Thanksgiving 2019

Thanksgiving 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nine things to be thankful for as a financial advisor
We're Here For You!

Happy Thanksgiving!  We hope you have a wonderful day spent with family, friends, and great food.

As you know, Thanksgiving is a time for reflecting on all that we have to be thankful for. It occurred to us the other day that, as your financial advisors, we’ve never shared what we are thankful for. And we are thankful for a lot. 

So, if we can beg your indulgence, please allow us to share:

Nine things we are thankful for as your financial advisors

  1. Our country
    We’re thankful we live in a country where we have the freedom to set our own goals, choose our own paths, and pursue our own happiness. There are millions of people in the world who don’t have this freedom – a freedom we strive never to take for granted.
  2. Our military
    We’re thankful for the thousands of brave men and women who strive to protect that freedom, along with all the other unalienable rights we enjoy.
  3. Our community
    As financial advisors, we have come to know many different members of our community, including people from all walks of life. While no community is perfect, we truly believe ours is as beautiful, unique, and worth participating in as any in the world. We are lucky to live here – and we are thankful we do!
  4. Our modern world
    While sometimes it seems like modern technology causes as many problems as it solves, in our case, it has enabled us to help more people better – and faster! The fact that we can speak with you over the phone, send you an email or monitor your investments with just the push of a button is amazing. There’s more power in our cell phones than in the spacecraft that took Neil Armstrong to the moon – and that power is something we’ve come to rely on every day.
  5. Our health
    As financial advisors, one of the most important things we do is help people be secure financially so they can take care of themselves physically. It’s helped us become more appreciative of our own health. The simple fact we can leave our homes and go to work every day is no small blessing.
  6. Our job
    We are thankful we have a job that enables us to support our family and pursue our passions. We are thankful our jobs are our passions. Not everyone enjoys going to work every day. Not everyone has the opportunity to do what they love. But we do, and we will never stop being grateful for it.
  7. Our team
    While we all strive to be as self-reliant as possible, the fact is that no one succeeds in life without the help of others. That’s why we are so thankful for our amazing team. There has never been a group of people more dedicated and professional. We wouldn’t be where we are without them.
  8. Our families
    The older we get, the more we realize that family is what matters most in this life. A loving, supportive family is the richest fortune anyone can have, and in that regard, we are each rich indeed. In good times and bad, it’s our family who have cheered us on, propped us up, and pushed us forward. We love and cherish them all.
  9. Our clients
    We are thankful for you. Do you have any idea how lucky we are to work with clients of your character? How humbled we are to be entrusted with your financial success? How honored we are to help you in any small way we can?

The truth is, there are lots of people in this world we would not want to work with. But when we look through our list of clients, we are staggered. We have the privilege of serving some of the smartest, kindest, most decent human beings anyone has ever met.

People like you are why we do what we do. You’re the reason we never hit the snooze button. The reason we are happy to burn the midnight oil. There aren’t words to express how thankful we are for your business. For your trust. For your kindness. For you.

In other words, we are thankful to be your financial advisor. On behalf of our entire team, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

How Can We Help?

Annuities, Potomac, Annuity, Bethesda,  Annuity Advisor, Rockville, 

Don’t Forget To Include Your Pets In Your Home Evacuation Plan

Many homeowners will form evacuation plans for their homes and practice them with family members, but most have failed to include their pets.  An evacuation plan is a necessity for every home, especially if you live in an area where fires, and other disasters are a possibility. Take these steps to add your pets to your evacuation plan.

Assign pet evacuation responsibility to an adult. 
Everyone in the household should know what to do during an evacuation. That includes assigning one parent or adult to the pets. This allows the other parent and the children to focus on their part of the evacuation plan, so there’s no confusion during a high-stress moment when time is of the essence.

Keep evacuation maps and pet carriers readily accessible. 
If you need to evacuate, you should know exactly where every important item is located. If your pets require carriers, keep them in a place that you can access easily.  Don’t forget any essential medications which might not be easily replaced in an emergency situation.

Practice your plan. 
Include your pets in your home evacuation drills. It will help you see how they will respond and make changes to your evacuation plan if necessary. Getting your dog out of a window may not be as simple as you think!

Be prepared in case you get separated from your pets. 
No matter how much you drill your evacuation plan, it’s possible that a dog or cat will run off while you’re focusing on keeping your family safe. A microchip or a GPS-compatible tag can help you find your pets once it’s safe to return to the area. Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification information. Your pet’s ID tag should contain his name, telephone number and any urgent medical needs

Get a Rescue Alert Sticker
This easy-to-use sticker will let people know that pets are inside your home. Make sure it is visible to rescue workers (we recommend placing it on or near your front door), and that it includes the types and number of pets in your home as well as the name and number of your veterinarian. If you must evacuate with your pets, and if time allows, write “EVACUATED” across the stickers. 

