Should You Start to Save… or Pay Down Debt?

Pay Down Debt

Millennials have an entrepreneurial spirit and tend to have a lot on their plates. Being able to juggle several balls in the air and multi-task is par for the course for this generation. So why do Millennials often struggle with how to prioritize between saving for the future and paying down debt?

Many Millennials still have college loans to pay off or have acquired credit card debt while taking home minimal starting salaries. And advice about how to get started is confusing: some financial professionals recommend having at least one month of income saved prior to starting to pay down your debt, while others recommend up to 8 months of savings. That’s a daunting prospect when you’re young and living from paycheck to paycheck!

Because of the power of compounding interest, the 20s and 30s are your prime savings years. Not taking advantage of the opportunity to save now may end up costing you later. So how can you start to build your savings and pay down debt, while still maintaining a reasonable quality of life?

The good news is that – because they’re used to a struggling economy – Millennials have become very resourceful when it comes to finances. Here are several factors to consider when you’re deciding how much you can – or even if you can – allocate for both.

Three Questions to consider about saving vs. debt:

What is my monthly incoming & outgoing cash flow? Hopefully it’s not negative! If it is, though, try to find daily and household expenses that can be trimmed or eliminated (that venti caramel latte? An expensive cable package?) If it’s positive, determine if there’s enough left over to pay credit card minimums while allocating a portion, however small, toward a saving plan.

What is the interest rate on my debt? Debt with an interest rate of higher than 5% is a priority to pay down, otherwise you’re spending your hard-earned cash on borrowing costs. Can you roll over your debt to a lower-interest or zero-interest credit card? If not, create an action plan to pay off high-interest debt first. If you have debt with interest rates that are lower than 5%, consider contributing to a 401K or a Roth IRA. The same way interest compounds with your debts, it also grows with your savings, so the sooner you take action, the more you will gain over time.

What is my stress level regarding debt? If the stress of having debt is overwhelming, then make paying the debt before contributing to your savings a priority. If your debt seems manageable, start getting in the habit of making monthly contributions to a savings plan.

Remember, no two people, and no two financial plans, are alike. Whether you can contribute to a savings plan and pay down debt simultaneously depends on you and your unique situation. Talking to a financial advisor can help put you on a path that is right for you. The important thing is to create a goal and a plan!

Learn more about our Budgeting and Savings planning.

Related Reading:

What’s your Credit Score?

Brad Sherman is a financial planner who is committed to helping individuals and families achieve financial independence and gain confidence with regard to financial issues.

Call or contact him today to see if his services are a good fit for your needs.

LFS-989662-081314

Navigating the Stock Market: Tips for Millennials

Understanding the Stockmarket

Navigating the stock market can be daunting for anyone, especially if you’re new to investing.

Between struggling to pay off student loans, finding jobs in a difficult market, and setting goals for financial independence in a stressed market environment, it’s been a daunting few years in general for many Millennials, who may have put off investing because they just don’t feel comfortable or ready.

Feeling comfortable with investing – and understanding how the stock market works – is critical, however, as you start gaining independence and start making important financial decisions. If you get started now, you’ll be maximizing your chances of hitting those marks on your way to achieving your goals!

Here are some basic tips to help you get started.

7 Tips For The Long Term Investor

Start today: Procrastination can put a large dent in your ultimate savings. Whether you’re investing in a retirement savings plans or a regular investment account, it’s important to start early so that your investments compound. Remember, even small amounts add up over time!

Create a plan and stick with it: There are many ways to be successful and no one strategy is inherently better than any other. Once you find your style, stick with it. Bouncing in and out of the market makes is just as likely you will miss some of the best days and hit the worst.  Readjust your portfolio when necessary, but not too often.

Think long term and be disciplined: Be prepared to buy and hold your positions. Big short-term profits can be enticing when you’re new to the market but short-term wins will get you off track. Start a program, stay invested, and don’t be too concerned with day-to-day profits and losses.  Warren Buffet once asked, “Suppose you’re going to be investing for the next several years. Do you want the price of the stocks to go up or down?” While everybody assumes it’s “up,” in reality, it’s only people who are withdrawing in the near future who really want stocks to go up!

