Prescription for Retail Therapy

How much do you use of what you buy? Research reveals that Americans throw away 30 percent to 40 percent of the food they purchase.1 That’s just food, most of which you see daily and toss out regularly as it goes bad. But what about the things that don’t go bad — the sports equipment in the hall closet, the coat you bought for one trip or the shoes you love but never wear?

Why do we buy so much?

Maybe it’s because shopping carts are bigger. That’s right; today’s average shopping cart is three times as big as when they were first introduced in 1938.2 Here’s another interesting tidbit: Customers buy more impulse items when they grab a handheld shopping basket instead of a cart.3 Perhaps that’s because we go into a store knowing we want only one or two items but get a higher sense of fulfillment if we add just one or two more to the basket — because there’s room, and we can.

Retailers conduct research on how to encourage consumers to spend more money. There’s an entire industry devoted to studying shopping habits. Therefore, the more you know, the better you can identify retail traps. It’s not that you shouldn’t buy things; it’s that you shouldn’t buy things you don’t want or need, so it’s good to identify when you’re about to fall into a retailer’s trap. After all, the less you buy, the more you save. And the more you save, the better we can help you explore ways to create a retirement income strategy that you can have confidence in.

One nice perk some stores offer is a place to sit and rest. It’s good for bored children, patient spouses and weary shoppers laden with packages. But you should know that some stores, such as IKEA, set up displays of items that aren’t selling that well near these sitting areas.4 Apparently, staring at an item long enough while in repose can trigger an interest in buying it.

Some people use shopping like comfort food, as a way to temporarily make them feel better after a bad day or stressful situation. This is affectionately called “retail therapy.”5 In fact, studies show that about 62 percent of Americans tend to self-soothe by shopping. Scientists say we feel better because our brain releases a chemical called dopamine when we encounter something novel or exciting. However, it’s worth mentioning that dopamine levels spike higher when you anticipate making a purchase, and lower after you’ve made it.6 In other words, you can get a good feeling by shopping but not always when making a purchase. Good to know.

It’s also interesting to note the difference between impulsive shopping and compulsive shopping. Impulsive is shopping or buying on a whim, whereas compulsive is more planned out and designed to accomplish a goal, if only to feel better. Compulsive shoppers are more likely to get into financial trouble by shopping too much or too often.7 Interestingly, people tend to shop more compulsively when they are with friends as opposed to relatives.8 This could be indicative of shopping for approval or to fit in with your friends, versus trying not to be judged by your relatives.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications

1 United Nations Environment Programme. 2017. “Food Waste: The Facts.” http://www.worldfooddayusa.org/food_waste_the_facts. Accessed Jan. 16, 2017.

2 Ali Newton. Display Centre. Dec. 14, 2016. “5 Display Tricks Supermarkets Use To Sell More.” http://displaycentre.co.uk/5-tricks-supermarkets-use-sell-blog/. Accessed Jan. 16, 2017.

3 Ibid.

4 Quentin Fottrell. MarketWatch. Dec. 10, 2016. “10 Psychological Retail Tricks That Make You Spend More Money.” http://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-retail-tricks-that-make-you-spend-more-2013-12-04. Accessed Jan. 16, 2017.

5 Marianna Glynska. The Huffington Post. May 10, 2016. “Going Shopping: Stress Relief or Necessary Burden?” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marianna-glynska/going-shopping-stress-rel_b_9875532.html. Accessed Jan. 16, 2017.

6 Paula Cookson, LCSW. Inpathy Bulletin. Dec. 21, 2016. “Retail Therapy.” http://insightbulletin.com/retail-therapy/. Accessed Jan. 16, 2017.

7 Elizabeth Hartney, PhD. VeryWell.com. Apr. 18, 2016. “Compulsive vs. Impulsive Shopping.” https://www.verywell.com/difference-between-compulsive-and-impulsive-shopping-22336. Accessed Jan. 16, 2017.

8 Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic. The Guardian. Nov. 26, 2015. “The Psychology of Impulsive Shopping.” https://www.theguardian.com/media-network/2015/nov/26/psychology-impulsive-shopping-christmas-black-friday-sales. Accessed Jan. 16, 2017.

 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is 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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Take a Look at Life Insurance

Middle-aged adults have a plethora of middle-aged financial priorities. It’s hard to even call them priorities because each one is important; it’s just a matter of spreading the money you have across a variety of different needs.

