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What’s So Great About a Rollover?

What’s So Great About a Rollover?

Changing jobs can be a tumultuous experience. Even under the best of circumstances, making a career move requires a series of tough decisions, not the least of which is what to do with the funds in your old employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Some people choose to roll over these funds into an Individual Retirement Account, and for good reason. About 34% of all retirement assets in the U.S. are held in IRAs, and 59% of traditional IRA owners funded all or part of their IRAs with a rollover from an employer-sponsored retirement plan.1,2

Generally, you have four choices when it comes to handling the money in a former employer’s retirement account.

First, you can cash out of the account. However, if you choose to cash out, you may be required to pay ordinary income tax on the balance plus a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you are under age 59½.

Second, you may be able to leave the funds in your old plan. But some plans have rules and restrictions regarding the money in the account.

Third, you can roll over the assets to your new employer’s plan, if one is available and rollovers are permitted.

Or fourth, you can roll the money into an IRA. Rollovers may preserve the tax-favored status of your retirement money. As long as your money is moved through a direct “trustee-to trustee” transfer, you can avoid a taxable event.3 In a traditional IRA, your retirement savings will have the opportunity to grow tax-deferred until you begin taking distributions in retirement.

Rollovers can make it easier to stay organized and maintain control. Some people change jobs several times during the course of their careers, leaving a trail of employer-sponsored retirement plans in their wake. By rolling these various accounts into a single IRA, you might make the process of managing the funds, rebalancing your portfolio, and adjusting your asset allocation easier.

Keep in mind that the Internal Revenue Service has published guidelines on IRA rollovers. For example, beginning after January 1, 2015, You generally cannot make more than one rollover from the same IRA within a one-year period. You also cannot make a rollover during this one-year period from the IRA to which the distribution was rolled over.4

Also, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has published some material that may help you better understand your rollover choices. FINRA reminds investors that before deciding whether to retain assets in a 401(k) or roll over to an IRA, an investor should consider various factors including, but not limited to, investment options, fees and expenses, services, withdrawal penalties, protection from creditors and legal judgments, required minimum distributions and possession of employer stock.5

An IRA rollover may make sense whether you’re leaving one job for another or retiring altogether. But how your assets should be allocated within the IRA will depend on your time horizon, risk tolerance, and financial goals.

A financial professional can help: If you’re a woman concerned about saving for retirement or have questions about your unique situation, give us a call. Our team understands the unique challenges women face, and we’re passionate about helping women just like you plan for a comfortable retirement. Contact us and let’s get started. Email retire@herretirement.com.

1. Investment Company Institute, 2021
2. Distributions from traditional IRAs and most other employer-sponsored retirement plans are taxed as ordinary income and, if taken before age 59½, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty. Generally, once you reach age 73, you must begin taking required minimum distributions. If the account owner switches jobs or gets laid off, any outstanding 401(k) loan balance becomes due by the time the person files his or her federal tax return. Prior to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, employees typically had to repay loans within 60 days of departure or face potential tax consequences.
3. The information in this material is not intended as tax advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult a tax professional for specific information regarding your individual situation.
4. IRS.gov, 2021
5. FINRA.org, 2021

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 FMG Suite.

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Find That Lost Retirement Account

Find That Lost Retirement Account

Do you have a long-lost retirement account left with a former employer? Maybe it’s been so long that you can’t even remember. With over 24 million “forgotten” 401(k) accounts holding roughly $1.35 trillion in assets, even the most organized professional may be surprised to learn that they have unclaimed “found” money.1

What Are “Forgotten” Retirement Accounts?

Considering that baby boomers alone have worked an average of 12 jobs in their lifetimes, it can be all too easy for retirement accounts to get lost in the shuffle.2 Think back to your first job. Can you remember what happened to your work-sponsored retirement plan? If you’re even slightly unsure, then it’s time to go looking for your potentially forgotten funds.

