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Editorial Results (free)

1. Emotions of Retirement – Are You Ready? -

Ray’s Take: How prepared are you for the emotional side of retirement?

Most of us see retirement planning as a quantitative exercise to be as certain as we can that the financial aspects are in good order. Everything else we tend to see through rose-colored glasses, envisioning it as a time when we are free to do the things we’ve been putting on hold for years. But there’s another side to retirement that few fully think through in advance. 

2. Agreeing on Retirement Issues – Start Early -

Ray’s Take Communication is the key to avoiding conflict in any aspect of life. And retirement issues are no exception.

As more baby boomers prepare to retire, they’re increasingly facing complicated negotiations with spouses. Many live in dual-income households. And while each partner may have very specific ideas about when and how to retire, they often avoid discussions about retirement altogether. 

3. Carrying Debt Into Retirement -

Ray’s Take: In a perfect world, when we retire, our debt should already be “retired.” 

But when it comes to retirement these days, the picture is much different for the baby boomer generation than it was for their parents. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, older consumers are carrying more debt, including mortgages, credit cards and even student loans, into their retirement years. In 2013, the average household headed by someone age 55 or older had $73,211 in debt, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

4. Money and Marriage – Have This Discussion First -

Ray’s Take It may not sound very romantic, but financial compatibility really is a key ingredient in building a lasting relationship. According to a GoBankingRates.com survey, the biggest deal breaker in a relationship is overspending, followed closely by debt and financial honesty.

5. Target-Date Funds, Questions to Ask -

Ray’s take: Target-date funds have become one of the most popular retirement plan investment choices in recent years. A target-date fund is a mutual fund that automatically changes its mix of stocks, bonds and cash based on a date of planned retirement. You just determine your retirement date and choose the one closest to that date.

6. Inflation’s Impact on Your Investments -

Ray’s take: Most investors place “safety” or “guarantees” on the list to consider when evaluating any investment. Too many don’t fully consider the risk of going broke safely on that list. That’s what inflation does to you.

7. Promotions and Money: Time to Review -

Ray’s Take: Congratulations on your promotion! You just took another step on your career path. Now you should take time to be sure you are on track with your financial plan based on your new situation.

8. Getting Financially Fit -

Ray’s Take: Spring has sprung and many are working hard to get physically fit, but how about financial fitness? A lot of the same tools that will keep you physically fit will also work well to keep you financially fit. If you’re often wondering how money slips out of your bank account, consider these tips to help you become lean and mean financially.

9. Downsize Your Expenses, Not Your Home -

Ray’s Take Millions of baby boomers are approaching, or have arrived at, retirement. Some may find themselves looking around their large homes where they raised their families and deciding they don’t need all that room anymore. The kids have grown up and moved out (maybe) and the money from a sale could really bulk up their retirement funds. It may also be time to consider a downstairs bedroom and other considerations for the next phase in life.

10. Family Planning – Beyond the Diaper Fund -

Ray’s Take: So, you’re planning to start your family. Have you considered the finances involved beyond painting a room and knowing it’s going to take a lot of diapers? Three can certainly live as cheaply as two – as long as one of them doesn’t eat or wear clothes.

11. Retirement Spending – Easy to Underestimate -

Ray’s Take: Conventional wisdom from cookie-cutter financial calculators about retirement is to aim for 70 percent of current income in retirement. But, when told about the 70 percent figure, people tend to ignore the implied message that it means a 30 percent cut in lifestyle. As a result, many people underestimate the amount they need.

12. Planning Your Second Act -

Ray’s Take When surveyed, many baby boomers say they plan to do some kind of work in retirement. The reality is that we are living longer, healthier lives than our parents and grandparents. When we reach the traditional retirement age, we probably have a lot of years of living (and spending) left. What to do with those years is changing with the retirement of the boomer generation.

13. Re-Evaluate Your Cash Strategy -

Ray’s take: When it comes to a cash reserve, the standard advice is three to six months of expenses. Do you think that’s enough? It might not be.

