Exploring Today’s Housing Market with Lillian Morrow

Guest speaker Lillian Morrow discusses current trends and insights in today’s dynamic housing market. Discover key factors impacting property values and what to expect in the near future.

Kimball Creek Partners – 2024 Spring Rebalance

Join Dean & Brock as they discuss the critical role of rebalancing
your investment portfolio. Learn why maintaining a diversified
portfolio is essential for managing risk.

Deciding When to Take Social Security: A Comprehensive Guide to Early Claims

One of the most significant decisions on the road to retirement is determining when to start claiming Social Security benefits. While the earliest eligibility age is 62, making the decision to take Social Security early is nuanced and requires careful consideration. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the essential factors to help you decide if claiming Social Security early aligns with your financial goals and lifestyle.

Assessing Your Financial Landscape:

1. Understand the Basics:

Start by familiarizing yourself with the fundamental aspects of Social Security. Learn about the eligibility age range (62 to 70) and the impact of waiting on your monthly benefits. Recognize that your unique circumstances will play a pivotal role in the decision-making process.

2. Evaluate Your Health and Longevity:

Consider your current health and family history. Assessing your potential lifespan is crucial when deciding on the optimal age to start claiming benefits. While waiting may result in higher monthly payouts, your health should be a significant factor in this decision.

Weighing the Financial Impact:

3. Assess Your Financial Needs:

Take a comprehensive look at your financial needs and obligations. Consider your monthly expenses, outstanding debts, and any unforeseen costs. Determine whether an early boost in income from Social Security aligns with your current financial requirements.

4. Explore Other Income Sources:

Evaluate your overall retirement income strategy. If you have additional income sources, such as pensions or investments, factor them into the decision-making process. A holistic approach to your financial portfolio can provide a clearer picture of your overall stability.

Factoring in Lifestyle Priorities:

5. Consider Your Bucket List:

Reflect on your life priorities and aspirations. What are the items on your bucket list? If claiming Social Security early could facilitate the pursuit of long-held dreams or enhance your lifestyle, it becomes a crucial factor in the decision-making process.

6. Explore Flexibility in Retirement:

Assess the flexibility in your retirement plans. If you have the option to reduce work hours or pursue part-time opportunities, claiming Social Security early might be a viable choice. Flexibility can contribute to a more fulfilling retirement.

Seek Professional Guidance:

7. Consult with Financial Advisors:

Seeking advice from financial professionals can provide valuable insights. Discuss your specific situation with a financial advisor who can offer personalized guidance based on your unique circumstances, helping you make an informed decision.

Conclusion:

Deciding when to take Social Security is a significant milestone in your retirement journey. By carefully assessing your financial landscape, considering lifestyle priorities, and seeking professional advice, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your goals and enhances your overall retirement experience. Remember, the choice is personal, and finding the right balance for your unique circumstances is key.

The Fragile Decade: Avoid These 10 Common Retirement Planning Mistakes

Navigating the Fragile Decade: Top 10 Retirement Planning Mistakes for 55-65-Year-Olds

If you find yourself in the age bracket of 55 to 65, welcome to what financial experts often dub the “Fragile Decade.” This crucial period poses the highest risk to your dream retirement due to decisions surrounding social security, pensions, Medicare, taxes, and employment. In this blog post, we’ll explore the top 10 mistakes commonly made by individuals in their 50s and 60s as they prepare for retirement.

  1. #1 Taking Social Security at the Wrong Time: Many individuals underestimate the impact of the timing of their Social Security decisions. Discover why choosing the right moment to start receiving benefits is crucial for maximizing your income during retirement.

  2. #2 Lack of Tax Reduction Planning: Taxes can be a significant drain on your retirement income if not managed strategically. Learn why having a solid plan to reduce taxes in retirement is essential and how it can safeguard your financial future.

  3. #3 Paying off the Mortgage Too Early: While the idea of a mortgage-free retirement is enticing, paying off your mortgage prematurely may not always be the wisest decision. Explore the reasons behind this and find out how to strike a balance between debt and financial security.

  4. #4 Incorrect Cash Flow Calculations: Accurate cash flow calculations are the backbone of a stable retirement plan. Uncover the common errors people make when estimating their cash flow and discover how to ensure your calculations align with your financial goals.

  5. #5 Misguided Investments: Investing $3 million is not the same as investing $10,000, and yet, many individuals treat them similarly. Delve into the intricacies of investing during the Fragile Decade, and understand how to tailor your investment strategy to your evolving financial landscape.

  6. #6 Overlooking Healthcare Costs: Failing to account for potential healthcare expenses can be a grave mistake. Explore the importance of factoring in healthcare costs into your retirement plan to avoid unexpected financial burdens.

