FEATURED POST

Nick L.

Mapping Out Your Future with a Financial Plan
Just like a map or a GPS is needed for someone driving a car on a long trip, a financial plan is useful for anyone wondering about their financial future.  A financial plan lets us know if we are heading in the right direction, for example north instead of south.  Much like a long journey, life will have many twists, turns and a few unexpected bumps in the road.  However, with a well-planned route, we can have a clear idea of whether we are heading in the direction of our destination. What is a Financial Plan? A financial plan is a document that evaluates cash flow, assets, goals, and brings the information together in a document that predicts how much money and income you will have in the future. This document will be used to determine if your current strategy will accomplish your goals, or if you need a different one. Who can benefit from a financial plan? Financial plans are useful for people of all ages. A financial plan looks at money that is coming in (wages for most people), assets that you have saved so far, and what you are currently saving. This along with other factors helps to plan a path for your financial future.  This could be saving for a large purchase, paying off debt, or saving for the future (children’s education or retirement).  Financial plans are also helpful for people already in retirement as they can be used to help identify a strategy for creating retirement income, spending down assets, or planning to leave them to heirs. To prepare a financial plan your financial planner will need to gather some information from you. You will likely need to bring the following: Recent paystubs Last year’s tax return Statements for any retirement or investment accounts that you have Information on any pensions that you may have Social Security Statements (get yours at ssa.gov/myaccount ) More complex plans may require information about insurance and/or legal work Your planner will ask some questions to get to know you and find out what is important to you. A good planner will be interested in not just how much money you have, but also in what you would like to accomplish with your money. This conversation along with the data you bring to your appointment will help your planner to craft a financial plan that is specific to your goals. Your planning process will likely consist of several meetings. Costs are generally dependent on the complexity of your plan, and it is even possible that your advisor will provide some basic planning at no cost. Life will continue to change over time, for this reason it is important to revisit your financial plan with your advisor every so often to account for any detours or bumps along the road of life.  Financial plans are working documents that need to be adjusted as circumstances change. You should expect to update your financial plan several times during your working years. Generally, this will be every few years or when a major life change occurs. If you would like to find out more about having your personal financial plan prepared, contact us to set up your no obligation consultation today. Kate Pederson Investment Advisor Representative & Tax Preparer  Kate joined Advisors Management Group in December 2017. Prior to joining the firm, she worked in manufacturing and healthcare during her career as a financial analyst. Advisors Management Group, Inc. is a registered investment adviser whose principal office is located in Wisconsin.   Opinions expressed are those of AMG and are subject to change, not guaranteed, and should not be considered recommendations to buy or sell any security.  Past performance is no guarantee of future returns, and investing involves multiple risks, including, but not limited to, the risk of permanent losses.  Please do not send orders via e-mail as they are not binding and cannot be acted upon.  Please be advised it remains the responsibility of our clients to inform AMG of any changes in their investment objectives and/or financial situation.  This commentary is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to AMG’s investment advisory/management services.  Any subsequent, direct communication by AMG  with a prospective client shall be conducted by a representative that is either registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration in the state where the prospective client resides.  A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees continues to remain available for your review upon request.
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Category: Saving

19 Jan 2023

Nick L.

How does the Federal interest rate affect me?