Emergency funds are no longer one-size-fits-all.

14. Financial Planning Is More Than Just Asset Management -

Ray’s take: A common confusion when looking for someone to help you make decisions about your financial future is understanding the difference between asset management and financial planning.
The alphabet soup of designations in today’s market can be confusing regarding what, specifically; a particular professional can do for you.

15. A Look at the Numbers -

Ray’s Take: The economy is in flux and there’s a lot of uncertainty over the direction of the capital markets and interest rates. It’s a familiar refrain by this point. Volatility has increased to a numbing level where perhaps we aren’t paying attention as closely as we should to what’s happening in the financial world around us.

16. Student Loans: The Next Subprime Disaster? -

Ray’s Take: If you Google the words “student loan crisis,” millions of hits should convince you that this is a very hot topic.

According to the most recent Department of Education report released in September 2015, the federal loan default rate stands at 11.8 percent for borrowers who were required to start making payments during the 12 months prior to October 2012. While this is slightly lower than the previous report, it’s still not good. And the rate doesn't include borrowers who have been able to defer payments. Additionally, the most recent graduates will face the highest costs and will be emerging into what continues to be a very poor job market. We have every reason to believe that defaults are not only understated, but they will increase.

17. Financial Advice is Not a Luxury -

Ray’s Take: There’s an old saying that if you don't know where you're going, it's difficult to get there. That is never truer than with your financial goals.

Financial goals give you something to strive for and help you course correct along the path. They also help you focus on the purpose of your efforts. The accumulation of money will do very little for your happiness unless you have a carefully constructed and regularly reviewed plan for what you’re going to do with it.

18. Should Parents Be In The Home Loan Business? -

Ray’s Take: Owning our own home is still a big part of the American dream. Achieving that dream has changed a bit since the Great Recession when significantly tighter standards were put in place.

19. Assisting Elderly Parents With Finances -

Ray’s Take Millions of elderly Americans suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other disabilities that make them unable to make decisions about their finances. If this happens to your parent, it could mean that you will need to step up and take control for them.

20. Money is Emotional -

Ray’s Take You know yourself better than anyone else. You know what motivates you. You know what frightens you. But it is probably something very different for your friends.

A lot of personal finance books will tell you the best way to handle your finances from an unemotional perspective; this advice is worthless if it doesn’t work with your personality. You are not a robot and shouldn’t make important decisions like one.

21. Don’t Panic Over The Market Drop -

Ray’s take: The stock market has had one of the worst starts of the year ever, and the roller coaster shows no sign of letting up. Market naysayers have stolen the spotlight and are further inciting panic with their rhetoric.

22. Debt After Death -

Ray’s Take You can’t take it with you. Debt, that is. And most debt does not get passed to a spouse or other heirs. But debt collectors may try to get the money from family members anyway. For this reason, it’s good to know what happens to various forms of debt that may be left behind when a loved one dies.

23. Callahan Breaks Down UT’s 'Pretty Impressive' Recruiting Class -

Tennessee football coach Butch Jones keeps his pulse on recruiting year-around, along with his SEC counterparts and other FBS coaches.

Chasing recruits is an endless cycle, the lifeblood of championship football teams.

24. Investment, Consumption and Financial Planning -

Ray’s Take Investment and consumption are two sides of the same coin, but sometimes there can be a blurry line between the two. Sometimes our intense desire for something can make it difficult to see which side your expenditure falls on.

25. Tackling Debt Confusion -

Ray’s Take If we’re honest, we should admit that debt is only incurred when we want something that we haven’t saved for. That said, there are two types of debt – good debt and bad debt. And it’s important that you know not only the difference between them, but how they affect your lifestyle and financial plans. This gives you confidence to know when it’s prudent to go ahead and borrow money.

26. Financial Steps for Executors -

Ray’s Take The death of a spouse is high on the list of the most stressful events in life. But, as bad as the emotional trauma can be, the financial fallout can be equally traumatic – and can last much longer. Most spouses name each other as their executor, which makes sense. But the job is not an easy one, and few are fully prepared for the responsibility.

