Shore Up the Wobbly Leg of Your Retirement Stool

Feeling like your retirement plan is weak in some areas? Here are five questions to consider when strengthening your retirement plan.

1) What, overall, tends to be the weakest part of the retirement picture for savers? Not having a pension, not saving as much on their own or thinking Social Security will be enough?

Companies offering pension plans with guaranteed income for life have the biggest impact on a retiree’s future. However, today many people have to take the on onus of their retirement saving outside of a pension. In general, we have not done a good job of funding our own retirement plans. Retirees must also understand the nuances of creating an efficient income stream from their investments making sure they have: the necessary growth; reduced portfolio volatility; and the most tax efficient distribution method once they begin withdrawing from their portfolio. If these components are covered they can make whatever they have saved last as long as possible.

2) How important is it for investors to have an accurate calculation of how much money they’ll need for retirement? What specifically should they be anticipating that they may not be? Higher or lower living expenses? Medical care? Taxes?

It’s imperative for a retiree to have a Retirement Income Projection Analysis (RIPA) done BEFORE retiring to review before and after scenarios to determine where you are, where you want to be and what changes need to happen in order to get you there. RIPA helps you answer your most important questions: Do I have enough of the right stuff? When can I retire? and What do I need to do to make my income last a lifetime? Unlike numbers in a chart, our RIPA (using actuarial science) calculates the actual value or Alpha you will get by deploying our strategies. It’s a powerful and reliable tool for making informed decisions.

The RIPA factors together a number of variables including: your income sources (such as 401(k)s, pensions and Social Security), investments and a number of other critical variables such as your risk tolerance and volatility to provide a valuable snap shot of your current situation. A RIPA will your debts and expenses and make sure you have a good handle on how much income you’ll need in retirement to support your desired lifestyle. This comprehensive analysis is a critical first step in determining how to get more, keep more and have more in retirement. At Your Retirement Advisor, our proprietary Retirement Income Projection Analysis is a powerful eye opener for many clients and the basis of a solid retirement plan. The results of the RIPA help us address the following questions:

  • How will you generate your retirement income and will it last a lifetime?
  • How to suitably invest retirement assets for growth, while minimizing portfolio volatility and preserving principle?
  • When to apply for Social Security to try to maximize income benefits?
  • What’s the appropriate income distribution method to utilize, which reflects each client’s individual needs?
  • How can you reduce your taxes as close to zero as possible?
  • What will the estimated cost of insurance (long term care, healthcare/Medicare) affect your income?

3) How important is it for investors to get their Social Security timing right if they’re going into retirement without a pension or low personal savings?

If a retiree doesn’t have a pension or minimal retirement savings, he/she will likely need to claim their benefit as soon as they retire since this is their limited income. If the retiree chooses to work part time to supplement their Social Security benefit, they must understand the rules that will reduce their Social Security income based upon the part time income earned. A person can earn up to $16,920 (in 2017) with no reduction to his/her benefit. Above this amount, $1 in Social Security benefit will be withheld for every $2 of earned income over this limit. In the year you reach full retirement age (66-67), you can up to $44,880 of annual income (2017) without having a reduction in benefits. However, if you exceed this amount, Social Security will deduct $1 from your benefit for every $3 of earned income. After full retirement age, there is no offset so you can earn as much as you want. When a retiree has more assets, it’s more important to properly analyze and time your Social Security filing to offer the best long term income stream and survivability of the portfolio.

4) What can investors do to strengthen their plan and ensure that they’ll have enough retirement income? Should they shift more of their portfolio to dividend stocks, for example? What
about annuities, how do they fit into the picture and who would benefit from purchasing one?

We believe that retirees should implement these Income Planning components for the most favorable retirement outcome:

~ Portfolio Risk Reduction Strategy – Statistical analysis proves that a portfolio with lower volatility or risk, for any given rate of return, will last longer when taking withdrawals for income. We believe you need to “stress test” your current retirement against many different market environments to assure you portfolio will survive across both negative and positive environments.

It’s almost always beneficial to utilize a combination of globally diversified stocks, fixed indexes annuities and income annuities. We believe the Multi-Discipline Retirement Strategy (MDRS) we employ offers the right blend of growth and risk reduction. It combines guaranteed Fixed Index Annuities (FIAs) with a globally diversified stock portfolio to reduce portfolio risk while potentially increasing portfolio returns.

Tax Efficient Withdrawal Strategy – Create a tax efficient income distribution strategy by utilizing proper withdrawal sequencing and efficiently converting taxable accounts to tax-free accounts. The goal is to reduce or potentially eliminate taxes in retirement which will increase the probability of portfolio survival and add 5-10 years or more life to a portfolio.

~  Social Security Timing – Evaluate multiple Social Security filing strategies to determine the most efficient strategy to maximize this benefit. Properly filing for this benefit can increase portfolio survivability by 5 years or more.

~  Efficient Portfolio Management – Proper portfolio management utilizing a high quality, low-cost portfolio of globally diversified stocks can potentially increase long-term returns. Leading research indicates that combining passively managed Index Funds or ETF’s with alpha generating high quality active investment managers can potentially create positive portfolio alpha effect.

~  Home Equity in Retirement – Leading research indicates that the use of home equity in retirement will increase the probability of portfolio survival and increase the legacy to loved ones. HECM Loans or Reverse Mortgages have been called the “Swiss Army Knife” of retirement planning since they can be utilized as part of many diverse retirement planning strategies.

~ Reduction of Fees –  Fees are an issue in the absence of value. It is imperative that the fee you are paying to a mutual fund company, an investment advisor or insurance agent incorporates the above components and the fee should be below average. All facets, not just investment planning, should be incorporated in the overall planning process. Proper Investment planning is a crucial component to the success when in retirement, but is just 20% of the overall process. Just like a weight loss program, if one component is not being addressed it will negatively affect the overall probability of your success. By paying less than the industry average fee of 1.65% on a $500,000 portfolio, a retiree can add significant value to their portfolio.

