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Low Oil Prices: Who Wins, Who Loses?

The national average price for a gallon of gas is less than $3, with further decreases expected. But that’s nothing new. Bear in mind that oil is a commodity, so its price varies according to cycles of supply and demand. For example, in 1986 and 1998, oil dropped below $10 a barrel. In 2008, prices made a dramatic drop from $145 a barrel in July to $33 by mid-December. In early December 2014, oil was about $66 a barrel.

For folks looking for extra cash during this holiday season, lower gas prices are a welcome relief. One of the positives that accompanies low oil prices is an increase in consumer discretionary funds, which in turn leads to spending and can stimulate economic growth. The phenomenon also presents substantial savings for companies that rely on gas for transportation needs, such as national retailers, trucking and airline industries. Excess revenues can be redeployed for other needs, such as more jobs.

One of the drivers of increased oil production, and therefore lower prices, is the innovation of fracking. Its prevalence in the U.S. has led to less dependence on the global oil industry. Countries that are large oil importers, such as China and India, enjoy greater savings as a result of paying lower prices.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Slide in Oil Prices Is Blessing for Most,” from The New York Times, Dec. 5, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Don’t Fear an Oil Bust,” from Slate, Dec. 5, 2014.]

However, lower oil prices don’t benefit everyone. Take the state of Louisiana, for example, which charges a 12.5 percent severance tax to producers. The state’s 2015 budget relies on revenues based on a price of $96.70 per barrel, so if crude oil averages $81 a barrel in 2015, the difference could cause the state to lose approximately $133 million in revenue. Alaska is experiencing a similar situation.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How Much Will $60 Oil Hurt Louisiana?” from 24/7 Wall St., Dec. 5, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “What Really Happens When You Cut Taxes on Oil Companies,” from ThinkProgress, Dec. 8, 2014.]

By the same token, countries that rely on oil exports receive a crushing blow in revenues when oil prices drop. Moreover, the oversupply in oil production signals that the global economy isn’t growing fast enough to generate enough consumption demand.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “For World’s Oil Exporters, Falling Prices Have a Domino Effect,” from NPR, Dec. 5, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Dark Side to Falling Oil Prices,” from Guggenheim Partners, Dec. 4, 2014.]

While there are often pitfalls to positive events, it’s important to remember that there can also be a silver lining associated with a negative event. One of the lessons we learn is to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. In other words, if you find yourself with a windfall of positive cash flow — due to lower gas prices or otherwise — let us help you choose a financial vehicle in which you can allocate those funds to help boost your income during any undesirable events. As always, please give us a call.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

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

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

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Retiree Ingenuity

For many, the mind stays sharp as long as it continues to be challenged, and the trend of retirees working and living longer proves just that.

Take Hugh Lyman, for example. When he retired, this small business owner pursued a long-standing passion as an inventor. Fascinated with the possibilities of using 3-D printer technology, he felt the expense of the plastic filament used was too high. So he developed his own version using lower-cost plastic pellets, cutting the cost of the material from $40-50 a kilo to $5. Apparently the cost of the original material was inflated due to a patent, so he invented his own workaround. Sometimes it takes a good bit of work experience to understand that there are alternate ways of achieving the same goal.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How an 83-Year-Old Inventor Beat the High Cost of 3D Printing,” from Time, March 4, 2013.]

However, not all retirees can afford to quit work and pursue their passion. One recent study asserted that the decline of company retirement benefits is a primary factor keeping older employees working longer than ever.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Older Workers Clog the Employment Pipeline,” from MarketWatch, Sept. 30, 2014.]

At age 70½, individuals can no longer make traditional IRA contributions, but they may continue Roth IRA contributions as long as they are earning income from a source other than a pension, annuity or required minimum distribution (RMD). If they work past age 70 for an employer with a 401(k) plan, they may continue contributing to the 401(k) as well and avoid required minimum distributions.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “An Exception to the RMD Rule,” from Getting Your Financial Ducks in a Row, Nov. 28, 2014.]