In fact, a typical mid-life checking account might include payouts for a mortgage, college tuition, a savings account, an IRA, a life insurance policy, and a long-term care insurance policy — and that’s not even including the 401(k) contribution that is taken out of a paycheck before it gets deposited.

If you struggle with trying to figure out which financial priorities are most important or how to allocate a portion of your retirement savings among the many insurance product options, we can help. In fact, there are insurance products that can help with multiple priorities so you don’t have to spread your assets so thin.

Take life insurance, for example. There are many different kinds, and one of the main differences is between term and whole life. With a term policy, you purchase a death benefit amount and determine how long you want to hold the policy; it doesn’t pay out anything unless the owner passes away during the term. Whole life features a cash value account, which, over time, can build up a balance you can access, if needed.1

First and foremost, life insurance is there to help take care of your loved ones if you pass away. While many employers provide some life insurance coverage for employees, it may not be enough to avoid the long-term hardship of that loss of income. However, less than 40 percent of Americans have an interest in life insurance at all. It actually comes in seventh in terms of most people’s financial priorities.2

While a term life policy offers a death benefit for the selected term, a whole life policy can provide a death benefit that covers your entire life, as long as you keep paying the premiums. It’s worth mentioning that older policies may actually mature when the policy owner turns 100 and will pay out the death benefit while he or she is still alive. Newer policies, however, extend to a maximum age of 121.3

A whole life policy also offers certain tax advantages. While premiums may not be tax deductible, the cash value grows tax deferred, and distributions through the use of policy loans are generally tax free. The cash value can be accessed if the owner needs emergency funds or money to supplement his or her retirement income or it can even be used to pay the annual premiums on the policy.4 This is all in addition to the death benefit. Please note that withdrawals or policy loans of any type may reduce available cash values and death benefits and may cause the policy to lapse, or affect guarantees against lapse. Additional premium payments may be required to keep the policy in force.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications

1 Amy Danise. NerdWallet. Jan. 5, 2017. “Life Insurance Explained in (Exactly) 250 Words.” https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/insurance/life-insurance-explained-250-words/. Accessed Feb. 6, 2017.

2 BestLifeRates.org. Dec. 28, 2016. “2015 Life Insurance Statistics and Facts.” https://www.bestliferates.org/blog/2015-life-insurance-statistics-and-facts/. Accessed Jan. 10, 2017.

3 Michael Kitces. Nerd’s Eye View. March 2, 2016. “The Age-100 Tax Problem With Outliving the End of Life Insurance Mortality Tables.” https://www.kitces.com/blog/outliving-the-end-of-life-insurance-mortality-tables-the-age-100-tax-problem-when-life-insurance-expires/. Accessed Jan. 10, 2017.

4 Amy Bell. Investopedia. Aug. 21, 2014. “6 Ways To Capture The Cash Value In Life Insurance.” http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/082114/6-ways-capture-cash-value-life-insurance.asp. Accessed Feb. 24, 2017.

 

Life insurance policies are contracts between you and an insurance company. Guarantees and protections provided by insurance products are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer.

 The content provided in this newsletter is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered. It is not, however, intended to provide specific legal or tax advice and cannot be used to avoid tax penalties or to promote, market or recommend any tax plan or arrangement. You are encouraged to consult your personal tax advisor or attorney.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is 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 Future of Globalization

There was a time, at the end of the 20th century, when globalization was celebrated. We became more connected with the rest of the world. We could communicate and share information in real time without cost, nations benefited from strong imports and exports, and companies could improve their bottom lines by utilizing lower-cost suppliers and workers throughout the world.

These days, perhaps not so much. Globalization has become a target for both opportunity and opposition, largely responsible for higher unemployment in developed nations and the protectionism movement.While exposure to different cultures, values and beliefs offers benefits, there is revitalized interest in intra-country government spending on infrastructure and employment.1

It’s easy to see why the topic of globalization would be divisive: what looks like a threat to some looks like opportunity to others. However, no matter what perspective you have, we are here for you. Let us help you stay focused on your long-term retirement income goals, regardless of global and local economic events.  