Do your research: Always be an informed investor. Do your own due diligence with companies you’re interested in. Don’t go for a ‘hot tip’ just because there’s a lot of buzz; research companies, get advice, and decide if they’re investments that are right for you.

Never let your emotions influence you: The markets move in cycles. When the markets are up, we feel elated about our investment decisions. When markets start to move down, we may experience anxiety and panic. Reacting emotionally can lead to spur of the moment decisions that don’t benefit you in the long run. Again: think long term.

Always have a margin of safety: The first rule anyone new to investing needs to learn is that there are no guarantees in the stock market. An investment that looks great on paper does not always pan out in real life.  Know how much risk you are willing to take and make sure your investments are aligned with your risk tolerance.

Diversify: Never put all your eggs in one kind of basket. It’s important to make sure your portfolio includes both stocks and yield-producing assets, such as bonds, to cushion you against market volatility. Diversification doesn’t just mean investing in multiple companies either; investigate ways to invest in different markets, bother national and international, as well.

One final tip: find an experienced financial planner you trust, who “gets” you, your goals, and your timeline, and who can guide you as you invest in your future.

Brad Sherman is a financial planner who is committed to helping individuals and families achieve financial independence and gain confidence with regard to financial issues.

Call or contact him today to see if his services are a good fit for your needs.

Related Reading:

What is Dollar Cost Averaging?

5 Things Investors Get Wrong

5 Big Picture Things Many Investors Don’t Do

Why and How to Get Started Investing Today

Mitigating Your Investment Volatility

The Psychology of Investing

Rebalance Your Portfolio to Stay on Track With Investments

Behavioral Investing: Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus!

LFS-996518-082214

 

Financial Planning for Millennials: Overcoming the Fear Factor

financial planning for Millennials

What do you think of when you think of Millennials? The media loves to paint Millennials as “adventurous”, “risk takers,” and “thrill seekers.” But, surprisingly, when it comes to financial planning for Millennials, their behavior is anything but risky.

In fact, there is evidence that, while emotions and biases play a large part in Millennials’ investment decisions,  fear leads the list of behavioral influences.

We Millennials grew up during the Internet crash and have witnessed one of the most turbulent market cycles in recent U.S. history. With the financial crisis of 2008, and the housing bust leading to a recession, many of us have watched our parents struggle with financial security and worry about whether they’ll ever be able to retire. Many recent grads have experienced unemployment as a result of the crisis, and many are burdened with significant student loan debt. Good times? Not.

These experiences during their impressionable years have led many Millennials to take an emotionally driven approach to Financial Planning for Millennials and to adopt conservative money habits that analysts have compared to the investment behavior of young adults during the Great Depression.

They tend to be wary of investing in equities, for instance, resorting to a behavioral bias that favors peer narratives and unscientific anecdotes – such as stories of retirement-age people whose nest eggs were destroyed by the financial crisis – over careful data analysis.

In May 2013, Wells Fargo released the results of a study surveying more than 1,400 Millennials, that found that Millennials view the stock market, and most investments, as a risk not worth taking. More than half of Millennials are “not very confident” or “not at all confident” about the stock market and many of the Millennials who do consider investing in stocks see the market as a short-term investment. The survey also found that Millennials’ primary concerns were student loan debt and paying their monthly bills.

In fact, Millennials have not only taken on more student loan debt than any previous generation but they continue to struggle in a challenging job market. With many Millennials remaining unemployed or underemployed, and with bills and debt as their top priorities, they have very little disposable income for investing. Many, according to a Pew Research poll released in October 2013, did not even begin thinking about saving or establishing a 401(k) until about five years into their careers.

