Articles for May 2018

Beware of Lifestyle Creep

Sometimes more money can mean more problems.

“Lifestyle creep” is an unusual phrase describing an all-too-common problem: the more money people earn, the more money they tend to spend.

Frequently, the newly affluent are the most susceptible. As people establish themselves as doctors and lawyers, executives, and successful entrepreneurs, they see living well as a reward. Outstanding education, home, and business loans may not alter this viewpoint. Lifestyle creep can happen to successful individuals of any age. How do you guard against it?

Keep one financial principle in mind: spend less than you make. If you get a promotion, if your business takes off, if you make partner, the additional income you receive can go toward your retirement savings, your investment accounts, or your debts.

See a promotion, a bonus, or a raise as an opportunity to save more. Do you have a household budget? Then the amount of saving that the extra income comfortably permits will be clear. Even if you do not closely track your expenses, you can probably still save (and invest) to a greater degree without imperiling your current lifestyle.

Avoid taking on new fixed expenses that may not lead to positive outcomes. Shouldering a fixed mortgage payment as a condition of home ownership? Good potential outcome. Assuming an auto loan so you can drive a luxury SUV? Maybe not such a good idea. While the home may appreciate, the SUV will almost certainly not.    

Resist the temptation to rent a fancier apartment or home. Few things scream “lifestyle creep” like higher rent does. A pricier apartment may convey an impressive image to your friends and associates, but it will not make you wealthier.

Keep the big goals in mind and fight off distractions. When you earn more, it is easy to act on your wants and buy things impulsively. Your typical day starts costing you more money.

To prevent this subtle, daily lifestyle creep, live your days the same way you always have – with the same kind of financial mindfulness. Watch out for new daily costs inspired by wants rather than needs.

Live well, but not extravagantly. After years of law school or time toiling at start-ups, getting hired by the right firm and making that career leap can be exhilarating – but it should not be a gateway to runaway debt. According to the Federal Reserve’s latest Survey of Consumer Finances, the average American head of household aged 35-44 carries slightly more than $100,000 of non-housing debt. This is one area of life where you want to be below average.1

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

Website: www.cfgiowa.com           

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.

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.

Citations.

1 – time.com/money/5233033/average-debt-every-age/ [4/13/18]

 

Savvy Negotiating: To Get to the Moon, Ask for the Stars

One key way to build serious wealth—whether in a business or your everyday life—is to effectively and consistently negotiate deals that are good for you and your bottom line. Ideally, everyone walks away from a negotiation feeling good about the outcome—a win-win scenario. But ultimately, to be successful you must achieve your minimum goals and preferably a whole lot more.

Trouble is, it’s common for people to end up failing to get what they want due to how they approach negotiations right from the start—from the first declarations of their terms. Here’s how you can avoid that negative outcome and get the results you truly want when hashing out a deal or arrangement with another party.

Start with your goals

Clarity about goals is job one. In any negotiation, you will be well-served by being quite clear about what you want to walk away with. Most people in negotiations have a range of goals, and it’s important you specify the top and bottom of the range. For example:

  • High-end goals. These are the results you would achieve if the negotiations went extraordinarily well for you. Achieving these goals would make you exceptionally satisfied.
  • Minimally acceptable goals. These goals will close the deal if you achieve them, but you’ll walk away from the bargaining table feeling far from thrilled. If you don’t achieve these goals, there is no deal.

By spelling out your range of goals, you are more likely to not get caught up in the negotiations themselves and make a deal that doesn’t work for you.

Take your initial position—and make it big

When bargaining, self-made billionaires commonly make demands they do not expect the people they are negotiating with to accept. Often these are terms and conditions that many would consider extreme or even outrageous. They are, in effect, asking for the stars—a whole lot more than just about anyone would give them.

These billionaires recognize that they will give a little or even a lot along the way, which is both expected and perfectly acceptable. However, they are using the anchoring effect to better their bargaining position and come away with a deal that works well for them

The anchoring effect is a type of cognitive bias that occurs when people make decisions and act on the initial information they receive—the anchor. Once the anchor is set, people tend to be biased toward interpreting other information around the anchor.

