Financial Planning

Oh, the joys of retiring! Finally having the time and freedom to pursue your hobbies, travel, visit family, volunteer, and most of all – deal with health insurance decisions!
Many of us were distracted by natural disasters this week. While everyone crowded the grocery stores and topped off their gas tanks, Equifax announced a massive data breach.
As a kid, my favorite movies were non-stop action with actors like Arnold, Jean Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone, and Jackie Chan. The Terminator franchise was my favorite, but I never imagined our society would get to a point where computers, robots, and artificial intelligence (AI) was a reality. Here we are. We practically live on our computers (or smartphones), tireless robots handle jobs that took thousands, and AI is right around the corner.
According to the National Philanthropic Trust, Americans gave $373.25 billion in 2015. While giving to the less fortunate is admirable, many donors also see charity as a tax deduction—a way to reduce their ongoing support of Uncle Sam. If Congress is going to offer, there is no problem with trying to minimize tax liabilities while supporting your favorite causes.
The struggle to save for retirement is real with most families failing to save much, if any, for their golden years. To incentivize citizens, Congress has written several retirement plans into place that offer varying levels of tax benefits. The most common are 401(k) plans and IRAs. These give the saver an immediate tax deduction for saving, the earnings are not currently taxed, and everything is then taxed at distribution in retirement. The Roth plans (named after Senator William Roth) started in the 1990s with the advent of the Roth IRA, which expanded a decade later to include Roth 401(k) plans, Roth 403(b), and Roth 457 plans. These plans offer no tax benefit up front but earnings grow tax deferred and qualifying distributions in retirement are tax free.
The retirement savings problem in America rarely hinges upon having access to a savings vehicle; it is largely grounded in a refusal to begin saving – whether we blame the government, our employers, inflation, or some other scapegoat. I think Larry Fink, head of Blackrock, hit the nail on the head in a recent interview he had with Bloomberg:

The term ‘hedge fund’ denotes images of wealthy, sophisticated investors who have discovered the secret to unlocking vast returns.  However, the definition has changed over time.  Initially, the idea was that it 'hedged' or reduced the risk of investing in a particular market.

If you have made it this far, I must congratulate you for your persistence!  For many, one of the most dreaded topics for anyone to read and research is compliance with government regulations.  Many regulations are highly dreaded as they increase the cost of doing business, cause more paperwork, and create new chances for getting into trouble.  With that said, not all regulations are bad; some would even argue regulations are necessary to keep those in places of power or control from taking advantage of others.

There are many market analysts, economists, newsletter and book writers, chartists, quants, and traders who believe they know what the market will do next.  One of the more prominent book writers is a fellow by the name of Harry Dent.  I first heard about Mr. Dent in 2010 by a firm that sold annuities.  They were utilizing Dent’s published research to prove why the market was about to crash and the only safe place to be was in annuities.

It is that time of year again when we load up on gifts, candy, cookies, and all things family.  One of my most hated gifts is the mixed chocolates with random stuff inside.  Short of poking holes in all of them to see what’s in there, I tend to refrain from even eating them.  I’ll stick to what I know I like, thank you very much! On the other hand, many people love the diversity of those boxes and being able to try multiple chocolates rather than being stuck with just one.