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Friends Talk Money
24 minutes | 5 days ago
2021 Resolutions You'll Want to Keep!
22 minutes | 7 days ago
Where's my stimulus check?
If you and your spouse or partner make less than $150,000 (if filing jointly) or $75,000 (if filing as individuals), you should have received an economic stimulus payment ($2,400 for couples, $1,200 for individuals) that was part of last year’s COVID-19 relief legislation. In January of 2021, you should also have received an additional payment ($600 for individuals/$1,200 for couples) as part of the new relief legislation passed in December.
19 minutes | 19 days ago
Shifting Gears to Retirement
Many people who are approaching or in retirement are asking similar questions: What value do I offer if I no longer have a full-time job? What will I do all day? Can I afford to live the way I want do? In his new book, Shifting Gears: 50 Baby Boomers Share Their Meaningful Journeys in Retirement, author and retiree Richard Haiduck offers valuable insights into the aspirations and concerns of those who are experiencing the joys and challenges of their golden years. Most don’t plan on kicking back and doing nothing. By desire or financial necessity, many are working part-time or joining the gig economy. They continue to support the causes they believe in, through direct action and charitable giving. They’re starting new hobbies, speaking their minds, and pushing back against society’s outdated attitudes about older Americans. For many, the pandemic has not changed their retirement lifestyle at all. The biggest worry among most of Haiduck’s interviewees is whether they’ll have enough money to live the way they want to during a retirement that could last decades. Those who are approaching retirement facing this financial uncertainty should consider working longer, delaying taking Social Security until age 70, boosting contributions to their retirement plans, and envisioning how they want to live when they retire. Many could also benefit by meeting with a fee-only fiduciary financial planner who can help them gain a full understanding of their projected income and expenses during retirement and what they may need to do now to shift as smoothly as possible into their life after work.
24 minutes | a month ago
How Did Your Investments Really Do in 2020?
When you’re reviewing quarterly and year-end performance in your 401(k) and brokerage account statements, it’s important to consider how much you may be paying in annual fees (expense ratios) to mutual funds and commissions to brokers. These combined costs could be as high as 2% per year. While this may seem small, over several decades of investing, these costs could potentially reduce the value of your retirement nest egg by tens of thousands of dollars. And if you’re retired and now invest mostly in low-yielding bond funds, these costs may actually wipe out the small amount of income these funds generate each year. It’s up to you to research how much you’re paying in investment costs, and whether less expensive options are available. For example, most mutual funds come in various share classes, each of which have different expense ratios. Shares of funds you purchase on your own may have significantly lower expense ratios than different share classes of the same funds you purchase through a broker, which may add on as much as 1% in additional “marketing” fees to pay brokerage commissions. Not to mention added “back-end” sales charges if you sell shares before a certain time period has elapsed. If you invest on your own and you’re not a strong believer in the ability of mutual fund managers to make the best investing decisions, consider investing in index funds and ETFs that offer broadly diversified exposure to different segments of the market at a fraction of the cost of actively managed funds. If you’re working with a broker, ask them to disclose the total annual costs of the funds they’ve sold you. If these costs seem too high, ask them to recommend cheaper alternatives that have similar characteristics and track records—but make sure you won’t have to pay back-end sales charges if you make the switch. If your broker doesn’t take your cost concerns seriously, consider firing them and hiring a fee-only fiduciary investment adviser to manage your portfolio. These professionals charge you an annual fee (which they will fully disclose) and never accept commissions from fund companies. In exchange, they’ll be able to tell you exactly how much you’re currently paying in mutual fund fees and recommend lower-cost options that align with your investment objectives and risk tolerance.
31 minutes | 2 months ago
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of making decisions that will make it easier for others to carry out your wishes should you become physically or mentally capacitated or when you pass on. At the very least, you should assign someone you trust to serve as your health care proxy should you no longer be able to make healthcare decisions on your own. You should also formalize a living will that documents whether you want or don’t want life-prolonging treatments at the end of your life. Also consider assigning durable financial power of attorney to someone you trust to manage your finances if you’re no longer able to. To help ensure that you, rather than a court, determines how your assets in your estate will be distributed to your heirs, make sure that you’ve completed a will that states your wishes and names an executor. Review and update your will if circumstances change. To avoid probate, consider setting up a revocable living trust and funding it with high-value assets such as your home and taxable investment accounts. You’ll need to retitle these assets in the name of the Trust. You won’t, however, need to retitle your IRA accounts and life insurance policies, since these assets will go directly to your assigned beneficiaries. It’s highly recommended that you hire an experienced attorney to legally formalize these decisions. Since attorneys are expensive, consider working with a fee-only financial planner who can turn your decisions into an estate planning action plan at a relatively lower cost. You can then give this plan to your attorney to execute the legal requirements.