  7. #7 Ignoring Long-Term Care Planning: Long-term care can quickly deplete your savings. Learn why overlooking long-term care planning is a common misstep and how incorporating it into your retirement strategy can provide peace of mind.

  8. #8 Underestimating Inflation Impact: Inflation erodes the purchasing power of money over time. Discover why underestimating the impact of inflation on your retirement savings can lead to financial instability and how to safeguard against it.

  9. #9 Failing to Protect Assets from Legal Proceedings: Neglecting to shield your assets from potential loss due to legal proceedings is a critical oversight. Learn why asset protection is crucial and explore effective strategies to safeguard your hard-earned wealth.

  10. #10 Neglecting Legacy Planning: Many retirees overlook legacy planning, assuming it’s only for the wealthy. Learn why neglecting this aspect can impact your estate and discover effective strategies for preserving your legacy for future generations.

As you stand on the precipice of the Fragile Decade, armed with the knowledge of potential pitfalls, you can steer your retirement plans towards greater resilience and success. Don’t let common mistakes hinder the realization of your dream retirement. Visit our page to uncover the complete list of the top 10 mistakes and equip yourself with the tools and strategies needed to navigate this pivotal phase with confidence. Your retirement journey starts with informed decisions – make them count.

****The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.****


Unlocking Financial Potential: Maximizing Social Security After Divorce

Navigating Social Security After Divorce

Divorce brings about significant life changes, and one area that requires careful consideration is Social Security. As a divorcee, understanding the nuances of Social Security benefits is crucial for securing your financial future. In this blog post, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide outlining important information for divorcees seeking clarity on Social Security.

1. Know Your Entitlements:

  • Spousal Benefits: If your marriage lasted for more than 10 years, you may be entitled to a spousal benefit. Explore how this benefit can enhance your monthly income during retirement.

  • Survivor Benefits: Learn about survivor benefits, which can provide financial support if your ex-spouse passes away. Understand the eligibility criteria and how it factors into your overall financial plan.

2. Strategic Timing Matters:

  • Filing Sooner for Spousal Benefits: Unlike most Social Security benefits, spousal benefits don’t continue to grow past your full retirement age. Discover why filing sooner might be advantageous for divorced individuals seeking a spousal benefit.

  • Understanding Full Retirement Age: Familiarize yourself with your full retirement age to optimize the timing of your Social Security benefits. We’ll break down the implications and guide you on making informed decisions.

3. Calculating Your Benefits:

  • Estimate Your Benefits: Utilize online calculators and resources to estimate your Social Security benefits. Understand how different scenarios, such as early or delayed filing, can impact your overall financial picture.

  • Consider Professional Advice: Consult with a financial advisor or Social Security specialist to receive personalized guidance based on your unique situation. Professional advice can provide clarity and ensure you’re making informed decisions.

4. Addressing Common Concerns:

  • Impact on Ex-Spouse: Understand how claiming Social Security benefits impacts your ex-spouse’s benefits. Clear any misconceptions and address concerns about potential impacts on your relationship with your ex-spouse.

  • Remarriage Considerations: If you remarry, be aware of how it may affect your Social Security benefits. Navigate potential complexities and plan accordingly to maintain financial stability.

5. Plan for the Long Term:

  • Healthcare Considerations: Social Security is just one aspect of your overall retirement plan. Factor in healthcare costs, investments, and other sources of income for a comprehensive financial strategy.

  • Legacy Planning: Consider how your Social Security decisions align with your broader legacy planning goals. Explore strategies for preserving your financial legacy for future generations.

Conclusion:

Navigating Social Security after divorce requires careful consideration of entitlements, strategic timing, benefit calculations, and addressing common concerns. Empower yourself with this comprehensive guide to make informed decisions that contribute to your long-term financial independence.

 

***The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual***

 

2024 Outlook-Returning To A Familiar Place

2023 is in the books and the results were mostly encouraging. As we look forward to 2024, we’ve taken the time to outline some of our thoughts about both the past year and the coming months. You can watch Dean and me talk about our outlook for 2024 in the video above.

In 2024, we believe markets will make a definitive turn to a more recognizable place. Where the last two years had investors focused on inflation, market volatility, and striving for a sense of economic balance, we expect to see some return to the previous status quo, characterized by more familiar and steadier economic and market patterns. We’ve seen indications of this reset—receding inflation, rates stabilizing, more modest stock market performance, and go-forward economic forecasts that have been dwindling

It doesn’t mean that 2024 won’t have its own surprises or potential challenges. Reflecting on 2023, we certainly experienced our fair share of unexpected events. There were positives, such as the strength of the U.S. economy and the stock market, despite the Federal Reserve (Fed) raising interest rates. On the downside, we faced a regional banking crisis driven by interest rate risk and saw escalating conflict in the Middle East, reminding us that markets are seemingly constantly overcoming obstacles.

