Many Americans are operating their personal finances with only the barest minimum of knowledge.

Imagine driving a car without a basic understanding of the rules of the road or even how to operate it. Scary thought.

Here’s another scary circumstance – one that is all too real. Many Americans are making financial decisions with minimal financial knowledge of investing, budgeting, and credit. The TIAA Institute conducted a survey on U.S. financial literacy, asking 28 basic questions about retirement savings, debt management, budgeting, and other financial matters. The average respondent answered only about half of the questions correctly.1

Another recent survey conducted by the Census Bureau found that almost 40% of Americans say that it has been somewhat or very difficult to pay for usual household expenses in the last seven days.2

It has been said that knowledge is power, and if that’s true, then too many Americans lack the power to control their financial futures. Financial success rarely happens by accident; it is typically the outcome of a journey that starts with education.

One of the obstacles to greater financial literacy is the so-called “Lake Wobegon effect.” In other words, we all consider ourselves above average, and based on that belief, it only follows that our financial understanding is above average. Unfortunately, this assumption has a flaw: it may discourage us from learning as much as we need in order to continue adapting to an ever-changing financial landscape.

The more informed we are, the more informed our financial decisions may become. Fortunately, we can consult a wide range of resources in pursuit of greater financial knowledge.

If you are committed to increasing your financial literacy, think about turning to financial professionals with your questions or visit a U.S. Treasury-sponsored website created for that very purpose.3

  1. TIAAInstitute.org, 2022

  2. Census.gov, 2023

  3. MyMoney.gov, 2023

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright FMG Suite.

Military families face unique challenges, making personal finance even more critical.

Military families face unique challenges, making personal finance even more critical.

One study found that military personnel have more credit problems and are more likely to make late house payments than their civilian counterparts.¹
While the financial situation of military personnel and their families mirrors the general population in many respects, heavy indebtedness and mismanagement of credit cards may be especially acute issues for service members.

Of course, military families face unique challenges, such as deployment to conflict zones, overseas assignments, and the constancy of change, making personal finance even more critical.

Money Tips to Consider

  • Some Programs Available
    • The Savings Deposit Program allows eligible personnel serving in designated combat zones to invest up to $10,000 and receive a return of up to 10%.²
    • Saving in a Roth IRA may be a good idea if you receive tax-free combat-zone pay. This allows you to deposit tax-free income and take tax-free qualified withdrawals in retirement.³
    • The Post-9/11 GI Bill covers the full cost of in-state tuition, up to between 36 and 48 months, depending on your circumstances.4
    • Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance protects your family with low-cost life insurance.5
  • Set Goals—Like any mission, success begins with articulating goals you want to pursue.
  • Establish a Budget—A budget provides the financial discipline that may help you control spending impulses that can lead to greater debt levels.
  • Pay Yourself First—Determine how much money you need to set aside to reach your savings goal, deduct this amount from your paycheck, and attempt to live within the limits of what remains.
  • Establish an Emergency Fund—Uncertainty marks the life of military families, so be sure you have an emergency fund that allows you to be as prepared as possible for these changes.
  • Control Your Debt—Indebtedness is one of the enemies of financial independence.

As you think through your financial goals, remember, taking action today is your first and most important step.

1. Debt.org, April 24, 2022
2. Defense.gov. The Savings Deposit Program is a benefit offered to eligible personnel serving in designated combat zones. The guaranteed rate of return is subject to change.
3. To qualify for the tax-free and penalty-free withdrawal of earnings, Roth IRA distributions must meet a five-year holding requirement and occur after age 59½. Tax-free and penalty-free withdrawals also can be taken under certain other circumstances, such as a result of the owner’s death. The original Roth IRA owner is not required to take minimum annual withdrawals.
4. VA.gov, 2023
5. VA.gov, 2023. Several factors will affect the cost and availability of life insurance, including age, health, and the type and amount of insurance purchased. Life insurance policies have expenses, including mortality and other charges. If a policy is surrendered prematurely, the policyholder also may pay surrender charges and have income tax implications. You should consider determining whether you are insurable before implementing a strategy involving life insurance. Any guarantees associated with a policy are dependent on the ability of the issuing insurance company to continue making claim payments.

