried about maintaining the same standard of living.  While Market Risk is a very real reason to worry, there are other risks that may throw a wrench into your financial plan. This time we will discuss the possible need for Advance medical care, how much it could cost, and how to be ready for it.

The Risk: There is a 50% chance that any of us will need some form of Advance Medical Care2.  In other words you or your spouse WILL need Advance Medical Care. The risks are so high and yet most investors don’t prepare of it.

The Cost: Know the potential damage. The numbers don’t lie. The average cost of long term care in the US for Nursing Home Care for a Semi -Private room is a whopping $225 per day3.  The average stay in a Nursing home is 892 days.  For easy math you are looking at a $200,000+ cost above and beyond your living expenses.

The Solution: Use small dollars to cover big expenses. Get life insurance with living benefits.

One solution that is becoming more and more popular is getting a life insurance plan that can be used to cover Advanced Medical Care. Some insurance companies offer something called Living Benefits Riders. These riders allow you to “advance” a portion of your death benefit if certain conditions are met, such as Terminal illness, problems with the Activities of Daily Living  and life threatening conditions.

Building a Financial Plan that can withstand the risks of life is complicated.  Make sure you hire a Financial Coach to help you prepare for the unknown. Thinking outside the box may be a way to protect your golden years.

[1] www.investopedia.com/terms/m/marketrisk.asp

[2] http://www.aaltci.org/long-term-care-insurance/learning-center/probability-long-term-care.php

[3] www.genworth.com/about-us/industry-expertise/cost-of-care.html#

September 26, 2017

What does retirement actually look like? Some people might say they will literally “turn in their papers”, go home, then putz around the house and tinker with projects for the rest of their life. Others might say they want to travel the world. Some might say they don’t actually want to “retire”, but would rather transition to work they are passionate about, without having to worry about what kind of income they receive. The bottom line is that we tend to have some idea of what we dream it to be. The problem is, there are factors that can contribute to turning our dreamy retirement into a complete nightmare.

Trying to predict that our retirement will end up being exactly as we have planned it to be is like shooting an arrow towards a bullseye as we are blindfolded. It COULD happen, but there are a lot of “what ifs” circling around our idea of a perfect retirement. For instance, what if we retire and expect to putz around the house doing projects for the rest of our life, and find that by week three we are bored out of our mind, yet we didn’t prepare or invest in doing anything different? What if we expected to travel the world, but before retiring, develop health issues that prevent us from being able to do so? The “what ifs” can be a real game changer, not only to what we get to do, but how we would be prepared to pay for it.

Here are some tips to consider when thinking about how to prepare for retirement:

Retirement vs. Financial Independence. Trying to decide now, at our current age, what retirement has to be can be quite stressful. Maybe we don’t have a clue what it should look like in regards to activities and how we will spend our time. So instead of trying to define what retirement might look like, maybe focus on working towards financial independence. Financial independence means over the course of a long-term, disciplined effort, we work with our advisors to help us make financial and protection planning decisions that lead to financial strength over time. Disciplined effort and long-term commitment are key factors when trying to build financial security. This might prove helpful with preparing for whatever retirement ends up looking like.

Planning before Investing. There are thousands of licensed financial professionals whom would love nothing more than to manage our assets by investing in the market. Many go into this with the sole goal of simply “growing assets”. They tend to focus on returns, and believe that we only want to hear that our investments are “going up” consistently. Seeing our account values “go up” is all the satisfaction they think we desire. And with that, they tend to feel like we are on track for retirement. BUT, this is not a guarantee. We can’t predict or control the markets, so this is an example of shooting that arrow blindfolded, hoping we land in the middle. Instead, consider focusing on what your assets need to DO. What job do our assets have? Knowing what the job is upfront will help us make more informed decisions not only on how to invest, but with what kind of risk we can afford to subject ourselves to. Risk management might prove just as critical as growing assets.

Start NOW! Financial planning for retirement could prove far more difficult if we wait to the last minute, vs. making effort starting now. It might seem daunting to think we have to “do everything at once”, but focusing on our future needs is just as important as focusing on our current needs. It might seem difficult to do everything at once, but that’s why working with a financial advisor who values planning prior to investing blindly might prove helpful.

We are all unique in what our lives and dreams are. And whether we are focused on exactly what we want retirement to be, or simply have no idea, the common theme is that the closer we are to having financial independence, the better chance we have of being more prepared. Financial independence shines the light on our options, which might help to make our dreams come true.  And just like when we were kids in a dark room, the nightmares tend to not go away until we turned on the lights!

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