Real Life Financial Planning

Hand of the businessman with the house

This past weekend my family has made the move into a new home, which needless to say, has been a chaotic process.  It really got me thinking, though, about real estate/home ownership and how it fits into client portfolios and their financial plans.

The mantra of the middle class is buy a home.  But is it always the best decision for your money?

Buying residential real estate certainly poses some undeniable advantages.  For many people, there is a certain pride in homeownership.  After all, it is the epitome of the American Dream.  Additionally, the interest and property tax portion of your mortgage is tax-deductible, and not unimportantly, homes tend to increase in value, build equity and provide a nest egg for the future.

But what is very often overlooked by the average American is the opportunity cost of their money and how their mortgages play a role in that.  A recent Wall Street Journal article highlights the important decision individuals face when they have excess cash.  It recommends taking a close look at what interest rates you pay on a mortgage and how those compare to the savings amount on your bank account as well as the rate of return on investments in equity and bonds.

When homeowners do this, they often are struck with a revelation: they are likely not getting as high of a return on their investment as they would have if they were invested more heavily in equity.  Ultimately, the opportunity cost of having your money tied up in your mortgage could actually hurt your long-term wealth.  Even worse, the tax breaks you are receiving do not cover the amount of loss incurred from your interest rate!  A recent Bloomberg article went so far to say that this simple understanding is one of the distinctions that separates the world’s wealthiest individuals from the middle class and one of the major contributing factors to income inequality.  Basically, it argues that a major difference between the middle class and the top 1% is that the middle class have too much of their portfolios tied in up residential real estate that is not providing adequate returns.

There is a theory out there that wealthy individuals are simply more skilled investors.  A recent study explains that this is not true. (In fact, they might be worse!)  Wealthy people just tend to own most of the equity in the economy, meaning that when business does well, they reap disproportionately large benefits.  Generally speaking, rich individuals own the upside of the economy in the form of stock, while the middle class’s gains are limited by the slow growth of housing wealth.  It is no surprise that the collapse of the housing bubble has exacerbated wealth inequality because stocks recovered more strongly than real estate did.  Maybe the difference between you and the 1% is just your perception of the options available to you.

Surely, shelter is one of the basic necessities of life.  Everyone has to live somewhere – but taking the time to consider all of your options before making any large financial decisions is something that every person should do.  At the very least, you should consider the opportunity costs of your cash and look into advantages of a less expensive housing option, renting, or investing more in equity to ensure that you are getting the most out of your money in the long run.

At Sherman Wealth Management, we believe that real life decisions call for real life financial planning.

These are the kinds of decisions we want to help you make, so don’t hesitate to contact us today to get started.

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The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.

 

Why Investors Can Be Their Own Worst Enemy

Sherman Wealth Management | Fee Only Fiduciary

Investors often think they are doing better than they actually are. But the reality is that most investors are actually underperforming their benchmark. Two recent articles regarding behavioral finance — Which Investor Personality Best Describes You? and 8 Common Investor Biases That Impact Investment Decisions — detail a concept which is the thought that our own instinctive behaviors are the biggest challenge to us as investors. Another topic that we have written on is the issue with trying to “time” the market. What people often don’t realize is that these two concepts have more in common than you might think.

For over two decades, financial research firm Dalbar has been analyzing investor returns. It recently published its 22nd annual Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior study that compared these investor equity fund returns versus the market benchmark. The results showed significant underperformance from investors. Dalbar points out that “for the 30 years ended Dec. 31, 2015, the S&P 500 index produced an annual return of 10.35%, while the average equity mutual fund investor earned only 3.66%. The gap of 6.69 percentage points represents the diminished returns.”

So why is this the case?

As advisors, we have long preached the importance of cost and the large effects it can have on returns. While cost is a factor in investor underperformance, there are other factors that play even a larger role. The study showed that the biggest contributing factor to equity investors’ underperformance over the past 20 years is voluntary investor behavior. What does that mean? Let’s look at a couple of examples of investor behavior that contributes to underperformance.

1. Panic selling: The No. 1 rule in a market collapse is not to panic. Markets can be erratic with times of larger-than-normal volatility. Responding emotionally is never a good idea. Start by understanding what your risk tolerance is. At that point, make sure you understand your investments and what their purpose is in your portfolio. Finally, look at your portfolio as a whole and make sure it is aligned properly with your risk tolerance and goals.

