Category Archives: Retirement Planning

Ideas to help preserve and grow your money

The 1 Retirement Expense We’re Still Not Preparing For

My Comments: Those of us who live long enough to enter the final stages of our lives get to confront something that rarely happens to those not retired.

I often refer to this as ‘becoming goofy’, though it’s not always a mental affliction. (My mother had Alzheimer’s and needed constant attention for over nine years.)

As you have long since discovered, being alive can expose you to a double edged sword. Yes, we’re still on this side of the grass but with that comes new challenges.

As a financial planner now focused on retirement planning, not dying quickly comes with a cost. And costs often come with price tags, many of which we’re unprepared to pay.

These words from Maurie Backman are a necessary read. It’s unrealistic to expect bad things won’t happen to us, and to the extent we can be ready if they happen, it will be good for us and our children to take some necessary steps in advance to reduce or eliminate the inevitable financial pain.

Maurie Backman | May 24, 2018

No matter what sort of lifestyle you lead, retirement is an expensive prospect. And while you can cut back on certain expenses like housing and leisure when circumstances require you to do so, there’s one expense you may not have a choice about: long-term care. And unfortunately, new data from the Society of Actuaries shows that Americans still aren’t preparing for it as they should be.

In a recent study of retirees 85 and older, most respondents who have not yet needed long-term care expect that if they do, they’ll get by with the help of paid home aides and family support. Most of those who are currently getting long-term care, however, have had no choice but to pack up and move to nursing homes or assisted living facilities, thus significantly adding to their costs.

The study also underscores the importance of having a financial backup plan for those who don’t have family to rely on to provide elder care. Currently, 32% of seniors 85 and over receive logistical support from family members with regard to physical activities such as transportation, meals, and household chores. To hire a home aide to provide those services, however, is an expense many seniors are in no position to bear.

If your goal is to maintain a level of financial security throughout retirement, then you’ll need to not only assume you’ll require long-term care at some point in time, but also save and plan for it. Otherwise, the latter end of your senior years might end up being more stressful than you ever could’ve bargained for.

There’s a good chance you’ll need long-term care…
It’s easy to think of long-term care as somebody else’s problem, but in reality, 70% of seniors 65 and over end up needing some type of long-term care in their lifetime. Among those, 69% end up requiring that care for a three-year period or longer.

And if you’re counting on Medicare to pick up the tab, you’re out of luck. The average Medicare-covered stay in a nursing home is a mere 22 days. That’s a meaningless tally in the grand scheme of a three-year period or more.

…and it’ll cost you
So how much might an extended stay at an assisted living facility or nursing home cost you? Probably more than you’d think. The average assisted living facility in the country costs $3,750 per month, or $45,000 per year, according to Genworth Financial’s 2017 Cost of Care Survey. The average nursing home, meanwhile, costs $235 per day, or $85,775 per year, for a semi-private room. Want your own room? It’ll set you back $267 per day, or $97,455 per year.

Even if you don’t require a nursing home or assisted living facility in your lifetime, there’s a good chance you’ll reach a point when you just plain need help functioning independently. And if you don’t have family around to assist, you’re going to have to pay for that help. Currently, the average cost of a non-medical home aide is $21 per hour. This means that if you wind up needing assistance for 10 hours a week, you’re looking at close to $11,000 per year.

All of this means one thing: You should be saving for these eventual costs during your working years rather than assuming you’ll cut corners to pay for them later on. And the sooner you do, the more secure you’ll be going into retirement.

The good news? If you still have a number of working years ahead of you, boosting your savings rate modestly could increase your nest egg substantially. For example, socking away an additional $250 a month on top of what you’re already saving for the next 20 years will give you an extra $123,000 in retirement, assuming your investments generate an average annual 7% return during that time. (That’s more than doable with a stock-heavy portfolio, by the way.) That’s enough to cover an assisted living facility for almost three years.

Another option? Look into long-term care insurance. The younger you are, the more likely you are to not only get approved for a policy, but also snag a health-based discount on your premiums. Having that insurance to defray the cost of long-term care could lift a major burden when you’re older and at your most vulnerable.

Finally, if you’re counting on family to provide any type of care or support when you’re older, have that conversation in advance rather than assume that help will be a given. You never know when your adult children might choose to pick up and relocate abroad or when a stay-at-home adult child of yours might opt to go back to work. Knowing what to expect assistance-wise will help you avoid a potential financial shock (not to mention an emotional one) down the line.

