Monday, August 18, 2014

How Confident Are You about Your Retirement Investments?

How confident are you about your retirement investments?

Indeed, after all your years of hard work and investing, you deserve nothing short of a relaxing retirement life that’s completely free from financial stress. However, the sad reality is that with each passing day, a large number of folks arrive at retirement only to experience mega disappointments - even finding themselves in an inadvertent cycle of poverty-  because their investment portfolios didn’t come anywhere near their expectations.

Some would have you believe this is simply because all of these folks didn’t save enough money, but I beg to differ, because the evidence says otherwise. In my humble opinion, the real culprit creating the financial nightmares in which so many people find themselves is the fact that these well-meaning folks fell into the deadly trap of having an unrealistic understanding of how to harness the stock market to prudently grow their hard-earned retirement money.

It’s sad, and also true, that the investment approach touted by most so-called financial advisors amounts to nothing short of myths and fantasy. To be a successful retirement investor, you should never try to predict the markets – because that’s an impossible goal. Instead, you must take reality into account and invest in a way that prepares you for whatever happens. When nearly every sector of the stock market is posting double-digit growth - just like we’ve experienced over the past five years - it’s easy to automatically presume that your current portfolio, however, flawed, can and will deliver your intended outcome.

No matter where you are in life, may I propose you seriously ponder these questions?
  • Are you building your nest egg with the realistic understanding that the market could head in either of two opposite directions at any particular moment?
  • Or you are simply hoping for the best?
  • Sure the stock market is up today, but are you ready for the inevitable downturn that will occur? The reality is that it’s a matter of when, not if.
  • Could you afford to lose any portion of your retirement investments?
  • In a nutshell, are you certain at a gut level that you’re investing properly?

Okay, let me be crystal clear here that I’m not offering a doom-and-gloom prophecy about the stock market, or the economy as a whole. Neither, am I suggesting that you shouldn’t invest in the stock market.  In fact, there is undeniable evidence that the stock market has been the greatest wealth accumulation medium in the history of our planet. But here’s what you must understand: there is a right way to harness the markets to accumulate sustainable retirement wealth – and there’s a wrong way, too!

So, are you investing the right way? Or are you just guessing and hoping?
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Want to confirm that you are on the right track? Come in and let’s help you to independently and objectively evaluate your current approach. Visit LaserFG.com or call 877.656.9111 right now to book your complimentary session

Monday, August 4, 2014

Should you be worried about last Thursday’s DOW plunge?

Should you be worried about last Thursday’s DOW plunge?
Unless you were literally living under a rock, you already know that the stock market took a dive last Thursday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DOW) falling by 317 points and wiping out all of its gains since the beginning of the year.  
You likely have a few questions rattling around in your head:
  • As an investor, should you be worried?
  • Should you be thinking about exiting the equity market altogether?
  • Is this the beginning of the next crash that some gurus have been predicting?
Without complicating things, let me put it this way. If you are losing sleep over what happened last Thursday in the stock market, you need to be extremely worried – not because of this drop, but because you have a flawed investing strategy. Of course I’m not happy that the DOW plunged by 317 points. In fact, I’d have preferred it to go the opposite direction and increase by that amount. For heaven’s sake, I manage equity portfolios for some of our clients, so I always want them to make huge profits.
But is it realistic for me – or anyone – to expect the markets to keep going up forever? Of course not! So here’s what you need to know about investing in the stock market.
First, it can and does go up, but it goes down, too.
Second, no one – and I mean no single human being on this planet (yes, including your trusted financial advisor and favorite media money guru) – can predict the exact future movements of the stock market. Again, no one knows where the markets are headed, beyond the fact we just established: that they might go up or they might go down. This may be difficult to swallow, because it’s tempting to actually believe that some of the talking heads in the media can actually predict the future of the markets. But they cannot. Consider this. Did anyone tell you or the rest of the investing world that Argentina was going to default on its debts last Thursday – and as a result, the DOW would plunge by 317 points? No!

