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

Monday, December 8, 2014

If Your Financial Advisor Is Doing This, Tell Him/Her, “You’re Fired!”

If Your Financial Advisor Is Doing This, Tell Him/Her, “You’re Fired!”

Imagine a doctor who, when you consulted with him or her, allowed you, the patient, to tell him/her the medications you wanted, down to the exact dosage – and then pulled out a pad and wrote precisely that prescription. Should you – or would you – visit with such a physician? Of course, not! You’d be wise to stay as far away as you possibly could.

How about this other doctor? He or she speaks with you at length, makes a diagnosis, and decides that you need some antibiotics. However, he/she then gives you a list of say 15 to 20 different types of available medications, asks you, the patient, to choose, and then writes the prescription based on your choice. Would you deal with such a doctor?

Only a person who doesn’t value his or her life would have anything to do with either of these doctors. I’d even bet that if there were such doctors in real life, it wouldn’t be long before they’d lose their licenses to practice. I imagine they might even wind up behind bars.

Now let’s look into the way so many financial advisors, consultants, specialists, or whatever fancy-schmancy title you can come up with, operate. They talk with you; you tell them which product you want, like an IRA or a mutual fund. And what happens next? You get a list of available funds from which to choose. So you do your thing and there you go, your account is all set up. Or maybe you answer some quick questions on a computer program and a nice pie chart pops up with your available options – from which, you the client, make the actual selections for your account.

That may sound fairly familiar and even normal, but here’s the unfortunate thing: It’s a horrible way to plan your future! How different is that from the bad doctor scenarios I mentioned earlier? Just think about it. If your so-called financial advisor is asking you to make all the nitty gritty selections regarding your investment portfolio, you’re basically writing your own prescription. And the most incredible part is that, the advisor, the one with the license and “expertise” to guide you, is ultimately letting you do their work – and he/she still gets paid from your money. Is that how things are supposed to work? Of course not! The sad thing is that this is exactly the way that easily 9 out of 10 advisor-client roles are playing out at this very moment. Is it any surprise, then, that more and more folks have practically nothing tangible to show after all their years of hard work and investing?

Just so we are clear, I’m not suggesting by any measure that you should simply hand over your money and have no input. Of course you should set boundaries regarding what you can live with and expect out of your investments. But if the person with the training and license to actually write the prescription is leaving all the decision-making up to you, simply based on your intuition, why are you paying them? Maybe these so-called advisors prefer this setup because it works in their favor when it comes to being held fully accountable: “Hey, if I let you make your own selections, you can’t blame me later if you’re not satisfied.”

My dear investor, are you working with a REAL advisor? Or are you just paying someone to watch you do eeny-meeny-miny-moe with your future?
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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

Monday, November 24, 2014

What has the BIGGEST impact on your portfolio returns? The answer might surprise you

What has the BIGGEST impact on your portfolio returns? The answer might surprise you

In my last column I made the case for why it’s such a terrible idea – a lost cause, even – for trying
to pinpoint the best times to get in and out of the stock market. I’m hoping I was able to convince you to take that impossible, wealth-eroding enterprise off of your must-do list.

Today, I want to continue that discussion, but from a slightly different angle: By how much would you enhance the returns on your portfolio if you were able to perfectly time the stock market’s movements?

I must point out that we both already know this isn’t possible, but for the sake of this discussion, let’s say you or your financial advisor somehow had the proverbial crystal ball.

I think it’s a fantastic question, because the answer will really help you to decide whether it’s even worth the effort. At the end of the day, what it all comes down to is getting a good return on your savings, period.

According to the widely used Brinson, Hood, and Beebower (BHB) study into what really makes up the returns on a portfolio, here’s how an investment portfolio’s return breaks down:

  • Market timing: 1.8%,
  • Stock selection: 4.6%,
  • Other factors: 2.1%,
  • Asset allocation: 91.5%.
So say that a given portfolio earned 10 percent. Market timing will have contributed 0.2%, stock selection 0.5%, other factors 0.2%, and asset allocation 9%.

Now let’s put things into perspective. All things being equal, if you (or your financial advisor) were able to perfectly time the market by accurately predicting its exact movements with no error whatsoever, choose the right stocks/bonds, as well as arrange every other detail you feel is essential for the perfect portfolio investment, but got your asset allocation wrong, you’d have ended up with only a 1% return.