Then again, for many retirees the question isn’t whether to work longer, but how they can preserve money once they’re out of the workforce. Many affluent professionals who made their fortune in New York are now fleeing the state in order to enjoy the fruits of their wealth — in part, to avoid paying more of it out to high taxes in the state. While the majority of retiring New Yorkers are migrating to Florida, a state with no taxes on retirement income, a smaller portion are sticking close by in New Jersey.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Baby Boomer Retirees Flee NY,” from Press Connects, Dec. 10, 2014.]

Still other retirees are joining and starting new virtual retirement villages. In an effort to live independently as long as possible, these organizations charge members an annual fee in exchange for access to resources and social connections that help them continue living in their own homes. As part of the growing social network economy, these entities are cropping up all over the country. There are presently 140 villages in 40 states, according to Village to Village Network, which helps manage these villages. Instead of seniors moving into one specific community, they may live in their own houses yet tap resources that their peers use, such as lawn care, dog walkers and even shared social activities. The organizations use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to stay in touch with members.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Retirees Turn to Virtual Villages for Mutual Support,” from The New York Times, Nov. 28, 2014.]

It appears we are headed for a nation largely populated with seniors who, either working or living in retirement, seek potential solutions for their financial, leisure and social challenges. Please consider us as part of your network now and in the future.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products. Our firm is not permitted to offer, and no statement contained herein shall constitute, tax, legal or accounting advice. Be sure to speak with qualified professionals before making any decisions about your personal situation. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

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

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

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Is Your Retirement Just a Number?

Throughout our lives, we are identified by numbers. Social Security number. Employee ID number. Driver’s license number. The amount of money that you make. The number of children and grandchildren that you have. The value of your home.

Fortunately, those numbers are simply points of reference; they don’t truly define who we are. Our personal accomplishments do this. Our career. Our family. The way we respond in stressful situations. The way we treat people on a daily basis.

But as we near and enter retirement, we are once again focused on a number: How much money might each of us need saved to live the retirement lifestyle we desire? If you watch the ads on television, you may get the impression that there’s one magical number out there for all of us that can make all of our retirement dreams come true, but that is not the case.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Finding Your ‘Magic Number’ for Retirement Savings,” from CNBC, Aug. 27, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “IRS Announces 2015 Pension Plan Limitations; Taxpayers May Contribute up to $18,000 to their 401(k) Plans in 2015,” from the IRS, Oct. 23, 2014.]

One of the nice things about getting older is the wisdom that accompanies age. If you are in or approaching retirement, you’ve most likely learned by now that there’s no one thing that defines you and your happiness. Our lives, our challenges and our accomplishments are complex.

So is our income. Throughout a professional career, income levels vary. For some, there’s an upward slope. For others, there are peaks and valleys. It’s good to consider your retirement income in much the same manner. That’s because your expenses can fluctuate from year-to-year, despite your best attempts at planning and budgeting for both expected and unexpected costs during retirement. Early in retirement, you may spend more money traveling; later on, you may spend more on medical bills and long-term care. You may pay for a wedding one year, and then help a grandchild with college tuition somewhere down the road. If you live a long time in retirement, inflation may affect your expenses.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The New Retirement Income Benchmark,” from BlackRock, Oct. 22, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Primer: Home Equity → Retiree Income,” from Squared Away Blog, Oct. 2, 2014.]

That’s why it’s good to have steady income sources, to help ensure you always have money to pay the bills. It’s also beneficial to have a variety of income sources, so you have extra money now and then to splurge on things that make you happy, like weekly golf outings and taking a vacation with the grandkids. Finally, it’s good to have money set aside that can accumulate during your retirement years, to be there when you need it for an emergency and to help ensure that you never run out.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Finke: What Makes a Successful Retirement?” from ThinkAdvisor, Jan. 27, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Retirement: A Good State of Mind,” from Center for Retirement Research at Boston College’s Squared Away Blog, Sept. 23, 2014.]

As you create a strategy for your financial future, consider those all-important numbers when planning for retirement income. Still, it’s not how much we have that defines us. It’s how we spend our money that embodies and reflects our priorities and values. As we get older, those are the things that help define who we are.

