Monday, April 14, 2014

Is Now a Good Time to Be in the Stock Market?

Is Now a Good Time to Be in the Stock Market?

Undoubtedly, this is among the most frequent questions I hear in almost every setting I find myself, once someone discovers my line of work – especially following an economic downturn.

And it’s an understandable question – because you no doubt want to make sure that you don’t lose a penny of your hard-earned savings. Besides, many talking heads in the financial press are notorious for giving directions about how and when to jump into the market. In fact, a lot of so-called financial advisors bank their careers on “specializing” (notice the quotation marks) in telling you just when to strike, don’t they?

You can probably guess my view on this subject, so let me cut to the chase. Trying to figure out when is a good time – and by implication, when is not a good time – to invest in the stock market is a terrible waste of time and one of the most dangerous concepts on which you could ever base you future financial security.   

Here’s why: 
No one knows exactly where the markets are headed in the foreseeable future. Not even the savviest investment advisor or market watcher. Not a single soul!  
Over the course of history, many “financial scientists” who have claimed to have some secret formula that allows them to make those kinds of determinations have, time and again, ended up doing just the complete opposite – and losing fortunes in the process.

Usually, folks who invest around this question tend to get into the market when things are on the up and up, hoping (the key word here is hoping) to get out just before things start to go south. But is that what usually happens? Of course, not. They seldom manage to get out of the market until it has already dipped.

Becoming a successful investor doesn’t rise to the level of rocket science. That I can tell you for a fact. But it has a lot do with good old common sense and knowing exactly how much risk you can and cannot live with. If you do otherwise, you’ll most likely end up stressed a great deal of the time, and maybe even a broke retiree. But it doesn’t have to be this way! Call us today and find out how you can avoid this path to financial ruin! 877.656.9111

And to my colleagues in the financial profession still playing the game of assigning good and bad times to jump into the stock market, do you seriously believe you have the ability to do that?  Isn’t the better idea that you quit playing with people’s future livelihoods?
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Want to talk with an experienced financial professional with dozens of real-world clients who are experiencing successful retirements? Want to learn how you can KEEP more of your retirement money, even if the market crashes? Call 877.656.9111 or visit LaserFG.com to talk with a retirement professional with a proven track record TODAY!

Monday, March 31, 2014

What You (and Your Financial Advisor) Don’t Know about Collecting Social Security Could Literally Ruin Your Retirement

What You (and Your Financial Advisor) Don’t Know about Collecting Social Security Could Literally Ruin Your Retirement

The story usually goes something like this: You work hard all your life and contribute to Social Security with the expectation that, come retirement, you’ll hang up your work cloths and your monthly payments will begin supplementing your retirement lifestyle. That sounds right for the most part, except that the way you opt to collect your benefits could mean leaving thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of dollars on the table.


If you are counting on receiving any kind of help from Social Security Administration employees, you are out of luck, because they are specifically prohibited from providing any form of financial advice. This means they can’t offer a shred of help when it comes to selecting the option that will give you and/or your family the maximum lifetime income. That may be hard to swallow, but it’s the reality.

Personally, I think what’s even worse is that an overwhelming number of so-called financial advisors don’t know enough to help their clients with strategies that could help boost their social security retirement income. That may sound like a strong statement, but how else would you account for the countless folks I meet, day in and day out, who are working with financial advisors, yet have no clue that they have better choices in terms of how they collect their Social Security?

Here’s a classic situation to support my point. Allison submitted this request through the “Ask Your Question” feature on our website. Before I go any further, let me take a moment to thank Allison and her parents for allowing me to share their story.

Allison’s Question:
I’m contacting you because my coworker believes that you may be able to help my parents come up with a better solution regarding their Social Security benefits. 
My dad, who’s now 66, took early Social Security retirement at 62.  My mom just turned 66, her full Social Security retirement age, but wants to wait until she’s 70 so that she can collect her highest benefit. However, she could use some extra income right now. Their financial advisor is suggesting that she start collecting now, since her work income will not reduce her benefits like it did for my dad. I’d really appreciate any assistance you can offer.

My Response to Allison’s Inquiry
First of all, thank you for contacting us about your parents’ situation.

