SOCIAL SECURITY: WHEN TO TAKE IT

#SocialSecurity #retirement #savings #earnings
It’s a question discussed numerous times in this space: when to take Social Security.
Maurie Backman of The Motley Fool took it on in a Christmas Day article, 2018, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Take it early, at age 62, and you get a lesser amount than you would at your full retirement age. But, if you have already retired and need to cobble together an income, taking Social Security early is an option.
Of course, the longer you wait to take it, the bigger your check will be. Wait until age 70, and your check could be pretty good-sized.
Backman cites three reasons he believes taking Social Security at age 62 might be a good idea for you: first, you are unable to work (or are having trouble finding a job, even though you are able to work); you’re in bad health; and, you’ve earned the right not to wait.
All those reasons make sense for some people. But everyone’s situation is different. Here’s one rule of thumb for everyone: don’t take it early just because you fear the government will run out of money and the checks will stop. Most experts believe Social Security will be around for quite some time, even if the government does nothing about the funding. Benefits may have to be adjusted in the future, they say, but it’s unlikely to go away entirely.
When making the Social Security decision, consider the following: what other income do you have, or will you have, in retirement. Income includes pensions, dividends and interest from your savings and investments and, perhaps, a no-stress, part-time job. Income, for some, may also include a full-time job. Yes, there are those who love their jobs enough that they don’t want to retire. If you are fortunate enough to be in that situation, and your employer will keep you on forever, that’s excellent.
Most folks, though, have jobs that will get old after a while, if they haven’t already. Others may have employers that are eager to get them retired, or at least out of their employ.
It’s a good idea, if you are among the latter categories, to have a Plan B in place that will give you income that will enable you to go with whatever happens, “retire” when you want and potentially give you financial freedom. Many such vehicles involve only a few part-time hours a week, with the potential to dwarf your working income. To check out one of the best such vehicles, message me.
Also, as you ponder when to take your Social Security, know that no matter how many years you paid into it, and no matter how good your income was, that government check alone probably won’t give you enough money to give you the retirement you want. You WILL need some other financial resources.
If you haven’t yet retired, and don’t know what your resources will be when you do retire, it’s time to start planning for it. The earlier you start planning, and the more disciplined you are, the better off you’ll be when you get older.
So, start saving, and get a good, trusted financial adviser to guide you in retirement planning. Remember, too, that retirement planning isn’t all about money, though money is a big factor. Know what you’ll want to do when you retire, and plan to make that happen.
The Social Security office nearest you can give you your options, based on your income. The wise person will have a plan so that, no matter when he or she retires, he or she will never run out of money.
Peter

MARKET PREDICTIONS AND PRUDENCE

#StockMarket #investing #BullMarket #MarketPredictions
Of late, the stock market has been, shall we say, volatile.
A decade ago was a big-time bust. The years hence have seen a boon.
Will that boon, soon, become a swoon?
The predictors have started to come out.
In an article for The New York Times, Alex Williams sites five popular doom-and-gloom scenarios, or situations, including the student debt problem, the situation with China, the end of easy money, Italy’s possible exit from the European Union and an anti-billionaire uprising across America.
Williams’ article was also published in the Dec. 23, 2018, edition of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Meanwhile Dr. Steve Sjuggerud, who says he’s had an extensive Wall Street career, says, “We are in the final stages of a massive bull market. And the biggest gains lie ahead.” His predictions were published by The Tennessean in Nashville Jan. 27, 2019.
His theory is that just before bull markets end, there’s a big run-up in stocks because people who listen to other doom-and-gloom predictions get out too early, leaving enough cash floating around to find bargains and profit.
Warning: investors should not panic over the impending end of the bull market. Markets go up and go down. Prices go up and come back down. A prudent investor has a strong plan, and stays with it.
What is a strong plan? It’s investing prudent amounts of money in a variety of vehicles. Some of those vehicles are designed for growth – in other words, you buy them at a fairly low price anticipating their value to become apparent to the market, and they rise in price.
Then, as the price goes up, you see a good number and sell enough shares to get your cost back, and let the rest continue to grow. That’s called playing with the house’s money.
But, a good plan also has vehicles that produce income, in the form of dividends, interest etc. Even if the share price of these vehicles drops suddenly, the dividends and interest keep coming. So, you have the comfort of letting their value ride out the downturn as your income keeps coming in. Of course, you need to watch whether the dividends and interest stay constant, or start to drop. If they drop, it may be time to cut your losses.
The point here is that a good plan can weather the ups and downs of the market. Sure, if the market drops, the overall value of one’s portfolio will drop with it. But that should not deter your strategy.
There are also scenarios in which you may decide that a stock, or other investment, isn’t doing what you thought it would. So you sell it to raise cash to use to find bargains in a down market.
If all this seems complicated, find a trusted adviser who can guide you through market ups and downs, and let him or her give you advice.
Don’t really have enough income to invest in stocks? There are many ways out there to pick up extra money by devoting a few part-time hours a week that doesn’t involve what you might see as a “second job,” and aren’t dependent on the markets. To check out one of the best such vehicles, message me.
Recessions, market downturns etc. hurt. They don’t have to devastate you financially. Prudence and balance in your investments, and staying with your plan regardless of market gyrations, is the key. Markets may not go up in a straight line, but, over time, they most always go up.
Peter