27. Things to Consider Before You Invest -

Ray’s Take The great recession of 2007-2009 and its associated bear market seem like a long time ago. The relatively small setback of 2015 seems very tame in the context of the gains since March of 2009. This is a good time to take a few steps back and review investment goals and expectations.

28. Equity Crowdfunding: What’s It All About? -

Ray’s Take A new avenue for investing is garnering some media attention. It’s called equity crowdfunding, and it’s a vehicle for small entrepreneurs to expand their businesses.

29. Are You Part of a Sandwich? -

Ray’s Take Being a member of the sandwich generation – adults who simultaneously care for children and aging parents – is becoming an increasingly familiar challenge.

It’s tough trying to make financial decisions to take care of loved ones today that may have a negative impact on your own future.

30. Back to Basics: Investing 101 -

Ray’s Take Learning how to invest your money is one of life’s more important lessons. You don’t need to be Warren Buffet to start investing. But you do need to have a basic understanding of investment and investment terms along with the confidence to make a plan.

31. Resolutions Not to Make in 2016 -

Ray’s Take New Year’s Eve is traditionally a time to make resolutions about what we will do in the coming year. But, since investing is one of those topics that don’t come easy to a lot of people, let’s do something different. Make resolutions of what you will not do.

32. Protect Your Retirement From The Unexpected -

Ray’s Take We plan carefully during our years in the workforce to create a solid income for our retirement. But how can we protect that plan after we retire and have less flexibility and increased vulnerability to unexpected events? We want to avoid finding ourselves in the position of having to go back to work.

33. Prepare for Debt Surprises -

Ray’s Take Conventional wisdom says that the money in your emergency fund should be set aside for unexpected expenses. By definition, an emergency is unexpected. But sometimes it is more difficult to maintain that fund.

34. It’s a Balancing Act -

Ray’s Take Work-life balance is something we’ve talked a lot about in recent years. It feels as if we all have to work harder and longer to get what we want in life. It’s hard to say if whether we’re earning less or wanting more. So how do you balance the work part with the life part?

35. Avoiding the Scammers -

Ray’s Take It is an unfortunate fact that retirees only make up 15 percent of the population, and yet they are the victims of almost one-third of all reported scams. Identity theft in particular is on the rise as the elderly often have a good credit rating and little or no debt. Make no mistake; falling prey to an identity thief can be a financial disaster in addition to being an emotional one.

36. Planning Ahead for the Rate Hike -

Ray’s take: So far, the Federal Reserve has not raised rates. It may be a while and it may be slow, but sooner or later rates will go up. Before they do, it could be a good idea for you to review how the rate hike will affect you personally.

37. Taxable vs. Non-Taxable Retirement Income -

Ray’s Take The taxable status of an investment account refers to whether any income earned in the account is taxable at the time of earning, or possibly not at all.

A good example would be a 401(k) or IRA. These accounts are considered tax-deferred because earned interest, dividends or capital gain distributions are not taxed until money is withdrawn – there is a payday someday. Other accounts, such as a cash account, high-interest savings accounts or non-qualified mutual fund accounts would be taxable in the year interest money is earned.

38. Urban Planning Practice Shows How Design Can Combat Crime -

What if, instead of piling on security guards and higher fences, developers combatted crime through design?

That’s the theory behind Crime Prevention through Environmental Design, an urban planning practice that studies how the built environment impacts social behavior.

39. Give Your Retirement A Raise -

Ray’s Take People used to not worry very much about their retirement. They tended to work for the same company all their lives, and at 65 they got a watch and a pension.

They learned how to live on their monthly check and didn’t know or care what the Dow Jones Averages were. Life expectancy was shorter then as well. But those scenarios have changed.

40. Won’t be the same without the head ball coach -

I miss Steve Spurrier.

It won’t be the same without Spurrier coaching South Carolina when Tennessee (4-4, 2-3 SEC) plays host to the Gamecocks (3-5, 1-5) on Saturday.