To find out if we can help you strengthen one or more of the legs of your retirement stool, give us a call at 978-345-7075 or email us at

7 Suggestions for What to Do NOW to Plan for Retirement LATER

Not quite at the retirement age just yet? It’s never too early to start thinking about retirement. Here are seven ideas for what to do NOW to plan for retirement LATER.

1. Max out your 401k up to the limit allowed by your employer.
 But also get advice on proper allocations of your 401k investments. Trying to guess and go it alone is not the most optimal strategy. Outside 401k advice is worth its weight in gold and is very reasonable from a reputable retirement advisor. An advisor can also help you keep your fees in check.Consider a Roth IRA or 401k 10 years from retirement. They can beat the upfront tax savings of a traditional IRA or 401k. You don’t get a deduction now, but the earning are tax-free, even withdrawing them retirement. According to T. Rowe Price, a Roth IRA over a traditional IRA at age 40 will yield 14% more income in retirement if your tax rate stays the same (the study assumes a 25% bracket). If your tax rate drops by 5%, you still get a 7% increase with a Roth. At age 50, choosing a Roth can yield 11% higher income if your tax rate is level, and 4% more if your tax rate falls by 5%.

2. Put retirement saving ahead of college. 69% of parents want to put money toward college first, according to a recent survey by T. Rowe Price, and more than three quarters say they are willing to delay retirement to pay for kids’ schooling. However, you should continue to contribute to 401k and do not take monies from your 401k to pay for college. One common approach is to cover 1/3 of total college bill from savings, 1/3 from cash flow and 1/3 from loans/grants. You can also make other agreements with you child, such as covering the costs for a year or two and then he/she is on their own.  Consider a 529 college savings plan to reduce the amount you or your kids may have to borrow.

3. Build up your cash reserves: 3-6 months of income is the traditional advice.

4. Reduce debt. If you have cash saved and larger debt, try to pay it off as soon as possible.

5. Get healthy/stay healthy. A National Bureau of Economic Research studyfound that those who were among the healthiest 20% in their 50s retired with three times the assets of the least healthy. In addition, you’ll pay less for health care each year if you head into retirement healthy. The average annual health care cost for a 65-year-old in excellent health is $4,450, vs. $4,760 for someone in poor health, according to HealthViews, and that gap rises with age.

6. Try to build your skills and your salary. Sometimes, it’s best to move companies to continue moving up the salary ladder, but make sure your building your skills to make yourself more marketable.

7. As your salary typically grows in reaching your 40s, resist the temptation to spend more.  Be modest with your housing, car purchases, expensive vacations. Instead, opt to be more frugal (without going without altogether) and stash your extra salary in savings. Your future self will thank you, as well as your adult children. Pay for women peaks at age 39 on average, and age 48 for men, according to PayScale.

To find out more about what can you be doing NOW, to plan for retirement LATER, and how YRA can help you, give us a call at 978-345-7075 or email us at

5 Steps To Plan For Long Term Care

As the years go by and we get closer and closer to our golden years, we tend to forget that we may need to have some form of long-term care once we get to that period in our lives. The truth is that about 70 percent of people will need long-term care. One way to avoid this extra cost during retirement is to make sure we are taking care of ourselves now. However, sometimes long-term care is needed regardless to accomplish everyday activities while we are in our retirement years. While you plan for your retirement with your retirement advisor you should consider the potential situation of long-term care, to make sure you have the funds for it. To better prepare yourself should this day come, here are some steps to take in your planning process.

Get Educated

Knowledge is power and this applies to most aspects of life, and especially so with retirement planning. The more you know about retirement and all of its variables the better you can plan and have a successful retirement. With the help of a retirement advisor to help with your planning, you can learn about the many options for long-term care and which will be a good fit for you. Learn about the different options such as assisted living, home health services, independent living, adult day care, and hospice to understand what each option have to offer.

Get To Know What’s In Your Area

After you educate yourself on different aspects of long-term care, you should see the types of facilities that are available to you in your area. Reach out to state agencies on health or aging to find lists of long-term care providers around the area. Whether you decide to look through a state or federal agency, you will be able to look up different providers for the type of care you think you will need in your golden years. One thing to caution is to not solely rely on the internet or online reviews when choosing a provider. Once you have narrowed down your search, you will want to take a tour of the facility to learn more about what they can provide.

Start Planning For The Cost

Having long-term care will add on an additional cost that you will have to save for while planning for your retirement. These costs will vary depending on the facility you choose and the types of care they provide as well as what you will need in your golden years. This is where taking a tour of the facility is important as you can get concrete prices, billing practices, and if they accept assistance programs. One of the biggest misconceptions is that Medicare pays for long-term care but it sadly does not. Medicare will help pay for a short stay in skilled nursing homes or hospice care providers but not for care with assistance with daily activities (such as dressing and eating). If you have Medicaid instead then it will cover for long-term care. However, Medicaid programs themselves, as well as the eligibility for services, will vary from state to state.

Make A Plan

After learning about and visiting potential facilities, it is finally time to start advance care planning. With long-term care plan, you can discuss values and goals with loved ones and physicians. With this type of planning, you can set up advance directives. These are written instructions that are intended to reflect patient wishes for health care to guide medical decision-making in the event that a patient is unable to speak for themselves. These directives should be filed with the nursing center or living facility that you choose if you decide you need long-term care.

Communicate Your Medical Wishes

While planning for retirement and especially long-term care, you will need to disclose medical information to your loved ones. This will ensure there is no confusions, disagreements, or questions in the event you may not be able to make any medical decisions. This is where your advance directives will also come in handy as not only can you specify your medical needs but also what to do if the preferred long-term care provider can no longer take you. Whether it is a financial reason or no space to have you, your loved ones will need to know the next action to take.

If you have more questions about long-term care, be sure to contact us!