In 2022, in attempts to stop runaway inflation, the Federal Reserve increased Federal Funds rate 7 times increasing rates a total of 4.25%. This is perhaps one of the most aggressive increases in recent history, but what does it mean for you? Let’s take a little look at how the Federal Reserve works and how the process of monetary control affects you. Despite what the name may suggest, the Federal Reserve or “The Fed” is not a part of any government. Rather, it is an independent central bank that serves our country.  Most countries have a similar central bank that controls the money system for their country. Our own central bank was approved by Congress under The Federal Reserve Act of 1913, and it was signed into law by Woodrow Wilson. Although is not part of the government and operates primarily independently of federal government, it is overseen by the board of governors, a group chosen by the President of the United States and approved by Congress. The job of the Fed is to serve as the bank to retail banks assisting in the movement of money in the US and beyond. It is broken into 12 Federal Reserve Districts that cover different areas of the country. District Federal Reserve branches are the bank at the top of the system that includes your local bank or credit union. Your bank uses the Fed to obtain money for lending and for the process of clearing transactions. The Fed also controls the US’s money supply through monetary policy. Think of monetary policy like a big dam. Money sits in the reservoir behind the dam and The Fed allows for money to run down the dam structure and down the river to you and me.  When the Fed uses loose monetary policy, there is more money flowing down the line and when they are tightening monetary policy, they are holding more in the reservoir. Different monetary control styles are used during different times as the economy moves through different phases of the economic cycle. 2022’s Fed rate hikes are an example of tightening monetary control. One of the more noticeable effects of the 2022 Fed rate hikes was the quick changes to the real estate market. Rate hikes caused an increase of activity as buyers became fearful that rising rates would make payments less affordable. The flurry of activity quickly gave way to a slowdown as some buyers either edged out of the marketplace or decided to hold off. Money became more expensive to borrow keeping more of it in the reservoir. You may have felt frustrated if you have ever been trying to make a major purchase during the recent rising interest rates, but there are other things at play during changes in monetary control. Ultimately, 2022’s rate hikes were aimed at lowering the unstainable inflation which affects the prices of everything we buy. Although it is unlikely to quickly bring the price of your eggs and milk down, the hope is that we would see prices begin to stabilize, a return to a more normal inflation rate. There are two sides to the coin when it comes to monetary policy. While borrowers began to see the effects of higher interest rates, those saving also did. For the first time in a long time, rates on savings accounts, CDs and bonds began to climb. As rates continue to climb, it is expected that fixed rates will be beneficial to people wanting to save. This can be a welcome sight for those savers who are becoming exhausted from the rocky market conditions that existed throughout the year 2022. Though you may give little thought to the Federal Reserve and how it works, it affects how you transact, spend, and save. By understanding a little about what the Fed’s role in our economy is, you can better understand what risks and opportunities are available for you because of the Fed. If you would like to discuss how recent how recent changes in interest rates have affected your financial situation, please feel free to contact our team for a complimentary consultation. We have experienced financial advisors located in Eau Claire, La Crosse, and Green Bay. Rebecca Agamaite Investment Advisor Representative  Rebecca joined the firm in 2011 as an Investment Advisor Representative. In this role, she works with clients to manage their investment assets and help them obtain their financial objectives. Rebecca brings a great deal of experience to the team having worked for several years at Marshall & IIsley Bank and MetLife. She earned a Masters of Business Administration degree (with an emphasis on finance) from Concordia University. Advisors Management Group, Inc. is a registered investment adviser whose principal office is located in Wisconsin.   Opinions expressed are those of AMG and are subject to change, not guaranteed, and should not be considered recommendations to buy or sell any security.  Past performance is no guarantee of future returns, and investing involves multiple risks, including, but not limited to, the risk of permanent losses.  Please do not send orders via e-mail as they are not binding and cannot be acted upon.  Please be advised it remains the responsibility of our clients to inform AMG of any changes in their investment objectives and/or financial situation.  This commentary is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to AMG’s investment advisory/management services.  Any subsequent, direct communication by AMG  with a prospective client shall be conducted by a representative that is either registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration in the state where the prospective client resides.  A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees continues to remain available for your review upon request.

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16 Dec 2022

Nick L.