SELF-MADE: HOW DO YOU DEFINE IT?

#SelfMade #CollegeAdmissionsScandal #FameFromBirth
“What does it mean to be a ‘self-made’ person of great wealth?”
Mary Sanchez, columnist for the Kansas City Star, posed that question in a recent column, also published March 12, 2019, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Sanchez was referring to Kylie Jenner, whom Forbes magazine proclaimed to be the world’s youngest “self-made” billionaire, at age 21, from her cosmetics business.
Jenner is a member of the Kardashian-Jenner blended family. She didn’t exactly launch her business from her garage at night after working a full-time job all day, Sanchez points out.
Actually, she’s been quite savvy at leveraging her birthright fame, Sanchez says.
Alas, most of us aren’t blessed with the gift of fame from birth.
For most of us, if we want to achieve success, we have to do it gradually, over time, and many never get there.
Many of us don’t have the discipline to build wealth over time by saving more, spending less and investing properly.
Many of us never get introduced to a program that would allow us to build wealth by spending a few part-time hours off work – not unlike the folks who build a company in their garages. But, unlike the companies that start in a garage, you can build wealth by helping others do the same.
How? There are many such vehicles out there to allow you build wealth by leveraging your off-work time without taking a second, W-2 job. To check out one of the best such programs, message me.
Sanchez ‘s column was also published at a time when famous people are paying to get their children into prestigious colleges. They are not doing it by donating money to those schools. They are bribing coaches to “recruit” students to their teams who have not played the sport in question.
They are also paying others to take college entrance exams on behalf of their children – in other words, helping the children cheat their way to success. In turn, that means hard-working students who do things the right way are deprived of admission to those schools.
The whole scandal brings to mind how one defines success.
A big part of a successful life is doing everything the right way. That usually means hard work and tenacity. It also means either innovating – filling a need no one else has filled – or following a system that has created success for many others. To put that another way, it means duplicating what other successful people have done.
The college admission scandal has also brought to mind another axiom: if you cheat your way to the top, you will eventually get caught.
So how do you define success? Different people may see success in different forms. Part of defining success is knowing why you are doing something.
Good whys motivate the wise.
And when the wise are motivated, regardless of what they are doing, success will come. When success comes, wealth usually follows.
Success doesn’t come just to the lucky, though any successful person undoubtedly would say he or she has been blessed. One must put himself in the position for good fortune to come.
Kylie Jenner was helped by who she is. Most of us don’t have that advantage. But we all can put ourselves in position for success to strike. It may take some out-of-the-box thinking, but anyone can do it.
Peter