I believe your mom is going to be pleased to hear about what is called Claim Now; Claim More Later, which is one of the little-known strategies for collecting Social Security that I cover in my complimentary special report “Secure YourFuture.” Because your mom has reached her full Social Security retirement age, she can immediately begin collecting benefits – here’s the key phrase – as your dad’s spouse.

This will allow her to receive half of your dad’s unreduced benefit amount, in spite of the fact that he began collecting his benefits early, at age 62. The other, even more powerful thing here is that your mom’s spousal benefit checks will not affect her own work record benefits. Therefore, she will continue to earn delayed retirement credits, just as she desires, until she’s age 70, at which time she will be able to switch over from collecting as a spouse to taking her own much higher benefits.

In  a nutshell, your mom can collect spousal benefits right now while her own benefit keeps growing. And by the way, her employment income will not cause any reduction in her benefits because she’s attained her full retirement age.
Allison’s mom would likely have missed out on collecting the spousal benefit to which she is entitled if she’d take her so-called financial advisor’s suggestion to start collecting her own benefits right now. Of course, it all ended well for her. But that’s because she found us! I wonder how many hard-working Americans out there are unknowingly walking away from Social Security money for which they qualify.

Does your financial advisor have the right knowledge and experience?

Download your very own copy of my complimentary Social Security strategy report. You can also contact us for suggestions about how you can get the most out of your retirement savings.

Monday, March 17, 2014

MYTH: Tax Planning is Necessary Only if You're Rich


Myth: Tax Planning is Necessary Only if You're Rich
Perhaps you, too, consider tax planning as something only “rich” retirees need to worry about – and although you’re working on it, you are not there just yet. Or maybe you think that because your retirement income will be lower than what you’re earning today, your tax bill will automatically decrease.
I must admit that, on the surface, that reasoning seems pretty logical. However, in reality these are complete myths when it comes to the way things work under the U.S. Tax Code. Really!
In fact, as tax season shifts into high gear, all you'll have to do is to pay close attention and you’ll notice that the bulk of retirees who feel clobbered by taxes do not consider themselves to be “rich” – although that’s admittedly a very loose term. Take social security benefits, for instance. Your checks begin to be taxable when your total taxable retirement income from all sources (including exempt municipal bonds) plus one-half of your social security benefits exceeds just $25,000 if you’re single or $32,000 if you’re married. You wouldn’t consider these to be thresholds that only the “rich” would be wise to plan around, would you?   
Yes, it’s true that our tax system is progressive in nature. But as I systematically lay out in my book 5 Mistakes Your Financial Advisor Is Making,  it’s equally true that your tax bill depends on your taxable income, not merely your gross or total income. As a result, even with a significant drop in your gross income, you could end up effectively paying more in taxes during retirement, as you generally tend to lose most of your significant deductions: mortgage interest (because your house is usually paid off or nearly so), dependent children (they are likely independent adults by the time you retire), and deductible contributions to retirement accounts (you’re drawing income, instead of contributing).  
On the other hand, the Tax Code also identifies some sources of retirement income as non-taxable. What you must understand about non-taxable income is that its size is irrelevant when it comes to your income tax bill. As a result, if Mary draws $250,000/year in non-taxable income, she’ll not owe even a penny of tax. All things being equal, Sarah, who draws just $30,000 in taxable income, will end up paying more in income tax. So we can say that when it comes to taxes, the term “rich” is directly related to taxable or non-taxable income.
Now it's time for some good news: Even if you are already retired, there are things you may be able to do to shift your income from the taxable column into the non-taxable column today – and also protect your income from possible future tax hikes. You can begin by scheduling a complementary, no-obligation appointment to talk with a Laser Financial Group wealth advisor about your options. 
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Want to talk with an experienced financial professional with dozens of real-world clients who are experiencing successful retirements? Want to learn how you can KEEP more of your retirement money, even if the market crashes? Call 877.656.9111 or visit LaserFG.com to talk with a retirement professional with a proven track record TODAY!

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Most Important Requirement to a Successful Retirement Is NOT What Most People Are Made to Believe

The Most Important Requirement to a Successful Retirement Is NOT What Most People Are Made to Believe
In my opinion, this is the million dollar question when it comes to retirement planning: What is THE ONE THING that must be present and without which your chances of succeeding in your retirement planning are slim to none? As a front-row eyewitness to the retirements of hundreds of folks for nearly two decades, I can tell you that it’s not simply saving a lot of money. 

