Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Lottery Is No Retirement Plan

The Lottery Is No Retirement Plan
Pay yourself first instead, with your future in mind.

BY GREG OLIVER
Email : greg@go2ofs.com

Powerball fever swept across America last week, with a record jackpot of $1.5 billion eventually being split by three winners in the January 13 drawing. Millions lined up for lottery tickets, hoping to realize their dreams of being rich, independent, and carefree.1,2

This infinitesimal chance at massive wealth was certainly alluring – to too many, more alluring than the practical steps that can be taken in pursuit of personal wealth and retirement security.

The passion for Powerball defied logic. It may have been a commentary on our wishful thinking, and on the lack of financial literacy in America as well.

As Creighton University professor Brad Klontz remarked to CNBC, “A lot of individuals who are not saving for their retirement are standing in line to buy a Powerball ticket. It’s a lot more seductive than instituting a savings plan.”1

On January 13, a Powerball ticket buyer had a 1-in-292-million chance to win the big prize. In comparison, the odds of someone being killed by a falling vending machine within the next 365 days are 1 in 112 million, and the odds of a person being struck by both lightning and a meteorite during their lifetime are 1 in 210 million.2

When the Powerball jackpot reached $1.3 billion last week, a widely circulated Internet meme claimed that the jackpot could end poverty, stating that every American would get $4.3 million if it were divided equally among the population. This was passed along as truth rather than colossally bad math – it would only apply if there were 300 Americans. Since there are roughly 300 million Americans, divvying up the $1.3 billion across the entire U.S. population would give each of us $4.33, give or take a few cents – enough to buy a flavored latte.3

What if we simply saved $4.33 per day, or more? Our financial lives might take a turn for the better.

Usually, wealth is not a matter of fate or luck. We can all take practical steps toward financial freedom, and even if we do not end up rich, those steps may improve our personal finances and retirement prospects.

First, spend less than what you make. Two or three percent less, 5% less, 10% less – whatever the number, it must be calculated from a comparison of your monthly income versus your monthly budget. That comparison may take a half an hour, but it is time well spent. Size up the money coming into your household per month with the money going out of it per month, and set a percentage that you would like to save every month. In effect, you will be paying yourself X dollars a month – and paying yourself, rather than your creditors, is a fundamental move for financial independence.

Two, direct these savings into investment accounts as well as savings accounts. It is vital to build up savings so that you can have an emergency fund – a good, strong emergency fund amounts to several months’ worth of salary. Another portion of the money can go into retirement savings accounts, preferably to be invested in equities. Yes, 2016 has started poorly on Wall Street, but one bad month (or year) is not the historical norm for the market.

Three, cut down bad debts. There are some “good debts” in life – debts that we take on in pursuit of a worthy outcome, such as a home loan or an education loan. Bad debts outnumber them, and the average credit card statement will note many. Some financial professionals and consumer advocates will tell you to try and pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first, then the one with the next highest interest rate, and so on; others will tell you to eliminate the smallest debt first and work your way up to the largest. One way or the other, you want less debt and you want to pay off any credit card balances in full each month.

Four, chat with a financial professional to determine your money goals. When will you have enough savings to retire? When should you claim Social Security, and how long should you keep working? How much monthly income might you need when you are retired? Most people retire without any answers to these questions, only guesses. It is important to know not only what you are doing, but also where you are going – and through a long-run saving and investing strategy, you can set objectives and measure your progress toward them over time.

The fantasy of receiving great wealth with no effort inspires people to play the lottery and try other forms of gambling. The reality is that saving for retirement takes planning and commitment. While some may not want to acknowledge this reality, those who do may find themselves making financial strides as others struggle.

GREG OLIVER
oh/usa9237423poeruqioweei212

Citations.
1 – cnbc.com/2016/01/14/lost-the-powerball-now-its-time-to-really-focus-on-finances.html [1/14/16]
2 – latino.foxnews.com/latino/money/2016/01/13/what-powerball-chances-likelier-hit-both-meteorite/ [1/13/16]
3 – cnet.com/news/can-powerball-end-poverty-lottery-meme-fails-to-check-the-math/ [1/12/16]

The Right Beneficiary

The Right Beneficiary
Who should inherit your IRA or 401(k)? See that they do.