Advantages of Retirement Planning

Retirement planning has always been a process that we will have to face at some point in time. Even more so now with the fluctuating future of Social Security and other pensions and government plans. With these changes, it is important that the retirement planning process is started as early as possible. That way you can be prepared for any changes that are to come in the future that could affect your retirement. Working with a financial advisor can be a huge benefit as they can teach you aspects of the planning process you may not have thought of. Advisors can also help you put together a solid retirement plan that will ensure that you have a stress free retirement. If you are still unsure about retirement planning, below are four advantages of planning for your retirement.

Taking Advantage of Compounding Interest

As mentioned above, the earlier you begin planning and saving for retirement, the more you can reap the benefits of compounding interest. This interested is interest calculated on the initial principal plus on the accumulated interest of previous periods. For example, if you invest $5,000 per year, assuming a seven percent interest, from the ages of 25 to 65, you could grow that sum potentially to over a million dollars with the help of compound interest.

Enjoy Tax Benefits

In many cases, retirement plans offer tax benefits that many people are unaware of. When planning for your retirement, you can have a Roth IRA or a Roth 401(k), be sure to ask your advisor about these. With these types, you will not have to pay taxes when the money is disbursed. While traditional IRA’s offer immediate tax benefits, you will have to pay taxes when you take out the money in retirement. A Roth IRA offers you tax benefits later, giving you tax-free retirement savings. Tax planning is a major part of your retirement plans so be sure to discuss this with your retirement advisor.

Enjoy Independence During Your “Golden Years”

You have worked you’re entire life for your retirement, it is time to sit back, relax, and enjoy what the world has to offer and do things you want to do. In order to enjoy our golden years you will need to plan for your retirement and start saving early if you want to have the funds possible to enjoy or retirement. If you speak to those who have or have not saved properly for retirement will provide you with different stories. For those that saved, you will hear that they have more independence, can afford home care or short-term assisted living if needed. These folks also have money to travel and pay for unexpected costs by planning ahead. Those who did not do not have access to these funds and may not be able to pay for everything that is to come in their retirement. Planning for your retirement is something to highly consider as it can alleviate stress during retirement and prevent reliance on family or government assistance.

Retire Sooner

The main theme in this article is that you should consider retiring as soon as possible. Along with all the benefits of planning ahead, the biggest of them all is that you will get to retire sooner than you expected. The ideal age range to start saving is in your twenties but you can still create a comfortable retirement fund when you begin saving in your 30’s, 40’s, or beyond. If you work with a financial or retirement advisor, they can help you better understand the benefits of retirement planning and how you can reach your goals. No matter what age you are when you begin your savings, your advisor will help make sure you have a solid plan of action.


Resolve to Retire Right in 2018

There’s many reasons people put off planning for retirement. And trust me, many people do. According to a 2016 TransAmerica Retirement Survey of Workers, “84% of boomers don’t have a written retirement plan.” This means there’s a good chance you might be one of them.

While I won’t belabor the reasons for this procrastination, it’s important to note that those who do commit to a written retirement plan accumulate four times more in assets than those who don’t.[1]  Let me repeat…”those who do commit to a written retirement plan accumulate four times more in assets than those who don’t.”

Wouldn’t you like to be one of them?

I’ll take four times more in assets if all I have to do is come up with a retirement plan (and stick to it)…this is a resolution I can really get behind. But, what exactly does a written retirement plan look like? How do I get one?  And how much will it cost me?

Let me tell you what it’s not. It’s not a 401k or a pension plan. It’s not your Social Security benefit. It’s not taking your financial advisors advice and simply withdrawing 4%  from your portfolio in retirement and hoping you don’t run out of money.  It’s not burying your head in the sand and hoping for the best. And it’s definitely not sponging off of your adult kids someday. Although I have thought about which one of our six children would take us in should the need arise!


A proper retirement plan integrates and optimizes several key components or strategies bulleted below (based on academic research vs. gut feel or best guesses)…and when these components are in lock-step with your retirement objectives and  finely tuned, monitored and adjusted by a retirement professional, you’ll be on the right path toward a more successful retirement.

  • Portfolio Risk Reduction Strategy – Statistical analysis proves that a portfolio with lower volatility or risk, for any given rate of return, will last longer when taking withdrawals for income. We utilize a sophisticated technology to “stress test” your current retirement against many different market environments to assure you portfolio will survive across both negative and positive environments.* Our Multi-Discipline Retirement Strategy (MDRS) combines guaranteed Fixed Index Annuities (FIAs)* with a globally diversified stock portfolio to reduce portfolio risk while potentially increasing portfolio returns. The MDRS offers reduced risk with growth potential to offer longer portfolio survival when in retirement.
  • Tax Efficient Withdrawal Strategy – Create a tax efficient income distribution strategy by utilizing proper withdrawal sequencing and efficiently converting taxable accounts to tax-free accounts. The goal is to reduce or potentially eliminate taxes in retirement which will increase the probability of portfolio survival and add 5-10 years or more life to a portfolio.
  • Social Security Timing – Evaluate multiple Social Security filing strategies to determine the most efficient strategy to maximize this benefit. Properly filing for this benefit can increase portfolio survivability by 5 years or more.
  • Efficient Portfolio Management – Proper portfolio management utilizing a high quality, low-cost portfolio of globally diversified stocks can potentially increase long-term returns. Leading research indicates that combining passively managed Index Funds or ETF’s with alpha generating high quality active investment managers can potentially create positive portfolio alpha effect.
  • Home Equity in Retirement – Leading research indicates that the use of home equity in retirement will increase the probability of portfolio survival and increase the legacy to loved ones. HECM Loans or Reverse Mortgages have been called the “Swiss Army Knife” of retirement planning since they can be utilized as part of many diverse retirement planning strategies.[2]
  • Risk Management –a life insurance and Long-Term Care needs analysis to assess and then minimize potential risks.
  • Medicare Planning – a Medicare service to help you analyze your options to select and file the best plan.

*Guarantees are backed by the claims paying ability of the issuing insurance company.


Yes, I know…you have a financial advisor and therefore you’re all set. We run across this sentiment frequently.

