Social Security in Four Parts

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Social Security benefits serve as a foundation that many Americans will rely heavily on in retirement. Program benefits provide one-third of total income for the elderly population and more than half of the income for a staggering 48% of those over age 65. Yet, despite this heavy reliance, 90% of Americans begin collecting Social Security benefits (at a steep reduction) before attaining their full retirement age. Early filing is linked to an increase in poverty and income inequality among the elderly, which in some cases may be remedied through more informed benefit-claiming decisions. Continue reading

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Budgeting with Purpose: why a budget is important and how to make one

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Developing a budget may seem a near perfect manifestation of drudgery, which in turn may help explain why so few people expend their time and energy creating one. While budgeting is not an especially creative endeavor (after all, who wants a creative budget?), the effort can pay dividends by placing you more firmly in control of how your money is being allocated. A budget serves as the foundation of a good financial plan. It helps you make informed decisions related to savings, investments, and the trade-off between current and future consumption. Continue reading

What is a retirement income planner and why do you need one?

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Spend an hour in your local library reviewing digitized newspapers from recent decades and the conspicuous dearth of articles focusing on retirement planning may seem odd. Our focus on retirement planning is a relatively recent development and the Retirement Income Planner is a job that did not exist just a few decades ago. Unlike the Social Media Managers and App developers that emerged from nascent technology, the history of financial services predates the Greek Empire, and a modern stockbroker or insurance salesperson would be recognizable to someone alive in the early decades of the last century. Continue reading

A day in the life: how thinking about retirement today can help you down the road

imagesImagine that you’re playing a game of Charades and you’ve been assigned the task of communicating the process of retirement planning using only a series of gestures. Do you reach for your imaginary calculator and frantically punch numbers into thin air while transmuting the imaginary results onto your imaginary blackboard? Recognizing what a lousy hand that you’ve been dealt, do you secretly wish that you’d have drawn the stroke-victim card instead? Continue reading

10 Painless Financial Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

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A new year is a time for self-improvement and renewal. Where bad habits and regret are cast aside and replaced with virtuous activities that are intended to make us better human beings. Good intentions and optimism may carry the day and help some attain their goals of better health, greater wealth, or a host of other desirable outcomes. The odds, however, are stacked in favor of inertia with more than 80% of new year’s resolutions failing by mid-February. Continue reading

2018 Medicare Open Enrollment: a shopper’s guide

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It’s that time of year again. If you’re one of the roughly 44 million Americans enrolled in Medicare, get ready for some year-end shopping. Medicare’s annual open enrollment period runs from October 15th until December 7th and presents seniors with a great opportunity to manage their health care costs for the coming year. Any changes or new enrollment will become effective on January 1, 2019.

There are several important changes to the Medicare program for 2019, including the elimination of the coverage gap for certain prescription drugs and updates to the Medicare Plan Finder tool that will make it easier to use. Beneficiaries should note that Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans can and do make changes throughout the year that may affect their coverage. And even if you’re content with your existing plan, options with better coverage, fewer restrictions, and lower costs may be available. Now is your chance to find them. Continue reading

Navigating the long-term care planning labyrinth

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No one wants to think that they or someone they love will need long-term care services, but with the population of older Americans set to rapidly expand it is a reality that is difficult to ignore. A recent episode of the television news program 60 Minutes followed the progression of an Alzheimer’s disease patient, Carol Daly, and her husband Mike. Carol’s progressive deterioration and the physical and emotional toll that the disease takes on her caregiver husband is heartbreaking and serves as a poignant reminder of the need to plan for a long-term care event. Continue reading

Asset Classes & Why They Matter

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Investors are often told to diversify their portfolios using different categories of investments to achieve this objective. And while the concept of diversification can be explained in terms that are easy to understand- don’t put all of your eggs in one basket- how to structure a portfolio of multiple assets with different risk and return characteristics can be confusing. To demystify this medley of investments, take some time to familiarize yourself with the characteristics of the five most commonly utilized asset classes. Understanding how each one works in isolation can help you to create a portfolio that behaves like a symphony, and not a garage band. Continue reading

Yielding Results: a framework for managing your short-term asset allocation

JM Blog image June 2018The development of an appropriate short-term asset allocation is an often overlooked but important aspect of financial planning and should be addressed as part of a comprehensive savings strategy. Maintaining adequate savings allows you to recover from temporary setbacks, such as a job loss, and pay for unexpected expenses without dipping into retirement savings or testing the upper limits of your credit card. A linchpin of financial stability, a thoughtful short-term asset allocation provides the security needed to optimize your long-term planning objectives. Continue reading

All about mortgages: what type of loan is best for you?

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Signing your name on a mortgage application means entering into a large transaction with wide-ranging financial planning and budgeting implications. The size and type of mortgage you select may help or hinder your ability to fund your retirement, send your children to college, or adequately address other important planning goals. Continue reading