Starting Your Search

One of the best ways to find lost retirement accounts is to contact your former employers. If you’re unsure where to direct your call, try the human resources or accounting department. They should be able to check their plan records to see if you’ve ever participated. However, you will most likely be asked to provide your full name, Social Security number, and the dates you worked, so be sure to come prepared.

If your former employer is no longer around, look for an old account statement. Often, these will have the contact information for the plan administrator. If you don’t have an old statement, consider reaching out to former coworkers who may have the information you need.

Even if these first steps don’t turn up much info, they can help you gather important information.

Websites to Check

Next, it’s time to take your search online. Make sure you have as much information as possible at hand and give the following resources a try.

National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits

This database uses employer and Department of Labor data to determine if you have any unpaid or lost retirement account money. Like most of these online tools, you’ll need to provide your Social Security number, but no additional information is required.3

FreeERISA

If your forgotten account was worth more than $1,000 but less than $5,000, it might have been rolled into a default traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Employers create default IRAs when a former employee can’t be located or fails to respond when contacted. You can search for retirement and IRA accounts for free using this database, but registration is required.4

Once you reach age 72, you must begin taking required minimum distributions from a traditional IRA in most circumstances. Withdrawals from traditional IRAs are taxed as ordinary income and, if taken before age 59½, may be subject to a 10 percent federal income tax penalty.

The U.S. Department of Labor

Finally, the Department of Labor tracks plans that have been abandoned or are in the process of being terminated. Try searching its database to find the qualified termination administrator (QTA) responsible for directing the shutdown of the plan.5

What’s Next?

Once you’ve found your retirement account, what you do with it depends on the type of plan and where it’s held. Your location also matters. Depending on where you live, the rules and regulations may differ.

No matter what you decide to do, be sure to involve your tax and financial professionals since they’ll be informed on current regulations for your state. They can also help you identify a strategy for your newfound money: travel, investment, or maybe that vacation home you’ve always wanted. You worked hard for that money, after all, so you should get to enjoy it!

A financial professional can help: If you’re a woman concerned about saving for retirement or have questions about your unique situation, give us a call. Our team understands the unique challenges women face, and we’re passionate about helping women just like you plan for a comfortable retirement. Contact us and let’s get started. Email retire@herretirement.com.

  1. Kiplinger.com, August 27, 2021
    2. USNews.com, October 22, 2021
    3. UnclaimedRetirementBenefits.com, 2022
    4. FreeERISA.BenefitsPro.com, 2022
    5. DOL.gov, 2022

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, LLC, 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 FMG Suite.

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How Retirement Spending Changes with Time

New retirees sometimes worry that they are spending too much, too soon. Should they scale back? Are they at risk of outliving their money? This concern may be legitimate. Some households “live it up” and spend more than they anticipate as retirement starts to unfold. In 10 or 20 years, though, they may not spend nearly as much.

By The Numbers

The initial stage of retirement can be expensive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show average spending of $60,076 per year for households headed by pre-retirees, Americans age 55-64. That figure drops to $45,221 for households headed by people age 65 and older.1

When retirees are well into their 70s, spending often decreases. The Government Accountability Office data shows that people age 75-79 spend 41% less on average than people in their peak spending years (which usually occurs in the late 40s).

Spending Pattern

Some suggest that retirement spending is best depicted by a U-shaped graph — It rises, then falls, then increases quickly due to medical expenses.

But in a 2017 study, the investment firm BlackRock found that retiree spending declined very slightly over time. Also, medical expenses only spiked for a small percentage of retirees in the last two years of their lives.2

What’s the best course for you? Your spending pattern will depend on your personal choices as you enter retirement. A carefully designed strategy can help you be prepared and enjoy your retirement years.

A financial professional can help: If you’re a woman concerned about saving for retirement or have questions about your unique situation, give us a call. Our team understands the unique challenges women face, and we’re passionate about helping women just like you plan for a comfortable retirement. Contact us and let’s get started. Email retire@herretirement.com.