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7 Social Security “did you know” moments to consider

My Comments: For millions of us, Social Security is a critical component and source of income as we attempt to flourish and enjoy our retirement. For those of you who decry the idea of ‘socialism’, I encourage you to attempt to finish your life without every cashing one of your monthly checks.

Yes, you might prefer to have never paid into the system, but pay in your must. Years ago, people we elected to serve in public office at the national level determined that it was in society’s best interest that the elderly not be reduced to living in the streets or under bridges.

Over time, it’s appropriate for us to re-evaluate those decisions. That’s what we’re doing now. I have confidence the aforementioned choices made by our elected leaders will be confirmed and re-affirmed. Democratic Socialism is a viable economic model for us to follow.

Sean Williams, The Motley Fool Published 7:00 a.m. ET May 5, 2018

Social Security arguably is the most important social program in this country, but you wouldn’t know that by quizzing the American public on their knowledge of the program.

Back in 2015, MassMutual Financial Group did just this and found that only 28% of the more than 1,500 respondents could pass its straightforward, 10-question, online true-false quiz with at least seven correct answers. Such poor results suggest that most seniors are likely to leave money on the table or make a non-optimal claiming decision during their golden years.

The fact of the matter is that the American public doesn’t know much about Social Security. And while there’s a laundry list of things they don’t know, the following seven facts stand out most of all.

1. Did you know that Social Security is only designed to replace 40% of your working wages?

To begin with, you may or may not be aware that Social Security is not meant to be a primary source of income for retired workers. When it was signed into law in 1935, its purpose was to provide a financial foundation for lower-income workers during retirement.

Today, the Social Security Administration (SSA) suggests that benefits be relied on to replace about 40% of working wages, with this percentage perhaps a bit higher for low-income workers and lower for well-to-do workers. By comparison, 62% of current retirees lean on Social Security to account for half of their monthly income. That’s a bit worrisome, as the average check for retired workers is only $1,410 per month.

2. Did you know that the Social Security Administration can withhold some or all of your benefits, depending on when you claim?

Claiming benefits before your full retirement age — the age where you become eligible to receive 100% of your monthly benefit, as determined by your birth year — may entitle the SSA to withhold some or all of your benefits. If you won’t reach your full retirement age in 2018, the SSA is allowed to withhold $1 in benefits for every $2 in earned income above $17,040. Meanwhile, if you’ll reach your full retirement age in 2018 but have yet to do so, the SSA can withhold $1 in benefits for every $3 in earned income above $45,360.

The good news is you’ll get every cent withheld back in the form of a higher monthly payment once you hit your full retirement age — likely between 66 and 67 years old. The bad news is it’ll prevent most folks from double dipping with working wages and Social Security income prior to hitting their full retirement age — i.e., between the ages of 62 and 66 to 67.

3. Did you know that Social Security benefits may be taxable?

Believe it or not, your Social Security benefits may be taxable at the federal and/or state level. If your adjusted gross income plus half of your Social Security income totals more than $25,000 as a single filer, half of your Social Security benefits are taxable at federal ordinary income tax rates. For couples filing jointly, this figure is $32,000. A second tier allows 85% of Social Security benefits to be taxed above $34,000 for single filers and north of $44,000 for couples filing jointly.

What’s more, 13 states tax Social Security benefits to some extent. A few, like Missouri and Rhode Island, have exceptionally high income exemptions, allowing most retired workers to escape state-level taxation. Others, like Vermont and West Virginia, mirror the federal tax schedule and can act as a double whammy for seniors.

4. Did you know that Social Security offers a mulligan?

You probably aren’t aware that there’s a do-over clause built into Social Security if you regret claiming benefits early. Beneficiaries are allowed to undo their claim within 12 months of receiving benefits if they file Form SSA-521 or a “Request for Withdrawal of Application.” The catch? First, you only have 12 months to make this choice, and second, you’ll have to repay every cent you’ve received from Social Security in order to undo your original filing.

The benefit of this mulligan is that it’ll allow your benefits to grow once again at 8% per year, until age 70. It’s as if your claim was never made. Seniors who wind up going back into the workforce shortly after they start receiving Social Security income usually benefit the most from SSA-521.

