Editorial Results (free)
1. Estate Planning and State Taxes
- Thursday, November 20, 2014
Ray’s take: A lesser-discussed aspect of estate planning is state inheritance taxes. Some states have tax separate and in addition to federal estate taxes. And to make it even more confusing, some states collect estate taxes and some states collect inheritance taxes, while two states collect both.
2. Ask Your Parent the Difficult Questions
- Thursday, November 13, 2014
Ray’s take: The whole idea of talking to your elderly parent about their finances and estate planning may make you feel slightly ill.
You may worry that they’ll think you’re invading their privacy, don’t trust their judgment or are trying to make a grab for their money, all of which seem like good reasons to put off that conversation. The more financially successful many parents are may make them more patriarchal.
3. Financial Literacy Is a Must
- Thursday, November 06, 2014
Ray's take: I occasionally am asked to teach a short financial literacy course in the Shelby County Schools system. I am amazed how many 11th and 12th graders already have credit cards. When I ask if they pay off their cards each month, they usually respond, “Oh yes, I pay the minimum balance every month!”
4. Charitable Giving a Win-Win
- Thursday, October 30, 2014
Ray’s take: The UBS Investor Watch “Doing Well at Doing Good” report released recently says, “In spite of the recent economic uncertainty, America's ‘giving gene’ remains intact, and donations of money have actually increased.”
5. A Gift That Can Give For A Lifetime
- Thursday, October 23, 2014
Ray’s Take Every so often, a client calls and asks if I would spend some time with their son or daughter to help them get off on the right foot financially. When they look back on their own early choices, they can see how much a few right decisions, and the avoidance of a few poor ones, would have been worth.
6. Choosing Your Own 401(k) Mix
- Thursday, October 16, 2014
Ray’s take: Recently, we talked about Target Date Mutual Funds and how these preset funds could be an effective tool for your retirement. These funds have a particular mix that changes as you approach your projected retirement date. These can be good as long as you have researched the funds and determined if the “mix” meets your unique retirement goals.
7. Retirement: Savings-to-Income Ratio
- Thursday, October 02, 2014
Ray’s take: If you've at least started planning for your retirement, congratulations. It's often a hard first step. Follow-up steps are just as important.
When you are looking to buy a home, the mortgage company uses something called the “debt-to-income ratio” to determine if you qualify for the loan you are seeking. When determining the savings required to reach a retirement income goal, you can use a similar process to determine if you are targeting the correct ratio.
8. Certified Financial Planner – One Big Thing
- Thursday, September 25, 2014
Ray's take: In today’s world of financial specialists, each one has their own view of what you should do – because each one is focused on their own focused area of the big picture: the CPA, the insurance agent, the attorney, etc.
9. Target Date Mutual Funds – Should You Go With the Flow?
- Thursday, September 18, 2014
Ray's take: Target date funds take their name from the year in which an investor plans to retire or stop contributing to savings and is increasingly the default choice for 401K plan contributions.
10. Seniors and Student Loan Co-Signatures – Should You?
- Thursday, September 11, 2014
Ray’s take: Your grandchild has been accepted to his or her college of choice. Great news! But now that the celebration of acceptance is over, it’s time to do a realistic budget and figure out where the money will come from to pay for tuition and all the other expenses associated with attending college.
11. Late Cuts, Pickups Reveal Titans’ Talent Shortfall
- Saturday, September 06, 2014
What exactly does it say about the Tennessee Titans that, after they made their own cut to 53 players, they were still sifting through the scrap heap of other teams’ cuts and making five more moves?
12. US Savings Bond – A Golden Oldie
- Thursday, September 04, 2014
Ray’s take: U.S. savings bonds are debt instruments issued and fully backed by the federal government and were once touted as a great way to be patriotic. Their attraction historically has been safety (yes), deferred taxes (yes) and convenience (maybe). Traditionally, they were a staple gift for graduates, newlyweds and newborns.
13. Beneficiary Forms Trump Your Will
- Thursday, August 28, 2014
Ray’s take: Few people like to think about death – particularly their own. But a sound estate plan includes dealing with that possibility to be certain your wishes are honored after you “make the switch.”
