Articles for July 2015

Mid-Life Money Errors

If you are between 40 & 60, beware of these financial blunders & assumptions.

Between the ages of 40 and 60, many people increase their commitment to investing and retirement saving. At the same time, many fall prey to some common money blunders and harbor financial assumptions that may be inaccurate.

These errors and suppositions are worth examining, as you do not want to succumb to them. See if you notice any of these behaviors or assumptions creeping into your financial life.

Do you think you need to invest with more risk? If you are behind on retirement saving, you may find yourself wishing for a “silver bullet” investment or wishing you could allocate more of your portfolio to today’s hottest sectors or asset classes so you can catch up. This impulse could backfire. The closer you get to retirement age, the fewer years you have to recoup investment losses. As you age, the argument for diversification and dialing down risk in your portfolio gets stronger and stronger. In the long run, the consistency of your retirement saving effort should help your nest egg grow more than any other factor.

Are you only focusing on building wealth rather than protecting it? Many people begin investing in their twenties or thirties with the idea of making money and a tendency to play the market in one direction – up. As taxes lurk and markets suffer occasional downturns, moving from mere investing to an actual strategy is crucial. At this point, you need to play defense as well as offense.

Have you made saving for retirement a secondary priority? It should be a top priority, even if it becomes secondary for a while due to fate or bad luck. Some families put saving for college first, saving for mom and dad’s retirement second. Remember that college students can apply for financial aid, but retirees cannot. Building college savings ahead of your own retirement savings may leave your young adult children well-funded for the near future, but they may end up taking you in later in life if you outlive your money.

Has paying off your home loan taken precedence over paying off other debts? Owning your home free and clear is a great goal, but if that is what being debt-free means to you, you may end up saddled with crippling consumer debt on the way toward that long-term objective. In June 2015, the average American household carried more than $15,000 in credit card debt alone. It is usually better to attack credit card debt first, thereby freeing up money you can use to invest, save for retirement, build a rainy day fund – and yes, pay the mortgage.1

Have you taken a loan from your workplace retirement plan? Hopefully not, for this is a bad idea for several reasons. One, you are drawing down your retirement savings – invested assets that would otherwise have the capability to grow and compound. Two, you will probably repay the loan via deductions from your paycheck, cutting into your take-home pay. Three, you will probably have to repay the full amount within five years – a term that may not be long as you would like. Four, if you are fired or quit the entire loan amount will likely have to be paid back within 90 days. Five, if you cannot pay the entire amount back and you are younger than 59½, the IRS will characterize the unsettled portion of the loan as a premature distribution from a qualified retirement plan – fully taxable income subject to early withdrawal penalties.2

Do you assume that your peak earning years are straight ahead? Conventional wisdom says that your yearly earnings reach a peak sometime in your mid-fifties or late fifties, but this is not always the case. Those who work in physically rigorous occupations may see their earnings plateau after age 50 – or even age 40. In addition, some industries are shrinking and offer middle-aged workers much less job security than other career fields.

Is your emergency fund now too small? It should be growing gradually to suit your household, and your household may need much greater cash reserves today in a crisis than it once did. If you have no real emergency fund, do what you can now to build one so you don’t have to turn to some predatory lender for expensive money.

Insurance could also give your household some financial stability in an emergency. Disability insurance can help you out if you find yourself unable to work. Life insurance – all the way from a simple final expense policy to a permanent policy that builds cash value – offers another form of financial support in trying times. Keep in mind; insurance policies contain exclusions, limitations, reductions of benefits, and terms for keeping them in force. Your financial professional can provide you with costs and complete details.

Watch out for these mid-life money errors & assumptions. Some are all too casually made. A review of your investment and retirement savings effort may help you recognize or steer clear of them.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph# 641-782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com

Website: www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

There is no assurance that the techniques and strategies discussed are suitable for all investors or will yield positive outcomes. The purchase of certain securities may be required to affect some of the strategies. Investing involves risk including possible loss of principal.

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.

Citations.

1 – nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-card-data/average-credit-card-debt-household/ [6/25/15]

2 – tinyurl.com/oalk4fx [9/14/14]

 

 

How Might Higher Inflation Affect Your Investments?

With the Fed poised to gradually raise rates, this is worth considering.

America once experienced something called “moderate inflation.” It may seem like a distant memory, but it could very well return in the second half of this decade.

A remote possibility? Most economists think the Fed will start raising interest rates in late 2015 and take them higher in 2016 through a series of incremental hikes – a march toward normal monetary policy, in which the Fed funds rate ranges between 3-5%. Once the Fed begins tightening, it usually keeps at it – as an example, the central bank raised rates 17 times during 2003-06 alone.1

Keep in mind that there are two forms of interest rates. Short-term interest rates are mainly controlled by Fed policy. Long-term interest rates ride on the bond market’s expectations. Still, short-term rate hikes have an effect on investors as well as lenders. They influence the mood and outlook of Wall Street; they affect interest rates on credit cards, some home loans and short-term savings vehicles.

What if moderate inflation resumes & the Fed reacts? What might higher inflation (and correspondingly higher interest rates) mean for your portfolio? Under such conditions, your investments may perform better than you think.

Equities should still be attractive. The ascent of the federal funds rate should be gradual over the next couple of years, and the market may price it in. A climbing federal funds rate need not become a market headwind. Remember that as the Fed authorized all those rate hikes in the mid-2000s, the market pushed toward all-time highs. When it becomes apparent that the Fed has taken rates too high, then Wall Street tends to adopt a defensive mindset.

