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Feeling Like a Fish Out of Water

As the 2016 election approaches, immigration is being brought up more than ever.

But the issue is nothing new, and will still be around long after the next U.S. President is elected.

Some have viewed immigration as a concern since the French, Spanish, Dutch and Swedish settled in America back in the late 16th century, while others argue none of us would be here in the first place if it wasn’t for immigration.

We’ve all had a first day at a new school or job where we had to wonder how we would be treated and if we would fit in. Imagine that predicament if you moved to a place where everyone around you had a different native tongue.

On occasion, consumers unfamiliar with the world of finance may feel like everyone’s speaking a whole new language. Our job as your financial professional is to clear this confusion and help ensure your financial strategy is suited to your unique needs.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Immigration Timeline,” from The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “U.S. Immigration Before 1965,” from History.com, 2015.]

Like any other time in our nation’s history, viewpoints on immigration are all over the spectrum. Today’s presidential candidates have proposed interesting ways to deal with immigration, from building a wall with a big, welcoming gate, to tracking people the way UPS tracks packages.

[CLICK HERE to view the article and video, “Trump Gets Down to Business on 60 Minutes,” from CBSnews.com, Sept. 27, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Ben Carson Immigration Reform: Let Undocumented Immigrants Work on Farms,” from International Business Times, Sept. 16, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Where Do the Presidential Candidates Stand on Immigration?” from Bloomberg, May 6, 2015.]

Some economic analysts offer a different perspective. For example, in response to a comment made by Donald Trump early in his campaign, one scholar reveals that the immigrant crime rate in the U.S. is very low compared to native people.

Many also believe that more immigration is necessary to replace the tens of millions of retiring baby boomers over the next two decades, and that it is a tremendous driver of economic growth. In fact, many of Silicon Valley’s startups in the 1990s were founded by immigrant entrepreneurs.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Immigration Boogeyman: Separating Fact from Fiction,” from Knowledge@Wharton, Sept. 30, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Immigration Act That Inadvertently Changed America,” from The Atlantic, Oct. 2, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Modern Immigration Wave Brings 59 Million to U.S., Driving Population Growth and Change Through 2065,” from Pew Research Center, Sept. 28, 2015.]

It takes more than luck and courage to try something new and succeed, yet for hundreds of years, millions of immigrants have done just that. The same can be said for deciding on the strategies that can help you feel confident in your family’s future.

For many people, trying to navigate the financial world can make you feel like you’re not in your element — a fish out of water. Luckily, it’s our world, and we welcome the opportunity to help you make decisions that can benefit you now and for years to come.

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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You Might Be Overdue for a Leadership Shakeup

In September, a celebrated visit from Pope Francis made quite an impression on Americans. During a political era when discussions of both church and state are increasingly divisive, somehow the Argentinian leader of the Catholic Church grabbed attention from every end of the spectrum for his message of unity and cooperation.

In many ways, Pope Francis has transformed papal leadership with his willingness to depart from traditional norms or expectations. From his access to the public — even mastering social media — to his outward demonstration of the value he places on all people, which includes inviting the homeless to eat with him and empowering his subordinates with decision-making authority, his leadership style alone has impressed believers and nonbelievers alike.

An effective leadership style can make all the difference, and when it comes to your personal finances, we hope you’ll find that we lead by giving you the information you need to take charge of your financial future.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Pope Francis, in Congress, Pleads for Unity on World’s Woes,” from The New York Times, Sept. 24, 2015.]

Even the United States is grappling with the issue of leadership as the two biggest parties gear up for the 2016 presidential race. Certainly, there are various types of leadership styles, with varying levels of success. As American voters consider who will sit in the White House next, it’s important to recognize, too, that a style of leadership that may have been very effective in one circumstance may not resonate with all constituents; some may respond well while others do not.

We see this again and again with different critiques of leaders, such as Carly Fiorina’s role as chief executive officer of Hewlett Packard, and the soon-to-be-former Speaker of the House, John Boehner.