14. Vols: Looks Like 6-6 Season
- Saturday, August 23, 2014
Pull out your 2014 schedules, UT fans.
Fall camp is done, and it’s time to get in game-week mode with the season opener against Utah State fast approaching.
So go to the little box next to each of UT’s opponents on the 2014 schedule and pick the winner.
15. In Case of Incapacitation
- Thursday, August 21, 2014
Ray’s take: A financial power of attorney is a powerful tool in your financial planning arsenal in the event your investments or other financial matters need action and you can’t do it.
16. Over 50 – Should You ‘Catch Up’?
- Thursday, August 14, 2014
Ray’s Take: If you’re age 50 or older, you can make extra “catch-up” contributions to certain types of tax-favored retirement accounts.
Is this something you should take advantage of? On the surface, it seems like a positive for your retirement account. But take a long honest look at why you are going to make those catch-up contributions and check your plan to make sure you qualify. There is a lot of information out there regarding these types of contributions, and you need to separate the good from the not so good.
17. How Much Should I Save for Retirement?
- Thursday, August 07, 2014
Ray’s take: Saving for retirement. It’s something we are all aware of and working on regularly. But how much do you need to save for retirement?
That is the quintessential question everyone asks. And the answer is not so clear. It depends. Truly.
18. What’s Your Investment Risk Profile?
- Thursday, July 31, 2014
Ray’s Take Risk. It’s something we are all involved in every day – sometimes consciously and sometimes not.
Just walking out the door of our homes and driving our cars involves a level of risk we don’t think about. We just assume we will arrive at our destination in good shape. There’s our daily subconscious risk.
19. Develop Interests Before Retirement
- Thursday, July 24, 2014
Ray’s take: Retirement success is not automatic. It takes planning – and not just financial planning. According to a study by University of Missouri – Columbia, couples should plan for retirement, both financially and socially, and consider the changes that may occur in their relationships and day-to-day activities.
20. Thoughts for 30-Somethings
- Thursday, July 17, 2014
Ray’s take: You spent your 20s setting up your life – developing some marketable skills, getting a career started, (hopefully) creating a budget, and learning to live with it.
21. Alternative Banking – Is It For You?
- Thursday, July 10, 2014
Ray's take: The world of banking is evolving. Over the past decade we’ve seen an increase in the number of online only, or alternative banks. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on whom you talk to about it.
22. Vacation Home – Is It Time to Buy?
- Thursday, July 03, 2014
Ray’s take: It’s summertime and the vacation season is upon us. Sometimes, it sounds wonderful to own a beach or mountain getaway. Many Americans share that same dream – a “summer place” to enjoy and perhaps pass down through the generations.
23. What to Do With a Windfall
- Thursday, June 26, 2014
Ray’s take: You’ve just received a pretty nice amount of cash. It could be a tax refund, a bonus or a surprise inheritance. What will you do with that extra money?
You may decide to pay down some debt or stash it away for an emergency. But somehow, that doesn’t feel like much fun.
24. Identity Theft and Social Media
- Thursday, June 19, 2014
Ray’s take: You just logged into your online banking and your account is empty. You go to apply for a loan and are told you don’t qualify due to overextended credit. You file your tax return only to discover it has already been filed and your refund check issued and cashed. These are some of the very real things that have happened due to identity theft.
25. Shouldering Health Care Costs
- Thursday, June 12, 2014
Ray’s Take: The employer health care benefits that began in the 1950s as a perk to lure top workers have become an industry standard that many of us take for granted. Now the pendulum seems to be swinging back the other way in the face of rising health care costs.
26. Homeownership: Still the American Dream?
- Thursday, June 05, 2014
Ray’s take: There was a time when owning a home was a key factor in achieving “The American Dream.”
That was when it was actually considered a home and not an investment. Sometime between the end of World War II and the 1990s, a home became a house. It was less about the place where you created memories and more about equity and resale value. Then it all came crashing down.
