In this week’s economic discussion, Larry takes us through more details about the Eurozone and Greece, looks at deficits and surpluses from the Congressional Budget Office, gives us some education on U.S. Fiscal Multipliers and ends with a picture of natural gas consumption in Europe. As usual, it is an enlightening discussion and an excellent way to learn about the economy.
Volatility is increasing in the U.S. markets making it more difficult to determine what direction your investments should take in 2015. When Oil slid from $100 to $50/barrel, the U.S. stock market rallied in anticipation that lower gasoline prices would allow consumers to spend this windfall somewhere more interesting than the pump, but that hasn’t happened yet. So far, all we’ve seen are layoffs in the oil patch and more price swings in the S&P 500. Europe is justifiably concerned about Greece and its willingness to resolve its debt crises. They keep talking and positioning as well as negotiating via the media with the Germans, but nothing significant has happened yet. So far this year, international markets have had some gains even slightly more than the U.S., but the structural problems outside the U.S. make us remain cautious. Over the past 6 years, the best place to invest your money has been the S&P 500. This index is likely a bit overvalued right now, and perhaps the international markets are a bit undervalued, but no one knows when the trend will change. It appears that the U.S. dollar will maintain the dominant currency for the foreseeable future making our exports more expensive. This does however, allow foreign companies to increase their sales to the U.S., likely making them more profitable. The U.S. has seen substantial job growth but minimal wage growth over the past year, which is encouraging news for corporate profits. We have yet to see consumer spending rebound to its pre great recession levels, but as more people get reemployed and old debts are repaid, the outlook for the U.S. appears to be the brightest around. How does this translate into your portfolio design? A large part of your portfolio will remain invested in the U.S. with some allocations hedged to the U.S. dollar in International stocks and bonds. Bond positions will remain primarily in U.S. corporations with some international exposure, but the U.S. looks like the place to be right now.
Sharkey, Howes & Javer is a Denver-based financial planning and investment management firm. For additional market updates and financial news, please follow our LinkedIn page. If you are interested in setting up a complimentary consultation with one of our Certified Financial Planners™, please call 303.639.5100 or visit shwj.com.
In the month of love, we thought it was important to share our tips on how to show your money some love so it can help you attain your goals. While we could add many more tips to the list, the 10 below are an excellent place to start when thinking through your financial strategy.
1. Don’t Wait
“Oh, I’ll do that tomorrow… or next week… or next month.” We can all find excuses about getting fit, starting a diet, cleaning the house or… taking care of our finances. When it comes to showing your money some love, the first step is to put the excuses aside and take action. Money problems are associated with stress, relational challenges and decreased happiness. Waiting to take care of your finances only prolongs the hurt.
2. Save First
When a paycheck comes in, it can be tempting to pay the bills, buy a few things on the wish list and head out to a nice steak dinner. While it may be well deserved, saving before splurging can really show your money some love. When money is saved, it earns interest and the more interest it earns the more money you have later. Savings accounts, 401(k)s, IRAs and other investments are all part of a good saving strategy.
3. Look for Tax Free
Many retirement plans, such as a 401(k), allow you to save with certain tax advantages. Look into your employer’s retirement plan and possible matching programs, as well as other available programs such as the 529 plan for college education savings. Financial advisors, like the team at Sharkey, Howes and Javer, can be excellent resources when it comes to creating a smart saving strategy.
4. Make a Budget
A 2013 Gallup poll revealed only two-thirds of Americans prepare a detailed household budget (source). Budgeting is such an easy way to stay on top of your finances and meet your financial goals. Set guidelines for your spending in categories such as housing, transportation, groceries, medical, recreation, saving and investing. There are many free online tools that can help track spending and keep you moving towards your budgeting goals.
5. Needs vs. Wants
Along with creating a budget, it’s important to take some time to really think through your long-term goals and how your financial decisions now can help you down the road. Filter your needs and wants through a long-term lens. For example…Do you really need a new house or do you want a new house? How is purchasing a new home going to help you achieve your long-term goals? Asking yourself the tough questions now could lead to a happier retirement later.
6. Watch Your Debt
Debt can make achieving financial goals more challenging, but not impossible. The average U.S. household carries $15,611 in credit card debt, $155,192 in mortgage debt and $32,264 in student loan debt (source). If you are in the same boat as many Americans, take some time to analyze your debt and look for creative ways to pay it off. Think carefully before making big purchases or getting caught up in interest free sales. Consider meeting with a financial advisor to help you make the most of your income now and create a strategy to manage your debt while investing for the future.
7. Protect Your Identity
Our private information is being compromised more and more frequently. It seems like every day we hear of another large corporation with a data breach. Keeping close tabs on your identity can keep your money where it belongs and your credit on the up and up. Start by watching for scams. Never give out your personal information such as your social security number over email. Always call your financial institution directly if you receive a suspicious phone call or email asking for your account information. Make sure to check your statements regularly. The sooner you catch fraudulent charges, the quicker they can be resolved. See more helpful identity theft resources on our website >
8. Plan for the Unexpected
Showing your money some love also means saving for a rainy day. Consider starting an emergency fund with 3 to 6 months of living expenses saved. Consider putting your funds in a savings account, or a money market account, where it can be easily accessed in the event of a job loss, medical challenge or other unexpected tragedy. It is also important to let your trusted family and loved ones know where your funds are and how to access them in the event you are unable to.
9. Find a Friend
Perhaps the best way to show your money some love is by finding it a friend you trust. Financial advisors, especially advisors who don’t work on commission, can become your money’s best friend. Starting to work with a financial advisor early will help keep you on track as you work toward your long term goals. When looking for an advisor, ask your friends and family members for referrals, but also be sure to take a hard look at their strategies, team and BBB ratings to make sure they align with your goals. For more on finding the right financial advisor, check out our post: 3 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Financial Advisor.
10. Don’t Give Up
Taking good care of your finances is a process. We will all experience some missteps and setbacks along the way. No matter what, it’s important to persevere. Maybe you have a year where the markets don’t cooperate. Reevaluate your investment strategy and try new tactics in the next year. Or maybe you have a longer period of unemployment than your emergency fund allowed for. With the right planning and the right team, you can rebound. Showing your money some love isn’t a one-time event. It’s a lifelong commitment, and with diligence your money will love you back in the long run.
In conclusion, we want to remember while money is a part of our lives, it shouldn’t consume our lives. Take the time to show your money some love using these tips so you can focus on what’s most important in your life.
What tips would you add to the list? Comment below!
Continuing in our economic discussion series, Larry Howes discusses the U.S. and Global economy. This week he shows us our first hint of the 4th Quarter U.S. GDP, shares some interesting insight into the Colorado energy industry and talks about troubles in Japan, plus much more. Just 10 minutes this week and highly educational! We would love to hear your comments and questions in the comment section below.
Most of our clients are saving for college at some point during their time with SH&J. Some are saving for their children and others for their grandkids. As Harold highlights in the video, the number one rule when saving for college is:
Save for retirement first.
That said, when you are looking at how much you should save, consider the following factors:
- Private or public college
- In-state or out-of-state tuition
Working with a financial planner can help you look at these factors along with your retirement and other financial goals to decide on the best path for your college savings goals.
At SH&J, we usually start with 529 plans for college savings. 529 plans:
- Receive federal & state tax breaks
- Are low maintenance
- Allow you to maintain control of the funds
- Grow tax free as long as the money is used for college education
Take a look at our College Planning page for more information about 529 plans and other college saving questions.
If you are looking at saving for college soon, we’d love to meet with you to hear more about your goals. Give us a ring at 303.639.5100 and let’s set up a time.