November 2017 Newsletter
Time to Go Over Your Year-End Financial Planning Checklist
For many Americans, the holiday season is a time to throw caution to the wind where their money is concerned. They knowingly overspend on gifts and other seasonal expenses, and rationalize it by saying things like, “Well, Christmas only comes once a year.” And, even though I’m a financial advisor, I’m not about to throw cold water on that tradition. The truth is, I get it, and even I have been known to get caught up in the carefree spirit of the season. That said, I believe everyone would feel less guilty about their seasonal spending sprees if they took the time to give their overall finances an annual year-end checkup.
November and December are the perfect time to do this because there are certain key financial deadlines that fall on December 31. Beat them, and you’ll greatly increase the odds of enjoying your holidays knowing you’re on track to meet your long-term financial goals—even if you decide to overspend a bit on gifts for the grandchildren in the short-term. (Consider this year-end financial checkup a gift you give yourself!) What follows is a brief checklist of some of the key areas to look at when doing your checkup—ideally in partnership with your financial advisor:
Get a Jump on Your Taxes – This is definitely the most important and potentially beneficial area to examine before the year ends. One of the most common financial mistakes people make is waiting until February or March to meet with their CPA or advisor to talk about taxes. By that time, the deadline to correct mistakes or take advantage of any potential savings opportunities may well have passed.
You need to have that meeting in November or December, thus taking a proactive approach to tax planning that better ensures you won’t end up giving the IRS any more of your hard-earned money than you absolutely have to. And, you should have this meeting every November or December because tax laws and guidelines change from year to year—as does your own financial situation. A savings strategy that might not have been right for you last year (or for which you may not have qualified) may be a smart move that results in big savings this year. And, with Trump’s tax reform proposal on the table, now would be a good time to speak with your advisor about what potential new opportunities may lay in store for you down the road!
Consider Estate Planning – If you haven’t yet done so, schedule a meeting with your advisor to talk about estate planning. Even if you’ve done an otherwise great job with your finances, your assets could still be vulnerable if you ignore this important topic. Any number of unforeseen circumstances—from lawsuits to tax penalties to healthcare costs—can jeopardize your assets if you haven’t taken the right steps to protect them legally. We coordinate on a regular basis with top estate planning attorneys to help clients create estate plans that align with their financial strategies and goals. There are many benefits, including avoiding unnecessary legal costs and taxation, protecting yourself against possible Medicaid spend down, and most importantly, protecting loved ones from legal headaches, arguments, and difficult emotional decisions.
Examine Your Goals – As I often say, the best way to make sure you’re on track to meet your retirement goals is to identify specifically what those goals are. Many of you have shared those goals with me as part of the financial planning process—which is as it should be. But, goals can change, and sometimes they must be adjusted in response to new circumstances in our lives. By the same token, your financial strategy may periodically need to be adjusted to make sure it still aligns with your goals and is not jeopardizing them, which can happen.
In my experience, most people have what I call “purpose-based” retirement goals, meaning they are saving and investing for a particular purpose, not merely to accumulate the maximum amount of wealth possible. That would be “performance-based” investing, and it’s relatively rare. I’ve found that most people simply want to have sufficient retirement income to be able to live comfortably, travel, and enjoy their favorite pastimes without worrying about running out of income or incurring a major financial loss. In fact, one of the main reasons I became a specialist in income-based investing is that I realized it was the approach best suited for helping people achieve purpose-based goals. That was true when I first created my income-based business model, and it’s still true today!
Assess Your Risk – The reality is that everyone really wants the same thing from their investments: maximum return with zero risk. But it’s important to ask: “maximum return for what purpose,” as we already discussed in the “Examine Your Goals” section. It’s also important to understand that no investment option is completely risk-free. But it is possible to significantly reduce your risk without sacrificing returns, as income-based investors have proven since the turn of the century. Since 2000, the stock market has risen by around 60 percent but has also experienced two major drops, from 2000 to 2003 and 2007 to 2009. Ultimately, buy-and-hold investors during that time have achieved about a 3 percent average growth rate and approximately a 5 percent return with dividends factored in. By comparison, many income-based investors whose portfolios have been properly managed have achieved close to 5 percent income and greater than a 5 percent total return. But, even better, they’ve done it with far less risk of a major loss during those two major drops, and without the continued risk of a third major stock market drop.
Now is a great time to assess your risk because it’s also a great time to reduce your risk based on the most basic investment logic: buy low, sell high. The markets are at record highs, and although they could climb slightly higher still, I believe there is also a good chance we could see that overdue third major market correction in the near future.
I’ll talk more about this when I share my 2018 market forecast in the very near future. In the meantime, call our office soon to schedule an appointment to go over your year-end financial checklist so you can enjoy the holiday season with peace of mind!
Copyright © 2017. All Rights Reserved, Pacific Financial Planners, LLC.
Pacific Financial Planners, LLC is an Independent Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through Western International Securities, Inc., headquartered in Pasadena CA. Pacific Financial Planners, LLC and Western International Securities, Inc. are separate and unaffiliated. The material contained within are the opinions of Jerry Slusiewicz only and are neither an offer or recommendation to buy or sell any securities or strategies mentioned. You should always check with your professional financial advisor and/or tax advisor before taking any action on any of the securities or strategies contained on this site.
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