Most people would agree, if not require, that a practitioner have actual real-life, hands-on expertise in a given field before we’d even consider hiring him or her. It makes perfect sense to want to ensure that a surgeon has already successfully operated on a few folks with your specific condition before agreeing to lie on their table. In fact, I wouldn’t even let someone remove my wisdom tooth unless they had a proven track record of doing just that.
Of course, that’s just common sense, right? So are you applying that same standard to one of the most critical aspects of your life – your retirement planning? Does your advisor have a proven track record that is backed by real-life success stories from folks just like you?
For some strange reason, it seems like many people unfortunately treat their retirement planning as though it were a routine procedure. Something for which they can afford to hire a less-skilled professional than they require in other equally import areas of their lives.
In reality, your ability to retire successfully requires more than just socking money away. And certainly more than radio or TV personalities who haven’t actually hit the trenches and cannot point to real-life results in their work.
Of course, you might get lucky. But would you hire an inexperienced surgeon, for example, and count on luck to be on your side?
Good food for thought!
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Want to talk with an experienced financial professional with dozens of real-world clients who are experiencing successful retirements? Want to learn how you can KEEP more of your retirement money, even if the market crashes? Call 877.656.9111 or visit LaserFG.com to talk with a retirement professional with a proven track record TODAY!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Oops! Saving Is NOT the Key to Your Comfortable Retirement

Oops! Saving Is NOT the Key to Your Comfortable Retirement

Of course, it is important to save money. No question about that. Even a caveman knows that!

So I can understand if that subject line has you scratching your head a little bit. Maybe you are even thinking I’m a little nuts. But it is an accurate statement – and one you need to take serious note of and, most importantly, incorporate into your retirement preparations if you want to ensure that your years of hard work and saving will not end up in disappointment.


To be fair, though, it is not entirely your responsibility. That belongs more to your financial advisor/retirement consultant. However, the sad truth is that the overwhelming majority of financial advisors – somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 out of 10 – completely ignore this critical piece in their practice, leaving you to face the undesirable consequences.

Here’s what I’m saying: Saving for retirement, though it may be a routine exercise, cannot be an end in itself. The other equally if not more important leg of that stool is how you are actually going to turn that pot of money into income for the rest of your life. If your retirement plan only involves saving money, you may be setting yourself up for a rather nasty surprise.

I must admit, income planning is not easy. It requires a lot of heavy lifting, so to speak. Today it involves answering many tough, probing questions; making certain assumptions about the future; understanding how tax laws will impact you; incorporating social security strategies; considering health care and pensions; and a host of other things that will impact your income from day one of retirement through your very last day – and even beyond, if you have a spouse and/or dependents.

In fact, I tend to believe that the amount of detail initially involved as, well as the need for regular fine-tuning along the way, has something to do with why only a handful of retirement advisors specialize in income planning. But the thing is, it’s your retirement that’s at stake here. And you have only one shot at it. So of all things, shouldn’t you get your retirement income right from the beginning?

Many of my colleagues are probably not going to like me saying this, but if your so-called financial advisor is not actually incorporating how you will turn your pot of money into retirement income, it’s time you looked elsewhere because that’s not true and holistic retirement planning. You are saving money for your retirement, so make sure that you will have that retirement!
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Want to learn how you can KEEP more of your retirement money, even if the market crashes? Call 877.656.9111 or visit LaserFG.com to talk with an experienced retirement professional with a proven track record TODAY!

Monday, February 3, 2014

10 Things You Should Know About the New ‘myRA’ Retirement Account

10 things you should know about the new ‘myRA’ retirement account

During his State of the Union address last Tuesday, President Obama announced plans for the creation of a new type of retirement account, myRA, aimed at helping low-to-middle-income workers start saving toward retirement. On Wednesday, the President followed up by signing a memo directing the Department of Treasury to formally create the new account.


