Thursday
Jan222015

Don’t Let 2015 Goals Become Afterthoughts

 New beginnings offer the chance to hit the reset button.  Whether it’s setting personal goals spurred on by the beginning of a New Year or adjusting your financial course to focus on retirement, hitting the reset button is an opportunity to think about your intentions and put a finer point on your action plan.

One challenge that comes into play when setting goals, either personal or financial, is the potential to get distracted along the way.  Day-to-day stuff gets in the way and goals can easily become afterthoughts. How can you avoid falling into the gap trap that exists between expressing a goal (Point A) and crossing the finish line (Point B)? 

Here are three tips to get you started.

  1. Commitment is essential.  Commitments have an emotional component attached to our personal values.  If something is truly meaningful, you will automatically do what is necessary to get there, whether you set a goal or not.  I am committed to saving appropriately today, so that when I reach retirement I won’t worry about running out of money.
  2. Put more focus on the journey rather than the destination.  Goals focused solely on the destination can be met without enjoyment or personal growth along the way.  To retire at age 65 the savings number I need to hit is 15% per year.  Commitments, on the other hand, allow you to chart a course and keep the ultimate arrival point in clear view.   I am committed to understanding how my rate of savings affects my lifestyle in retirement.
  3. Don’t get lost in the details of the planning. Getting caught up in the details is a good way to procrastinate.  Action is a must to move good intentions toward progress.

Throughout our lifetime, there are natural breaks in the journey that offer a chance to hit the reset button.  With your goals in hand and motivation clear, the future is shaped.  What will you commit to in 2015?

Laurie Renchik, CFP®, MBA is a Partner and Senior Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. In addition to working with women who are in the midst of a transition (career change, receiving an inheritance, losing a life partner, divorce or remarriage), Laurie works with clients who are planning for retirement. Laurie was named to the 2013 Five Star Wealth Managers list in Detroit Hour magazine, is a member of the Leadership Oakland Alumni Association and in addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she manages and is a frequent contributor to Center Connections at The Center.


Five Star Award is based on advisor being credentialed as an investment advisory representative (IAR), a FINRA registered representative, a CPA or a licensed attorney, including education and professional designations, actively employed in the industry for five years, favorable regulatory and complaint history review, fulfillment of firm review based on internal firm standards, accepting new clients, one- and five-year client retention rates, non-institutional discretionary and/or non-discretionary client assets administered, number of client households served.

The goals listed are for illustrative purposes only. Individual cases will vary. Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. C15-000603

Tuesday
Jan202015

Give your retirement contributions a raise in 2015

 Retirement savers got a little boost from the IRS with the 2015 increase to company retirement plan contributions. Based on cost of living increases, you can now put a maximum $18,000 into elective deferral plans such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and 457 plans. If you’re over 50, your catch-up amount can increase from $5,500 to $6,000 making total funds able to be set aside at $24,000.

Check with your Employer

Don’t assume that if you have been maxing out your contributions, that your deferral will automatically be increased. Make sure to look into your elections or check with HR so that you can capitalize on the new higher limits.

Not maxing out your retirement contribution yet?

That gives you an even bigger incentive to review your current deferral rates. First, make sure you’re not missing out on a company match. Next, try to plan for regular increases to your contributions over time so that you can work to increase your overall retirement savings. Give yourself a reminder to review your deferrals either at the beginning of a new year or around the time that your company offers raises.

Proactive management of your savings for retirement and paying yourself first are cornerstones to successful preparation for your future. If you want to understand what your future may look like based upon your current retirement savings or with some of the options you’re considering with a “raise”, let your financial planner know. Running those numbers is part of what we do!

Melissa Joy, CFP®is Partner and Director of Investments at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. In 2013, Melissa was honored by Financial Advisor magazine in the Research All Star List for the third consecutive year. In addition to her contributions to Money Centered blogs, she writes investment updates at The Center and is regularly quoted in national media publications including The Chicago Tribune, Investment News, and Morningstar Advisor.


Financial Advisor magazine's inaugural Research All Star List is based on job function of the person evaluated, fund selections and evaluation process used, study of rejected fund examples, and evaluation of challenges faced in the job and actions taken to overcome those challenges. Evaluations are independently conducted by Financial Advisor Magazine.

Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. C15-000604

Thursday
Jan152015

Making the Most of Your Empty Nest Years – Part 2

 The kids have gone to college or moved away and now you enter the Empty Nest Years. Will your empty nest years resemble “empty nest syndrome” (complete with a sense of loss, perhaps depression, alcoholism, identity crisis and marital conflicts)? Back in July 2014, I shared a conversation with a client in my first Empty Nest blog. They described their empty nest like this: “It’s Like being in college, only with money!” Working with clients whom have transitioned into the empty nest years successfully, the first common thread has been that they make time to plan.

Making time to Plan

It seems like such a simple statement, but it is often overlooked.  Like most successful folks, those empty nesters made a plan to live with intention. They examined their values, decided what was truly important in their lives, and then aligned their decisions with their intentions.

One of the most profound ways to examine values is through the work of George Kinder of the Kinder Institute.  My wife Jen and I have gone through the process with one of our firm’s partners and it has been quite helpful in leading an intentional life.  George Kinder takes a unique approach to financial planning – what he terms “life planning”.  My personal take is that at the core life planning is “financial planning done right”.  Many of life’s most important goals have a financial component. Like life planning, our comprehensive financial planning is designed to move beyond the numbers (not just dollars and cents) and address your goals and values.

3 Steps to Setting Financial Intentions

How can you discover or clarify the deeper values in your life and live with [more] intention? Here are two exercises that you might find helpful.  If they resonate, we’d love to help you.

To help clients discover the deeper values in their lives, Kinder poses three questions:

  1. Imagine you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. How would you live your life? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back on your dreams. Describe a life that is complete and richly yours.
  2. Now imagine that you visit your doctor, who tells you that you have only 5-10 years to live. You won’t ever feel sick, but you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining? Will you change your life and how will you do it? (Note that this question does not assume unlimited funds.)
  3. Finally, imagine that your doctor shocks you with the news that you only have 24 hours to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself: What did you miss? Who did you not get to be? What did you not get to do?

When you understand what you want to do with your life, you can make financial choices that reflect your values as you plan for your empty nest years.

Taking Stock of Life

Here is a second exercise to consider that can help lead to clarity and intention. Take a piece of paper and at the top write “Goals for My Life – Taking stock”. Below that, across the top write “One month, 3 months, one year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, and lifetime”.  Next, down the left hand side write “Work, Family, Relationships, Spirit, Community, Creativity, Health, Finances” and any other category for your personal circumstances.

Consider each time frame and category and the things you would like to accomplish.  Perhaps in 5 years under Family you would like to take the entire family on a holiday trip.  Or perhaps in 3 months under Work you want to reduce your hours.  Write it down – don’t underestimate the power of the pen or pencil.  Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, found that you are 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals just by writing them down. My experience suggests it’s even higher – write them down!

The empty nest years are an important transition.  I hope yours are “It’s Like being in college, only with money!”

Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD is the Managing Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and is a frequent contributor to national media including appearances on Good Morning America Weekend Edition and WDIV Channel 4 News and published articles including Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. A leader in his profession, Tim served on the National Board of Directors for the 28,000 member Financial Planning Association™ (FPA®), trained and mentored hundreds of CFP® practitioners and is a frequent speaker to organizations and businesses on various financial planning topics.


This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Links are being provided for information purposes only. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors. Raymond James is not responsible for the content of any website or the collection or use of information regarding any website’s users and/or members. C15-001184

Tuesday
Jan132015

Smart Moves to Make the Year You Retire

 So you’ve decided to hang ‘em up? Congratulations!  Retirement is an extremely personal decision and is made for a multitude of reasons.  Many of our clients have had the ability to retire for several years, however, they have now reached a point where the weekly grind isn’t as enjoyable as it once was.  There are probably thousands of things running through your head.  What will life look like without work?  How will I spend my days?  Where do I/we want to travel?  Do I want to work part-time or volunteer?  With so many emotions and thoughts, it can be easy to miss good opportunities to really maximize your final year of full-time work. How do you get the most “bang for your buck” in your final year of working full-time?

Maximizing your employer retirement contribution (401k, 403b, etc.)

If you aren’t doing so already, do your best to maximize your company retirement plan contribution.  If you are retiring mid-year, adjust your payroll deduction to make sure you are contributing the maximum ($24,000 for those over the age of 50 in 2015) by the time you retire.  If monthly cash flow won’t allow for it, consider using money in a checking/savings or taxable account to supplement your cash flow so you can put the max into the plan.  This will most likely be the final year you will be in the highest tax bracket of your life, you really want to take advantage of this and get the maximum tax benefit. 

