Thursday, April 19, 2018

Improve Your Life By Using Your Money


There’s a movement toward redefining money: instead of accumulating money for what it can buy, more of us want to use money to live the best life possible with what we have––a concept known as Return on Life™ (ROL).

With ROL, money becomes a tool to help you live the life you want. Accumulating as much wealth as possible is no longer the primary objective of your financial plan.

The traditional path to saving and investing has been to focus on the future (retirement) and rely solely on numbers and return on investment (ROI). However, this approach often can be misleading because it doesn’t consider your individual circumstances. “Beating the market” is often an artificial objective because it is not likely to have a substantive impact on your unique situation. Consider this: what does beating the market by one percent less (or more) mean to how you live your life? Do market returns have an impact on how you live your life?

What is relevant is developing a financial plan that considers the following:

  • How much do you currently have invested?
  • What is your current cash flow?
  • What transitions are you currently experiencing, or expect to experience (examples include paying down debt, divorce, concern about illness, job loss, retirement, purchasing a home, providing financial assistance to a family member)?
  • Do I feel comfortable with my level of financial obligations (examples include housing expenses, leisure activities, and healthcare expenses)?

By incorporating these factors into your planning, we can begin to understand what needs to change (or not change) in order to live the best life possible without overextending yourself. You may even be pleasantly surprised to learn you can enjoy the fruits of your labors sooner than expected!

Money does not exist for its own sake. Money exists as a utility that we use to improve our lives.  How your returns compare to any index, fund, investment category, or another person are less consequential than whether you are meeting your own ROL goals. Measure your success against your objectives, not someone else’s. You don’t need to keep up with the Jones’—or anyone else.

In order to enjoy ROL, you need to understand where all your money is coming from and where all your money is going––and why.

Understanding the “why” enables us to create a plan that works for you and your individual circumstances. You may be living above your means and need to make changes to your lifestyle. Or you may already have enough and be able to take a trip or enjoy another experience you have been putting off.

Together we can address the following questions:

  • What challenges and opportunities are you currently facing?
  • What key transitions are looming on the horizon?

Your answers to these questions will determine the inflow and outflow of money, as well as your financial progress or decline. Knowing your age, and how long you expect to live isn’t enough to develop a financial plan that works.

With ROL, you don’t give up the best of life or the best parts of yourself just to get money. The money is there to serve you, not vice versa. Instead of focusing on someone else’s definition of success, write our own. ROL puts quality before quantity by managing your assets in a way that improves your life and provides peace of mind.

In traditional financial planning, the primary components include asset, risk, and debt management, as well as tax, estate, and income planning. All of these areas are essential and necessary for a strong financial plan, but there is more to developing a strong financial plan than numbers.

We all have different values and principles regarding money. Each of us has a history, present circumstances, and future hopes that are unique. By focusing only on numbers, we miss enjoying life now and in the future because we only concentrate on accumulating wealth. A financial plan designed with ROL as its foundation is designed to build freedom, relieve the pressure of ROI-focused planning, and ensure your plan meets your goals.

There is no greater freedom, and no greater wealth, than living the best life you can with the money you have.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Savings: Does Your Desire to Save Match Your Reality?

That piggy bank we remember from childhood wasn’t just a place to store our birthday money and spare change: it was a lesson, a way our parents encouraged us to get into the habit of saving. Many parents even go so far as to deposit half of any monetary gifts their children receive directly into a savings account, just to drive the point home. Adults who took that lesson to heart might set up automatic deposits into long-term savings or retirement accounts from their paychecks every month – a modern mechanism for implementing this age-old lesson. It’s important to have financial goals and committing to a regular savings plan is good first step towards achieving them. But if you treat your long-term financial planning as just a series of targets to hit, or numbers you have to drive up as much as possible, your return on investment is going to be a lot higher than your Return on Life – the feelings of happiness and fulfillment that your financial planning should provide you.  Visit us at www.kjhfinancialservices.com to learn more. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

