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Cell Phones: The New Way to (Safely?) Pay

November 2014
One would be forgiven for mistrusting credit cards these days. It seems like every month for the past year, some company announces that it’s had customer credit information stolen. For some companies, the thefts were isolated to a few thousand individuals; others, like Target and Home Depot, exposed the data of millions of customers.

In September, the world of digital transactions took a sudden turn when Apple announced its new “Apple Pay” service. Having already popularized digital revolutions in cell phone and tablet technology, Apple wants to facilitate a safer and more convenient way to pay at stores and online. Using near-field communication (NFC)—a short-range wireless signal—Apple Pay allows you to touch your phone to a special credit card reader and make a transaction.

Like any new type of transaction, the technology has been met with varying degrees of skepticism. Some believe the wireless broadcast of a payment leaves them exposed. Others point out that adding banking information to an already data-loaded phone only increases the risk of full identity theft if the device is lost or stolen. In fact, resistance to NFC payments has been so strong that Google Wallet, which offers NFC payments on Android devices, still has few users despite launching three years ago.

Of course, broadcasting your credit card number through radio waves (even very short-range ones) would be extremely dangerous. That is why NFC payments don’t store or transmit credit data in the traditional sense. In fact, Apple Pay holds no raw card data on the phone or in cloud storage. It creates one-time, digital “tokens” to verify transactions. During a transaction, a token is sent to a creditor, where it is decrypted and authorizes the release of funds. Once an exchange is complete, the token created for it is useless.

In addition to making any “skimmed” banking data useless, transactions using disposable tokens also hide you from retailers. Apple Pay tokens only facilitate monetary transactions, preventing a retailer from collecting any personal information. Apple has also said that their devices will not keep any information about your purchases, just a basic record of transactions.

Apple Pay’s final layer of security comes through human authorization. For each purchase, a device requires verification from the user by PIN or fingerprint scan on the device. This not only means that a user must acknowledge every transaction, but that a phone thief will have great difficulty making a purchase even if the phone were stolen.

Given its ability to secure and obscure data, Apple Pay is being praised as one of the most secure ways a person could make a retail purchase.

Or so we think.

The reality is that Apple Pay and other NFC credit systems are still too new for us to be certain of total security. As they grow more popular, hackers and data thieves will become increasingly interested in finding ways to break in and steal data. Just because the creators can’t think of a way to beat the system doesn’t mean someone else won’t.

The important thing to remember as the digital age progresses is that convenience through consolidation always adds a certain kind of risk. Apple has made a strong effort to make Apple Pay a safe service; now the responsibility is on us as consumers to protect our information. If we want to turn our phones into wallets, we need to be prepared to guard them as if they were both. We cannot continue to give identity thieves easy jobs by being lazy with passwords, linking accounts or leaving our phones unattended. It’s not wrong to put all of our eggs in one basket—we just need to be sure we watch that basket closely.
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Remember that past performance may not indicate future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, strategy, or product referenced directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful. You should not assume that any information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of personalized investment advice. If a reader has questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed to their individual situation, they are encouraged to consult with a professional adviser. 

This article was written by Advicent Solutions, an entity unrelated to Guidestream Financial, Inc.. The information contained in this article is not intended to be tax, investment, or legal advice, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any tax penalties. Guidestream Financial, Inc. does not provide tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to consult with your tax advisor or attorney regarding specific tax issues. © 2014 Advicent Solutions. All rights reserved.

Oil Goes On A Slide

November 2014
All over the country, Americans are getting relief at the pump. Gas prices dropped an average of about $0.50 per gallon from June through October, and market trends are expected to keep the price down for a few months more.

So, what’s going on? Did we suddenly find a lot more oil? Are fossil fuels reversing their decades-long march upward? In this case, the shift in oil has to do more with business strategy than availability or politics. Here are the major factors responsible for the relaxed prices:

Competition

The boom in shale oil fracking has turned the United States into a major producer in the world oil markets. Since the United States uses more oil than anyone (almost double that of the next highest consumer, China, in 2012), a change in its importing and production is likely going to have a big impact on market value.