It is likely that, moving forward, globalization will be downplayed but not eliminated. Rather, at least one observer purports that countries, including the U.S., may expend more effort and resources on “regionalization” with neighboring countries.2

One negative consequence of globalization, combined with the 2007-2009 recession, was higher unemployment in the U.S. This unfortunate circumstance hit young people particularly hard.3 But interestingly, the phenomenon of young adults moving back home with their parents also is characteristic of a global trend. According to one report, the following percentages represent 15- to 29-year-olds who live with their parents in various countries:4

  • ·         Italy, 80.6%
  • ·         Greece, 76.3% 
  • ·         Slovak Republic, 76.2%
  • ·         Spain, 73.6%
  • ·         Canada, 30.9%
  • ·         Denmark, 34.3%
  • ·         Sweden, 35.1%
  • ·         United States, 32.1%5

On one hand, globalization has served to generate more jobs in certain disciplines. The phenomenon is, and will most likely continue to be, responsible for the growth of jobs for market research analysts, interpreters and translators, cartographers and customer service representatives.6

On the other hand, regardless of how many jobs renegotiated trade agreements may bring back to America, most authorities agree there won’t be nearly as many traditional manufacturing jobs as in the past. Since much assembly line work is now automated, the manufacturing jobs of the future are more likely to require technology degrees with IT skills and knowledge.7



Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Sebastian Mallaby. International Monetary Fund. December 2016. “Finance and Development: Globalization Resets.” Vol. 53, No. 4. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2016/12/mallaby.htm. Accessed Feb. 27, 2017.

2 Jonathan Web. Forbes. Dec. 21, 2016. “2017 Will Be a Year of Regionalization, Not

Deglobalization.” http://www.forbes.com/sites/jwebb/2016/12/21/2017-will-be-a-year-of-regionalization-not-deglobalization/print/. Accessed Jan. 1, 2017.

3 Alex Gray. World Economic Forum. Nov. 11, 2016. “Still living with your parents? You’re not alone.” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/11/why-do-so-many-young-adults-still-live-with-their-parents-in-these-countries. Accessed Jan. 1, 2017.

4 Ibid.

5 Drew Desilver. Pew Research. May 24, 2016. “In the U.S. and abroad, more young adults are living with their parents.” http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/05/24/in-the-u-s-and-abroad-more-young-adults-are-living-with-their-parents/. Accessed Jan. 1, 2017.

6 Rob Sentz. Forbes. Sep. 27, 2016. “Three Jobs That Are Growing Because of Globalization.” http://www.forbes.com/sites/emsi/2016/09/27/three-jobs-that-are-growing-because-of-globalization/#66d3c499648c. Accessed Jan. 1, 2017.

7 Scott Simon. NPR. Dec. 10, 2016. “Economist Says Manufacturing Job Loss Driven by Technology, Not Globalization.” http://www.npr.org/2016/12/10/505079140/economist-says-manufacturing-job-loss-driven-by-advancing-technology-not-globali. Accessed Jan. 1, 2017.

 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is 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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Sleep and Other Surprising Economic Factors

 

As a result of all modern society’s demands, researchers say people are sleeping less than ever. Common sleep inhibitors include stress, alcohol consumption, smoking, lack of physical activity and excessive electronic media use.1

Sleep deprivation may be detrimental to one’s health, but there’s an economic toll as well. One recent study found that as much as 3 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP) is lost due to the collective impact of worker sleep loss (and hence, productivity).2

Another factor impacting our economy is timing. It may sound oversimplified, but the concept of “what goes up must come down” often applies to business cycles. For example, Barack Obama took office during one of the lowest points of the business cycle, so regardless of his policies there was generally no way to go but up.3

This is an interesting point, especially in a new year with a new presidential administration. Presidents are going to come and go. Business cycles are going to flourish and decline. And people are going to work and retire.

There is also a correlation between happiness and economic output, but not in the way you might think. One 2016 index showed many Western countries with high GDPs actually ranked low on the scale of happiness. There are no European countries in the top 10, the U.K. ranks 34 and the U.S. comes in at a dismal 108. What are the factors that lead to long-term happiness among citizens? Costa Rica, which is in first place, got rid of its military back in 1949 and reallocated all of that funding toward education and health care. It also produces 99 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.4

Speaking of quality of life, some cities that struggled post-recession have come to realize that beautifying their environs can improve talent recruitment for local companies. Perhaps that’s why mid-sized and small cities in the South and West that have invested in building green parks, bike lanes and cultural venues have attracted more college-educated young people.5 After all, a happy employee is usually a productive one, and productive companies produce a higher GDP.