“Front-load” your charitable contributions

If you are charitably inclined and plan on making charitable gifts, even into retirement, you might consider “front-loading” your donations.  Think of it this way – if you are currently in the 25% tax bracket and you will drop into the 15% bracket when retired, donating in which year will give you the most tax savings by making a donation?  The year you are in the higher bracket, of course!  So if you donate $5,000/year to charity, consider making a contribution for $25,000 while you are in the 25% bracket (ideally with appreciated securities).  This would satisfy five years worth of donations and save you more on your taxes.  As I always tell clients: When you save more money on your tax bill by gifting efficiently, you give less to the IRS’ and more to the organizations you care about!

Explore your health care options

This is typically a retiree’s largest expense.  How will you and your family go about obtaining medical coverage upon retirement?  Will you continue to receive benefits on your employer plan?  Will you go on COBRA?  Will you be age 65 soon and enroll in Medicare?  Are you retiring young and need to obtain an individual plan until Medicare kicks in?  No matter what your game plan, make sure you talk to the experts and have a firm grip on the cost and steps you need to take to ensure you don’t go without coverage and that it’s as affordable as possible.  With recent changes in health care, we are positioning more and more clients in a way to qualify for health care premium subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). For more information on how you might qualify, take a look at Matt Trujillo’s recent blog on this topic.

With so many moving parts, it really makes sense to have someone in your corner to help you navigate through these difficult and sometimes confusing retirement topics and decisions.  Ideally, seek out the help of a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) to give you the comprehensive guidance you need and deserve!

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Nick is a member of The Center’s financial planning department and also works closely with Center clients. In addition, Nick is a frequent contributor to the firm’s Money Centered and Center Connections blogs.


Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. While we are familiar with the tax provisions of the issues presented herein, as Financial Advisors of RJFS, we are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. C14-041996

Thursday
Jan082015

Robo-Advisors & the Value of the Human Touch

 As with most aspects of life, the day-to-day way of doing things has been changing at a breakneck pace in financial planning. Technology assists financial planners today to make heretofore complex and laborious analytics, such as retirement analysis and investment portfolio management, consistently deliverable to large groups of clients. Things you can do today were unfathomable when I first joined a financial planning firm more than fifteen years ago.

The advent of the robo-advisor

If you’re not reading about trends in financial planning each day like me, you might be surprised to hear that “robo-advisors” are said to be the next big thing in financial planning and investing. What is a robo-advisor, you might ask? They use algorithms to deliver financial planning to many people at once. This offers welcome resources to large swatches of our population. Similar technologies are also available today to financial planners like us at The Center to enhance the effectiveness of our financial planning offerings.

Some visionaries have said that robo-advisors may take the place of financial planners in the future. While I think the robo-advisor trend raises the bar for our service delivery and capabilities, it would seem difficult for computer computations to be able to replace the value of human, relationship-based financial planning in the coming years.

Robo-advisors highlight tech shortfalls

As calculations and software have enhanced the capabilities of financial planners to solve and manage fundamental planning and investing challenges, more complex goal identification and nuanced decision-making for finances comes to the forefront. How will you plan to withdraw from your portfolio in a retirement in a way that works for you and helps with taxes and portfolio sustainability? What are your personal and family goals that you wouldn’t be able to explore and identify without deep knowledge of your current and future financial circumstances?

Exploring these sophisticated topics can rarely be done or done well in a virtual environment – a conversation with a computer program doesn’t simulate a person or family's explorations with a professional planner. This week, Facebook apologized for unfortunate and hurtful images and reminders of deceased family members in their “Year in Review” offering. The computer didn’t know – what they saw was increased “traffic” around a particular event – seemed noteworthy and reviewable to the algorithm.

In the face of a complex world, the Facebook stumble is a reminder of the limitations of technology to replace a human touch. Take technology for what it’s worth, but don’t underestimate the value of human touch today and in the future.

Melissa Joy, CFP®is Partner and Director of Investments at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. In 2013, Melissa was honored by Financial Advisor magazine in the Research All Star List for the third consecutive year. In addition to her contributions to Money Centered blogs, she writes investment updates at The Center and is regularly quoted in national media publications including The Chicago Tribune, Investment News, and Morningstar Advisor.


Financial Advisor magazine's inaugural Research All Star List is based on job function of the person evaluated, fund selections and evaluation process used, study of rejected fund examples, and evaluation of challenges faced in the job and actions taken to overcome those challenges. Evaluations are independently conducted by Financial Advisor Magazine.

Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. C15-000068, A15-000516