XYZ Strategy #1

As a kid, my parents jokingly shouted “XYZ” if I ever exited the bathroom without zipping up my pants!  Let’s be honest, sometimes we get going so fast that we forget some of the most basic, fundamental needs we have.  As a Gen-X (ages 38-48) or a Gen-Y (ages 19-37) investor, did you know that you are a part of a group that boasts one of the highest earnings power?  Maybe you are moving along so fast that you need to stop to reconsider your plans for the future – something that seems way off, but in reality something that may come quicker than you realize.  Doing so can help you Zip-up (take care of) some essential needs in regard to your financial hopes and plans… these are the XYZ Strategies.

XYZ Strategy #1Develop a strong, sound savings strategy

Many Gen-X investors are doing this.  Many Gen-Y investors are starting (or have thought about it).  And some of you have an inheritance you unexpectedly received, providing a solid foundation on which to build.  Regardless of your situation, a key need for you is to develop a disciplined investment strategy.  This is how you accumulate net worth over time, and also build up what you need for retirement.  So what defines a strong savings strategy?  Here are some five basic criteria to consider.

1) Just begin – if you haven’t already, you need to start saving.  Do you realize it is much more difficult to save later on in life than it is today?  This, not to mention the opportunity cost of forfeited compounding, inflation, etc. are reasons to start today.  Plus, the math tells us that you shouldn’t be required to put aside as much now compared to waiting to start years later (when you get that pay raise, after you get married, once the car is paid off, etc.) saving for that goal.

2) Go automatic – systematic bank drafts work best and take the emotions out of investing.  There’s no second guessing and you don’t miss $’s that aren’t in your checking account.  If you get paid on the 15th and 30th each month, set up drafts for the 16th and 31st each month.  Before you realize it, the years pass and you could have significant accumulated savings that you funded without the pain of writing a check each month, or wondering if “now” was the right time to invest.  Dollar cost averaging is a proven, sound investment strategy.

3) Stick to your guns – in other words, don’t stop your plan… not when your car breaks down, not when the A/C unit stops working or the roof needs repair, not even when you have unexpected medical expenses.  That’s what your emergency fund is for.  Instead, benchmark that you won’t stop saving – and that you will even increase the amount you save every year.  When is the best time for this?… usually after your annual employment review (or bonus).

4) Spread it out – while you can’t argue with the tax-advantages of saving in a company retirement plan (401k, SIMPLE IRA, etc.) or a Roth IRA (tax-free growth over time), it is still important to diversify your savings.  Sound investors will also have taxable accounts (individual, joint, TOD, etc.) and disciplined families will have accounts set up for their children (UTMA, 529, ESA, etc.).  Not putting all your eggs in one basket doesn’t just apply what you invest in, but also to the type of accounts you are funding over time.

5) Ask for help – set aside the pride and work with an advisor.  It’s a sound way to receive professional, objective advice and it’s never a bad idea to have a second set of eyes on things.  Plus, they look at investments most every day – it’s what they are paid to do.  Let’s face it – life happens and before we know it time has slipped by, so enjoy the weekend and let your advisor worry about the investments.

How We Are Seeing Things

Considering the most recent and possible trends, we want to update you on our position and how we see things going forward.

With the recent downgrade of U.S. debt, the political gridlock in Washington, continued deleveraging of global debt, particularly in Europe, and heightened consumer fears – it is possible that our economy could experience increased headwinds for some time. This could translate into slow to possibly even no growth, and continued volatile stock and bond markets. Therefore generally speaking we are tending to think a little more defensive going forward.

At this point in time we are hearing that the markets are “very oversold” meaning that we could see market rallies. If these happen, it is possible that they could be short-lived. So during any better times in the market, windows of opportunity could prove optimum times to make defensive adjustments, if needed.

Please understand we aren’t suggesting investors “run for the door,” so to speak. This reactive, fear-driven type of strategy often proves futile in the long run. Diversification studies show us that there will be asset classes that trend better for investors over others during specific periods of time.Also, we are hearing there are “pockets” of increased economic growth in certain “developing” areas of the world that is contrary to what we are seeing in the U.S. This being the case we will do our best to help clients sort through these facts to make wise investment decisions for their situation.

