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Feeling Stressed? Find Some Green.

It’s not easy being green.

That signature line delivered by Jim Henson’s Kermit the Frog, and later covered by Frank Sinatra and countless others, has taken on a variety of meanings over the years. One way the classic Muppets song applies to the world today is the difficulty in finding green areas in urban neighborhoods.

Imagine being a youngster in a low-income family, looking outside and, instead of seeing a tree to climb or grass to play in, being surrounded by man-made structures and the dangers of gang violence.

Earlier this year, research from Stanford University found that growing up in an environment sans nature’s bounty can have a direct impact on a person’s overall physical and mental well-being. The lack of green areas in urban neighborhoods may even impede the maturity of children’s brains and be a factor in their economic decline.

Whether it’s growing up in a rough neighborhood or keeping track of the bills in an upscale community, people of all ages and economic statuses face some form of stress. The best way to combat this is confidence, something we’re here to provide as your financial professional.

Knowing that you’ve received professional advice and have proactively created a plan to secure your financial future as well as that of your family can help relieve anxiety. Through years of saving and hard work, you’ve put yourself in a position where you can enjoy the world around you: taking walks, enjoying a sunset unobstructed by pollution and gazing upon the bloom of flowers.

Several children today are growing up in an environment where those simple pleasures are absent. That’s why some cities have started focusing on restoring green areas in low-income neighborhoods, strategically planting shrubs and trees to screen out busy street noises and reduce the glare from headlights.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Simple Idea That Could Make America’s Poorest Neighborhoods Healthier,” from Think Progress, July 10, 2015.]

For an example of how green spaces can help maintain happiness, even in a financial predicament, just look at what’s happening in Greece. The country’s financial struggles may have city residents in a damper, but those living in the beautiful mountain villages have a bit more hope.

“I have my lettuce, my onions, I have my hens, my birds, I will manage,” one retiree stated after his government pension was cut.

While those who live in outlying areas still feel the effects of shuttered banks and reduced government services, they have a better chance of surviving than city dwellers. In short, they are using age-old tactics that have enabled them to survive wars and natural disasters: chickens and a vegetable patch.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Greek villagers’ secret weapon: Grow your own food,” from The Houston Chronicle, July 3, 2015.]

Then there are traditional stress relievers. We’ve always known they worked, we just didn’t know the science behind them. For example, adult coloring books have recently become de rigueur as a modern-day stress reliever.

Sugar has been proven to reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and hugging releases oxytocin, a hormone that promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding.

[CLICK HERE to read, “Colouring books for adults a new way to relieve stress,” from CBC News, July 8, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Sugar as a Stress Reliever,” from The New York Times, April 23, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “7 Reasons Why We Should Be Giving More Hugs,” from The Huffington Post, March 27, 2014.]

These are all great remedies, but the ideal situation is to avoid stressful circumstances to begin with. If you ever have questions about your financial circumstances, feel free to give us a call.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

The information contained in this material is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Don’t Spend Summer in Hot Water

Everyone slips up from time to time. It’s human nature.

But some mishaps are easier to make up for than others. A misstep in your financial decision making can have significant and far-reaching ramifications, which is why it’s generally a good idea to run your ideas by an objective professional to avoid regrets in the future.

Some recent headline-makers provide good reminders about the benefits of fully thinking through ideas before acting on them.

Anyone can say the wrong thing, but if it happens when you’re in the spotlight, as Donald Trump was when he announced his candidacy for presidency — that’s tricky business.

His comments about illegal immigrants from Mexico caused a firestorm of media attention, with interesting repercussions.

Detractors have been swift in both criticizing the billionaire mogul, and in some cases, even cutting business ties with him. Conservative supporters have defended his comments, but many remain silent for fear of further disengaging the Latin voting community.

And still others defend his right to free speech. Yes, it’s a right, but is it always a good idea?

[CLICK HERE to read, “Transcript: Donald Trump announces his presidential candidacy,” from CBS News, June 16, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Macy’s just dumped Donald Trump merchandise,” from Fortune, July 1, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “And Now, What Mexico Thinks of Donald Trump,” from The New York Times, July 2, 2015.]