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019
  2. CBSnews December 26, 2017

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, LLC, 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 2022 FMG Suite.

 

 

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Eight Mistakes That Can Upend Your Retirement

Pursuing your retirement dreams is challenging enough without making some common, and very avoidable, mistakes. Here are eight big mistakes to steer clear of, if possible.

No Strategy: Yes, the biggest mistake is having no strategy at all. Without a strategy, you may have no goals, leaving you no way of knowing how you’ll get there—and if you’ve even arrived. Creating a strategy may increase your potential for success, both before and after retirement.

Frequent Trading: Chasing “hot” investments often leads to despair. Create an asset allocation strategy that is properly diversified to reflect your objectives, risk tolerance, and time horizon; then make adjustments based on changes in your personal situation, not due to market ups and downs.1

Not Maximizing Tax-Deferred Savings: Workers have tax-advantaged ways to save for retirement. Not participating in your employer’s 401(k) may be a mistake, especially when you’re passing up free money in the form of employer-matching contributions.2

Prioritizing College Funding over Retirement: Your kids’ college education is important, but you may not want to sacrifice your retirement for it. Remember, you can get loans and grants for college, but you can’t for your retirement.

Overlooking Healthcare Costs: Extended care may be an expense that can undermine your financial strategy for retirement if you don’t prepare for it.

Not Adjusting Your Investment Approach Well Before Retirement: The last thing your retirement portfolio can afford is a sharp fall in stock prices and a sustained bear market at the moment you’re ready to stop working. Consider adjusting your asset allocation in advance of tapping your savings so you’re not selling stocks when prices are depressed.3

Retiring with Too Much Debt: If too much debt is bad when you’re making money, it can be deadly when you’re living in retirement. Consider managing or reducing your debt level before you retire.

It’s Not Only About Money: Above all, a rewarding retirement requires good health, so maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, stay socially involved, and remain intellectually active.

  1. The return and principal value of stock prices will fluctuate as market conditions change. And shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Asset allocation and diversification are approaches to help manage investment risk. Asset allocation and diversification do not guarantee against investment loss. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
  2. Under the SECURE Act, in most circumstances, you must begin taking required minimum distributions from your 401(k) or other defined contribution plan in the year you turn 72. Withdrawals from your 401(k) or other defined contribution plans are taxed as ordinary income, and if taken before age 59½, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty.”
  3. The return and principal value of stock prices will fluctuate as market conditions change. And shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Asset allocation is an approach to help manage investment risk. Asset allocation does not guarantee against investment loss. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

A financial professional can help: If you’re a woman concerned about saving for retirement or have questions about your unique situation, give us a call. Our team understands the unique challenges women face, and we’re passionate about helping women just like you plan for a comfortable retirement. Contact us and let’s get started. Email retire@herretirement.com.

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 2022 FMG Suite.

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Does Your Portfolio Fit Your Retirement Lifestyle?

Most portfolios are constructed based on an individual’s investment objective, risk tolerance, and time horizon.

Using these inputs and sophisticated portfolio-optimization calculations, most investors can feel confident that they own a well-diversified portfolio, appropriately positioned to pursue their long-term goals.1

However, as a retiree, how you choose to live in retirement may be an additional factor to consider when building your portfolio.

Starting a Business?

Using retirement funds to start a business entails significant risk. If you choose this path, you may want to consider reducing the risk level of your investment portfolio to help compensate for the risk you’re assuming with a new business venture.

Since a new business is unlikely to generate income right away, you may want to construct your portfolio with an income orientation in order to provide you with current income until the business can begin turning a profit.

Traveling for Extended Periods of Time?

There are a number of good reasons to consider using a professional money manager for your retirement savings. Add a new one. If you are considering extended travel that may keep you disconnected from current events (even modern communication), investing in a portfolio of individual securities that requires constant attention may not be an ideal approach. For this lifestyle, professional management may suit your retirement best.2

Rethink Retirement Income?