Please do yourself a very big favor and ask yourself (and him or her) some tough questions about retirement, including their take on the retirement planning strategies we just listed above.

While there are many financial professionals who have done a good job helping clients accumulate assets pre-retirement, many of them are not retirement professionals. Meaning that they are not educated or trained on the intricacies of retirement planning, and don’t have the skill to help you in the income phase of life, helping you spend what you’ve saved efficiently.

You will find a number of financial advisors out there professing to provide “retirement advice.”  After all, it’s a giant market of 78 million baby boomers retiring every day.  Some of these thinly veiled, self-proclaimed “retirement” advisors are little more than data gatherers who meet with you a couple times: first, inputting your data into a planning software program and letting it do its thing, and then second, giving you the software’s lengthy printout of numbers and projections in a nice leather folder, without the retirement services you truly need. The cost of this glorified retirement plan can be pretty steep as well. The average advisor, according to Michael Kitces is charging 1.65% on a portfolio of $500,000!1

There’s not a lot of difference between these traditional advisors and the new flock of robo-advisors…which are online software companies doing similar data gathering and calculations in the cloud (over the Internet).  While robo-advisors are undercutting the traditional advisor fees for data output, they truly must be on cloud nine to think that the average baby boomer wants a computer program to plan his/her retirement.

What we’ve found after working with baby boomers over the last 30 years, and more recently with a focus on helping our clients plan their retirement, is that people want a person to help them. A qualified person whom they can trust. But, the challenge remains, in an industry run amok with myths and misinformation, extreme biases and so many choices when it comes to advice…how do you stay away from the fox in the henhouse and find a retirement expert who can truly help you?

Get Educated

We believe knowledge is power so first you must educate yourself. Find a source or sources who consistently deliver objective information. Next, make sure to seek out the academic proof…every sound retirement strategy has research and data that proves it out. Demand this proof. Do not accept hearsay or conjecture.

Be Picky

Next, be really picky about choosing who you work with for advice. Ask how much time he/she is going to commit to doing your planning… working collaboratively to plan your retirement, not just behind the scenes running software programs in his/her comfy office. Retirement planning is hard work and requires a BIG time commitment on both parties to be done right. Demand this time. Don’t settle for less.

Ask Some Tough Questions

Next, ask tough questions to be sure he/she isn’t a thinly veiled “retirement” advisor. You wouldn’t hire just anyone to take care of your kids or to work in your company…the same time and care should be taken to find the right retirement planning advocate. Aside from asking about his/her background and experience, and getting to know their firm, these are the questions a retirement advisor must answer for you:

  • What’s their approach to retirement planning and their process? Is it well defined and disciplined?
  • Do they educate you in the planning process? How?
  • Do they help organize you financially and help clarify your retirement objectives and timeline?
  • How much time do they commit to working collaboratively you?
  • Are they knowledgeable beyond growing a portfolio? What do they know about distribution planning in retirement?
  • Are they licensed to offer annuities and do they educate you on how they work to offer guarantees and protect your portfolio from loss?
  • Have they discussed how to use the equity in your home through a reverse mortgage to increase the effectiveness of your retirement plan?
  • Do they understand how wills and trusts work, and work with you to develop a proper plan to protect your assets from a potential healthcare event?
  • What other value added services do they offer you?
  • Do you like them as a person and trust in their recommendations?

And don’t forget to ask about his/her retirement planning strategies for your portfolio, taxes, Social Security, use of home equity, Medicare, and risk management.  If you’re working with the right advisor, you won’t have to ask yourself “Am I working with the right person?” It will be evident in everything they do for you.


Finally, proper retirement planning from a retirement professional doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. I always thought I couldn’t afford a financial advisor. Now I believe you can’t afford not to have one…especially when it comes to retirement planning. The proper advisor can help preserve your nest egg  and protect you from the myriad of risks in retirement that can threaten the money you’ve worked so hard to accumulate.  A sound retirement plan is one of the best investments you’ll ever make…and  with proper research and understanding advisor fees, you’ll spend much less on advice than you have to.

Case Study: The Impact of Fees

Here’s a quick case study to show the impact fees have on the value of your portfolio.

Jack and Diane have IRA Retirement Assets of:  $1,000,000

The Annual Income Generated (Age 65-95) from their portfolio is:  $30,000 (inflated at 3% per yr.)

The Annual Assumed Rate of Return is:  6%

We’ve analyzed the impact (income generated between the ages of 65-95 and the portfolio balance at 95):

Annual Fee       Total Retirement Income Generated ( from age 65-95)       Total Portfolio Balance @ age 95

1.00%                                                        $ 1,691,948.                                                                                  $ 1,056,226.
1.50%                                                        $ 1,559,535                                                                                    $    705,813.
2.00%                                                        $ 1,442,797.                                                                                 $        0


Which fee would you rather pay?

It’s important to understand how the investment industry works and how fees are assessed and paid. The total fees that an investor will be paying for management of his/her account will be dependent on the product(s) being utilized in the portfolio.  A high quality portfolio with low TOTAL fees gives you a better return potential.

Helpful Questions to Ask an Advisor About Their Fees

It’s critical to get FULL DISCLOSURE of “all” fees you’ll pay. You must also determine if the advisor offer all of the above services for the fee you are paying. Ask the tough questions above to flesh out the value he/she brings to your planning process and your retirement outcome.

The number one question to ask an advisor: What are the “total” fees to work with you? (it’s critical to receive full disclosure from anyone that is going to provide you financial advice and products).  Use this form to uncover your TOTAL fees and have the advisor sign it.

  • What is your custodial fee? $ ________________ OR  ______________%
  • What are your trading costs? $ ________________ OR  ______________%
  • What is the advisory fee? (this is the fee that does to the registered investment advisor to manage your portfolio)                                                 $ ________________ OR  ______________%
  • What are the internal mutual fund, ETF, money manager fees? $ ________________ OR  ______________%
  • Are there any other fees such as statement fees, technology fees, etc? $ ______________ OR  ______________%
  • What do your fees include for additional services; i.e. Retirement Planning (make sure you get specifics)?___________________________________

Advisor Signature  X _________________________________________________

Finally, remember…hope is not a plan. Fortune favors the smart, the bold and the prepared. We challenge and encourage you to make 2018 the year you get prepared and get your retirement right.  Please consider Her Retirement as you embark on this resolution. Our mission is to make preparing financially for retirement easier  and more affordable, and living in retirement dreamier.  You’ve got the dream. We’ve got the resources to help you live it.