If we can help you establish a retirement income plan with checks and balances and factors that can allow for fluctuating needs throughout your retirement, please give us a call.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

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

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

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Mortgages and Real Estate

Real estate appears to be rebounding slowly but surely. There’s even a push from government regulators to lower the down payment requirements for new mortgages. New analysis shows few borrowers are granted 3 percent to 5 percent down payment loans on their homes, and those that do have excellent credit. The percentage of people receiving that low rate peaked at 3.4 percent in 1999. It remains to be seen if lenders will be amenable to lowering their down payment requirements.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why Offering 3 Percent Down Payment Mortgages Is Not a Return to Lax Lending,” from The Washington Post, Nov. 6, 2014.]

According to research by HelloWallet, about 69 percent of Americans currently own a home, and 29 percent do not own but want to. However, home ownership does not always offer the same financial and tax benefits to everyone equally. Approximately half of today’s homeowners could potentially build more wealth by renting and contributing any extra money to properly structured 401(k)s, IRAs or other types of tax-free or tax-deferred retirement income accounts.

In fact, for lower-income households, the tax deductions associated with home ownership do not amount to much more than the standard federal tax deduction — $6,200 for single people and $12,400 for couples who file taxes jointly. A family earning $50,000 a year could generate 50 percent more wealth over the next decade by contributing to their retirement income accounts rather than their homes. Of course, this assumes that all savings that come from not owning a home (which may include anything from property taxes to home repairs) are allocated to a retirement income strategy and not spent on discretionary items. It’s tough for renters to know how much discretionary income they have now that they may not have if they owned a home, as well as what strategies they may be able to utilize in order to help increase their retirement assets.

[CLICK HERE to read the view the infographic and download the research paper, “House of Cards: The Misunderstood Consumer Finance of Homeownership,” from HelloWallet, November 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why You’re Often Better Off Saving for Retirement than Buying a Home,” from The Washington Post, Nov. 11, 2014.]

While the inventory of existing homes on the market remains low, competition for those sales comes from two different directions. First, millennials have benefitted greatly by an improving economy and have achieved 60 percent better job growth than the U.S. overall this year. They represented 37 percent of home shoppers this summer; a number that is expected to rise as the economy improves. The millennial generation’s main competition for homes is the baby boomer generation, many of whom are downsizing and have substantial buying power. These two competing demographics are responsible for the growing demand for smaller, less expensive homes.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Changing Demographics Impacting Housing Market, Say Realtors,” from National Association of Realtors, Nov. 9, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to view the interactive infographic, “Qualifying Income for Metropolitan Areas” from National Association of Realtors, accessed Nov. 9, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to view the presentation, “Residential Real Estate Trends and Outlook,” from National Association of Realtors, Nov. 7, 2014.]

There are many different ways you can accumulate wealth to help you feel more confident in your financial future. If we can help you explore options that may be appropriate for your situation, please give us a call.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products. Our firm is not permitted to offer, and no statement contained herein shall constitute, tax, legal or accounting advice. Be sure to speak with qualified professionals before making any decisions about your personal situation. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

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

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

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How Year-End Politics May Affect You

The changing of the guard in Congress has begun: out with the old, in with the new. As the GOP prepares to take a majority presence in both the House and Senate, one question looms: Are we in for even more gridlock moving forward?

It appears that much is on tap for the lame-duck session of Congress — the final year-end push to tap votes of exiting congressmen. The first priority will be passing a government funding bill, which can hopefully be resolved without shutting down the government. The most likely scenario is that Republicans will push for another short-term, stopgap resolution until after the New Year, when they can dominate the discussion.

Democrats would like to use the lame-duck session to revive expired tax breaks before year end and approve a backlog of presidential nominations.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Lame-Duck Agenda Under Spotlight at White House Luncheon,” from MSNBC, Nov. 7, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Senate Gears Up for Packed Lame Duck Session,” from Daily KOS, Nov, 7, 2014.]

Before we move forward, the country may have to take a couple of steps back. The GOP has vehemently reiterated that it plans to repeal Obamacare — or at least certain aspects of the health care law. Although voters on both sides of the political fence have indicated they are more interested in legislation impacting jobs and the economy, the successful passage of the most comprehensive national health care reform on the books is an Obama legacy that Republicans would like to rewind before history is written.