Historically, we’ve seen many high-profile leaders and celebrities commit gaffes. Some paid the price and eventually recovered to varying degrees, like Martha Stewart after serving jail time for obstruction of justice. Others have suffered immeasurably.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Martha Stewart’s Prison Time Actually Helped Her Business,” from Time, Oct. 8, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How Martha Stewart lost her $2 billion empire,” from The Washington Post, June 29, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Brian Williams will leave ‘NBC Nightly News’ and join MSNBC,” from The L.A. Times, June 18, 2015.]

How much can our own words and actions hurt us? When it comes to personal relationships, the repercussions can be long lasting. According to relationship experts, using phrases referencing “you always,” “you never” or “you’re being too sensitive” can be irreversibly damaging.

On the other hand, taking responsibility for your words and actions and offering a heartfelt apology can go a long way.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The 10 Most Dangerous Phrases in a Relationship,” from The Huffington Post, May 13, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Benedict Cumberbatch and the Right Way to Apologize,” from The Atlantic, Jan. 27, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Abby Wambach apologizes for referee criticism, will likely avoid suspension,” from USA Today, Jun. 24, 2015.]

When it comes to finances, if you’d like help determining your moves for the future, please give us a call.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

The information contained in this material is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Chris Hobart on WCNC August 14!

Chris Hobart to be featured on WCNC’s Charlotte Today​ tomorrow, August 14 at 11:00am! Don’t miss out on how to leave a legacy to your kids and grandkids!

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Health Care Reform Here to Stay

If there were any lingering doubts about the long-term sustainability of the Affordable Care Act (also known as the ACA or Obamacare), a recent Supreme Court ruling assured the health care overhaul is here to stay.

Not only does the King v. Burwell ruling handed down by Chief Justice John Roberts put the ACA on firm ground for the future, it also puts to rest challenges of the health law’s tax rules from opponents hoping to exploit loopholes.

A few lines pulled from the Supreme Court ruling:
“We cannot interpret federal statutes to negate their own stated purposes.”
“Congress passed the ACA to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.”

Roberts’ decision may go a long way in clarifying the ACA’s intentions, but for the average person, it’s understandable if all the legislative, medical and financial arguments remain clear as mud. Health insurance is a complex issue at both the state and national levels, but as your financial professional, we know that what matters most is how the law affects you individually.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “What to Take Away from the Supreme Court Decision on Health Care,” from The New York Times, June 25, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to search the Rate Review database, “Find Rate Review Information about Your Insurer,” on Healthcare.gov, accessed June 24, 2015.]

Talks of the 2016 presidential race have already started picking up as new, high-profile candidates throw their names into the ring. In that regard, it can be difficult to predict what changes are on the horizon. But, as King v. Burwell established, it will take more than just a Presidential change to eliminate the ACA.

The ruling strengthens the law to the point that it will take an act of Congress to make changes in the future. Roberts wrote that he believes subsidizing universal health insurance is of “deep economic and political significance,” and that if Congress wanted to give future Presidents an escape hatch from the legislation, “it surely would have done so expressly.”

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why John Roberts’ Obamacare decision goes further than you think,” from MSNBC.com, June 25, 2015.]

So here’s what we know: The initiative to get everyone in the country covered by health insurance, regardless of income level, will continue as planned. Ensuring the care is at a certain degree of quality … well, that has its challenges.

Take a look at veterans who have sought care at VA hospitals. One of their greatest needs, mental health care, appears to be a weakness in this delivery system. In fact, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, as many as 22 veterans die by suicide each day. This travesty appears to emanate from incorrect diagnoses, poor record-keeping, lack of follow-ups and the VHA’s lack of compliance with its own policies and procedures.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “GAO: VA’s errors and noncompliance hinder suicide prevention efforts,” from Modern Healthcare, June 11, 2015.]

Access to quality care also is a major issue in rural locations throughout the country. Fortunately, this has been addressed in recent years by loosening up practice requirements by nurse practitioners (NPs) who have earned a master’s degree or better.