To learn more about the proper retirement plan and to get started on preparing for retirement, request access to our online Retirement Readiness kit.

To see how we compare to your advisor or traditional advisors, schedule a complimentary phone call or meeting with us. What do you have to lose?

Read about our full service offerings and also our a la cart Assessments.



[1] Wells Fargo Retirement Study, 2015

[2] Using Reverse Mortgages In A Responsible Retirement Income Plan, Wade Pfau (2016)


3 Ways to Cut Your Investing Fees

In this U.S. News & World Report online article Your Retirement Advisor co-founder, Lynn Toomey discusses ways to cut fees and add more life to your portfolio.

Brian provides his take on what steps investors can take to reduce fees, beginning with education. “We believe that in order to reduce costs, one must be committed to getting educated: doing research and questioning your advisors on their strategy and fees,” says Lynn Toomey, co-founder of Her Retirement, in Leominster, Massachusetts. “If you’re a do-it-yourself investor, you’ll need to do much more research to understand the particular investment options, their performance and their fee structure.”

The article goes on with additional comments from Brian about hard to find fees in various investments. “Saranovitz says that hidden fees are especially difficult to uncover with most funds. “Look through the details of a prospectus and you won’t even be able to decipher all of a fund’s fees,” he says. “The internal transaction fees and commissions paid by mutual funds are typically not disclosed.”

Brian also provides insight for DIY investors suggesting the use of passive index funds, “Whether you’re doing your own investing or working with an advisor, you can fight back fees and potentially receive higher returns by utilizing a combination of low-cost passive index funds and ETFs, and actively managed funds,” Saranovitz says.

“Here’s how he breaks that strategy down:

  • Index funds and exchange-traded funds typically use passive indexes and charge a fraction of the fees that most active money managers charge. They also have low turnover in their portfolios keeping costs low. However, while less expensive, these funds won’t outperform the index.
  • Actively managed funds are managed to outpace the indexes and are appropriate for investors who are concerned about losses in a down market since these managers can use strategies to guard against this risk. It’s critical to pick active managers with care, choosing those with low fees and positive results in both negative and positive markets, as well as those with low turnover (which is the percent of holdings that are bought and sold each year).”

And finally, Brian’s comments end with his input on reducing fees when working with an advisor, “If you’re working with a professional investment advisor, you’re best served by working with the lowest cost, highest quality advisor you can find, Saranovitz says. “But beware the industry is plagued with high-fee advisors,” he says. “According to industry data, advisor fees average 1.65 percent and can go as high as 2 percent for a $500,000 portfolio, which is definitely an expensive proposition.”

“There are more client-friendly advisors and fee structures, but you need to do a little more research to find them. Look for an advisor who offers either a flat rate fee or a deeply discounted annual percentage fee based upon assets under management,” Saranovitz says.

The article finishes with a sentiment that Brian wholeheartedly believes in (as evidienced in his comments in the article) and shares with his students and clients , “Long-term investors really can’t afford to lose up to 40 percent of their portfolio’s value to high fees.  So, take a stand, get educated, and fight back on high investment fees. Decades down the road, when you’re counting your money in retirement, you’ll be glad you did.”

Read more about our perspective on fees, access a fee checklist to share with your advisor or get the details on our affordable and flexible fee structure.

Request a complimentary fee analysis of your portfolio  today or call us at: 508.798.5115


It’s Never Too Late to Get in the Game: 8 Strategies to Help You Catch Up on Your Retirement Savings

So here’s where experts say you should be in your savings goal by age.

Retirement Savings Chart

If this chart has you fidgeting and biting your fingernails, we get it. MANY people are behind in their savings goals (the average American between the ages of 55 and 64 has about $104,000 in retirement savings)[i]. Life has a way of happening… college tuition, vacations and weddings to be paid for. And emergencies happen too. Divorce, job loss and health issues can also greatly impact your savings rate.

But there is good news and no reason to throw in the towel just yet. No, living with one of your kids is not a viable option, just in case that’s what you were thinking.

Let’s assume you’re in your 40s or 50s…you still have a few decades to save and grow your assets. The main ingredient to your new savings plan (starting today) is discipline. It happens to be one of my favorite words because it applies to so many aspects of life. Discipline can help you accomplish any goal. But discipline also requires some sacrifices too. In this case, you’ll need to budget, save and track your efforts aggressively.  Below are several steps you can take to get back in the game today. And remember, you won’t need to access all your retirement savings on the day you decide to retire.

It’s also important to assess your career path. If you will need to work longer into typical retirement years, it’s a good idea to have a career that you enjoy and can do well regardless of your age.  Many people choose to work part time in retirement as well…and not always for the income, but rather to help stave off the aging process, keep their minds and body sharp, and to stay active and involved in their community.

Note that you don’t have to figure this all out on your own Financial and retirement planning is complicated and typically requires someone who has the training to do what’s best for you. A qualified retirement planner can not only help get you on track, but can also keep you on track. And good advice doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. It’s one of the best investments you can make in your future.

Eight Strategies to Help You Catch Up on Your Retirement Savings

1. Commit to a Budget – The first thing you’ll need to do is assess where your money is going each month. It’s impossible to save without doing this analysis first. Start by reviewing your checking accounts and credit card statements and make a list all your income and expenses (we’re about to roll out a software to help all of our clients track their income, expenses and budgets or there’s several available online for a fee as well that can track your expenses real time.