BY GREG OLIVER email greg@go2ofs.com

Here’s a simple financial question: who is the beneficiary of your IRA? How about your 401(k), life insurance policy, or annuity? You may be able to answer such a question quickly and easily. Or you may be saying, “You know … I’m not totally sure.” Whatever your answer, it is smart to periodically review your beneficiary designations.

Your choices may need to change with the times. When did you open your first IRA? When did you buy your life insurance policy? Was it back in the Eighties? Are you still living in the same home and working at the same job as you did back then? Have your priorities changed a bit – perhaps more than a bit?

While your beneficiary choices may seem obvious and rock-solid when you initially make them, time has a way of altering things. In a stretch of five or ten years, some major changes can occur in your life – and they may warrant changes in your beneficiary decisions.

In fact, you might want to review them annually. Here’s why: companies frequently change custodians when it comes to retirement plans and insurance policies. When a new custodian comes on board, a beneficiary designation can get lost in the paper shuffle. (It has happened.) If you don’t have a designated beneficiary on your 401(k), the assets may go to the “default” beneficiary when you pass away, which might throw a wrench into your estate planning.

How your choices affect your loved ones. The beneficiary of your IRA, annuity, 401(k) or life insurance policy may be your spouse, your child, maybe another loved one or maybe even an institution. Naming a beneficiary helps to keep these assets out of probate when you pass away.

Beneficiary designations commonly take priority over bequests made in a will or living trust. For example, if you long ago named a son or daughter who is now estranged from you as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, he or she is in line to receive the death benefit when you die, regardless of what your will states. Beneficiary designations allow life insurance proceeds to transfer automatically to heirs; these assets do not have go through probate.1,2

You may have even chosen the “smartest financial mind” in your family as your beneficiary, thinking that he or she has the knowledge to carry out your financial wishes in the event of your death. But what if this person passes away before you do? What if you change your mind about the way you want your assets distributed, and are unable to communicate your intentions in time? And what if he or she inherits tax problems as a result of receiving your assets? (See below.)

How your choices affect your estate. Virtually any inheritance carries a tax consequence. (Of course, through careful estate planning, you can try to defer or even eliminate that consequence.)

If you are simply naming your spouse as your beneficiary, the tax consequences are less thorny. Assets you inherit from your spouse aren’t subject to estate tax, as long as you are a U.S. citizen.3

When the beneficiary isn’t your spouse, things get a little more complicated for your estate, and for your beneficiary’s estate. If you name, for example, your son or your sister as the beneficiary of your retirement plan assets, the amount of those assets will be included in the value of your taxable estate. (This might mean a higher estate tax bill for your heirs.) And the problem will persist: when your non-spouse beneficiary inherits those retirement plan assets, those assets become part of his or her taxable estate, and his or her heirs might face higher estate taxes. Your non-spouse heir might also have to take required income distributions from that retirement plan someday, and pay the required taxes on that income.4

If you designate a charity or other 501(c)(3) non-profit organization as a beneficiary, the assets involved can pass to the charity without being taxed, and your estate can qualify for a charitable deduction.5

Are your beneficiary designations up to date? Don’t assume. Don’t guess. Make sure your assets are set to transfer to the people or institutions you prefer. Let’s check up and make sure your beneficiary choices make sense for the future. Just give me a call or send me an e-mail – I’m happy to help you.

GREGO

OLIVER Financial Services

GREG OLIVER -92348r9348591347859348]9581]-34-]3-4589]13485-]1238-]58913-]459-
Citations.
1 – smartmoney.com/taxes/estate/how-to-choose-a-beneficiary-1304670957977/ [6/10/11]
2 – www.dummies.com/how-to/content/bypassing-probate-with-beneficiary-designations.html [1/30/13]
3 – www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/estate-planning-when-you-re-married-noncitizen.html [1/30/13]
4 – individual.troweprice.com/staticFiles/Retail/Shared/PDFs/beneGuide.pdf [9/10]
5 – irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Frequently-Asked-Questions-on-Estate-Taxes [8/1/12]

Will You Avoid These Estate Planning Mistakes?