Our goals for a confident financial future shouldn’t change based on who’s in the White House, or even if the economy is moving up or down.  Please feel free to contact us to discuss creating retirement strategies through the use of insurance products that can help you work toward your long-term retirement income goals.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Rand Corporation. 2016. “Why Sleep Matters: Quantifying the Economic Costs of Insufficient Sleep.” http://www.rand.org/randeurope/research/projects/the-value-of-the-sleep-economy.html. Accessed Dec. 30, 2016.

2 Ibid.

3 James DePorre. The Street. November 2016. “Rev’s Forum: 3 Factors That Will Drive the Market Action in 2017.” Dec. 28, 2016. http://realmoney.thestreet.com/articles/12/30/2016/revs-forum-3-factors-will-drive-market-action-2017. Accessed Dec 30, 2016.

4 Bert Oliver. Thought Leader. Dec. 30, 2016. “The ‘happiest’ nations in the world – what do they have in common?” http://thoughtleader.co.za/bertolivier/2016/12/30/the-happiest-nations-in-the-world-what-do-they-have-in-common/. Accessed Dec 30, 2016.

5 Richard Florida and Andrew Small. CityLab. Dec. 28, 2016. “Why Quality of Place Matters.” http://www.citylab.com/design/2016/12/why-quality-of-place-matters/509876/. Accessed Dec. 30, 2016.

 

This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is 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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For the Health of Marriage

Turns out marriage can do more for your heart than fill it with love. A recent study found that, among other health benefits, married people have a higher probability of surviving a stroke.1

They are also more likely to survive major surgery, have fewer heart attacks, be less likely to have advanced cancer when diagnosed and more likely to survive it longer, have a lower chance of becoming depressed and, generally, live longer than those who remain single. Scientists have put forth various reasons for these health benefits, ranging from stronger immune systems to taking fewer risks to living a healthier lifestyle.2

Financial health can also be impacted by the dynamics within a marriage. If a husband doesn’t pay the household bills, he may not appreciate how much it costs every time he leaves the hose running after he washes the car. A wife, on the other hand, may not know where the couple’s financial accounts are held or who to consult for emergency cash should her husband become incapacitated.

That’s why we believe it’s best for both spouses to be a part of the conversation when meeting with a financial advisor. It’s important to build a relationship of trust, and that can be difficult to do if one spouse is left out of meetings and annual reviews.

While marriage is often about sharing, it may also be a good idea for each spouse to establish his and her own credit history, even if they share a credit card account, as it is likely one spouse will pass before the other.3

In this situation, the deceased spouse should be removed from any jointly owned credit cards. This is one reason it can be a good idea to have individual credit histories, so the surviving spouse isn’t impacted by the loss of the deceased spouse’s credit history. An additional advantage is that a surviving spouse generally is not liable for the outstanding debt of a deceased spouse’s solo accounts.4

In the case of second and third marriages, establishing a financial relationship between both spouses is important. For example, if one spouse moves into the home of the other, it may be a good idea to get both names put on the deed.5

Health, credit and housing aside, both spouses need to understand their investments and the household net worth. It’s not enough for wives to pay the bills while husbands manage the investments, or vice versa. Ninety percent of women are responsible for managing their finances by themselves at some point in their life6 — which is particularly unfortunate if they’re forced to take on this task during retirement without a clear understanding of how to do it.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications. 

1 Nicholas Bakalar. The New York Times. Dec. 27, 2016. “Marriage May Help You Survive a Stroke.” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/27/well/family/marriage-may-help-you-survive-a-stroke.html?_r=0. Accessed Dec. 27, 2016.

Robert H. Shmerling. Harvard Health. Nov. 30, 2016. “The health advantages of marriage.” http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-health-advantages-of-marriage-2016113010667. Accessed Dec. 27, 2016.

3 Lucy Lazarony. Credit.com. Nov. 9, 2016. “Credit Matters After the Death of a Spouse.” https://www.credit.com/credit-reports/death-of-spouse-and-credit/. Accessed Dec. 27, 2016.

4 Ibid.

5 Quentin Fottrell. MarketWatch. Dec. 7, 2016. “My husband won’t put me on the deed to the family home.” http://www.marketwatch.com/story/will-i-inherit-everything-from-my-husband-without-a-will-2016-06-24. Accessed Dec. 27, 2016.