5. Did you know that your claiming decision may be about more than just you?

Deciding when to take benefits might be one of the most important decisions a senior citizen will make. However, it may be an equally important decision for their spouse.

In addition to providing retired worker benefits, Social Security provides benefits to the disabled and the survivors of deceased workers. If a high-earning spouse passes away, a lower-earning spouse may be able to claim survivor benefits based on their deceased spouse’s earnings history, assuming the survivor benefit pays more per month that the low-income worker’s own retirement benefit. If a high-earning spouse enrolls for benefits early — i.e., before his or her full retirement age — it can adversely impact the survivor benefit that the lower-income spouse receives.

6. Did you know Social Security isn’t going bankrupt?

Surprise! Despite a pervasive myth that Social Security is spiraling into bankruptcy, I can assure you that it’s not.

Social Security is funded three ways:

  • A 12.4% payroll tax on earned income up to $128,400, as of 2018.
  • The taxation of Social Security benefits.
  • Interest earned on almost $2.9 trillion in asset reserves.

The secret sauce here is the 12.4% payroll tax, which accounted for 87.3% of the $957.5 billion collected by the program in 2016. As long as Americans keep working and Congress leaves the funding mechanism for the program as is, there will always be money collected that can be disbursed to eligible beneficiaries.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean the current payout schedule is sustainable. Social Security’s Board of Trustees projected last year that sweeping benefit cuts of up to 23% may be needed by 2034 to sustain payouts through 2091.

7. Did you know it’s been 35 years since the program’s last overhaul?

Finally, were you aware that it’s been 35 years since Congress last enacted a sweeping overhaul to the Social Security program? Sure, it’s tweaked a few things over the years, but it hasn’t made any major adjustments in over three decades.

That’s disturbing for one big reason: Social Security is facing a $12.5 trillion cash shortfall between 2034 and 2091, and lawmakers are simply kicking the problem under the rug. Make no mistake about it, Democrats and Republicans each have a core fix for Social Security that works. Unfortunately, with politics in Washington highly partisan, no middle-ground solution has been reached.

While there’s much more to learn about Social Security, these seven facts offer a solid foundation on which to build your wealth of knowledge.

 

12 Retirement Investment Factors That Are Frequently Overlooked

My Comments: They say money is the root of all evil. While that may be a fundamental truth, it’s also true that in our 21st Century society, having more money is better than having less money.

As I develop my online course focused on helping people achieve a successful retirement, the idea behind having more money when you retire depends to a large degree on making good investment decisions along the way.

Here are 12 ideas that might help you make better decisions about your money than you are making right now.

Mar 6, 2018 Forbes Finance Council

Preparing for retirement is a lifetime process. Your clients are constantly wondering if there will be enough money to survive, and it is up to you to ensure their investments earn in a way that they are happy with. You need to stay abreast of the trends, tips and long-term investment options that can help them achieve their financial goals.

With many people worried they will not have enough money saved for retirement, it is your job as a financial professional to calm their fears and help them put their money where it makes the most sense. But, are you really aware of all the aspects that affect their ability to save enough for retirement?

To answer this question, 12 members of Forbes Finance Council share the one facet of retirement investing that is most often overlooked. Here is what they had to say:

1. Risk Mitigation
Target retirement funds are a great option, as they automatically adjust risk based on age and relative distance to retirement age. Employees often use the risk assessment tool when establishing their employer-sponsored 401(k) plan but fail to maintain these settings. This poses a risk to both account rebalancing and age-risk correlation. – Collin Greene, ShipHawk

2. Purpose
Research shows that those who don’t have a purpose in life tend to have poorer health. This means that, despite a good investment portfolio, if there isn’t a life plan to go along with it, you will be rich but depressed. Make sure life planning is done in conjunction with investment planning. – Darryl Lyons, PAX Financial Group LLC

3. Life Expectancy
People underestimate how long retirement can last, and with advances in medicine and science, the “problems” from living longer are only getting worse. If you retire at age 65, you may have about a 25% chance of living past age 90, for instance. That’s why I often advise clients to invest as if they’ll live to be 100. Your plan should be conservative and make similar assumptions. – Elle Kaplan, LexION Capital