Whether these critiques are fair or not, it is undeniable that, at least for the Republican voter base, a leadership shakeup, or a departure from “business as usual,” is attractive. The top polling candidates for the GOP — Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson — are newcomers to politics. None have held public office, which is traditionally a “must” on the resume of the top elected public official in the country. Whether their current traction in the race is sustainable or not, their lack of experience in the public sector has helped rather than harmed the three candidates in the polls, reflecting a growing reconsideration of what “leadership” means.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Carly Fiorina’s Legacy as CEO of Hewlett Packard,” from Harvard Business Review, Sept. 25, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Boehner departs as least-popular speaker in three decades,” from The Washington Post, Sept. 25, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Poll: Fiorina rockets to No. 2 behind Trump in GOP field,” from CNN Politics, Sept. 21, 2015.]

You can also work on a personal leadership shakeup, regardless of whether you are responsible for several people, a business, a family or just yourself and Bubbles the goldfish. The qualities being repeated in headlines and talking head soundbites can be equally effective within your own life, helping you accomplish your own goals. For example, take some of the leadership qualities of Pope Francis:

  • Accessibility — Be available to loved ones, family, friends and colleagues.
  • Compassion — Show others respect, no matter their circumstances.
  • Empowerment — Vet well and trust others to make decisions on your behalf.
  • Courage — Sometimes the greatest risk is to speak up or act on your convictions, even when you know you’ll go against the grain, but it is better to be authentic.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “5 Leadership Lessons from Pope Francis,” from Fast Company, Sept. 25, 2015.]

Applying these qualities in your own life might help you to feel more involved or more empowered to act. Remember, your actions today are the beginning of your legacy and your future. And as always, if you are ready to act in the area of finances, we are here to help.

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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Young Adults Left Waiting on Post-Recession Employment

Underemployment is a problem that has been particularly difficult on recent college graduates, but its effects are felt by all demographics.

Although the unemployment rate is down, you could say we have the most well-educated bartenders and busboys in history. The World Economic Forum found that most college-educated workers took jobs in low-earning industries between 2000 and 2014, and wages of young college graduates are 2.5 percent lower than they were in 2000.

This has an impact on more than just graduates and the parents they may be moving back in with. Unemployed and underemployed people spend less on consumables. In turn, low demand for goods and services leads to lower growth, and companies that aren’t growing don’t create more jobs.

As a whole, the nation’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.1 percent in August, but it was at 7.2 percent for recent college graduates and 19.5 percent for those fresh out of high school. This means that more than a quarter of this teenage generation is unable to buy a new car, house or other perks that come with being in the job market.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why college-educated workers are taking low-paid jobs,” from World Economic Forum, Sept. 4, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the report, “The Class of 2015: Despite an Improving Economy, Young Grads Still Face an Uphill Climb,” from Economic Policy Institute; May 27, 2015.]

All of this is just part of the reason the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee decided against raising interest rates in September — also citing global issues and their impact on the U.S. stock market.

Please contact us if you wish to discuss how this may impact your current financial strategy.

[CLICK HERE to read the media release, “Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Summary,” from Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sept. 18, 2015.]

The lack of jobs and a stalemate in the real estate market have contributed to slow recovery in many areas of the country. Six years after the recession ended, many cities in the Southwest have the lowest recovery rates based on 17 economic indicators, such as home-price appreciation and wage growth. Nine of the 15 cities in the worst shape are located in Arizona and Nevada.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Cities in the Southwest Are Still Waiting for a Recovery,” from The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 18, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “2015′s Most & Least Recession-Recovered Cities,” from WalletHub, Sept. 14, 2015.]

As you might have guessed, those faring best in the post-recovery stage are people who already possessed a substantial amount of wealth. Earnings have increased among households ranked in the 90th and 95th percentiles of wealth in the U.S. since the recession, but on average, income levels for all other groups are still below 2006 levels. Today, the median household income is 6.5 percent lower than it was in 2007, the year the recession started.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Richest Americans Are Winning the Economic Recovery,” from Bloomberg, Sept. 16, 2015.]