There are a number of ways to create an anchor. The easiest is to ask for an outsize outcome at the start of the negotiation. This will usually influence the perception of value for the other party throughout the negotiations.

The anchoring effect also sets the stage for you to implement your concession strategies. This is how you methodically go from asking for the stars to getting the moon—your acceptable result.

STEPS FOR SAVVY NEGOTIATING

Haggling is an integral part of good negotiation, and most people go into negotiations expecting some back-and-forth around numbers and terms. When both sides make concessions, both will more likely walk away satisfied.

By using the anchoring effect, your goal is to give yourself as much room as possible to make concessions and walk away with at least the minimum results you are looking for.

In every negotiation, the concessions you make are based on a combination of art and science. You can’t concede too much or act too quickly, nor can you be inflexible.

To optimize results, there is a delicate balance of give and take that you can strike by keeping these ideas top of mind:

  • Know what you can give up easily and what is very hard to give up. In business negotiations, there are regularly multiple issues, values and conditions. Some will be more important to you, and some less. You will be well-served if you know what really matters and what does not before going into a negotiation.
  • When you give, make sure you get. Concessions should be reciprocal. If you make a concession, you should be looking to get a concession you see as equally valuable. If you make a unilateral concession, you are negotiating with yourself—and are absolutely losing.
  • Incremental concessions are best. If you ask for the stars at the start and too quickly give up a great deal of ground, you will likely lose all credibility and power. Making a large concession willingly tells the other party that there is a lot more you will give up.
  • Make concessions slowly. You want to communicate that these concessions are tough decisions. Tough decisions are ones you usually have to think long and hard about. Therefore, take your time and pace out making concessions.
  • Have a final concession ready to close the deal. Many negotiations—especially complex business deals—are just about there after a lot of back-and-forth, but still do not close. You want something in your back pocket to push negotiations to an acceptable conclusion. It’s therefore often helpful to have a “final” concession you can offer to close the deal you like.

Possible results

By shrewdly asking for outsize terms that the people you’re negotiating with cannot (or should not) take seriously, you arrange the pieces on the chessboard to your advantage. Then, by skillfully making concessions and getting concessions in return, you meaningfully increase the probability of getting the results you really desire.

These are a few possible outcomes of “asking for the stars”:

  • You get the stars. While you might think your requests are outrageous, that does not necessarily mean the people you are negotiating with won’t give them to you. Your counterparties might, for reasons you are unaware of, be so motivated to make the deal that they will accept your over-the-top numbers, terms and conditions. While this outcome generally has a low probability, it is a possibility.
  • You induce the other person to discontinue negotiations. Your requests might be so extreme that the counterparty does not believe you can ever come to an understanding. Consequently, the counterparty might end the negotiations. Like the previous outcome, this one has a low probability of occurring.
  • You get the moon. The moon is your high-end negotiating goal, and you end up making smart concessions and getting good concessions that result in you getting it.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT: This article was published by the BSW Inner Circle, a global financial concierge group working with affluent individuals and families and is distributed with its permission. Copyright 2018 by AES Nation, LLC.

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. He can be reached at 1-800-827-5577. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor.  Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

 

The Backdoor Roth IRA

A move that high earners can make in pursuit of tax-free retirement income. 

Does your high income stop you from contributing to a Roth IRA? It does not necessarily prohibit you from having one. You may be able to create a backdoor Roth IRA and give yourself the potential for a tax-free income stream in retirement.

If you think you will be in a high tax bracket when you retire, a tax-free income stream may be just what you want. The backdoor Roth IRA is a maneuver you can make in pursuit of that goal – a perfectly legal workaround, its legitimacy further affirmed by language in the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017.1

You establish a backdoor Roth IRA in two steps. The first step: make a non-deductible contribution to a traditional IRA. (In other words, you contribute after-tax dollars to it, as you would to a Roth retirement account.)1