4. Behavioral Finance
The 2017 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded to Richard Thaler, the father of behavioral finance. Having clients understand the emotions and psychology of money can be the determining factor in success or failure when it comes to investing. Many investors act under the influence of behavioral biases, often leading to less than optimal decisions. Teach clients how to correct these actions. – Lance Scott, Bay Harbor Wealth Management

5. Annual Portfolio Rebalancing
During the year, some assets will outperform others, and an annual rebalance of the portfolio should occur. This allows the investor to take profits from the investments that did very well and invest the proceeds in investments that did not perform. This process reaffirms the mantra “buy low, sell high,” and will help you grow your retirement portfolio over the long term. – Alexander Koury, Values Quest

6. Safe Money Options
Fixed annuities have caps that limit growth, but the trade-off is safety. Diversifying with fixed annuities provides a way to accumulate savings with peace of mind that your hard-earned money is safe from a market correction. Yes, it takes longer, and yes, the market could outperform it, but at the end of the day, you need to know there are safe retirement options with guarantees. – Drew Gurley, Redbird Advisors

7. Inflation
A 1% rise in inflation barely shutters an eye in one year. If this continues for the next 20 years, when you may have planned for $60,000 per year for your retirement, your purchasing power will have declined to the equivalent of $49,000. And, that is assuming inflation doesn’t rise to more than 1%. Taking this into consideration, saving more than you need to live off becomes a necessity. – Stacy Francis, Francis Financial, Inc.

8. Aging In Place
Studies have shown that 83% of retirees wish to stay in their own homes. A much smaller number consider using their home equity as a source of income. There are many ways to tap into wealth accrued through home ownership. Some of these include home equity loans, reverse mortgages and sale-leasebacks (typically to a family member or heir). Consider leveraging home equity to age in place. – Ismael Wrixen, FE International

9. Medical Expenses
Inevitably, no matter their economic background or their age, very few of the people I speak with think about the medical circumstances they are going to face. That’s why I am such a proponent of a Health Savings Account (HSA). It is like a quasi-retirement account that we can put money in and use going forward until we start to retire. – Justin Goodbread, Heritage Investors

10. The IRA Account
I’m a big fan of the individual retirement account, or IRA, but it’s an obvious way of saving that often gets overlooked. Many working adults make contributions to their IRA, but they don’t think about how it will see them through retirement. IRAs give you more flexibility than the 401(k) you can get at work. You’ll have the opportunity to diversify with CDs, annuities, stocks and bonds. – Shane Hurley, RedFynn Technologies

11. Diversification
People often overlook diversification; as a result, their investments are subject to unnecessary risk. Many believe they are diversified because they invest in mutual funds, but the truth is they are investing in a single asset class: equities. True diversification can be achieved only with truly self-directed IRA, which allows investments in alternative assets, such as real estate or private lending. – Dmitriy Fomichenko, Sense Financial Services LLC

12. Market Crash
Everyone plans on positive returns in their retirement portfolios, but what will you do when the market crashes and a large chunk of your money disappears? You need to plan for this inevitability and have a strategy on how to bounce back. Without a strategy, you might be inclined to make decisions based on fear rather than sound investment advice. – Vlad Rusz, Vlad Corp. USA

Filing for Social Security Benefits

My Comments: For millions of us, a predictable monthly income from Social Security has become critical for sustaining our standard of living. For many reasons, we should be increasingly worried about it. But that story is for another day.

Right now, I’m sharing with you what I hope is a simple overview if you have not yet applied for benefits. You can choose from any one of 97 months. The first one is when you turn 62 and the last one is when you turn 70. (you can wait beyond that but it’s pointless…)

Know this too: regardless of when you sign up, we’re talking about essentially the same amount of money spread over your lifetime. Starting early means you’re getting a smaller check for a longer period of time. Starting late means you’re getting a larger check for a shorter period of time.

The optimal month for most of us, is, in my opinion, the month when you reach what is known in Social Security jargon as your FULL RETIREMENT AGE or FRA. Unless you plan or expect to die before your full life expectancy, that date is your first target for signing up.