6 Fidelity. March 23, 2016. “Women & money: How to take charge.” https://www.fidelity.com/viewpoints/personal-finance/women-manage-money. Accessed Dec. 27, 2016.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.

The information contained in this material is 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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Looking Through the Glass Ceiling

The Women’s Rights Movement began in 1848 to enable women to have representation in decisions impacting their social, civil and religious rights.¹

While Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential candidate from a major party, was not elected this year, women take their right to vote very seriously. In every presidential election since 1964 (2016 results not yet available), the number of women who voted exceeded that of men.²

Another area where women have made up ground, but are still working to pull even, is the wage difference between genders. This gap can also be a hindrance for women when it comes to saving for retirement. For example, while women are more likely than men to work for employers that offer retirement plans, far less are eligible to participate in those plans because they work part-time or for a shorter time span. As a result, nearly 12 percent of baby boomer women who have participated in the workforce end up retiring in poverty.³

From paying bills to participating in large-scale financial decisions, it is important for women to take an active role in their own retirement planning. One thing to consider may be setting up separate retirement income streams for each spouse to ensure household income is not significantly reduced should one spouse die or become incapacitated.

Self-employment is one area that might seem free of glass ceilings, but new research reveals a lack of capital funding available for women. Reasons cited for this include not having enough collateral necessary to secure a loan, gender discrimination or simply that women tend to be more risk averse when it comes to borrowing large sums of money.4

In a recent speech, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, pointed out that if women participated in the U.S. labor force to the same extent as men, our national income could increase by 5 percent.5

Lagarde also gave an example of women breaking the glass ceiling, but ultimately not achieving complete parity. Iceland elected its first female president back in 1980, but women’s wages there still trail men’s by 14 to 18 percent. Interestingly, Icelandic working women recently protested lower wages with a job walk-out at precisely 2:38 p.m. — the time of day when they stop being paid (relative to men’s pay).6

The Women’s Rights Movement is now about 168 years old. According to the IMF, at the current rate of progression globally, women should achieve parity with men’s wages in another 170 years(7) — so we’re almost halfway there. Baby steps.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Bonnie Eisenberg and Mary Ruthsdotter. National Women’s History Project. “History of the Women’s Rights Movement.” http://www.nwhp.org/resources/womens-rights-movement/history-of-the-womens-rights-movement/. Accessed Nov. 29, 2016.

2 Center for American Women and Politics. “Gender Differences in Voter Turnout.” http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/resources/genderdiff.pdf. Accessed Nov. 29, 2016.

3 Jennifer Erin Brown, Nari Rhee, Joelle Saad-Lessler and Diane Oakley. UC Berkeley Labor Center. March 1, 2016. “Shortchanged in Retirement: Continuing Challenges to Women’s Financial Future.” http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/shortchanged-in-retirement-continuing-challenges-to-womens-financial-future/. Accessed Nov. 29, 2016.

4 Robert M. Sauer. World Economic Forum. Sept. 28, 2016. “The self-employed glass ceiling isn’t getting the attention it deserves.” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/09/the-self-employed-glass-ceiling-isnt-getting-the-attention-it-deserves. Accessed Nov. 29, 2016.

5 Christine Lagarde. The International Monetary Fund. Nov. 14, 2016. “Women’s Empowerment: An Economic Game Changer.” https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2016/11/14/SP111416-Womens-Empowerment-An-Economic-Game-Changer. Accessed Nov. 14, 2016.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. 

The information contained in this material is 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 it Means to be Disenfranchised

Disenfranchised people are those who feel deprived of a legal right or privilege. The number of people disenfranchised within the United States is part of the reason Donald Trump, a candidate without a history in politics, was elected to office. While much of the country is recovering from the Great Recession, there continues to be a lag for many disenfranchised Americans.1

For some, there’s a feeling that they can’t afford anything anymore. One poll found that a large swath of middle-class Americans long for quality jobs, affordable health care and child care and both economic and financial security.2

Over the past three decades, America’s economy has moved from manufacturing-based jobs to service-based jobs. This gradual process transformed the job market. Even with today’s low unemployment rate, there are jobs available, but in many cases, those who need the job may not have the skills and experience that the position requires or it may not pay the wages they are looking for.3

Americans dissatisfied with the health care initiatives introduced by Barack Obama reported a variety of motives for voting Trump. A common complaint was that premiums seemed to increase every year. Others went deeper, saying Trump’s proposals would promote personal responsibility rather than guarantee health care for those who are “lazy and entitled.” Sixty-six percent of Trump supporters said the economy is “rigged for people receiving government assistance.”4

The combination of expensive health care options, a difficult job market and overwhelming debt, and it’s easy to see why some have become so disenfranchised. How many Americans are we talking about?