On the other hand, if you nailed your asset allocation (the broad proportionate mix of equities/bonds/cash) but botched the other three areas – including market timing, because you went about your daily business without constantly trying to predict what’s going to happen in the market on the next day – you’d have earned 9% out of the 10% return in this example.

So, my friend, you’ve got to focus on where the money is really going to come from – your broad asset allocation strategy – instead of wasting your time, energy, and emotions trying to time/predict the market for negligible results. And while on the subject, let me remind you once again that you shouldn’t allow the talking heads on TV, radio, or in print media to take you on a rollercoaster ride that could potentially rob you of what matters most.
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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

Monday, November 10, 2014

Now is a TERRIBLE time to get back in the stock market

Now is a TERRIBLE time to get back in the stock market

No, this is not intended as a joke, and I’m fully aware that it runs completely counter to the conventional “wisdom” of the media these days. Perhaps your own financial advisor is even busy encouraging you to take the plunge you’ve been resisting up until now, but if you’re one of the folks who, for one reason or another, are wondering whether or not now may be the right time to get in the stock market, my unequivocal answer to you is no, no, and no! Please don’t!

Here’s why. Trying to pinpoint a good time to get into and, for that matter, out of the stock market is an impossible task. No one has ever had the ability to predict that, nor will they ever be able to do that. If anyone tells you otherwise – that they know the specific times for you to get in and/or out of the stock market – I’d suggest you don’t walk, but run as fast as you can away from him/her. Whether it’s a website or an app or a TV “expert,” run, because if you don’t, you’ll end up destroying the very thing you’re trying to enhance: your financial future.

If you cannot handle the gyrations of your portfolio that led you to get out of the stock market in the first place, I suggest you simply stay out, because trying to time the market is not possible and you’re more likely to end up derailing your future. According to a recent study released by the independent research firm DALBAR, although the S&P 500 Index has averaged an 11.10 percent annual return over the past 30 years (1983 through 2013), the average person who owned an equity-based mutual fund over the exact same period earned only 3.69 percent!

Of course, many things may account for this dismal outcome. However, the data clearly points to a telling revelation that trying to time the market has failed terribly – as it always has and will continue to do. Over the 30-year period the survey covered, the average individual held any particular fund position for only 3.31 years.

Now here’s what has worked beautifully for our clients. Work with your advisor to design a broadly diversified portfolio with a risk tolerance you can live with and clear benchmarks/expectations to measure your progress along the way, and rebalance when appropriate.  Then let the portfolio actually do what it’s supposed to do. The real hurdle for you as an investor is finding a financial advisor who’s disciplined enough and has the guts to help you stay disciplined so that you can achieve your goals.
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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

Monday, October 27, 2014

What's The Biggest Mistake That Will Affect Your Retirement?

What's the biggest mistake that will affect your retirement?
This past week I found myself in a conversation with someone who, upon learning about my line  of work, asked what I believe to be an extremely crucial question. I’d even venture to say that, in my humble opinion, it is the most important question every single person accumulating a retirement nest egg needs to ponder:

What is the one prevalent mistake
most folks make to hurt their retirement aspirations?

I’ll admit that the question came as a bit of a surprise to me, because the line of questions I usually hear in such settings has more to do with which stocks/funds people should own or what my thoughts are about folks’ current investment allocations.

That said, here is my answer to the current – and crucial – question.

Most folks spend their entire working years believing that all it will take to have the retirements of their dreams – moneywise, of course – is to focus on saving as much money as they possibly can.

Make no mistake: I’m not saying that saving as much money as you can is not a good thing. It is very important, but it’s not all you’ll need to do if you intend to hit a financial home run. The KINDS of investments you’re pouring your contributions into is far more important, in the sense that if you have a bunch of lousy underlying securities/funds, no amount of money is going to change that reality. Instead, you are likely going to end up wasting most or all of the money and the effort you put in.

What if you discovered that your investment vehicle had unusually high fees that were draining your money? Should you (or would you) still contribute as much money as you could to it?