There are dozens of good reasons to sign up early. And there are dozens of good reasons to wait until your FRA. There are far fewer good reasons to extend your wait beyond your FRA. Here’s a summary of what you can expect.

by Maurie Backman / Apr 10, 2018

Age 62
Age 62 is the earliest point at which you can file for Social Security, and it’s also the most popular age for seniors to claim benefits. The advantage of filing at 62 is that you get your money sooner. The downside, however, is that you’ll face the greatest reduction in benefits by going this route.
If you’re entitled to a full monthly benefit of $1,500 at age 67, for example, then filing at 62 will knock each payment you collect down to $1,050. That said, if you’re unemployed come 62 or need the money for another reason, you’re better off taking benefits than resorting to credit card debt.

Age 63
Filing for Social Security at 63 still means taking benefits early and having them significantly reduced. Still, if you’re desperate for cash, it often pays to take that hit, which won’t be quite as bad as it would if you were to file at 62. Using our example above, a $1,500 benefit at age 67 would be whittled down to $1,125 at 63 — not ideal, but better than collecting just $1,050.

Age 64
Claiming Social Security at age 64 will also result in a sizable reduction in your full monthly benefit. But it won’t be as drastic as filing at an earlier age. In the case of a $1,500 benefit at 67, you’d only lose about 20% by filing at 64, thereby resulting in a $1,200 monthly payment.

Age 65
Once you turn 65, you’re eligible for coverage under Medicare. As such, some people get confused and assume that 65 is the age at which they’re able to collect their Social Security benefits in full. Not so. Still, if you retire at 65 once Medicare kicks in and decide to file for benefits simultaneously, you won’t face such an extreme reduction. Following the above example, a $1,500 monthly benefit at 67 would only be reduced to $1,300 at 65.

Age 66
Age 66 is a significant one from a Social Security standpoint because it’s when workers born between 1943 and 1954 reach full retirement age and are thereby eligible to collect their monthly benefits without a reduction. Your full retirement age is a function of your year of birth, as follows:

Year of Birth       Full Retirement Age
1943-1954                  66
1955                            66 and 2 months
1956                            66 and 4 months
1957                            66 and 6 months
1958                            66 and 8 months
1959                            66 and 10 months
1960                            67
Data source: Social Security Administration.

Therefore, if you were born after 1954 but before 1960, your full retirement age is 66 and a certain number of months. If you were born in 1960 or later and have a full retirement age of 67, filing for Social Security at 66 will reduce your benefits by about 6.67%. That means a full monthly benefit of $1,500 would go down to just $1,400 if you were to take them a year earlier.

Age 67
If you were born in 1960 or later, this is perhaps the age you’ve been waiting for, since it’s when you get to take your monthly benefits in full. In our example, age 67 is when you’d get that $1,500 we keep talking about. That said, you don’t have to file for Social Security at full retirement age. You can hold off and grow your benefits for a higher monthly payout.

Age 68
Though 68 is hardly a common age for taking Social Security, it’s a strategic one nonetheless. That’s because for each year you delay your benefits past full retirement age up until age 70, you get an 8% boost in payments, which, in our ongoing example, would take a full monthly benefit of $1,500 at 67 up to $1,620 at 68. That increase then remains in effect for the rest of your life. Of course, not everyone wants or can afford to hold off on benefits all the way until 70, but waiting until 68 is a decent compromise — you get a modest boost without having to wait too long.

Age 69
Age 69 is a good time to take your benefits if you don’t need them sooner. Doing so will boost our aforementioned $1,500 benefit to $1,740, thus guaranteeing a higher payout for as long as you collect Social Security.

Age 70
The credits you accrue for delaying benefits past full retirement age stop accumulating once you reach 70. Therefore, it’s considered the latest age to file for Social Security. Granted, you don’t have to sign up for benefits at that time, but there’s really no financial incentive not to. If you’re dealing with a full retirement age of 67, filing at 70 means boosting your benefits by 24%, which would turn a $1,500 monthly payment into $1,860 — for life.
Which of the above ages is the right one for you to take benefits? It depends on a host of circumstances, from your savings level to your employment status to the state of your health. The key is to understand the pros and cons of filing at various ages so you land on the one that works best for you.

How your 401(k) can survive and thrive in the next bear market

My Comments: Some of you reading this have money in 401(k)s and 403(b)s and cannot simply remove it and place it somewhere safer. Which means you’re completely exposed to the vagaries of the markets and you can only hope for the best.

I learned long ago that HOPE is not an effective investment strategy. So these words from Adam Shell may make your life a little easier. If you want more information, you know how to reach me.