2. Trend chasing/herd mentality/FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): As the phrase goes: what you see is what you believe. When investors see a stock continue to go up, or everyone around them is talking about buying that stock, it is easy to follow the crowd and jump in without thinking. History has shown us that past performance is no guarantee of future returns.

3. Overconfidence: Many investors feel they perform better than what is actually happening or real. This can cause investors to believe they can accurately time the markets.

Source: BlackRock; Informa Investment Solutions

Telling investors about these issues is one thing. Actually seeing the fixes put into practice is another challenge. The key point to remember is that we are often our own worst enemies when it comes to managing our own investments. Having a great financial and investment plan is irrelevant if you don’t have the mindset to follow through and stick to it. Becoming self-aware of these issues is a great first step.

This article was originally published on investopedia.com

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The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.
If you have any questions regarding this Blog Post, please Contact Us.

The Most Important Question You’ll Ever Ask Your Financial Advisor

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Does your financial advisor follow the Fiduciary Standard or the Suitability Standard?

If you don’t know the answer without peeking – or calling your Lifeline – you’re not alone. A surprising number of people don’t know what these very important terms mean and whether their advisor is acting in their best interest.

Aren’t all financial advisors required to act in their client’s best interest?

Surprisingly, not all financial advisors are.

Broker-dealers, insurance salesman, and bank and financial company representatives, for instance, are only required to follow a Suitability Standard. That means they must provide recommendations that are “suitable” for a client – based on age for instance, or aversion to risk – but that may or may not be in that client’s best interest.

Having a waiter recommend an expensive chocolate cake that is “suitable” for adults and for someone who is willing to risk trying chocolate with sea salt may not be that critical, in spite of the fact that having fresh strawberries may clearly be in your best interest. But having a financial advisor who is making recommendations primarily based on your age and risk tolerance – and who could be putting their own, or their company’s, financial interests ahead of your interests — could be disastrous for your financial future.

Instead, the Fiduciary Standard, which is the standard for registered investment advisors under state and federal regulations, requires that financial advisor act solely in a client’s best interest when offering financial advice.

Registered Investment Advisors – like Sherman Wealth Management – must follow – and are held to – the Fiduciary Standard. That means that a RIA must put their client’s needs ahead of their own, provide fully-disclosed, conflict-free advice, be fully transparent about fees, and continue to monitor a client’s investments, as well as their changing financial situation.

Here’s a potential scenario that illustrates the differences

Let’s say your broker-dealer has three possible funds to recommend to you. The first is a “suitable” index fund, offered by her own company, which pays her a 6% commission on the sale and charges a 2% annual fee. The second is a similarly suitable index fund that would pay her a 3% commission on the sale and has a 1% annual fee. The third is an index fund that has no sales commission and an annual fee of .5%. Under the Suitability Standard, she can recommend the higher priced fund and still satisfy the standard. Under the Fiduciary Standard, she would be required to recommend the third fund.

This is not to suggest that broker-dealers or others operating under the Suitability Standard don’t look out for their clients.  While many reps who follow the Suitability Standard give their clients excellent advice, they operate with an inherent conflict: the pressure to sell products that are more profitable for them and/or their firm can be important factors in how they direct you to invest.

So go ahead and let the waiter talk you into that chocolate cake (even though you know you’ll feel better tomorrow if you have the strawberries.) But when it comes to your money, think carefully about whose advice you are taking.

 

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http://www.finra.org/investors/suitability-what-investors-need-know

http://financialplanningcoalition.com/issues/fiduciary-standard-of-care/

Not Investing Yet? Here Are 4 Simple Steps To Get You Started

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Close your eyes for a moment and envision where you’d like to be in 30 or 40 years… Are you sailing to Tahiti? Writing that book? Running your vineyard? Building a new company?

If you had trouble envisioning where you’d like to be, you’re not alone. But unless you can visualize it, unless you’ve got your destination planned, it can be hard to get there. That’s why it’s so important to start thinking about what your goals currently are – whether it’s for yourself, your career, your startup, your art, and/or your family – and take the first – or the next – steps to invest in your future.

What does investing mean? Very simply, it means putting your money somewhere you expect it to grow. It can be traditional stocks, bonds and mutual funds, or real estate, collectibles, annuities, and other things that are expected to gain value over time.

When you’re just starting out, thinking about – and setting aside money for – your future can feel like a challenge; when you’ve just set up your first lemonade stand and barely breaking even, it’s hard to think about re-investing part of your profits in lemon groves that will someday produce income for you.

The trick is to overcome inertia, get started, and make a commitment, even if it’s just a tiny first step.