New state laws have begun to permit NPs greater autonomy to perform services such as ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, prescribing medications and administering treatments for patients in rural states that struggle to recruit doctors to remote areas.

[CLICK HERE to read the article “Doctoring, without the Doctor,” from The New York Times, May 25, 2015.]

On the other hand, greater demand for providers necessitates more money. This has been evident in rate requests filed by health insurers for 2016. Increases thus far have ranged from 6 percent for high-level platinum plans to 14 percent for silver plans.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “3 must-know facts about 2016 health rate filings,” from LifeHealthPro, June 11, 2015.]

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

The information contained in this material is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Chris Hobart’s Team Stuffs the Backpacks!

Chris Hobart and his team were able to take part in something pretty great last week! WCNC is currently hosting a “Stuff the Backpacks” initiative in order to provide needy children with school supplies for the upcoming school year. Chris’ team got involved and were able to deliver the backpacks to the station last week! To see a quick clip of Chris and his team helping out, see here: Hobart Financial Stuffs the Backpacks

WCNC is running the drive until August 27 for those who would like to take part like Hobart Financial Group did! For more information, please go here: WCNC Stuff The Backpacks

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The Heat of Negotiations

As we approach the dog days of summer, the world’s elected officials are pouring on the heat in political debates ranging from Euro debt to global trade agreements.

Greece and its creditors have been arguing over how much debt Greece must repay each year. The discord has led others in the European Union — even Great Britain — to question if the single currency experiment is worth the time and effort. Years after the global recession, unemployment remains high, the population is aging fast and Eastern Europe has not recovered as quickly as expected.

Bear in mind that the EU is comprised of 28 separate countries operating as a single free enterprise market. Perhaps it’s understandable that 28 nations, combining different languages, cultures and history, can’t come together easily in agreement.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Greek Drama: Why the Negotiations Risk Europe’s Future,” from Knowledge@Wharton, June 10, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Greece Gets Temporary Lifeline, Turns Hope to New Summit,” from The New York Times, June 19, 2015.]

But can you say the same about one country (the United States), composed of 50 states that all speak the same language and share basically the same history?

The gulf in our nation’s capital continues to be as deep and divisive as the vast oceans that separate us from the world’s other developed countries. The most recent debate on tap has been the odd web of global trade negotiation legislation in the U.S., featuring the Republicans aligned with the Obama administration in a rare coalition. And yet, this force has been blocked by a strong minority of Democrats with just enough collective power to put a wrench in negotiations.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How Congress Voted on Trade,” from Govtrack, June 18, 2015.]

Then there is the ongoing campaign for fair wages, a forum currently being played out across multiple industries — both corporate and creative. The discrepancy between gender pay is certainly not a new debate, but has been thrust back into the spotlight in recent months by email hacks at Sony that revealed many blockbuster actresses are not compensated the same as their male counterparts. One study revealed that while in other industries women experience an average pay gap of 78 cents to a man’s dollar, in Hollywood the highest-paid actresses make just 40 cents for every dollar that the highest-paid actors make — a fact that gets lost amid multi-million dollar paychecks.

These news headlines have occurred simultaneously as local, state and federal government bodies debate the merits of increasing the minimum wage. And where fair pay is concerned, recent newsworthy lawsuits and settlements in the music industry have highlighted discrepancies among artists and between artists and streaming music distributors.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Gender Wage Gap Is Especially Terrible in Hollywood,” from Slate.com, Feb. 23, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Navigating the Ripple Effects of a Higher Minimum Wage,” from Knowledge@Wharton, June 16, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “James Taylor: Streaming Businesses Should Pay Artists Half,” from ABC News, June 19, 2015.]

While the world debates bigger issues, we’re help to help you navigate the different ways to  potentially optimize your own assets, liabilities and retirement income. If we can help you sweat out the details of a retirement income plan for your unique situation, please give us a call.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

The information contained in this material is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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What’s That You Say?