Adam Shell, March 9, 2018

The nine-year stretch of rising stock prices won’t last forever. So now’s a good time for investors to bear-proof their 401(k)s before the next financial storm.

The current bull market, now the second-longest ever and celebrating its 9th birthday on Friday, is most likely in its final stages, Wall Street pros say. That means a bear market will occur at some point, and the stock market will tumble at least 20% from its peak.

What could cause it and when? No one can know for sure. A recession perhaps, or a surge in interest rates and inflation? An unexpected event or investors getting too giddy about stocks and driving prices up to unsustainable levels? All could be the triggers of a big drop in stocks.

Remember, if you have any money invested in stocks, you won’t be able to avoid all the pain that a bear inflicts on your 401(k). While a drop of 20% from a prior peak is the classic definition of a bear market, most drops are more sizable. The average decline for the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index in the 13 bears since 1929 is 39.9%, S&P Dow Jones Indices says. A swoon of that size would shrink a $100,000 investment in an index tracking the broad market to roughly $60,000.

Prepare ahead of time

“The best way to survive a bear market is to be financially prepared before one happens,” says Jamie Cox, managing partner for Harris Financial Group.

That means not having 100% of your money invested in stocks near a market top. It also means maintaining low levels of debt and having some emergency savings to avoid having to sell stocks in a down market to raise cash, he says.

From a portfolio standpoint, make sure your investment mix isn’t too risky. Are you loaded up on high-fliers that have greater odds of suffering steep drops if the market tanks? Make sure you own some “defensive” stocks, such as utilities, consumer companies that sell everyday staples like soap and cereal, or health care names, which tend to hold up better when markets fall overall.

“Investors should take the time to control the parts of their portfolios they can control,” Cox advises.

If, for example, your portfolio was designed to have 60% in stocks, and that percentage has ballooned to 80% due to the long period of rising stock prices, consider “rebalancing” your portfolio now. Sell some stock to get back to your initial 60% target.

Play defense

The time to be aggressive in the market is when stocks are up, and you can make tactical moves likes cashing out stocks, says Woody Dorsey, a behavioral finance expert and president of Market Semiotics, a Castleton, Vt.-based investment research firm. It makes more sense, he adds, to be defensive when the market is entering or in a period of falling prices.

“Does a bear market mean an investor needs to freak out? No. But it does mean you should be more careful,” Dorsey says. “If the market is going to be difficult for one or two years, just get more defensive. Keep in simple.”

One simple strategy to employ is to get “less exposed to the market and raise cash,” Dorsey says. “Most people are not used to that message, but it’s a good message.” While a normal portfolio might consist of 60% stocks and 40% bonds, a bear market portfolio, he says, might be 30% cash, 30% U.S. stocks and the rest in foreign investments and bonds.

Main Street investors could also consider defensive strategies employed by professional money managers, he says. They can buy things that hold up better in tough times, such as gold. Or add to “alternative” investments that rise when stocks fall, such as exchange-traded funds that profit when market volatility is on the rise or funds that can short the market, or profit from falling prices.

Identify severity of bear

The next bear isn’t likely to be as severe as the epic one following the Great Recession or the dive in early 2000 after the dot-com bubble burst, says Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab. Both of those bears saw market drops of about 50% or more.

“The next bear will be a more traditional one that likely comes from the market sniffing out a coming recession,” she explains. “We don’t think it will be caused by a global financial crisis or bubble bursting.”

That means fear levels likely won’t spike quite as high. Investors will also have a better idea of when the bear market might hit, as it will be foreshadowed by signs of a slowing economy.

It also suggests the market will likely rebound more quickly than the average bear of 21 months. As a result, employing basic investment principles, such as portfolio rebalancing, diversification and buying shares on a regular basis, which forces folks to snap up shares when prices are cheaper, can help investors emerge from the next bear market in decent shape.

“Diversification and rebalancing are boring to talk about,” says Sonders. “But they are more useful strategies than all the hyperbole on when to get in or get out of the market, which is not an investment strategy.”

Buy the ‘big’ dips

There are big market swings even in bear markets. A way investors can play it is to buy shares on the days or periods when stocks are under intense selling pressure. “There will be lots of wild swings,” says Mike Wilson, U.S. equity strategist at Morgan Stanley.