Additionally, a UBS Wealth Management survey report featured on Bankrate.com found that, more 39% of the Millennials surveyed – more than any other age group – said that cash is their preferred way to invest money that they don’t need for at least ten years. That’s three times the number who chose to invest in the stock market, despite the fact that the S&P 500 has gained 17% over the past year while most cash investment yields remain below 1%.

The Danger of Playing it Safe

The problem with short-term stock investment approaches and dipping in and out of the stock market is that it can work against investors, because short-term investments may be subject to a higher rate of volatility. Instead of looking at the long-term data, which shows that stocks typically outperform other more conservative asset classes over the long run, those young investors are fearful of the short-range volatility, clouding data about the positive potential of long-term investing.

That reluctance to get into the market can be problematic for long-term portfolio growth because, without the returns from stocks, it can be difficult to reach savings and retirement goals.

Bigger is Not Always Better…When Finding a Financial Advisor

With the crash of the big banks and the negative publicity surrounding Wall Street financial firms, Millennials became a generation that looked at financial professionals with mistrust. Instead, they rely more heavily on the Internet, social media, and personal networks for financial advice. Their experience with market volatility and lack of job security has had a significant impact on their attitudes and behaviors toward investing. With very little disposable income after bills and debt payment, Millennials want to feel a sense of security with their investments.

When it comes to working with a financial professional, ‘old school’, traditional banking services are of no interest to them. Bigger is not better in their minds; a smaller, more independent financial planning firm may be able to offer a more hands-on and collaborative approach to investing that Millennials feel more comfortable with.

It’s important to Millennials that they find someone they can trust and who can relate to their concerns and be open to new ideas and methods of investing. Sherman Wealth Management understands that being a part of the investing process is a must in financial planning for Millennials. We fill a role for clients who can no longer relate to, or trust, the large financial institutions that once held a stronghold in the marketplace. The professionals at Sherman Wealth Management provide a personalized plan for investing and help our clients navigate through the difficulty of prioritizing financial obligations.

Remember how it was the overconfidence of the large financial firms and irresponsible investors that brought us the financial crisis in the first place? That Millennial reluctance to let history blindly repeat itself may turn out to be a pretty good thing after all!

Learn more about Financial Planning for Millennials and our Financial Planning services.

Related Reading:

5 Planning Tips for New Parents

LFS-1143605-030915

Having the Money Conversation

84e07cac-3dcd-4106-9f25-402b305db2bc

Millennials have a tremendous advantage over their Baby Boomer parents because they are comfortable talking about money. Having grown up with social media and the internet, this generation is not as private as their parents and grandparents are, especially about subjects like money and finance. The advantage is that open conversations can reduce fears and increase understanding, which can result in better decision making.

Yet, with all this comfort in discussing financial matters, many Millennials are hesitant to meet with a financial advisor. It’s one thing to gather information from family and friends or read articles about investing, it’s another to discuss your personal information with a financial advisor. That’s when it moves from theoretical to personal and that can create a great deal of fear and discomfort.

Why Fear Gets the Best of Us

How Much Do You Really Know About Finances? As educated professionals, it’s common to feel like you should know everything. After all, if you don’t understand it, a few internet searches should provide the answers!

When it comes to money matters, though, many Millennials feel like a fish out of water. Internet searches can provide information that’s both confusing and conflicting, and that doesn’t answer individual questions about strategy and direction.

Then there is the question of what information can be trusted. Is the site legitimate and can the writer’s – and site’s – motivation be trusted? While financial information is plentiful, much of it’s either very general or coming from a sales site that promises a secret formula that will turn you into a millionaire.

Financial decisions by nature are very individual and personal. Because there’s no one-size-fits-all investing strategy, personal consultations are invaluable.

Advisor motivations. Can the advisor be trusted? A trusted advisor needs to understand your circumstances, goals, dreams, and aspirations. Once they do, they can help to create a long term strategy that will help to make those dreams a reality. But you must be able to trust that your advisor will make recommendations that are most beneficial to you, the client, not the best for them, the advisor.