Fixed-income investments may hold up well. It is true, long-term bonds may lose market value in a market climate with rising interest rates (though this will eventually promote additional income for investors with patience). Many investors may see wisdom in a fixed-income ladder, which means putting money into fixed-income securities with staggered maturity dates, typically from one to five years away. As interest rates gradually increase, you can gradually take advantage by replacing the shortest-term security with a medium-term or longer-term security. (Some of the other kinds of fixed-income investments, which have been earning next to nothing, may start to become more attractive; we might see interest-earning checking and savings accounts make a full-fledged comeback.)

In the big picture, consider how unimpeded the Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index (in shorthand, the S&P 500 of the bond market) was in prior rising-rate environments. In the six such instances during the past 40 years (and these periods lasted 2-5 years), T-bill rates increased between 2.3-11.9% while the total annual return for the index ranged from 2.6-11.9%, with most of those total returns varying between 4-6%. For the record, the index posted a total return of 5.97% in 2014.2

So, gradually increasing inflation might not hold back the return on your portfolio. Your portfolio aside, what steps could you take that may put you in a better financial position as inflation normalizes?

You may want to adjust your spending habits. If consumer prices start rising notably, you may decide to spend less and buy less often. You may want to buy durable goods such as cars now rather than later in the decade. You may also want to make your house more energy-efficient, drive vehicles that get better MPG, and take full advantage of your health care coverage – as energy, fuel, and medical costs often rise faster than others.

You could live with less debt. As determined by Bankrate.com, the average credit card currently carries a 15.91% interest rate. Can you imagine that going higher? It almost certainly will when the Fed makes its move. Credit card interest rates are based on the prime rate; movements in the prime rate closely mirror movements in the federal funds rate. Credit card issuers frequently adjust interest rates upward right after the central bank does.3

Lastly, remember the upside to rising inflation. A larger annual increase for the Consumer Price Index implies a boost in Social Security income for seniors, and rising interest rates will translate to appreciable yields for risk-averse savers.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph# 641-782-5577 or email rsmlbyer@mchsi.com

Website: www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

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.

The Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index is an index of the U.S. investment-grade fixed-rate bond market, including both government and corporate bonds.

Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.

No strategy assures success or protects against loss. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal. 

Citations.

1 – news.morningstar.com/articlenet/article.aspx?id=705846 [7/16/15]

2 – marketwatch.com/story/how-your-bond-portfolio-can-survive-higher-rates-2015-04-23 [4/23/15]

Taking a Loan from Your Retirement Plan = Bad Idea

Why you should refrain from making this move.

Thinking about borrowing money from your 401(k), 403(b), or 457 account? Think twice about that, because these loans are not only risky but injurious to your retirement planning.

A loan of this kind damages your retirement savings prospects. A 401(k), 403(b), or 457 should never be viewed like a savings or checking account. When you withdraw from a bank account, you pull out cash. When you take a loan from your workplace retirement plan, you sell shares of your investments to generate cash. You buy back investment shares as you repay the loan.

So in borrowing from a 401(k), 403(b), or 457, you siphon down your invested retirement assets, leaving a smaller account balance that experiences a smaller degree of compounding. In repaying the loan, you maybe repurchasing investment shares at higher prices than in the past – in other words, you will be buying high. None of this makes financial sense.1

Most plans charge a $75 origination fee for a loan, and of course they charge interest – often around 5%. The interest paid will eventually return to your account, but that interest still represents money that could have remained in the account and remained invested.1

Your contributions to the plan may be halted. Some workplace retirement plans suspend regular employee salary deferrals when a loan is taken. They can resume when you settle the loan.1

Your take-home pay may be docked. Most loans from 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plans are repaid incrementally – the plan subtracts X dollars from your paycheck, month after month, until the amount borrowed is fully restored.1

If you leave your job, you will quickly have to pay 100% of your loan back. This applies if you quit; it applies if you are laid off or fired. You will have 30-60 days (per the terms of the plan) to repay the loan in full, with interest.2

If you are younger than age 59½ and fail to pay the full amount of the loan back, the IRS will characterize any amount not repaid as a premature distribution from a retirement plan – taxable income that is also subject to an early withdrawal penalty.1,2

Even if you have great job security, the loan will probably have to be repaid in full within five years. Most workplace retirement plans set such terms. If the terms are not met, then the unpaid balance becomes a taxable distribution with possible penalties (assuming you will not turn 59½ in the year in which repayment is due). If you default on the loan, the retirement plan may bar you from making future contributions.1

Would you like to be taxed twice? When you borrow from an employee retirement plan, you invite that prospect. One, you will be repaying your loan with after-tax dollars. Two, those dollars will be taxed again when you withdraw them for retirement (unless your plan offers you a Roth option).1

Why go into debt to pay off debt? If you borrow from your retirement plan, you will be assuming one debt to pay off another. It is better to go to a reputable lender for a personal loan; borrowing cash has fewer potential drawbacks.

You should never confuse your retirement plan with a bank account. Some employees seem to do just that – in 2013, Fidelity researched participants in its retirement plans and found that 66% of those who had borrowed from 401(k)s had done so more than once. No doubt they became acquainted with the above dilemmas in the process.1

In a recent TIAA-CREF survey, 44% of those who had taken loans from their 401(k) plans said they regretted doing so. Why risk joining their ranks? Look elsewhere for money in a crisis, and borrow from your employer-sponsored retirement plan only as a last resort.2

Mike Moffitt may be reached at phone# 641-782-5577 or email:  mikem@cfgiowa.com

website:  www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

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. 

Citations.

1 – cnbc.com/id/101848407 [9/14/14]

2 – mainstreet.com/article/why-you-cant-borrow-your-401k-and-only-way-you-should [7/24/14]