27. Discussing Family Finances with the Kids
- Thursday, May 29, 2014
Ray’s take: The March 2013 T. Rowe Price Annual Parents, Kids and Money Survey indicates that 73 percent of parents discuss money with their kids. This is good news! It’s an important part of a kid’s education to understand money and finances. Kids may not have to worry about mortgage payments just yet, but learning about money while they’re young can set them up to become financially responsible adults.
28. Your Life in Five Years
- Thursday, May 22, 2014
Ray’s take: A typical job interview question is “Where do you see yourself in five years?” So should you be asking yourself this question in general? Is a five-year plan a must to your fiscal future?
29. Debt: Prepay or Let It Ride?
- Thursday, May 15, 2014
Ray’s take: There was a time when debt was something to be proud of. It was the badge of progress and a good credit rating. 2008 made us all rethink the place of debt in our lives.
If you have debt, you should think carefully about keeping it or prepaying it.
30. Merging Financial Identities
- Thursday, May 08, 2014
Ray’s take: Americans are getting married later. The 2013 figures from the Office for National Statistics show the average age at which men get married is 31 years, while women are typically aged 29 years when they tie the knot.
31. Malone to Challenge Luttrell In August Mayoral Showdown
- Wednesday, May 07, 2014
Former Shelby County Commissioner Deidre Malone will challenge incumbent Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell in the August county general election after winning the Tuesday, May 6, Democratic mayoral primary.
32. Paying for the College Dream
- Thursday, May 01, 2014
Ray’s Take: Education is one of the greatest gifts you can give, and the value is clearly calculable. It’s also something that deserves a serious conversation.
Per Sallie Mae’s article “How Americans Save for College 2014,” roughly 50 percent of families are saving for college. Of those not saving, 22 percent expect their children to obtain financial aid or scholarships to pay for college and 16 percent believe it is their children’s responsibility to pay. So should parents pay for college, or should the kids “have some skin in the game” and pay for part or all of it?
33. How Much of Your Net Worth is Yours?
- Thursday, April 24, 2014
Ray’s take: Net worth is defined as the single amount that represents how much a person would have if he or she sold all assets and paid off all debt. In other words: Assets - Liabilities = Net worth. Seems pretty straightforward. But that does not paint the total picture.
34. Understanding Job Change and Your 401(k)
- Friday, April 18, 2014
Ray’s take: A recent CareerBuilder survey shows that one in five workers said they plan to change jobs this year or next.
If you’re thinking of changing jobs, there are some very important things you need to consider regarding your 401(k). Making smart decisions now could save you thousands in employee matching funds, taxes and potential penalties.
35. Diversify to Help Your Taxability
- Thursday, April 10, 2014
Ray’s Take: Planning for the tax portion of your retirement can have an important impact on the longevity and quality of retirement savings. Various investment and savings instruments are taxed in different ways, so building a pool with different levels can help you with your taxes.
36. Invest Early For the Best Retirement
- Thursday, April 03, 2014
Ray’s Take The very best friend a young investor has is time. Someone who puts $4,000 per year into retirement accounts starting at age 22 could have $1 million by age 62, assuming an 8 percent average return. Waiting 10 years to start contributing means you would need to put in $8,800 per year to get the same results.
37. Time to Ignore Financial Predictions
- Thursday, March 27, 2014
Ray’s Take. Financial “experts” like to make predictions about what the markets, the economy and sundry other things financial will do in the months ahead. At the beginning of 2013, one well-known economist predicted 2013 would bring 50 percent unemployment alongside a 90 percent drop in the stock market. Thankfully, he was about as far off the mark as you can get. What’s in store for 2014?
38. Manage Your Credit, Not Your Credit Score
- Thursday, March 20, 2014
Ray’s Take You must have a great credit score to do anything these days, or so the lending industry would like for us to believe. Increase your score! Buy more stuff on credit!
It is important to have a good credit score, but not in the obsessive way that we are led to believe. When you give your credit score more importance than it actually holds, you can easily lose sight of much more important priorities like your ultimate financial independence by obtaining more and more credit to increase your credit score. It can be a vicious cycle.