The second step: convert that traditional IRA to a Roth IRA or transfer the traditional IRA balance to a Roth. A trustee-to-trustee transfer may be the easiest way to do this – the funds simply move from the financial institution serving as custodian of the traditional IRA to the one serving as custodian of the Roth IRA. (The destination Roth IRA can even be a Roth IRA you used to contribute to when your income was lower.) Subsequently, you report the conversion to the Internal Revenue Service using Form 8606.1,2

When you have owned your Roth IRA for five years and are 59½ or older, you can withdraw its earnings, tax free. You may not be able to make contributions to your Roth IRA because of your income level, but you will never have to draw the account down because original owners of Roth IRAs never have to make mandatory withdrawals from their accounts by a certain age (unlike original owners of traditional IRAs).1,3

You may be wondering: why would any pre-retiree dismiss this chance to go Roth? It comes down to one word: taxes.

The amount of the conversion is subject to income tax. If you are funding a brand-new traditional IRA with several thousand dollars and converting that relatively small balance to a Roth, the tax hit may be minor, even non-existent (as you will soon see). If you have a large traditional IRA and convert that account to a Roth, the increase in your taxable income may send you into a higher tax bracket in the year of the conversion.2

From a pure tax standpoint, it may make sense to start small when you create a backdoor IRA and begin the process with a new traditional IRA funded entirely with non-deductible contributions. If you go that route, the Roth conversion is tax free, because you have already paid taxes on the money involved.1

The takeaway in all this? When considering a backdoor IRA, evaluate the taxes you might pay today versus the tax benefits you might realize tomorrow.

The taxes on the conversion amount, incidentally, are calculated pro rata – proportionately in respect to the original, traditional IRA’s percentage of pre-tax contributions and earnings. If you are converting multiple traditional IRA balances into a backdoor Roth – which you can do – you must take these percentages into account.1

Three footnotes are worth remembering. One, a backdoor Roth IRA must be created before you reach age 70½ (the age of mandatory traditional IRA withdrawals). Two, you cannot make a backdoor IRA move without earned income because you need to earn income to make a non-deductible contribution to a traditional IRA. Three, joint filers can each make non-deductible contributions to a traditional IRA pursuant to a Roth conversion, even if one spouse does not work; in that case, the working spouse can cover the non-deductible traditional IRA contribution for the non-working spouse (who has to be younger than age 70½).1

A backdoor Roth IRA might be a real plus for your retirement. If it frustrates you that you cannot contribute to a Roth IRA because of your income, explore this possibility with insight from your financial or tax professional.

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

Website: www.cfgiowa.com           

Traditional IRA account owners should consider the tax ramifications, age and income restrictions in regards to executing a conversion from a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. The converted amount is generally subject to income taxation. The

Roth IRA offers tax deferral on any earnings in the account. Withdrawals from the account may be tax free, as long as they are

considered qualified. Limitations and restrictions may apply. Withdrawals prior to age 59 ½ or prior to the account being opened for 5 years, whichever is later, may result in a 10% IRS penalty tax. Future tax laws can change at any time and may impact the benefits of Roth IRAs. Their tax treatment may change.

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.

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.

Citations.

1 – investors.com/etfs-and-funds/retirement/backdoor-roth-ira-tax-free-retirement-income-legal-loophole/ [4/19/18]

2 – investopedia.com/retirement/too-rich-roth-do/ [1/29/18]

3 – irs.gov/retirement-plans/retirement-plans-faqs-regarding-required-minimum-distributions [11/16/17]

Retirement Planning Weak Spots

They are all too common.

Many households think they are planning carefully for retirement. In many cases, they are not. Weak spots in their retirement planning and saving may go unnoticed.

Couples should recognize that they may face major medical expenses. Each year, Fidelity Investments estimates how much a pair of newly retired 65-year-olds will spend on health care throughout the rest of their lives. Fidelity says that on average, retiring men will need $133,000 to fund health care in retirement; retiring women, $147,000. Even baby boomers in outstanding health should accept the possibility that serious health conditions could increase their out-of-pocket hospital, prescription drug, and eldercare costs.1

