Archive | January, 2013

Start Your Retirement Debt Free

It isn’t easy to do, but before you retire, you should eliminate as much of your debt as possible. You’re going to be on a fixed income and your financial future will be much more secure if you start your retirement debt free.

Start paying off your debts now and start your retirement debt free.

Start your retirement debt free

We like to reward ourselves for a job well done. And, believe me, if you’re able to eliminate your debt before you retire, that’s a very big job, very well done. So, while you may feel the need to celebrate — and you should — don’t let yourself slide back into debt. It’s all too easy to do.

Here are some tips to help you get out of debt and stay that way.

  1. Loosen up on the budget and breathe, just a little.
  2. Pay with cash — or charge only what you have the cash on hand to cover.
  3. Don’t splurge. Plan.
  4. Identify your money triggers.
  5. Redirect the money you spent on debt payments each month to savings.
  6. Develop a support group of like-minded debt-free friends.
  7. Never forget the nightmare of how living with debt felt.

Start now to pay down your debts, especially those with high interest rates — like credit cards — and you’ll be able to start your retirement debt free.

Click here to learn more about how you can start your retirement debt free.

Posted in Creating a Personalized Retirement Plan, Planning for Your Retirement0 Comments

Retire Gradually

Believe it or not, the realities of retirement come as a shock to many people. After a few weeks of waking up with nowhere particular to go and nothing particular to do, you may find yourself wondering, “What now?” One way to solve that problem is to retire gradually.

Don’t just put yourself out to pasture. There’s a lot to be gained when you choose to retire gradually.

Retire gradually

There are many things you can do to ease the transition to retirement. Here are some tips that will help.

  1. Negotiate a new schedule.
  2. Offer to mentor younger workers.
  3. Settle on fair pay.
  4. Watch out for pension problems.
  5. Qualify for health insurance.
  6. Social Security withholding.
  7. Decide what you’ll do with your free time.

The vast majority of those approaching retirement are still healthy, active and have much to contribute. Don’t just put yourself out to pasture when you can still be productive, earn money doing something you enjoy and retire gradually.

Click here to learn more about how you can retire gradually.

Posted in Creating a Personalized Retirement Plan, Planning for Your Retirement, Retirement Plan Challenges0 Comments

Changes To Social Security for 2013

Whether you’re already retired, getting ready or just dreaming, your future financial security will be affected by these changes to Social Security for 2013.

Learn about changes to Social Security for 2013.

Changes to Social Security for 2013

Some good, some bad — depending on how you look at them — here are seven changes being implemented by the Social Security Administration in the coming year.

1. Payroll tax cut ends.

2. Higher payroll tax cap.

3. More online services.

4. Reduced office hours.

5. Paper checks will end.

6. Higher earnings limit.

7. Bigger payments.

To ensure you’re getting all the Social Security benefits to which you’re entitled, take the time to get online and familiarize yourself with the Social Security Administration website — www.ssa.gov — to learn all you need to know about changes to Social Security for 2013.

Click here to read more about changes to Social Security for 2013.

Posted in Planning for Your Retirement, Social Security, The Economy0 Comments

China’s Financial Problems Could Destroy Your Retirement

China is one of the United States’ largest international creditors. And, while it’s nice of them to lead us money, it looks like their economic activities could come back to bite them and China’s financial problems could destroy your retirement.

Addiction to credit may mean China’s financial problems could destroy your retirement.

China’s financial problems could destroy your retirement

While the Chinese government has passed many reforms allowing a more robust competitive economic environment to develop, these changes are coming slowly and — combined with low deposit interest rates — have forced many Chinese to turn to other, more risky investments.

China’s economy has become a credit junkie, requiring increasing amounts of debt to generate the same unit of growth. Between 2007 and 2012, the ratio of credit to GDP climbed to more than 190%, an increase of 60 percentage points.” In 2012, new credit to the non-financial sector totaled 15.5 trillion, that’s equivalent to 33 percent of 2011 GDP.

What does that mean and why should we care?

A lot of China’s debt is supported by real estate which is put up as collateral for the loans. Banks’ official exposure to property is listed as 22 percent of the loan book. But that doesn’t account for exposure to real estate through their loans to local government financing vehicles (LGFVs) and off-balance sheet credit instruments.

Sudden drops in real estate prices caused a jump in debt problems and non-performing loans.

Oh yeah. A real estate bubble. You remember what that’s like, don’t you.

As we struggle to rebuild our own economy, the US is very susceptible to economic trends around the world. If it’s economy crashes — or even just dips substantially — China’s financial problems could destroy your retirement.

Click here to read more about how China’s financial problems could destroy your retirement.

Posted in Planning for Your Retirement, Retirement Plan Challenges, The Economy0 Comments

Invest More Conservatively After Retirement

Prior to retirement, you’ll probably want to take a little more risk in your investments to maximize your return, but you may want to invest more conservatively after retirement.

Invest more conservatively after retirement to protect your assets and financial security.

Invest more conservatively after retirement

Since you want to have as much money as possible saved when you retire, higher risk investments — with the associated higher returns — make good sense. Even if the market goes south, you’ll still have several years of employment to carry you through until the market rebounds. You might also consider working a few extra years to save even more.

