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Taking Stock of Changing Financial Landscape

A recent report says 30-year returns won’t be as high as they were in the 20th century. 

According to the McKinsey Global Institute’s stock and bond market research, a 30-year-old today will have to work seven years longer, or nearly double how much money he or she needs to save for retirement, to compensate for these lower returns. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why investors may need to lower their sights,” from McKinsey Global Institute, April 2016.] 

While none of that sounds like good news, it’s important to know that there are positives. Just as the markets have changed, so has the financial industry. There are insurance products available to help provide reliable sources of income. With certain insurance products, like annuities, you can create a steady stream of fixed income, which is what most people need in retirement. Remember that guarantees and protections provided by insurance products including annuities are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer. 

We are happy to review your current situation to see if adding insurance products to your retirement income strategy is appropriate for your objectives and situation. Feel free to schedule an appointment for more information. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Stress is One Reason People Retire,” from Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, April 28, 2016.] 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “U.S. Economy Expands to 0.5% Pace, Weakest in Two Years,” from Bloomberg, April 28, 2016.] 

Rather than create a retirement income strategy, many people just plan to work longer. Unfortunately, we don’t always have that choice, depending on our health (and that of our family members), the job market and plenty of other factors. 

In fact, if you work in a demanding, high-stress job, you’re less likely to be able to work past age 65. Studies show that people who can work longer tend to be in low-stress careers with stable job duties and the ability to transition to part-time work. This includes such occupations as writers, musicians, clergy and college professors. 

The main thing to remember is that none of us will ever be able to control the economy, interest rates, the housing market or even our own ability to work as long as we may want. Taking the time to simply learn about how creating a source of guaranteed retirement income through the use of insurance products like annuities can help you feel confident about your financial future. We’re here if you’d like to discuss this further. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Housing market, intergenerational transmission of poverty, and more,” from Brookings Institution, April 28, 2016.] 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference. 

 

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Taking Your Best Shot at House Hunting

It’s that time of year again. Homeowners have been painting, repairing, trimming and planting in an effort to get their properties ready for the spring real estate selling season. 

It’s an annual ritual that, according to those in the industry, hasn’t created enough volume in recent years. Perhaps this year we’re poised for a change. 

If you’re in the market for buying or selling, don’t underestimate the impact changing homes could have on your financial situation. Remember that overreaching for a real estate purchase could potentially impact your financial plans for the future. It’s always good to review a home buy within the context of your complete financial picture — particularly before you make any big decisions. Let us know if we can help you with your long-term retirement goals. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Existing-Home Sales Spring Ahead in March,” from National Association of Realtors, April 20, 2016.] 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Home sellers see strongest appreciation since the recession,” from MarketWatch, April 21, 2016.] 

When you’re looking to sell, remember that shoppers and lenders are more guarded in home purchases these days, and they often won’t spend more than what a home’s currently valued at. It’s important to check recent comparable home sales to help you establish an accurate market price. 

Also, never underestimate the power of staging and sprucing. There’s a fine line between making a house look homey and leaving it so cluttered with personal items that it’s hard for a potential buyer to see it as their own. There are plenty of online resources to help guide you on preparing your home for sale, or you can work with a professional in your area. With today’s low inventory, the houses that look good and are priced right sell the fastest. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “5 Mistakes People Make When Selling a Home,” from CheatSheet.com, March 17, 2016.] 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Staging Tips for Spring,” from HGTV, 2016.] 

Retirees in the market to buy likely have a different set of criteria than the last time they went home shopping. If the kids have moved out, a smaller space may be more preferable. It’s important to have space for visitors, but the best option to cut down on price, utilities and maintenance may be a smaller home with a few pullout couches and cots for overnight stays. 

For baby boomers, there’s also the consideration that this might be the last home they own. In order to “age in place,” many are more focused on certain features than in the past. For example, one-story houses may be more popular among people considering mobility issues. Wider hallways and open spaces could be two features to look for, as well as some nice window views for those days when you just want to kick back and relax at home with family and friends.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “7 Home Buying and Selling Tips from the Property Brothers,” from HGTV, 2016.] 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How to Renovate Your House to Age in Place,” from U.S. News & World Report, Sept. 10, 2015.] 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

The information contained in this material has been obtained from third-party sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Consumption Isn’t Always a Dirty Word

The word consumption can take on a variety of meanings, some good and some bad. 