However, while the United States is moving toward energy independence, its fracking boom has been sustained only by high oil prices. Fracking costs around 10 times more than the traditional oil pumping done in some OPEC countries. Fracking needs expensive oil to be profitable and practical.

To smother the success of fracking, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have increased their production to drive down oil prices. At the moment, they are more interested in discouraging fracking operations than they are in getting the highest price. With their strong cash reserves, they have few qualms about a temporary drop in profitability to prevent countries from developing their own oil reserves.

Demand

The other major factor is OPEC’s desire to protect and grow the global demand for oil. When oil prices are high or the economy is bad, most countries cut back on consumption and look for alternate fuel sources.

Economic news from the past few months has been far from stellar. Many Eurozone countries are facing renewed recession, and growth in developing economies like China and Brazil has been slowing. Lowering oil prices can help support economic growth in these countries and, in time, create greater demand for oil when things improve.

As for the United States, demand for gasoline has been somewhat slowing despite the growing economy. The total number of miles driven in the country has been flat or down since the Great Recession, while vehicle fuel efficiency is greater than ever. This trend is expected to continue to increase as older cars continue to drop out of the market and more people move to metro areas. A drop in gas prices reduces the pressure for these improvements and encourages driving, helping to keep demand for oil high.

Collateral Damage

The goal of the major OPEC players is clearly to drive out smaller competition and secure a larger future market. However, the damage of cheap oil goes beyond the falling margins of shale oil companies.

In particular, countries that have limited, but essential, oil exports are taking a beating from the low prices (e.g. Russia, Iran and Venezuela). These countries, some of which are OPEC members, have limited markets to service—they need reasonable profits from what they manage to sell and have little chance of getting a larger market share from this whole ordeal.

To a lesser extent, green technology may also be hurt by this recent shift. Any time fossil fuels get cheap, interest in renewable energy dips. However, it will likely require several quarters of low fuel prices to really damage long-term interest in the green energy sector.

Right now, American drivers are the ones getting the most from the oil price war. However, if we lose our domestic oil production and increase our gas dependency, this current relief will have a negative long-term effect on the country.

It’s difficult to estimate how long OPEC will allow prices to decline or when crude prices will climb again. Despite all the known factors, oil prices are a notoriously difficult commodity to anticipate. Even the best theories cannot account for surprise factors like international conflict, terrorism or technological developments. The safest way to profit from the current oil market is to just enjoy the extra savings the next time you fill up.

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Remember that past performance may not indicate future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, strategy, or product referenced directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful. You should not assume that any information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of personalized investment advice. If a reader has questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed to their individual situation, they are encouraged to consult with a professional adviser. 

This article was written by Advicent Solutions, an entity unrelated to Guidestream Financial, Inc.. The information contained in this article is not intended to be tax, investment, or legal advice, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any tax penalties. Guidestream Financial, Inc. does not provide tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to consult with your tax advisor or attorney regarding specific tax issues. © 2014 Advicent Solutions. All rights reserved.

Financial Planning – 30 & Under

December 2014
-By Caitlin Koppelman-
While I was in college, people told me I had fewer obligations and more financial flexibility than I’d have in my entire life. I could not comprehend that at the time. In retrospect, I can see it now:  No mortgage, no kids, and those blessed student loans were still in deferment!  Life was so simple: almost no liabilities and a high percentage of discretionary income. Now, I have to remind myself that I’m in the “accumulation phase” of life. I’m accumulating valuable assets for the future: an education, our first home and starting a retirement savings plan. Those assets aren’t cheap, but I’m making an investment for the future. Every mortgage payment and every retirement contribution is like money in a future bank account.