The single biggest difference is that you have a lot more flexibility during your career when it comes to retirement planning. For example, if you have the bulk of your retirement accounts in stocks and the market tanks, you’ve got plenty of options for rebuilding the value of those accounts.

With years of work still ahead of you, you can simply sit back and wait for the market to rebound and eventually climb to higher ground. Or you can pump up the amount you contribute to your retirement accounts, which will hasten the recovery of your balances.

After you’ve retired, it’s a vastly different scenario.

Unlike during your career when you’re still putting money into your 401(k), IRA or other accounts, you’ll be pulling money out of your nest egg once you retire. And that creates a very different dynamic.

Specifically, the combination of investment losses from a market downturn, plus withdrawals from your account for retirement living expenses creates a double-whammy effect that can decimate the value of your portfolio and dramatically increase your chances of outliving your dough.

As a result, the same market meltdown that may be very unsettling during your career can be absolutely devastating after you’ve retired, perhaps even forcing you to radically scale back your standard of living to avoid running through your money too soon.

There is no single “right” answer to how you should invest — before or after retirement. But, because of your reduced earning power it’s wise to invest more conservatively after retirement.

Click here to read more about why you should invest more conservatively after retirement.

Posted in Creating a Personalized Retirement Plan, Planning for Your Retirement, Retirement Investment Options, Retirement Plan Challenges, Saving for Retirement0 Comments

Protect Your “Other” Biggest Retirement Asset

For many Americans, their biggest financial asset is their home. But, since some of us are priced out of the housing market, that asset is our retirement savings. It’s easy to make mistakes when planning for retirement, so it’s important to protect your “other” biggest retirement asset.

Protect your “other” biggest retirement asset — your tax-deferred retirement accounts.

Protect your “other” biggest retirement asset

If you’ve accumulated a significant amount in your retirement funds, you should keep these three things in mind:

Backup beneficiaries. The biggest mistake we see day in and day out when meeting with prospective clients is the lack of correctly designated beneficiaries. The easiest and best thing you can do is to verify that you have a primary and contingent beneficiaries listed on all of your retirement accounts. It’s not enough to list generic beneficiaries like “my living spouse” as primary and “my living children” as contingent beneficiaries.

Prudent investment strategies.Even the best-laid investment plan can fail and one of the most common mistakes is taking an unhealthy level of risk with your retirement accounts. If you’re expecting your IRA to last the rest of your life and beyond it is critically important to control risk.

Correct custodial and trust documents. Many retirement savers are unaware of the hidden dangers in IRA custodian documents or trust arrangements. hey sign these important documents without fully understanding the consequences. Dust off your IRA custodian document and double-check the fine print to verify that your beneficiaries are not able to receive their IRA inheritance in a lump sum fashion and pay a huge tax bill.

It’s critical to the financial security of your retirement that you plan wisely and have all the information you need to make the correct decisions for your situation. You want to make sure your funds last as long as you do, so take steps now to protect your “other” biggest retirement asset.

Click here to learn more about how you can protect your “other” biggest retirement asset.

Posted in Planning for Your Retirement, Retirement Plan Challenges0 Comments

Tips If You Plan To Retire in 2013

If this is the big year for you, congratulations! It’s been a long haul, but that’s all in the past and it’s time to relax and enjoy the golden years. To make sure you’re able to do so, here are some tips if you plan to retire in 2013.

Make your retirement more enjoyable with these tips if you plan to retire in 2013.

Tips if you plan to retire in 2013

Unfortunately, you can’t just walk out the door one last time and wave good-bye. You still have things to do.

1. Make sure you are vested in your retirement benefits.

2. Strategize about when to claim Social Security.

3. Sign up for Medicare on time.

4. Protect your savings.

5. Develop a plan for spending down your assets.

6. Don’t forget to take required minimum distributions.

7. Consider maintaining your connection to the workforce.

Sure, it’s the end of your working career, but it’s also the beginning and there are lots of options available. Make your retirement rewarding and follow these tips if you plan to retire in 2013.

Click here to read more about tips if you plan to retire in 2013.

Posted in Medicare, Planning for Your Retirement, Retirement Plan Challenges, Social Security0 Comments

Increase Your Retirement Savings

The secret to a financially secure retirement is simple: save enough money. But, as with most truisms, it’s much easier said than done. What’s a hard-working American to do? Here are some tips to help you increase your retirement savings.

Plan to work longer to help increase your retirement savings.

Increase your retirement savings

All of the following suggestions are much like “save enough money” — simple to understand, but sometimes very hard to do. If you’re successful however, you’ll have gone a long way toward ensuring a financially secure retirement.

  1. Make retirement saving a priority. If you want to increase the chances that you will stick to any course of action, you need to make it a priority.
  2. Figure out how much you need to save. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, more than half of Americans haven’t even calculated how much money they need to save for a comfortable retirement.
  3. Look at your current expenses. Now that you know how much money you should be putting toward retirement, it’s time to find that money…. Honestly look at where your money is going. Look for the waste. Stop spending money on things you don’t need (and probably don’t want), and put that money toward your retirement.
  4. Find ways to make more money. After cutting expenses, you still might not be hitting your mark. If this is the case, look for ways to make more money.
  5. Increase your automatic investment. Your best option for making sure that your retirement contributions increase is to automate your efforts.