Investors have to take advantage of stock prices when they are depressed and present good value, he says, even if it seems like a scary thing to do at the time.

“You have to be willing to step in” when market valuations fall a lot, no matter what’s going on in the world, Wilson advises.

Guess How Many Seniors Say Life Is Worse in Retirement

My Comments: After 40 plus years as a financial/retirement planner, I’ve lost count of the number of people who, as they approach retirement, ask whether they’ll have enough money. Or the corollary, when will they run out?

If you expect to have a successful retirement, ie one where you run out of life before you run out of money, you had better have your act together long before you reach retirement age. Here’s something to help you get your arms around this idea. https://goo.gl/b1fG39

Maurie Backman \ Feb 11, 2018

We all like to think of retirement as a carefree, fulfilling period of life. But those expectations may not actually jibe with reality. In fact, 28% of recent retirees say life is worse now that they’re stopped working, according to a new Nationwide survey. And the reasons for that dissatisfaction, not surprisingly, boil down to money — namely, inadequate income in the face of mounting bills.

Clearly, nobody wants a miserable retirement, so if you’re looking to avoid that fate, your best bet is to start ramping up your savings efforts now. Otherwise, you may come to miss your working years more than you’d think.

Retirement: It’s more expensive than we anticipate

Countless workers expect their living costs to shrink in retirement, particularly those who manage to pay off their homes before bringing their careers to a close. But while certain costs, like commuting, will go down or disappear in retirement, most will likely remain stagnant, and several will in fact go up. Take food, for example. We all need to eat, whether we’re working or not, and there’s no reason to think your grocery bills will magically go down just because you no longer have an office to report to. The same holds true for things like cable, cellphone service, and other such luxuries we’ve all come to enjoy.

Then there are those costs that are likely to climb in retirement, like healthcare. It’s estimated that the typical 65-year-old couple today with generally good health will spend $400,000 or more on medical costs in retirement, not including long-term care expenditures. Break that spending down over a 20-year period, and that’s a lot of money to shell out annually. But it also makes sense. Whereas folks with private insurance often get the bulk of their medical expenses covered during their working years, Medicare’s coverage is surprisingly limited. And since we tend to acquire new health issues as we age, it’s no wonder so many seniors wind up spending considerably more than expected on medical care, thus contributing to both their dissatisfaction and stress.

And speaking of aging, let’s not forget that homes age, too. Even if you manage to enter retirement mortgage-free, if you own property, you’ll still be responsible for its associated taxes, insurance, and maintenance, all of which are likely to increase year over year. The latter can be a true budget-buster, because sometimes, all it takes is one major age-related repair to put an undue strain on your limited finances.

All of this means one thing: If you want to be happy in retirement, then you’ll need to go into it with enough money to cover the bills, and then some. And that means saving as aggressively as possible while you have the opportunity.

Save now, enjoy later

The Economic Policy Institute reports that nearly half of U.S. households have no retirement savings to show for. If you’re behind on savings, or have yet to begin setting money aside for the future at all, then now’s the time to make up for it.

Now the good news is that the more working years you have left, the greater your opportunity to amass some wealth before you call it quits — and without putting too much of a strain on your current budget. Here’s the sort of savings level you stand to retire with, for example, if you begin setting aside just $400 a month at various ages:

You can retire with a decent sum of money if you consistently save $400 a month for 25 or 30 years. But if you’re in your 50s already, you’ll need to do better. This might involve maxing out a company 401(k), which, as per today’s limits, means setting aside $24,500 annually in savings. Will that wreak havoc on your present spending habits? Probably. But will it make a huge difference in retirement? Absolutely.

In fact, if you were to save $24,500 a year for just 10 years and invest that money at the aforementioned average annual 8% return, you’d be sitting on $355,000 to fund your golden years. And that, combined with a modest level of Social Security income, is most likely enough to help alleviate much of the financial anxiety and unhappiness so many of today’s seniors face.

Retirement is supposed to be a rewarding time in your life, and you have the power to make it one. The key is to save as much as you can today, and reap the benefits when you’re older.

Here’s Why Markets Will Head Downward

My Comments: Now that I’m in my mid 70’s, I’m far more worried about the ups and downs of the markets than I was 15-20 years ago. My ability to pay my monthly bills shrinks exponentially when the market crashes and my retirement money is exposed to that risk.