Even though it’s natural to want to pay more attention to your present bank account, now is the time to make deposits for that far off phase of life. Do it now, while it’s easier than ever. Notice I said, “easier” not “easy”. It is never easy to delay gratification, but if we want to reap the benefits at harvest time, we have to sow and tend the garden along the way. With 35+ years on your side, a little bit now can multiply if handled wisely.

Who has time to tend that financial garden? There are only so many hours in the week and who wants to spend their down time planning a future retirement that they can barely imagine?  As a 28-year-old, I can’t blame you for being skeptical. You’re probably a little jaded by the whole idea of savings, debt, and retirement. It comes down to risk and reward. If a Traverse City cherry farmer is hopeful for a good crop, he faces the risk of frost, pests and drought, head on. It’s worth the risk for him because of the potential reward. His potential reward is higher because he took the risk and planted the trees. For me, I’m not willing to live a life of limited influence in the future because of financial constraints. So, I plant now and plan for a harvest.

Here are a few simple steps to get you started:

  1. Many employers offer 401(k) matching programs. Take full advantage of that by deferring at least the percentage at which the company will match your contribution. That’s free money! If your employer doesn’t offer a match, at least do your own contributing.
  2. Connect with a financial adviser you trust. Be brave and share your goals. Take advantage of their expertise. You’re a professional with your own expertise in a specific area. Let them use their wisdom and experience to set you free to focus on the things you care about.
  3. After you’ve made a trustworthy connection, make a plan and stick to it! Come flood or draught; keep your eye on the prize!

Remember, delayed gratification is not natural. When something threatens your cherry trees, you’ll be tempted to give up. Stay the course! The harvest is coming! 

Financial Planning

-By Scott Blakemore-
What comes to mind when you think of “Financial Planning”? 

When asked what I do for a living, my response, “I’m a financial planner” is usually met with blank stares and the sound of crickets.  Now and then I get a response, “Oh, I’ve done that”, “I have an annuity,” or “I have an IRA”.  If only that was all it takes.

In the next few paragraphs, we’ll address three common perspectives regarding “Financial Planning” that many people share and how it affects their planning decisions.

I don’t understand enough to know where to begin.  We hear this one often (both from clients and potential clients).  They apologize for not knowing enough about their investments, pension plans, social security, health or insurance benefits. 

Here is the good news: planners realize you have likely never been taught, nor do you probably want to learn about all the components of your financial situation.  I don’t want to be a nurse or doctor, and when I go to the doctor, I don’t apologize for not knowing how to take my blood pressure.  I am not trained in this, and they don’t expect me to know.  I just want to know if my blood pressure is good or bad, and what to do to correct the problem.  The same is true for a financial planner – you don’t have to know it all, but you do need to know who can help.

Financial planning is inflexible and limiting.  Rarely does someone verbalize this concern, but when asked if they perceive this to be true, their eyes get wide and they nod their head in agreement.

How many Fortune 500 companies have business or marketing plans, sales forecasts, or budgets?  Probably all of them.  How many change their plans the following year?  Probably all of them.  Maybe they aren’t big wholesale changes, but as information comes in and circumstances change, they change.  The same is true for your financial plan – a good plan is flexible and changes over time as you do.

I have a 401k, IRA or Roth IRA.  I own an annuity, stock or bond.  I’m all set.  While various products and retirement plans are definitely components to be used appropriately when constructing a plan, they are not a financial plan in and of themselves.  Does owning a bat make you a baseball player or owning golf clubs make you a golfer?  Having the right equipment is important, but if you want to be successful, you need a coach – someone to teach you and help develop your skills.  The same is true for a financial planner, we will help you learn the game, coach you and use the appropriate tools.

At its root, financial planning is mostly about trust in the person helping you.  Remember, you aren’t required to understand everything, your plan can flex with you, and there’s much more to a financial plan than the components you use.  Find someone who will listen to you and help you ask the right questions … that is the best, first step toward a more solid financial future.

How much money should I save for retirement?

The obvious answer is, as much as you can. You'll probably need to build a fund that you can draw on for much of your retirement income. This may be possible to do if you start early and make smart choices.

