Monday, March 16, 2015

Treat Your Retirement Savings Like Your Health - Get an Annual Checkup!

Treat your retirement savings like your health - get an annual checkup!

Setting aside money toward your retirement in some sort of account is a step in the right direction. But much more than that is necessary to ensure you’ll be set for the long run. You must also make sure that the specific investment vehicle you are using is, indeed, delivering the results required to turn your contributions into the income you’ll need during retirement.

That makes sense, right?

Just because you are making contributions into to a 401(K) or some other account doesn’t, in and of itself, necessarily mean that your retirement is all set. For all you know, your portfolio may be headed in the wrong direction. In fact, even if your account’s balance seem to be increasing from one statement to the next, you could still be moving in the wrong direction. You wouldn’t want to get all the way to retirement, years later, only to discover that you got the short end of the stick, would you? Not to mention that by then it might be too late for you to fully recover.

So, on a scale of 1 to 10 — ten being the most — how much attention would you say you are really paying to whats happening with your retirement savings?


Obviously money and health are not the same, but let me attempt to draw an analogy. It is wise to ensure that you keep up with your annual health evaluations, even if you feel great and healthy, simply because feeling great — or even believing that you are healthy — doesn't necessarily mean everything is going great in your body, health wise. You should view your retirement in the exact same light, and get an independent confirmation from a trained, qualified, and honest advisor annually.
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Want real, fact-based information that will give you the financial checkup you need to be sure your retirement account is doing what it needs to do for your healthiest financial future? Contact us so that we can help you to objectively evaluate your current situation and make a plan that will yield the results you want. Visit LaserFG.com or call 877.656.9111 right now to book your complimentary session.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Buyer Beware: A Traditional IRA Could Be Your Worst Tax Nightmare

Buyer Beware: A Traditional IRA Could Be Your Worst Tax Nightmare

Tax season is once again upon us and, among other things, it's that time of the year that experts give us so-called tax saving strategies. Of course there are some great ideas that may end up benefiting you, but in my humble opinion which is based on real-life experience with real people facing real situations some of these tax saving strategies may, in fact, end up doing the exact opposite and instead cost you big time in the long run.

One of the notoriously popular yet equally dangerous strategies is encouraging everyone to fund a traditional IRA in order to savemoney on your tax bill. Sounds good, but will it really save you money?

While it is true that contributions to traditional IRAs are deductible, and the gains you make during accumulation years are not currently taxable, that's not the end of the story by any measure.

The more compelling story is what happens down the road when you begin accessing money from your traditional IRA during retirement. Every single cent of that money will be subject to income tax at whatever tax rate is in effect at that moment in time and who knows where tax rates are headed?

As I explain in greater detail in my books 5 Mistakes Your Financial Advisor Is Making  and Is Your 401(k)  a Trap?, the indisputable fact is that with a traditional IRA, you are simply making a decision to pay taxes in the future, which would be a good decision only if you knew for a fact that your tax rate would be much lower than it is today, something I think we can both agree that even the President of the United States doesn't know not to mention that he cannot honestly promise anything in this regard. So, in effect, its a complete gamble.

Heres the piece that seems to allude the so-called experts. Even if today's tax rates do not change, there's still the real possibility that you'll end up paying more taxes when you retire, simply because you'll most likely have fewer deductions and exceptions than you enjoyed during your working years. For example, your dependent children will likely be adults by then, your mortgage would likely be paid off or almost paid off, and youll no longer be making deductible contributions into a 401(k) or your traditional IRA. All of which will imply one thing a potential increase in your taxable income, even though your gross income may have dwindled. Talk about the perfect storm for getting clobbered by taxes.

This is something I see happen to real people in real life every single day. I'd like to suggest a very simple way for you to test the potency and also the shortsightedness of this strategy. Find someone whos retired and followed this kind of advice and ask them how their tax situation is panning out in retirement. Are they actually saving money on their taxes? Also ask him or her if, given the chance of a do-over, he or she would go the same route.

If you are really looking to reduce your tax bill in the long run, you may need to look beyond a traditional IRA. Hopefully you are hearing me loud and clear.

Happy retirement.
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Want real, fact-based information that will give you the whole picture, rather than assuming the IRA is your best option? Contact us so that we can help you to objectively evaluate your current situation and make a plan that will yield the results you want. Visit LaserFG.com or call 877.656.9111 right now to book your complimentary session.

Monday, February 16, 2015

It's crucial that you know where you stand financially BEFORE you retire!

It's crucial that you know where you stand financially BEFORE you retire!

A recent post by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College regarding the findings of an HSBC retirement survey points to the troubling trend of folks coming up short, in terms of their retirement readiness i.e., not having enough money to maintain their lifestyles throughout retirement.


While this isn't surprising news, given the fact that every single piece of research in recent years has basically arrived at the same conclusion, what caught my attention and hopefully yours, as well is that of the startling number of folks who find themselves in this predicament, about two out of five said they did not realize that their preparation had fallen short until it was far too late"

Let me remind you that we are talking about real people with real lives and not a single one of them intended to spend their retirement this way.

But why is this happening?