One of the best lessons we can extract from the recession is that we can’t control what will happen with the economy, but we can be proactive about what we do with our assets. Regardless of where you stand in the recovery spectrum, please give us a call to discuss potential strategies for positioning your assets that can help ensure your family’s financial future.

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 Role Can you Play in the National Economy?

Thanks to our nation’s growth in employment levels, low gas prices and stability in the real estate market, it was expected that consumer confidence would remain steady.

Instead, the index measuring consumer confidence dropped to its lowest mark of the year, from 91.1 in August to 85.7 in mid-September.

So, what gives? Some experts believe this lackluster attitude is in response to the volatility the stock market experienced in August, when the S&P 500 dropped by about 6 percent.

Still, this disappointment on the part of consumers has one upside: They are off the sidelines and keeping a close eye on what happens with their assets.

This is a good reminder that no matter how well off you are, you should never be complacent about your finances. As your financial professional, we consider it part of our role to help clients feel confident about their future.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “August’s stock market mayhem has Americans feeling worse about everything,” from Business Insider, Sept. 11, 2015.]

In a recent Wall Street Journal survey of private economists, more than half believed that an increase in consumer spending could have a significant impact on economic expansion, particularly moving into the fourth-quarter holiday season.

The lesson here? Don’t be a cheapskate … although you may get a kick out of reading about some of the wealthiest cheapskates of all time in the article below.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “What’s Most Likely to Shift Economy Toward Faster Growth? Consumers,” from The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 11, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “10 of the Richest Cheapskates of All Time,” from Time.com, 2015.]

Researchers at the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank recently compiled data on how people of all ages manage their money. While the results are mixed across all demographics, there was a meaningful tip that applies to all ages: Don’t judge yourself based on point-in-time circumstances, because life accomplishments and income accumulation is a process. Wealth typically doesn’t happen overnight.

[CLICK HERE to view the video, “What Roles Do Age and Birth Year Play in Income and Wealth?” from St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank, July 15, 2015.]

Here’s another idea to play a role in our nation’s health: Engage in political oversight. We’re embarking on an election year, and the media is already running rampant with stories. Make sure you get the facts — the real facts, not some pundit’s interpretation of them.

Although we are continually inundated with campaign rhetoric and a muckraking frenzy, don’t forget that Congress has some pretty big issues to resolve before the end of the year. If you’ve never written your congressional representatives in the past, you may want to take advantage of easy online communication forms to let them know what issues are most important to you as a constituent.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Five Fiscal Deadlines to Watch This Fall,” from The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 11, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Find Your Representative,” from House.gov, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How to contact U.S. Senators,” from Senate.gov, 2015.]

As always, we stay on top of today’s issues, headlines and economic news and understand how various factors can impact your financial future. If you’d like to get together to discuss your personal 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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Women and the Process of Retirement Planning

Planning for retirement income shouldn’t stop just because you retire. It’s a process, much like raising children and pursuing a career.

You learn, you implement, you make mistakes, you seek advice. So whether you are already retired, nearing retiring or thinking about it as an abstract concept many years away, we can help you engage in this ongoing process.

In addition to general retirement income planning for a couple, it’s a good idea for married couples to also engage in individual reitrement income planning. Odds are, one spouse will live longer than the other, so it’s important to plan for financial security once one spouse has passed away. Given that women generally live longer than men, this can be especially important for them. 

[CLICK HERE to read the report, “Impact of Retirement Risk on Women,” from Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “10 Money Tips for Retired Women on Fixed Incomes,” from NextAvenue.org, Aug. 28, 2015.]

Needs change throughout life, whether you’re a man or a woman. But a change in marital status can have a more detrimental impact on financial security in retirement for women.