Market volatility can undermine your retirement-income strategy. While it may come at the expense of some opportunity cost, there are products and strategies that may protect you from drawing down on savings when your portfolio’s value is falling—a major cause of failed income approaches.

  1. Diversification and portfolio optimization calculations are approaches to help manage investment risk. They do not eliminate the risk of loss if security prices decline.
  2. Keep in mind that the return and principal value of security prices will fluctuate as market conditions change. And securities, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Individuals cannot invest directly in an index.
  3.  
    A financial professional can help: If you’re a woman concerned about saving for retirement or have questions about your unique situation, give us a call. Our team understands the unique challenges women face, and we’re passionate about helping women just like you plan for a comfortable retirement. Contact us and let’s get started. Email retire@herretirement.com.

 

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 2022 FMG Suite.

 

 

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Emotional vs. Strategic Decisions

Information vs. instinct. When it comes to investing, many people believe they have a “knack” for choosing good investments. But what exactly is that “knack” based on? The fact is, the choices we make with our assets can be strongly influenced by factors, many of them emotional, that we may not even be aware of.

Investing involves risks. Remember that investment decisions should be based on your own goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance. The return and principal value of investments will fluctuate as market conditions change. When sold, investments may be worth more or less than their original cost.

Deal du jour. You’ve heard the whispers, the “next greatest thing” is out there, and you can get on board, but only if you hurry. Sound familiar? The prospect of being on the ground floor of the next big thing can be thrilling. But while there really are great new opportunities out there once in a while, those “hot new investments” can often go south quickly. Jumping on board without all the information can be a mistake. A disciplined investor may turn away from spur-of-the-moment trends and seek out solid, proven investments with consistent returns.

Risky business. Many people claim not to be risk-takers, but that isn’t always the case. Most disciplined investors aren’t reluctant to take a risk. But they will attempt to manage losses. By keeping your final goals in mind as you weigh both the potential gain and potential loss, you may be able to better assess what risks you are prepared to take.

You can’t always know what’s coming. Some investors attempt to predict the future based on the past. As we all know, just because a stock rose yesterday, that doesn’t mean it will rise again today. In fact, performance does not guarantee future results.

The gut-driven investor. Some investors tend to pull out of investments the moment they lose money, then invest again once they feel “driven” to do so. While they may do some research, they are ultimately acting on impulse. This method of investing may result in losses.

Eliminating emotion. Many investors “stir up” their investments when major events happen, including births, marriages, or deaths. They seem to get a renewed interest in their stocks and/or begin to second-guess the effectiveness of their long-term strategies. A financial professional can help you focus on your long-term objectives and may help you manage being influenced by short-term whims.

A financial professional can help: If you’re a woman concerned about saving for retirement or have questions about your unique situation, give us a call. Our team understands the unique challenges women face, and we’re passionate about helping women just like you plan for a comfortable retirement. Contact us and let’s get started. Email retire@herretirement.com. 

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, LLC, 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 2022 FMG Suite.

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A Bucket Plan to Go with Your Bucket List

John and Mary are nearing retirement and they have a lot of items on their bucket list. Longer life expectancies mean John and Mary may need to prepare for two or even three decades of retirement. How should they position their money?1

One approach is to segment your expenses into three buckets:

  • Basic Living Expenses— Food, Rent, Utilities, etc.
  • Discretionary Spending — Vacations, Dining Out, etc.
  • Legacy Assets — for heirs and charities

Next, pair appropriate investments to each bucket. For instance, Social Security might be assigned to the Basic Living Expenses bucket.2

For the discretionary spending bucket, you might consider investments that pay a steady dividend and that also offer the potential for growth.3

Finally, list the Legacy assets that you expect to pass on to your heirs and charities.