Leading up to the election, a Gallup poll found only 27 percent were satisfied with the current state of the country.5 A post-election poll in December found a similar overall result, with Democrats still feeling slightly better than Republicans despite the presidential election results.6

Dissatisfaction can take on different forms. Many people have their concerns about the future of the country, but perhaps more importantly, are focused more on their own personal situation. The fact is, contentment has a lot to do with feeling confident, or at least hopeful, about your future.

One way to work toward this confidence is to insure a portion of your retirement assets. That’s where we come in. We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss ways to develop more confidence about your ability to provide income throughout retirement.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Bob Rapoza. The Hill. Dec. 9, 2016. “Rural America demands the nation’s attention.” http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/presidential-campaign/309735-rural-america-demands-the-nations-attention. Accessed Dec 9, 2016.

2 The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Nov. 15, 2016. “The Needs of Working Folks.” http://squaredawayblog.bc.edu/squared-away/the-needs-of-working-folks/. Accessed Dec 20, 2016.

3 Ibid.

4 Olga Khazan. The Atlantic. Dec. 20, 2016. “If Not Obamacare, Then What?”

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/12/if-not-obamacare-then-what/511130/. Accessed Dec 20, 2016.

5 Gallup. Oct. 13, 2016. “U.S. Satisfaction Remains Low Leading Up to Election.” http://www.gallup.com/poll/196388/satisfaction-remains-low-leading-election.aspx. Accessed Dec 20, 2016.

6 Clark Mindock. International Business Times. Dec. 16, 2016. “Are Americans Happy With The US? Election, Economy, Wars Have Most Dissatisfied, New Poll Finds.” http://www.ibtimes.com/are-americans-happy-us-election-economy-wars-have-most-dissatisfied-new-poll-finds-2461644. Accessed Dec 20, 2016.

This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is 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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Possible Perks and Perils of Buying Coastal Property

All over the world, from Miami to the Maldives, rising sea levels threaten coastal real estate.

Scientists say the daily high-water mark has been rising by nearly an inch a year in places like South Florida. During extraordinary high tides, saltwater even sneaks up the driveways of some multi-million dollar coastal homes.1 

While projections vary, the general consensus is that sea levels could rise by anywhere from 3 to 6.5 feet by the end of this century. 2 

Many people dream throughout their careers of owning a piece of real estate on the water, perhaps as a retirement first or second home. While oceanfront property demand remains strong and communities are still being developed, the potential effect of climate change is beginning to cast a shadow over this dream.3 

According to the federal government, eight out of 10 of the most expensive natural disasters in U.S. history were caused by hurricanes.4 For anyone intending to purchase property near the ocean, it’s an issue that should not be ignored. It’s a good idea to speak with an experienced property and casualty insurance agent to understand a homeowner’s responsibilities regarding coastal property. 

If your heart is set on the waterfront, a real estate agent with experience selling these types of properties can be helpful. Buying coastal properties requires a certain amount of due diligence. For example, it’s wise to find out:5 

·         The different types of mortgage loans and qualifying criteria, because a loan for waterfront properties can take a lot longer than a normal home loan

·         Whether the structure’s building materials are designed to withstand local weather conditions

·         What’s allowed and what permits are required for any improvements you may want to make, such as adding a deck, dock or boat lift

·         If all the utilities you expect are available, such as cable television, internet access and cellphone coverage 

Generally, mortgaged properties in flood zones require flood insurance sold by the federal government. While this insurance may be required to purchase the property, some homeowners later drop their policies. If you don’t have insurance and your house floods, the financial impact could be disastrous. Under some circumstances, the government may still offer assistance but it may not be nearly enough. For example, the average federal assistance in Florida is $4,000, compared to the average flood insurance payout of $51,000.6 

Another flood insurance tip: There’s generally a 30-day waiting period before coverage goes in force, so you may not want to wait until your local news starts tracking a storm to purchase flood insurance. 7 

Then again, coastal real estate can provide free housing for vacations as well as ongoing rental income. You should carefully consider whether you’re up for the task, which can include landlord duties, maintenance and upkeep, ongoing expenses and the inconvenience of an illiquid asset.8 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications. 