When a woman gets divorced, she is likely to lose her survivor’s benefits from her ex-husband’s pension plan. That’s why it’s important as part of the divorce settlement to draw up a special court order, called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, that can specifically provide for a survivor’s pension in the event of divorce.

Widows now have protection for survivor’s benefits, thanks to a 1984 law that requires private pension plans to provide a pension to a worker’s surviving wife (or husband) if the employee earned a benefit.

In fact, the employee’s spouse has to provide written permission in order to waive this right. Note, however, that this legislation only applies to private pension plans. If the spouse worked at a state, local or federal government job, then the widow should find out what rules apply to that pension.

Now, some people suffer through one or more divorces and decide, “That’s it. I’m not ever getting married again.” They may engage in a long-term relationship and even share a home with a partner, but simply not marry. This arrangement should be considered in the process of retirement income planning, because common law and non-married partners may not have a legal right to survivor benefits from Social Security or pension plans. Despite its troubles, marriage may still have financial benefits, depending on the situation.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Rights of Surviving Spouses,” from Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Widows and Widowhood,” from Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, 2015.]

If you’re a working woman, you have plenty of good income planning options. Especially when you consider that within the next 15 years, it’s estimated that women will control two-thirds of the wealth in the U.S.

That is particularly remarkable when you consider that, on average, women still earn about 22 cents less per dollar than men. But women will need the extra funds, because right now experts project that 70 percent of baby boomer wives will outlive their husbands by 15 to 20 years.

[CLICK HERE to view the video, “The Financial Divide: Women and Wealth,” from Regions Bank, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Women and Retirement Savings,” from U.S. Department of Labor, August 2013.]

Regardless of where you are in the lifelong process of retirement income planning, it’s certainly never too late to get started. Even if you have a plan for retirement income as a couple, it’s a good idea to ensure it would cover a surviving spouse.

As always, we’re here to help you with just that type of retirement income planning — now, and as you need it throughout your lifetime.

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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Finding Fulfillment in Part-Time Work

Professional employees in their 50s and 60s are starting to think more strategically about retirement. Not just about how to pay for it, but how they’ll spend their time once they get there.

For some, that means they’d like to keep doing what they’re doing — just not quite so much of it. According to one survey, 80 percent of workers in their 50s and up indicate an interest in staying in the workforce past their planned retirement date if they could scale back their hours and responsibilities.

Take Steve Norwitz, for example. After 38 years working in media relations at T. Rowe Price, he took a 25 percent pay cut in exchange for just over three months’ vacation time each year. Now, at age 68, in between the special projects he manages for the company, Steve and his wife have traveled to Ecuador, China and Slovenia and taken a river cruise down the Rhine.

When he’s home, Steve’s happily engaged at work and out of his wife’s hair. It’s a win-win, not only for the couple, but also for his company that benefits from his same experience for a much lower price.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Facing Retirement, but Easing Your Way Out the Door,” from The New York Times, Aug. 28, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to view the infographic, “Retirement Throughout the Ages: Expectations and Preparations of Workers of All Ages,” from Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 2015.]

As your financial professional, we specialize in creating financial retirement solutions, but not all of them are asset-based. As people live longer, a better solution than retiring altogether might be to save for periods of unemployment, with eventual returns in and out of the workforce. For that, you need flexible and customized retirement income strategies.

Today’s buzz word in the halls of human resource departments is “work-life balance.” If the millennials can demand it, why not soon-to-be retirees? According to one research report, work-life balance is the single most important factor on staff morale — up from its No. 6 ranking in 2009. Interestingly, it’s those in senior management who complain of having the worst work-life balance.

Maybe it’s time for a change. Not a dramatic change, like retirement, but a reorganization of priorities — so mature workers can keep the responsibilities they like and delegate the ones they don’t. At the same time, this opens the door for younger workers to pick up more responsibilities and management opportunities under the watchful eye of an experienced coach.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Bosses have the worst work-life balance in 2015,” from Human Resources Online, Aug. 18, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the report, “Wellbeing and Business Performance,” from Morgan Redwood, 2015.]