Addressing these concerns in an open conversation will go a long way. No one wants to be sold a product. We all want to invest money in a sound strategy. Understanding the reasons for the recommendation will help you understand how it may benefit you and help you pursue your long term goals.

Fear of not being understood. As complicated individuals we want to appear like we have everything in order. In reality, sometimes we’re confident, other times not so much.

Financial advisors have seen nearly every level of financial preparedness. They have seen financial messes and worked with clients to get things corrected. They have seen strong portfolios, weak portfolios, no portfolio, and everything in between.

Even if you don’t feel you have all your ducks in a row, an advisor can help. If you’ve made bad decisions in the past, they can make recommendations for corrective action. If you’ve been unable to get things in order on your own, working with a professional can be the fastest way to get on track.

Markets not doing as expected. This can go two ways. If you invest conservatively and the market takes off you might end up kicking yourself for not being more aggressive. If the markets are slow and you invest aggressively you can end up wishing you’d been more conservative.

When you meet with an advisor, you’re meeting with a professional who understands the investment business and who can make recommendations that are consistent with your financial goals. An advisor does not have a crystal ball; remember that long term investing is not about beating the markets, it’s about making strong financial decisions that over time will lead to increased confidence in financial matters.

Pulling the Trigger

The first step is always the hardest. This is true whether you’re trying to establish a workout routine, learn a new language, start a new job, or change your investing strategy. Resisting change is natural and we are creatures of habit. However, there comes a point when, in order to grow and progress, we have to stop making excuses and get started by meeting with a financial advisor.

Make the appointment. Even if you don’t think you know enough, have enough money to invest, have a good enough paying job, or whatever the excuses for delays have been.

Before you meet with the advisor, write down questions you have. What things have you heard and what things do you want to understand. This can guide the conversation as you begin to develop a relationship with an advisor.

A financial advisor at Sherman Wealth is someone you’ll want to get to know! You’ll want them to know everything about you and your family’s needs. As your advisor learns more about you, they’ll be able to make the appropriate recommendations as opportunities arise.

Learn more about our Financial Advisor services.

Related Reading:

The Top 10 Questions to Ask a Financial Advisor
Transparency on Both Sides

LFS-1120931-021015

YOLO (You Only Live Once) So You Need A Retirement Goal

Yolo Retirement Goal

When you read through blogs or scroll through hashtags and memes on social media, there is a recurrent theme among millennials regarding the live-for-today sentiment. Whether it’s the acronym, #YOLO (You only live once) or the older, maybe not-so-cool phrase, ‘Carpe Diem,’ we are constantly reminded that we should stop worrying about the future and focus on today. But when it comes to your finances, is society sending us a detrimental message?

When addressing one’s plans for retirement, it is sometimes difficult to find a happy medium between the avoidance of financial responsibilities and the overwhelming, anxiety-inducing worry over one’s financial future. Below are two very common thought processes that I see often.

1) I am not worried about the future now, I’ll deal with it later

Unfortunately, our day-to-day pressing needs and our live-for-today goals become the priority and we cannot focus on or visualize what is not right in front of us. We tell ourselves, ‘I’ll do it tomorrow.’ Whether it’s not participating in a 401K because the extra monthly money is needed for utility bills or prolonging the start of a college savings fund for your child because you have mortgage payments to make, you are setting yourself up for a worrisome retirement.

It is important that you stop and visualize, in vivid detail, a big retirement goal. Are you visualizing being able to enjoy the finer things in life or are you just hoping to maintain the lifestyle that you are living today? What details do you see when you make this visualization?

Consider these important factors while you are visualizing:

If I continue at today’s rate-of-saving, what will my savings be at retirement?

Do I have children? Do I plan to have more children?

Do I plan to send my children to college?/Can I afford college tuition?

Do I own a home? Do I have a mortgage?

Have I planned for rising health concerns as I get older?

If something should happen to me, will my family be taken care of?/What kind of debt will they incur?