22 minutes | 2 months ago
What the 2020 election means for you and your money
With the U.S. presidential election results finally settled, many investors are wondering how a Biden presidency may affect their portfolios next year and beyond. If the special elections in Georgia in January restore control of the Senate to the Democrats, there is a possibility that President Biden may fulfill his campaign promise to raise capital gains taxes and income and estate taxes on wealthy Americans. But the chances of all Democrats falling in line to support these hikes is unlikely while the economy is still struggling. Of far greater importance is the timing and extent of the next round of economic stimulus. Congress and the new president will need to quickly agree on a package that provides relief for the millions of Americans still out of work and for small businesses that are struggling to survive. Wall Street is already betting that the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccinations by spring, in combination with stimulus and low interest rates, will accelerate economic growth and job creation in the second half of 2021, which is why the stock market has hit record highs recently. Yet, with so much uncertainty in the air, you should think carefully before making any major end-of-year investment decisions or discuss your concerns with an experienced fiduciary financial advisor before you act.
24 minutes | 2 months ago
For years, many financial professionals have suggested that most retirees can afford to withdraw up to 4% of their retirement assets each year with very low risk of their money running out in less than 25-30 years. But this “4% rule” was created at a time when interest rates were much higher than they are today. Back then, many investors with conservative portfolios could depend more on bond income to replenish these withdrawals. Now, retirees have to allocate more money to stocks to help make up for today’s historically low bond yields. In any case, there is no “hard and fast” rule on how much money you can or should withdraw. The actual amount needs to be based on your retirement age, life expectancy, lifestyle and other sources of income. Other factors, such as whether you have long-term care insurance or whether you’re hoping to leave some of your retirement money to your heirs or favorite charities also need to be considered. If you’re struggling to deal with these complex issues, consider seeking the advice of a fee-only fiduciary financial planner, who can help you understand different retirement cashflow scenarios and recommend a strategy that may increase the chances of your retirement nest egg lasting as long as you want it to.
22 minutes | 3 months ago
Grandparents can teach their grandkids about money in the real world
It’s important for your grandchildren to start building their “money-awareness” at an early age. Since schools generally don’t teach financial literacy and parents often don’t have the time or energy to discuss these matters with their kids, you can play a key role in helping your grandchildren become smarter about money. With younger children, help them understand how much of their parents’ paychecks are spent on food, clothes, mortgage payments and home repairs and taxes. Visit online retailers with them so they can see the costs of the clothes, books and toys they own or want for the holidays. Give them odd jobs that put extra money in their pockets and help them figure out how much of their earnings to reserve for saving, spending, investing and charity. For teenagers and college students, help them learn how to keep debit card spending from spiraling out of control and avoid getting trapped in credit card debt. This is also a good time to teach them the basics of investing by offering inexpensive ways for them to enter the stock market.
25 minutes | 3 months ago
All you need to know about Medicare open enrollment 2020
Why are you seeing an endless stream of commercials for Medicare providers? Because right now it’s the annual Medicare enrollment period, which ends on December 7. If you haven’t signed up for Medicare yet, you can do so several months before you turn 65 so your coverage starts on your birthday. If you’re 65 or older and have been laid off from your job and no longer have healthcare coverage, you can sign up for Medicare right away. Once you’ve enrolled, you can change your coverage during this annual fall enrollment period. The most common and puzzling decision Medicare enrollees face is what kind of coverage to get. They can enroll in standard Medicare (Part A and B) and add prescription drug (Part D) and supplemental coverage (known as Medigap). Or they can choose a comprehensive Medicare Advantage plan offered by private insurers that covers Medicare services and prescriptions. While Medicare Advantage plans often have cheaper monthly premiums, they can incur higher out-of-pocket costs and limit your choice of physicians and hospitals. Confused? Fortunately, there are resources you can use to use to compare your options and get human assistance.