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG, LLC, is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright FMG Suite.

Planning for a child with special needs can be complicated, confusing, and even overwhelming.

Raising a child is expensive and can cost about a quarter of a million dollars, excluding college. For a child with special needs, that cost can more than double. If you’re the parent of a child with special needs, it’s vital to ensure your child will continue to be provided for after you’re gone. It can be difficult to contemplate, but with patience, love, and perseverance, a long-term strategy may be attainable.1,2

Envisioning a Life After You

Just as every child with special needs is unique, so too are the challenges families face when preparing for the long term. Think about the potential needs of your child. Will they require daily custodial care? Ongoing medical treatments? Will your child live alone or in a group home? Can family members assume some of the care? Answers to these and other questions can help form the vision of what may need to be done to plan for your child’s care.

Preparing Your Estate

Without proper preparation, your child’s lifetime needs can quickly outstrip your funds. One resource is government benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid, which your child may qualify for depending on their situation. Because such government programs have low-asset thresholds for qualification, you may want to consider whether to make property transfers to your child with special needs.

You should also make sure you have an up-to-date will that reflects your wishes. Consider creating a special needs trust, the assets of which can be structured to fund your child’s care without disqualifying them from government assistance. Using a trust involves a complex set of tax rules and regulations. Before moving forward with a trust, consider working with a professional who is familiar with the rules and regulations.

Involve the Family

All affected family members should be involved in the decision-making process. If at all possible, it’s best to have a unified front of surviving family members to care for your child after you’ve passed on.

Identify a Caregiver

In order for a caregiver to make financial and health care decisions after your child reaches adulthood, the caregiver must be appointed as a guardian. This can take time, so start setting this in motion as soon as you are able.

To do this, you can write a “Letter of Intent” to the caregiver and family to express your wishes along with information about your child’s care. This isn’t a legal document, but it may help communicate your desires. Store this letter in a safe place, alongside your will.

Outlining an approach for a child with special needs can be complicated, but you don’t have to do it alone. Working with loved ones and qualified professionals can help you navigate the various facets of this challenge. If we can help, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

1. Investopedia.com, January 9, 2022
2. AmericanAdvocacyGroup.com, May 3, 2022

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG, LLC, is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright FMG Suite.

Reaching six figures is no easy feat. If you’re one of the hard-working few who have made it to this milestone, give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate. It can be tempting to feel like now that you’ve made it to the top of this mountain your financial worries are over. But before you go reaching for a bottle of champagne or calling a Ferrari dealer, consider this: the majority of Americans living paycheck to paycheck are from higher income households. In fact, out of 9 million Americans surveyed, 8 million of those are in higher income brackets.1

Now it’s more important than ever to take an active role in managing your money. Don’t equate earning six-figures with the ability to spend six-figures. Fortunately, there are several strategies that may help:

Steps to Take

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for maximizing your new six-figure income. Every person is different, and some suggestions may mean more to you than others. But there are tried-and-true methods that can help point you in the right direction when it comes to your financial health.

Review Your Budget

Now that you are making six figures, you may be tempted to never look at your budget again. Resist this temptation and go back over your budget to make sure your spending is based on your overall approach. Feel free to adjust your line items to match any new priorities without going overboard. Careful preparation may help you know how much you can consider spending on that splurge item that you found online. Your renewed budget should be designed to follow your other new goals, knowing that your day-to-day matters are on firm footing.2

Target Unproductive Debt

Not all debt is bad, as much of it helps you both financially and in terms of your quality of life. But certain types of debt, like credit cards and personal loans, may be something you want to manage better. Set a goal for your unproductive debt, which may put you in a better overall financial position. Each penny you save can go toward other goals, such as vacations, travel or even retirement.

Build Your Emergency Fund

Life is full of the unexpected. Prepare by setting aside enough liquid money to cover three to six months of expenses. This reserve may help you manage through a job loss or an injury or illness that requires time to heal.

Don’t Forget About Taxes

Now that you’ve entered a new income bracket, your tax obligations may have changed. Take time to review your tax situation in an effort to avoid year-end surprises. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for real-life advice, so be sure to consult a tax, accounting, or human resource professional before modifying your tax-withholding strategy.