Inertia is not your friend

Inertia is one of the biggest reasons people waste opportunities to started investing when they’re young.

Objects at rest tend to stay at rest:

If you’re not investing yet, or if your money is sitting in a non-income producing bank account it can be hard to get started or get moving.

Objects in motion tend to stay in motion:

If your money is constantly in motion, if you’re spending everything you make, or if your money is following the crowd to the next big glamour stock, it can be hard to slow down and take stock with a Financial Planner to build a solid foundation.

A study by Hewitt Associates found, for instance, that only 31% of employees in their 20s invest in their company’s 401K plan¹. That means almost 70% of young employees who could be investing in a matching 401k plan haven’t started taking advantage of what is essentially free money. Whether inertia is keeping them from getting started, or inertia is keeping their money in motion so that there’s none left over to invest, they are not only leaving free money on the table, they’re not letting that money grow through compounding.

According to an article in US News and World Report, if you start investing just $100 a month in your 20s, increase contributions as your income increases, and make good financial decisions along the way, you are on your way to potentially retiring with over 1 million dollars.²

How Do You Get Started?

Here are four simple steps to get you past inertia and get you started.

  • Find your motivation

We are all passionate about certain things. The more you care, the more focused you are about achieving your goals. Make a list of the things that are important to you and the things you want to achieve.

  • Find extra money

There are only two ways to “find” money – spending less or making more. While it may seem daunting – inertia again! – you’d be surprised by how easy it is to discover places you can cut back a little or spend a little less. And, while you have a lot more control over your spending than your earnings, you can also look for ways to find extra sources of income, work more hours, or even get a better paying job.

  • Move financial goals up

If you plan to save “whatever you have left” or “whatever you’ve saved” at the end of each month, don’t be surprised by how little that actually is. We all have a tendency to spend what we have, and spend more as our income goes up. You can avoid that pitfall by paying yourself first. When you prioritize saving in your budget and take that money “out of circulation,” your spending will fall in line.

  • Get advice from an adviser you trust

The world of finance and investing can be complicated and confusing. Don’t let fear of the unknown keep you from getting started. You don’t need a large amount of savings to meet with an adviser who can answer a lot of your questions. Getting a roadmap from someone who knows the territory will help you get started and may allow for a smoother journey.

Investing in your future is an investment in yourself. If you take these four simple steps, even with limited assets, you’ll be laying the foundation for a lifetime of investing in your own plans and goals, and your own vision of financial freedom.

 

All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. There can be no assurance that any investing strategy will be successful. Investments offering higher potential rates of return also involve a higher level of risk.

Learn more about our Investment Management services.

Related Reading:

What is Dollar Cost Averaging?

5 Things Investors Get Wrong

5 Big Picture Things Many Investors Don’t Do

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

¹http://www.bankrate.com/finance/financial-literacy/retirement-planning-for-20-somethings-1.aspx#ixzz3JfVGNIYk
²http://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/articles/2012/07/30/7-ways-to-retire-with-1-million

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5 Important Planning Tips for New Parents

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Expecting a visit from the stork soon or has it already dropped off a new bundle of joy? If so, you know the full range of emotions that come with a growing family. Along with the love and excitement you feel with a new baby boy or girl, comes the pressure of new responsibilities and additional financial obligations.

Babies change your life in many ways, including requiring large amounts of time and money. While you may already be thinking about childcare costs and options, or about paying the medical bills that accompanied your new child, there are several other – important – financial considerations you should be thinking about even before the new baby arrives.

Evaluate Financial Priorities. It’s important to consider both short-term and long-term expenses that come with the addition of a new family member. It is a natural impulse, for instance, to want to put your child first and redirect retirement savings into college savings. But remember, you can borrow for college but you cannot borrow your way through retirement. It’s also important to balance long-term goals, like retirement and college expenses, with current financial needs, to help you allocate resources in an appropriate way.

Update Insurance Needs and Your Will. With the expansion of your family, insurance needs can change significantly. Having enough insurance is important in feeling confident about your family’s financial future. Adding your child to your health insurance policy can usually be done with a phone call. Making sure you have enough life insurance for both parents can help ensure you have the funds to raise your child if the unthinkable happens. Short-term disability insurance provides benefits if you have an accident that takes you out of work temporarily. Long-term disability insurance is critical in case a major accident has a permanent impact on your ability to work and earn. While some companies offer disability insurance, it can also be purchased independently.