WOMEN SEE RETIREMENT AS LIBERATING

#women #retirement #WomenInRetirement #RetiredWomen
Forget the doom and gloom.
American women are increasingly viewing their retirement years with optimism, seeing the aging process as liberating.
So writes Adam Shell for USA Today. His article was also published in the Nov. 17, 2018, edition of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Women are so enthusiastic when it comes to aging, and that is a different message than what is out there,” the articles quotes Christine Russell, senior manager of retirement and annuities at TD Ameritrade.
Seventy is the new 50, Shell writes.
The stats suggest that women are “planning for a longer life,” an acknowledgement that should home in on taking the financial steps to fund the lives they want to lead in their later years, the article quotes Russell.
If women are planning for a long, healthy and prosperous life, why can’t all of us do the same?
Everyone’s circumstances are different. You might add the adjective “wealthy” to the women who are planning so carefully.
Truth is, we all can do it, to varying degrees. If you are not wealthy, you will just need more time to plan so you can get there.
That means starting early – right when you start working. You may have to start with a small amount. Even socking away $5 every week from your paycheck will be a start. That’s the equivalent of one or two beverages from your favorite coffee shop every week.
Then, as you get raises, sock those away. As your costs go up, perhaps you can bring your lunch to work instead of buying lunch.
In short, you can plan for a healthy retirement by making it a priority in your life.
Sure, not everyone has that discipline. For some, the discipline may have to be cultivated.
Also, expenses, foreseen and unforeseen, will come up for which you may have to tap into your savings. Buying a house is a good example of a foreseen expense. A big medical bill is an example of an unforeseen expense.
Still, if you have cultivated the discipline and made retirement savings a priority, you can catch up relatively quickly.
Some believe that in your young life, you need to provide for your family first. As your children grow to adulthood, you can start saving in earnest.
That works only if you know that your job will be there for as long as you want. Few can say that today.
If you have trouble leveraging your income, perhaps leveraging your time can accomplish the same thing. There are many vehicles out there that allow people to spend a few part-time hours a week and pick up a potentially lucrative income in addition to their regular W-2 income. If you are willing to step outside of your box and check out one of the best such vehicles, message me.
Saving for retirement, and planning for a long life, mainly requires discipline and prioritizing. Anyone can do it, by spending less and saving more. You can still treat yourself, but make those treats worthwhile and rare – perhaps until those later years come.
To quote the old adage: do today what others won’t, so you can do tomorrow what others can’t.
Peter

CUTTING VACATIONS SHORT

#vacation #TimeOffWork #TimeOff #vacations
You may go on vacation to refresh and recharge.
You may take a vacation to catch up on chores at home.
Mostly, though, you go on vacation to get away from work.
Yet, 63 percent of professionals cut their vacations short because of pressures at work.
So says a statistic published by USA Today. It was also published Monday, Nov. 18, 2018, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
One can read a lot into that number. The employee may be frightened about losing his or her job. The employer hates it when key employees take time off, so they pile up the work for that employee while he or she is gone.
Or, companies run with so few employees that when one is gone, the whole operation suffers.
Here’s something to ponder, if you are an employee: your employer gives you vacation time as a benefit in hopes that you will use that time to relax and come back raring to perform.
Use that time to its fullest, if you know you will never get it back. In some cases, it may pay off for employees to “save” their vacation time to get a nice payoff when they retire. Most employers, though, don’t offer that. For most, it’s use it or lose it. For those, not using vacation time puts money back in the employer’s pocket.
Still, there could be some very good reasons to cut one’s vacation short. Perhaps there is a co-worker facing a grave illness and doesn’t have enough vacation time to get paid for all the time off he or she will need to fight that illness. Perhaps the healthier workers may want to donate some of their time to that person.
A hurricane or some other disaster could strike your place of business while you are away. It may be important for you to get back and help get the business back on its feet.
But just because your employer doesn’t WANT you to use all your vacation, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. If an employer lets you go because you used your vacation, legal action is possible. Or, better yet, find a better place to work.
What if you could go on vacation worry-free, with no pressure on you to return until YOU want to? One might call that financial independence. There are many vehicles out there that potentially could give you the ability to one day fire your boss, and go on vacation whenever you wish, for as long as you wish.
But, you have to be willing to look at something that may be outside of your comfort zone – something you could do part time, without affecting what you are doing now. To check out one of the best such vehicles, message me.
Meanwhile, if you have a job in which you can just be off, where no one really replaces you and there is no pile of work sitting on your desk when you return, consider yourself fortunate. Or, to put it another way, you can perhaps consider yourself expendable and you might need a little more job security.
One of the definitions of job security is whether your boss has to replace you while you are gone.
But regardless of your job situation, using your vacation time is money in YOUR pocket. Cutting your vacation short puts money back in your boss’ pocket.
So, take time off if you can get it. Enjoy. Use all that your employer gives you. It’s time you will NEVER get back.
Peter

HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL

#baseball #BaseballSeason #TroublesInBaseball #HopeSpringsEternal
This time of year, hope springs eternal for every baseball fan.
Spring training has started. The first pitch of the regular season is just around the corner.
Yet, as USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale writes, all is not well in the baseball world. His column on the subject also ran Feb. 22, 2019, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
One star free agent, Manny Machado, just signed the richest contract in Major League Baseball history. He’ll play for the San Diego Padres for $300 million.
Still, other star free agents are still unsigned. Some of them, Nightengale writes, have few teams bidding on their services.
And, there’s talk of s players strike in 2021.
Players, and probably fans, wonder why these stars still linger on the market so close to the beginning of the season.
Aren’t the teams still in competition with one another? Don’t they want to suit up the best team at the start of the season so they have a shot at getting to, or winning, the World Series?
Long-term contracts for stars used to be the norm. But with the prospect of injury, a risk that a “star” will not be a star anymore after getting all that security, are keeping owners, in many cases, from betting big on one or two players. They prefer short-term deals, just in case.
Yes, even highly paid athletes undergo on-the-job issues. They may pale in comparison to the issues in your world, but still …
If you find yourself in a situation in which the good times seemed to have disappeared, the ballplayers are feeling the same thing, perhaps on a different level.
The ballplayers may think that going on strike in a couple of years will solve their problems. You may not have that ability.
But you still have to take matters into your own hands.
If your world is no longer what it was, YOU have to change it.
Are you not making enough money? Is your job to your liking? Is your job, and other life events, eating your time alive? Do you long for a different lifestyle?
If you answered no to the first two, and yes to the second two, know that there are many vehicles out there that can put more money in your pocket, and more time in your life to do what YOU want.
To check out one of the best such vehicles, message me.
Remember, times change and, in this day and age, quite frequently. Gravy trains eventually slow, and even come to a stop.
Promises that you perhaps have relied on through life can be broken. What you were hired to do may change.
People need to be open to things they may not have ever dreamed of doing. If they are not, they may be left behind.
So pencil yourself into the lineup and take your turn at bat. You may never play baseball for a living, but you can still make your life a real hit, or even a home run.
Peter

WAGES RISING, BUT NOT ENOUGH TO KEEP UP WITH COSTS

#RisingCosts #WageIncreases #ImprovingEconomy
The economy is improving.
Therefore, interest rates are rising.
Therefore, wages are increasing as unemployment is decreasing.
Therefore, costs of just about everything is rising, which may be canceling out wage increases for many.
In its Weekly Explainer, published Oct. 29, 2018, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution took on this subject, largely quoting economist Aaron Sojourner of the University of Minnesota.
Sojourner spent a year as part of the Council of Economic Advisers in Washington.
The unemployment rate is now as low as it has been since the dot-com boom. Yet, it’s really hard for a lot of people to get a meaningful raise, which is defined as exceeding the price increases of necessities, the article says.
Real average hourly earnings, meaning wages adjusted for inflation, in August for all employees are up 0.1 percent, the article quotes the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall prices have increased by the same amount during the same time period, the article says.
“On average, most workers were running in place,” the article reads.
Moreover, for ordinary workers over the last year, real average hourly earnings actually decreased 0.1 percent, the article quotes the BLS.
If you are an average worker, whether or not you have gotten a raise recently, you probably feel that you can’t get ahead.
Sure, employers are fighting over a finite labor pool, poaching even within a restaurant chain, some of which have eased their rules against that.
So one may end up going from one job to another, doing pretty much the same work, and might see $1 an hour more. But if the cost of what you have to buy is increasing by that much, you may think it’s better to keep up than to fall behind – and it is.
So what’s a person who really wants to get ahead to do? That depends on whether that person is willing to look at things that can put extra money in his or her pocket, without interfering with what he or she is doing now.
That doesn’t mean a second, relatively low-paying job. It means looking at something that could dramatically change your life for the better.
There are many such vehicles out there that potentially can do that. To check out one of the best, message me.
Meanwhile, keep your eyes open for a better-paying job. Look at doing something you may never have thought you would do. Rather than complain about how things are, do something to make your life better.
Though employers may look desperate for help in some areas, there’s only so much they are going to pay for that help. No matter how much your boss may like you, if you threaten to go, there’s only so many inducements he or she will offer to convince you to stay. Try not to make such a decision on emotion. Always have your mind on what would be best for you.
When unemployment is down, wages go up, and prices go up to pay those higher wages. It’s a progression you cannot stop. But you can look at things that, with a little effort outside of your job, and a strong goal for your life, can allow you to reach your dream.
Peter