So where does that leave us for the first half of 2024? We do expect the economy to soften mildly, which is what the Fed has been looking for over the past two years. The uncertainty surrounding a potential recession may limit stock gains as 2024 begins, but it could also provide a silver lining if the Fed eases rates as a result.

I’ll end with an interesting perspective as we approach this year. According to Bloomberg news half of the worlds population (nearly 4 billion people) are eligable to participate in an election this year. This includes Elections in Young democracies like Pakstan and Tunisia, but also the UK, Mexico, India, and of course the USA.  We have emphasized before that market’s love certainty. As we face an election year, clarity can come as a new government takes shape and multi-year policy adgendas are put in place.

 

Compost for your investments

 

Composting fuels your garden, and tax loss harvesting can help fuel your portfolio!

One of my favorite hobbies is gardening. For me, late fall involves winterizing the garden and building lots of compost piles.

I love composting. Composting takes things like dead plants, leaves, or unwanted pumpkins, and turns them into rich soil that fuels growth in next year’s garden. And that biological process of taking something seemingly worthless, and creating value, I just think that is incredible.

We can apply those same principles of growing a garden to growing a portfolio.

Within diversified portfolios, there are winners and losers. Too often an investor will hang onto a bad investment because selling at a loss can feel like admitting they were wrong.  While it’s always better to make money than lose money, those losses have value. Kind of like, those old pumpkins sitting on your porch.

By selling those depressed positions, you do 2 things.

First, you free up capital to invest in today’s best ideas

Second, taxable losses can be used to offset gains in other investments or can be carried forward to future years and future gains.

Now I don’t create waste, just so I can compost it. And I don’t necessarily advocate buying and selling position solely based on tax considerations.

But within the scope of your personal financial plan, underperforming positions in your portfolio may provide the nutrients to fuel next year’s growth.

And that’s what we are trying to accomplish for our clients with tax-loss harvesting. 

Strapping In for the Financial Roller Coaster: Navigating the Ups and Downs with Confidence

As my children grow older, their fascination with roller coasters at the State Fair has grown exponentially. Each year, it becomes increasingly evident that these heart-pounding, stomach-churning rides hold a special place in their hearts. However, as a parent, I couldn’t help but question the high price of admission and tickets as we embarked on another year at The Fair.

As I gazed up at these towering structures, new doubts began to surface. Chipped paint and rusty bolts adorning the rides made me wonder… Am I paying enough? Is this contraption regularly maintained and updated? And then there was the ride attendant, whose foam flip flops, unkempt hair, and khaki shorts left me questioning my choices even further. What had I signed up for?

But then something interesting happened. As I fastened my seatbelt (And khaki shorts gave it a tug) I realized the essence of what makes roller coasters exhilarating: confidence in a successful journey. For me, the best part of the ride was not the initial plunge or the hairpin turns. It was the moment when I stepped off the ride, looked at the photos taken during our journey, and remembered the thrill—all while knowing that I had remained securely on track.

The Stock Market is often called a roller coaster. Rightfully so. There are exhilarating highs and stomach-churning lows.  And just like on a roller coaster, it is a lot more fun if we have confidence that we are firmly on track.  

The best way to build confidence in your financial picture is to have a plan, and revisit it often.

When serving our clients, we have 3 steps to our planning process. We use these steps to help clients know where they stand, and consistently check if they remain on track for their goals.

Step 1: FACTS

Before the journey, we need to take inventory of where you are to start. This is everything from account balances, to life goals, to insurance coverage, to family relationships. By assembling and organizing all relevant facts, a client knows where they stand today.

Step 2: PLANS

Here is where we move from Facts to Assumptions.  We assume things like how long you will live, how fast your investments will grow, what you will spend each year, if inflation will be high or low, the potential cost of your daughters wedding in 7 years, where you will travel, what you health might be, or any other scenarios that are personalized and important to you. The Assumptions allow us to envision a future and determine you are on track to a successful outcome. 

Steps 3: “WHAT IF…”

If we build a plan and everything looks on track, we can model What If scenarios to check the strength of the plan and build confidence in our assumptions.  Questions like, what if market returns are below average or inflation runs high? What if Long Term Care is needed or an untimely death occurs?

If the initial plan indicates a client is NOT on track, What if modelling can help develop solutions for success. What if spending decreased or savings increased? What if you downsized a home or adjusted investment allocations?

 

The most important thing to remember is that planning is a process. Just like a regular maintenance on a roller coaster improves my confidence in a successful outcome, regular updates to a financial plan make it more likely that you can stay on track. 