People are notorious for saying things they don’t actually mean, particularly during an argument. On the flip side, saying things that have a different meaning than what’s intended is human nature and often the cause of an argument in the first place. After all, no one is a mind reader.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Cracking the Code,” from Psychology Today, March 6, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How to Be a Better Mind Reader,” from Psychology Today, Nov. 4, 2014.]

This dichotomy creates an interesting dilemma for market researchers, particularly those who invest in focus groups to get feedback on new products. Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, was famously prolific regarding customer input, having once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs also was a big proponent of not listening to customer words, but rather to their needs. He’s quoted as saying, “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Bridging the Gap Between Actual and Reported Behavior,” from UX Booth, May 19, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why Steve Jobs Didn’t Listen to His Customers,” from The Huffington Post, Sept. 28, 2014.]

It’s also not an uncommon phenomenon that people will say what they think in writing, but not face to face. In recent years, the Internet has provided a popular forum for readers to make comments and get opinions off their chest without rankling anyone they know personally. Experts have observed that the mask of an online identity permits inhibition in a way similar to drinking alcohol. However, because people do change their behavior in different situations, it’s important not to make quick judgements. Rather, true behavior patterns reveal their consistency over time and in various situations.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “What Your Online Comments Say About You,” from The New York Times, Feb. 14, 2015.]

Sometimes when posed a direct question, you can surprise even yourself with the answer. We don’t often get interviewed in the manner of movie stars and famous athletes, but if we did, consider how you might answer pointed questions about life lessons.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Kevin Costner: What I’ve Learned,” from Esquire, April 23, 2012.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Hope Solo: What I’ve Learned,” from Esquire, accessed June 12, 2015.]

At the end of the day, one of the best ways to plan, set goals, compromise and move forward is to communicate better — with ourselves and with each other. In the financial world, we get to know our clients through face-to-face meetings, stay in touch via phone calls and emails and sometimes work with clients through written materials — questionnaires, profiles and individualized plans. Everyone has different communication preferences, but what’s important is that we discover what it is we really want to say, and mean it.

If we can help you better define your plans for the future, please reach out and communicate with us by whatever means suit you the best.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

The information contained in this material is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference. 

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Overthinking Retirement Income Planning

You can’t pick up a newspaper or magazine or scan Internet headlines today without seeing something about the challenges of retirement and new surveys about how unprepared people are. Yes, it’s a concern. But consider for a moment that, really, it’s a personal one.

You can solve your own concerns — you don’t have to tackle them on a national scale. To that end, break down your retirement income planning process into bite-sized steps, engage the help of financial professionals and do what’s necessary to start moving forward with planning for retirement. Then move on to the rest of your life, keeping retirement income planning on the peripheral.

When you’re actually in retirement, it’s important to stay on task but not obsess. Recognize that the first five years you may be working toward some of your long-awaited goals, like travel or starting a new venture. The important thing to bear in mind is that you probably won’t keep spending money at that same pace throughout your golden years. Those first few years you may run through some savings, but bear in mind that will eventually need to let up.

After a while, take a serious look at your retirement assets and review your budget. Is your retirement spending on track? Do you need to cut back or look at other ways to potentially increase your income?

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “5 things to think about on your journey to retirement,” from Vanguard, May 4, 2015.]

One of the keys to a successful retirement is to be realistic. If you never enjoyed golf before, that may not be the best use of your retirement years. Enjoy doing what you enjoy doing — it makes sense to keep it just that simple. If you always wanted to travel, start out by just thinking of one place you would really like to go. Focus on that trip; research it and put together a realistic budget based on how much it would cost for transportation, meals, accommodations, sightseeing, etc. It can be easier to work toward a tangible goal rather than an abstract idea.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “A Travel Planning Guide,” from BudgetYourTrip.com, accessed June 6, 2015.]

You may be familiar with the concept of creating problems that didn’t exist before by overthinking solutions or “helpful suggestions.” This is often combatted by the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” When it comes to retirement, careful and prudent saving and planning is best. The last thing you want is to not enjoy retirement because you’re too busy trying to figure how to enjoy it better.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The impasse created by over thinking,” from PrimeTime Online, Feb. 24, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “8 Ways to Stop Over-Thinking and Find Peace in the Present Moment,” from TheMindUnleashed.com, Sept. 9, 2014.]

