That truth must always be recognized.
When financial markets have a bad day, week, or month, discomforting headlines and data can swiftly communicate a message to retirees and retirement savers alike: equity investments are risky things, and Wall Street is a risky place.
All true. If you want to accumulate significant retirement savings or try and grow your wealth through the opportunities in the markets, this is a reality you cannot avoid.
Regularly, your investments contend with assorted market risks. They never go away. At times, they may seem dangerous to your net worth or your retirement savings, so much so that you think about getting out of equities entirely.
If you are having such thoughts, think about this: in the big picture, the real danger to your retirement could be being too risk averse.
Is it possible to hold too much in cash? Yes. Some pre-retirees do. (Even some retirees, in fact.) They have six-figure savings accounts, built up since the Great Recession and the last bear market. It is a prudent move. A dollar will always be worth a dollar in America, and that money is out of the market and backed by deposit insurance.
This is all well and good, but the problem is what that money is earning. Even with interest rates rising, many high-balance savings accounts are currently yielding less than 0.5% a year. The latest inflation data shows consumer prices advancing 2.3% a year. That money in the bank is not outrunning inflation, not even close. It will lose purchasing power over time.1,2
Consider some of the recent yearly advances of the S&P 500. In 2016, it gained 9.54%; in 2017, it gained 19.42%. Those were the price returns; the 2016 and 2017 total returns (with dividends reinvested) were a respective 11.96% and 21.83%.3,4
Yes, the broad benchmark for U.S. equities has bad years as well. Historically, it has had about one negative year for every three positive years. Looking through relatively recent historical windows, the positives have mostly outweighed the negatives for investors. From 1973-2016, for example, the S&P gained an average of 11.69% per year. (The last 3-year losing streak the S&P had was in 2000-02.)5
Your portfolio may not return as well as the S&P does in a given year, but when equities rally, your household may see its invested assets grow noticeably. When you bring in equity investment account factors like compounding and tax deferral, the growth of those invested assets over decades may dwarf the growth that could result from mere checking or savings account interest.
At some point, putting too little into investments and too much in the bank may become a risk – a risk to your retirement savings potential. At today’s interest rates, the money you are saving may end up growing faster if it is invested in some vehicle offering potentially greater reward and comparatively greater degrees of risk to tolerate.
Having a big emergency fund is good. You can dip into that liquid pool of cash to address sudden financial issues that pose risks to your financial equilibrium in the present.
Having a big retirement fund is even better. When you have one of those, you may confidently address the biggest financial risk you will ever face: the risk of outliving your money in the future.
This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.
1 - valuepenguin.com/average-savings-account-interest-rates [10/4/18]
2 - investing.com/economic-calendar/ [10/11/18]
3 - money.cnn.com/data/markets/sandp/ [10/11/18]
4 - ycharts.com/indicators/sandp_500_total_return_annual [10/11/18]
5 - thebalance.com/stock-market-returns-by-year-2388543 [6/23/18]
There is really no reason to wait.