Figure out if there’s areas where you can cut back on spending, that won’t make you feel like you’re missing out on life!  Perhaps cutting back on your Comcast subscription (we recently decided to cut the cord on cable and are going with an antenna for local channels, Netflix and Roku) , your cell phone services (we recently switched to Sprint to save a lot), insurance coverages (we switched medical plans and are reducing the cost of home and car insurances), entertainment (eating out less and enjoying home cooked meals around our own table), clothing purchases (shopping at consignment stores is like a treasure hunt…so fun), or a myriad of other areas (I just canceled my bank savings account because 1. there was no money in it and 2. they were charging me $10/month to keep it open and 3. I’m saving elsewhere).

Challenge (and reward) yourself to cut back on unnecessary expenses and put that money toward savings. You’ll soon see how good it feels to “clean out your spending habits” and start fresh with a new plan. You’ll also be pleasantly surprised to see how quickly these seemingly small steps add up in your mind and in your bank account!

Here’s a couple of articles to check out for additional ideas:

USA Today: Way to Cut Spending in Retirement

Investopedia: Top 6 Expenses that are Cutting into your Retirement

2. Max Out Your Retirement Plan Contributions & Make Sure Your 401k is Ok – Use your savings from above and do your best to max out your contributions to a 401(k), 403(b), IRA or similar qualified retirement plan. Because these earnings compound on a tax-deferred basis, they add up over time. Find out if your employer offers matching contributions—it’s free money not to be left on the table. The IRS also allows people over the age of 50 to make annual catch-up contributions in qualified plans.

In addition, most people simply guess when they are choosing the allocations in their retirement savings plan. It’s one of the questions we most often hear people say…”How do I choose the investments for my 401k?”  Let’s face it, most of us aren’t financially savvy enough to make the best choices. I should know, I used to make a best guess with my 401k options. Then I realized it was smarter and would yield more money in my 401k if I had an advisor take a look and let me know the best allocation for me. At Her Retirement we offer a “Is My 401k Ok?” assessment.

For a mere $250 (well worth the investment), we’ll do the following with you:

  • Review of your current 401k plan
  • Determine if you’re putting enough away
  • Review your plan’s investment options
  • Review your current investment allocations
  • Re-allocate those as necessary
  • As you approach retirement, determine the optimal withdrawal strategy in a tax efficient manner


3. You Can Be “Too” Conservative – Don’t let the anxiety of being behind on your savings stifle your opportunity for growth. Investments that don’t outpace inflation could put you further behind. Stocks are a great way to fight inflation, while also boosting your returns. Ideally, your portfolio should generate enough growth to fuel your income needs over time while minimizing risk. And as you get closer to retirement you’ll want to change your portfolio allocations to a balanced portfolio of stocks and safe money options.

4. Ditch the Debt – As soon as you’re able (and the closer you get to retirement), the more important it is to get rid of high interest rate debt such as credit cards. As for mortgage debt, there are mixed opinions on keeping a mortgage into retirement. But it is typically wise to downsize your home to lower your mortgage payments and other housing related costs. Many retirees are happy to have their house paid off as they enter retirement, which is one less large expense. In addition, retirees can use the equity in their house as an emergency fund or to fund long term care insurance.

5.Take a Hard Look at Big Expenditures – If you’re behind on your savings goals, you should carefully consider large purchases such as a new car or an expensive vacation…expenses that won’t increase the value of your home or other assets. This comes back to our point of discipline…sometimes it’s better to prioritize short terms desires with long term needs. It’s very difficult to borrow money to fund retirement.

6. Delay Giving Your Boss the Boot – If you’re “significantly” behind in your retirement savings needs (and don’t have other sources of potential retirement income: other assets, inheritances, etc.), you will likely need to delay your retirement or at the very least work part time to lessen the draw on your portfolio. But heck, working in retirement can actually keep you feeling younger!

7. Re-Evaluate Your Ability to Give – Many of us are in what’s called the “sandwich generation”…retirees who find themselves caring for both adult children and aging parents (I should know as we are smack dab in the middle of the sandwich generation…4 parents and 6 kids! Blessed, but hopefully not too burdensome). Children and aging parents can siphon off an already strained nest egg. Experts caution against sharing too much money with adult kids.

It’s wonderful to have a giving heart, but sometimes doing so while putting your own future comfort at risk is not the best idea.

8. Plan for the Unplanned – Our last point is to make sure that you plan for the unplanned. As we all know unexpected things happen in everyone’s life. Prepare yourself for a Plan B for a job loss, a health condition or other life events.

Like any race, once you fall behind it’s not easy to catch up, but with discipline and some calculated sacrifices, you can get on track, reduce your anxiety and have a more comfortable retirement. Now is the time to get your plan started. Remember: Fortune favors the smart, the bold and the prepared.  And if it all else fails, you can move back home with your kids!!

Mom and Dad moving back home cartoon

Her Retirement’s mission is to help make preparing for retirement easier (and more affordable) and living in retirement more prosperous.  We offer a complimentary Retirement Income Projection to help you gauge where you’re at in your retirement readiness. It’s a great reality check and a good place to start your plan.  Let us help you get prepared.

Other resources to help you get prepared:

Request our Retirement Readiness Kit

Request a complimentary Are You Ready? Assessment (ideal for people who are 10 years out from retirement)

Note: if you have adult children who are in their 20s and just starting out, stick the chart on page one of this article to their forehead! Fortunately for them, they have the power of compounding interest and time to build a significant nest egg. If they start at 25 and max out their contributions (10% of annual salary in a 401k), they can reach their 1x salary savings goal by 35. Doing this will also give them the discipline to keep saving throughout their life.

[i] Investopedia, The Average Retirement Savings by Age, December, 2016

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Countdown to College

September is the time when we send our kids back to school and for many younger baby boomers, their kids are going off to high school or college. At Her Retirement, we are seeing more and more people with questions about how best to plan for college. We are in the process of putting together our new service, College Bound. Money Found. With this service we’ll be helping families do the proper planning so that college is attainable and more affordable. Here’s some tips to consider as you start the countdown to college.