In the old days, consumption was an expression used to describe tuberculosis, presumably because the disease seemed to “consume” the body by drawing away its energy and weight. Today, it’s far more common to hear about the negative effects of overconsumption and its contribution to our nation’s obesity issues. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why Tuberculosis Was Called ‘Consumption,’” from TodayIFoundOut.com, March 17, 2014.] 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Personal Income Decelerates in February” from U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, March 28, 2016.] 

When it comes to food and drinks, the U.S. may be going overboard on consumption, but that’s not necessarily true when the word is used in a financial sense. As an economic term, consumption refers to the purchase of goods and services by individuals — aka consumers. It’s what drives our economic growth. 

We believe what we consume reflects our lifestyles, and the amount we consume compared to what we earn can have a significant impact on our savings for the future. For some, thinking about tomorrow is a vague and difficult exercise. That’s why we offer guidance to our clients to focus on today: What can you do now that will help you in the future? 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “U.S. Bottled-Water Consumption to Surpass Soda This Year: Chart,” from Bloomberg, April 14, 2016.] 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Here’s What Moderate Alcohol Consumption Really Looks Like,” at U.S. News & World Report, April 15, 2016.] 

At a national level, economic experts get a little worried when too many people are focusing on saving rather than spending. But a new study from the McKinsey Global Institute said that likely won’t be an issue in the foreseeable future. Population increases should contribute to 25 percent of the world’s economic growth in the next 15 years, but, according to the study, increased earnings for consumers will have three times as much impact. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Vacations eclipse business trips as primary US air travel purpose,” from Air Transport World, April 13, 2016.] 

Urban populations are expected to drive this growth in spending. Large cities will account for 91 percent of consumption growth, and a quarter of that amount will come from just 32 cities between now and 2030. 

It may come as a surprise that the demographic most likely to contribute to global consumption is the 60+ group. Data suggests baby boomers are generally well-prepared to consume during retirement. If you want to help ensure you’re among these ranks, please contact us to discuss retirement strategies that can help you meet your long-term financial goals. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Big Cities Are the Future of Global Consumption,” from CityLab, April 14, 2016.] 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

The information contained in this material has been obtained from third-party sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference. 

 

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Crisis Management: Focus on What you can Control

How do you choose what to worry about? 

In the 24-hour news cycle, we’re hit from all directions with the latest “crisis” the world is facing. Obesity. Sleep deprivation. Student-loan debt. A shortage of biscuits. It’s constant and can be exhausting. 

That’s not even taking into consideration the “crises” we experience in our own personal lives — things like avoiding mistakes at work or keeping track of appointments for yourself and relatives. 

It’s hard to be concerned about refugees in Europe when you’re trying to keep your affairs in order on the home front. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Great British Biscuit Crisis is finally over,” from The Independent, April 7, 2016.] 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The American Health Crisis That’s Bigger than Obesity,” from The Fiscal Times, April 6, 2016.] 

Then, somewhere at the edge of our consciousness, there are our retirement income concerns. Have we saved enough? Will it last to the end of our lives? Long-term retirement income planning can be one of the most challenging and personal issues we face. Since none of us know how long we’ll live, we don’t know how much money we’ll need. 

But we believe there are some certainties. Those nearing retirement can likely expect a Social Security payout, and Medicare can help offset health care expenses as we grow older. But these programs alone aren’t intended to fund your retirement lifestyle. As a financial professional, we’re here to help you use your current retirement assets to create strategies utilizing insurance products that help meet your long-term financial goals. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “America’s looming retirement savings crisis,” from CNBC, March 15, 2016.] 

[CLICK HERE to view the infographic, “The Crisis in Pensions and Retirement Plans,” from Accounting Degree Review, 2016.] 

With our help, creating a retirement income strategy may be one less thing to worry about. Other regional concerns may apply to you, like the water crisis in Michigan or mosquito infestations in South Florida, but whenever possible, direct your attention to things you can control. 

View the world’s ills through your own personal lens and reflect on whether the latest crisis will impact you. If it does, make an action plan. If it’s not likely, move on. Focus on your today, because we believe that’s what will help you enjoy a more confident tomorrow. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Could What Happened in Flint Happen Anywhere?” from National Geographic, Jan. 26, 2016.] 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

The information contained in this material has been obtained from third party sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Equal Pay Debate Worth Another Look

What are we aiming for when it comes to equal wages these days? Sometimes it seems like a moving target. 

For example, should two workers doing the same job get the same pay? Or should the person who performs better receive more income, and is that judgment arbitrary or based on strict, measurable criteria? Should a worker be paid based on his or her market value, such as one movie star’s box office pull versus another’s? 

