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Archive for investment management

Keep Reaching For Your Financial Goals

Few things are able to motivate us like self-improvement. However, despite initial enthusiasm, our personal goals can seem like impossible challenges after just a few days.

Financial goals are particularly difficult to accomplish. Spending money is inherent in modern life, and financial goals can easily get lost in other money issues. What’s worse, the feedback from financial goals is blunt and immediate. As soon as we get started, our finances begin to define our success with clear positives and negatives. Financial goals also remember our mistakes. A one-time slip-up, like a costly purchase, can disrupt progress towards a goal for months or even years.

The success of a goal often comes down to the strategies and tools used to support them. However, valuable techniques are often abandoned as soon as a little bit of progress is made. Use some of these steps to help make your goal a reality:

Be reasonable – It’s always important to be realistic; In regards to financial goals, it is essential. If you make your goals too extreme, you set yourself up for frustration and disappointment. It’s better to have an attainable goal you can more easily reach than an impossible goal that discourages you and could lead to giving up on the goal entirely. Once you have a little success, you can raise your expectations.

Set solid milestones and celebrate them – Milestones are a great way to track progress and boost your morale, but you need to make them an important part of your life. If you’ve made it halfway to your goal, celebrate in some way and give yourself a taste of what success will feel like. Stay positive; milestones are meant to show you how far you’ve come, not how far you still have to go.

Find some accountability – Telling someone else about your goals and having them check up on your progress can massively boost your discipline. Even if your confidant only asks for occasional updates, being accountable for your actions can provide a lot of encouragement to stick to your plan.

Automate what you can – Constantly trying to make the right choices can wear down your motivation. Automating your target savings or debt payments can help you avoid the potential mistakes and will allow you to save your energy for other challenges.

Break and build habits – It’s often said that it takes 21 days to break a habit or build a new one. While the psychology isn’t exact, it’s clear that our habits are a lot easier to change than we usually imagine. If you can force yourself to stick to a plan for just three weeks, progress should become much easier.

Limit the number of goals – Reaching goals can be difficult, so don’t try to accomplish several of them simultaneously. Only start one or two financial goals at a time and don’t create new ones until your current efforts have become second nature.

Bend so that you don’t break – Interruptions are inevitable. Much like setting a realistic goal, it’s important to have realistic expectations for your progress. If there is an unavoidable problem, adjust your goal accordingly and keep trying. Don’t give up on a goal just because of an unplanned setback.

Reaching goals is a skill that takes practice and experience. In accomplishing one goal, you learn which strategies work best with your personality. Even when you fail, you’ve learned more about what it takes to reach success. The important thing is being willing to try again.

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. © 2014-2017 Advicent Solutions. All rights reserved.

Retiring Early

It seems as if there has been increasing coverage in the media recently regarding early retirement. The prospect of having an extended retirement is incredibly appealing for many Americans.—However, with pensions becoming increasingly less common in the workplace, workers are required to be more autonomous in how they plan for their retirement; for many, the need to bolster self-directed savings makes the prospect of an early retirement seem more like a pipedream than a possibility. Though everyone has varying financial situations and future expectations, here are a few things to keep in mind when working towards your own early retirement.

Create a current household budget
Before you solidify a plan of action for retiring early, you need to take inventory of your current expenses and general spending habits. If your spending habits inhibit you from saving a sizable portion of your earnings in pre-retirement, it will be incredibly difficult to retire early. If possible, try to find ways to cut discretionary expenses and evaluate your saving habits. By developing a budget, you will put yourself in an advantageous situation. In fact, maintaining a household budget will put you in the minority of American adults; according to a Gallup poll, only one in three Americans maintain a detailed household budget.

Forecast future needs
In addition to considering how inflation will affect your budget in the future, it will be wise to also consider that certain costs, such as healthcare, will increase significantly in retirement. When calculating your needs in retirement, be sure to include rising costs and unforeseen expenses. Failure to account for increasing needs could potentially leave you short of cash at a time when you may not be physically fit enough to work the hours required to cover the shortfalls.

Stay disciplined
Cutting out your favorite guilty pleasures in order to save for the future can be difficult, especially when those around you might be going on lavish vacations and buying luxury cars. By saving your money in the meantime and remaining focused on your goal, you will significantly improve the likelihood of being able to retire early.