Unfortunately, while it looks like companies are starting to embrace a culture change that includes workplace flexibility, not everyone is on board. And so it may in your world. But consider whether that should stop you from achieving your own work-life balance.

There are other companies and other jobs that may value your skills and experience in a less demanding environment. To go this route, consider two things. First, focus on your skill set, not your past job descriptions. You may find that your knowledge is applicable across different types of businesses and industries.

Second, consider how to transform from a workaholic Type A personality to a more laid-back Type B. This doesn’t mean you have to drop your standards for work performance, simply that you learn to enjoy your labors more. After all, at the pre-retirement stage in a career it’s important to appreciate that work is a privilege, since it may not always be an option.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Future of Work and Our Social Compact,” from Forbes, June 18, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the report, “How to Go From Type A to Type B in Retirement,” from NextAvenue, July 14, 2015.]

If you’d like to discuss ways to integrate your retirement income plan with your career, 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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Waste Not, Want Not

The proverb, “Waste not, want not,” suggests that if you use a commodity or resource carefully, you will never be in need.

As a nation, we’ve seriously enhanced our efforts in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” department over the past 20 years, but we still have a ways to go in some aspects.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Everything you ever wanted to know about recycling,” from Marketplace.org, July 6, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Recycling Industry Created Its Own Mess,” from BloombergView, July 9, 2015.]

Time and money are wasted most when people work at cross purposes and have competing intentions. This is evident in spending at all levels, from the budgets of individual people all the way up to the billions spent by the federal government.

Even attempts to save can ultimately lead to waste. When a department hasn’t spent its allotted budget, it might stock up on things like ancillary office supplies or furniture because if the full budget isn’t spent, the unused amount may be cut the following year. 

This is similar to what we sometimes do in our own homes. We might track expenses and successfully reduce our utility or grocery bills, then reward ourselves with a more expensive vacation or splurge on holiday gifts. Perhaps that’s OK if we are saving for that specific purpose, but if the goal of reducing expenses is to save more for college or retirement, then we’re working at cross purposes.

Some waste tactics are specifically deployed for longer-term objectives, but others times we act without forethought or a plan. That’s why professional financial guidance is so important — to keep us mindful of our spending and savings habits and focus on financial goals.

Excessive spending in the U.S. isn’t just limited to consumers. In his most recent “Waste Report,” Representative Steve Russell (R-Okla.) identified 10 wasteful government projects that cost taxpayers approximately $4.2 billion, ranging from “a wacky theater troupe in San Francisco to military helicopters purchased from Russia.”

[CLICK HERE to read the report, “Waste Watch,” from Rusell.House.gov, July 2015.]

Nowhere are competing interests more evident than in Congress. In the summer of 2015 alone, 77 bills were passed in the House and 36 were passed in the Senate, but only 27 of those were signed into law.

When Republicans sponsor a bill, Democrats will often sponsor similar legislation with just a few alterations, and vice versa. This political jostling may benefit one party or the other in the end, but taxpayers are left to pay the excess money it takes to drive two or more similar bills through the legislative system.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Congress’s Summer Session — A Recap,” from GovTrak.us, Aug. 18, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “American economy blues: Everything you need to worry about,” from Fortune, Aug. 20, 2015.]

There’s only so much we can do about how the federal government allocates its time and money, but getting the most out of your personal finances is in your control. Call us if you ever have questions about managing your money.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. We are not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

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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The End of the Material World?

In the 1980s, Madonna sang about being a material girl living in a material world.

Following the economic slump of the 1970s, the ’80s came to be known as “The Decade of Excess,” featuring a sustained period of low unemployment and strong economic growth. It was an era of big hair, big shoulder pads and big spenders.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Back to the Future: U.S. Economy In 1985 versus 2015,” from ValueWalk, Jan. 8, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The US economy isn’t having a ’90s flashback, it’s having an ’80s flashback … and it’s totally rad,” from Quartz, Jan. 6, 2015.]