Understanding Market Indexes

Whether it’s on your phone, on the nightly news or scrolling on the bottom banner of your web browser, you probably have seen the performance of the market indexes such as the Dow Jones Industrial or the S&P 500. We see the familiar red and green arrows as we go about our days without giving it much thought. Some people bring the indexes up in casual conversation, but few people take the time to really understand what they are or how they apply to them. Let’s break down some basics about indexes, how they work, and what they mean to you. What are indexes? Indexes are hypothetical portfolios representing different parts of the financial market. The ones investors are most familiar with are the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite. There are plenty of other indexes that might be less familiar to you. To state this in simple terms, indexes are groups of company stocks. Depending on how well the companies are doing, their stock prices will move up or down. If times are good and companies are profitable, the indexes will move up. During hard times, the stock prices will decrease, and the indexes will move down. What makes up the indexes? S&P 500 -Standard & Poor’s 500 Index is a grouping of 500 of the leading publicly traded companies. Companies with more shares outstanding and higher capital make up the largest percentage. Currently Apple holds the largest percentage of the 500, DaVita Inc, is the smallest of the 500. Dow Jones Industrial Average, or simply the Dow- The Dow is the oldest and perhaps the most familiar index. It includes companies that are found globally. It includes 30 companies who are ranked by their price. UnitedHeath Group, Inc is the top company with a price over $500 per share, Intel is the lowest ranking with a current price under $30 per share. Nasdaq- The Nasdaq is one of the largest US indexes. It includes nearly every company that trades on the Nasdaq stock exchange. It is the most misunderstood index because it has some unique characteristics. Some people call it the tech index, although it is not exclusive to any industry. To be included, a company must trade exclusively on Nasdaq stock exchange unless it was there prior to that rule being made in 2004. This means that unless grandfathered in, none of the companies in Nasdaq appear on the NYSE, Philadelphia Stock Exchange, American or another exchange unless they have been there for a very long time. Some of its largest holdings, Apple, Microsoft, Meta, Alphabet, Tesla and others also appear as some of the top positions in the S&P 500. How does this apply to me? Aside from giving you something to talk about other than the weather, you may find that it’s helpful to know the current state of the market. It is kind of like looking at a thermometer for your investments. Having an idea of what is going on in the market can prepare you for what is going on in your own retirement accounts and investments. If you are seeing a lot of red days, it probably means that you can expect to see some losses in your account. Keep in mind, it’s just an idea of how things are going in the financial markets. Just because the S&P 500 or Dow Jones is down 10% year to date doesn't mean your portfolio is down 10%. You have your own group of investments in your personal portfolio and your portfolio has its own return based upon what you are holding and how much risk you are taking in your portfolio. Your advisor may discuss the market index’s performance and compare it to your performance. This is called using an index as a benchmark. This same strategy also applies for risk. You can determine if your portfolio has more risk, less risk, or similar risk. An aggressive investor may have a portfolio with nearly as much risk as the S&P 500 whereas a conservative investor may not be comfortable with that much risk. Most people misunderstand how to use an index as a benchmark. Often, we see people judging the success of their portfolio by how it compares to an index. Instead, you should judge your portfolio based on your long-term goals and how well your portfolio is set up to achieve your goals. Can I invest in an index? While you cannot invest in the actual index, there are mutual funds and ETF’s that mirror the index. These buy the exact same stocks that are in the indexes and their return can be similar. While this could be appealing, there can be downsides to this type of strategy. Index funds are not actively managed and can potentially carry more risk than an actively managed strategy. Finding a knowledgeable advisor can help you to decide what is right for your portfolio and how it relates to the broad markets   Rebecca Agamaite Investment Advisor Representative  Rebecca joined the firm in 2011 as an Investment Advisor Representative. In this role, she works with clients to manage their investment assets and help them obtain their financial objectives. Rebecca brings a great deal of experience to the team having worked for several years at Marshall & IIsley Bank and MetLife. She earned a Masters of Business Administration degree (with an emphasis on finance) from Concordia University. Advisors Management Group, Inc. is a registered investment adviser whose principal office is located in Wisconsin.   Opinions expressed are those of AMG and are subject to change, not guaranteed, and should not be considered recommendations to buy or sell any security.  Past performance is no guarantee of future returns, and investing involves multiple risks, including, but not limited to, the risk of permanent losses.  Please do not send orders via e-mail as they are not binding and cannot be acted upon.  Please be advised it remains the responsibility of our clients to inform AMG of any changes in their investment objectives and/or financial situation.  This commentary is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to AMG’s investment advisory/management services.  Any subsequent, direct communication by AMG  with a prospective client shall be conducted by a representative that is either registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration in the state where the prospective client resides.  A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees continues to remain available for your review upon request.

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14 Nov 2022

Nick L.