Consider investing
Though everyone has a different financial situation and tolerance for risk with their money, investing in the stock market has historically produced higher returns over a long timeline than keeping money in a bank. Given low interest rates on most bank accounts, a savings account may not grow your money significantly enough, especially if your retirement plan is predicated on seeing significant growth on your savings. Though investing in the stock market inherently carries risk of potential losses, investing long-term has historically proven beneficial to investors.

Work with your financial professional
In addition to personally taking measures to ensure an early retirement, remember that your trusted financial professional is dedicated to working with you to help achieve your goal. Reach out to your Guidestream Financial, Inc. professional to help you work towards achieving your dream.

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. © 2014-2017 Advicent Solutions. All rights reserved.

Succession Planning

by Kirk Hoffman
April 2017

A succession plan for a business is one of the most important safeguards that can be used to ensure the company’s future success.  Approximately one-third of family businesses that transfer to the next generation result in success, and only 12 percent make it to the third generation.  Choosing tomorrow’s leaders and formulating a plan for retirement, death, disability, or even divorce are tasks that should be done early and reviewed often.  The transfer of power and wealth can provide a smooth transition or can be the demise of a company, depending on how future leaders are chosen and groomed, and how tax and estate planning implications are handled.

There are various business succession options available to the owners of privately held businesses. These include:

o   Transfer of ownership to the next generation

o   Employee stock ownership plan (ESOP)

o   Public offering

o   Recapitalization of the business

o   Sale of the business to a third party

o   Liquidation of the business

Transfer Ownership to Next Generation

When choosing and grooming successors for a business, business owners must consider the person’s business strength and savvy, and the psychological and emotional impacts of any decision on employees and family members.

Children who are active in the family business present both unique opportunities and potential pitfalls. There is the opportunity to take advantage of gifting and valuation discounts when transferring the business to family members.  A Family Limited Partnership often works well in these circumstances. However, there is always the risk of family disagreements and the challenge of balancing the estate with family members who are not active in the business.

Whether the successors are family or not, it’s important that the succession process begins early.  The first step is to recruit talented employees from the beginning and help them develop their leadership skills within the company.  They should also get comfortable with taking over long before they actually do so, to ensure a smoother transition.  It may also be helpful to get clients used to the new leadership before they take over.  Adequately preparing the successors is one of the best things that can be done to maintain a company’s success in the next generation.

ESOP 

If the choice is to transfer the business to the employees, an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) may be the solution.  An ESOP is a qualified plan designed to benefit all employees and must be non-discriminatory.  Unlike other qualified plans, an ESOP can borrow money to purchase investments in the stock of the sponsoring corporation.  An ESOP is an excellent method for business owners to plan for the transfer of ownership.  In addition, an ESOP provides tax advantages to the selling shareholders that assist in maximizing the value of the business.

With an ESOP, the business owners sell their shares to an ESOP trust.  The trust in turn makes annual contributions to the accounts of the employees.  One key issue that must be addressed with an ESOP is the concept of repurchased liability.  The sponsoring corporation must create a market for the employees to redeem their vested shares upon certain events (e.g. death, retirement).  It’s important to give careful attention to this issue.

Public Offering

An alternative to the ESOP is to go public.  Using this method, corporate shares are offered to the public and traded on the stock market.  Going public is usually an expensive option that requires a sufficient revenue base and a strong business plan.  It is not optimal as an exit strategy if the business owner is near retirement; rather, this strategy is best employed early in the succession planning process while the owner is still very active in the business.  This option is most useful to provide growth capital for the business; however, it can provide liquidity to an owner in the long run.

Recapitalization

If the business owner would like to begin to transfer value while retaining control of the company, recapitalization may be the answer.  Using this method, the business issues two classes of stock: voting preferred and non-voting common stock.  The non-voting stock is transferred either through sale or gift to the successors.  The business retains the voting preferred stock until the owner are ready to transfer control.  This is more commonly appropriate when transferring a business from parents to the next generation and may be most useful to provide growth for the business.