How to Master the “ART” of Retirement

Retirement is not an end. It’s an experiment in Activity, Relationships, and Time (ART). And like all experiments, the ART of retirement involves some trial and error. It’s not easy leaving behind the routine, the people, and the places that were such a big part of your life while you were working.
But a successful retirement is “work” too, especially at the beginning. Trying to settle on a new routine that will keep you happy and connected isn’t as easy as it sounds. You will make mistakes. You will feel frustrated. You might even feel a little bit lost.
One easy way to smooth this challenging transition is to plan ahead. If your retirement is just around the corner, start thinking about what your retirement ART is going to look like, and how you plan on practicing it.

Activity

Jack just retired. He has no idea how to spend his time anymore. So, he putters around the house, fixing stuff that isn’t broken, rearranging things that don’t need to be rearranged, watching a lot of TV … and driving his wife, Jill, crazy.
We chuckle when we see a scenario like this play out in a movie or TV show. But Retired Hubby or Wifey Syndrome is a very real problem. Many senior couples have spent eight hours or more apart from each other every single day for decades. Then, suddenly, they’re together all the time.
Often, this is the moment when spouses realize they each have very different ideas about what retirement is going to be like. One spouse might have visions of a hammock in the backyard. The other might have plans to see the world. Somewhere in between those expectations are the activities that are going to make retirement worthwhile for both people.
The things you do in retirement should be meaningful, stimulating, and energizing. Your passions should be your guide to a new routine – both with your spouse, and apart from him or her. Take professional lessons to turn a hobby like golf or painting into a real skill. Volunteer at a charity or nonprofit that’s close to your heart. You and your spouse can indulge your inner foodies with weekly date nights to try out all the new hot spots in town.

Relationships

Your spouse isn’t the only person you’ll be seeing more often in retirement. Your relationships with the rest of your friends and family are also going to change now that you’re no longer working. This too can be difficult, as many of the people you spent 40 hours every week with at your job recede from your day-to-day routine.
But this can also be a wonderful opportunity to connect with the people who matter the most to you. Once you and your spouse make it through the initial adjustment period, you’ll be able to spend time doing the things that brought you together in the first place. Planning trips and extended vacations around your children and grandchildren will create meaningful experiences that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.
Your social calendar also gets a whole lot bigger. Fill it up! Organize your friends for a weekly round of golf. Plan date nights with other retired couples. If there are people you lost touch with due to the grind of working and raising a family, reconnect.

Time

Time without the structure that work provides can be challenging for retirees. On the one hand, without meetings and project deadlines to worry about, time can seem so limitless that it’s overwhelming. On the other hand, many seniors still react to retirement like it’s an end to dread. They feel like their time is slipping away.
But these outdated notions just don’t suit today’s retirement or today’s retirees. Retirees are more active, more connected to their communities, more adventurous, more ALIVE than they’ve ever been! And they organize their time in retirement around the activities and relationships that make them feel happy and fulfilled.
Like we said at the top, retirement is an ART you have to work to perfect. You’ll make mistakes, and you’ll learn from them and adjust. You might load up your schedule with activities, only to find that having less structure allows you to explore your options a bit more. You might find the initial lack of structure maddening, and work on a new routine. You might try a part time job. You might like it. You might not.
There’s no one way to have a successful retirement. But the sooner you start working with us to refine your ART, the more beautiful your retirement picture will be.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Saving for a Vacation Home: Plan for the Financial End of Things

Saving money for a vacation home can be difficult, and when you’re a senior on a fixed income, it can take some creative thinking to make sure you have the funds you need for the perfect getaway. Not only will you need to think about saving for a second mortgage, you’ll also need to consider the extra costs that you’ll incur from taxes and furnishing your new home. Then you’ll need to think about whether you want to turn your vacation home into a rental property when you’re not using it in order to recoup some of your investment.
good financial plan begins with educating yourself about the real cost of a vacation home. Think about what it will take to make your dream a reality. Of course you’ll need money for the down payment, but you’ll also need funds to cover all the extra costs that come with a home, such as property taxes, utilities, HOA fees, and insurance, just to name a few. The location is a huge factor not only in cost, but in convenience, as the ideal vacation home is far enough away to be a “getaway” but close enough to your home that you can manage the upkeep.
Read on for some tips on how to plan for your vacation home and get everything you want out of it.