Now don’t take this to imply that you should just throw your hard-earned money into some mutual funds and remain helpless, hoping you’ll one day get lucky and be in the right place at the right time, as far as the stock markets go. There is such a thing as an efficient and prudent strategy, when it comes to ensuring that your equity portfolio will yield tangible results over time. And it doesn’t involve worry or losing sleep about temporary fluctuations along way. In other words, if your portfolio is not prepared for these dips, then by all means you should be worried.

Our clients with equity portfolios were prepared for last week’s drop. You, too, can remove the speculation and gambling from your investment portfolio so that you can go about your life without being sucked in by the day-to-day fluctuation drama. Want to know how? Schedule your complimentary visit with one of our first-rate financial professionals today! Call 877.656.9111 or visit LaserFG.com to schedule your no-strings-attached consultation. You can take control of your investments!

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Proven Way to Protect the Money You Just Can’t Afford to Lose

A Proven Way to Protect the Money You Just Can’t Afford to Lose
One basic undeniable fact about the stock market that every normal person knows (or should know) is that

it can move in one of two directions at any particular moment – up or down. Here’s the other thing. Absolutely no one on this planet knows exactly what and/or when the market’s next move is going be. And finally, there is no such thing as a magical diversification mix that will ever eliminate the very real possibility that you could end up losing a big chunk of your life’s savings in the stock market. Again, it is what it is, period!
Sure, you could end up with a boatload of money. But what about the other side of the equation? Could you afford to lose everything you’ve worked for? The best time to protect the portion of your retirement nest egg that you simply cannot afford to lose is before a stock market downturn – not after.
Did you know there’s a time-tested investing strategy that eliminates the cloud of uncertainty associated with the risk of losing any portion of your hard-earned savings, should the stock market ever plummet? By utilizing this proven investing approach, which millions have already turned to, you can ensure three very distinct hallmarks:
  • First, your initial contribution, as well as any gains and ongoing contributions, are protected and guaranteed against the market’s risk, even in those years that the stock market plummets
  • Second, the growth of your savings will be based on a given stock market index, up to a certain predetermined cap.
  • Third, and most significantly, unlike the traditional way of investing directly in the stock market, where any time the market dips, you stand to lose some or all of your previously accumulated gains (or even worse, some of your initial investment), with this strategy, all of your prior gains are locked inSo when the stock market/index dips, you’ll have nothing to worry about because your account won’t lose any value. But when the market goes up, you make gains, up to your cap.
Could this investing approach be what you need to help you grow and protect the portion of your nest egg that you just can’t afford to lose?  
Our “Keep Your Gains,” special report will help you make that decision. It explains how this strategy works, points out some important caveats, and answers some general questions that will help you gain more insight so that you can ultimately make the best decision.
You may download a complimentary copy at KeepYourGainsReport.com or call us at 877.656.9111 to request your copy.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Resolving Discrepancies on Your Social Security Earnings Records

Resolving Discrepancies on Your Social Security Earnings Records


As I indicated in my last column, one of the things you should get in the habit of doing religiously – if you are not already doing it – is reviewing the accuracy of your Social Security statements annually. I’m hoping that our last discussion made a convincing case and, most importantly, you now see the crucial importance of and have committed to checking your earnings records as an annual ritual. All I’m trying to do here is to convince you to take on a good habit, so go ahead and make my job easy, would you?

Verifying your data

Once you’ve received your green and white Social Security statement, you’ll need to do three very simple things.
First, make sure that your name is spelled correctly.

Second, verify that the last four digits of your Social Security number, as shown on your statement, are accurate.

The third and final thing is to verify that your earnings, as reported on the statement for the previous tax year, agree with what you have in Box 3 of your Form W-2 (Social Security Wages).

This should be a pretty simple exercise that you could knockout in just a minute or two, but it will help ensure that you are getting all the necessary credits from your years of hard work. One thing to keep in mind here is that the earnings figure you are verifying against your W-2 is strictly from box #3 (Social Security wages), not box #1 ( wages, tips, other compensation), as the two are not always the same, even though for many folks they may end up being the same.

Correcting any errors you detect

If that quick verification exercise reveals a discrepancy, you should contact the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 or visit your local office in person to get your records straightened out. Obviously, you should have your W-2, last pay stub for the particular year in question, and/or tax return to substantiate your claim.