HIGH STRESS ABOUT FUTURE

#FutureOfAmerica #FutureOfUS #MyPersonalFuture #StressAboutFuture
More than two-thirds of Americans are stressed about the future of the country.
So says the American Psychological Association’s annual “Stress in America” survey.
Isaac Stanley-Becker discussed the survey in a Washington Post article, also published Oct. 31, 2018, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Though the article focuses on politics, let’s step back and discuss stress in one’s own life, and how to combat it.
First, we have to know what makes us stressful. Certainly, it can be the political environment, but the country has survived – and thrived – despite any politician.
More likely, though, we have things in our own lives stressing us, and we use politics as a blame outlet.
One stressor could be a job. Some people are overworked, underpaid and have no time to enjoy what really matters to them.
Others worry that a good situation that they have at work – no matter how much they might complain about it – could disappear tomorrow.
Still others are stressed by family or other personal circumstances.
Generally, stress doesn’t get rid of itself. Either the stressor goes away, and is replaced by something better or more pleasant, or the person finds a way to relieve the stress.
For many, when one stressor goes, another steps in. That’s why people can’t depend on good fortune to strip them from stressors, although, if it comes, good fortune is usually appreciated.
Usually, some type of action is required to remove stress, or at least minimize it.
What kind of action? It might be to look for a better situation. Good fortune comes to those who prepare for it, so by looking for a better situation, you are preparing to find it.
Family or personal situations are a bit more delicate. You can’t erase your family. But there may be situations that you can remove yourself from. Then, you have to keep from being sucked back into such vortexes.
If you believe your job is threatened, or if you have a job that is eating you alive, there could be a simpler way of removing that stress.
Look at how you spend your non-work time. Family and recreation can be important stress relievers, but you might consider spending a few, part-time hours a week pursuing a completely different goal.
There are many vehicles out there that can enable a person to supplement, even replace, an income by spending a few part-time hours a week. Though they don’t involve a “second job,” there is work involved. But the rewards can be life-changing for the person who really needs to remove stress from his or her life.
To check out one of the best such vehicles, message me.
As for the future of America, there is a lot more good out there than bad. Though the bad stuff gets more publicity, and rightfully so, the good things often go unnoticed, at least by a wide audience.
One way to ease any stress about America’s future may be to go look for those good things. Take a walk in the woods, observe the beauty, and see what destination finds you. You may find that walking back to your originating point is completely unappealing.
As you make your journey, take care not to overlook what could be good for your life.
Peter

