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Recommended Reading: Simplify & Empower Your Financial Life

Published September 2, 2016

Three recently published books aim to simplify and empower your financial life.  Each one is chock full of useful and actionable advice, and grounded in down-to-earth wisdom.  

In addition, each author steers clear of beating the market advice in favor of a very personal, comprehensive, and holistic approach to achieving “true wealth.” 

Individually, each book is a standout and will point the way to an enlightened approach to mastering personal finance.  Together, these books will revolutionize the way you think about your money.  The message they share is that your financial future should be built on a clear understanding of your values and priorities.

A Prescription for Reducing the Pain

Published August 19, 2016

There’s no question that we experience emotional pain and anxiety when our portfolios are losing money due to market downturns.  Behavioral scientists tell us that we feel losses twice as intensely as positive returns.

But that doesn’t tell us what we really want to know, which is: other than selling at the wrong time and locking in losses, how do we make these downturns less painful?

Will You Outlive Your Income? How to Improve the Odds You Won’t.

Published August 12, 2016

While our extended longevity should be greeted with gratitude for the possibility of enjoying a longer life with our friends and families, many retirees are approaching it with trepidation, wondering if their hard earned assets will be sufficient to fulfill their vision of a good life for the rest of their life – however long it should last. At the critical point when assets are to be converted to income and a spend-down plan is launched, retirees need the assurance that they won’t outlive their income, which, to some is their greatest fear.  

Old Rules of Thumb Have Become Dangerous Assumptions

Unfortunately, the traditional and outdated retirement planning models espoused by the media and the general financial services population only serve to generate more angst among retirees. Not only do many of them still adhere to the old “allocate for your age” asset allocation strategy, they continue to base their spend-down plans on the traditional life expectancy model that requires us to die on time in order for the plan to work. In today’s near-zero-interest rate environment and in the face of life spans that can expand to age 100, these planning assumptions dangerously defy current realities.

The True Cost of the Olympic Games

Published August 8, 2016

The opening celebration for the 2016 Olympic games was spectacular, but of course all you’re hearing about is pollution, crime, unfinished facilities, Zika and cheating Russian athletes.  Chances are, the games will go off without a hitch and be highly-entertaining, despite some of the challenges that the athletes will face in their housing and venues.  But once the games are over, the nation of Brazil is likely to experience a familiar dose of economic trauma.

Why?  A recent study by the Council on Foreign Relations looked at the economics of different Olympic games, and found that the costs inevitably outweigh the benefits.  Part of the problem is enormous cost overruns; when nations bid for the games, they typically underestimate the cost of constructing stadiums, fields, apartments for the athletes, safe transportation and security.  The accompanying chart shows just how much these cost estimates fell short of the actual price tag, note the Beijing and Sochi games, which cost $45 billion and $51 billion respectively.  Building appropriate venues for the games in Athens, Greece actually led to a government bankruptcy.

How to Create Order out of Chaos with Your Financial Records

Published August 2, 2016

It should not take the filing of a tax return or a death in the family to finally create order out of paper chaos so you are not forced to scramble in those critical circumstances. The chances of making costly errors are too great not to take some very simple, albeit essential, measures to get and stay organized all year long. Today you can begin a system of document disposition which will simplify your financial life for you and your family. It starts with knowing what you need to keep, for how long, and where to keep them – beginning with the most disposable:

Saying “Yes” To Your Priorities!

Published July 29, 2016

Bringing balance to a busy personal and professional life is challenging.  In order to accomplish all that seems necessary, most people resolve to work harder and faster.

Therefore, individuals and families are increasingly experiencing a time crunch.  The result is mounting stress and compromised health and vitality.  And yet, despite their best efforts, many express frustration about not being able to bring tasks to completion, and having enough time to focus on what or who is most important to them.

No doubt, time is one of the most precious limited resources we have.  In fact, most people feel that if they had a choice, they would pick having more time over having more money.

In your own life, you will find that one of the biggest factors that contributes to your life satisfaction is gaining (or regaining) a sense of control over how you spend your time. Ironically, Odette Pollar, author of Take Back Your Life, recommends that the best way to do more is to do less.

Are Brexit Fears Overblown?

Published July 8, 2016

In the wake of the so-called “Brexit” vote in the United Kingdom, and the possibility (though not the certainty) that the U.K. will leave the European Union, you're likely reading a lot of alarmist stories about the vote’s impact on the U.S. and your portfolio.

Don’t believe half of what you read.

Here are some of the most alarming headlines, and the reality behind them.

1) The Brexit vote has already caused a stronger dollar, which will hurt U.S. exports.

True, the dollar gained dramatically against the British pound, which means exporters to the U.K. might be more than a little bit less competitive than they were a couple of weeks ago.  But the U.K. only accounts for 0.5% of total U.S. exports.  And there is no reason why the dollar should appreciate in strength against the euro, yen or other global currencies simply because the U.K. is less likely to remain in the European Union.

Are My Social Security Benefits Taxable?

Published July 7, 2016

The quick answer is “it depends.”  But, for the 33 percent of retirees who now rely more heavily on their Social Security benefits to sustain their lifestyle, the answer takes on even more significance.  Generally, your income from Social Security is not taxable on its own; but when it’s combined with other sources of income for tax reporting purposes, a portion of your Social Security benefits, up to 85 percent, could be includable as taxable income. Unfortunately, over 40 percent of retirees aren’t aware that their benefits could possibly be taxed, and it is always a rude awakening when it happens.

Having an understanding of how Social Security benefits could be taxed might enable you to consider ways to reduce the impact. So the real question becomes, “under what circumstances are my Social Security benefits taxable?

Generally, any income from employment, a pension, IRA withdrawals, interest on savings, even interest on tax exempt bonds is combined along with half of your Social Security income to determine the taxable portion. The only sources of income that are not included are monthly payments from an annuity or withdrawals from a Roth IRA.

The Brink of Grexit

Published July, 7 2015

Well, the Greek voters were asked, once again, whether they would accept additional austerity measures that were demanded by their creditors, including the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission.  And once again they voted—this time overwhelmingly (61.31% to 38.69%)—to hunker down and move the country to the brink of a Grexit from the euro currency.

Their choice may not have been hard to make.  Virtually all of the $264 billion that has been loaned to the Greek government have actually been paid to the European banks who unwisely loaded up on Greek debt before 2009—and the loans and extensions, to them through Greece, has kept the European banking system solvent during the crisis.  Virtually none of that money has gone back into the ailing Greek economy.

“Grexit” Vote Coming

Published July 2, 2015

Any way you look at it, the standoff between the nation of Greece and the leaders of the European Union is a mess.  But it may not be quite the problem that the press is making it out to be.

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