Personally, I’d suggest going into your local office with all of your documents to get assistance. It usually takes several months to update your records to reflect the correct earnings, so you’ll want to make sure that once the office confirms that the changes have been made, you request a new statement so you can see with your own eyes that the corrections have been done. 
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Speak with an experienced financial professional TODAY who has dozens of real-world clients already experiencing successful retirements! Please call 877.656.9111 or visit LaserFG.com.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Are You Checking Your Social Security Statements Annually?

Are you checking your Social Security statements annually?

Here’s a simple question for you if you’re not already receiving Social Security benefits on your own work record: When was the last time you reviewed your Social Security statement?


More likely than not, your answer to this question falls within the range of “Social Security statement – what’s that?” to “That’s a good question,” to “I don’t remember the last time I received one,” or even “Am I supposed to review that?” Don't feel bad – you're not alone. Based on my practical experience in consulting with folks about their retirement planning, these are the typical answers I hear when this subject comes up.

Let’s get it straight, though. I’m not saying this type of response is okay. On the contrary, I would say it could be costing you big bucks if you aren't in the habit of reviewing your Social Security records annually. Inasmuch as most of us may not expect it to happen or prefer to believe it will not happen to us, in reality, mistakes sometimes do occur in reporting your earnings to Social Security. From reporting the wrong income to incorrect name spellings to your income not making it onto your recording at all, roughly three percent of Americans discover errors annually. And, if I might add, these are those folks who actually do check and crosscheck their statements. I'm guessing there are numerous others who have no idea that their Social Security records are incorrect simply because they don’t verify. Good point, right?

It's important that you understand something. The math that determines the size of the checks that you, and when applicable, your spouse, and even dependents will collect, depends directly on your earnings records. You work hard and pay into the system, so it behooves you to make sure that your records are accurate, doesn’t it?

How Do You Get Your Social Security Statement?

Most people seem to have forgotten about those green and white statements they used to receive once a year, right around their birthdays. That’s because everyone automatically received their Social Security statements once a year, so you didn't have to look for it – but that’s no longer the case for folks who are under the age of 60. Due to budget constraints, only folks age 60 and older who are not already receiving benefits still receive annual paper statements.

If you’re under age 60, you can still receive your statements annually by creating an online account on the Social Security Administration’s website. You will be asked to provide some personal information that will be verified through a third-party vendor (Experian) in order to complete the process. I believe I’ve already made the case and, I'm hoping, convinced you that this is a crucial thing for you to do. Go ahead and create your account today!

As a side note, the Social Security Administration recently announced that they’ll resume mailing paper statements once every five years to those who haven’t created online accounts. If you are in that group, you can expect your statements at ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60. But personally, I think it’s better to create your online account so that you can check the accuracy of your reported income once a year for the previous year, instead of waiting to do so every five years. It’s much easier to catch and fix any possible discrepancies sooner rather than later, wouldn’t you agree?
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Speak with an experienced financial professional TODAY who has dozens of real-world clients already experiencing successful retirements! Please call 877.656.9111 or visit LaserFG.com.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Are You Inadvertently Generalizing Your Retirement into Financial Ruin?

Are You Inadvertently Generalizing Your Retirement into Financial Ruin?

It’s no secret that there’s a troubling trend plaguing America, in terms of the increasingly huge number of retirees who are barely able to make ends meet, even after they have invested money during their working years and planned for retirement. My last column highlighted some of the latest statistics and thoughts about some of the larger causes of this – in my opinion – extremely sad and dangerous situation.

In that column, I placed the lion’s share of the blame squarely in the lap of the financial planning community,
and I’m not retracting that, by any measure. However, today, I’d like to focus on something that is equally lethal, when it comes to squashing your financial future – and it has to do with you, the retirement investor. It’s called generalization, and it’s ruining more retirements that you’d ever imagine, at least from where I’m sitting as a front-row eyewitness into many people’s retirements for the better part of the last two decades.