Retirement savers will want to diversify their invested assets. An analysis from StreetAuthority, a financial research and publishing company, demonstrates how dramatic the shift has been for some investors. A hypothetical portfolio split evenly between equities and fixed-income investments at the end of February 2009 would have been weighted 74/26 in favor of equities exactly nine years later. If a bear market arrives, that lack of diversification could spell trouble. Another weak spot: some investors just fall in love with two or three companies. If they only buy shares in those companies, their retirement prospects will become tied up with the future of those firms, which could lead to problems.2

The usefulness of dollar cost averaging. Recurring, automatic monthly contributions to retirement accounts allow a pre-retiree to save consistently for them. Contrast that with pre-retirees who never arrange monthly salary deferrals into their retirement accounts; they hunt for investment money each month, and it becomes an item on their to-do list. Who knows whether it will be crossed off regularly or not?

Big debts can put a drag on a retirement saving strategy. Some financial professionals urge their clients to retire debt free or with as little debt as possible; others think carrying a mortgage in retirement can work out. This difference of opinion aside, the less debt a pre-retiree has, the more cash he or she can free up for investment or put into savings.

The biggest weakness is not having a plan at all. How many households save for retirement with a number in mind – the dollar figure their retirement fund needs to meet? How many approach their retirements with an idea of the income they will require? A conversation with a financial professional may help to clear up any ambiguities – and lead to a strategy that puts new focus into retirement planning.

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

Website: www.cfgiowa.com           

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.

*No investment strategy or risk management technique can guarantee return or eliminate risk in all market environments.

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.

Citations.

1 – marketwatch.com/story/youre-probably-going-to-live-longer-what-if-you-cant-afford-it-2018-04-23 [4/23/18]

2 – nasdaq.com/article/how-to-prepare-your-income-portfolio-for-volatility-cm939499 [3/26/18]

 

 

Adjusting Your Portfolio as You Age

As you approach retirement, it may be time to pay more attention to investment risk.

If you are an experienced investor, you have probably fine-tuned your portfolio through the years in response to market cycles or in pursuit of a better return. As you approach or enter retirement, is another adjustment necessary?

Some investors may think they can approach retirement without looking at their portfolios. Their investment allocations may be little changed from what they were 10 or 15 years ago. Because of that inattention (and this long bull market), their invested assets may be exposed to more risk than they would like.

Rebalancing your portfolio with your time horizon in mind is only practical. Consider the nature of equity investments: they lose or gain value according to the market climate, which at times may be fear driven. The larger your equities position, the larger your losses could be in a bear market or market disruption. If this kind of calamity happens when you are newly retired or two or three years away from retiring, your portfolio could be hit hard if you are holding too much stock. What if it takes you several years to recoup your losses? Would those losses force you to compromise your retirement goals?

As certain asset classes outperform others over time, a portfolio can veer off course. The asset classes achieving the better returns come to represent a greater percentage of the portfolio assets. The intended asset allocations may be thrown out of alignment.1

Just how much of your portfolio is held in equities today? Could the amount be 70%, 75%, 80%? It might be, given the way stocks have performed in this decade. As a StreetAuthority comparison notes, a hypothetical portfolio weighted 50/50 in equities and fixed-income investments at the end of February 2009 would have been weighted 74/26 in favor of stocks by the end of February 2018.1

Ideally, you reduce your risk exposure with time. With that objective in mind, you should regularly rebalance your portfolio to maintain or revise its allocations. You also may want to apportion your portfolio, so that you have some cash for distributions once you are retired.

Rebalancing could be a good idea for other reasons. Perhaps you want to try and stay away from market sectors that seem overvalued. Or, perhaps you want to find opportunities. Maybe an asset class or sector is doing well and is underrepresented in your investment mix. Alternately, you may want to revise your portfolio in view of income or capital gains taxes.

Rebalancing is not about chasing the return, but reducing volatility. The goal is to manage risk exposure, and with less risk, there may be less potential for a return. When you reach a certain age, though, “playing defense” with your invested assets should be a priority.
* Investing involves risks including possible loss of principal. No investment strategy or risk management technique can guarantee return or eliminate risk in all market environments.

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

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.

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.

Citations.
1 – nasdaq.com/article/how-to-prepare-your-income-portfolio-for-volatility-cm939499 [3/26/18]