The battle over passing the Keystone XL pipeline may prove less onerous and on-task with voter desires. The Canada-to-Texas pipeline is projected to produce 830,000 barrels of oil a day, yielding lower domestic energy costs and a new source of American jobs. While the jury is still out on the long-term environmental impact, President Obama has indicated he would sign off if it is proven the project will not substantially exacerbate the climate problem.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Advocates Press Obama on Public Health,” from The Hill, Nov. 7, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “GOP Vows to Build Keystone, Repeal Obamacare” from MSNBC, Nov. 6, 2014.]

Other reasonably passable measures include trade agreements, tax extenders and tax reform — at least where corporate taxes are concerned.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “GOP in Charge of the Senate, Eager to Move on Keystone XL, Taxes” from PBS, Nov. 6, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Tax Extenders on Tap for Lame-Duck Congress, Tax Reform Likely to Get Attention in 2015,” from CCH Group, Nov. 7, 2014.]

However, President Obama has indicated that, in lieu of a bipartisan immigration agreement, he plans to move forward with an executive order to reduce the number of deportations and grant work permits to millions of illegal immigrants in the U.S. Such an action is likely to inflame Republicans, which does not bode well for a bipartisan start to the New Year.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Executive Actions on Immigration,” at the Department of Homeland Security, Nov. 24, 2014.]

Taxes, jobs, health care and economic growth: These hotly contested issues are more than just political ballyhoo. All relevant legislation that the upcoming 114th Congress passes has the potential to significantly impact our household finances in years to come. Please contact us if you would like to discuss retirement income strategies that can help address concerns you may have regarding any changes the future may hold.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

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

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

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Sleigh Bells Ring

The holiday season kicked off early this year, with a big winter storm in parts of the country. Beautiful, yet treacherous, photographs emerged of cars and neighborhoods entirely submerged in snow; roofs, windows and doors collapsing from the weight of the precipitous precipitation, and once again motorists were stranded on highways and byways. The season began with a veritable wonderland that makes you wonder what it forebodes for winter this year.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “This Aerial Photography Shows Just How Arresting the Snow Storm in Buffalo Is,” from Business Insider, Nov. 20, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to view, “24 Pictures That Perfectly Capture How Insane the Snow Is Near Buffalo, New York,” from BuzzFeed, Nov. 19, 2014.]

Perhaps inspired by the holiday spirit that the heavy snow emotes — assuming you’re not having to dig yourself out of it — Americans have several things to cheer about this holiday season. With each passing year the economy grows stronger. Inflation remains low and gas prices are down. Real estate prices continue to rebound, and unemployment is back down to relatively normal levels. Many, though not all, shoppers have more discretionary funds to spend on friends and family this year — a sign that bodes well for the economy.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Falling Gas Prices Fuel Holiday Cheer,” from Guggenheim Partners, Nov. 20, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to view the data, “United States Unemployment Rate 1948-2014,” from Trading Economics, 2014.]

Holiday shopping also seemed to start earlier than usual, just after Halloween. Merchants appear more accommodating this year as well. Black Friday is no longer a one-day event; for some retailers it lasts two to four weeks. Keep in mind a few shopping tips for this year: 

  • If you find a better price after buying a product, you may be able to take advantage of the “price rewind” tool offered by some of the major credit cards, such as Citi and Discover.
  • Sales are expected to be early and brisk this year, so if there’s a must-have item on your list, you may want to purchase it early in case inventories run dry.
  • When shopping for clothes, consider that late-season sales can result in discounts of 60 to 70 percent; the same holds true for perennial gifts such as board games.
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Tips for Braving (and Saving) this Holiday Shopping Season,” from Tampa Bay Times, Nov. 21, 2014.]
Holiday gifts for elderly seniors can often be a challenge given their limited mobility and the fact that many already have everything they need. Consider some of the newer innovations in medical technology — assuming you’ll take the time to teach the recipient how to use it. Consider a hand-held heart monitor, wireless blood pressure monitor or light therapy device if the recipient has a propensity for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in winter.
For those likely to experience more harsh weather this winter, consider thoughtful preparation gifts such as a generator or snow blower.
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “This Holiday’s New Consumer Health Tech that Can Really Make a Difference,” from HL7 Standards, Nov. 20, 2014.]
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Best Outdoor Power Gear Gifts for the Holidays,” from Consumer Reports, Nov. 20, 2014.]
As you enter this holiday season, we encourage you to take time to reflect on the past year and make plans for the future. We believe it’s always best to have a plan in place for your financial future to help divert any day-to-day trials and tribulations that may affect your long-term goals. As always, we’re here to help you develop a strategy that can assist you through any potential hardships, and we wish a warm and wonderful holiday season for you and yours.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

