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?
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

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!
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

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?
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