Contribute as much as you can to tax-advantaged savings vehicles (e.g., 401(k)s, IRAs, annuities). Make sure to contribute as much as necessary to get any employer matching contribution--it's essentially free money. Then round out your retirement portfolio with other taxable investments (e.g., stocks, bonds, mutual funds*). As you're planning and saving, keep in mind that you may have 30 or more years of retirement to fund. So, you may need an even bigger nest egg than you think.

*Note:   All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. Before investing in a mutual fund, carefully consider its investment objectives, risks, fees, and expenses, which can be found in the prospectus available from the fund. Read it carefully before investing.

Your particular circumstances will determine how much money you should save for retirement. Maybe you have a pension plan, or your Social Security benefits will be large enough to tide you over. If so, you may not need to save as much as other people. But other personal factors will enter the picture, too. If you plan to retire early (e.g., age 50 or 55), you'll have even more retirement years to fund and may need more retirement assets than someone who plans to work until age 65 or 70. Conversely, you may need fewer assets if you plan on working part-time during retirement.

Your projected expenses during retirement will also help determine how much money you'll need and how much you need to save to get there. Certain costs (e.g., food, utilities, insurance) will be shared by almost all retirees. But you may still be saddled with retirement expenses that many retirees no longer have (e.g., mortgage payments or a child's tuition).

Expenses will also depend on the type of retirement lifestyle you want. How many nights a week will you dine out? How much traveling will you do? These kinds of questions will give you a better idea of how much money you'll be spending once you retire. In general, the greater your anticipated retirement expenses, the more you need to save each year to meet those expenses.

Content prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2014

Business Owners: Don’t Neglect Your Own Retirement Plan

If you're like many small business owners, you pour your heart, soul, and nearly all your money into your business. When it comes to retirement planning, your strategy might be crossing your fingers and hoping your business will provide the nest egg you'll need to live comfortably. But relying on a business to fund retirement can be a very risky proposition. What if you become ill and have to sell it early? Or what if your business experiences setbacks just before your planned retirement date?

Rather than counting on your business to define your retirement lifestyle, consider managing your risk now by investing in a tax-advantaged retirement account. Employer-sponsored retirement plans offer a number of potential benefits, including current tax deductions for the business and tax-deferred growth and/or tax-free retirement income for its employees. Following are several options to consider.

IRA-type plans
Unlike "qualified" plans that must comply with specific regulations governed by the Internal Revenue Code and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), SEP and SIMPLE IRAs are less complicated and typically less costly.

SEP-IRA: A SEP allows you to set up an IRA for yourself and each of your eligible employees. Although you contribute the same percentage of pay for every employee, you're not required to make contributions every year. Therefore, you can time your contributions according to what makes sense for the business. For 2014, total contributions (both employer and employee) are limited to 25% of pay up to a maximum of $52,000 for each employee (including yourself).

SIMPLE IRA: The SIMPLE IRA allows employees to contribute up to $12,000 in 2014 on a pretax basis. Employees age 50 and older may contribute an additional $2,500. As the employer, you must either match your employees' contributions dollar for dollar up to 3% of compensation, or make a fixed contribution of 2% of compensation for every eligible employee. (The 3% contribution can be reduced to 1% in any two of five years.)
Qualified plans

Although these types of plans have more stringent regulatory requirements, they offer more control and flexibility. (Note that special rules may apply to self-employed individuals.)

Profit-sharing plan: Typically only the business contributes to a profit-sharing plan. Contributions are discretionary (although they must be "substantial and recurring") and are placed into separate accounts for each employee according to an established allocation formula. There's no fixed amount requirement, and in years when profitability is particularly tight, you generally need not contribute at all.