19 minutes | 4 months ago
Boosting your income in retirement
With interest rates at record lows and economic uncertainty expected to continue, you’re probably wondering, like millions of other Americans, whether you’ll have enough income to last 20 or more years of retirement. Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take right now to improve your chances. First, try to avoid taking Social Security as long as possible, since each year you delay could increase your benefits by 8%. Second, use online tools like maxmyinterest.com to find online banks offering better interest rates on savings than you’re earning now. Third, consider reallocating some of your investments to increase income without taking on excessive risk; equity-income funds offer an attractive combination of dividend income and the potential for capital growth. Fourth, look for ways to reduce non-essential spending and investment expenses. If all of this seems too overwhelming to do on your own, considering working with a fee-only fiduciary financial planner who can analyze your entire financial life and recommend a plan to help you live the way you want to during retirement.
27 minutes | 4 months ago
A better way to manage your 401k
401(k) plans are by far the largest source of income and capital for most retirees. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re making the most of your plan’s potential by finding ways to reduce costs and make smarter investment choices. Edward Gottfried of Betterment suggests that the easiest way to lower costs is to move your money from mutual funds that charge you 1% or more in annual investment management fees into index funds with fees ranging from 0.05% to 0.25%. Online tools like Blooom can analyze all of your plan’s funds and suggest less-expensive alternatives. It’s also important to make sure that your asset allocation—your current mix of stock funds, bond funds and cash--reflects your investment goals, timeframe and risk tolerance. As you approach retirement, you may want to reduce your allocation to stocks to protect against potential losses in your portfolio should the market plummet when you need to start making withdrawals. However, it’s important to keep some exposure to stocks because they’re more likely to keep your portfolio growing faster during retirement than if you only invest in bonds and cash. When you retire, or move to a different company, you need to decide what to do with the assets in your former employer’s 401(k) plan. If you’re switching jobs, it only makes sense to transfer assets from your old plan if your new company’s plan offers better investment options and lower costs. But for most people, moving 401(k) plan assets into a brokerage Rollover IRA makes the most sense. A Rollover IRA gives you access to thousands of different mutual funds and ETFs and most offer online retirement planning tools to help you determine an appropriate asset allocation model and select investment options. If you don’t want to make your own investment decisions, consider rolling over your 401(k) assets into an IRA professionally managed by a fee-only fiduciary investment adviser.
25 minutes | 4 months ago
Don't Go Broke in Retirement
According to industry research, only half of retirees save enough money to maintain their current level of spending for more than five years. Trying to figure out if their income from Social Security and retirement savings will last potentially 30 years or more is one of the biggest sources of stress among those in their 60s and 70s. According to Steve Vernon, author of Don’t Go Broke at Retirement, retirees need to find a middle ground between carelessly spending away their nest eggs and allowing their fears about running out of money keep them from enjoying life. There are two strategies you can use to help ensure that you won’t spend your way into poverty. First, try to delay taking Social Security benefits until age 70 if possible, even if you need to take a part-time job to earn extra income. The longer you wait, the higher the monthly benefits you’ll receive. Second, look for ways to reduce your spending. While going out to eat less often and cutting your cable and cell phone bills can help, the most significant, long-lasting savings come from eliminating major expenses. Getting rid of a vehicle you no longer need or moving into a townhouse or to a state with a lower cost of living can significantly reduce the thousands of dollars per year you spend on repairs, loans, insurance and taxes. Since these decisions can be very complex, consider seeking the advice of an unbiased, fee-only financial planner who can recommend strategies to keep you financially and emotionally secure during your golden years.
24 minutes | 5 months ago
How to downsize your home and reduce financial stress
If you’re thinking about moving to a smaller home, you may want to begin this process by figuring out what you need to keep and what you can get rid of. In this episode, David Ekerdt, a sociology professor at Kansas University and author of Downsizing: Confronting our Possessions in Later Life, reveals that many older people find this process to be a major source of tension and emotional duress, especially if they have a short timeframe for getting rid of things. Often their children and grandchildren aren’t interested in taking their china, silverware or furniture. Or no wants to buy the collectibles and artwork they thought would bring in a small fortune. Or the charities they’d like to donate things to are overly picky. A process that they thought would be done quickly can sometimes takes months. To lessen this stress, parents should invite their children to either “claim” or take items they want long before they plan to move to a different location. The earlier they shed the things they no longer need, the less they’ll have to deal with later on.