Market Update and Portfolio Rebalance-November 2023

We have recently completed our semi-annual Fall Rebalance and Portfolio review. We largely felt comfortable “staying the course” with most of our holdings. However, the economic landscape is ever changing. And with those changes come opportunities for strategic adjustments, and careful risk controls.

Because you may notice some activity in your account, we wanted to provide you with a brief overview of our market outlook as well as some core investment themes we are addressing on your behalf.

There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about where we’re headed:

·         The labor market shows signs of moving in the right direction, with more balance between the supply and demand for workers.

·         Inflation is coming down. The Fed is most likely done with its aggressive rate-hiking campaign, which is good news for investors and policymakers alike.

·         The fourth quarter is historically the best quarter for the S&P 500, with average gains of around 4.2%.

While we are optimistic by nature, we need to acknowledge the challenges and unknows the investment markets are currently wrestling with:

·         Geopolitical conflicts in Ukraine, The Middle East, and the risk that these conflicts spread to neighboring regions. 

·         Potential for slowdowns in the US economy as consumers and businesses grabble with the likelihood that interest rates will stay higher for longer.

·         Weakening foreign trade as China’s economy slows and the U.S. dollar strengthens.

Our aim is to keep you positioned in holdings that are appropriate for your goals, control risk, and can participate in growth and innovations.

Here are 3 core themes are addressing with our revisions:

Bonds– Short- and intermediate-term bond yields are at multi-year highs due to an aggressive rate hiking effort by the Federal Reserve. As we are likely approaching the top of the rate hiking campaign, we want to add more intermediate-term bond holdings at these higher yields. Bonds are useful components of a balanced portfolio and can provide a hedge against recessions or geopolitical events.

Valuations Matter Positive market growth in 2023 has largely been driven by a select few large companies. We continue to have a positive view on many of these companies, and also feel there are mid-sized and small-sized companies that are inexpensive relative to the current price of some market leaders. We want to make sure we have a balanced exposure to take advantage of value today. 

Tax Efficiency– Because much of the market gains this year have come from a few companies, there is an opportunity to shelter current or future gains through tax-loss harvesting. Furthermore, we have identified several opportunities to utilize tax-efficient ETF investments which are less likely to create capital gains distributions (these can increase your tax bill). 

If you are interested in hearing more about the changes we have made, and why we are making them, we have posted a short video discussing these updates, which you can view on our website.

It is often in times of mounting market concerns that we see the resiliencies of companies take over. Addressing our bond exposures, and continuing to monitor equity opportunities, should help your investments stay competitive and balanced in 2023 and beyond. 

As the fourth quarter continues, we will hope for continued clarity but plan for uncertainty. In the meantime, these model adjustments will continue to support the diverse approach we take with every strategy. 

Offering Thanks-What to be grateful for this time of year

The penultimate month of the year is often a time to reflect and offer thanks. And while economic and geopolitical uncertainty can overshadow the positives, there are things to be thankful for. Here is just some of what we’re thankful for, now that we’re in the second to last month of the year.

·         Resilient U.S. economy. Coming into 2023, the dreaded R word (recession) seemed a near certainty. But the most recent data showed our economy grew at a strong 4.9% clip (annualized) during the third quarter, the fastest rate since the initial COVID-19 recovery. Even though borrowing costs are rising, the consumer remains in good shape, bolstered by a strong job market and rising wages. While the economy is likely to slow in coming quarters, it’s unlikely to slow enough to concern stock markets, given the health of consumers and corporate America.

·         End of the earnings recession. Solid third-quarter earnings (vs. expectations) mean the earnings recession is almost certainly over. The market’s reaction to results has been mixed at best amid all the uncertainty. But a 5% year over year increase in S&P 500 earnings is a distinct possibility—perhaps 10% excluding the energy sector.

·         Easing inflation pressures. Surging inflation and the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) aggressive response were the big stories of 2022. But it seems inflation has eased enough to keep the Fed on hold at its next few meetings, and potentially cut rates in 2024. Historically, stock and bond markets have tended to perform well after rate-hiking campaigns.

·         Fixed income is an attractive asset class again, despite recent bond bumpiness. After nearly a decade of very modest returns, yields for many fixed income investments are the highest they’ve been since 2007. Starting yields are the best predictors of future long-term returns, so at these higher yield levels, fixed income returns may be higher too. Moreover, yields for some of the highest quality fixed income sectors are offering attractive income again—which practically eliminates the need to invest in low quality bonds to generate income.

There’s no doubt this year has been challenging, given increased economic and geopolitical uncertainty. But taking a balanced view on the economy and the markets, we believe there are some positives that may help stocks finish the year higher. Even in the face of potential volatility, focusing on longer-term goals while tuning out short-term noise remains highly recommended. 

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