While the virtue of saving the most you can is definitely a great idea without any reservations whatsoever, I’d suggest that WHERE your money is actually is much more crucial. What I’m trying to tell you here is that before you make the next contribution into your retirement nest egg, make sure it doesn’t have any holes you’re unaware of. One of the most devastating things anyone can face is discovering that they’ve been financing someone else’s lavish lifestyle, instead of supporting their own retirement, only after it’s too late to do anything about it.

Happy retirement!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Real-life Question about Social Security Benefits

Real-life question about Social Security benefits


The following question was submitted through the "Ask Your Question" portal of our website, LaserFG.com.

Dear Mr. Asare:

I’ll be turning 66 in three months and my wife will do the same in seven months. We both have good-paying jobs that we love, so we are postponing our retirements until we’re each 70 years old. Social Security tells us that I can collect $1,900 now or $2,500 when I’m 70. My wife’s estimates are $1,500 now or $1,900+ at age 70. I’m not sure if there’s anything else to this, but our good friends [names redacted to protect their anonymity] suggested we seek your advice, so we’ll appreciate your thoughts.

Sincerely,

John & Carol [last name withheld]
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Hello, John and Carol –

First of all I’d like to wish you each a happy 66th birthday. It’s good to know that you both feel healthy, happy, and have careers that you enjoy – hence your decisions to delay retirement until age 70. I think it calls for a great big birthday bash!

Specifically regarding your Social Security, based on the general information you’ve provided, I see an opportunity for you and Carol to begin collecting approximately $950/month (which comes out to $11,400/year) for the next four years as you wait to reach age 70, for a cumulative total of $45,600.

No I’m not kidding! Actually, I don’t think that’s even the best part of the story, because you’ll be delighted to know that collecting this $950/month will not reduce either your or Carol’s future benefit amounts, the ones you’re expecting at age 70. You’ll still get to collect your $2,500 and Carol her $1,900+. Basically, this $950/month is a complete bonus, so to speak. However, if you fail to collect it, it will not increase either your or Carol’s future benefit amounts.

It may sound strange, but it’s true and a perfectly legitimate benefit under Social Security rules. I explain this claiming strategy in great detail on page 11 of my Social Security strategies special report, which you may download for free at SecureYourFutureReport.com.

Here’s the gist: Upon reaching your full retirement age of 66, you will need to file an application with Social Security, but immediately – and simultaneously – turn around and suspend it so that you won’t actually collect checks. That will open the way for Carol to submit a restricted application for “spousal benefits only,” based on your record, so that she can begin collecting one-half of the $1,900 that you would have collected now (which is about $950/month).

Because your application is “suspended” you’ll still continue to accrue your annual 8 percent increases through age 70. And since Carol will be collecting only her “spousal benefits” – and not her own retirement benefits – she, too, will continue to accrue the full 8 percent yearly increases. Long story short, you and Carol will still get to collect $2,500 and $1,900, respectively, at age 70. This strategy will simply bring in another $11,400 a year, beginning right now for the next 4 years. I’m pretty sure that you and Carol don’t mind collecting a $950/month bonus, for lack of a better word, from of all the people on this planet, Uncle Sam!

Now here’s an extremely important caveat: Choosing this option requires that you give very specific and detailed instructions/requests when you visit your local Social Security office, and you want that to go smoothly. I strongly recommend that you schedule a time to come and meet us or talk with us on the phone so that we can break down the process for you. You can schedule this appointment through our website or call us at 877.656.9111.

My warmest regards to you both.

Samuel

Monday, September 29, 2014

You Have a Choice – Have that Tough Talk before Your Family is Left in Ruins

You Have a Choice – Have that Tough Talk before Your Family is Left in Ruins
Today, I’d like to open that proverbial box. The one that sits at the back corner of the room and, for one reason or the other, most of us either don’t get to talk about or don’t want to talk about. What if you were suddenly gone from the face of this planet and your family (or those for whom you are financially responsible) had to manage on their own – beginning tomorrow?

Okay, don’t freak out. This isn’t a fun discussion for me, either. Given that I was born and raised in the West African nation of Ghana where discussions of this nature are a full-blown taboo subject, this isn’t something I’d naturally like to bring up. However, we both know, or at least we should know, that failing to address the possibility of us not being around tomorrow isn’t going to keep anyone around for even one more nanosecond than we’re supposed to be, is it? Of course not!