401(k) plan: Perhaps the most popular type of retirement plan offered by employers, a 401(k) plan allows employees to make both pre- and after-tax (Roth) contributions. Pretax contributions grow on a tax-deferred basis, while qualified withdrawals from a Roth account are tax free. Employee contributions cannot exceed $17,500 in 2014 ($23,000 for those 50 and older) or 100% of compensation, and employers can choose to match a portion of employee contributions. These plans must pass tests to ensure they are nondiscriminatory; however, employers can avoid the testing requirements by adopting a "safe harbor" provision that requires a set matching contribution based on one of two formulas. Another way to avoid testing is by adopting a SIMPLE 401(k) plan. However, because they are more complicated than SIMPLE IRAs and are still subject to certain regulations, SIMPLE 401(k)s are not widely utilized.

Defined benefit (DB) plan: Commonly known as a traditional pension plan, DB plans are becoming increasingly scarce and are uncommon among small businesses due to costs and complexities. They promise to pay employees a set level of benefits during retirement, based on a formula typically expressed as a percentage of income. DB plans generally require an actuary's expertise.

Total contributions to profit-sharing and 401(k) plans cannot exceed $52,000 or 100% of compensation in 2014. With both profit-sharing and 401(k) plans (except safe harbor 401(k) plans), you can impose a vesting schedule that permits your employees to become entitled to employer contributions over a period of time.

For the self-employed
In addition to the options noted above, sole entrepreneurs may consider an individual or "solo" 401(k) plan. These types of plans are very similar to a standard 401(k) plan, but because they apply only to the business owner and his or her spouse, the regulatory requirements are not as stringent. They can also have a profit-sharing feature, which can help you maximize your tax-advantaged savings potential.

Content prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2014

What’s New in the World of Higher Education?

Whether your son or daughter is expecting college decisions any day now or whether you're planning ahead for future years, here's what's new in the world of higher education.

Costs for 2013/2014

Question: What goes up every year no matter what the economy at large is doing? Answer: The cost of college. The reasons are many and varied, but suffice it to say that this year, like every year, college costs increased yet again.

For the 2013/2014 year, the average cost at a 4-year public college is $22,826, while the average cost at a private college is $44,750, though many private colleges charge over $60,000 per year (Source: The College Board, Trends in College Pricing 2013). Cost figures include tuition, fees, room and board, books, and a sum for transportation and personal expenses.

What's a parent to do? For starters, check out net price calculators. Now required on all college websites, net price calculators can help families estimate how much grant aid a student might be eligible for at a particular college based on his or her individual academic and financial profile and the school's own criteria for awarding institutional aid. You'll definitely want to spend some time running numbers on different net price calculators to see how schools stack up against one another on the generosity scale.

New rates on federal student loans

Last summer, new legislation changed the way interest rates are set for federal Stafford and PLUS Loans. Rates are now tied to the 10-year Treasury note, instead of being artificially set by Congress. For the current academic year (July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014), the rates are:

3.8% for undergraduate students borrowing subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford Loans
5.4% for graduate students borrowing unsubsidized Stafford Loans
6.4% for parents borrowing PLUS Loans
The rates are determined as of June 1 each year and are locked in for the life of the loan.

A renewed focus on IBR

Federal student loans are the preferred way to borrow for college because they offer a unique repayment option called "income based repayment," or IBR. Under IBR, a borrower's monthly student loan payment is based on income and family size and is equal to 10% of discretionary income. After 20 years of on-time payments, all remaining debt is generally forgiven (loans are forgiven after 10 years for those in qualified public service).

Enrollment in the program has been relatively modest, but last fall, the Department of Education contacted borrowers who were having difficulty repaying their student loans to let them know about IBR. The department also put the IBR application online and has made it possible for applicants to import information from their tax returns.

A government push for information

Last summer, as part of his push to make college more affordable, President Obama announced a proposal that would require colleges to report the average debt load and earnings of graduates (in addition to the information on tuition costs and graduation rates that they already report), with the availability of federal financial aid being linked to those ratings. In response, most colleges have cried foul, claiming that average debt is not a valid indicator of affordability because colleges have vastly different endowments and abilities to award institutional aid, and that post-graduation salaries can depend on variables outside of a college's control. No reporting requirement has been finalized yet, but the trend is clearly toward the government requiring colleges to make their costs and return on investment as transparent as possible so families can make more informed choices.