October is here – the ideal time for college students to apply for financial aid. October 1, in fact, marks the first day a current or future college student can submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, for the 2019-20 academic year. Since some states offer aid on a first-come, first-serve basis, submitting a FAFSA as soon as possible is wise.1,2
You can even apply using your phone. Install the new myStudentAid app created by the Department of Education, available for iOS and Android operating systems. While filling out the FAFSA takes time whether you use a PC, tablet, phone, or pen, it may feel easier to start on a phone. In fact, Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of SavingForCollege.com, just remarked to CNBC that the mobile app was “much easier to use, even fun.” The FAFSA asks students and parents more than 100 questions, so any degree of “fun” is good. (Thanks to the new app, you can start filling out a FAFSA on a computer and finish it on a phone, and vice versa.)1,2
Due to the new phone app, more FAFSAs might be filed this year. Slightly more than 20 million FAFSAs were submitted for the 2014-15 award cycle; in contrast, just over 10 million were filed for 2018-19. This decline might reflect an improved economy and a boost in household wealth, but it may be temporary.2
What should your student have handy while filling out the form? After creating an FSA ID (a username, a password), your student will need to reference all kinds of personal information, some of which will be yours. The FAFSA asks for birth dates, Social Security numbers, and driver’s license numbers. It asks for financial information: savings account balances, home values, investment account values. (It does not require you to report balances of workplace retirement plan accounts, pension plans, or IRAs.) Untaxed income must be figured; interest income and child support fall into that category.1
All FAFSAs now require federal tax information from the year that is two years prior to the current award cycle. In other words, on this year’s FAFSA, you need to include federal tax information from 2017. This may not be as arduous as it sounds because you can use the Internal Revenue Service Data Retrieval Tool (irsdataretrievaltool.com). This online tool lets you import your 2017 federal tax information straight into the FAFSA; it is accessed through a “Link to I.R.S.” button. (Information input into the Data Retrieval Tool must match what appeared in the federal tax return.)2,3
A FAFSA must list at least one college or university that the student currently attends or wants to attend. When multiple schools are listed, grant awards are made to the school listed first. (Colleges and universities can also be removed from a list of multiple schools.)1
Anyone who provides data for a FAFSA (a student, a parent, a college access advisor) must also sign that FAFSA. Without the appropriate signatures, the application is invalid. When it comes to these signatures, here is a tip all parents should remember: never hit the “Start Over” button when you log in to add your signature. If you accidentally click on that, all the information that your student has spent hours entering will be erased.1,2
Financial questions should not be left blank on the FAFSA. If the answer to a question is “none,” put a zero instead of nothing at all. Every monetary amount that includes cents should be rounded to the nearest dollar.1
Unsurprisingly, some families want help when filling out the FAFSA. Recognizing this, the Department of Education offers a 66-page guide to completing the form; you will find it at studentaid.ed.gov. It also provides a FAFSA hotline: (800) 433-3243. You may want to chat with a financial professional who focuses on college planning or a university financial aid officer for additional insight.1
The FAFSA is often a pathway to considerable financial assistance: grants, work study programs, federal student loans. The average FAFSA applicant for the 2015-16 school year received roughly $8,500. A FAFSA costs nothing to fill out or send around, and there is absolutely nothing to lose in submitting one.2
1 - tinyurl.com/yd7l9u9z [9/12/18]
2 - cnbc.com/2018/09/18/you-can-now-apply-for-financial-aid-on-your-phone.html [9/18/18]
3 - studentaid.ed.gov/sa/resources/irs-drt-text [9/27/18]
Riding all of the stock market’s ups – and none of its downs – is a popular fantasy. Who wouldn’t want to skip rough patches such as early 2018, late 2015 or all of 2008?
Alas, it’s impossible. Even the greatest investors are wrong maybe a third of the time.
But here’s some good news: You don’t need perfect timing to achieve marvelous returns. Time in the market beats timing the market – almost always.
Why? Consider three make-believe siblings, each with $10,000 to invest in U.S. stocks each year from 1977 to 2018 – a stretch that includes five bear markets.
Pretend they bought the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index (broader than the Dow).
Janette, with perfect timing, invests at each year’s monthly market low, earning each year’s full upside. Jebediah, a terrible timer, invests at each year’s monthly market high, missing more gains and capturing more downside. Jackpot, the clever youngest brother, knows he has no timing ability. He invests the first day of each year.
Fast-forward to June 2018. Janette’s 41 years of perfect timing earned an average annual return of 11.4 percent for a cool $8.2 million. No-timing Jackpot was close behind, with an 11.1 percent return and $7.8 million – still great. Even terrible-timing Jebediah got a 10.8 percent return – turning his $410,000 in contributions into $6.7 million. Sure, it's rewarding enough, but lagging little brother, no-timing Jackpot by $1.1 million is a high price to pay for bad timing.