But recently, there’s been a shift toward more conservative spending — not surprising after the multi-year recession followed by slow economic recovery. Every generation has its reasons for increased frugality.

  • Seniors living longer and wary of outliving their savings.
  • Baby boomers wondering if they’ve saved enough for their own retirement.
  • Increased college tuition and health care spending preventing Generation X from enjoying the traditional growth pattern of “trading up” in houses and lifestyle.
  • Millennials saddled with student debt and a long period of high unemployment.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why millennials and the Depression-era generation are more similar than you think,” from Fortune, April 29, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Challenges of the Aging Industry,” from the American Society on Aging, Aug. 13, 2015.]

As your financial professional, we’re here to help you address concerns like these so you don’t have to wonder where you stand financially now and in the future.

Regardless of your position, everyone’s always looking to save a penny or two. But doing so doesn’t mean you have to hole up in your house and cancel your upcoming trips. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

The past 10 years have spawned an abundance of studies revealing that it’s experiences, not possessions, that bring enduring happiness. In fact, the anticipation of buying something appears to be more satisfying than the actual ownership, and experiential purchases like trips, concerts and movies tend to be more gratifying than material purchases.

That’s not to say people necessarily are spending less money, simply that a shift in what they buy — experiences versus material goods — can lead to greater fulfillment.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Buy Experiences, Not Things,” from The Atlantic, Oct. 7, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Stores Suffer From a Shift of Behavior in Buyers,” from The New York Times, Aug. 13, 2015.]

In July 2015, data released by the Commerce Department demonstrated that Americans are indeed spending more money on things that at least enhance their daily life experiences. This included dining out more, renovating their homes and spending money on sports equipment and beauty aids.

These consumer items may not take up space in our homes, but they do serve to enhance the way we feel about ourselves. And that’s no small thing.

The same can be said for saving more for your retirement. The money you put away isn’t tangible — it won’t be sitting on your mantel or parked in your driveway. But it can definitely make you feel better about the investment you’re making in your future, and provide a sense of confidence that no manner of clothes or electronics can replicate.

We’re here to help you create that sense of well-being and confidence. Call us for a guiding hand.

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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Gaining Interest in the U.S. Economy

The Federal Reserve doesn’t just raise interest rates on a whim.

While a steady economy and improving unemployment rates have many convinced a rate hike is in order for the United States, there is plenty of reason for the Fed to play it safe before issuing an increase.

Some say low interest rates have helped stimulate recent economic growth by making money cheap to borrow. Companies invest more in their operations, and consumers buy more houses, cars and other large-ticket items.

However, others argue, the more people buy, the more manufacturers believe they can charge, and this can lead to inflation. The Fed tries to pre-empt this from happening by raising interest rates to slow inflation and keep supply and demand in check.

There are positives and negatives to an interest rate increase, and how it affects you depends on your financial situation.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “September Is Looking Likelier for Fed’s First Rate Increase,” from The New York Times, July 29, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Jobs report supports a Fed rate hike in September,” from MarketWatch, Aug. 7, 2015.]

One positive of interest rate adjustments is the prevention of artificially cheap capital that might be enticing at the present moment, but doesn’t necessarily increase productivity, and can stunt long-term growth. At least one industry analyst contends that raising rates is necessary to curb excessive borrowing and the allocation of capital into less productive ventures.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Rates Must Rise to Avert Next Crisis,” from Guggenheim Partners, July 17, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Janet Yellen’s Dashboard,” from Hutchins Center on Fiscal & Monetary Policy at Brookings, Aug. 7, 2015.]

A change in the direction of interest rates is likely to impact us all in various ways and to various degrees — affecting everything from mortgages and car loans to credit card debt, investments and savings accounts.

One area of the U.S. economy that has been on the decline, even with low interest rates, is homeownership. The percentage of people who own homes is approaching historic lows, currently at its lowest point since 1967.