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

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

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Give Thanks. The Grass is Greener Here.

As we enter this holiday season, it’s worth taking a look at your individual circumstances and gauging whether your financial situation is stronger than it was last year, three years ago or five years ago. We can all find reasons to gripe about one thing or another, even in the best of the times. But that’s why it’s so important to remember when things were more difficult. This may be the very reason why bad things happen to good people — to help make us stronger.

The U.S. has its troubles, from Wall Street to Main Street. Although we must suffer through the onslaught of political campaign ads, it’s a small price to pay for the right to participate in democratic elections.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why is Hong Kong Protesting?” from BBC News, Oct. 18, 2014.]

Our economic growth has been slow to recover since the recession, but our government made an attempt at pre-emptive stimulus several years ago, and quantitative easing in the Unites States appears to be coming to an end.

[CLICK HERE to read Janet Yellen’s speech, “What the Federal Reserve Is Doing to Promote a Stronger Job Market,” from The Federal Reserve, March 31, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Japan’s Central Bank Shocks Markets with More Easing as Inflation Slows,” from Reuters, Oct. 31, 2014.]

Economically speaking, opinions abound as to whether the U.S. government has done too much or too little to rally jobs, real estate values and stimulate growth. But instead of comparing our current state to the past, perhaps we should compare it to how well other countries are faring now.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Europe Must Act Now,” from Guggenheim Partners, Oct. 29, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why the Next Financial Crisis Will Be Different,” from Knowledge@Wharton, Oct. 28, 2014.]

We complain about our nation’s unwieldy and costly health care system, but is there somewhere else you would prefer to be treated for a serious medical condition? We have ongoing issues we must address regarding equal rights across race, gender and sexual orientation. But it could be worse.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Beyond Ebola: What’s Needed to Combat the Next Outbreak,” from Knowledge@Wharton, Sept. 3, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Short Skirts, Bad Stars, Chow Mein: Why Men in India Rape Women,” from Reuters, Oct. 30, 2014.]

Below is a link to the top news stories of 2007. Despite the fact that these events took place seven years ago, many stories bear a striking resemblance to prominent headlines today: the war in Iraq, poor care at a VA facility, the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech and the quarantine of a man infected with tuberculosis.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “National News Headlines of 2007,” from Boston.com; accessed Oct. 31, 2014.]

If we don’t address the mistakes we’ve made in the past, we are surely destined to make them again in the future. This is true not just as a country, but within each of our households. If we can recommend proactive strategies tailored to your circumstances to help you feel confident in your financial future, please give us a call.

But remember — especially this holiday season — that whatever your current grievances, there are others all over the world who wish they could live as well as you.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

T
his content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed.

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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Small Business, Small Incomes

Large corporations in America have only been around about 13 decades. Before then, America was built on the backs of small business owners.

Larger companies started to take root in the mid-19th century, led by railroads and industrial firms. Small business owners took a hit but adapted by developing market niches too small for big companies to accommodate or by serving as suppliers to larger firms. Small businesses have never gone away, and today they provide 55 percent of all jobs in America.

[CLICK HERE to read an excerpt from “A History of Small Business in America,” by Mansel G. Blackford at the University of North Carolina Press, Copyright (c) 2003.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Small Business, Big Impact!” from The U.S. Small Business Administration, accessed Oct. 17, 2014.]