Being Janette is impossible. Even trying to be Janette runs the risk of becoming Jebediah – or worse. Fancy timing increases the likelihood of errors.People want to buy after stocks rise, not after they drop. Were you eagerly buying this March, when the early-year correction avalanched? Or in February 2016 as headlines hyped election risks at the bottom of an eight-month slide? Or in March 2009 at the depths of the financial crisis? As I said last week, the best time to buy is surely when people least want to.
But time overwhelmingly swamps timing, good or bad. How so?
Consider Jill and Joaquin. Jill invests $10,000 in U.S. stocks each year, starting in 1977. Like Jebediah, Jill has terrible timing, buying at each year’s monthly market high. Then, Jill stops contributing after 10 years, stops trading and just lets her S&P 500 stocks ride. Meanwhile, procrastinating Joaquin waits till 1987 to start investing his $10,000 annually. Yet Joaquin has perfect timing and, unlike Jill, keeps adding $10,000 every year through 2018. Surely this deck must be stacked against Jill.
No. Even with poor timing, Jill turned her $100,000 in contributions to $216,576 in stocks by the time Joaquin invests his first $10,000. Her head start more than offsets Joaquin’s perfect timing and greater total contributions. In June 2018, she has just over $5 million. Joaquin has less than half that, around $2.1 million. Jill’s compound time-in-the-market growth trounced Joaquin’s perfect timing.
Think you’d never be Joaquin? As I wrote last month, many investors left stocks after the financial crisis and stayed away for years. Many still haven’t returned. Yet since the March 9, 2009, low, U.S. stocks are up 419 percent with dividends. Since the precrisis peak? Up 132 percent. You didn’t need marvelous timing to come out ahead.
Remember these examples the next time markets sag and you want to bail – or the next time you have cash you’re waiting to invest. Is your desire to avoid bad times worth the risk of being Jebediah or Joaquin?
Author: Keneth Fisher
Save and invest, year after year, to put the full power of compounding on your side.
Have you been saving for retirement for a decade or more? In the foreseeable future, something terrific is likely to happen with your IRA or your workplace retirement plan account. At some point, its yearly earnings should begin to exceed your yearly contributions.
Just when could this happen? The timing depends on several factors, and the biggest factor may simply be consistency – your ability to keep steadily investing and saving. The potential for this phenomenon is apparent for savers who start early and savers who start late. Here are two mock scenarios.
Christina starts saving for retirement at age 23. After college, she takes a job paying $45,000 a year. Each month, she directs 10% of her salary ($375) into a workplace retirement plan account. The investments in that account earn 6% per year. Thirteen years later, Christina is still happily working at the same firm and still regularly putting 10% of her pay into the retirement plan each month. She now earns $58,200 a year, so her monthly 10% contribution has risen over the years from $375 to $485.1
The ratio of account contributions to account earnings has tilted during this time. After eight years of saving and investing, the ratio is about 2:1 – for every two dollars going into the account, a dollar is being earned by its investments. During year 13, the ratio hits 1:1 – the account starts to return more than $500 per month, with a big assist from compound interest. In years thereafter, the 6% return the investments realize each year tops her year’s worth of contributions to the principal. (Her monthly contributions have grown by more than 20% during these 13 years, and that also has had an influence.)1
Fast forward to 35 years later. Christina is now 58 and nearing retirement age, and she earns $86,400 annually, meaning her 10% monthly salary deferral has nearly doubled over the years from the initial $375 to $720. This has helped her build savings, but not as much as the compounding on her side. At 58, her account earns about $2,900 per month at a 6% rate of return – more than four times her monthly account contribution.1
Lori needs to start saving for retirement at age 49. Pragmatic, she begins putting $1,000 a month into a workplace retirement plan. Her account returns 7% a year. (For this example, we will assume Lori maintains her sizable monthly contribution rate for the duration of the account.) By age 54, thanks to compound interest, she has $73,839 in her account. After a decade of contributing $12,000 per year, she has $177,403. She manages to work until age 69, and after 20 years, the account holds $526,382.2
These examples omit some possible negatives – and some possible positives. They do not factor in a prolonged absence from the workforce or bad years for the market. Then again, the 6% and 7% consistent returns used above also disregard the chance of the market having great years.