A bucket plan can help you be better prepared for a comfortable retirement.

Call today and we can develop a strategy that may help you put enough money in your buckets to complete all the items on your bucket list.

  1. John and Mary are a hypothetical couple used for illustrative purposes only. Diversification is an approach to help manage investment risk. It does not eliminate the risk of loss if security prices decline.
  2. Social Security benefits may play a more limited role in the future and some financial professional recommend creating a retirement income strategy that excludes Social Security payments.
  3. A company’s board of directors can stop, decrease or increase the dividend payout at any time. Investments offering a higher dividend may involve a higher degree of risk. Keep in mind that the return and principal value of stock prices will fluctuate as market conditions change. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

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 2022 FMG Suite.

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Conquering Retirement Challenges for Women

When it comes to retirement, women may face unique obstacles that can make saving for retirement more challenging. Given that women typically live longer than men, retirement money for women may need to stretch even further.1

Despite these challenges, a wise strategy can give women reasons to be hopeful.

Get clear on your vision.

Do you want to spend your retired years traveling, or do you envision staying closer to home? Are you seeing yourself moving to a retirement community, or do you want to live as independently as you can? If you’re married, sit down with your spouse to discuss your visions for retirement.

You can’t see if you’re on track for your goals if you haven’t defined them. If you do find you’re falling short of where you want to be, a financial professional can help you strategize about how you can either get to where you want to go or adjust your strategy to fit your situation.

Get creative with your strategy.

If you expect to or have taken time off from the workforce, you may want to increase your contributions to your retirement accounts while you are working. If you’re staying home while your spouse works, you may be able to contribute to an individual retirement account.

Once you reach age 72, you must begin taking required minimum distributions from a Traditional Individual Retirement Account and other retirement plans in most circumstances. Withdrawals from Traditional IRAs are taxed as ordinary income and, if taken before age 59½, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty. Traditional IRA contributions may be fully or partially deductible, depending on your adjusted gross income.

Look for sources of additional income.

If you’re caregiving for an elderly relative, there are ways to be paid for your time. According to AARP, the Veteran’s Administration or Medicaid may be a potential source of income. Working with a professional who has expertise in this field can help you navigate your options and potentially find a way to earn income for work that you’re doing.2

Keep the conversation open.

One of the best things you can do is to make sure you are having regular conversations about finances and hearing from well-informed sources. There are more resources than ever at your disposal, and working with a trusted financial professional can help ensure that you always know where things stand.

While women can face many challenges as they save for retirement, careful preparation and a creative approach can help you rise to the occasion and pursue the fulfillment of your goals.

If you have questions or need help, send us an email.

1. Transamerica.com, 2021
2. AARP.org, 2021

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, LLC, 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 2022 FMG Suite.

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Do Our Biases Affect Our Financial Choices?

Investors are routinely warned about allowing their emotions to influence their decisions. However, they are not often cautioned about their preconceptions and biases that may color their financial choices.

In a battle between the facts & biases, our biases may win. If we acknowledge this tendency, we may be able to avoid some unexamined choices when it comes to personal finance. It may actually “pay” to recognize blind spots and biases with investing. Here are some common examples of bias creeping into our financial lives.

Letting emotions run the show.

How many investment decisions do we make that have a predictable outcome? Hardly any. In retrospect, it is all too easy to prize the gain from a decision over the wisdom of the decision and to, therefore, believe that the findings with the best outcomes were the best decisions (not necessarily true). Put some distance between your impulse to make a change and the action you want to take to help get some perspective on how your emotions affect your investment decisions.1

Valuing facts we “know” & “see” more than “abstract” facts.

Information that seems abstract may seem less valid or valuable than information related to personal experience. This is true when we consider different types of investments, the state of the markets, and the economy’s health.1

Valuing the latest information most.

The latest news is often more valuable than old news in the investment world. But when the latest news is consistently good (or consistently bad), memories of previous market climate(s) may become too distant. If we are not careful, our minds may subconsciously dismiss the eventual emergence of the next market cycle.1

Being overconfident.