Updating your will or creating a trust can provide care instructions for your child and allocate resources for their upbringing. Without a will or trust, if you and your spouse die, the state will decide who will raise your children. A will establishes your wishes for who will care for your child. A trust can direct funds specifically earmarked for raising your children and can be an effective way to cover financial expenses and provide for college expenses.

Start Planning For College Early. The sooner you start the better. While it is impossible to know exactly how much you’ll need to save – given that you don’t know what kind of college your child will choose – consider that in 2013-2014 the cost of a moderate in-state public university was $22,826 per academic year and the cost of a “moderate” private university averaged $44,750, according to a College Board survey. ¹

For new parents this means that college could cost over $100,000 for a public college and more than double that number for private school. Instead of trying to fund the entire cost of their education, determine how much you want to contribute. Having children be responsible for a part of their education is often a good lesson in work ethic, even if you can afford to pay for everything, and a critical life lesson if you can’t.

Keep Spending and Debt under Control. When you have an adorable child it’s very easy to overspend. You want them to have the best of everything. Setting a budget and sticking with that can help you keep your spending in line with your established budget. This can also help you maintain the discipline needed to continue contributions to long-term financial goals like retirement and their college education. And remember, the best gift you can give your children – your time and attention – is free.

Another important consideration is debt. When you carry debt, you are paying today for yesterday’s bills. Investing potentially allows you to pay today for tomorrow’s bills. By keeping yesterday’s bills settled and debt to a minimum, you lay the foundations for having enough to enjoy today with your children and plan for tomorrow.

Teach Children About Finances At An Early Age. Finances are a part of our daily lives. When you involve children early on they gain an appreciation for what things cost and how to choose what we want and what we can live without. As soon as your child old enough, start helping save their pennies for something they really want, and teach them that work is part of the process of earning money. These skills, if taught early, can lead to a lifetime of responsible money management.

Parenting is an amazing adventure that changes the way you see yourself and the world. Keeping an eye on finances can provide you with the confidence you need to not only enjoy your growing family but help lay the foundations for a stronger future.

 

¹ http://www.collegedata.com/cs/content/content_payarticle_tmpl.jhtml?articleId=10064

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Discussing Personal Finance is Difficult for Many – but Critical

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Money can be a difficult subject for any of us to talk about, although it seems to be particularly challenging, statistically, for women.

According to a recent study released by Fidelity, 80% of women surveyed said that they had refrained from discussing financial issues with friends or family, despite the fact that over 92% of those surveyed expressed an interest in learning more about financial planning. Among those surveyed, some of the most common reasons given were that money was too personal a topic, it felt uncomfortable to talk about, or it was considered “taboo.” Additionally, women are also more likely to feel that they don’t know enough about the subject to speak about it intelligently. This is despite the fact that studies have shown that women tend to be better investors than men.

Money is, however, a critical subject that we all need to discuss – and discuss often – in relationships. A little while ago I wrote about the 7 Things Married Couples Should Discuss Today, where I talked about why it is critical that married couples go over their finances together. Marriage is not, however, the only relationship that requires having difficult conversations about money.

We need to communicate with our parents and children about money, and even friends, coworkers and extended family members in some cases.

With money playing such an important role in our daily lives, it’s critical that we learn to overcome our desire to avoid the topic and learn how to effectively and confidently communicate about financial matters.

Fortunately there are a few things you can do to make the topic of money easier to discuss:

1. Realize that difficult conversations are sometimes necessary

Whether you need to confront your parents about their retirement plans, your spouse about where to allocate investments, or your children about their spending habits money can be a difficult topic to talk about. By reminding yourself that these are conversations that you will ultimately need to have however you are setting yourself up for success.

2. Find someone knowledgeable about finances who you can trust

No one has all the answers when it comes to money, which is why it is often helpful to turn to others for ideas and suggestions. You should find someone – whether it’s a friend, family member or a financial advisor – who is knowledgeable, who you know has your best interests at heart, and with whom you feel comfortable speaking.

This will give you the opportunity to ask questions, bounce around ideas, and learn and grow. It will also give you the confidence to discuss finances with others.

3. Get educated

One of the best ways to feel comfortable discussing money with others is by learning as much about the subject as you can. Read books, ask questions, and get help when needed. By learning as much as you can, you feel more comfortable giving advice, making financial decisions and having what would otherwise be difficult conversations.

4. Don’t procrastinate when discussing finances

If there is a money-related conversation that you have been putting off, bring it up now or at the next time possible. Don’t wait!