Sale

The business owner may choose to sell the business to someone who is not currently involved in the company—a competitor, an existing customer or supplier, for example.  This can be done as a lump sum sale or in the form of an installment sale that spreads the payments and tax implications over a number of years. The sale of the business may be structured as an asset sale, a sale of stock or a combination of both.  The business owner is motivated to sell the stock in the company to take full advantage of the lower capital gains tax rates (a sale of assets usually subjects a portion of the gain to ordinary tax rates).  However, the market and other factors may dictate the nature of the sale. 

Liquidation

If there is no market for the business as an ongoing entity and other options are not available, the business owner may choose to close the business and liquidate its assets.

Buy-sell agreements

What will happen to succession plans if a business owner or a partner dies prematurely, becomes permanently disabled or gets divorced?  Most closely held businesses need to have a buy-sell agreement in place when other partners, principals or shareholders are involved.  Most commonly, this agreement states what occurs if a partner/shareholder should die, but it should also include provisions for retirement or other departure, disability and for the divorce of a partner.

A properly structured buy-sell agreement stipulates in a binding contract what occurs in each of the events outlined below.

Death: There are two general structures to the buy-sell agreement in the event of death–a cross purchase or an entity purchase.  In a cross purchase plan, each of the partners owns life insurance on the lives of the other partners.  In the event of the death of a partner, these life insurance proceeds are used to purchase the business equity from the estate of the deceased partner.  This type of plan works well in a company with few partners.  The entity purchase plan is similar, except the company owns the life insurance on each of the partners, and the company purchases the deceased partner’s shares.  This is easier to administer when the business has many partners.

Disability: A disability buy-out provision specifies the method and timing for the buy-out of a disabled partner.  This can be done with an installment sale (providing the company can afford the payments) or more likely with a disability buy-out insurance policy.  This policy provides a lump-sum benefit to purchase the business shares from the disabled partner.

Divorce: A divorce decree or the operation of provincial law can stipulate that all assets are divided between the spouses, including business interests.  Unless the couple had a pre- or post-nuptial agreement protecting the partner’s business assets, the business may end up with a new and potentially unwanted partner.  To prevent this from happening, the buy-sell agreement should include provisions in the event of a divorce.

Creating a business succession plan may be one of the most difficult management challenges.  Juggling the selection and preparation of successors with tax and estate concerns makes succession planning a complicated endeavor, as evidenced by the failure rate of second and third generation businesses.  The best way to successfully send a company into the future is to start forming a plan now.  Each type of plan has its own strengths and tax implications, so it is important to discuss the decision with a professional well versed in business succession.


The information contained in this article should not be considered legal or tax advice.

 

Year-End Financial Checklist

As we near the end of the year, it’s time to look back at what’s happened and how it will affect your financial future. Check off these important items so that you can start the new year’s finances with peace of mind.

INCOME TAX
Review your tax withholdings.
Have you had a major life change (employment change, marriage/divorce, a new child) that affects your income tax? Check to make sure your tax withholdings have been properly adjusted. Having low withholdings can lead to tax penalties, while having too high of withholdings prevents you from accessing your money until your tax return is filed.

Estimate your AGI.
Determine your adjusted gross income (AGI) with the help of your tax advisor. Your AGI will help determine your tax bracket, which you’ll need for investment and retirement planning.

Estimate your AMT.
Determine whether you will be subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and if there are ways to mitigate your AMT liability.

INVESTMENTS
Assure that your investment portfolios align with your long-term plan. 
If you don’t have a plan or have questions about the alignment, contact your GuideStream Financial advisor. 

Systematically review your portfolios and rebalance when appropriate.
As a client of GuideStream Financial, we handle this step for you. We systematically review each portfolio and periodically rebalance to make any necessary adjustments. We just completed a rebalance in early November. 

RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS
If you are retired, make sure you’ve taken all necessary required minimum distributions (RMDs).
RMDs may be one of the most important items to review when going over your finances at the end of the year. Standard IRAs require these distributions be taken annually after the year you turn 70 ½; standard 401(k)s require them annually after you retire or turn 70 ½ (whichever is earlier). Failure to take an RMD will trigger a 50 percent excise tax on the value of the RMD.

Max contributions to an IRA and employer retirement plan for the year.
Both IRAs and 401(k)s have annual contribution limits. If you find you have excess savings and have not reached your annual limit, it may be a good idea to make additional contributions. Similarly, you may also consider making greater monthly contributions to your accounts next year, spreading out the cost of contribution. The deadline for IRA contributions is usually April 15 of the following year; 401(k) deadlines may be restricted to the calendar year, depending on your employer.