Don’t Forget Your Retirement Plans

If you haven’t started planning for retirement, your new income level may allow you to start setting aside money using a company-sponsored retirement plan. Initially, a financial professional may be able to provide guidance concerning the role a retirement plan can play in your overall financial strategy.

Move Forward Confidently

Restructuring your budget, managing debt, creating an emergency fund, and beginning to consider retirement may help ensure a more comfortable financial future. Even at a six-figure income, proactive preparations can help position you such that your money will eventually work for you.

1. Pymnts.com, January 2023
2. Forbes.com, March 29, 2022

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG, LLC, is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright FMG Suite.

John and Mary are nearing retirement and they have a lot of items on their bucket list. Longer life expectancies mean John and Mary may need to prepare for two or even three decades of retirement. How should they position their money?1

One approach is to segment your expenses into three buckets:

  • Basic Living Expenses— Food, Rent, Utilities, etc.
  • Discretionary Spending — Vacations, Dining Out, etc.
  • Legacy Assets — for heirs and charities

Next, pair appropriate investments to each bucket. For instance, Social Security might be assigned to the Basic Living Expenses bucket.2

For the discretionary spending bucket, you might consider investments that pay a steady dividend and that also offer the potential for growth.3

Finally, list the Legacy assets that you expect to pass on to your heirs and charities.

A bucket plan can help you be better prepared for a comfortable retirement.

Call today and we can develop a strategy that may help you put enough money in your buckets to complete all the items on your bucket list.

1. John and Mary are a hypothetical couple used for illustrative purposes only. Diversification is an approach to help manage investment risk. It does not eliminate the risk of loss if security prices decline.
2. Social Security benefits may play a more limited role in the future and some financial professional recommend creating a retirement income strategy that excludes Social Security payments.
3. A company’s board of directors can stop, decrease or increase the dividend payout at any time. Investments offering a higher dividend may involve a higher degree of risk. Keep in mind that the return and principal value of stock prices will fluctuate as market conditions change. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.
The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG, LLC, is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright FMG Suite.

“If the current annual inflation rate is 7.9 percent, why do my bills seem like they’re 10 percent higher than last year?”1

Many of us ask ourselves that question, and it illustrates the importance of understanding how inflation is reported and how it can affect investments.

What Is Inflation?

Inflation is defined as an upward movement in the average level of prices. Each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases a report called the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to track these fluctuations. It was developed from detailed expenditure information provided by families and individuals on purchases made in the following categories: food and beverages, housing, apparel, transportation, medical care, recreation, education and communication, and other groups and services.2

How Applicable Is the CPI?

While it’s the commonly used indicator of inflation, the CPI has come under scrutiny. For example, the CPI rose 7.9 percent for the 12-months ending in February 2022. However, a closer look at the report shows movement in prices on a more detailed level. Energy prices, for example, rose 25.6 percent during those 12 months.1

Are Investments Affected by Inflation?

They sure are. As inflation rises and falls, three notable effects are observed.

First, inflation reduces the real rate of return on investments. So, if an investment earned 6 percent for a 12-month period and inflation averaged 1.5 percent over that time, the investment’s real rate of return would have been 4.5 percent. If taxes are considered, the real rate of return may be reduced even further.3

Second, inflation puts purchasing power at risk. When prices rise, a fixed amount of money has the power to purchase fewer and fewer goods.

Third, inflation can influence the actions of the Federal Reserve. If the Fed wants to control inflation, it has various methods for reducing the amount of money in circulation. Hypothetically, a smaller supply of money would lead to less spending, which may lead to lower prices and lower inflation.

Empower Yourself with a Trusted Professional

When inflation is low, it’s easy to overlook how rising prices are affecting a household budget. On the other hand, when inflation is high, it may be tempting to make more sweeping changes in response to increasing prices. The best approach may be to reach out to your financial professional to help you develop a sound investment strategy that takes both possible scenarios into account.

1. USInflationCalculator.com, 2022
2. BLS.gov, 2022
3. This is a hypothetical example used for illustrative purposes only. It is not representative of any specific investment or combination of investments. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

 

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG, LLC, is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright FMG Suite.
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