The hardest hit demographic is Generation X, which was in a prime position for a first-time home purchase, or to trade-up after having children, when the real estate market crashed. Now, homeownership rates among gen-Xers (ages 35-54) have fallen further than any other age group. Compared to same-aged households 20 years ago, they are 4 to 5 percentage points lower.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “U.S. Homeownership Drops to its Lowest Level Since 1967,” from Time, July 28, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the report, “The State of the Nation’s Housing: 2015,” from Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, 2015.]

As evidenced with the surprisingly low homeowner statistics, predicting interest rate and the economy’s effects on the nation as a whole can be difficult. But, as always, our focus is on your individual financial situation. If we can help you understand your financial future, and how the current interest rate environment applies to you, 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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The Shame Game: How Much Does Peer Pressure Motivate Us?

The globalized age of the Internet has deepened an already uncomfortable fact of human society: shame. Classroom bullying has migrated to text and social media. Business reputation is more Yelp or Angie’s List than word of mouth. But how much does the power of public shame actually affect our behavior?  

There is dissent over how much peer pressure can motivate, and, of course, this can include pressures over retirement preparations. In one study, nearly a third of respondents said they made positive financial decisions based on how they felt about falling behind their peers in savings and salary. However, in another study, the same kind of peer pressure demoralized participants. It had the opposite effect; learning they were so far behind the curve made respondents less likely to sign up to participate in their company’s retirement savings plan. 

Thankfully, we don’t worry about “keeping up with the Joneses” when we help people craft their retirement income strategies. After all, the success of your planning will be judged against your goals, your expectations and your lifestyle, not anyone else’s. Contact us if you would like our guidance in helping you get on the right track for financial confidence. 

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How peer pressure can help you save for retirement,” from Bloomberg, June 9, 2015.] 

[CLICK HERE to listen to the report, “Why Peer Pressure Doesn’t Add Up To Retirement Savings,” from NPR, July 31, 2015.] 

So, amid the tools available for manipulating behavior, whether that of an individual, company, sector, country or global initiative, how effective is “naming and shaming”?

At least one customer-service poll indicates, at least at the corporate level, it isn’t terribly effective. In an age when companies known for superior customer service can be few and far between, some companies are better known for their poor customer service than for their products or services. It should be no surprise, then, which companies made this year’s “Customer Service Hall of Shame” in a recent poll by 24/7 Wall St., which was dominated by representation in the cable/satellite and banking sectors. Several of the companies on this list are repeat offenders; some for seven years running.

The fact they don’t improve customer service despite suffering from such a bad reputation begs the question: Does shaming EVER work?

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Customer Service Hall of Shame,” from Yahoo Finance, July 31, 2015.]

The authors of “Shame and the Motivation to Change the Self” (Emotion, December 2014) would argue it does. They maintain the human experience of shame is associated with a motivation to change, and that it can be a positive factor of personal growth.

For instance, peer pressure can make us more charitable. A study published in The Economic Journal revealed that when asked to give to a charity, donors would investigate others’ past donations to help them determine how much to give. Their contributions had more to do with “keeping up with the Joneses” than how they felt about the charity’s mission. The study concluded large donations served to put pressure on other donors, who were then driven to display their own wealth via similar donated amounts.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Shame and Motivation to Change,” from Psychology Today, Jan. 29, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “This Little-Known Tactic Gets People to Donate to Online Fundraisers: Peer Pressure,” from Huffington Post, June 18, 2015.]

Certainly, when it comes to traditional, interpersonal shame (the kind that existed even in the nostalgic days pre-Internet), it continues to be a powerful tool of society. In small villages in a Himalayan valley where people rely on each other to share, cutting off your neighbor’s access to water and power can result in being cast out. Perpetrators are not just cut off from access to the resources they denied their neighbor. The other villagers stop speaking to the offenders altogether. The very power of this shaming tactic is what keeps inhabitants alive and thriving in these hardship areas.

 [CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Power of Peer Pressure,” from Slate.com, March 25, 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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