2.) I worry so much about my future financial position, that I sacrifice my daily happiness

Studies have shown that intense worrying about money or financial situations can affect many aspects of your life from mental health, to relationships, to career. When consumed with worry over your finances, it can inflict on your ability to focus thus creating a distraction and inability to enjoy the present.

While it is important to plan for the future, it should not be so overwhelming that it interferes with one’s day-to-day abilities. Ask yourself:

What am I really worried about?

Is it something in my control? If so, am I taking the necessary steps?

If it is not in my control, what steps can I take to ease my anxiety?

Do I have a financial advisor that can help to address financial concerns and alleviate unnecessary worry?

Whether you identify more with the first or second way of approaching your finances, or possibly somewhere in the middle, it is important to address your financial concerns with a trusted financial advisor. Unnecessary worry can cause you to feel paralyzed, out of control, and unable to make the right financial decisions concerning your retirement. However, failing to address future financial responsibilities, and avoidance altogether, can prove to be counterintuitive, creating anxiety and worry at a later date. Suddenly financial responsibilities show up at your door and you no longer have the option to ignore or put off. In taking small steps along the way, you can gain control of both your finances and your worry.

Call Brad Sherman at Sherman Wealth Management today and set up a no-cost financial consultation.

Learn more about our Retirement Planning services.

Related Reading:

Four Things Entrepreneurs Can do Now to Save for Retirement 

Finding Financial Independence

Your 401K Program: A Little Savings Now Goes a Long Way

How Much Money do you Need for Retirement These Days?

The Benefits of Saving Early for Retirement

Advantages of Participating in Your Workplace Retirement Plan

LFS-926223-051514

Millennials: The Fiscally Conservative Generation

Millennials Investors-Fiscally Conservative

As the Millennial Generation continues to get more work experience under their belt, statistics from a UBS Wealth Management survey show that this generation is the most fiscally conservative generation since the Great Depression. With most recent generations, the advice that has served them best is to invest their money. With this generation, more and more people are listening to the advice that tells them to save their money in CDs or bank accounts.

Because interest rates are at nearly rock-bottom, investors who play it too safe will very likely lose money due to the effects of inflation. According to Judy Martel in her recent blog “Cash is King for Millennials”, Millennials allocate an average of 52 percent of their portfolio to cash, compared with 23 percent for investors of other generations.
Many companies are promoting the merits of starting a 401(k) program and giving their clients tips on 401(k).

Tips for the fiscally conservative

• Don’t opt out, opt in

• Don’t reduce your company match, find out how to potentially maximize it

• Adjust your investment allocations as you age• Do not borrow or withdraw money from your 401(k) until you are retired

and, most importantly…

• Start saving and investing now

Informative data at your fingertips.
Sherman Wealth Management

LFS-867213-022614

Advantages of Participating in Your Workplace Retirement Plan

Our Clients

As young adults, 20 and 30-year-old’s tend to procrastinate when it comes to saving for retirement, thinking they have all the time in the world.But the key is to start now. When it comes to saving for retirement, there are few better ways than a workplace plan such as a 401(K). Yet, there are a few common excuses for not opting into an employer compensation plan.

● There will always be Social Security
● I can’t afford it right now. I’m not making enough money to save yet.
● Fear of losing money in bad investments.
● I’m so young, I have all the time in the world.

The 411 about the 401(K)
A 401K allows employees to withdraw money from their paycheck prior to taxes and invest it in a retirement savings plan. Many employers then match the contributions proportionately, sometimes even dollar for dollar. The contributions are not taxed until the money is withdrawn. As of 2014, you can contribute up to $17,500 per year.

Funds withdrawn prior to age 59 ½ are subject to a 10% penalty and are taxed as current income in the year withdrawn.

A Mini History Lesson about Pensions and Employer Compensation Plans
It was during the American Revolution, that what we know as a pension, came about. The Continental Congress offered soldiers a monthly lifetime income as an incentive to join General Washington’s army.The income they’d receive when the war was over would be a payment for their service.This lifetime income was called a pension.The offer was repeated by the federal government the during the Civil War and has continued ever since.