Will You Avoid These Estate Planning Mistakes?
Too many wealthy households commit these common blunders.

BY GREG OLIVER

Many people plan their estates diligently, with input from legal, tax, and financial professionals. Others plan earnestly, but make mistakes that can potentially affect both the transfer and destiny of family wealth. Here are some common and not-so-common errors to avoid.

Doing it all yourself. While you could write your own will or create a will or trust from a template, it can be risky to do so. Sometimes simplicity has a price. Look at the example of Warren Burger. The former Chief Justice of the United States wrote his own will, and it was just 176 words long. It proved flawed – after he died in 1995, his heirs wound up paying over $450,000 in estate taxes and other fees, costs that likely could have been avoided with a lengthier and less informal will containing appropriate language.1

Failing to update your will or trust after a life event. Relatively few estate plans are reviewed over time. Any life event should prompt you to review your will, trust, or other estate planning documents. So should a life event affecting one of your beneficiaries.

Appointing a co-trustee. Trust administration is not for everyone. Some people lack the interest, the time, or the understanding it requires, and others balk at the responsibility and potential liability involved. A co-trustee also introduces the potential for conflict.

Being too vague with your heirs about your estate plan. While you may not want to explicitly reveal who will get what prior to your passing, your heirs should have an understanding of the purpose and intentions at the heart of your estate planning. If you want to distribute more of your wealth to one child than another, write a letter to be presented after your death that explains your reasoning. Make a list of which heirs will receive particular collectibles or heirlooms. If your family has some issues, this may go a long way toward reducing squabbles and the possibility of legal costs eating up some of this or that heir’s inheritance.

Failing to consider what will happen if you & your partner are unmarried. The “marriage penalty” affecting joint filers aside, married couples receive distinct federal tax breaks in this country – estate tax breaks among them. This year, the lifetime gift and estate tax exclusion amount is $5.45 million for an individual, but $10.9 million for a married couple.1,2

If you live together and you are not married, it is worth considering how your unmarried status might affect your estate planning with regard to federal and state taxes. As Forbes mentioned last year, federal and state taxes claimed more than more than $15 million of the $35 million estate of Oscar-winning actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He left 100% of his estate to his longtime partner, and since they had never married, she could not qualify for the marriage exemption on inherited assets. While the individual lifetime gift and estate tax exclusion protected a relatively small portion of Hoffman’s estate from death taxes, the much larger remainder was taxed at rates of up to 40% rather than being passed tax-free. Hoffman also lived in New York, a state which levies a 16% estate tax for non-spouses once estates exceed $1 million.1

Leaving a trust unfunded (or underfunded). Through a simple, one-sentence title change, a married couple can fund a revocable trust with their primary residence. As an example, if a couple retitles their home from “Heather and Michael Smith, Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship” to “Heather and Michael Smith, Trustees of the Smith Revocable Trust dated (month)(day), (year)”. They are free to retitle myriad other assets in the trust’s name.1

Ignoring a caregiver with ulterior motives. Very few people consider this possibility when creating a will or trust, but it does happen. A caregiver harboring a hidden agenda may exploit a loved one to the point where he or she revises estate planning documents for the caregiver’s financial benefit.

The best estate plans are clear in their language, clear in their intentions, and updated as life events demand. They are overseen through the years with care and scrutiny, reflecting the magnitude of the transfer of significant wealth.

GREGO

513 . 860. 7934

greg@go2ofs.com

GREG OLIVER
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Citations.
1 – raymondjames.com/pointofview/seven_estate_planning_mistakes_to_avoid [10/16/15]
2 – fool.com/retirement/general/2015/12/11/estate-planning-in-2016-heres-what-you-need-to-kno.aspx [12/11/15]

China’s Stock Market Turmoil

China’s Stock Market Turmoil
Can U.S. shares hold up in the wake of January’s shocks?