It wasn’t the same this week without Spurrier throwing a jab or two at UT leading up to the game.

41. Distribution Diversification – The Flip Side of the Coin -

Ray’s Take We talk a lot about saving for retirement and the importance of diversifying your portfolio. As a result, you’ve diversified the assets in your portfolio and you’ve saved regularly and often, and invested in a balanced mix of stocks, bonds and other assets. And because of those smart moves, you’ve reduced risk and improved your odds of enjoying a great retirement.

42. Traits That Lead to Better Finances -

Ray’s Take Saving money isn’t all about whether or not you know how to score the bargain of the century every time. It has more to do with your habits and attitude toward money. Understanding the impact of personal traits on finances is essential for building wealth.

43. Things You Should Invest In -

Ray’s Take It’s important to save where you can, but it’s just as critical to spend where you should.

Given the market volatility in the past decade, many have focused on spending less and saving more, being more frugal and thinking things through before making purchases. But there are some exceptions, times when you should spend money. Because, in the long run, you’ve invested not only in yourself, but also in lowering future costs.

44. Home… Free? -

Ray’s Take Wikipedia defines a mortgage-burning party as a 20th-century American custom that is the ritual burning of a paid-off mortgage document by homeowners often including a party in which extended family and friends are invited to celebrate.

45. Autopilot For Faster Accumulation -

Ray’s Take Out-of-sight, out-of-mind saving and investing is a great way to increase your money.

Automatic money transfers can be your best friend when it comes to investing and saving. By setting up an “autopilot” for your investment and saving accounts, you don’t touch, or see, the money. It goes directly into your savings and investment vehicles. This is a great way to pay yourself first (PYF) with no effort beyond setting up the money transfer from your paycheck.

46. Fed Rate And Your Retirement -

Ray’s Take After the biggest buildup to a meeting of the Federal Reserve in 10 years, they decided to do – nothing. The Federal Reserve left the federal funds rate right where it’s been since 2008, which is just above zero. Anyone who has an (theoretically) interest-bearing checking or savings account knows that already. Despite the inaction, the Fed still claims that rates are going up, someday.

47. ‘Set It and Forget It’ Investing -

Ray’s Take: Creating a retirement plan is a very personal thing because no one but you knows what you want for your future. But a plan is a must-have for everyone, and there are numerous ways to create a retirement plan as individual as you are.

48. Planning for Lifestyle Creep -

Ray’s take: Investopia defines lifestyle creep as a situation where people's lifestyle or standard of living improves as their discretionary income rises either through an increase in income or decrease in costs.

49. Investing in a Low-Return Environment -

Ray’s take: In these days of lower returns on investments, the markets and interest rates in particular haven’t been providing as much of a helping hand as in the past. So, in order to achieve your goals, you may need to do more of the “heavy lifting” yourself. This means reviewing your accounts regularly to determine if you’re saving enough to meet your financial goals.

50. Making the Money Last -

Ray’s Take: Are you ready to live to age 95 or beyond? According to the Society of Actuaries, for an upper-middle-class couple, there is a 43 percent chance that one or both will reach at least age 95.

51. ‘Punching Out’ for the Last Time -

Ray’s take: According to AARP, baby boomers are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day. That means a lot of people are looking at the traditional retirement age coming up fast. Whenever you plan to not have to work anymore, there are some basic financial decisions you should make as you near that age.

52. Fisher, Other Familiar Faces Return for Preseason Play -

The Tennessee Titans welcome back a familiar face Sunday night when Jeff Fisher rolls back into Nashville as coach of the St. Louis Rams.

53. Changing For The Better -

Ray’s Take Nobody cares more about your financial well-being than you do. The good news is that handling your money is a learned behavior. The bad news is that you might be making some financial decisions that are not moving you towards your goals.

54. Rise of The Telecommuter -

Ray’s Take: Telecommuting is on the rise and, for many people, being able to work at home gives them the best of both worlds. They have the job security and income of a regular full-time job, without the time, expense and hassle of going to an office.