Location is key

The perfect vacation home means different things to different people. You may want something near the beach, near a ski resort, or in an area that has lots of restaurants nearby. You might want a home that fulfills needs for your health and well-being, such as a floor plan that works well for individuals with limited mobility. Take into consideration your lifestyle, your budget, and how often you’ll be using the home when you start your search, and gather some info on what the neighborhood is like as well.

Calculate well

Budgeting for something as big as a vacation home means doing some heavy planning. You need to make sure you’re familiar with all the rules of the areafirst, as some cities, homeowner associations, and resorts make their own set of laws when it comes to properties and amenities. Talk to a real estate agent and an accountant to get a good idea of what you’ll need to set aside.

Don’t forget the upkeep

Vacation homes often need updates when it comes to the kitchen and bathrooms, and these improvements can be pricey if you’re not careful with your budget and planning. One of the best ways to keep your home in good shape is to keep up with repairs and small changes rather than waiting to do them all at the same time. If you’re fairly close to your vacation home and can make a few trips a year for maintenance and upkeep, it will likely save you quite a bit of money in the long run. HomeAdvisor states that the average cost to remodel a kitchen is between $16,348 and $38,800, which is a big chunk of change. However, making green improvements, such as installing energy-efficient appliances or solar panels to the roof, can help you with tax credits as well as save you money on utilities every month, and that’s a great place to start with your budget.

Consider renting it out

While there are certainly downsides to renting out your vacation home, there are many upsides, too, including the fact that you’ll be getting extra income to help pay the mortgage. You’ll need to check and make sure this is an option before buying your home, as well as think about whether you’ll be available for emergencies should something go awry when the renters are in the home, but many vacation homeowners find this to be a great way to balance out the cost of the house.
Saving money for a vacation home starts with a solid plan, so make an effort to consider all your needs before you begin the process. Talk to your family about your plans and garner support and help from your loved ones to help make everything go smoothly.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

ROTH or Traditional IRA: Which Is Best?

What makes the most sense for you, staying with a regular individual retirement account or converting to a Roth IRA? This is not a simple question so there is no simple answer. But here are some things to ask yourself.

An individual retirement account is a great retirement savings tool for most individuals. Created by the federal government, IRAs are funded during your working years.  In your retirement, IRAs may help supplement your Social Security benefits.

Your retirement savings begin with your annual IRA contribution. If you are under age 50, the current maximum annual contribution amount is $5,500, according to the Internal Revenue Service.  For those 50 years and older, you can contribute an additional $1,000. So if you turn 50 this year, you are now eligible to contribute $6,500. The contribution amounts are adjusted for inflation each year by the federal government.

With a traditional IRA, you put money away and deduct it until you withdraw from the account in your retirement. You pay tax on withdrawals. Converting to a Roth IRA means you pay tax on your old account up from it, and from then on the account grows tax-free. Opening a Roth without converting is done with after-tax dollars, meaning you already paid the government.

To find out which of the two types, traditional or Roth, is best suited for you, here’s a quick way to weigh the pros and cons of each.

The advantages to a traditional deductible IRA:

Tax Deductible.  Your contribution is deductible on your federal income tax return for the year in which you contribute.

Tax-Deferred Growth.  Your contribution grows tax deferred until you withdraw the money. This means you do not pay any taxes while your money is growing.

Limitations to a traditional deductible IRA:

Adjusted gross income (AGI) limitations.  The amount you can deduct is limited based on your AGI and, if you participate in your employer sponsored retirement plans. Your contribution may be fully deducted on your income taxes, partially deducted or not deductible at all.