1 Elizabeth Kolbert. The New Yorker. Dec. 28, 2015. “The Siege of Miami.” http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/12/21/the-siege-of-miami. Accessed Dec 11, 2016.
2 Ibid.
3 Ian Urbina. The New York Times. Nov 24, 2016. “Perils of Climate Change Could Swamp Coastal Real Estate.” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/24/science/global-warming-coastal-real-estate.html?_r=0. Accessed Dec 11, 2016.
4 FloodSmart.gov. Sept. 27, 2016. “Tropical Storms and Hurricanes.” https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/flooding_flood_risks/tropical_storms_hurricanes.jsp. Accessed Dec 11, 2016.
5 Shannon Petrie. HGTV. 2016. “Waterfront Buying: Top 10 Tips from Agents.” http://www.hgtv.com/design/real-estate/waterfront-buying-top-10-tips-from-agents. Accessed Dec 11, 2016.
6 Harold Bubil. The Herald Tribune. March 23, 2016. “Flood insurance is getting expensive, but can you afford to be without it?” http://realestate.heraldtribune.com/2016/03/23/flood-insurance-is-getting-expensive-but-can-you-afford-to-be-without-it/. Accessed Dec 11, 2016.
7 FloodSmart.gov. 2016. “Protect What Matters.” https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart. Accessed Dec 11, 2016.
8 Bankrate.com. Aug. 2, 2016. “Funding retirement with rental income.” http://www.bankrate.com/finance/retirement/funding-retirement-with-rental-income-1.aspx. Accessed Dec 11, 2016.

This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. 

The information contained in this material is 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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Tips for the Modern Traveler

Traditional vacation prep used to entail choosing a budget destination, buying some traveler’s checks and heading to the airport just in time for your flight. For many, that list of things to do has changed drastically. 

“Wellness travel” has become a big draw for vacationers who are willing to spend around 140 percent more than the average wanderer in pursuit of wellness opportunities. Wellness venues include treatment amenities ranging from spas, meditation, yoga, Pilates and kickboxing classes to personal nutrition and  detox programs.1 

If wellness is what you’re looking for, then prepare for some extra expense. One of the pitfalls of vacations is that we tend to overspend because, well, we’re on vacation. Before you even start shopping for airline tickets or hotel rates, it’s a good idea to establish a reasonable budget that you can afford to spend. 

Another thing you may want to consider is buying travel insurance, which about 30 percent of travelers now purchase. Policies range from minor to comprehensive “cancel for any reason” coverage. Remember that travel insurance is best purchased for large-ticket risks, so you don’t necessarily need to buy it for “nickel-and-dime” expenses. Keep in mind, the older you are, the more likely you may need medical care while on vacation.2 

Looking for the best credit card to use for traveling? If you’re going abroad, use one that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. Many levy anywhere from 1 to 3 percent extra on every purchase — and that’s on top of any increases caused by currency conversion.3 Also, consider getting a credit card with the EU chip. 

It may also be a good idea to procure the local currency for your travel destination before you leave the U.S. You can order it through your bank and will likely get a better exchange rate than if you use other vendors once you’re abroad. Be aware, too, that the number of merchants that accept traveler’s checks is dwindling.4 

Another travel tip is to follow airline recommendations and arrive at the airport hours in advance to make it through security. This is especially important when the airport is busy. When it’s not, you’ve just got a lot of time on your hands and some uncomfortable seating. If you need some peace and quiet, find the airport chapel, or an airport museum or art gallery. Another way to break away from the crowds is to pay for a one-day pass into an exclusive airport VIP club.5 

When it comes to planning for a restful vacation, remember not to overbook activities so you get worn out, and that taking advantage of travel insurance, concierge recommendations at your destination and other available resources may help take some of the stress out of traveling. 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications. 