I don’t expect you to be thinking or talking about death every day. But I strongly believe that if you have a family – wife, husband, and/or children who depend on you financially – and you’re really serious about taking care of them to the best of your abilities, you must address the issue of making sure that they will have the financial resources necessary to continue life as they know it, should the unthinkable happen to you. Pardon me, but there’s just no other way for me to sugarcoat it.

Of course, you are being responsible by working and making sure that your family has a comfortable life today. And just like me, you intend to be around till a very ripe old age to see your great-great grandchildren. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with that, and I pray you get exactly that. However, that still doesn’t change anything about the real possibility that we could be gone tomorrow. Then what happens to our family’s way of life? Will your children be able to afford the college you dreamed of and are currently saving money for them to attend? How about the roof over their heads? Losing a loved one is terrible enough, but having to endure a financial lack on top of that is one thing I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Unfortunately, however, it happens every day to unsuspecting families.

Yes, it’s important. I’ll take care of it soon. After all, nothing is going to happen to me or my spouse.

I don’t know exactly how to label that thought: denial, carelessness, or plain old arrogance? I recently met a widow who’s now living on public assistance because she had to give up the family home she lived in with her late medical doctor husband. She told me the subject of death never came up in the 18 years they were together, because in their culture, such a discussion is frowned upon. I certainly do respect my culture – and yours, too. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that cultures consist of some great things, some so-so things and, let’s face it, some pretty ridiculous things, too! I’m sure that if the late doctor had known precisely how long he had to live, he’d have put things in place to prevent the financial ordeal his wife is facing today, wouldn’t he?

OK, I Get It. I have some insurance coverage through my employer.

That’s great. But how much exactly will your loved ones need, and how close is it to what they will receive? Will that check be enough to take care of your family’s day-to-day expenses in the case of yours/your spouse’s demise? Here's another story: Wife dies suddenly. Husband knew she had coverage at work, but wasn’t exactly sure of the details because in the part of the world they come from, talking about this stuff is a bad omen. In fact, he said, just raising the subject might be perceived as wanting to profit from your spouse’s death, so people just don’t bring it up. Come to find out his late wife’s coverage was an “accidental death policy,” but since her death wasn’t accidental, the family receives nothing. I’m pretty sure this lady loved her husband and their three children and wouldn’t want them to suffer financially. But isn’t that’s exactly what’s happening now?

Obviously, I don’t know your particular situation. Here’s what I know: I cannot make you do anything that you don’t want to do. You’re the boss of your life! But at least I’ve made my point. Now, I hope you’ll do what you know in your gut must be done. I wish you all the best!
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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

Monday, September 15, 2014

Are Your Retirement Decisions REALLY the Best Ones for You?

Are your retirement decisions REALLY the best ones for you?

One of my favorite all time statements happens to be this one by Will Rogers.  
And I must say, from all of my years as a front-row eye witness into the retirements – and by extension, lifelong decisions – of so many families, Will is right on target. As it pertains to retirement planning, the actions you take to invest your nest egg generally reflect what you believe to be the best possible decisions. I can’t think of any sane person who’d even settle for the second best choice in this situation. But what if what you believe to be the best decision turned out not to be so? Then what?

Almost on a daily basis, I meet folks who thought they were doing the “right thing” with their retirement money, but as it turned out, they weren’t – and they have horrible results to show for it. These are well-meaning folks just like you and me who worked hard all their lives, controlled their spending, and saved/invested their money along the way.

Here’s the point I want you to take away from this discussion. Hard work and socking money away all your life are great virtues that are well worth pursuing. But – and that’s a but I’d like to really emphasize – you could still end up exactly where you didn’t want to be if you ignore another crucial piece of the puzzle that seems to elude so many of us: the right investments! You can work hard and save all the money in this world, but the wrong investments will eventually rob you of the lion’s share of that money.

So do you know exactly where your nest egg is invested? Do you know the fees associated with your account? Keep in mind that most of those fees may not show up on any of your statements. Whose advice or direction are you following regarding your investment decisions? How accountable is that person for the advice they give you? Does he or she have real-life success stories, when it comes to delivering the kind of results you are hoping to achieve?