Understanding Credit Reporting

Historically low interest rates present a welcome opportunity for many homeowners to improve their financial situation by refinancing their mortgage.  But, like everything else in the world of finance, there are no free lunches.  To take advantage of these lower rates, homeowners must leap the FICO hurdle.

To qualify for the best loans at the lowest rates, borrowers must qualify financially and are scored by lenders using a computerized model for evaluating credit risk, developed by Fair, Isaac, and Company, known as the FICO score.

Mortgage lenders are in the business of making money by lending it and being repaid on time.  They gauge the risks associated with making that loan on a number of factors, not the least of which is the likelihood of timely repayment.

The FICO scoring system compares borrower’s credit capabilities to those of similar borrowers all over the country.  A borrower’s credit history gives a strong indication of integrity, attitude, and discipline as well as a measure of their capability to pay bills on time.

Three major credit reporting agencies gather credit information:  Experian, Equifax, and Transunion.  The firms act independently of each other and use different methods for gathering information, hence the reports of each may differ. 

The reporting agencies issue several different types of reports.  A Consumer Report is the basic consumer report issued when an individual orders his own credit report.  The Merchant Report is more complete and contains the full FICO scores.

Lenders view these scores as just one of several criteria for evaluating the ability of a borrower to pay back a loan.  The scores, ranging from 0 to 850, are numbers that tell lenders how likely an individual is to repay a loan, or make credit payments on time.  The higher the score, the better the credit risk.  Scores of 700+ make A credit grades, 640+ for a B grade, and below 579 fail.

According to mortgage broker Ron Goerss of Partners Mortgage, the most important factors to mortgage lenders are mortgage history, derogatory credit history, liens or judgments, length of credit history, depth of credit history, proportion of debt to credit balances, and the amount of available credit.

FICO Score, How To Raise my credit Score

A borrower can improve his FICO score over time by paying bills—especially mortgage payments—on time.  Late payments cost points.  To get the best scores, one should accumulate at least 36 months of a timely payment history.  Generally speaking, a borrower will have an excellent credit score with four major accounts ($1,500 credit limits or higher) all with 36 months of spotless payment history, and all usually maintaining balances that are at or below 60% of available credit limits.

Despite paying bills on time, it is still possible to have a lower credit score.  Too many open accounts with higher balances will pull the score down.  Too many inquiries hurt the score.  Too many monthly obligations weaken the score.

Finally, the real negatives are late mortgage payments, collection history, charge-offs, repossessions, and bankruptcy.  While all of those can be worked around, most lenders will refuse a conventional loan to someone with foreclosure history on their report.

It’s a good idea to periodically review your FICO score.  Erroneous information may be reported, and if you know ahead of time, you can write a letter to the credit-reporting agency and request a correction.  For more information on FICO scoring and obtaining your FICO scores: www.creditline.com and www.creditreporting.com.

Letter from Reagan

It was this month, 35 years ago, that a thirteen-year-old boy named Andy sent the following letter to President Reagan:

Dear Mr. President,
My name is Andy.
I am a seventh-grade student in South Carolina.
Today my mother declared my bedroom a disaster area. I would like to request federal funds to hire a crew to clean up my room. I am prepared to provide the initial funds if you will provide matching funds for this project.

I know you will be fair when you consider my request. I will be awaiting your reply.

Less than a month later, young Andy’s patience was rewarded when Reagan actually wrote back. Here is what he said:

Dear Andy:

I’m sorry to be so late in answering your letter but, as you know, I’ve been in China and found your letter here upon my return.

Your application for disaster relief has been duly noted but I must point out one technical problem: the authority declaring the disaster is supposed to make the request. In this case, your mother.

May I make a suggestion? This Administration has sponsored a Private Sector Initiative Program, calling upon people to practice voluntarism in the solving of a number of local problems. Your situation appears to be a natural. I’m sure your mother was fully justified in proclaiming your room a disaster. Therefore, you are in an excellent position to launch another volunteer program to go along with the more than 3000 already underway in our nation. Congratulations.

Give my best regards to your mother.

Sincerely,
Ronald Reagan

While his letter was amusing, President Reagan made a point we could all do to remember. We all face challenges in life. Some are small, like a messy room. (Although, we all were once thirteen and most likely remember how insurmountable the task of cleaning our room seemed to be.) Some are large.