The more experienced we are at investing, the more confidence we have about our investment choices. When the market is going up, and a clear majority of our investment choices work out well, this reinforces our confidence, sometimes to a point where we may start to feel we can do little wrong, thanks to the state of the market, our investing acumen, or both. This can be dangerous.2

The herd mentality.

You know how this goes: if everyone is doing something, they must be doing it for sound and logical reasons. The herd mentality leads some investors to buy high (and sell low). It can also promote panic selling. The advent of social media hasn’t helped with this idea. Above all, it encourages market timing, and when investors try to time the market, it can influence their overall performance.3

Sometimes, asking ourselves what our certainty is based on and reflecting on ourselves can be helpful and informative. Examining our preconceptions may help us as we invest.

1. Investopedia.com, 2022
2. Investopedia.com, 2021
3. WebMD.com, 2022

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, LLC, 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 2022 FMG Suite.

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Investment Basics

Why invest? 

To keep ahead of inflation. 

Inflation has reduced the purchasing power of your dollars over time. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average annual inflation rate since 1914 has been around 3%. If $100 is $100 today, it would cost $181 in 20 years. Inflation has skyrocketed, but most experts agree it will settle back down. Investing in stocks is your best hedge against inflation.

To take advantage of compound interest. 

Anyone with a savings account understands the basics of compounding: the funds in your savings account earn interest, and that interest is added to your account balance; the next time interest is calculated, it’s based on the increased value of your account. In effect, you earn interest on your interest. 

Many people, however, don’t fully appreciate the impact compounded earnings can have, especially over a long period. To benefit from the longest possible investment period, the sooner you start investing, the more time your investments have for potential growth. Waiting too long can make it very difficult to catch up. 

Consider the examples. Let’s say you invest $5,000 a year for 30 years. After 30 years, you will have invested a total of $150,000. Yet, assuming your funds grow at precisely 6% each year because of compounding, you will have over $395,000 after 30 years. This is a hypothetical example and is not intended to reflect the actual performance of any specific investment. Taxes and investment fees, and expenses are not reflected. If they were, the results would have been lower. 

Investing is Risky Business

Investing is different for every individual. The investment plan that’s right for you depends mainly on the level of comfort you have when it comes to risk. You can’t completely avoid risk when it comes to investing, but it’s possible for you to manage it. 

Investors are typically grouped into three categories for purposes of discussing risk tolerance: 

  • Aggressive: those who have a high degree of risk tolerance 
  • Moderate: those willing to accept a modest amount of risk 
  • Conservative: those who have low risk tolerance 

When it comes to investing, there’s a direct relationship between risk and potential return. This is true for investment portfolios as well as for individual investments. More risk means a greater potential return but also a greater chance of loss. Conversely, less risk means lower potential returns and less likelihood of loss. This is known as the risk/return tradeoff. You can’t have it all. There’s a relationship between growth, income, and the stability of our investments, and when we move closer to one, we generally move away from another. This is a dilemma all investors face. 

Managing Risk 

Only you can know your risk tolerance level when it comes to investing. Let’s now look at the types of investments and their level of risk and return.

Cash alternatives 

Cash alternatives are low-risk, short-term, and relatively liquid instruments that you may use. 

Advantages:

  • To provide you with relative stability 
  • To maintain a ready source of cash for emergencies or other purposes 
  • To serve as a temporary parking place for assets until you decide where to put your money longer term 

Examples of cash alternatives include: 

  • Certificates of deposit (CDs) 
  • Money market deposit accounts 
  • Money market mutual funds 
  • U.S. Treasury bills (T-bills) 

 

Now let’s talk about the next instrument: bonds. 