Consider converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.
Did you have a good tax year? It may be an opportune time to convert a portion (or all) of your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA and pay your taxes at a lower rate. It is important to understand, however, that Roth accounts have contribution limits placed on them, so keeping a traditional IRA might be beneficial. Before making any changes, consider seeking the help of a professional   accountant who can help you with the conversion and calculate your new tax liability.

GIVING
Donate to charity.  
In additional to the joy received by assisting causes your care about, you can lower taxable income by 50 or 30 percent with a gift to a public charity or by 30 or 20 percent with a gift to a private foundation. If your gift exceeds these limits, you can roll over the excess deduction for up to five years.

Reduce your estate through gifts.
You are permitted to give up to $14,000 ($28,000 for married couples) a year per recipient as an untaxed gift. Gifts above this value will consume part of your lifetime gift/estate tax exemption amount ($5,430,000 in 2015). If a gift directly funds education tuition or pays for qualified medical expenses, it will go untaxed no matter what the value.

FAMILY FUNDING
Check your flexible savings account (FSA).
The government only permits a $500 annual rollover in an FSA; any excess funds disappear if unused by the end of the year. If you have extra money in your FSA, you may want to schedule necessary medical or dental procedures before the end of the year.

Check your health savings account (HSA).
HSA funds don’t disappear at the end of each year like with an FSA; however, many with few medical needs discover money accumulating in their HSAs much faster than they are using it. Consider reducing your contributions to your HSA if your account has reached a comfortable amount and you know of better uses for your money.

Consider contributions to a 529 plan to fund your children’s/grandchildren’s education. 529 Plans allow for you to make contributions to a tax-free account that may be used to pay for qualifying secondary education expenses. (Investors should consider investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses associated with 529 plans before using them. Information about 529 plans is available in their issuers’ official statements.)

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. © 2014-2015 Advicent Solutions. All rights reserved.

HOW TO KNOW YOU’RE INVESTED IN THE RIGHT PORTFOLIO

From time to time we come across lists and articles on investing. And we’ve taken a few of the items we’ve seen over the years and written a little commentary based on how we serve you.

A year from now, you plan to own similar investments.

We believe ‘winning’ in the market begins with understanding ‘why’ you are allocated as you are.  Timing and changing strategies rarely produce the long term results investors need to fund their retirements.  Sticking with an allocation that is rebalanced and invested with purpose is the best way to ‘Win’ in retirement.

You’re so well-diversified that you always own at least one disappointing investment.

This is probably one of the hardest lessons in investing and represents the value in diversification.  A properly diversified portfolio is always going to have some asset classes (i.e. investments) out of favor with others being the bright spots.  The key is to own them both since timing them consistently is impossible.

When the stock market is volatile, or even decreasing, you are not uncomfortable.

You realize that the stock market is volatile and the temporary declines of 14% inter-year and greater than 20% every 5 years are normal. That’s precisely why stocks return more over the long term than other less volatile investments.

For every dollar you’ve saved, you have an eventual use in mind — and you are invested accordingly.

Dollars that you have saved, but aren’t needed for many years in the future, should be invested accordingly.  The dollars needed soon should be in less volatile (i.e. lower return) investments.  However, don’t shortchange your resources the ability to outpace inflation when they are needed far into the future.

You can remember the last time you rebalanced.

Well, you might not be able to recall if you have, but the good news is that as a client of GuideStream Financial, you have your portfolio(s) rebalanced at least annually.  We help you stay true to your long term investment and retirement objectives.

You never say to yourself, “Wow, I didn’t expect that.”

This is our goal.  Through preparation and education, you understand that year to year, your portfolio will fluctuate depending on contributions, withdrawals and returns – but that in the end, you have a good working knowledge of how your cash flow will work over time.  We know you don’t like surprises and neither do we.  Some years, things may be fruitful and other years they may not be. What’s most important is that we both know the long term goals and that is where we focus.

We appreciate your continued trust and are honored to assist you on your stewardship journey. 

Contact us

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Keep in touch with us

Please use the following information to contact us. For security reasons, please do NOT send sensitive information such as account numbers, social security numbers, balances etc. through the website. 

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