13 minutes | 5 months ago
Identity theft looks different during a pandemic
Scammers, identity thieves and false unemployment claim filers have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars this year, taking advantage of COVID-19 confusion to prey on vulnerable and scared people isolated in their homes. Some call pretending to be the Social Security Administration, demanding personal financial information to stop benefit cuts. Others pretend to be from the federal government, asking people to provide their Social Security numbers to authorize economic stimulus payments. Other scammers send solicitations from fake charities or GoFundMe campaigns claiming to be helping first responders and pandemic victims. If you receive unsolicited calls, texts or emails asking for your Social Security number or other financial information, ignore them. If you inadvertently fall for one of these scams, or you believe that you are a victim of identity theft, immediately contact the three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and Transunion, and request a credit freeze, which will prevent thieves from opening more credit cards in your name. Also request a free credit report from each agency and look them over closely to identify any credit cards or loans you didn’t authorize. If you believe that someone is filing false unemployment claims under your name, contact your local state employment office or contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or www.tips.fbi.gov. Make sure you document your attempts to research this fraud.
25 minutes | 5 months ago
Divorce after 50
Going through a divorce is tough at any age, but it can be particularly challenging when you separate over age 55, when your emotional and financial lives may have been intertwined for decades. In this episode, Pam, Richard and Terry discuss the three most expensive financial mistakes people going through a divorce often make. They also offer tips for reducing legal costs, outline the steps spouses need to take to understand the joint assets they’re entitled to and the debts they may be responsible for, and discuss ways to get through the rigors of divorce and emerge with a positive outlook and a strong sense of financial independence.
15 minutes | 5 months ago
College Confusion in Covid Times
The COVID-19 pandemic has created dilemmas that college students and their parents have never had to face before. With many already financially struggling higher education institutions keeping campuses closed, cancelling athletic seasons and offering online courses only, students are being denied the full college experience. Are the 10%-15% tuition reductions some colleges and universities are offering adequate compensation? Pam, Richard and Terry discuss the pros and cons of various options, including: Negotiating tuition costs and financial aid packages; taking a gap year to earn money for the 2021-2022 school year; and deferring enrollment and earning a 1-2 years’ worth of transferable credits at a community college.
24 minutes | 6 months ago
Gold Rush 2020
For centuries, gold has been considered a store of wealth. For some investors, this belief may be stronger than ever before, as gold prices have reached record highs recently, driven largely by its reputation as a hedge against market volatility and concerns over the safety of global currencies. Yet it’s important to remember that while gold is doing well now, as an asset class it has significantly underperformed the S&P 500 over the past decade. That’s why most advisors recommend that investors allocate no more than 15% of their portfolio to gold. What’s the best way to get into the gold market? Pam, Richard and Terry weigh in on the pros and cons of investing in physical gold like coins and bullion, versus ETFs and mutual funds that invest directly in gold and funds that invest in mining companies that fulfill the global demand for this precious metal.
28 minutes | 7 months ago
Your Mid Year Check up
We're now halfway through what's become a very strange year. The turmoil we started experiencing inthe financial markets may be making you more than a little jittery about your finances. So in today’s Friends Talk Money episode, we're back to help you make informed money decisions. This episode is your midyear financial checkup that includes suggestions for things to do to stay on track – or at least get a start on it. We'll also talk about finding work and doing some volunteering virtually
39 minutes | 8 months ago
Managing Money in a New COVID-19 Economy
We may have seen the worst from the Coronavirus pandemic that shut down businesses across America. Now we have to manage, save, and invest our money in a brand new environment. With savings rates near zero and stock prices once again looking expensive, and therefore potentially risky, retirement investors are wondering how to put their savings to work and figure out how to fill any gaps in income. In this second special edition of Friends Talk Money, Richard talks employment opportunities for people over 50, Terry provides a crisp summary of what’s happening in our economy, and Pam offers those nearing retirement three tips about investing for both income and growth.
35 minutes | 9 months ago
COVID-19, Money Advice for the Pandemic
The Coronavirus pandemic has created an unprecedented global healthcare, economic and personal financial crisis. The risks are magnified for those approaching retirement, who face a higher risk of infection, loss of income, and a steep drop in the value of their retirement savings. In this special edition of Friends Talk Money, Richard, Pam and Terry serve up advice and insights about what’s going on with stimulus checks, and how to stay solvent and avoid making bad decisions during these trying times.
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