Most parents want to give their children the best opportunity for success, and getting into the right college may help open doors. According to the Census Bureau, 33% of American adults have a bachelor’s degree, and those with a bachelor’s degree earn 67% more on average than those with just a high school diploma. ¹

Unfortunately, being accepted to the college of their choice may not be as easy as it once was. These days, preparing for college means setting goals, staying focused, and tackling a few key milestones along the way.

Before High School

The road to college begins even before high school. Start by helping your elementary and middle school children develop a love for learning. Encourage good study habits and get them dreaming about college. A trip to a nearby university or your alma mater may help plant the seed in their minds. When your child reaches middle school, take the time to find out which prerequisite courses may set the right track for math and science in high school.

The earlier you consider how you expect to pay for college costs the better. The average college graduate today owes $37,172 in debt, while the average salary for a recent graduate is $49,785.²

Freshman Year

Before the school year begins, consider meeting with your child’s guidance counselor. Discuss college goals and make sure your child is enrolled in classes that are structured to help him or her pursue those goals. Also, encourage your child to choose challenging classes. Many universities look for students who push themselves when it comes to learning. At the same time, keep a close eye on grades. Every year on the transcript counts. If your child is struggling in a subject, don’t wait to get a tutor. One-on-one instruction can be a huge benefit when mastering difficult material.

In addition to academic performance, many colleges want prospective students to be well rounded, so encourage your child to engage in extracurricular activities, such as sports, music, art, community service, and social clubs.

Sophomore Year

During their sophomore year, some students may have the opportunity to take a practice SAT. The practice test is a good way to give your child an idea of what the test entails and which areas need improvement. If your child is enrolled in advanced placement (AP) courses, encourage good performance on AP exams. A solid grade shows universities your child can succeed at a higher level of learning.

Sophomore year is also a good time to get some depth in extracurricular activities. Help your child identify passions and stick to them. Encourage your child to read as much as possible. Whether they read Crime and Punishment or Sports Illustrated, they will expand their vocabulary and critical thinking skills. Summer may be a good time for sophomores to get a job, do an internship, or travel to help fill their quiver of experiences.

Junior Year

Near the beginning of junior year, your child can take the Preliminary SAT, (PSAT), also known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). Even if he or she won’t need to take the SAT for college, taking the PSAT could open doors for scholarship money. Junior year may be the most challenging in terms of course load. It is also a critical year for showing good grades in difficult classes.

Top colleges look for applicants who are future leaders. Encourage your child to take a leadership role in an extracurricular activity. This doesn’t mean he or she has to be drum major or captain of the football team. Leading may involve helping an organization with fundraising, marketing, or community outreach.

In the spring of junior year, your child will want to take the SAT or ACT. An early test date may allow time for taking the test again in senior year, if necessary. No matter how many times your child takes the test, colleges will only look at the best score.


Fast Fact: Pre-Approved. The U.S. Department of Education says that all students, regardless of financial status, are eligible for up to $31,000 in federal Stafford Loans over four years.  Source: U.S. Department of Education, 2017


Senior Year

For many students, senior year is the most exciting time of high school. They will finally begin to reap the benefits of all their efforts during the previous years. Once your child has decided which schools to apply for, make sure you keep on top of deadlines. Applying early can increase your student’s chance of acceptance.

Now is also the time to apply for scholarships. Your child’s guidance counselor can help you identify scholarships within reach. Also, find out about financial aid and be thorough. According to research by, nearly $3 billion in free federal grant money goes unclaimed each year simply because students fail to fill out the free application.³

Finally, talk to your child about living away from home. Help make sure he or she knows how to manage money wisely and pay bills on time. You may also want to talk about social pressures some college freshmen face for the first time when they move away from home.

For many people, college sets the stage for life. Making sure your children have options when it comes to choosing a university can help shape their future. Work with them today to make goals and develop habits that will help ensure their success.

Please reach out to us to discuss your college planning needs and stay tuned for more details on our College Bound. Money Found program.


South Paws Wanted

Your child doesn’t have to be the high school valedictorian to qualify for a scholarship. In fact, thousands of dollars are awarded each year for the most unusual things. Consider these:

  1. Right-handers need not apply. Frederick and Mary F. Beckley offer $1,000 to lucky left-handed students (who also want to attend Juniata College in Huntington, PA).
  2. Stick It. Duck Brand Duct Tape offers $3,000 to students who go to their high school prom dressed entirely in duct tape
  3. How Tall Is Tall? Tall Clubs International offers $1,000 each year to a tall person attending college. Get out the measuring tape. A woman must be at least 5’10” and a man must be 6’2” or taller to qualify.
  4. Candy Connoisseurs Unite. The American Association of Candy Technologists offers $5,000 to students who have exhibited an interest in confectionary technology.
  5. From “Mr. Top Ten” Himself. David Letterman offers $10,000 to students of Ball State University (his alma mater) who produce an original video, audio, written, graphic, or film presentation.

Source:, 2017


  1. Census Bureau, March 2016; Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 20, 2017
  2. U.S. News and World Report, May 9, 2016;, May 12, 2017
  3. NerdWallet, January 27, 2016

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2017 FMG Suite.

Why Simply Saving for Retirement Isn’t Enough? Part 2

As I mentioned in part 1 of this multi-part blog post, simply saving for retirement isn’t enough. There’s a myriad of things that can go wrong in retirement. And you MUST be prepared. Preparedness is the key to many of life’s challenges. Unfortunately, many simply “put off” planning for another day. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months and months into years and before you know it, BOOM, retirement is right around the corner. And you’re not ready. This bring me to our first and most important retirement threat:

Neglecting to prepare, either on your own or with a retirement specialist, a comprehensive plan that addresses all the potential threats and risks we all could face in retirement, as well as your income needs and income projection. Will you have enough to last throughout retirement and how will you fund the emergencies of retirement? Her Retirement offers a full “Are You Ready” assessment to determine any gaps in your plan, or to create a plan for you.

Here’s 5 other threats to consider. We’ll cover several more in part 3 of this blog series.