The growth of MOOCs

You may have heard the term "MOOCs," and going forward, it's likely you'll hear it a lot more. MOOCs stands for "massive open online courses," and these large-scale, online classes have the potential to revolutionize higher education. One of the earliest MOOCs was a course on artificial intelligence at Stanford University in 2011, which attracted 160,000 students from all over the world (though only 23,000 successfully completed the course, earning a certificate of recognition).

Today, hundreds of MOOCs are offered free of charge by many well-known, leading universities. The piece of the puzzle that has yet to be solved is what credit or degree will be given when courses are completed and how pricing will work. But the combination of quality courses, robust online learning technology, and the wide availability of broadband, coupled with the very high cost of a traditional college education, makes it likely that the popularity of MOOCs will only grow in the future, whether people enroll to earn serious credentials or simply for their own enjoyment and curiosity.

Content prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2014

The Impact of Health-Care Costs on Social Security

For many retirees and their families, Social Security provides a dependable source of income. In fact, for the majority of retirees, Social Security accounts for at least half of their income (Source: Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2013). However, more of that income is being spent on health-related costs each year, leaving less available for other retirement expenses.

The importance of Social Security

Social Security is important because it provides a retirement income you can't outlive. In addition, benefits are available for your spouse based on your benefit amount during your lifetime, and at your death in the form of survivor's benefits. And, these benefits typically are adjusted for inflation (but not always; there was no cost-of-living increase for the years 2010 and 2011). That's why for many people, Social Security is an especially important source of retirement income.

Rising health-care costs

You might assume that when you reach age 65, Medicare will cover most of your health-care costs. But in reality, Medicare pays for only a portion of the cost for most health-care services, leaving a potentially large amount of uninsured medical expenses.

How much you'll ultimately spend on health care generally depends on when you retire, how long you live, your health status, and the cost of medical care in your area. Nevertheless, insurance premiums for Medicare Part B (doctor's visits) and Part D (drug benefit), along with Medigap insurance, could cost hundreds of dollars each month for a married couple. In addition, there are co-pays and deductibles to consider (e.g., after paying the first $147 in Part B expenses per year, you pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for services thereafter). Your out-of-pocket yearly costs for medical care, medications, and insurance could easily exceed thousands of dollars.

Medicare's impact on Social Security

Most people age 65 and older receive Medicare. Part A is generally free, but Parts B and D have monthly premiums. The Part B premium generally is deducted from your Social Security check, while Part D has several payment alternatives. In 2013, the premium for Part B was $104.90 per month. The cost for Part D coverage varies, but usually averages between $30 and $60 per month (unless participants qualify for low-income assistance). Part B premiums have increased each year and are expected to continue to do so, while Part D premiums vary by plan, benefits provided, deductibles, and coinsurance amounts. And, if you enroll late for either Part B or D, your cost may be permanently increased.

In addition, Medicare Parts B and D are means tested, meaning that if your income exceeds a predetermined income cap, a surcharge is added to the basic premium. For example, an individual with a modified adjusted gross income between $85,000 and $170,000 may pay an additional 40% for Part B and an additional $11.60 per month for Part D.

Note:   Part C, Medicare Advantage plans, are offered by private companies that contract with Medicare to provide you with all your Part A and Part B benefits, often including drug coverage. While the premiums for these plans are not subtracted from Social Security income, they are increasing annually as well.

The bottom line

The combination of rising Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket health-care costs can use up more of your fixed income, such as Social Security. As a result, you may need to spend more of your retirement savings than you expected for health-related costs, leaving you unable to afford large, unanticipated expenses. Depending on your circumstances, spending more on health-care costs, including Medicare, may leave you with less available for other everyday expenditures and reduce your nest egg, which can impact the quality of your retirement.