Using those criteria, there might not be a more interesting case study than the U.S. women’s soccer team. Male athletes generally make more in this country because they generate better TV ratings, sell more tickets and pull in more advertising dollars. But compared to their counterparts on the men’s national team, these numbers all fall in favor of the women’s squad. 

Following the women’s 2015 World Cup title and qualification for the 2016 Olympics, something the men’s team failed to do, the disparity in talent may be greater than ever. Yet the men are still making more, leading the women to speak out against the unequal pay and consider a strike. 

The controversy mirrors one that has been growing nationwide as a result of pay difference between genders. As debates continue over raising the minimum wage and instituting equal pay, it’s interesting to consider how we value people within the work landscape. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “California on track for $15 minimum wage,” from BBC News, March 31, 2016.] 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Stars Allege Pay Discrimination,” from The Wall Street Journal, March 31, 2016.] 

The issue of women’s worth is not going away any time soon. Some experts have identified that women in the workplace face obstacles in three areas: Struggling to get hired at entry-level positions in certain industries, getting stuck in mid-career roles and simply getting locked out of top executive positions. In essence, some women must overcome obstacles at every stage of their career, no matter how successful they eventually become. 

Economists are now engaging in studies demonstrating that gender inequality impacts everything from household incomes to economic growth. One study estimated that advancing women’s equality in both social and economic realms throughout the world would add $12 trillion to the global GDP by 2025. 

We believe we’re fortunate that the treatment of women in the U.S. is more advanced than many other countries, but there’s still a ways to go when it comes to equal pay. Whether in Hollywood or soccer stadiums, American women have proven that they are no longer willing to wait to be paid less than what they deserve. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Breaking down the gender challenge,” from McKinsey & Company, March 2016.] 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “As Emerging Multinationals Take Off, Are They Leaving Women at the Gate?” from Knowledge@Wharton, March 25, 2016.] 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Does gender discrimination in social institutions matter for long-term growth?” from OECD, March 2016.] 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

The information contained in this material has been obtained from third-party sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.  

 

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We’re Living in a Digital World

Madonna, David Bowie, Lady Gaga: Some of the most successful entertainers in show business have been renowned for reinventing themselves. But, when you think about how much our lives have changed over the years, reinvention has become a part of our everyday routines as well. 

Twenty-five years ago, we had to stay at home if we were expecting a phone call. We had to go inside the bank to deposit our paychecks and withdraw cash. We paid our bills through the mail and lamented the rising cost of a single stamp. 

But, it’s the 21st century, and now most tasks can be done electronically or virtually. The way we communicate with each other, conduct business, learn new skills and information, and even entertain ourselves has been transformed. It’s also changed the way we manage our finances. If we maintain a life insurance or annuity policy for you and you’d like to learn more about how to get online access to that policy, please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “After 20 Years, It’s Harder to Ignore the Digital Economy’s Dark Side,” from Harvard Business Review, March 11, 2016.] 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why Estonia Is Letting Entrepreneurs Become ‘E-Residents,’” from Harvard Business Review, March 9, 2016.] 

It’s truly amazing how much the digital era has changed society. Amazon has all but eliminated the need for a traditional bookstore. Google has rendered encyclopedias obsolete, and GPS has turned maps into relics suitable for framing. 

But of course, reinventing ourselves and society as a whole due to advancements in technology comes with some pitfalls. There are always a few bad apples who will abuse what’s available to them. As a result, new innovations create the need for new laws, structures, norms and approaches to help put guardrails on what information we can access and how we use it. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “In Privacy Law, It’s the U.S. vs. the World,” from Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery, February 2016.] 

When there are no rules, or the ones that exist are ambiguous, we may have to rely on the court system to provide clarification. Today’s judicial branch of the government is littered with lawsuits that no one could have dreamed of 20 years ago. For instance, “throttling” is when your cellphone carrier slows your data speeds down because you exceed a certain data threshold in a given month (even if you have an unlimited data plan). 

When you consider how hard it must be to police such activity, it’s easy to yearn for the good old days, when a phone was tethered by a cord, and you had one easy-to-understand bill. At the same time, you must equally weigh the inconveniences when comparing today to the past. Like it or not, technology will continue to evolve, and we believe the more willing you are to reinvent, the more enjoyable life will be. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “AT&T Dodges Data-Throttling Class-Action Lawsuit,” from Digital Trends, March 14, 2016.] 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

The information contained in this material has been obtained from third-party sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference. 