Here are a few more suggestions for important conversation starters:

With your spouse:

  • Family’s budget
  • Retirement savings
  • Saving for children’s college fund
  • Where to invest money

With your children:

  • Allowance
  • Spending
  • Basic financial principles

With your parents:

  • Their retirement plans
  • Location of legal documents including wills, trusts and insurance paperwork

If you’re like most people, chances are there are many other subjects that you need to discuss with those you’re close to. It may be a good idea to contact a financial advisor to help you with these as well as other issues revolving around money.

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

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

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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

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5 Big Picture Things Many Investors Don’t Do

5 Big Picture Things

These simple strategies can make a big impact on your long term portfolio.

Investing and finances can be overwhelming and confusing. Having so many options available, how is an investor to choose which direction to go. For those who seek to understand, it can become paralysis by analysis, where the more you study, the more you realize you need to know. With all of its complexity, simple investment strategies can be very effective, if the right choices are made.

Here are 5 Strategies most average investors don’t focus on, but should.

  • Have a thought out strategy with a purpose. A common mistake of investors is to put money in an account without a lot of thought as to the goals you want to achieve. Starting an investment fund without goals is like driving in a car with no destination in mind. Without a purpose for the money, it is impossible to measure the success or failure of the investment.
  • Start Early with a Time Horizon. Starting early gives your money more time to grow. The longer the money is invested, the better it can weather market fluctuations and the more likely you are to successfully reach your goals. Along these same lines, set specific goals around a time horizon. How long will each bucket of money be invested? This is a very important piece to your overall strategy because it will help evaluate the specific investments that will be most beneficial. If you are 15 years away from your goal, investment choices will be much different than if you are 5. The closer you get to the destination, the less able you are weather market fluctuations. This should be considered in your overall strategy.
  • Increase The Amount Invested Each Year. When looking over your investment strategy, separate the performance and the contributions. The performance is how much your money has grown through your investment strategies. Contributions are the dollar amount that you have added to your investment accounts. These two factors make up the total growth of your portfolio. Both of these numbers are important to your overall strategy. The account performance should be reviewed independent of contributions to help you stay on track with the right investment choices for your risk tolerance and time horizon. The amount you have added in contributions is what you have built into your budget for long term financial goals. When you increase those contributions each year, your account should grow significantly faster. Small increases are often not felt in the monthly budget.Let’s say you currently contribute 6% from your paycheck into your 401k. In addition to that you are putting $50 a month into your IRA and $50 a month into a  college fund. At the beginning of the year, increase your 401k contribution by 1%. Now you are putting away 7% in pretax dollars for retirement. Then the next quarter increase your IRA contribution to $75 a month and the quarter after that, increase your college fund contributions by $25 a month. These small increments will barely be noticed in your monthly budget. The $25 a month increase is less than $1 a day. If you are earning $50,000 a year, the 1% increase with your 401k is only around $21 a paycheck if you get paid bi-monthly, in pretax dollars. Meaning your paycheck will be reduced by less than $20 a paycheck due to the pretax allocation. If you increase the contribution at the time of your annual raise, it will only be noticed in the form of larger investment accounts.
  • Review your asset allocation as a whole picture. When you have separate investments for different financial goals, it is more of a challenge to see your portfolio in a complete picture. Having investments with different companies can increase these challenges. When you have a 401k at a current job, and maybe one or two from previous jobs, they are more difficult to keep up with. Then you might have current investments for retirement, college and savings for your first home. Taking a holistic view of all your investments will help to ensure you have the best asset allocation possible. When your allocation gets out of whack, you might end up taking on more risk than you are comfortable with, without realizing it. It is not always possible to have all your investments under one roof, especially with a current 401k. However, including these investments in all financial reviews will help you stay on track for your overall investment goals as well as ensuring your asset allocation and risk profile are appropriate.
  • Understanding what you can control. In life we like to have control over our current and future destinations. Happiness and success often come from recognizing what we can control and focusing on that. Investing is no different. We cannot control the markets and we cannot control the economy. There is a host of circumstances and events that are outside of our control. Stressing and worrying about those things is not beneficial. You can control spending and investment rate. You can control which investments you choose and the amount of risk in your portfolio. Staying focused on these elements will lead to higher comfort levels which will encourage staying the course.

Financial investing success has more to do with implementing sound strategies, rather than luck or great market timing. It is more about staying the course, than picking the “hot” stock that will make you a millionaire.

Learn more about our Investment Management services.

Related Reading:

Tips for Millennials to Understanding the Stock Market

What is Dollar Cost Averaging?

5 Things Investors Get Wrong

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!

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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

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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

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