Hard work is great. But you don’t want to end up wasting your years of effort, do you? If you’d like to explore how well your current retirement plan is really working for you, I offer you a complimentary independent evaluation of your current investments. Simply call my office at 877.656.9111 or schedule your complimentary session here

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Great Social Security Myth

The Great Social Security Myth

I may not know you personally, but without any reservations whatsoever, I’m certain of this about you: When it 's time for you to begin collecting your Social Security benefits, you’d prefer to collect in a manner that will give you the most money possible. Or, if you’re already collecting benefits, it’s a sure bet that your choice is to ultimately bring in the maximum possible benefits over your lifetime. Am I correct?

Obviously, I can’t think of any situation in which someone knowingly intends to leave even a single penny on the table when it comes to, of all things, their Social Security checks. But here’s the thing. Are you certain that you are collecting or have a plan to collect Social Security in the way that will best maximize yours and your family’s lifetime benefits? How do you know that? Or perhaps you think it’s the responsibility of the Social Security Administration to make that happen for you?

If you’re thinking that the Social Security Administration will help you to arrive at the approach that will be the most beneficial to you and your family, you’re mistaken. That’s not only a myth, it’s completely disallowed. Under Procedure GN 00203.004 of the Social Security Administration’s Operations Manual, employees are specifically prohibited from rendering any advice. Period. In fact, that same Procedure even goes further, preventing employees from asking applicants (that would be you) “leading questions; i.e., worded in such a way as to suggest the proper or desired answer.”  Notice that this is a direct, word-for-word quote from Social Security’s Operations Manual.

Yes, I know. That’s both weird and ironic, because how in the world are you supposed to know the best strategy? As I explain in this free special report, while there are indeed many strategies to help boost your Social Security benefits, actually far beyond what most people are aware of, one of the best things you could ever do for yourself and for your family is talk with an experienced financial advisor who is well-versed in this area. This is crucial if you are to take full advantage of the benefits due you! Let me emphasize, though, that while there is no shortage of financial professionals, some with fancy-schmancy titles, in my experience, only a handful actually have the knowhow to help you in this regard. So please be forewarned.

Wouldn’t Social Security automatically pay your highest benefit?

Generally it’s true that when you apply for benefits, you will receive the highest benefit due you. But that is precisely the thinking that can cause you to end up leaving other money for which you qualify on the table. Let me use Donna’s case to illustrate. About to turn 66, Donna feels great, looks great, and intends to wait until age 70 to begin collecting her maximum retirement check, which will be about $2,600/month. This is a decision she came to after talking with her financial advisor, and also visiting and speaking with someone at Social Security to confirm the estimated payment.

So far everything looks normal – but here’s the issue and what happened after Donna’s chance encounter with yours truly. Donna also qualifies for benefits today, based on her ex-husband’s record. And we’re talking $1,400 /month ($16,800/year). Collecting this today will not change anything in terms of the $2,600/month she has coming to her at age 70. Wait, it gets even better than that – she doesn’t need her ex’s consent to collect this money!

Why didn’t her advisor and/or the person at Social Security tell her that while waiting, she could be collecting an additional $16,800/year? My guess is that, like many other advisors, he simply doesn’t know about it. As for Social Security, their job is only to pay you the highest benefit you can collect at any particular time. Remember from earlier that they are prohibited from offering advice. Donna’s divorced spouse benefit of $1,400/month does not come into the picture because it’s not her highest benefit option. Could you see how in actuality things can get rather tricky?

Long story short, we helped Donna file a “Restricted Application” so that she can begin collecting her $1,400/month over the next four years while waiting for her own retirement benefits to hit their maximum. The point here is that had it not been for her chance encounter with me, she would have left a whopping $67,200 ($1,400/month for 4 years) on the table without even knowing that she’d done so. And I must also mention that Donna’s ex-husband and his new wife will not be affected in anyway by her collecting this benefit. So no worries if you find yourself on that side of the story.

Are you sure about what you and your financial advisor are planning in this regard? Are you aware of all of your possibilities when it comes to maximizing your Social Security income? Download your complimentary copy of my special report, and then call me at 877.656.9111 to schedule some time to chat about your retirement finances in general.

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.