Repeatedly, investors are cautioned that past performance is no guarantee or indicator of future success. This is true. It is also true that the yearly total return of the S&P 500 (that is, dividends included) averaged 10.2% from 1917-2017. Just stop and consider that 10.2% average total return in view of all the market cycles Wall Street went through in those 100 years.2
Keep in mind, when the yearly earnings of your IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plan account do start to exceed your yearly contributions, that is not a time to scale back your contributions. Your retirement account will not do all your retirement saving work for you at that point; you still need to keep the momentum of your saving effort going – and maintaining it will assist the compounding.
This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.
1 - time.com/money/5204859/retirement-investments-savings-compounding/ [3/21/18]
2 - fool.com/investing/2018/05/16/how-to-invest-1000-a-month.aspx [5/16/18]
It might seem like retirement is a time to take it easy and devote yourself to gardening, golfing, and napping. But don't take it too easy, say Harvard experts. For optimal well-being, you need to stay engaged — with your own interests as well as with other people.
Making the change
Newly retired men face some typical difficulties. One is creating a new routine after leaving behind the nine-to-five grind. "During that phase of going from a lot of structure to almost no structure, men can exhibit the same signs as someone who is overworked," explains Dr. Randall Paulsen, a psychiatrist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Retirement can also come with changes in a man's relationship with a spouse or partner. "If you have a partner at home who is not used to you being around all the time, there has to be a recalibration," says Dr. Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Partners in retirement may need time to adjust to the new circumstances. "Older couples have to, in a sense, learn how to enjoy having lunch together," Dr. Paulsen says.
In retirement, you expect to have more time — but to do what? Doing either too little or too much can lead to the same symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, appetite loss, memory impairment, and insomnia.
The solution can be just about anything — from volunteering once a week, to taking a class, to launching a new career — as long as it means something to you personally and keeps you coming back for more. It's a plus if you choose a social activity, because research suggests that social engagement is as important to your health as exercise and a healthy diet.
Dr. Miller cites the example of men who take their interest in a sport or hobby to a new level in retirement. They eagerly read or study to improve their knowledge or skill. They interact with peers who have similar interests. They work with teachers or trainers regularly and stick to a rigorous schedule of practice.
The trick is to find a balance of activities that draw you in and stretch you out. "We grow and keep our brains alive by being engaged with things that challenge us," Dr. Miller says.
Whatever you choose, don't make it too easy — or too hard. A moderate amount of stress lights up our brain circuits and focuses our attention; an overload can do harm. "The sweet spot is the stuff that's just outside your reach, where you have to work and concentrate," Dr. Miller says. "Those are the kinds of challenges that help us feel alive and engaged."
Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/retirement-stress-taking-it-too-easy-can-be-bad-for-you
To consolidate or not: that is the question.
Some couples elect to consolidate their personal finances, while others largely keep their financial lives separate. What choice might suit your household?
The first question is: how do you and your partner view money matters? If you feel it will be best to handle your bills and plan for your goals as a team, then combining your finances may naturally follow.
A team approach has its merits. A joint checking account is one potential first step: a decision representing a commitment to a unified financial life. When you go “all in” on this team approach, most of your incomes go into this joint account, and the money within the account pays all (or nearly all) of your shared or individual bills. This is a simple and clear approach to adopt, especially if your salaries are similar.
You need not merge your finances entirely. That individual checking or savings account you have had all these years? You can retain it – you will want to, for there are some things you will want to spend money on that your spouse or partner will not. Sustaining these accounts is relatively easy: month after month, a set amount can be transferred from the joint account to the older, individual accounts.