39. What’s Your Retirement Status?
- Thursday, March 13, 2014
Ray’s Take: What are your thoughts about contributions to a 401(k), an IRA or any other tax-qualified investment vehicle? Are you thinking about the “right now” advantage of a tax break or are you thinking long term about what kind of life you would like to live in retirement?
40. Do You Feel Lucky?
- Thursday, March 06, 2014
Ray’s Take: When thinking about your future, do you believe that you will be taken “feet first in a pine box” out of the home you worked so hard for during your younger years? Or do you sometimes get that uncomfortable feeling that you need to “knock on wood” as you look around at friends or acquaintances who have experienced a sudden change in health forcing a change in venue?
41. Kids' College Versus Your Retirement
- Thursday, February 27, 2014
Ray’s Take: Most parents want to give their kids the best college education possible. At the same time, they know they must finance their own retirement. It’s hard to objectively prioritize, especially when your precious children are involved.
42. Roland ReElected At Filing Deadline, Two Countywide Races Set For August
- Friday, February 21, 2014
One of the six Shelby County Commission incumbents seeking re-election this year was effectively elected to a new four-year term in a new district with the noon Thursday, Feb. 20, filing deadline for candidates in the May county primaries.
43. Is That Big Move Going to Pay Off?
- Thursday, February 20, 2014
Ray’s Take You’re contemplating moving to another home – maybe even to another city or the country. The catalyst could be a job offer, school changes, the desire for more living space or to be near family. While your personal, family and career situation will be major factors in the final decision, don’t forget to consider the financial angle as well. There are more costs for a new home than the selling price alone.
44. Are Weddings Really Worth Huge Expense?
- Thursday, February 13, 2014
Ray’s Take I once heard it said that large cathedral weddings cost around $1,000 per step – and some churches have long aisles! According to TheKnot.com, U.S. couples spend an average of over $25,600 on their weddings. Of course, that’s the “average” amount. When you take the mean cost – the point where most weddings cluster – the cost is just over $18,000 – still a substantial sum.
45. College Housing Options Have Different Costs
- Thursday, February 06, 2014
Ray’s Take: As if college tuition – and books – weren’t expensive enough, there’s also the cost of housing for your college student. Unlike the other two, however, this is one area where you can possibly have a little control over how much money is spent.
46. Traveling is a Worthwhile Investment
- Thursday, January 30, 2014
Ray’s Take When you set your spending priorities, don’t forget to consider travel. Assuming your finances and budget are adequately on track, investing dollars in traveling can repay a host of personal dividends.
47. You Can Save Too Much for Retirement
- Thursday, January 23, 2014
Ray’s Take Around half of all workers older than 55 have less than $50,000 saved for retirement. We hear this message over and over along with warnings that many Americans may never be able to afford to quit working. Some respond by effectively giving up hope. Others keep saving, but live in constant anxiety that it probably won’t be enough. They may be fine and not even know it!
48. Dual-Income Families Come with Big Costs
- Thursday, January 16, 2014
Ray’s Take: DINKs (dual incomes, no kids) might not actually be bringing home as much additional gross income as they think. When kids enter the picture, it’s probably time to take a long and hard look at the pluses and minuses – financial and otherwise – of continuing to have both parents work outside the home.
49. Get Ready for 2014 Taxes Now
- Thursday, January 09, 2014
Ray’s Take: Some of us have already started gathering our records and receipts in preparation for completing our 2013 federal income tax forms. However, it’s not too soon to be thinking about 2014 taxes as well. Changes in the tax code – from bracket revisions to the 3.8 per cent investment tax – could have an impact on your withholding and tax bill a year from now.
50. Swear Off Spending That Causes Holiday Hangovers
- Wednesday, January 01, 2014
Ray’s Take: It was a great holiday. The decorations sparkled, the food was opulent, and the gifts were worthy of the best Santa Claus. However, in a tradition nearly as old as the holiday itself, now the mailbox is stuffed with bills and your bank account is depleted.
51. Does Your College Student Know Debt?
- Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Ray’s Take Too many of us are sending our kids to college with no understanding of how to handle – or better yet avoid – debt. A recent survey revealed that while 70 percent of undergrads had credit cards, fewer than 10 percent paid them off in full each month. Even worse, a mere 14 percent knew what their interest rate was!