The first private company to offer a pension plan was American Express in 1875. They gave an income to each retired employee. The amount was equal to half of the worker’s annual pay, based on an average of the worker’s final ten years of employment (up to $500 annually). Over the next 50 years, hundreds of other companies created similar plans. (However, now it’s based on the average of the worker’s highest paid income of 35 years!)

The end of 1929 brought the Great Depression. Millions of people became unemployed which created fierce competition for jobs.The nation’s economy at the time was agricultural and industrial— both very physically demanding— placing older Americans at a distinct disadvantage. So when older employees lost their jobs, they were unlikely to find new ones and found themselves involuntarily retired.

Thus, in 1935 came the Social Security Act which was signed by President Roosevelt,establishing the first public retirement plan and a national retirement age of 65.Similar to the private plan created by American Express, Social Security was to pay monthly benefits based on each worker’s length of service and average annual salary.

Addressing the Excuses

There will always be Social Security
When the Social Security Act was established, the average American lifespan was 61.7 years, however, today it is 78 years. Now, one must plan income for retirement to get you to age 100 or beyond. You can no longer solely rely on Social Security alone to maintain you through your retirement years. It should only provide you with one-third of your retirement income.

Few companies still maintain traditional pensions (paid for by employers). In this day and age, people are no longer staying at one place of employment for their entire career which is usually the case in which a pension would still exist. The vast majority of today’s retirement plans fall under “defined contribution plans” such as the 401(K).

I can’t afford it right now. I’m not making enough money to save yet.
You do not have to make a lot of money to participate in this program. Typically an employer only requires 1-2% of the participant’s salary. On a $50K salary, that is only $42 to $84 per month. And remember, your employer may contribute proportionately every time you do. How much do you spend on your cable bill? Or phone bill? Or your gym?

Your employer automatically deducts your contributions every time you are paid. If you don’t see the money, it won’t be so hard to part with it! Most of the legwork to provide investment options is done by your employer and the professional advisers they hire to assist them. An increasing number of plans offer “auto enroll” and “auto escalate” features. The first automatically signs you up for your retirement plan; the second automatically boosts contributions as your salary increases.

Another perk: You get two tax advantages when you save in a 401(K) plan. First, your contributions are tax-deductible. Second, the money you contribute doesn’t count toward your gross income for the year, lowering your taxable income. There are also no taxes on interest or dividends at the end of the year like in a non qualified investment or savings. Say you put 10% of your $50,000 salary into your account each month. That’s $416 you don’t have to pay tax on. If you’re single, that translates to about $104 in monthly tax savings, or $1,245 a year and tax deferred until its withdrawn.

Fear of losing money in bad investments.
Sometimes taking your hard earned money and putting it where you can’t see it is scary. People who have fear of going to the doctor but have to go anyway. Think of it the same way. Most 401(k)s let the employee choose where to invest their savings from a variety of options ranging from aggressive choices as to less volatile choices.

I’m so young, I have all the time in the world.
The key to success of a 401(K) is to start as early as possible and to try and contribute the maximum allowed. According to FinancialSamurai.com, in 2014, if a 22 year old started participating in a 401(K) by the time they are 65, they will have saved $743K to $3.5 million, depending on the percentage of contributions to the plan. But if someone does not start contributing until age 40, by the time they are 65, they will have saved $305.5K to $550K, depending on the percentage of contributions to the plan. Wouldn’t you prefer to be the former?

Don’t leave money on the table. If your company offers a 401(K), find out the details of the plan and consider taking advantage today.

Learn more about our Retirement Planning services.

Related Reading:

Four Things Entrepreneurs Can do Now to Save for Retirement 

Finding Financial Independence

YOLO (You Only Live Once) so you Need a Retirement Goal

Your 401K Program: A Little Savings Now Goes a Long Way

How Much Money do you Need for Retirement These Days?

The Benefits of Saving Early for Retirement

 

LFS­946221­061214