  1. Death of a spouse (without life insurance). While it’s true many pre-retirees are over-insured, the opposite is true as well. Life insurance is certainly critical while you still have a mortgage or other debt obligations, as well as young children to support. But we also feel that you do need life insurance as you are nearing retirement.  The threat is that you or your spouse could die without insurance and you would need to take from your retirement savings to cover your living expenses.  More than 2 in 5 Americans say they would feel a financial impact within six months of the death of a primary wage-earner, according to a 2015 report from the industry group LIMRA and the nonprofit group Life Happens. In addition, 30% of Americans think they don’t have enough life insurance, the report said. Term life insurance policies can be aligned with your retirement age so that it can cover you and your spouse during those important wage earning years and replace the earnings in the event of a pre-mature death of either partner. Her Retirement offers a full life insurance assessment to determine if you’re under-insured or over-insured, and then we can help match you with the right insurance based on your circumstances.
  2. A healthcare crisis. Unfortunately, medical debt is a leading cause of bankruptcy for many. For those that can afford to cover illness or medical emergencies with their savings, it can prevent you or your spouse from working in the final stretch before retirement. In addition, covering these expenses significantly impacts your retirement nest egg. There’s several types of insurance to consider including disability insurance and long-term care insurance.  Her Retirement offers a long term care/medical insurance assessment, as well as some unique ways to fund these expenses outside of insurance.
  3. Scams and more scams. Retirees are a big target for scammers. We’ve all heard the nightmare stories. These scammers take advantage of people’s fears. A perfect example are life insurance policies marketed at 702 retirement accounts. Scammers will sometimes use early retirement seminars as a forum to sell these policies. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the industry oversight organization, advises buyer beware for any scheme or program, like these that promises unrealistic returns of 12% or more, as well as anything promising that you can retire early and/or make more money in retirement than you did in your working years. Here’s a link to the more scams and how to protect yourself and your loved ones
  4. The kid(s) that come back. Some call these boomerang children. Just when you think you have an empty nest, some one of them or worse yet, all of them return!  I just experienced this myself with the return home of my 24 year old son. While a part of me was excited to have him in the house again, the other part of me was calculating the cost to have him back home. Many pre-retirees continue to support children who are considered adults. According to the March 2015 study by Hearts & Wallets, an investment and retirement research firm, those 65 years or older with financially independent children are more than twice as likely to be retired than people of the same age group who financially support their adult children. That’s because those who are still supporting their kids are often putting off retirement to do so,said Hearts & Wallets co-founder Chris Brown. Ideally, we want to help our children become independent from the get go so they can avoid ending up on your doorstep, but we know this isn’t always the case, especially in these times. My son attended one of the best colleges in the world and he’s in my spare bedroom as I write this. The best way to protect your retirement savings from the kids that come back is to help them get financially independent as quickly as possible and ask for them to pay their fare share of the household expenses. Read these tips for surviving your child’s return home (I think I need to read this a couple times!)
  5. Giving grandma a hand out and a hand up. The statistics are pretty convincing that baby boomers are caring for their aging parents and giving up some of their retirement savings in the process. My mother used to say, “I never want to be a burden to my children.” And so far she hasn’t been a burden at all. But, she was properly prepared and to her credit worked as a teacher for 35 years and has a good pension and a good medical plan. Some 11% of adult children under 65 provide financial assistance to their parents, according to the National Institute on Aging’s 2015 Health and Retirement Study. Further, 25% of adult children under age 65 help parents with things like chores and personal care, often at the expense of having their own paying job. In fact, people age 50 and older who care for parents lose an average of $303,880 in pay, Social Security and pension benefits, according to a 2011 MetLife report! Here’s some resources for caring for your elderly parents

While it’s unrealistic to avoid these and many other retirement threats, it’s best to consider what you may face just before retirement and in retirement and make sure you have a Plan A…and a Plan B. This plan, as we discussed above, needs to include not just you, but your spouse and your entire family.

To chat about your plan with an affiliated advisor, please request any one of our assessments here.

Why Simply Saving for Retirement Isn’t Enough? Part 1

The other day I was having lunch with a friend and we were talking about retirement and the services that Her Retirement provides. She mentioned that she’s been very good about saving money in her 401(k) and said, “I’m all set for retirement.”

This comment made me realize that the average person might also believe the same thing. Many people think they’ve worked hard for 20, 30, 40 years and they’ve saved quite a little nest egg. Retirement plan done. No need to do anything further, but keep working until you feel ready to retire and give your boss or your business the boot.

Well folks, sorry to break it to you, but this is NOT a retirement plan. It’s certainly a great start and if you have more than 4x your salary saved and your 50 let’s say, you’re in pretty good shape, savings wise. However, when you move from the accumulation phase of life (pre-retirement) and into the de-accumulation phase (retirement), you need a comprehensive plan that includes sophisticated strategies to protect you from all the inherent risks you’ll face in retirement. There’s so many things that can go wrong in retirement. You MUST be prepared. And the best way to be prepared is to be pro-active…either learning about the risks and methods to minimize them, or work with a retirement specialist like Her Retirement to understand the blind spots and then put fortification around your savings so that it lasts throughout retirement.

With the right plan and strategies, you can not only mitigate risks, but you can actually make your savings last even longer in retirement (up to 10 years or more). In our full Retirement Income Projection Analysis, we show you the impact (and importance) of:

  • Re-allocating your portfolio (to include less risk/safe money options, improve your investment return and significantly reduce fees)
  • Reducing your taxes as close to 0 as possible
  • Maximizing your Social Security filing strategy to get the most money from this critical benefit
  • Determining your most tax efficient withdrawal or draw-down strategy


In our next few series of posts, we’ll dig a little deeper into what can go wrong in retirement and more reasons why simply saving for retirement is not good enough. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, we welcome you to learn more and take one of our new e-classes; try our QuickStart Income Calculator/Report, request a complimentary “Am I Ready” assessment or any of our other free or fee-based assessments.