52. Don’t Panic Over Scary Financial News
- Thursday, December 19, 2013
Ray’s Take If it’s not another country defaulting on their debts it’s political gridlock on economic issues here or ominous predictions about the Federal Reserve. The news seems to be featuring more than its share of scary economic news these days.
53. Don’t Lose Your Investment Balance
- Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Ray’s Take What’s the right portfolio balance for you? There are no stock answers (no pun intended). The makeup of your personal stock, bond and investment portfolio balance is as individual as your fingerprints. It depends on your age, the number of kids you have, your fixed and discretionary costs, your income, risk tolerance, your health, your spending habits, and much more – not to mention your specific financial goals.
54. What If You Need Money – Fast?
- Thursday, December 05, 2013
Ray’s Take Sometimes bad things happen. Despite careful financial planning you can simply hit something you’re not prepared for. The fact is no matter how well you plan for financial security, something outside of your control can happen and threaten your plan, your lifestyle, and potentially your solvency.
55. Americans Click for Deals on Cyber Monday
- Tuesday, December 03, 2013
NEW YORK (AP) – Power up and shop.
Millions of Americans took advantage of online deals ranging from free shipping to hundreds of dollars off electronics and half-price clothing Monday, which was expected to be the busiest online shopping day of the year.
56. Impulse Buying Can Come at a High Price
- Thursday, November 28, 2013
Ray’s Take There’s a billion-dollar reason the racks of magazines, candy, and soft drinks are right by the checkout counters and at check-out on many a website. It’s called impulse buying, and it’s as bad for your budget as those candy bars are for your waistline.
57. How to Handle Your Child’s Financial Trouble
- Thursday, November 21, 2013
Ray’s Take You’ve finally reached the point where your children are grown and launched, and are looking forward to a secure retirement, or at least a slower financial headwind. Suddenly, catastrophe strikes one of your kids. Should you help, even if it could jeopardize your own future?
58. Go Homemade This Christmas
- Thursday, November 14, 2013
Ray’s Take Black Friday may be getting close, when the rush of holiday shopping begins in earnest, but I’m already seeing decorations up. You could do yourself, your wallet and your loved ones a big favor by skipping all the crowds, hassles and budget-busting store temptations by dedicating this season to a homemade Christmas.
59. Automate for Painless Saving
- Thursday, November 07, 2013
Ray’s Take Saving is hard. There are so many temptations when you have to make a conscious decision to put money aside each paycheck. For many, the money goes straight into a checking account, and then flows right out again to pay an endless stream of bills.
60. Plan Your Legacy
- Thursday, October 31, 2013
Ray’s Take Webster defines legacy as “something received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” Our personal legacy is what we are remembered for; the contributions we have made to our family, our community, and our world.
61. Could You Be Facing Disaster?
- Thursday, October 24, 2013
Ray’s Take Studies claim 70 percent of Americans are a mere three weeks from being unable to pay household bills – largely because they live paycheck-to-paycheck with little to no reserves to fall back on if anything out of the ordinary happens. This is not just at the lower income strata. It includes high earners too.
62. Talk to Your Parents About Their Future
- Thursday, October 17, 2013
Ray’s Take It’s a conversation no one wants to have; however, it’s important to have at least an idea of how financially prepared your parents are for their retirement. People are living longer – much longer – and the costs for senior care are soaring. Many older Americans saw a large portion of their nest egg disappear in the last recession.
63. Lessons of the Great Recession
- Thursday, October 10, 2013
Ray’s Take This last recession was a real wakeup call for everyone: once secure jobs evaporated, homes values were halved, retirement portfolios surrendered a decade’s worth of gains. It was a painful experience all around.
64. Don’t Leave Your Kids a Big Mess
- Thursday, October 03, 2013
Ray’s Take You may believe your financial records are fairly well organized. However, you could unwittingly be leaving your loved ones a big mess. No one likes to dwell on dying, but one day we’ll all “make the switch,” and a little planning can greatly ease the pain for those left behind.