BY GREG OLIVER

On January 7, China halted stock trading for the second time in four days. The benchmark Shanghai Composite sank 7.0% on January 4 and dropped 7.3% three days later, both times activating a new circuit-breaker rule that stopped the trading session.1

Markets worldwide fell in reaction to these dramatic plunges. On January 7 alone, Japan’s Nikkei 225 and Germany’s DAX both suffered selloffs of 2.3%. On the same day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped below the 17,000 level and the S&P 500 closed below 2,000.1,2,3

While the Dow and S&P respectively lost 2.3% and 2.4% Thursday, the Nasdaq Composite lost 3% and actually corrected from its July record settlement of 5,218.86.3

Why is China’s stock market slipping? You can cite several reasons. You have the well-noted slowdown of the country’s manufacturing sector, its rocky credit markets, and the instability in its exchange rate. You have Chinese concerns about the slide in oil prices, heightened at the beginning of January by the erosion of diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia. You have China’s neighbor, North Korea, proclaiming that its arsenal now includes the hydrogen bomb. Finally, you have a wave of small investors caught up in margin trading and playing the market “like visitors to the dog track,” as reporter Evan Osnos wrote in the New Yorker. More than 38 million new retail brokerage accounts opened in China in a three-month period in 2015, shortly after the Communist Party spurred households to invest in stocks. Less than 10 million new brokerage accounts had opened in China in all of 2014.1,4

In trying to calm its markets, China may have done more harm than good. Chinese officials spent more than $1 trillion in 2015 to try and reassure investors, and right now they have little to show for it. Interest rates have been lowered; the yuan has been devalued again and again. The government has also made two abrupt (and to some observers, questionable) moves.2

Last July, they barred all shareholders owning 5% or more of a company from selling their stock for six months. That ban was set to expire on January 8, and that deadline stirred up bearish sentiment in the market this week. The prohibition was just renewed, with modifications, for three more months.4

On January 4, the China Securities Regulatory Commission instituted a circuit-breaker rule that would pause trading for 15 minutes upon a 5% market dive and end the trading day when stocks slumped 7% or more. On January 7, the CSRC scrapped the rule amid criticism that it was being triggered too easily; Thursday ended up being the shortest trading day in the history of China’s stock market. In the view of Hao Hong, chief China strategist at Bocom International Holdings, the circuit-breaker rule clearly backfired: it produced a “magnet effect,” with selloffs accelerating and liquidity evaporating as prices approached the breaker.1,2

As Peking University HSBC Business School economics professor Christopher Balding commented to Quartz, the CSRC seems to lack sufficient understanding of “what markets are, how they work or how they are going to react.” Quite possibly, China will make further dramatic moves to try and reduce stock market volatility this month. Will U.S. stocks rally upon such measures? Possibly, possibly not.2

Wall Street is contending with other headwinds. The oversupply of oil continues: according to Yardeni Research, world crude oil output rose 2.4% in the 12 months ending in November to a new record of 95.2 million barrels a day.1

Additionally, the pace of American manufacturing is a worldwide concern. In December, the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing PMI showed sector contraction (a reading under 50) for a second straight month. Factory orders were down for a thirteenth consecutive month in November (the first time a streak of declines that long has occurred outside of a recession) and the November durable goods orders report also disappointed investors.1,5

Citigroup maintains an Economic Surprise Index – a measure of the distance between analyst forecasts and actual numbers for various economic indicators. It just touched lows unseen since early last year, which is not a good sign as equities tend to react the most to surprises.1

If the Labor Department’s December employment report and the upcoming earnings season live up to expectations, stocks might recover from this descent even if China does little to stem the volatility in its market. The greater probability is that more market turmoil lies ahead. That short-term probability should not dissuade an investor from the long-run potential of stocks.

GREG OLIVER

513.860.7934

GREG OLIVER -3489348t9348]059t349ot5]-12-340-
Citations.
1 – cbsnews.com/news/7-reasons-the-dow-lost-17000/ [1/7/16]
2 – qz.com/588386/chinas-new-stock-market-circuit-breaker-is-broken-and-it-is-panicking-investors/ [1/7/16]
3 – usatoday.com/story/money/markets/2016/01/06/china-stocks/78390650/ [1/7/16]
4 – latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-a-reminder-china-s-stock-market-is-a-clown-show-20160107-column.html# [1/7/16]
5 – briefing.com/investor/calendars/economic/2016/01/04-08 [1/7/16]

How LTC Insurance Can Help Protect Your Assets

How LTC Insurance Can Help Protect Your Assets
Create a pool of healthcare dollars that will grow in any market.