In the recent economic recovery, small businesses have been more instrumental in forging the path toward economic growth, generating two-thirds of all new jobs. But the true measure of success comes from hiring the right people with the experience needed for the job they hold. The bland “jack-of-all trades” position is buckling under the need for more specialized skills and knowledge. In traditional college curriculums, many students may not be qualified to hold the high-tech jobs that are available in the country’s newly energized manufacturing industry.

Still, with six straight months of employment gains above 200,000, the prospects for stronger economic growth are indeed on the horizon.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Small Businesses at Head of Trend in New Job Creation,” from The Bay State Banner, Oct. 16, 2014.]

Of course, successful small businesses tend to grow into larger companies. But is it a given that they will succumb to big business policies, politics and problems? Not always. Kip Tindell, the chairman and CEO of The Container Store, started his company with two buddies and an initial investment of $35,000. Today, the man who sells boxes has honed his management skills by thinking outside the traditional box. Just check out a few tenets on which he bases his company’s success:

  • The average retail clerk earns $48,000 a year.
  • He believes that if you hire great employees and pay them twice as much, you’ll get three times the productivity.
  • He believes women make better executives than men because they have high emotional intelligence, keep their egos in check, are comfortable surrounding themselves with people better than them, aren’t hungry or insecure and are calm and have self-awareness.
  • Women hold about 70 percent of the top leadership positions at the company.
  • The company’s turnover rate is just 10 percent, compared to the retail industry average of about 100 percent.
  • The Container Store has never laid anybody off in the history of the company (although it does fire people in pursuit of meritocracy).
     
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Container Store CEO Says ‘Women Make Better Executives than Men,’” from Business Insider, Oct. 13, 2014.]
A lot of media attention has been given to the growing disparity among incomes in the United States. People who earn more than they need to live on are able to take advantage of market opportunities, while those who live paycheck to paycheck have little chance of ever getting ahead. It’s just one of the growing economic problems in this country for which no one has successfully prescribed an antidote.
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Yellen ‘Greatly’ Concerned by Widening Inequality in America,” from Bloomberg, Oct. 17, 2014.]
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Americans Consider Inequality World’s Greatest Danger,” from PBS NewsHour, Oct. 17, 2014.]
Whether a small business owner, an employee at a large corporation or a retiree living on a fixed income, we tend to spend much of our time focused on the here and now. Please contact us for help creating a retirement income plan to help improve your financial future. We’ll do what we’re good at, so you can focus on what you’re good at.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed.

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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Money: Relatively Speaking

Money is a topic that is on every adult’s mind a great majority of the time. But there’s a big difference in what people are thinking when it comes to money. Some people wonder how their earned income stacks up against others. Some people create financial goals and save and invest diligently to meet them. Others just wonder if they’ll have enough to pay all their bills this month.

Recently, an employee at Wells Fargo bank sent an email to the CEO there requesting that every employee in the company be given a $10,000 salary increase. This equates to an increase of $4.71 an hour. Moreover, the cost to the company would be about $3 billion a year; a veritable drop in the bucket of the company’s net revenues. The employee cc’d 200,000 of the employees who worked at the company and the email was quickly picked up by the press. He refers to his lone email request as one voice that is a mere whisper, but calls upon his 300,000 colleagues to make their opinions heard.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Wells Fargo Worker Asks CEO for Raise in Email, CC’ing Hundreds of Thousands,” from CNN Money, accessed Oct. 10, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the Wells Fargo employee email at CNN Money, Oct. 10, 2014.]

This email was distributed the same week the White House started making a big push to increase the minimum wage across the country. It is pressing Congress to raise the wage to $10.10 an hour, as was increased by executive order for individuals working on new federal service contracts.

[CLICK HERE to read “Raise the Wage,” from The While House, accessed Oct. 10, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Small-Business Owners Push Back Against Ballot Measure to Increase Nebraska’s Minimum Wage,” from Fox Business News, Oct. 9, 2014.]