65. Think Twice Before Picking Retirement Date
- Thursday, September 26, 2013
Ray’s Take “When I hit age 65, I’m out of here,” is a common enough observation. Global competition, increased governmental regulation and the speed of technological innovation have made working careers more unnerving than ever. That magical number “65” was selected a long time ago when life expectancies were a good bit shorter. We run our retirement models to at least age 95 now. Delaying retirement beyond that magical number of 65 for even a few years can make a significant difference in your financial security.
66. Be Aware of Your Company’s Finances
- Thursday, September 19, 2013
Ray’s Take In the “good old days,” many individuals felt comfortable with a lifetime employment approach to their careers. Perhaps they might not become wealthy, but they felt their jobs and pensions were secure. They would then blithely go about their tasks without paying attention to what else was going on in their company. The world is very different now, and it is now essential to regularly scan the health of your career, the company you work for and its competitors.
67. De-Clutter for Cash and Control
- Thursday, September 12, 2013
Ray’s Take Marketers are very good at persuading you to buy stuff. That’s why so many homes are literally stuffed so full that additional storage facilities have become a booming business. Instead of you controlling your stuff, it controls you.
68. Buying Used Can Save You Money – Most of the Time
- Thursday, September 05, 2013
Ray’s Take: Too often as individuals consider ways to improve their financial situation they first look at the income side of the ledger; how to earn more money or increase their investment return. More often than not, we have much more control over the expense side of the ledger. You can save a lot of money buying some things used rather than new. However, you can also waste money that way, too. Doing your homework and knowing the worth of what you’re buying can make all the difference.
69. Bundle of Joy Can Cost You Bundle of Cash
- Thursday, August 29, 2013
Ray’s Take I was asked once if two could live as cheaply as one. I answered, “Certainly, as long as one of them didn’t eat or wear clothes.” Most couples realize having a baby is going to mean extra expenses. However, many are shocked when they realize just how high those expenses are. According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, a child born in 2011 will cost an average of $235,000 to raise to age 17. That number doesn’t include a penny for private tuition or college.
70. Your Budget May Need Revising
- Thursday, August 22, 2013
Ray’s Take No one ever likes it when I use the “B” word, but there’s a reason I do it.
A budget helps you achieve your goals in life, whether they’re for a luxury vacation, the kids’ education, or retirement. Without one, you don’t really know where you are financially, much less where you are headed. You are out of control. There are a lot of smart, hard-working people scheming this very instant on how to separate you from your money. The best ones even make you think it was your idea!
71. Rich Doesn’t Mean Successful
- Thursday, August 15, 2013
Ray’s Take Society tends to equate the possession of riches with a happy, successful life and the pursuit of riches as the best course to achieve success. That’s a rather limited definition, however, and reality doesn’t bear it out. Studies show that the 100 richest people in this country are only slightly more satisfied with their lives than the average person. As the saying goes, “money doesn’t buy happiness.”
72. Value Your Time
- Thursday, August 08, 2013
Ray’s Take Time is one resource that can’t be reclaimed. While you can regain lost investments and recycle natural resources, once time has passed it is gone forever. In our youth, we trade it for money. As we get older we realize we can’t trade our money back for time. Unfortunately, people are inclined to regularly undervalue one of the scarcest assets around – time.
73. What Do Your Kids Know About Money?
- Thursday, August 01, 2013
Ray’s Take A survey by T. Rowe Price revealed that 77 percent of parents lie to their kids about money-related issues. According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 44 percent of Americans learned the most about handling money from their parents. The Council for Economic Education disclosed that just 14 states require high school students to take a course in personal finance.
74. Why Invest Anyway?
- Thursday, July 25, 2013
Ray’s Take: There’s only two ways to earn money honestly. One is by working and the other is by investing so your assets work to make money for you. Unless you want to work forever or make so much money working you can’t spend it all, investing is the only way to be financially independent or achieve long-term goals like funding the kid’s college education or buying a vacation home.
75. Handling Long-Term Care Costs
- Thursday, July 18, 2013
Ray’s Take The cost of long-term nursing home care is increasing at a dramatic pace. According to the latest Genworth Financial report, the median annual cost is now $83,950 and has risen 4.5 percent annually over the last five years.