Ergo, I either do not have much money exposed to that risk, or I’ve repositioned it such that if there is downside risk, I’ve transferred that risk to a third party, ie an insurance company. You should consider doing the same.

BTW, QE means ‘quantitative easing’ and refers to the approach by the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates and to keep them low. That has  ended since the Fed is now slowly raising interest rates.

Clem Chambers,  Feb 12, 2018

I’m completely out of the markets in the U.S., Europe and the U.K. It seems as clear as it can be that the market is in for a huge down.

Now there are permabulls and permabears and if you read my articles over the years calling higher highs in the Dow you might think I am a permabull. But I am not, and if you hunt enough you will find my articles calling the credit crunch back in 2006-2007 here on Forbes and again the post crash bottom to buy in.

I can, and do, go both ways.

It has to be said, calling the market tops and bottoms is a tricky business and you can’t always be right, but there is only one thing you need to know and only one thing you have to know when investing and that is, “which way is the market going. ”

It sounds simple, almost asinine, but it isn’t because most people have no view on market direction, or if they do it’s automatically ‘up.’ As such, most people do not know which way the market is going and as such are at more risk that they need to be.

So where are we now in the markets?

Well, here is history:


This is a terrifying chart for anyone who is long.

Why? Well, first off you can see the very characteristics of the way the market moves have changed for the first time in years. Up close it’s even clearer:

The market has been going up like an angel for a year, the volatility has fallen to nonexistant. Forget the tendency for the price to go parabolic, it’s the day to day footprint of the price action that’s even more important here. Now this style has broken. Something has smashed the dream.

This giant burst of volatility tells us that there is huge uncertainty in the market.

So ask yourself what that involves?

It involves a change of investment environment and the participants in the market fighting that change.

“Buy the dip” is the brain dead mantra that has harvested lots of profits through the era of QE ever-inflating stock prices. What if that stops working? The crowd ‘buys the dips’ but the negative environments rains on that parade and the market begins to shake as the two conflicting forces meet.

Who do you put your money on? The crowd or a new market reality?

I bet against the crowd every time; you cannot fight market systemics.

So what is this new reality? What is causing this? The pundits are unclear, spouting all sorts of waffle that would have been true last year but weren’t and must somehow now be the reason.
Amazingly, few can see the obvious. Where are the headlines?

QE made equities go up. Does anyone disagree?

‘Reverse QE’ is making it go down. Reverse QE is where the Federal Reserve starts to sell its bond mountain for cash. It pushes up interest rates, it sucks money from the economy and straight out of the markets.

Is that ringing any bells?

Reverse QE started in September and month by month is ratcheting up. By next September it will hit $50 billion a month from the starting point in September of $10 billion.

The market is crashing because reverse QE is biting and it is going to bite harder.

There is trillions of dollars of reverse QE to come. Years of it.

Now I suppose it is hoped that U.S. fiscal loosening, tax cuts and overseas profitability repatriation will counterbalance this huge liquidity hit, but for sure this new cash will not flood straight into equities. I’m sure a strong economy is meant to pump liquidity into the loop via profits too, but will these do anything but hold the stock market at a flat level for many a year?

However, this is ‘unorthodox monetary policy’ in reverse. Do you remember when QE was called ‘unorthodox?’ Well, we are back in unorthodox territory again and this is not the happy slope of the mountain of cash, this is the bad news bloody scrabble down the other side with trillions of less money all around.

Somehow this ‘unorthodox’ unwinding of liquidity is aiming for a smooth transition. Well, they are going to need good luck with that and it looks like the process is having a rough start.

So reverse QE could stop. The Fed could halt the program. However, it seems unlikely they would pull the plug on the whole program that fast and then what? First they’d have to take the blame for crashing the market, then they would have to tacitly admit they are stuck with mountains of debt that they will have to roll forever.

That means reverse QE is going to have to punch a far bigger hole in the market than we have seen before it hits the headlines. So where is that? 20,000 on the Dow, 18,000?

Well that’s my feeling, which is why I am cashed up.

So take a look at the chart and remember that reverse QE is here and until further notice the Fed is shrinking its balance sheet, which means one thing… The market is going down.

All of a sudden knowing which way the market is going doesn’t seem so asinine.