55. Preseason Analysis: Vols Will Defeat Oklahoma, Finish 8-4 -

Tennessee’s football team has something to prove as it concludes the first week of preseason practices and moves forward to the 2015 season.

The Vols must prove they belong in the national picture in Butch Jones’ third year as coach.

56. The Power Of Money -

Ray’s Take We talk a lot in this column about how to handle your money. Your choices really do matter. We didn’t make the rules. But sometimes it’s important to remember limitations as well.

57. Spending Every Dime – Is It Feasible? -

Ray’s Take In the good old days, when you retired you got a gold watch and a pension and didn’t worry about much else.

Investment management was somebody else’s problem. You watched the sunset, not CNBC. This gave way to more recent retirement planning where you worked 30 or 40 years, saving along the way and when you got to 67 (or older) you quit, and lived on your Social Security and 401(k) savings and sometimes some part-time work. If you did it “right” you withdrew a set percentage of the funds and lived comfortably until age 85, as long as you didn’t hit some kind of devastatingly expensive health event.

58. Pre-Planning For The End -

Pre-planning your funeral may well be the most important and considerate gift you leave your family.

When you plan in advance, there is time to contemplate decisions such as what type of service you would like – traditional or unique and related to the life you have led. You also limit costs when you plan in advance, limiting the trauma and “upsell” risk to your family. When you plan in advance, you decide the priorities.

59. Life Events and Your Financial Plan -

Ray’s take: The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Nothing endures but change.”

When it comes to creating a financial plan, there’s always room for change. There are major events that occur in life that will require a review of, and revision to, your existing financial plan.

60. Building Blocks of Estate Planning -

Ray’s take: Estate planning is one of the most important steps any person can take to ensure their final property and health care wishes are honored when the time comes. You may not be able to take it with you, but you can have a say about where it goes.

61. Timing the Market -

Ray’s take: I once had a client tell me that all she wanted me to do was have her in the market while it went up, and get her out of it before it went down. Sounds great! The only problem is that an honest person can’t do that on a consistent basis.

62. Things or Experiences: Which Mean More? -

Ray’s take: We talk a lot about budgets in financial planning, but less often about the type of spending we should do. Finances, like so much in life, are personal.

Some prefer to spend money on things. A newer, bigger TV. A nicer house or car. These things are items that should take some thought before buying. But what about impulse buying? Does that make us happy in the long term? For some the answer is yes.

63. Managing an Inherited IRA -

Ray’s take: I remember when the original law went into effect creating IRAs. It was a short read. Now it’s a monster with more options, opportunities, and risks than anyone ever imagined. Here are a few of the most common mistakes made with inherited IRAs:

64. Deadlines Everyone Should Know -

Ray’s Take: Deadlines are good for the soul. It’s always important to keep track of significant ones in life. At 16, we can drive, and at 18, we can vote. Your taxes are due on April 15. But what about other significant deadlines that may not be as familiar?

65. Gift It or Will It? -

Ray’s take: Is it better to give now or leave items in your will to beneficiaries? This depends on your own plans, but here are some things to consider.

You can currently make annual tax-free gifts of up to $14,000 per recipient. If you are married, you and your spouse together can give $28,000 per recipient per year. You can either give $14,000 each, or one spouse can make a $28,000 gift with the consent of the other spouse on a timely filed gift tax return. You can also give an unlimited amount for tuition and medical expenses, if you make the gifts directly to the educational organization or health care provider.

66. Heirloom Jewelry and Your Heirs -

Ray's take: One of the most contentious issues when distributing an estate can be the division of heirlooms. It would help to know which family heirloom holds special meaning to which heir. An item that you think is the most important may not be the most important to others.

67. How Deflation Impacts Your Portfolio -

Ray’s take: Last month, we talked about inflation and how it can impact financial planning. This month, we’re taking a look at inflation’s opposite – deflation – and how that can impact your planning.