10% Penalty.  This is imposed to encourage IRA owners to keep their money in their retirement account until reaching age 59 ½. If you withdraw any of your money prior to then, you incur the 10% penalty on the amount you withdraw. There are some exceptions to the rule: educational expenses, first-time home purchase and certain medical expenses.

Advantages to a Roth IRA:

Avoid taxes in the future. Roth IRAs grow tax-free. Therefore, no taxes are due when you withdraw your money.
No Required Minimum Distributions (RMD).  Roth IRAs do not require RMDs after age 70 ½, so your money can continue to grow with the potential for larger dollar amounts to leave to heirs.

Limitations to a Roth IRA:

AGI limitations.  For high wage earners (2017 limits - single filing over $133,000 and married filing jointly over $194,000), Roth contributions are not allowed.

Disqualified distributions. The earnings in your Roth must remain in the account for five years (known as the five-year clock) and until you reach 59 ½ years. A 10% penalty is applied to earning distributions that do not meet these requirements.

Always consult a financial advisor or IRS publication 590 before you make your final IRA decision. Making the correct IRA choice now can benefit you down the road in your retirement.
Kimberly J. Howard,CFP
KJH Financial Services

Monday, January 9, 2017

Tips for New Investors for the New Year

Whether you’re looking to grow your income to finance your hobbies, expand your business, or contribute to a nest egg, making your investments work for you is surprisingly simple.  Jumping into the investment market as a teen or a retiree makes no difference, there are both quick and slow ways to build up your investments.  Pick an investment type that works for you.

Types of Investments

Each type of investment carries its own set of risks (the probability of liability or loss) and potential gains (quick turn profit or growth over time).  Generally, the more risk involved, the higher potential there is for larger gains or loss.  Buying stocks and shares, for example, offer short-term gains but are a quick way to turn a profit.  Listed below are a few types of investments that people of all ages typically deal with:

Stocks and Shares:  With stocks and shares, the investor buys a percentage of ownership of a public business, therefore making them a part-owner of the business.  Stocks can be highly profitable—the more successful a company or a stock is, the more money you stand to make.  Stocks are high-risk, though, because the market is unpredictable, and the shareholder risks losing some of all of their investments.

Bonds:  Bonds yield little risk, and therefore do not have a high potential for returns.  Bonds are like IOUs that you lend out to companies, councils or the government.  Interest is paid back to the lender on the amount loaned.

Property: Buying, restoring, and renting or selling real estate can potentially net large sums.  Like stocks, however, the market is unpredictable.  It would be best to look at trends in your local area if you’re looking to invest in property.

Certificates of Deposit (CD):  CDs are fixed-period investments with banks or savings and loan companies.  Like bonds, CDs rely on interest and carry a low risk.

Commodities:  Commodities include gold, silver, jewelry and precious metals.  Like stocks, commodities are high risk because their value waxes and wanes in the unpredictable open market.

Mutual Funds:  Mutual funds are a collection of assorted investments that may include stocks, bonds, properties and cash-equivalents, the purpose of which is to create a balanced portfolio.  Mutual funds contain both low-risk and high-risk investments, so sometimes investors consult outside agents to strategize their portfolio to try and achieve the highest potential for profit.

This is only a partial list of investment types.  Other types include but are not limited to: futures, cars, artwork, stamps, hedge funds and foreign exchange currencies.

Planning Appropriately Based on Your Age

If you’re a middle aged business owner that is looking to stretch out your earnings for a retirement plan, but do not have any experience with investing, where do you start?  Your investment trends should change over time.  The younger investor can afford high risk investments, while the older investor should play it safe and be conservative with their options to maximize their savings.

The Young Upstart 
Young investors have the opportunity to learn the market from the ground up, so having a large portfolio is crucial to earning big.  Mutual funds provide a hassle free approach to investments with a high-yield potential.  They get you familiar with multiple investments.  Young investors should carry a higher percentage of stocks than bonds in their portfolios.  A good stocks/bonds percentage should look like 70/30 or 80/20.