76. Get Real About Selling Your Home
- Thursday, July 11, 2013
Ray’s Take Selling your home is one of the biggest financial transactions you’ll probably make. It’s a time to stay cool and realistic. However, most of us have a big emotional investment in our homes alongside a significant financial one. You probably selected it because you loved it, were excited to move in and built special memories there.
77. Think Before Giving Money to Children
- Thursday, July 04, 2013
Ray’s Take It’s natural to want to help out your adult kids or grandkids financially. However, it’s important to keep a close eye on your own financial situation as well as consider how any gifts could change your relationship with the recipients.
78. Should Kids Work?
- Thursday, June 27, 2013
Ray’s Take Like it or not, eventually most kids are going to have to enter the workplace, so why not let them learn something about the “real world” while school is still their main focus? After all, learning to balance work and other pursuits is central to a successful life.
79. Investing In House To Sell
- Thursday, June 20, 2013
Ray’s Take Finally and thankfully, the housing market seems to be making a bit of a comeback. Those years of drought actually created a pretty significant pent-up demand. However, homebuyers still expect more for their money. Exactly what that means varies: some want the biggest house possible and are willing to upgrade. Others want a move-in-ready home. The truth is even people willing to upgrade are more easily sold on a house that already looks great.
80. Learn From Insurance Investments
- Thursday, June 13, 2013
Ray’s Take Insurance companies typically keep a relatively small amount of money in cash in order to pay claims, including a reserve to respond quickly to catastrophes. The rest of their funds they invest for the long term, focusing on options like corporate bonds and real estate holdings.
81. Take It From 30 Years of Experience
- Tuesday, June 04, 2013
Ray’s Take I started my career as a professional financial planner 30 years ago this month. Just as I do with my clients every year, I think it is important to review what has happened, what has worked and what has not, in order to improve.
82. Withdraw From Funds With Care
- Monday, May 27, 2013
Ray’s Take While you’re allowed to withdraw funds from your tax-qualified plans as early as age 59 1/2, many people delay making withdrawals until they have to, at age 70 1/2. There certainly can be advantages to deferring that tax liability those extra years if there are other assets available for retirement. However, if you fail to make required minimum withdrawals (RMDs) then, the penalties are substantial – a whopping 50 percent tax above the regular income tax.
83. Consider Retirement Funds Before Job Change
- Thursday, May 23, 2013
Ray’s Take Job hopping, especially in the early years, is more common than ever. Careers are more evolutionary now, as the days of lifetime jobs seem long gone. However, a lot of retirement savings can wind up lost if care is not taken when changing jobs.
84. Talk About Money Before Taking Vows
- Thursday, May 16, 2013
Ray’s Take You’re blissfully in love and happily engaged to your soul mate. The future looks idyllic. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean your fiancé is your ideal financial mate. In fact, a study by professors from The Wharton School and Northwestern University revealed financial opposites tend to be attracted to each other, and those marriages often face significant challenges. With some honest and open discussion in advance, that doesn’t have to happen to you.
85. Wise Investors Know to Avoid Distractions
- Thursday, May 09, 2013
Ray’s Take Hopefully you have a financial plan to guide you to your goals, whether they are college for the kids, a vacation home or a secure retirement. However, one of the key indicators as to whether you will be able to achieve those goals is your ability to avoid distractions from your plan.
86. Consider Norwegian Approach
- Thursday, May 02, 2013
Ray’s Take Modern Portfolio Theory argues it’s essential to determine the right mix of investments for your portfolio so your level of risk tolerance is balanced with opportunities gained. A portfolio of 60 percent stocks and 40 percent bonds has long been considered a standard.
87. Should You Delay Drawing Social Security?
- Thursday, April 25, 2013
Ray’s Take Persistent high unemployment and more than a decade of volatile stock markets have many people anxious to draw Social Security as early as possible even if they are shy of full retirement age. Some are so anxious about the system they want to get what they can before it goes bust. No one has a crystal ball, but more often than not, this is not the best plan.