Opposing points of view on this topic are both valid and impassioned, with very little middle ground. Still, one quote from Vice President Joe Biden is worth a second thought: “No one in America should be working 40 hours a week and living below the poverty level.” The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, or $15,080 a year. Technically, the national poverty line for a single person is $11,670. By that argument, a person making minimum wage wouldn’t be living in poverty, but most people would find it difficult to live on $15,080 a year, or $30,160 for a two-income family of four.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “From Mid-Atlantic to Midwest, Voters Express Frustration and Fatigue,” from The New York Times, Oct. 10, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Vice President Biden: No One Who Works 40 Hours a Week Should Live in Poverty,” from The White House, Oct. 8, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the 2014 Poverty Guidelines from The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, accessed on Oct. 10, 2014.]

Of course, no discussion of income inequality is complete without comparing men’s and women’s wages. This year, Pew Research published findings concluding that young adult women are entering the workforce at near parity with men — at least for now. Women working in the technology industry may disagree, based on a recent comment from Microsoft’s CEO that drew criticism.

[CLICK HERE to view the video, “There’s More to the Story of the Shrinking Pay Gap,” on YouTube, Jan. 9, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to view the video, “Nadella’s Advice to Women on Raises Comes Back to Bite Him,” from The Seattle Times, Oct. 9, 2014.]

Wherever you stand on the pay dispute, or the income continuum, one thing remains the same: It’s personal. Our circumstances, our backgrounds, our experiences, our dispositions, our efforts, our challenges and our achievements; they are all different and combine to form the basis of our opinions on the topic.

What we set out to do is take the wealth you have accumulated and the income you have earned and help increase its long-term potential. Give us a call to see what we can do for you.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products. Our firm is not affiliated with the U.S. government or any governmental agency.

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

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

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A Lifetime of Wisdom

In contrast to popular perception, young adults do not rule. In fact, the 18 to 44 age group currently comprises 36.4 percent of the population, while those age 45 and up represent 40.3 percent. Of course, if you play your teenage child or grandchild in basketball or try to wear the same size dress you wore before having children, being part of the demographic majority may not seem like much of a win.

But the older people become, the more they tend to develop a perspective on what they’ve learned and gained versus what they still want out of life. In other words, a lifetime of wisdom might be worth more to you now than a 32-inch waist.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “So How Many Millennials Are There in the US, Anyway?” at MarketingCharts.com, June 30, 2014.]

When it comes to your health, you may not feel as good as you did when you were younger, but many people start eating better as they get older. Gone are the pizza deliveries at midnight and fast food binges on the way to meet friends. We get smarter, become more diligent and begin to notice the way certain foods (and drinks) make us feel and affect our body.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How to Old-Proof Your Body (While You’re Still Young),” at GQ magazine, Oct. 2014.]

In terms of work, as we age through our careers, we get a feel for what type of work we truly enjoy and what type of environment works best for us. This knowledge often comes through a process of trial and error, but it generally comes. Even if we remain in a less-than-satisfactory work environment for the sake of earning a living, at least we become well aware of what works, what doesn’t and why.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “America’s oldest workers: Why we refuse to retire! The Wal-Mart worker,” at CNN Money, Oct. 1, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “America’s oldest workers: Why we refuse to retire! The park ranger,” at CNN Money, Oct. 1, 2014.]

One life skill often overlooked is the ability to fail — and learn from it. Sadly, it takes years for many young people to learn this lesson, and once they learn it they may not be young anymore. The good news is that eventually most people learn this critical survival skill: The development of an internal voice that says, “I can overcome this. I can do this.” Not only can this life skill help improve life immeasurably, it makes us feel good inside, confident, self-aware and comfortable in our own skin.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “4 Critical Skills Your Child Needs to Develop before Inheriting Your Money,” at Forbes, Sept. 15, 2014.]

Perhaps many of us do trade a taut belly, balance and quick reflexes for life’s wisdom. When you think about this in totality — and on a good day — it may seem a fair trade. In return, we share our time-worn insights with others, generally younger people who believe they hold the world on a string. Who is the wiser?

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How to Become Rich, and 24 Other Insights from Warren Buffett,” at Money, accessed Oct. 3, 2014.]

Let’s put your lifetime of wisdom and our financial knowledge to work to help build you a confident financial future. Please give us a call.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies utilizing insurance products.

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

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

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