Mid-Life Planning
Middle-aged portfolio builders should begin to stay away from riskier investments.  Back off the stocks and mutual funds, and switch to safer, more predictable assets like CDs and bonds.  A middle aged portfolio should contain a stocks/bonds percentage close to a 50/50 split with a higher percentage of stocks at about 55 percent, and gradually reduce stocks down to 20 percent near retirement.

Finely Aged Entrepreneurs
If you are late in the game, don’t worry, there’s a plan for you.  To reduce stress, older investors can always hire a financial advisor that can help you work toward your goals and base a plan on your interests.  Beware of investment fraud.  Older people are often a common target for financial crime and scam artists.  Do not fall for high-pressure sales tactics, intimidation, limited offers, seminars, or “elderly specialists” with bogus certificates and accommodations.  As a rule, it’s best to stick with low-risk investments like bonds, CDs, smart real-estate, gold, fixed income cash investments and long-term care insurance.  A starting portfolio for older investors should be around 35 percent or lower in stocks and 65 percent or higher in bonds. Older investors should look into IRAs, which provide instant tax benefits with annual contributions.

No matter your age, it is important to find an investment plan that works for you—there’s money to be made.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

401(k) Withdrawal Options

You contributed to a 401(k) retirement plan for years and your employer added some matching funds. Now that you’re ready to retire it’s time to think about how to withdraw your money.

Two sets of rules govern your 401(k). Both the Internal Revenue Service and your plan administrator (probably your employer) oversee what you can do with the account. The IRS controls how your choices affect your taxes, the administrator how you invest and can withdraw assets.

If you’re 59½ or older, you can withdraw funds from your 401(k) without paying a tax penalty (generally 10% of what you take out). Under some circumstances involved in leaving a job, you can also withdraw a lump sum penalty-free if you’re older than 55.

Note: You avoid penalties, not ordinary income taxes. Some retirees delay taking withdrawals as long as possible, often to help savings compound safe from taxes.

Beginning the year you turn 70½, you must begin taking annual required minimum distribution (RMD) withdrawals. The amount is related to your life expectancy. To estimate your RMD, divide one by the number of years of your life expectancy, according to the IRS, and multiply that by the value of the assets in your 401(k).

Most financial advisors recommend that you take your money out of the 401(k) once you retire, either as a one-time distribution or as a rollover (a penalty-free transfer) into an individual retirement account. You avoid plan fees and gain greater flexibility in investing your funds.

If you decide to keep your money in the 401(k), you must adhere to the rules affecting both your options for distribution and your investment choices. Check with your plan administrator to find out how to take out your money; most will allow you to make periodic or regularly scheduled withdrawals. Other rules may also cover your RMDs or when and how often you can change your distribution options.

Again, withdrawals will be added to your taxable income unless you roll them over into a qualifying IRA. (Check the IRS chart to see how to safely transfer money from one kind of retirement account to another.)

Rolling into an IRA may well be your best choice: You have lower fees, more investment choices and similar distribution rules but can still let your money compound tax-free.

If you plan to take your distribution in cash, do some tax planning. Taking a regular distribution will allow you to spread the taxes and keep you in the lower tax brackets. Taking a lump-sum distribution might throw you into a higher bracket designed for the wealthy; your distribution will also incur a 20% withholding that you can apply to your next year’s tax bill.

A popular option is to take part or all of your distributed funds and buy anannuity to provide steady retirement income. Annuities come in various types. Retirees tend to prefer ones that provide guaranteed lifetime payouts.

Proponents point out that with an annuity you can’t outlive your money. You need to realize, though, that not all annuities are indexed for inflation(currently less than 1%). Your monthly guarantee might look good today yet buy much less in 20 years if prices rise.

You face the culmination of years of saving, and your moves will affect your finances for the rest of your life. You must think about many variables: how much you saved; your investment philosophy; your income needs, expected longevity and tax situation. Even your children’s financial situation can sway your decision.

No one choice suits everyone.