1 Why Travel. Nov. 23, 2016. “10 Hotels Leading the Wellness Travel Space in 2017.” http://whytravel.us/news/10-hotels-leading-the-wellness-travel-space-in-2017.html. Accessed Dec 2, 2016.
2 Jeff Blyskal. Consumer Reports. Nov. 19, 2016. “Should You Buy Travel Insurance for the Holidays?” http://www.consumerreports.org/travel-insurance/should-you-buy-travel-insurance/. Accessed Dec 2, 2016.
3 The Flight Deal. Nov. 21, 2016. “How to Save Money Abroad with No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards.” http://www.theflightdeal.com/2016/11/21/how-to-save-money-with-no-foreign-transaction-fee-credit-cards/. Accessed Dec 2, 2016.
4 Melissa Lambarena. Nerd Wallet. Mar. 9, 2016. “Where to Exchange Currency Without Paying Huge Fees.” https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/banking/exchange-currency-paying-huge-fees/. Accessed Dec 2, 2016.
5 Rudy Maxa. Travel Channel. Dec. 1, 2016. “Layover Survival Guide.” http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/travel-tips/articles/layover-survival-guide. Accessed Dec 2, 2016.

This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. 

The information contained in this material is 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 State of Real Estate

Thanks to price and sales growth, the U.S. housing market outperformed the U.S. economy in the first six months of 2016. Part of that success is demographic driven: Older millennials are looking to grow their families and buy their first home at the same time that some baby boomers are downsizing in preparation for retirement.1

However, the market for existing homes is still struggling as a result of low inventory, which helps explain why 10 percent of homes sold this year are newly constructed, up 2 percent from a year ago.2

After mortgage rates remained relatively steady over the past few years, many projections expected a substantial increase in 2016. However, they remained in the 3 to 4 percent range for most of the year,3 and the number of home sales due to an inability to pay mortgages dropped to a nine-year low.4

Meanwhile, thanks in part to this low-rate environment, residential home prices reached an all-time high in the third quarter of 2016 — higher than even the pre-recession peak.5

Like so many areas of the economy, the housing market experienced a shakeup in the immediate aftermath of the election. There was a slight bump in the 30-year mortgage interest rate to 4 percent, a move that typically drives housing prices down.6 Given the dynamic between interest rates and housing prices, coupled with the fact that the President-elect is a real estate guru, it will be interesting to see how the housing market evolves under the new administration.

Recently, a couple of new studies revealed some other interesting trends in the housing market. One found that since 2012, homeowners without a college degree have seen the value of their homes appreciate by less than 0.2 percent, while college graduates have seen their home values soar by an average 10.8 percent.7

Women still have a more difficult time qualifying for a home mortgage and are more likely to pay a higher interest rate than men. However, one study found that women are less likely than men to default on their home loan.8

For retirees in the market for a property, be aware that a mortgage loan may be structured differently depending on if the property is considered a principal residence, a second home or an investment property.9

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 National Association of Realtors. Nov. 10, 2016. “Expect Busier Months Ahead.” http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2016/11/10/expect-busier-months-ahead#sf41976874. Accessed Nov. 14, 2016.

2 Ibid.

3 The Mortgage Reports. Nov. 1, 2016. “November 2016 Mortgage Rates Forecast.” http://themortgagereports.com/22963/november-2016-mortgage-rates-forecast-fha-va-conventional-loans. Accessed Nov. 12, 2016.

4 Kelsey Ramirez. Housing Wire. Nov. 3, 2016. “Median home prices finally pass housing boom levels, hit all-time high.” http://www.housingwire.com/articles/38436-median-home-prices-finally-pass-housing-boom-levels-hits-all-time-high. Accessed Nov. 12, 2016.

5 Ibid.

6 Diana Olick. CNBC. Nov. 14, 2016. “Panic in housing market as Trump effect pushes mortgage rates to 4%.” http://www.cnbc.com/2016/11/14/trump-effect-pushes-mortgage-rates-to-4.html. Accessed Nov. 12, 2016.

7 The Economist. Nov. 12, 2016. “To those that have.” http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21709974-prices-are-diverging-geographic-social-and-ethnic-lines-those-have?fsrc=scn/tw/te/bl/ed/housinginamerica2tothosethathave. Accessed Nov. 14, 2016.

8 Knowledge@Wharton. Oct. 12, 2016. “Why Women Pay More for Mortgages.” http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/why-women-pay-more-for-mortgages/. Accessed Nov. 12, 2016.

9 Scott Sheldon. Credit.com. Jul. 22, 2015. “The Surprising Way Your Job Can Impact Your Mortgage.” http://blog.credit.com/2015/07/the-surprising-way-your-job-can-impact-your-mortgage-121451/. Accessed Nov. 14, 2016.

This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

 The information contained in this material is 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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