DRUG PRICES ALL OVER THE MAP

#PrescriptionDrugPrices #DrugPrices #PrescriptionPrices
Stephanie Garman picked up her prescription at CVS one day.
This time, she took a look at the receipt.
Retail price: $355.99
Her amount due: $3.47
In other words, she paid a1 percent co-pay for her relatively expensive drug.
David Lazarus took on this subject in an article for the Los Angeles Times. It was also published Oct. 8, 2018, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Someone is obviously benefiting from this, but I don’t know who,” Lazarus quotes Garman.
Garman obviously had good insurance. “The purpose of insurance is to protect patients from the full cost of medical care at the point they need it,” Lazarus quotes Patricia M. Danzon, a professor of health care management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “An insured patient never faces full price,” Danzon is quoted as saying.
Lazarus also quotes Amy Davidoff, a senior research scientist at the Yale School of Public Health, calling drug pricing “a black-box negotiation process” between drug makers, insurers, and middlemen – called pharmacy benefit managers – who haggle behind closed doors over how money changes hands.
Patients who have good insurance can purchase drugs blissfully ignorant of how much drugs cost. Patients without insurance get billed the full rate. If they can’t afford the medication, drug makers often have programs for such people to get their medications at costs they can afford.
We won’t get into the complications of pricing drugs, other than to say that drug makers want to get back the cost of developing the drug, which can take years or even decades, and the cost of getting the necessary regulatory approval, marketing the drug to prescribers etc. – as well as make a profit.
They will hire the benefit managers to negotiate the prices with various prescriber networks, and to supply those networks.
Not everyone is charged the same price. It can depend on volume, which network you are in etc.
Bear in mind, too, that largely happens only in the United States. Other countries with single-payer health systems tell the drug makers what THEY will pay for medications.
Since drug makers make their largest profit in the U.S., they don’t want this system to go away. They know that those who really need their drugs will do whatever they must to get them, even if it means going broke.
This is a tough problem to solve. We want to keep the drug makers actively doing research to find new therapies for various diseases. We want to make drugs as affordable as possible. At the same time, we want to make health insurance as affordable as possible.
One thing the average person can do: look for different ways to make money so that if a big illness requiring expensive treatment hits you or your family, the cost will be less painful. There are several vehicles out there for putting a good bit of extra money in the pockets of those willing to explore them. To check out one of the best, message me.
Meanwhile, we need to continue to look for ways for people to get well without having to liquidate their retirement savings, sell their homes or sell valuable family heirlooms at pennies on the dollar, just to pay medical bills.
With all the ingenuity we have in the U.S., someone certainly can find a way to do that, whi8le satisfying all concerned.
Peter

BANKROLLING ADULT CHILDREN

#AdultChildren #BankrollingAdultChildren #AdultChildrenLivingAtHome
Four out of five parents provide some type of financial support for their adult offspring.
They spend twice as much on them as they do saving for retirement.
Half of parents are willing to draw down savings, and a quarter would go into debt or pull from retirement savings to support kids who’ve left the nest.
These are facts according to a new survey from Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, a research firm, which provided the results to USA TODAY exclusively.
Janna Herron tackled this topic in a USA TODAY article that was also published Oct. 3, 2018, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
And it’s not just giving them daily financial report. Parents pay rent for their kids. They pay for weddings and vacations. You might expect parents to pay for college, or loan their child money for a down payment on a house, but they also cover groceries, cell phones and other expenses, the article quotes the survey.
It had been predicted a few years ago that the Baby Boom generation would see the greatest transfer of wealth from their parents, largely because their parents’ houses had increased dramatically in value over their lives.
Now, it appears, that same Baby Boom generation is helping their kids, to a greater or lesser degree, live the lives they want.
As these parents struggle to have enough financial security in retirement, will their children be in a position to repay them for all they had done for them?
As we break this down, it helps to have some perspective. Just a few decades ago, job security was more prevalent. One could rent an apartment or buy a home in most locales for much less than it costs now.
Kids are graduating college with much more debt. They are postponing things like marriage because many of them can’t even afford to move out of their parents’ house. The jobs they have could go away tomorrow – and many have.
On the other hand, lifestyles are more expensive today. Years ago, one didn’t have all the gadgets that make life easier today. Not only do the kids today have them, they need them. It’s tough to survive today without a computer or cell phone, but they make life much more expensive than it was years ago.
If you are a young adult, you should seek to gain independence, financial and otherwise, from your parents.
If you went away to college, you probably had a roommate. Think about a roommate, or roommates, to make living on your own more affordable.
Watch your daily expenses. If you have a $5 a day coffee shop habit, get a Thermos and brew your own. If you buy lunch every day, think about brown-bagging it.
And, thinking further outside the box, think about using a few part-time non-work hours a week pursuing one of the many vehicles that can help you make potentially a lot of extra money. To check out one of the best, message me.
Remember, too, that Mom and Dad deserve the best retirement they can have. If they have helped you in your youth, it behooves you to help them later on, and pay them back.
Life as a young adult is different for you from what it was for your parents. That should not give you license to live off them forever. Because life is different for you, YOU have to learn to think differently.
Peter