68. Financial Information in the Digital Age -

Ray's take: As we spend more of our lives online – paying bills, collecting credit card rewards points, shopping, creating photo albums, emailing – it's increasingly important to consider how beneficiaries can access those accounts and any assets they hold, once we're gone.

69. Planning for Those With Special Needs -

Ray’s take: Sometimes life throws us a curve in the form of a child with special needs. And when that happens, the best gift we can give them, beyond our love and care, is a future securely planned to meet their individual needs.

70. Multigenerational IRAs and Estate Planning -

Ray's take: A multigenerational IRA is an individual retirement arrangement that works well not only to first-generation beneficiaries upon your death, but also to subsequent heirs who follow the original beneficiaries. These are also sometimes called a “stretch IRA.”

71. Inflation and Your Plan for the Future -

Ray’s take: Inflation is one of the financial facts of life. You cannot control it, and you do not know what it will be in the future. Inflation is a silent thief.

You must take inflation into account when planning for future expenses, particularly for retirement. Maintaining the financial lifestyle you desire in your retirement years is dependent on how much you have accumulated by the time you retire, how fast you spend those funds during retirement and what those funds can buy going forward.

72. Estate Planning and Your Collectibles -

Ray's take: We’ve all heard those stories about someone inheriting Great Aunt Matilda’s Avon bottle collection and having no idea what to do with it. But the collection meant something to Aunt Matilda. She could have planned differently for her collection and it might have found a home with someone (or somewhere) who loved it.

73. Enjoy Now While You Build Your Future -

Ray’s Take Invariably, one boring little word seems to be the answer to virtually every personal finance question you’ll face: save. Save, save and save some more. Frugality is the new black.

74. Making Sense Of the 1099 Alphabet -

Ray’s Take: As the April 15 deadline for filing taxes approaches, we are all looking at the various forms we’ve received related to tax filing.

Many people receive one or more 1099 forms with various letters following the number. These can be confusing if you don’t know what they mean, and not all dollars reported on 1099s should show up on your 1040 form as taxable income. Whatever you were paid last year, if it wasn’t wages on your W-2, it’s likely to be on a Form 1099.

75. Utilizing Health Savings Accounts -

Ray's Take: Health savings accounts turned 10 in 2014. These accounts, which allow individuals to set aside money for current or future health care costs on a tax-free basis, are an under-utilized tool that few of us take advantage of.

76. Self-Employment and Retirement Planning Responsibility -

Ray's Take: Being self-employed has some great perks, such as the financial freedom to expand your business on your own terms. You decide about days off and holidays. You make all the executive decisions. But with those freedoms, comes responsibility.

77. Prepare for the Unexpected -

Ray’s Take: In the last 15 years, we have seen a cratering of housing prices, the near-collapse of the banking system, double-digit unemployment and two of the most extreme market cycles since the Great Depression. So, unfortunately, bad news has become somewhat of the norm.

78. Good Health, Wealth Go Hand in Hand -

Ray’s Take: One of the biggest and most challenging issues in retirement is how to plan and pay for health care expenses. Medical bills can mushroom in later life and empty nest eggs. Reimbursements are being reduced regularly. The healthier we are, and remain, the lower our health costs will be. Especially in a world where health costs are rising more each year.

79. Tax-Smart Investment Strategies -

RAY’S TAKE: I’ve heard it said that it’s not what you make, it’s what you keep that counts. Taxes matter, and over time they matter a lot. Using tax smart investments can reduce the amount of taxes you pay while you are in your accumulation years and also impact taxes you pay after you retire.

80. Retirement for the 'Sandwiched' -

Ray's Take: If you’re in the “accumulation years” – meaning before retirement – you may find yourself in a tough situation.

You may be sandwiched between adult children trying to find their feet in a tough economy and aging parents needing care and support. Helping both often comes at the expense of your own long-term security.

81. One Size Does Not Fit All -

Ray’s take: Some things are always true about financial planning. Everyone should have a plan. Everyone should review his or her plan on a regular basis.