In a recent study, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that the brain operates most efficiently when people trying to learn a basic task use only the most essential functions.

In other words, there are parts of the brain normally engaged with high-level intellectual strategizing — for which there is always a time and place. However, using these particular brain functions can be detrimental when trying to learn or complete less complex tasks.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why Overthinking Is Holding You Back,” from Huffington Post, May 14, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Don’t Overthink It,” from The Atlantic, May 2015.]

Whatever you do, try not to overthink it.  Planning for retirement is similar to how you’ve approached every other concern throughout your life. The more concerns you’ve had, the better equipped you may be to cope and problem solve. That’s one way to turn lemons into lemonade.

Another way is to rely on financial professionals, and that’s where we can help. Contact us for guidance, and we’ll help you understand the process.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Chris Hobart featured on WCNC!

Chris Hobart sat down with WCNC’s Charlotte Today hosts last week to discuss the worst and best investment decisions of 2015!! You might be surprised about what he had to say! Check out the clip here: Chris Hobart WCNC 7.10.2015

Thanks, Chris!

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Bad Behavior

Five of the world’s biggest banks recently pleaded guilty to colluding to manipulate currency and interest rate markets. Apparently, by agreeing not to buy or sell at certain times, the traders protected each other’s positions and suppressed competition in the foreign exchange market.

Collectively, these banks will pay penalties totaling $5.6 billion to the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Reserve. But according to a Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics, this fine represents one tenth of a percent of the daily volume of the foreign exchange market. Moreover, at least one of the banks is an admitted three-time repeat offender.

Yet in return for the guilty plea, these banks secured exemptions, waivers and settlements from regulators and are allowed to conduct business as usual going forward — and no one goes to jail.

[
CLICK HERE to read the article, “Are Financial Penalties Enough to Deter Banks’ Bad Behavior?” from Knowledge@Wharton, May 21, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Rigging of Foreign Exchange Market Makes Felons of Top Banks,” from The New York Times, May 20, 2015.]

In sports, the most recent scandal was conspired by leaders of FIFA, the governing body of the soccer world. Forty-seven indictments were levied on soccer officials and sports marketers for racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering over a time span of nearly quarter of a century. A total of 14 people — including nine senior officials with FIFA — are accused of perpetuating a corrupt scheme involving more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks.

Just days after news of the scandal broke, FIFA president Sepp Blatter was re-elected as head of the global soccer organization. However, the 79-year-old Switzerland native stepped down four days after his re-election amid outside pressure for his inability to stop corruption in the sport.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “U.S. Indicts 14 in FIFA Corruption Inquiry,” from NPR, May 27, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “FIFA scandal: What comes after Sepp Blatter’s resignation?” from CNN, June 3, 2015.]

Meanwhile, the latest example of bad behavior in politics involves the indictment of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a Republican from Illinois, who is accused of agreeing to pay $3.5 million in hush money to somebody in his hometown for a reported sex scandal. The former congressman made 15 cash withdrawals of $50,000 from bank accounts between 2010 and 2012. Then, in order to avoid the scrutiny that accompanies withdrawals of more than $10,000 at a time, he withdrew $952,000 in increments of less than $10,000 up until late 2014. When questioned why he was making the sizeable withdrawals, he responded that he didn’t trust the banking system.

Sadly, as detailed earlier in this post, that may be true; however, it’s unlikely to be his real reason.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Report: former US House Speaker allegedly paid $3.5 million to cover up a sex scandal,” from Business Insider, May 29, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Public Trust in Government: 1958-2014,” from Pew Research Center, Nov. 13, 2014.]

The thing about bad behavior is that it breeds mistrust. And trust in things like our financial system, elected government officials — and even the leaders of the sports industries where we spend much of our entertainment dollars — truly matter.

We understand that trust must be earned, and can be easily lost. That’s why we work every day to earn yours through diligence, responsiveness, knowledge and integrity. Call on us any time you need a financial professional you can count on.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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