But in truth, most of the challenges we face are also opportunities. Opportunities to try, to volunteer, to organize, to lead, to change, to grow. And like Andy, we are in an excellent position to tackle these challenges. To launch our own initiatives.

To seize our opportunities.  Whenever we find ourselves in such a position, we remember President Reagan’s letter and say to ourselves, “Congratulations!”

Have a great month!

Source: “My mother declared my bedroom a disaster area,” Letters of Note, June 19, 2012. http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/06/mymother-declared-my-bedroom-disaster.html

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How Will Rising Healthcare Costs Affect Your Retirement?

How financial advisors provide value to those saving for retirement

Important information for people with retirement plans
Let's Talk!

We all know it is inevitable. It’s no secret healthcare costs will be going up. For years, medical expenses have been steadily increasing.  In 2007, medical expenses rose almost 12 percent. However, the rate of increase slowed to 6 percent during the past five years and that trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, according to a June 2018 report from PwC. While single-digit increases can be considered an improvement, ever-rising costs are a concern for those who have to foot the bill, today and in the future.1

Medical expenses are often the “elephant in the room” in a retirement plan. It’s the expense people prefer not to consider because, if they do, they’ll need to save significantly more money.

How much should you save for healthcare in retirement?

According to the Fidelity Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate, the average 65-year-old couple that retired in 2018 should have had about $280,000 set aside for medical expenses in retirement, excluding long-term care. The estimate assumes the couple does not have employer-provided retiree healthcare coverage, and does qualify for Medicare.2

Fidelity anticipates retirees’ healthcare savings may be spent like this:2, 3

  • 20 percent for prescription drugs (generic, branded, and specialty)
  • 35 percent for Medicare Part B (medical insurance) and Medicare Part D (prescription insurance) premiums
  • 45 percent for additional medical expenses such as deductibles, copayments, and supplemental insurance for doctor and hospital visits

Strategies for managing retirement healthcare costs
Whether you plan to retire in five, 10, or 20 years, there are a few things you can do to better prepare for healthcare in retirement:

1. Do the math. Fidelity’s estimate is an average. Your healthcare situation is unique, so it is a good idea to create a more personalized estimate, one that includes the cost of various premiums and insurance costs, as well as prescription medicines.4     

2. Get the skinny on discounts. No matter how old you are, your doctor and your pharmacist can provide valuable suggestions about how to reduce prescription drug costs. Don’t hesitate to ask about coupons or discounts that could lower your costs. Pharmaceutical companies may have coupons available through their websites. Also, investigate other options such as substituting a generic drug, using a mail-order prescription service, or filling a 90-day supply instead of a 30-day option. Even small savings can add up over time.5, 6     

3. Open a Health Savings Account (HSA). Your employer’s high-deductible health plan (HDHP) comes with a useful option – a health savings account (HSA). You can save for current and future medical expenses in an HSA, and they confer a triple tax advantage

  • HSAs are tax-deductible
  • Any interest or earnings grow tax-free
  • Distributions are tax-free when taken for qualifying medical costs

If you don’t spend the money in your HSA, you can roll it over to the next year. Also, the account is yours, even if you change employers. As a result, HSAs are a great way to save for healthcare costs in retirement.7

  1. Take Social Security at 70. Since 2011, on average, people in the United States retire at age 61, according to a Gallup Poll. That’s a year before they can start collecting Social Security. If retirees choose to begin receiving Social Security benefits at age 62, they will receive 70 percent of the benefit they would have received at ‘full’ retirement age. On the other hand, if they postpone taking benefits until age 70, they’ll receive a higher monthly payment. The amount of the payment will be determined by an individual’s age and year of birth, as well as the number of months benefits were delayed.8, 9, 10
  2. Make healthy choices. While it’s impossible to predict what the future will hold, forming healthy habits today could support a healthier life ahead. You know the drill: eat well, sleep well, exercise, socialize, and so on. Being more health conscious today could mean fewer doctor visits, hospital stays, health specialists, and prescriptions in the future.11
  • Save, save, save. The most obvious way to prepare for future healthcare costs is to save as much as you can today. If you can, maximize contributions to your employer-sponsored retirement plan, HSA, and Traditional and Roth IRA accounts. For many people, saving more is not a hardship. It’s a choice. The decisions you make today will affect how you live in the future.

Healthcare costs are likely to be a significant part of your retirement budget. If you haven’t already factored these costs into your retirement plan, you may want to consider it. The sooner you prepare, the better off you will be.

Please contact us if you want to discuss your options. We’re happy to help.

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