A financial plan may focus the two of you on the goal of building wealth. Investment and retirement plan accounts are individual by design, but a plan can serve as a framework to unite your individual efforts.
You may want separate financial accounts. Some couples want to pay household bills 50/50 per partner or spouse, and some partners and spouses agree to pay bills in proportion to their individual earnings. That can also work.
This may have to change over time. Eventually, one spouse or partner may begin to earn much more than the other. Or, maybe only one spouse or partner works for a while. In such circumstances, splitting expenses pro rata may feel unfair to one party. It may also impact decision making – one spouse or partner might think they have more “clout” in a financial decision than the other.
Even if you staunchly maintain separate finances throughout your relationship, you may still want to have some type of joint account to address basic monthly household costs.
What else might you consider doing financially? Well, one good move might be to consult and retain a qualified financial professional to provide insight and guidance as you invest and save toward your goals.
Think about how your tax situation might change if you marry. Some people marry and correspondingly change their withholding designation from single to married on their W-4 form. In return, they are shocked to find their income taxes are much more than they ever expected – or they discover they have an enormous refund coming their way. Adjusting your withholding earlier in a calendar year makes more of a difference than if you do so later.1
If marriage means a name change, be sure to update bank account, investment account, Social Security account, and insurance policy data with time to spare. Marrying couples will probably want to redo beneficiary forms on accounts and policies and make various accounts joint tenants with right of survivorship (JTWROS) accounts or Totten trusts (also known as payable-on-death accounts). A JTWROS or POD account allows the assets involved to pass to a surviving spouse without probate.2,3
Take a look at the auto and health insurance coverage each of you have. You might notice some overlap, and you may want to address that.
The Knot, the wedding planning website, says that the number one priority for 55% of marrying couples is uniting personal finances. Agreeing how to handle your household finances can be a goal whether you marry or not.4
This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.
1 - turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tips/tax-refund/top-5-reasons-to-adjust-your-w-4-withholding/L8Gqrgm0V [5/31/18]
2 - legalzoom.com/knowledge/last-will/topic/totten-trust [5/31/18]
3 - legalzoom.com/knowledge/last-will/topic/joint-tenancy [5/31/18]
4 - forbes.com/sites/investor/2018/05/08/the-most-important-conversation-newlyweds-need-to-have/ [5/8/18]
Why striving to stay in the workforce a little longer may make financial sense.
The median retirement age for an American woman is 62. The Federal Reserve says so in its most recent Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking (2017). Sixty-two, of course, is the age when seniors first become eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. This factoid seems to convey a message: a fair amount of American women are retiring and claiming Social Security as soon as they can.1
What if more women worked into their mid-sixties? Could that benefit them, financially? While health issues and caregiving demands sometimes force women to retire early, it appears many women are willing to stay on the job longer. Fifty-three percent of the women surveyed in a new Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies poll on retirement said that they planned to work past age 65.2
Staying in the workforce longer may improve a woman’s retirement prospects. If that seems paradoxical, consider the following positives that could result from working past 65.
More years at work leaves fewer years of retirement to fund. Many women are worried about whether they have saved enough for the future. Two or three more years of income from work means two or three years of not having to draw down retirement savings.
Retirement accounts have additional time to grow and compound. Tax-deferred compounding is one of the greatest components of wealth building. The longer a tax-deferred retirement account has existed, the more compounding counts.