Investing During Market Volatility

The year 2008 proved emotionally exhausting for investors. Volatility rocked the markets causing the S&P to hit lows more than -17% by mid-July. Late summer brought a slight recovery and quieter conditions only to have the market plummet in October resulting in a new bottom of over -42%. Although these types of market conditions don't happen regularly, they can really cause emotional turmoil for investors when they come to pass. Here’s what you need to know about riding out the storm and keeping your cool while investing during market volatility. Don't assume Your portfolio is not “the market”. If you see that the S&P or the Dow Jones are down 2% in a day, it does not mean that you lost the same amount. Indexes can give you an idea of what is going on, but they are highly dependent on a few companies. For example, Apple currently makes up a whopping 6.59% of the S&P 500. If Apple moves significantly, the index is sure to be affected. Your portfolio, on the other hand, may not have any Apple in it. You also may have investments that are not in the S&P 500 at all. Your portfolio could include a mix of stocks, bonds, cash and even commodities such as precious metals. It’s best not to make any assumptions about what your portfolio is doing based upon what the indexes are doing. Instead, discuss your allocation and risk level with a trusted investment advisor regularly to determine what you should expect if markets move significantly. Don’t make emotional decisions We've all heard that you should buy low and sell high but making emotional decisions can cause investors to do just the opposite. Investors who panicked and sold out in October of 2008 most likely missed at least part of the recovery that followed in 2009 and 2010. Some investors who tried to jump back in at some point during the recovery re-entered the market at higher prices than they sold out at. Panicked investors aren't the only investors to be affected by emotional investment mistakes. Bullish investors sometimes are quick to call the bottom of a market and may find that FOMO (fear of missing out) causes them to overpay or take unnecessary losses. It’s generally best to avoid jumping in and out and trying to time the market, when investing during market volatility. Don’t overdo it on the withdrawals If you are a retiree depending on your account for income, don't panic. Your portfolio is likely designed to provide income from dividends and interest in addition to giving you the potential for modest growth. If you stick to your planned distribution, your portfolio should be able to weather the market volatility and still provide what you need. On the other hand, you may want to wait to take distributions for large purchases that require your securities to be sold at a loss in order raise enough cash to fund the purchase. Do stay calm If you feel emotional about money, it’s ok and it’s normal. We work hard for what we have saved, and it can make you very upset when you see losses during times of market volatility. You may feel better to know that the money it’s not been taken out of the account. In fact, when your investments go up, no one made a deposit. Investment gains and losses represent a change in the value of the shares you own. You do not own your balance. You own the shares in your portfolio. Sometimes your shares will be worth more than you paid, and sometimes, the value will be less than you paid. If you've been investing for a while, you probably have more money than what you’ve deposited from your own money. Investments never move upward in a straight line. They will move in both directions with a trend of moving upward over time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Do keep focused on the long term If you are a saver, these are great opportunities for adding to your long-term wealth. Now is not the time to stop saving. We want to buy low and market dips can offer us the opportunity to get the biggest bang for the investing buck. Our systematic savings buys more shares. If you are retired and are taking money out instead of saving, you still need to be focused on the long term. A person who retires in their 60’s will weather three or four bear markets and many corrections during retirement. Just because you are retired does not mean that you have a short investment horizon. Someone retiring in their 60’s very well can have a 20–30-year investment horizon based upon life span. Do seek advice on withdrawals, taxes, and security sales Planning how you take money out of your portfolio is always important, but it’s especially important to be smart during down years. A trusted advisor can help set up your portfolio with cash and income like dividends and interest so you are not selling securities at a loss. There may also be certain securities that are up in value when the broad markets are down, which could be sold, if needed, to provide cash for a withdrawal. Your advisor can also give you a heads up about what to expect at tax time because sometimes investors are caught off guard by taxable events that happen even though portfolio values may be negative. Do review your portfolio You may be afraid to look when you are losing. By meeting with your advisor, you can get reassurance and insight about what is going on in the world and how it is affecting your nest egg. You may even find out that it’s not as bad as you thought. A good advisor will want to let you know what is happening and explain how your portfolio has responded to the market conditions. If you haven't heard from your advisor, it may be time to consider finding another one. Negative markets and statements with negative returns are scary. You may be feeling like you need to quick do something to stop the bleed, or you may feel emotionally defeated, but know that the market is bound to go up and down. Stay focused on your goals and rely on your trusted advisor to guide you toward your goals, especially when investing during times of market volatility.   Rebecca Agamaite Investment Advisor Representative  Rebecca joined the firm in 2011 as an Investment Advisor Representative. In this role, she works with clients to manage their investment assets and help them obtain their financial objectives. Rebecca brings a great deal of experience to the team having worked for several years at Marshall & IIsley Bank and MetLife. She earned a Masters of Business Administration degree (with an emphasis on finance) from Concordia University. Advisors Management Group, Inc. is a registered investment adviser whose principal office is located in Wisconsin.   Opinions expressed are those of AMG and are subject to change, not guaranteed, and should not be considered recommendations to buy or sell any security.  Past performance is no guarantee of future returns, and investing involves multiple risks, including, but not limited to, the risk of permanent losses.  Please do not send orders via e-mail as they are not binding and cannot be acted upon.  Please be advised it remains the responsibility of our clients to inform AMG of any changes in their investment objectives and/or financial situation.  This commentary is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to AMG’s investment advisory/management services.  Any subsequent, direct communication by AMG  with a prospective client shall be conducted by a representative that is either registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration in the state where the prospective client resides.  A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees continues to remain available for your review upon request.