Maybe they had the wrong investment portfolios. Or perhaps they didnt save nearly enough.

Personally, I don't believe that any sane person will intentionally drop the ball when it comes to their retirement nest egg. Obviously, there may be several legitimate as well as illegitimate reasons we often find ourselves on the wrong side of our retirement financial dreams. However, in my humble opinion, most investors never take the time to answer some very simple but crucial questions that will ensure they wont end up in an unintended predicament:

Will your retirement portfolio be able to provide the needed resources to support your lifestyle? How, exactly, do you know whether your investments are headed in the right direction or not?

Keep in mind that the folks referenced in the HSBC study had substandard portfolios all along but didnt realize it until it was far too late. Maybe they were too busy? Maybe they had unskilled financial advisors. Are you really paying attention and getting the best results you possibly could for your hard-earned money?
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Want real, fact-based information that will give you better results than relying on your intuition? Contact us so that we can help you to objectively evaluate your current situation and make a plan that will yield the results you want. Visit LaserFG.com or call 877.656.9111 right now to book your complimentary session.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Intuition Is Really Bad for Your Investment Portfolio

Intuition Is Really Bad for Your Investment Portfolio

Obviously, I cannot claim that intuition is flat out bad. I am aware that our creator gave it to us for a reason. But based on what I know and have actually witnessed in my years of being in the trenches with folks as it relates to investing and retirement planning, I can unequivocally tell you, without any restrictions whatsoever, that it’s not the best idea to use intuition for building your investment portfolio.

In fact, I have seen it destroy folks’ livelihoods, firsthand. Just this past week, I met with someone who, in her own words is really disappointed and scaredabout the outcome of her investments over the past 20 years. For two decades, she’s been diligently investing, expecting that she would be fine for retirement. All of a sudden, she finds herself at the crossroads of retirement, now realizing that her efforts have yielded terrible results.

My question was how she and her advisor had made decisions surrounding which funds to invest in - the stocks and bonds mixes, and why. Her answer: “I just picked those funds that I thought would do well. My advisor showed me the options, and I chose the ones I thought where good funds, based on the performance history. Then, from time to time, we switch funds when they don’t live up to my expectations.”

That should sound pretty normal and familiar. Isn’t this exactly how most people are investing today? But here is the problem. It is a surefire way to go broke in retirement. And that’s simply because making decisions this way is based purely on instinctive feeling, rather than facts and conscious reasoning. Contrary to what you may think or even believe to be true, investing shouldn’t be a guessing game because 9.5 out of 10 times, you are bound to guess incorrectly.

If you don’t know exactly why your portfolio is arranged the way it is, your expected return overtime, and the level of volatility associated with it, I am afraid that you are on a very slippery slope.


Would you expect a good medical doctor, mechanic, plumber, or any other professional, for that matter, to deliver good results purely based on intuition (as opposed to meticulous, conscious reasoning based on provable science)? Of course not.

So do you have a justifiable, realistic basis that explains the composition of your investment portfolio? Or has it all been left up to intuition – whether that of your financial advisor or yourself?

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Want real, fact-based information that will give you better results than relying on your intuition? Contact us so that we can help you to objectively evaluate your current situation and make a plan that will yield the results you want. Visit LaserFG.com or call 877.656.9111 right now to book your complimentary session.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Do You and Your Financial Advisor Have the Right Expectations about the Stock Market?

Do You and Your Financial Advisor Have the Right Expectations about the Stock Market?

The stock market on recent days can be described as a anything but smooth for most investors. And that's somewhat understandable, because we all want to experience the continued growth of our investments.

Most advisors, on the other hand, are scrambling to manage clients emotions vis-a-vis encouraging them to hang in there. Isn't this all too familiar? Of course it is. Its precisely what happens every single time the market enters undesirable territory.

But is this what investing in the stock market is supposed to be? An uncomfortable, highly emotional rollercoaster journey that has you living on the edge pretty much the whole time?

I believe that investing in the stock market shouldn’t be a nerve-racking ordeal. But in order to free yourself from what basically amounts to unnecessary drama, you must adhere to the scientifically proven investing approach that dictates three simple rules:

1: Avoid stock picking and focus instead on capturing market returns by building an efficient, diversified portfolio with a risk level you can live with.

2: Understand that the market will always fluctuate! Sometimes it will go up and sometimes it will dip. There’s nothing that you or anyone can do about it.

3: Use the market’s volatility to rebalance your portfolio and move on with your life.

As simple and logical as these proven rules may sound, failing to adhere to them could end up costing you countless moments of sleeplessness and unnecessary panic. 
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Want help making and KEEPING your financial resolutions? Contact us so that we can help you to  objectively evaluate your current situation and hold you accountable to make the changes you want to make. Visit LaserFG.com or call 877.656.9111 right now to book your complimentary session

Monday, January 5, 2015

1 Step to Resolving to Save or Increase Your Savings in 2015

1 Step to resolving to save or increase your savings in 2015
Happy New year to you! We’ve made it, and I wish you and your family nothing but the absolute best of luck in the days and months ahead! Whatever your resolutions are, I hope that you accomplish them.