Suppose a woman directs $500 a month into such a tax-favored account for decades, with the investments returning 7% a year. For simplicity’s sake, we will say that she starts with an initial contribution of $1,000 at age 25. Thirty-seven years later, she is 62 years old, and that retirement account contains $974,278.3
If she lets it grow and compound for just one more year, she is looking at $1,048,445. Two more years? $1,127,837. If she retires at age 65 after 40 years of contributions and compounded annual growth, the account will contain $1,212,785. By waiting just three years longer, she leaves work with a retirement account that is 24.4% larger than it was when she was 62.3
A longer career also offers a chance to improve Social Security benefit calculations. Social Security figures retirement benefits according to a formula. The prime factor in that formula is a worker’s average indexed monthly earnings, or AIME. AIME is calculated based on that worker’s 35 highest-earning years. But what if a woman stays in the workforce for less than 35 years?4
Some women interrupt their careers to raise children or care for family members or relatives. This is certainly work, but it does not factor into the AIME calculation. If a woman’s work record shows fewer than 35 years of taxable income, years without taxable income are counted as zeros. So, if a woman has only earned taxable income in 29 years of her life, six zero-income years are included in the AIME calculation, thereby dragging down the AIME. By staying at the office longer, a woman can replace one or more of those zeros with one or more years of taxable income.4
In addition, waiting to claim Social Security benefits after age 62 also results in larger monthly Social Security payments. A woman’s monthly Social Security benefit will grow by approximately 8% for each year she delays filing for her own retirement benefits. This applies until age 70.4
Working longer might help a woman address major retirement concerns. It is an option worth considering, and its potential financial benefits are worth exploring.
1 - dqydj.com/average-retirement-age-in-the-united-states/ [6/11/18]
2 - thestreet.com/retirement/18-facts-about-womens-retirement-14558073 [4/17/18]
3 - investor.gov/additional-resources/free-financial-planning-tools/compound-interest-calculator [6/14/18]
4 - fool.com/retirement/social-securitys-aime-what-is-it.aspx [6/9/18]
Even with interest rates rising, you may want to explore the possibilities.
In the first quarter of 2018, the refinance share of home loan applications in the U.S. fell to 40%, the lowest in ten years. Higher mortgage rates had reduced demand for refis.1
Still, the refi is not exactly dead. If you have good credit, you may be considering refinancing yourself, for one or more reasons. Perhaps you want to shorten the term of your home loan. Maybe you have an adjustable-rate mortgage now and want to refi into a fixed rate. Or, maybe you want to tap into home equity or consolidate debt. Whatever your reason(s), you must weigh two questions. One, how long do you want to stay in your home? Two, how much money will you really save?
Refinances break down into three types: rate-and-term, cash-out, and cash-in. Rate-and-term refis simply adjust the term and/or the interest rate of your existing loan. Even though interest rates are rising now, they still make up the bulk of refinances. This kind of refi could permit you to walk away from closing with as much as $2,000 in cash. The no-cash-out variety adds closing costs to the loan balance, relieving you from having to pay those costs out of pocket.2
A cash-out refi gives you an opportunity to tap home equity and pay off your existing mortgage. In a cash-out mortgage, the loan balance on the refinance is at least 5% more than the balance on the original loan. As you just owe the balance of your original loan to the lender, the overage is either paid out as cash at closing or routed to your creditors to help you whittle down other debts.2
A cash-in refi is the inverse of a cash-out refi. You bring cash to the closing to lower the outstanding principal of the loan, pursuant to a shorter loan term or a lower interest rate available at lower loan-to-values (LTVs). You may be able to cancel mortgage insurance premium payments as part of the move (i.e., by reducing a conventional mortgage to 80% LTV or lower).2
How much will a refi cost? In ballpark terms, the answer is often $2,000-$5,000. In percentage terms, think 3-5% of the loan amount.3,4
The price of a refi may be notably cheaper in one state than another, thanks to variations in closing costs. Of course, certain closing costs may be negotiable, like app and processing fees. Sometimes you can save on title searches, title insurance, and inspections by turning to a third party for those services. If your last appraisal was conducted recently, you might be able to negotiate your way out of a new one.3
Sometimes you can refinance without an appraisal. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Veterans Administration (VA) offer streamlined refinancing programs to homeowners with existing FHA or VA-backed home loans. The underwriting process is less demanding than it would be otherwise. Besides usually waiving the appraisal, these programs also commonly waive credit score and income verifications.2
In some situations, refinancing may not be “the answer.” If you are stretching the term of your loan out with a refi, you will carry mortgage debt for years longer than you originally planned, complete with thousands more paid out in interest. If you are using home equity to fund a remodel or upgrades, your home’s value may not rise as much as you anticipate from the work. Then there are the little curveballs life throws at us, such as potential job changes and relocations. If you sense you might have to move before you can recapture the closing costs of the refi, is it even worth the trouble to try?