88. Dream Home Nightmares
- Thursday, April 18, 2013
Ray’s Take As the real estate market recovers, more families are pulling out their dream home plans. They would be wise to watch that classic movie, “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream Home.”
89. Take Time to Budget Your Vacation
- Thursday, April 11, 2013
Ray’s Take It’s that time when people start looking forward to summer vacations. Unfortunately, all too often, the aftermath of those vacations turns out to be more than just wonderful memories – a blown budget and burdensome debt.
90. Disconnecting Could Mean a Richer Life
- Thursday, April 04, 2013
Ray’s Take Every time you go out to lunch you see it: everyone’s smart phones are right there on the table, ready for texting, talking, checking emails, or some quick research. What happened to simply staying connected to the ones right there in front of you?
91. Are Foreclosures or Short Sales Worth It?
- Thursday, March 28, 2013
Ray’s Take This is in many ways a fantastic time to be looking for a new home. In addition to historically low mortgage rates, there are a lot of distressed properties on the market – homes for sale as foreclosures or short sells. There are plenty of bargains to be had, but also plenty of risks and financial pitfalls along the way.
92. Explore Alternatives to Banks
- Thursday, March 21, 2013
Ray’s Take In decades past you built a relationship with your bank and, more importantly, your banker. After so many mergers, that’s become harder to do. Generation low interest rates have banks piling up fees on their customers as well as limiting services It might be worthwhile to at least consider options other than the neighborhood brick-and-mortar bank.
93. Review Your Will Regularly
- Thursday, March 14, 2013
Ray’s Take Let’s assume you’ve done the right thing and have a will in place. That is a good start, but it’s not enough. You need to regularly review your will to make sure it stays in line with your intentions and the law. Congress continues to kick the can down the road on important income tax and transfer payments, but we now have pretty good guidance on estate tax laws both federally and in Tennessee.
94. Don’t Dwell on Market Downturn
- Thursday, March 07, 2013
Ray’s Take In my 30 years of investment management, I’ve found there is always someone predicting another market downturn. Eventually they’ll be right. After all, historically, there’s been a bear market about every three years. Should you be concerned? Not overly, unless your decisions make a market downturn even more painful.
95. Savings Isn’t Only Pillar of Successful Retirement
- Thursday, February 28, 2013
Ray’s Take I’m always emphasizing the importance of saving for retirement. However, you need more than a savings plan if you want to improve your odds for a more fulfilling “third act” of life. You also need to have a plan for what you actually want to do with your time.
96. Do You Need Life Insurance?
- Thursday, February 21, 2013
Ray’s Take For most people, life insurance decisions depend on two things: 1) whether anyone depends on your income to support their standard of living, and 2) whether you have enough other assets that could provide what is needed.
97. Is College Really Worth the Cost?
- Thursday, February 14, 2013
Ray’s Take The struggle recent graduates have had finding jobs has many people wondering if college is still worth the expense. According to some reports, it is. Consider this recent finding by the Lumina Foundation and Georgetown University’s Center on Education: The unemployment rate for college graduates is 6.8 percent, but it’s nearly 24 percent for those with only a high school diploma.
98. Reconsider Your W-4 Withholding
- Thursday, February 07, 2013
Ray’s Take It’s that time of year again. Your mailbox is receiving the annual tax form allotment. In addition to filing your income tax, take time to evaluate your withholding. It might be that you should adjust the deductions on your W-4 form to change the amount withheld from your paychecks.
99. Count On Rising Health Care Costs
- Thursday, January 31, 2013
Ray’s Take Think you have your retirement plan figured out? Here’s a sobering report: Fidelity Investments recently predicted that a 65-year-old couple that retired in 2012 would pay $240,000 for health care over the remainder of their lives. Those are expenses in addition to costs covered by Medicare under existing legislation, which could change.
100. You Can Still Save for Retirement
- Thursday, January 24, 2013
Ray’s Take It may feel as if those gray hairs are multiplying faster than your 401(k). Or maybe your career or other life experience has thrown you curve balls that ate through your savings. Either way, it’s not too late to save for a more comfortable future!