Right off the bat, I’d like to be crystal clear that what I’m going to talk about here is in no way, shape, or form intended as a condemnation. Not at all. Rather, my intention is to encourage the person who needs to hear the truth in no uncertain terms about making a resolution to change certain spending habits in order to start or increase their savings.

Having said all that, if you are one of those folks who’s hoping to change your spending habits, here are a few suggestions to help you put the nail in the coffin this time around.

First of all, I’d like to congratulate you for admitting that you need to change certain spending habits. That’s really significant, because many with this issue never admit that to be the case, and by so doing simply keep the cycle going, digging deeper and deeper. So kudos to you for making that admission in the first place.

Secondly, I would suggest that if you are really serious about making such a change, you find an experienced advisor who will actually help you to make things happen. I’m not implying that you are incapable of fixing things on your own, but here’s what you must understand: we are all creatures of habit, especially when it comes to spending control. Sometimes, the only effective way to turn things around is by actually forcing yourself to do it – by not having that money available to spend in your checking account.

In other words, if you expect to suddenly become disciplined with your spending habits simply because the clock rolled over to 12:01 a.m. on January 1st, with all due respect, you are kidding yourself. That’s probably not going to happen. I’m just guessing here, but you didn’t just realized all of a sudden that your spending habits need some work, did you? Of course, you’ve known or expected there might be some unwanted behavior happening. But why did you postpone making a change you know will be better for you until the New Year? I think you get the point. Changing your spending habits can certainly be challenging, so we need to encourage you (or, perhaps, force you) to do it.

The other reason you shouldn’t try it at home by yourself is that your mind will play tricks on you by coming up with bogus, fear-centered reasons not to make the change. For example, if you start/increase your savings, you won’t have enough money to pay other pressing bills. That’s why you need a good financial advisor to help you pull it off. He/she can and should show you exactly how much you have to work with by laying out your expenses versus income. This will let you see exactly how much discretionary money you have available.

Here’s my challenge to you: Make the call, set the appointment, and let the paper do the talking – not your inner voice, which in this case might very well be corruptly biased.
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Want help making and KEEPING your financial resolutions? Contact us so that we can help you to  objectively evaluate your current situation and hold you accountable to make the changes you want to make. Visit LaserFG.com or call 877.656.9111 right now to book your complimentary session

Monday, December 22, 2014

Every time the market tumbles, people ask the SAME question

Every time the market tumbles, people ask the SAME question

On a fairly regular basis I get questions from folks – about financial planning, of course – either via the “Ask Your Question” portal on our website or through face-to-face interactions. Speaking of which, every once in a while such an interaction involves a total stranger walking up to me because they recognize me from one of the area magazines for which I write columns. I must mention that I find those moments to be refreshingly rewarding, not that I’m seeking them out.

This past week I stopped by a local coffee shop to grab my must-have chai latte. Out of nowhere, a woman walked up to me and asked if I was who she thought I was – the investment advisor guy in the magazine? After exchanging a few pleasantries, she got to the financial question of the day: What in the world is going on with the stock market? Look at what the DOW (Dow Jones Industrial Average) is doing – is this a sign of the next crash? Should I get out now?

That’s a fairly familiar line of questioning anytime things aren’t headed up, up, up with the stock market. And I understand folks’ desire to know exactly what the deal is, especially given that the past week or so has been pretty chaotic with the DOW sliding by 732 points. It was at 17,801 on December 9. A week later, on December 16, it was down to 17,069. Of course, as of last Friday, the DOW was back to 17,804 - My coffeehouse encounter happened prior to that.

Here was my response to her and, for that matter, to anyone with a similar question:

I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Never have and never will. And the same goes for every single financial advisor or expert you see in the media. Yes, no one knows exactly what’s going to happen.

And here’s the simple proof to back up my point: to date in the history of this planet, no one has been able to consistently and successfully predict the market’s exact path, beyond what everyone already knows – or more appropriately, must know by now – that sometimes the market goes up and sometimes it goes down. Period! And period again!

You may be wondering, but what about all these smart looking, eloquent folks you see on TV or hear about on the radio? They can’t predict the future either. I think what a lot of us tend to do is confuse someone telling you what has already happened in hindsight as forward–looking, but they are two completely different things. What most of these so-called media experts are doing doesn’t require any special powers, so to speak. There’s a reason we refer to that as Monday Morning quarterbacking.

So here’s the point I’m trying to get across. Don’t waste your emotions on the direction of the stock market, my dear friend, because the markets are going to do whatever they are meant to do. That doesn’t, however, mean to even suggest that you should simply buy a couple stocks or mutual funds and just forget about the rest.

There is such thing as a scientifically proven means to properly diversifying your investments so that you can capture market returns without needing to speculate and trying to do the impossible task of predicting (or worse, letting someone else fool you by telling you that they can predict) market movements.

I’d recommend that you work with someone who can help you to build an efficiently diversified portfolio with a volatility that you can live with. And then go about your daily life.
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Want an independent assessment to confirm that you are on the right track when it comes to saving for your retirement, including the money you will leave to your heirs? Come in so we can help you to  objectively evaluate your current approach. Visit LaserFG.com or call 877.656.9111 right now to book your complimentary session