Hopefully, you will be able to lower the interest rate on your loan, shorten its term, or find a way to reduce your monthly payments through refinancing. Online calculators and a conversation with a trusted mortgage professional may help you determine the potential break-even points for a refi and find paths to a home loan more suitable to your needs.
1 - cnbc.com/2018/03/13/mortgage-refinances-fall-to-decade-low.html [3/14/18]
2 - themortgagereports.com/16096/refinance-mortgage-rates [12/9/17]
3 - lendingtree.com/home/refinance/how-much-does-it-cost-to-refinance/ [3/14/17]
4 - investopedia.com/financial-edge/1010/9-things-to-know-before-you-refinance-your-mortgage.aspx [1/12/17]
Working longer might work out well for you.
Are you in your fifties and unsure if you have enough retirement savings? Then you have two basic financial choices. You could start saving and investing more of your pay than you currently do, or you could work longer so you have fewer years of retirement to fund.
That second choice might be more manageable, and it may also work out better financially.
Research suggests that working longer might be a good way to address this shortfall. Last month, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) published a paper on this very topic, and its conclusions are significant. The four economists writing the report maintain that when you reach your mid-sixties, staying on the job just one more year could help you greatly. Waiting a little longer to file for Social Security also becomes a plus.1
What was the most noteworthy finding? By the time you are 66, staying on the job just an additional three to six months will do as much for your standard of living in retirement as if you had contributed 1% more to your retirement plan for 30 years.1
Here is an example from the report, with an asterisk attached. A 66-year-old who has directed 9% of their earnings into an employee retirement plan during the length of their career retires. Had they simply put 10% of their pay per year into that retirement plan rather than 9%, they would have retired with 11.11% more money in that account.1
If they work for another year, retire at 67 and file for Social Security benefits at 67, they may put themselves in a better financial position. In this simple example, Social Security benefits would constitute the other 81% of their retirement income. They are just slightly past their Full Retirement Age as defined by Social Security, so by retiring at 67, they receive 108% of the monthly Social Security benefit they would have received at 66.1,2
The asterisk in this scenario is the outlook for Social Security. In the future, will Social Security benefits be reduced? That possibility exists.
Working full time until age 67 may be a tall order for some of us. Right now, only about a third of American workers retire after age 65; about a fifth retire at age 60 or younger. Perhaps the ambitious, energetic baby boom generation will alter those percentages.3
Working one or two more years may be worthwhile for several reasons. Your invested assets have one or two more years to compound before potentially being drawn down – and when assets have grown for decades, even a year of compounding is highly significant. If you have $350,000 growing at 6% annually in a retirement fund, waiting just a year will enlarge that sum by $21,000 and waiting five more years will leave it $118,000 larger – and this is without any inflows.3
Spending another year on the job may help you become fully vested in a pension plan, and it also positions you to receive greater Social Security payments (assuming you are currently 62 or older). Wait until age 65 to retire, and you can leave work without having to worry about buying health insurance – Medicare is right there for you. You also keep your mind active by working longer, and you maintain the friendships you have made through your career or workplace.3
Retire later, and you may do yourself a financial favor. Consider the idea, and be sure to consult with the financial professional you know and trust today regarding your retirement prospects.
1 - marketwatch.com/story/you-may-want-to-work-longer-heres-why-2018-01-22/ [1/22/18]
2 - bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-01-23/the-remarkable-financial-benefits-of-delaying-retirement [1/23/18]
3 - fool.com/retirement/2017/04/23/5-benefits-of-delaying-retirement.aspx [4/23/17]
Why you may want to have one in place in any market climate.