Bonds are essentially loans to a government or corporation, which is why they’re called “debt instruments.” Bonds are issued in denominations as low as $1,000. The interest rate (or coupon rate), which can be fixed or floating, is set in advance, and interest payments are generally paid semiannually. Bond maturity dates range from 1 to 30 years. However, bonds don’t need to be held until they mature. Once issued, they can be traded like any other type of security. Currently, bonds are at historic lows, so many experts are suggesting people replace the bonds in their portfolios with alternatives. You can listen to episode 56 of the Her Retirement Podcast, What’s Better Than Bonds, to further understand what’s happening with bonds and what are some alternatives.

Bonds include: 

  • U.S. government securities 
  • Agency bonds 
  • Municipal bonds 
  • Corporate bonds

Now I’m going to go over Stocks. 

When you buy company stock, you’re actually purchasing a share of ownership in that business. Investors who purchase stock are known as the company’s stockholders or shareholders. Your percentage of ownership in a company also represents your share of the risks taken and profits generated by the company. If the company does well, your share of the total earnings will be proportionate to how much of the company’s stock you own. 

The flip side, of course, is that your share of any loss will be similarly proportionate to your percentage of ownership. If you purchase stock, you can make money in two ways. First, corporate earnings may be distributed as dividends, usually paid quarterly. Second, you can sell your shares. If the value of the company’s stock has increased since you purchased it, you will make a profit. Of course, if the value of the stock has declined, you’ll lose money. 

Types of stock 

  • Stock is commonly categorized by the market value of the company that issues the stock. For example, large-cap stocks describe shares issued by the largest corporations. Other general categories include midcap, small-cap, and microcap. 
  • Growth stocks are usually characterized by corporate earnings that are increasing faster than their industry average or the overall market. 
  • Value stocks are typically characterized by selling at a low multiple of a company’s sales, earnings, or book value. 
  • Income stocks generally offer higher dividend yields than market averages and typically fall into the utility and financial sectors and other well-established industries. 

Common vs. preferred stock 

Common stockholders hold many rights, including the right to vote. However, common stockholders are last in line to claim the earnings and assets of the company. They receive dividends at the board of directors’ discretion and only after all other claims on profits have been satisfied. 

Preferred stockholders are given priority over holders of common stock when it comes to dividends and assets. Preferred stockholders do not receive all of the privileges of ownership given to common stockholders, including the right to vote. Preferred stockholders typically receive a fixed dividend payment, usually quarterly. For preferred stockholders, there is less return potential than for common stockholders; there is less risk. 

Let’s talk about Mutual Funds. 

The principle behind a mutual fund is quite simple. Your money is pooled, along with the money of other investors, into a fund, which then invests in certain securities according to a stated investment strategy. The fund is managed by a fund manager who reports to a board of directors. By investing in the fund, you own a piece of the total portfolio of its securities, which could be anywhere from a few dozen to hundreds of stocks. This provides you with both a convenient way to obtain professional money management and instant diversification that would be more difficult and expensive to achieve on your own. 

Another concept I want to explain is active vs. passive management 

An actively managed fund is one in which the fund manager uses their knowledge and research to actively buy and sell securities in an attempt to beat a benchmark. A passively managed account called an index fund typically buys and holds most or all securities represented in a specific index (for example, the S&P 500 index). 

The objective of an index fund is to try to obtain roughly the same rate of return as the index it mimics. Funds are commonly named and classified according to their investment style or objective: 

  • Money market mutual funds invest solely in cash or cash alternatives. 
  • Bond funds invest solely in bonds.
  • Stock funds invest exclusively in stocks. Stock mutual funds can also be classified based on the size of the companies in which the fund invests–for example, large-cap, mid-cap, and small-cap. 
  • Balanced funds invest in both bonds and stocks. 
  • International funds seek investment opportunities outside the U.S. Before investing in a mutual fund, carefully consider its investment objectives, risks, fees, and expenses, which can be found in the prospectus available from the fund. Get a copy and review it carefully before investing. 