While it is still too early at this point to know all of the details and caveats about how myRA will turn out, here’s what I have gathered so far:

1.      Your employer will have to sign up in order for you to be able to contribute.
2.      To be eligible for a myRA, your yearly household income must be less than $191,000.
3.      You may open an account even if you already have a 401(k), granted that you meet the other thresholds, of course.
4.      You can only contribute through direct payroll deductions, but all your contributions must be in after-tax dollars. You can start with as little as $25 and continue with as little as $5 per paycheck. No investment fees will be deducted from your account.
5.      You can contribute to the same myRA from multiple jobs. So if you have more than one job, you can direct contributions from all your jobs into the same myRA account.
6.      myRA is a direct cousin of the Roth IRA, in the sense that the most you can contribute in any single year is currently $5,500.
7.      Once your account’s value reaches $15,000, you must roll it over to a regular Roth IRA. Regardless of how much you have in your myRA, you must roll it over to a regular IRA after 30 years, meaning the longest time you can keep your myRA account is 30 years. However, you can convert your myRA to a regular Roth IRA anytime you like.
8.      There is only one investment option. All your money will be invested in the Government Securities Investment Fund (G Fund), which is one of the account options currently offered to federal employees through their Thrift Savings Plan. Basically, your money will be invested in government bonds, so you shouldn’t expect to make a ton of money quickly, if ever. In 2012, the G Fund returned about 1.5 percent, but inflation was 1.8 percent. To be fair, the account is being marketed as a starter account, with the idea that folks will eventually move over to traditional investments. Not to mention that you’d probably end up a broke retiree if you kept your money in a myRA for 30 years.
9.      Your principal will be guaranteed and backed by the U.S. government.
10.  You can withdraw your original contributions at any time without any tax or penalty. Once you retire (after age 59½), all of your money – including your gains – will be completely tax-free. However, if you withdraw your gains before you reach age 59½, you will be taxed, in addition to incurring a 10 percent penalty.

I think this program may be a positive first step, provided that the government can actually get employers to get on board. I find it somewhat ironic, though, that the authorities are using the fact that employers will not be burdened with administrative paperwork to incentivize and recruit businesses to sign up. Perhaps all that needs to happen is to cut the burdensome administrative processes surrounding current work-related retirement plans?

Then the folks must also find the means, willingness, and discipline to sign up and, most importantly, treat myRA as a long-term account. There seem to be mixed messages here, because on the one hand, officials are trying to help alleviate the shortage of retirement savings in America. Yet in the same breath, they are positioning myRA as a convenient savings account you can dip into at will. 
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Want to learn how you can KEEP more of your retirement money, even if the market crashes? Call 877.656.9111 or visit LaserFG.com to talk with an experienced retirement professional with a proven track record TODAY!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Did You Lose Money in Last Week's Market Drop? You Didn't Have To! Here's Why

Did you lose money in last week's market drop? You didn't have to! Here's why

Last week wasn’t a good one for the stock market, to say the least, with the DOW dipping more than 300 points on Friday alone. But is that really a big deal? I mean, what else should anyone expect the stock market to be doing? Keep going up all the time?

Of course, I understand what it means: some folks are losing hard-earned money that is earmarked for their retirement. But let’s look at reality here. When your money is invested directly in the stock market, is what happened on Friday out of the ordinary?

If you are calling your advisor looking for the exit because you think the market is in some kind of a freefall, I can understand. But the fact of the matter is that you’ve had the wrong investment strategy all along.

It’s rather unfortunate, but many unsuspecting folks have fallen victim to having an unrealistic and completely bogus expectation of how the stock market works. The only expectation you can count on when it comes to the market is that it will either go up or down. So, on the one hand, things could turn out really well and you could make a boatload of money; but there is also the opposite possibility that your investments won’t be very successful, to the point that you could end up losing everything. That’s hard to swallow, but again we are talking reality and the true range of possibilities here.

If you are unwilling to live within those extreme possibilities, perhaps you should consider investing in a way that will enable you to make money up to a certain cap when the market goes up, but will protect you from losing anything when weeks like last week happen – which is entirely likely at some point during your investing life.

Personally, I think we might have a little less drama and people could go about their daily lives more smoothly if so-called financial advisors and media money experts gave folks the straight facts and enabled them to consider the full range of investment possibilities. 
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Want to learn how you can KEEP more of your retirement money, even if the market crashes again? Call 877.656.9111 or visit LaserFG.com to talk with an experienced retirement professional with a proven track record TODAY!