What is a stop-loss strategy, and how can it potentially aid an investor? Savvy investors use stop-loss orders as a kind of “insurance” against stock market losses. Simply explained, a stop-loss order is an order you give to a brokerage to sell a stock when the share price falls to a certain level.
A stop-loss strategy may be used to preserve gains and alleviate downside risk. Say you buy 10 shares at $60 a share, and eight months later the price is at $68 a share. You place a stop-loss order with your broker, telling your broker you want to sell if the share price dips to $66. One day, the share price falls to that level, and the stop-loss order becomes a market order authorizing a trade. If the market (or market sector) dives quickly, you may not be able to sell your shares for $66, but you will likely be able to sell them near that price.1
You can also employ trailing stops as part of a stop-loss strategy. This can be useful with a growth stock. As an example, suppose you buy into a company at $20 a share, and two years later, the share price stands at $35 and seems poised to rise further. Is it time for profit-taking, or should you hang on to those shares a bit longer?
A trailing stop may provide an answer to this dilemma. When you put a trailing stop in place, you authorize your broker to sell the stock when the price dips a certain percentage below the current market value – say, 10% under market price. So if shares move up to $50, then fall to $45, you are able to sell at or near $45, and you profit more than you would had you sold at $35.2
The trailing stop moves up as the share price moves up. Obviously, you do not want to set the trailing stop only a handful of percentage points below the current price, because that could mean activating the stop too soon.
Profit targets are also part of stop-loss strategies. When the price of a stock reaches a certain level – a target price – you sell. In setting a profit target, you know when to get out, and you know your degree of profit as you close the trade.
How much gain do you need to break even or profit? Here is the key question in a stop-loss strategy. Reaching a price target represents a win, and a stop-loss represents a loss. At a glance, it seems easy to gauge whether your stop-loss strategy is a success: the wins merely have to exceed the losses. The evaluation is not quite that simple. You can use relatively simple math to figure out your break-even percentage: (Stop Loss ÷ (Target + Stop Loss)) x 100.3
For the sake of simplicity, say your average loss is $100 and your average target $200. The calculation becomes: (100 ÷ (200 + 100)) x 100, or 0.33 x 100 = 33%. Commissions aside, you need to win on 33% of your trades to break even. Win more trades than that and you are profiting.
When exactly will you break even or profit? Time will tell, but the answer may directly relate to the difference in your loss level and your target level. If your target level is way above your loss level, in theory you will have to win very few trades to profit – but in reality, you may have a hard time winning any trades, and your strategy could fail. When your target level is closer to your loss level, you must win more often to break even, but winning may become easier for you.
A stop-loss strategy could help you sustain the income stream from your portfolio. A little reflection will reveal why. When Wall Street slumps, a buy-and-hold investor can become a buy-and-fold investor, hanging onto losers too long and then selling them at or near a market bottom. Alternately, an investor may fall in love with a winner so much that no profit is ever taken – he or she learns a tough lesson when its share price falls and the opportunity to sell high is lost. Having price targets and stop orders in place takes some of the emotion out of trading in these circumstances, helping to mitigate losses and lock in gains.
Sure, there are potential drawbacks to a stop-loss strategy. Some people prefer price alerts to automatic stop-losses, because they want to stay hands-on and not cede control of trades to software and algorithms – and in a steep market drop, those algorithms may quickly drive a stock’s price well under a stop in the blink of an eye. An opportunity cost can also be paid with the use of price targets – maybe this or that stock clearly has more upside, and it really feels like you are selling too soon when the target is reached. These points aside, a well-considered stop-loss strategy may have real value for an investor, especially one who does not actively trade stocks on a day-to-day basis.
1 - investopedia.com/ask/answers/06/stoplossorderdetails.asp [1/4/18]
2 - thebalance.com/trailing-stop-1031394 [7/25/17]
3 - thebalance.com/calculating-your-break-even-percentage-1031085 [10/14/16]