Now let’s cover Dollar Cost Averaging

Many mutual fund investors use an investment strategy called dollar-cost averaging. With dollar-cost averaging, rather than investing a single lump sum, you invest small amounts of money at regular intervals, no matter how the market is performing. Your goal is to purchase more shares when the price is low and fewer shares when the price is high. Although dollar-cost averaging can’t guarantee you a profit or avoid a loss, a regular fixed dollar investment may result in a lower average cost per share than if you had bought a fixed number of shares each time, assuming you continue to invest through all types of markets. 

For example, let’s say you decide to invest $300 each month toward your child’s college education. Because you invest the same amount each month, you automatically buy more shares when prices are low and fewer shares when prices are high. You find that your average cost per share is less than the average market price per share over the time you invested. 

On to another concept called Asset Allocation.

It’s almost universally accepted that any portfolio should include a mix of investments. That is, a portfolio should contain investments with varying levels of risk to help minimize exposure. Asset allocation is one of the first steps in creating a diversified investment portfolio. 

Asset allocation is the concept of deciding how your investment dollars should be allocated among broad investment classes, such as stocks, bonds, and cash alternatives. The underlying principle is that different classes of investments have shown different rates of return and levels of price volatility over time. Also, since other asset classes often respond differently to the same news, your stocks may go down while your bonds go up, or vice versa. Diversifying your investments over non-correlated or low-correlated asset classes can help you lower the overall volatility of your portfolio. However, diversification does not ensure a profit or guarantee against the possibility of loss. 

How do you choose the mix that’s right for you? Many resources are available to assist in asset allocation, including interactive tools and sample allocation models. Most of these take into account several variables: 

  • Objective variables (e.g., your age, the financial resources available to you, your time frames, your need for liquidity) 
  • Subjective variables (e.g., your tolerance for risk, your outlook on the economy) 

Ultimately, though, you’ll want to choose a mix of investments that has the potential to provide the return you want at the level of risk you feel comfortable with. For that reason, it makes sense to work with a financial professional to gauge your risk tolerance, then tailor a portfolio to your risk profile and financial situation. 

Factors that should be considered: 

  • Diversification 
  • Risk tolerance 
  • Investment time frames 
  • Personal financial situation 
  • Liquidity needs

Asset Allocation–Sample Models 

Conservative 

Everyone’s situation is unique. Nevertheless, in general, conservative asset allocation models will invest heavily in bonds and cash alternatives, with the primary goal of preserving principal.

This asset allocation suggestion should be used as a guide only and is not intended as financial advice. It should not be relied upon. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. 

Moderate 

In comparison, a moderate asset allocation model will attempt to balance income and growth by allocating significant investment dollars to both stocks and bonds. This asset allocation suggestion should be used as a guide only and is not intended as financial advice; it should not be relied upon. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. 

Aggressive 

An aggressive asset allocation model will concentrate heavily on stocks and potential growth. This asset allocation suggestion should be used as a guide only and is not intended as financial advice. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. 

How a Financial Professional Can Help 

As you’ve seen, there’s a lot to consider when investing. A financial professional or  retirement advisor can help you: 

  • Determine your investment goals, timelines, and risk tolerance 
  • Evaluate markets and investments 
  • Create an asset allocation model 
  • Select specific investments 
  • Manage and monitor your portfolio 
  • Modify your portfolio when necessary 

 

I hope you’ve found some value in this Investment Basics overview. There’s so much more to investing, but this will give you the basics you should know. I encourage you to listen to Episode 56: “What’s Better Than Bonds?” for an overview of the issue with bonds in a pre-retirees and retirees portfolio. Also, listen to Episode 10: “Retirement Portfolio Design for a Changing Economy.” While Her Retirement does not provide investment advice, we seek to help women understand investing topics so that more information conversation can happen and more informed decisions can be made. It’s all about knowing more and having more. Let’s Get Her Done. Thanks for listening.