Here are the two most common forms that generalization takes:

(1)   A certain concept or plan worked, is working, or seems to be working well for my friend/aunt/coworker/mailman/pastor’s mother, so naturally it will work for me, too. I can understand why it’s easy to jump to such a conclusion, but the fact is that while things may work that way in many other aspects of our lives, retirement planning just doesn’t follow that same rule. This would be akin to the logic of deciding to take someone else’s prescription medication without your doctor’s blessing because you have the exact same symptoms as they do. A terrible idea, isn’t it? Because while you both may have the same symptoms - and you both desire the same outcome (relief) - the underlying illnesses may be completely different. In fact, even if both of you have the same illness, differences in your genetic make ups may mean your pal’s medication could end up hurting you, couldn’t it? The same principle is true with your retirement, so never assume that what works for someone will work for you too – please never do this! 

(2)   I signed up for my employer’s retirement plan, so I’m all set. Well, let me simply put it this way: it’s not always the case that all you have to do to achieve a financially comfy retirement is sign up for the work plan. If it were, we would probably have a sizable number of wealthy retirees, instead of the masses who are struggling just to survive.

The thing about generalizing with your financial plan is that it happens so subtly that most of us don’t even realize we’re doing it. And the multiplicity of so-called financial gurus, dishing out “hot tips to financial freedom across the media to all 360 million of us, as if retirement planning were the same as purchasing an iPad or an iPhone, makes it even more challenging for the average person seeking financial direction. It’s essential for you to keep in mind that your family’s financial future is at stake here. Align yourself with a credible, trustworthy, and experienced financial advisor who can help you zero in on what will work best for YOU and help you stay focused in the midst of all this noise.

Happy retirement!
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Talk with an experienced financial professional who has dozens of real-world clients who are experiencing successful retirements TODAY! Please call 877.656.9111 or visit LaserFG.com.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Hashtag #BrokeRetirees: Majority are Falling Short with Their Retirement Funds … but Who’s to Blame?

Hashtag #BrokeRetirees: Majority are Falling Short with Their Retirement Funds … but Who’s to Blame?
To put this in today’s social media language, the trending hashtag in the field of retirement planning is #BrokeRetirees, referencing the fact that the vast majority of folks – I mean, the overwhelming majority – are at risk of failing miserably at their attempts to have a secure income during their retirement years.

In their latest Retirement Confidence Survey, the Employee Benefit Research Institute asked a very simple question:“Overall, how confident are you that you (and your spouse) will have enough money to live comfortably throughout your retirement years?”

Here are the results: 
  • Only 18 percent of working Americans are very confident that they will have enough money to live comfortably throughout their retirement years. 
  • Among folks who are already retired, the number is 28 percent.
Compared to 2013 (when the numbers were 13 percent and 18 percent, respectively), these numbers seem “a bit better,” but I personally think they are still horrible. Think about it this way: 72 percent of retirees are seriously missing the mark after all those years of working, saving, and investing for this very purpose. That’s seven out of 10 folks! The other thing I’d like to point out is that ten years ago, roughly 41 percent of retirees and 25 percent of workers were very confident about their financial sustenance in retirement. Clearly, things seem to be moving in the wrong direction, don’t they?

The natural follow-up question then becomes: What is causing this deplorable situation? Of course, the answer depends on whom you’re talking to. Though, the financial press time and time again seems to point the proverbial finger at the hard-working retirement investor for, you know, not saving nearly enough money, selecting the wrong funds, and failing to rebalance their portfolios appropriately, among others.

But are these really the main culprits? I beg to differ, because while those may account for some instances of retirement insolvency, the crux of the issue, in my opinion, is that the vast majority of financial advice to which folks are being exposed is, quite frankly, nothing more than utter myth. Obviously, that’s up for debate, but I wonder why practically no one seems to question the financial advice side of the equation? There is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do them. Throwing more money at the wrong process won’t make the process work – it will just guarantee that you’ll be wasting money on a process that doesn’t work.

If we’re really serious about ending this rather terrible trend, isn’t it time we looked at all angles?
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If you need to talk with an experienced financial professional with dozens of real-world clients who are experiencing successful retirements, please call 877.656.9111 or visit LaserFG.com.