What you can do in the meantime…

  1. Stay calm and don’t panic. Remember, panic is not a strategy. It is a reaction. Be very careful how you are reading things, and try to be objective in order that you can make better decisions for your situation. It’s sad, but in times like these we hear and see new prognosticators that will try to predict “exactly” how things will turn out. No one can do this accurately every time! Also, friends and others will tell you what they are doing. Remember everyone’s situation is different (income, debt, goals, risk tolerances, background, family, etc.). So try not to “follow the leader” – it’s best to review your situation independently.
  2. Don’t do something emotional and stupid. In times like these advisors see clients do irrational things. You should already have a plan in place, and it’s important to remember that the plan is there for a reason – to help you stay on course. Making knee-jerk reactions can lock in losses (sometimes at significantly lower prices), and even have other consequences such as tax penalties, income or capital gains tax, and increased trading costs. In volatile situations people can feel overwhelmed, so it’s usually best to seek “wise, professional counsel”.
  3. Continue your 401-k and other retirement savings. Believe it or not, in times like these some people stop contributing to their retirement plan with the excuse that they don’t want to “throw good money away”.Remember these times – the market lows – are often the best times to continue buying. You could be getting more shares at lower prices while also continuing to reap the tax benefits associated with qualified retirement plans. It’s often what seems contrary or even wrong today that may benefit you the most in the longer-term.
  4. Re-assess your debt situation. It’s a good thing to pay down debt, especially higher interest rate debt. A good way to do this is to look for expenses you can reduce or cut out. Control emotional, impulsive buying decisions as you manage your spending plan. Also, consider the costs and benefits of driving your vehicles longer. Then take these savings and plow them right back into reducing your debt on a monthly basis.

It could also benefit you to refinance at today’s lower mortgage rates. We have recently heard rates are as low as 3.25% on a traditional 15-year loan, and 4.25% a 30-year fixed mortgage. Sometimes moving quickly and refinancing at reduced rates can allow you to use these savings to pay off your mortgage sooner. Also consider the advantages of reducing the term on your mortgage, such as reducing a 30-year to a 15-year period for more significant interest cost savings.

We will frequently review our “view of things” going forward and willperiodically note pertinent issues through our emails and blog – so please “like” us on Facebook or sign up for our Blog to receive ongoing updates.

In closing, during these more difficult times we will work hard to help sort through all the “noise” out there in order to help you make the right decisions for your situation.

 

Re-Building Retirement Wealth, Part 4

Most have heard the phrase “don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” and pretty well understand the wisdom within this statement. But have you taken this a step further and applied it to diversifying your retirement income? We have seen many times that diversification among retirement income planning has been overlooked. And this can be a critical need for a retiree… so consider what some of the sources of retirement income you have in place. Perhaps you can identify with one or more of the following basic sources of retirement income:

Investment portfolio or savings – Income is generated from one’s investment portfolio, which is solely dependent on the stock and bond markets, such as a 401(k) plan, IRA or other accounts which may include mutual funds, individual securities, etc.

Employer benefits – Some still have an employer benefit (such as the Federal or State government, a large corporation, etc.) such as a Defined Benefit retirement plan which will send monthly checks after you retire.

Annuities – Another effective strategy can be variable annuities that offer lifetime benefits without annuitizing (via a Guaranteed Income Rider), which ultimately pays the policy annuitant a monthly income benefit for life, and the beneficiary receives the balance at death.

Rental and/or income property – Working assets that generate a constant flow of income, such as real estate, a trust or other account or inheritance property.

Notes Receivable – Can include private notes that others owe you or even arrangements with another party that can provide a set monthly income.

Timber proceeds – In the case of land ownership, periodically a timber cut or thinning can provided additional cash flow.

Oil/Gas partnerships – Can provide periodic income to the limited partner who assumes no liability beyond the funds they contribute to purchase units in the partnership.
During retirement the best of both worlds is at least stable income, but with some potential to increase over time. It is quite possible diversifying your retirement income may help produce that outcome.