“Race you to the buoy,” my daughter, Judy, shouted. She had thrown down the gauntlet and was now engaged with my husband, Peter, in a swim contest. They decided on a timed race because Judy couldn’t trust her father not to pull her foot as he swam behind her. I timed them from the Cape May, NJ beach with a smile, wondering who would emerge victorious from the wavy ocean; it was a fairly matched challenge as Judy is an accomplished middle school swimmer while my husband wins in the size and experience areas.
“I’ll trade you LAX for Fenway Park,” my daughter Judy said while playing monopoly with her cousin, Liz. As a fee-only financial advisor, Monopoly is one of my favorite games. It focuses on many valuable personal finance lessons, including making change, handling money, budgeting, and mortgages. I really took notice, however, when I heard her say, “I passed Go! Give me $2,000,000.” $2,000,000? What happened to $200? It was all down hill from there.
Some of the most entertaining times to be a long-term investor are those periods when short-term investors are looking over their shoulders for an excuse to sell. They’re convinced that the market is going to go down before they can get out, and so they jump on any bad news that comes across their Bloomberg screen.
And, of course, Friday was a marvelous time to see this in action. With all the economic drama playing out in the world, there were plenty of opportunities to panic. The Greek Prime Minister has resigned! Sell! China devalued its currency a few days ago by 2%! Head for the hills! Chinese stocks are tanking yet again! Get out of American stocks while you can! The Fed might raise short-term interest rates from zero to very nearly zero! It’s the end of the world!
You’ve probably read that the island territory of Puerto Rico formally defaulted on its municipal debt obligations over the weekend—an unsurprising event that has been expected by insiders for more than three months. What did surprise everybody was the fact that the Puerto Rican Public Finance Corporation (PFC) found a way to make a partial payment on its $58 million in interest obligations—even if the amount was only $628,000.
“It’s a great investment!” replied Ed when I asked him why he had purchased his variable annuity. “I get 5% guaranteed—and if the markets do better I get all the upside too!” The promise sounds too good to be true. And, in this case, it is too good to be true. I’ve seen this annuity many times over the past few years. The sales pitch is very convincing—who wouldn’t want no downside risk and full upside benefits. Has anyone tried to sell you this annuity?
Yes, it’s true, anyone can save 10% or more in four year college expenses. That could easily mean more than $25,000 in your pocket. And, there is no need to complete the FAFSA financial aid form or score 800s on your SATs to garner a scholarship. This opportunity is open to everyone.
I am basking in the glory of my son Peter’s recent college graduation. As a financial planner, I am thrilled that the $60,000 per year payments have ended, and, as a parent, I am proud that he has achieved this significant milestone. As I reflect on his college experience I realize I have some wisdom to share both as a parent and as Fee-only financial planner.
“What do you think of these annuities?” Mel asked. “An insurance guy I know is advising us to transfer all of our remaining IRAs into these two investments, and I’m not confident it’s the right approach for us.” Since these annuities didn’t look appropriate for Mel and Ginny, I figured the annuity salesman’s rationale was the big commissions he would earn on the sales.
June and Joe are 73 and 75 respectively. They are happily retired and still living in the home where they raised their three children. Like many people their age, they panicked in the 2008 financial crisis and reallocated much of their portfolio out of stocks—and never got back in. As a result, they do not have an abundance of assets.
“Do you understand this investment?” I asked Betsy. My youngish 65-year-old client looked back at me with a quizzical expression. I was explaining Betsy’s portfolio holdings and, unfortunately, her broker, someone she thought was acting in her best interest, had taken advantage of her. She had no idea how this particular security operated; worse still, she lacked a clear understanding of most of what was in her portfolio. She just bought what her broker recommended. “He was such a nice guy,” she volunteered.
As I study for my Retirement Income Certified Professional certification, I often read about visualization. Research has shown time and again that visualization is key to financial success, or any success for that matter, especially for older adults. What is visualization? Basically it means picturing in your head or on paper images of your goals. I am a believer in visualization not just because of the research, but because it has worked well for me at various important points in my life.