But when it comes to more specific things like, “How should I invest?” “Should I retire at 65 or 67?” or “Should I invest in a 529 plan for my kids’ college?” the correct answer will be, “It depends.” This is the point where the one-size-fits-all train goes off the rails. Because everyone is different and their financial plan should be as individual as they are.

82. Save More Or Earn More? -

Ray’s Take There are two main ways to increase funds for retirement purposes. Save more of what you currently earn (by spending less) or earn more than you currently do. It’s all about having funds available to invest for your future.

83. IRA Rollover Changes for 2015 -

Ray’s Take: Recently, new regulations went into effect that affect your IRAs and rollovers. Prior to 2015, the rule in effect allowed you to do a rollover each year, in which you received a check made out to you, rather than to another IRA custodian, on each IRA you own.

84. Save Time in Addition to Money -

Ray’s take: I’ve often heard that you can tell more about a person by looking at how he or she spends their time and money rather than what they claim is important to them. January is a good time to take stock of not only your finances but also how you spend your time. And the two can be related.

85. Financial Terms You Should Know -

Ray’s take: Do you know the RMD for your IRA? How about your AGI for the IRS? Or does the alphabet soup of financial terms leaving you scratching your head?

Some people watch interviews with investment professionals and look for subtitles, as if the conversation is in another language. It often is. Investment and tax news is typically delivered in cryptic acronyms which seem to be designed to confuse rather than inform.

86. Money Management Principles -

Ray’s take: Most things in life involve a set of basic principles, and money management is no exception to the rule.

First, you should know and understand what you earn. You should not only know your gross salary and net pay amounts, but you should also understand your withholding and insurance benefit withdrawals. Without earnings, there would be no need for money management principles. Make the most of what you earn by following other principles.

87. ‘Hidden’ Fees and Charges Add Up -

Ray’s take: It’s the beginning of a new year, a time for reflection and taking stock. New Year’s resolutions typically are significant changes. Big changes are difficult. I suggest considering a series of little ones. Your odds are better and the little fees and charges in our lives can add up and throw our budgets and plans off track.

88. End of The Year To-Do List -

Ray’s Take In an ideal world, we would always stay on top of all of the intricacies of our financial lives. The real world seems to work a little differently. If it weren’t for the April 15 deadline, I doubt we would ever get around to filing our taxes. Deadlines are good for us, actually. So as we roll quickly toward the end of the year, let’s review a few.

89. Roth Conversion, Should You Do It? -

Ray’s Take There’s been a lot of discussion in recent years about Roth accounts, specifically the Roth IRA and the Roth 401(k). Maybe you’re wondering if you should convert your own accounts but aren’t sure.

90. Reinventing Retirement -

Ray’s take: At the turn of the 20th century, the average life expectancy was 47 years. Today, the average American can look forward to about 78 years of life. The average life expectancy for today's 65-year-old has increased to 84, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. I currently have twelve clients over 90.

91. Required Minimum Distributions -

Ray's take: Once you reach age 70 1/2, you are required by law to begin taking required minimum distributions (RMD) from your tax-advantaged retirement account, or accounts, each year.

This is a time when you need to take advantage of all the tools available to make this as simple as possible as well as to allow the volatility of the markets to work for you.

92. Hackers and the Holidays -

Ray’s Take: Cybersecurity is a big topic of conversation in the financial world these days. Securing personal data in addition to bank accounts is a growing concern. As we approach the holiday buying season, debit and credit card information hacking is on a lot of people’s minds.

93. Estate Planning and State Taxes -

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.

94. Ask Your Parent the Difficult Questions -

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.

95. Financial Literacy Is a Must -

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!”

96. Charitable Giving a Win-Win -

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.”

97. A Gift That Can Give For A Lifetime -

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.

98. Choosing Your Own 401(k) Mix -

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.

99. Retirement: Savings-to-Income Ratio -

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.

100. Certified Financial Planner – One Big Thing -

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.