And, one of my favorites:

Postpone retirement, or don’t retire at all (at least not in the conventional sense). Stay active. Find a part-time — or even a full-time — job doing something you really enjoy. Remember, you’re not working to replace your full-employment income, but to supplement your retirement savings.

Increase your retirement savings now and plan to supplement those savings after you “retire” and you’ll make that money go a lot further.

Click here to learn more about how you can increase your retirement savings.

Posted in Creating a Personalized Retirement Plan, Planning for Your Retirement, Retirement Plan Challenges, Saving for Retirement0 Comments

2013 Guesses About Retirement Investments

As we ease into 2013, it seems just about everyone has ideas — predictions, if you will — about what the new year will bring. Bearing mind that your speculation is as good as mine and that “past performance is no guarantee of future returns,” here are some of the headline-making 2103 guesses about retirement investments.

2013 guesses about retirement investments. What will happen to your money this year?

2013 guesses about retirement investments

One thing is pretty certain: since the Great Recession, the stock market has managed to claw it’s way back to record levels. It also looks like things will continue to get better.

Optimism about the economy and the political scene brought strong gains for the stock market in 2012, despite occasional jitters over the so-called fiscal cliff. There are reasons to think the rally will continue through 2013. Europe is getting better. China is stronger. Maybe our own economy will pick up as unemployment goes down, consumers build confidence, and politicians agree to compromise.

That said, we can safely bet that diversity in your investment portfolio is a good thing, because — let’s face it — no one really knows what the future holds for China, Europe or anywhere else in the world and you want to be prepared. Then there’s the infamous “presidential cycle.”

Research tells us that the stock market tends to follow a presidential cycle. Stock prices go up during a presidential election year like 2012 by an average of about 8 percent. This past election year brought us almost twice that, some 15 percent.

Marshall Nickles of Pepperdine University suggests

…while the presidential cycle theory is historically accurate, it does not necessarily predict stock prices. The market is subject to various forces, many of them unforeseeable, and a recognized pattern may not anticipate the next turn in the market.

A report from John Hancock Mutual Funds confirms

…the observation that the stock market ekes out small gains during a president’s first two years, then goes gangbusters during the president’s second two years. John Hancock puts the chances of a stock-market gain during a presidential election year at 74 percent. But the chances of a gain during the first year of a presidential term fall to 57 percent. And this study calculates an average return of just 4 percent.

Then there’s the Santa Clause rally.

Yale Hirsch of The Stock Trader’s Almanac looked at the last five trading days of the year plus the first two of the new year. Since 1950, those seven days have averaged a 1.5 percent gain in stock prices (an annualized rate of over 50 percent). He also found that this Santa Claus rally often predicts the next year’s market. If the Santa Claus rally arrives on schedule, it’s a good sign. If it doesn’t, then the following year often turns bearish.

Ho! Ho! Ho! You may find it entertaining to look at the numbers, trends and predictions — I do — but don’t bet the farm on them. Instead, remember that they’re 2013 guesses about retirement investments.

Click here to read more about 2013 guesses about retirement investments.

Posted in Planning for Your Retirement, Retirement Plan Challenges, Saving for Retirement, The Economy0 Comments

Working Longer May Not Save Your Retirement

Working longer is a frequently-sited strategy for ensuring a financially secure retirement and it offers many benefits such as more years of employment to save and maximizing your Social Security benefits. But just working longer may not save your retirement.

Working longer may not save your retirement, but it may help make your  golden years more fun, interesting — and rewarding.

Working longer may not save your retirement

There are many other factors that come into play when you consider postponing your retirement. How much you’re earning now is critical.

As you might expect, projections for the lowest pre-retirement income quartile are the most sobering. This group would need to defer retirement to age 84 before 90 percent of them would have even a 50 percent probability of achieving comparable pre-retirement living standards.

You’ll have to really love what you do to make working until you’re 84 seem attractive. The future looks brighter for those earning more, but not much.

The results improve with income levels, but even among those in the highest income quartile, 90 percent have only a 50 percent chance of having enough to retire by 70.

Even if you’re relatively young and plan to work longer, the projections are still grim.

When broken out by age, the news isn’t much better: For one-third of households in which the people were between ages 30 and 59 as of 2007, working until age 70 won’t provide adequate income in retirement.

One way to look at this and make the picture seem a little brighter is to broaden your definition of “work.” Even if you hate your current job and want to get out of it as soon as possible, your skills and experience may have many applications that will allow you to work less, generate income to offset your retirement expenses, and actually enjoy what you’re doing.

Working longer may not save your retirement, but it may help make your  golden years more fun, interesting — and rewarding.

Click here to learn why working longer may not save your retirement.

Posted in Planning for Your Retirement, Retirement Plan Challenges, Saving for Retirement, The Economy0 Comments

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