 

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Statistics on Centenarians Don’t Always Make Sense

While it’s true that people, in general, are living longer than ever, unfortunately there’s no guarantee that applies to everyone across the board. 

A recent study showed men and women in the lower 25 percent of socioeconomic status have not achieved the same average longevity as those in the highest quarter. We believe the reason this type of data is important is because raising the full retirement age for Social Security benefits may create a disadvantage for lower-income Americans. 

[CLICK HERE to read the report, “Does a Uniform Retirement Age Make Sense?” from Centre for Retirement Research at Boston College, January 2016.] 

In our opinion, retirement income planning is not just something wealthy people should do. We believe individuals at every income level can reasonably expect to retire. But those without sufficient retirement assets may have to rely more on government benefits, including Social Security. 

If you’re reading this blog, you may be thinking about your own retirement income planning. As a financial professional, we are here to help you create a retirement income strategy that you can feel confident about through the use of insurance products. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Retirement Benefits” from Social Security Administration, January 2015.] 

Meanwhile, despite what the statistics say, even those who are in the lowest quartile can live to 100 and beyond. Just look at some of the oldest people alive today. Currently, the oldest man is 112. Did he live an easy life? In a word — no. 

Israel Kristal was separated from his parents at age 11 and spent years confined to slave labor at Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Having survived WWII, he moved to Israel and built up a confectionary business until he retired. Kristal will turn 113 in September. 

The world’s oldest woman lives in Brooklyn, New York. After working a series of domestic jobs, Susannah Mushatt Jones retired in 1965. She is currently 116 years old. 

According to Guinness World Records (August 2015), the oldest living male twins are 102. Pierre and Paul Langerock live in Belgium, both worked as court magistrates and are best friends to this day. Their advice for a long life? “Don’t waste your time fooling around, don’t eat too much and don’t run after women.” 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Holocaust survivor, 112, is world’s oldest man, Guinness World Records says” from USA Today, March 11, 2016.] 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “This 116-Year-Old Brooklyn Woman Is the World’s Oldest Person” from New York magazine, Dec. 14, 2016.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Belgian centenarians confirmed as oldest living male twins” from Guinness World Records, Aug. 18, 2015.] 

It just goes to show that no one really knows how to predict who will live long and who won’t — regardless of socioeconomic status. In fact, there is growing discrepancy as to what age is even considered “old.” In a recent poll, the majority of centenarians say they didn’t start feeling like they were old until age 87. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How Old Is Old? Centenarians Say It Starts in Your 80s; Kids Say Your 40s” from United Healthcare, April 30, 2015.] 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

The information contained in this material has been obtained from third-party sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference. 

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Privacy Issues Make Online Buying a Tough Sell

Going online, in many ways, is like opening up a diary of your life and inviting corporations all over the world to analyze what’s inside it. By looking at your personal information, including interests, purchases and browsing history, companies can engineer ways to sell you their goods and services. 

This is what people have come to expect on social media, where it’s common practice to share exactly where you are and what you’re doing with pictures and check-ins. It’s also reasonable to assume the same type of tracking takes place when you make a purchase online. 

To get an idea of who monitors what you’re buying, you would need to read the privacy policy of each website where you make a purchase. And a privacy policy doesn’t always restrict who companies share or sell your personal information with. It’s simply the document that provides an overview of how they share that information. 

Privacy is a growing concern across all mediums: Computers, cellphones and your cable TV provider, just to name a few. This issue reiterates the importance of building a relationship with a trusted financial professional — as opposed to a website — and as a financial professional we’re always open to meeting face to face to discuss your long-term retirement income goals.

If you entrust your retirement assets to an entity with which you communicate only online and by phone, you’ll never get that face-to-face interaction, a handshake, and all the other cues that may help you to determine that a person is trustworthy. In short, the Internet takes from you of the ability to use your instincts to help make decisions regarding who to trust. 

We work hard to earn our clients’ trust. It is the hallmark of the financial professional-client relationship and one we take very seriously — both in person and with electronic records and communications. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “It’s Your Data: Empowering Consumers to Protect Their Privacy on Broadband Networks” from Re/code, March 10, 2016.] 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “New privacy rules expected for Internet providers” from Fox Carolina 21, March 10, 2016.] 

Just to give you an idea of how big the privacy issue has become, a study by Pew Research revealed that 91 percent of Americans believe consumers have lost control of how personal information is collected and used by companies. Given the highly publicized data breaches of some the country’s largest companies, the public also has little confidence that companies (who can afford to do so) are keeping their personal data secure.