Content prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2014

Tending To Your Financial House

Neglect your home and it will crumble,

neglect your yard and you will stumble,

neglect your finances and they will humble.

Soon, winter will let go of its frigid grip.  We will experience thunder storms and the rain will bring the grass, flowers and trees back to life … we promise.  Deer will be seen grazing in open fields, and birds will wake us with their morning serenades while they prepare their nests. 

It seems like warmer weather stirs a desire in us to get busy tackling home improvements both inside and out.  Some of your projects may be small ‘do-it-yourself’ tasks, while others may involve a little more help in getting them accomplished.  Whatever your situation, you want it done right.

When tending to our financial house, we can have some of the same experiences.  There are those who are comfortable ‘doing-it-themselves’.  They enjoy understanding the math related to retirement planning, analyzing various scenario outcomes, and selecting what they believe is an appropriate investment allocation.  

However, a more common experience we encounter, is the couple who has ideas and a variety of concerns, but they could use a little help putting it all together.  They don’t want to learn the financial equivalent of sweating a copper pipe, taping drywall or building a retaining wall. 

Here are a few similarities an effective home improvement and financial professional share:

·      They start by listening and asking questions – Your vision, dreams and goals are what matter, not their agenda.

·      They reiterate back to you what they hear to make sure everyone is on the same page.

·      They share additional thoughts, potential obstacles and other options you may not have considered.

·      They provide opportunities for input along the way making sure you are comfortable with the course of action you are taking.

·      They make sure the job is completed to your satisfaction.

Of course, the timeline for a home improvement project is usually shorter than what is needed to fulfill the legacy you desire, but the similarities remain.  A thoughtful qualified adviser can help you understand and avoid the potential mistakes so many investors make because they try to do it themselves. 

Whether it is a home or financial improvement you seek to complete this year, remember there is no shame in seeking assistance, especially when you consider how a professional can help you achieve a reality that is better than you could have accomplished on your own … with less stress and worry.

With attention and care - your home won’t crumble, your steps won’t stumble and your finances won’t humble.  Best to you in 2014.

GuideStream Financial

 

Women & Financial Security

What Unique Challenges Do Women Face In Achieving a Financially Secure Retirement?

Women can face special challenges when saving for retirement. Generally speaking, women tend to spend less time in the workforce, and when they do work, they typically earn less than men in comparable jobs. As a result, women's retirement plan balances, Social Security benefits, and pension benefits are often lower than their male counterparts. In addition, women generally live longer than men, so they typically have to stretch their retirement savings and benefits over a longer period of time. What can you do to maximize your chances of achieving a financially secure retirement? Start saving as soon as possible. The best time to start saving for retirement is in your 20s; the second best time is right now. At every stage of your life, there will always be other financial needs competing with the need to save for retirement. Don't make the mistake of assuming it will be easier to save for retirement in 5, 10, or 15 years. It won't. Start small, with whatever amount you can afford, and contribute regularly, adding to your contribution when you can.

If you're in the workforce, an employer retirement plan like a 401(k) plan can be a convenient, no hassle way to get started and build your retirement nest egg--contributions are deducted automatically from your paycheck and may qualify you for employer matching funds. If you're out of the workforce and married, you can contribute to an IRA (traditional or Roth), provided your spouse earns enough to cover the contributions. In many cases, your job is your lifeline to being able to save for retirement. Before leaving the workforce for family obligations, consider exploring with your employer the possibility of flexible work arrangements, including telecommuting and part-time work, that might enable you to continue to earn a paycheck as you balance your family obligations. Start planning now by taking the following steps: (1) set a retirement savings goal; (2) start saving as much as you can on a regular basis, and track your progress at least twice per year; and (3) find out how much you can expect to receive from Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Content prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2013

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Name: GuideStream Financial, Inc.
Phone: 800-325-8975
Fax: 517-750-2752
Address: 8050 Spring Arbor Rd., PO Box 580, Spring Arbor, Michigan 49283