BY GREG OLIVER

How will you pay for long term care? The sad fact is that most people don’t know the answer to that question. But a solution is available.

As baby boomers leave their careers behind, long term care insurance will become very important in their financial strategies. The reasons to get an LTC policy after age 50 are very compelling.

Your premium payments buy you access to a large pool of money which can be used to pay for long term care costs. By paying for LTC out of that pool of money, you can preserve your retirement savings and income.

The cost of assisted living or nursing home care alone could motivate you to pay the premiums. Genworth Financial conducts a respected annual Cost of Care Survey to gauge the price of long term care in the U.S. Here is a summary of the 2013 survey’s key findings:

*In 2013, the median annual cost of a private room in a nursing home was $83,950 or $230 per day – up 3.6% from 2012. In the past five years, the cost has risen about 4.5% annually.
*A private one-bedroom unit in an assisted living facility has a median cost of $3,450 a month, or $41,400 annually. It was 4.5% cheaper last year.
*The median payment to a non-Medicare certified, state-licensed home health aide is $19 an hour in 2013, up 2.3% from 2012.1

Can you imagine spending an extra $40-85K out of your retirement savings in a year? What if you had to do it for more than one year?

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services estimates that about 70% of Americans will need some kind of long term care during their lifetimes. Additionally, 69% of Americans older than 90 have some form of disability – often a direct cause for long term care.2

Why procrastinate? The earlier you opt for LTC coverage, the cheaper the premiums. This is why many people purchase it before they retire. Those in poor health or over the age of 80 are frequently ineligible for coverage.

What does it pay for? Some people think LTC coverage just pays for nursing home care. That’s inaccurate. It can pay for a wide variety of nursing, social, and rehabilitative services at home and away from home, for people with a chronic illness or disability or people who just need assistance bathing, eating or dressing.3

How much will your DBA be? DBA stands for Daily Benefit Amount – the maximum amount that your LTC plan will pay per day for care in a nursing home facility. You can choose a Daily Benefit Amount when you pay for your LTC coverage, and you can also choose the length of time that you may receive the full DBA on a daily basis. The DBA typically ranges from a few dozen dollars to hundreds of dollars. A small number of these plans offer you “inflation protection” at enrollment, meaning that every few years, you will have the chance to buy additional coverage and get compounding – so your pool of money can grow.

Medicare is not long term care insurance. Some people think Medicare will pick up the cost of long term care. That is a misconception. Medicare will only pay for the first 100 days of nursing home care, and only if 1) you are getting skilled care and 2) you go into the nursing home right after a hospital stay of at least 3 days. Medicare also covers limited home visits for skilled care, and some hospice services for the terminally ill. That’s all.4

Now, Medicaid can actually pay for long term care – if you are destitute. Are you willing to wait until you are broke for a way to fund long term care? Of course not. LTC insurance provides a way to do it.4

Why not look into this? You may have heard that LTC insurance is expensive compared with some other forms of coverage. But the annual premiums – in the vicinity of $2,000-2,500 for the typical policy right now – are cheap compared to real-world LTC costs.3

Ask an insurance or financial professional about some of the LTC choices you can explore. While many Americans have life, health and disability insurance, that’s not the same thing as long term care coverage.

BY GREGO

Email greg@go2ofs.com

Citations.
1 – www.genworth.com/dam/Americas/US/PDFs/Consumer/corporate/131168_031813_Executive%20Summary.pdf [3/18/13]
2 – longtermcare.gov/the-basics/who-needs-care/ [3/18/13]
3 – www.marketwatch.com/story/long-term-care-coverage-worth-the-price-2012-12-04 [12/4/12]
4 – www.medicare.gov/longtermcare/static/home.asp [8/3/12]
Grego -9238r09123923]93485]93458]3049581]4985//// I//UD//USA
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