Annual Goal Setting Begins With Thanksgiving

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Jane M. Young, CFP, EA

As we approach the end of the year we look back on our achievements over the last twelve months and start thinking about goals for next year. I am a strong believer in personal strategic planning and goal setting. The first step in the goal setting process is to evaluate our values. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reflect on those things for which we are thankful. By acknowledging what we are thankful for, we can easily identify the values that are of greatest importance to us. Once we have clearly identified our values we can set meaningful goals for 2010. When our goals are in integrity with our values we are more likely to monitor and achieve them. We will find that reaching our goals will be much more relevant and rewarding.

Take a few minutes to write down what you are thankful for this holiday season. Don’t forget to show gratitude to those around you who have helped you to achieve your goals or just put a smile on your face over the past year.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Why Hire a Professional Who Doesn’t Put Your Interests First?

Jane M. Young CFP, EA

When selecting a financial advisor you want someone who will act in your best interest. To ensure this is the case hire an advisor who works to a fiduciary standard. A fiduciary standard requires your advisor to put your interests first even if those interests are not in their best interest. According to the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors over 90% of all investment advisors are paid (fully or partially) on commission therefore they are compensated for selling products. Additionally, many of these advisors are employed by a broker/dealer or an insurance company, where they are held to a lower standard of diligence. They are required, as part of that employment, to act in the best interest of their employers.

How do you find an advisor who will put your interests first?

Here are two ways to be sure you are hiring someone who adheres to a fiduciary standard. All financial advisors who are members of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) are required to adhere to a “Fiduciary Oath” as a requirement of membership. Additionally, both Federal and State law require that anyone who is a Registered Investment Advisor be held to a fiduciary standard. You wouldn’t accept less from your doctor or lawyer why accept less from your financial advisor?

Here is a link with more information on the fiduciary standard of care:

Http://www.focusonfiduciary.com

Four Financial Tips For Widows

U.S. News and World Report – The Best Life
Comment By Philip Moeller

Posted: September 14, 2009

The Boomerater™ Report, our weekly collaboration with online baby boomer resource Boomerater, this week helps widows plan for their financial future while avoiding mistakes others have made. “My dear husband recently passed away,” a Boomerater member writes. “For 40 years he handled our finances and I’m lost without him. I want to make sure our savings last so that I have financial security. My husband was a wonderful handyman who could fix anything and he did most of the yard work. I am considering selling the house and moving to a retirement community. Also, I work full time, but am thinking of retiring or changing to a less demanding job. There are so many decisions to make, where do I start?” Here is what other members said:

Take your time—don’t make rash decisions. It may seem impossible to consider a normal future right now, but you will be amazed at how much strength you have. Please do not make any changes right away. Learn what you can about your finances and keep the bills up to date. But don’t make major life changes like retiring or moving in a rush. A great place to start to put things in perspective is a Web site run by the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement. They have a retirement calculator to help you know how much you will need to live, resources for estate and retirement planning, details about types of survivor benefits and Social Security, pensions, etc. Another good site is operated by the Women’s Institute for Financial Education, and focuses on women’s financial independence. Just having a place to start was a big help for me when my husband died.

Get help to develop a realistic plan. Take some time off from work if you can but I wouldn’t recommend changing jobs or moving right now. Don’t worry about fixing things around the house—most of that can wait. When the time is right, you’ll want to create a plan for your finances that suits you. It may mean you change jobs or move to a new home. To create a plan, you take stock of where you are now and look at your income and your living expenses. If you’re living on less than what you’re making—great! Otherwise you’ll need to scale back. Then, look at what sources of income you’ll have when you retire. This may include Social Security, pensions and other retirement accounts, as well as savings. A financial planner can help you estimate future medical expenses, determine when to start collecting Social Security, and when to withdraw from various retirement accounts. The National Association for Personal Financial Planners and the Alliance of Cambridge Advisors are two organizations whose members offer fee-only planning. It might make sense to contact a member near you to set up a financial review that could give you peace of mind now and a guide to help for full planning later when you’re ready to take that step.

Beware of Scams! Shortly after my dad died my mother was the target of a terrible scam by a con artist who preyed on widows. He called her, identifying himself as on officer of the court, and told her she had missed her assigned jury duty. When she said she didn’t know anything about it he treated her horribly, saying she was obviously trying to get out of her civic duty. When she became upset, he told her he would try to have the warrant for her arrest cancelled but would need her full legal name, date of birth and Social Security number. She gave it to him and now is a victim of identity theft. What a mess! Don’t give money or personal information to ANYONE.

Don’t turn your financial future over to your children. It is a big mistake to let your kids take over your finances. Count on them for emotional support, but not financial advice. My sister turned all financial decisions over to her son, who had no expertise. He made unwise investments and she also ended up paying more in taxes than she would have with a qualified financial adviser.

Read other member suggestions or add your own comment about financial planning for widows. Boomerater is an online resource for baby boomers, with local directories to help you find everything from an Atlanta financial advisor to Texas assisted living. The site also contains forums where boomers can post questions and swap first-hand experiences. If there are questions on your mind that you would like answered by other people who have faced similar situations, or you have advice of your own to share, go to Boomerater.com and participate in the forums. Say that The Best Life sent you.

To U.S. and World Report Site:

http://www.usnews.com/money/blogs/the-best-life/2009/09/14/four-financial-tips-for-widows.html

To Convert or Not Convert – Looking Beyond the Roth IRA Conversion Calculator

Jane M. Young, CFP, EA

As I mentioned in the previous article on Roth IRAs, with a Roth IRA you pay income tax now and not upon distribution. With a traditional IRA you defer taxes today and pay income taxes upon deferral. When you convert a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA you must pay regular income taxes on the amount that is converted. The advisability of converting to a Roth depends on the length of time you have until you take distributions, your tax rate today and your anticipated tax rate upon retirement and your projected return on your investments.

When you run your numbers through one of the numerous calculators available on the internet you may or may not see a big savings in doing a Roth Conversion. However, there are several other factors that may tilt the scale toward converting some of your money to a Roth.

• Income tax rates are currently very low and there is a general consensus that they will increase considerably by the time you start taking distributions. With a Roth conversion you pay the tax now at the lower rates and take tax free distributions when the tax rates are higher.

• The stock market is still down about 25% from where it was in August of 2008. There is a lot of cash sitting on the sidelines waiting to be invested once consumer confidence is restored. You can pay taxes on money in your traditional IRA while the share prices are low and take a tax free distribution from your Roth down the road when the market has rebounded.

• You may have a sizable portion of your portfolio in tax deferred retirement accounts on which you will have to take required minimum distributions (RMD). This could put you into a much higher tax bracket. By converting some of your traditional IRA into a Roth you can get some tax diversification on your portfolio. This will lower your RMD– because there is no RMD on a Roth IRA. Diversifying your portfolio between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA enables you to take your distributions from the most appropriate pot of money in any given year.

For more information on Roth IRAs and the new tax laws for 2010 please review the articles previously posted under Roth IRAs.