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13 Oct 2021

Advisors Management Group

Making Health Saving Accounts Work for You

When illness or injuries occur, paying for out-of-pocket medical expenses can be overwhelming for many people. By planning ahead and saving a little bit every month you can feel prepared to deal with unexpected medical costs. If you are a participant in a high deductible HSA eligible health insurance plan, a Health Savings Account can be an important part of your overall financial picture. Which insurance plans are eligible? For 2021, an HSA eligible plan must have a deductible of at least $1,400 for and individual and $2,800 for a family plan. HSA eligible plans require the insured to pay for most expenses out of pocket until the deductible is met.  It is important to understand that not every insurance plan is HSA eligible even if the deductible is high. How do HSA’s work? An HSA account allows you to put pre-tax dollars into a savings account, then use those dollars to pay medical expenses without ever paying any tax on the dollars used for the payment. The maximum annual deferral amount depends upon the type of health insurance coverage you have.  Also, the annual contribution limit usually increases slightly each year so you may want to adjust accordingly. HSA eligible health insurance plans may cost less which may allow you to choose to invest what you are not spending on premiums. How much can I save? For individuals with single health insurance coverage the annual contribution limit is $3,600.  For individuals with family health insurance coverage the annual contribution limit is $7,200.  If you are over the age of 55, you can contribute up to an additional $1,000 per year to increase, your maximum annual contribution to $4,600 or $8,200 depending upon the type of health insurance coverage you have. Contributions can be deductible on your tax return if they are paid out of pocket instead through salary deferral from your employers’ payroll. Additional Benefits Some additional advantages an HSA account provides include: At the age of 65 you can treat your HSA like an IRA and take distributions for purposes other than medical expenses without penalty, although you will pay income tax on the distribution. You can invest the assets in the account no matter what your income is. There are no income limits to be eligible to contribute unlike an IRA.  Once your income goes above a certain level you can no longer make tax deductible contributions to an IRA. For higher income earners an HSA is one of the few ways to save money tax deferred. You can do a once in a lifetime tax free rollover from an IRA to an HSA up to the annual contribution limit. However, you must remain in a high deductible health insurance plan for at least 12 months following the rollover. You are not allowed make rollover contributions to an HSA from a 401(k), 457, or other retirement plan. You can first roll money over to an IRA and then do a rollover from the IRA to the HSA There are options available for those who want to grow their HSA in the equities market. This can be attractive for those who don’t typically spend down their HSA on an annual basis or those who have accumulated a larger balance. Can I use my HSA to pay health insurance premiums? You can only use your HSA to pay health insurance premiums if you are collecting Federal or State unemployment benefits, or you have COBRA continuation health insurance coverage through a former employer. Nathan Deets CFP Investment Advisor Representative & Tax Preparer Nathan joined the firm in 2006. As an Investment Advisor Representative, he is part of the team that designs our clients’ investment portfolios, prepares individual tax returns, and helps our Advisor Team with financial planning for our clients. Advisors Management Group, Inc. is a registered investment adviser whose principal office is located in Wisconsin.   Opinions expressed are those of AMG and are subject to change, not guaranteed, and should not be considered recommendations to buy or sell any security.  Past performance is no guarantee of future returns, and investing involves multiple risks, including, but not limited to, the risk of permanent losses.  Please do not send orders via e-mail as they are not binding and cannot be acted upon.  Please be advised it remains the responsibility of our clients to inform AMG of any changes in their investment objectives and/or financial situation.  This commentary is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to AMG’s investment advisory/management services.  Any subsequent, direct communication by AMG  with a prospective client shall be conducted by a representative that is either registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration in the state where the prospective client resides.  A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees continues to remain available for your review upon request.

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28 May 2019

Advisors Management Group

10 Myths About Health Savings Accounts

When you’re choosing a health plan for the year -- whether you get coverage through your employer or on your own -- one option may be a high-deductible plan that makes you eligible to contribute to a health savings account. Weigh this option carefully. There are a lot of misconceptions about how HSAs work. Health savings accounts offer a triple tax break -- contributions aren’t taxed, the money grows tax-deferred, and it can be used tax-free for eligible medical expenses at any time. Here, we take a look at several of the most common HSA myths -- and the reality. Myth: You Must Use HSA Money by Year-End This is the biggest misconception about HSAs. Unlike flexible spending accounts, HSAs have no use-it-or-lose-it rule. You can use the money tax-free to pay eligible medical expenses at any time. The money can pay current medical expenses -- such as your insurance deductible, co-payments for health care and prescription drugs, and out-of-pocket costs for vision or dental care -- but you’ll get the biggest tax benefit if you keep the money growing in the account and withdraw it for medical expenses much later, such as in retirement. You can withdraw HSA money tax-free, for instance, to pay Medicare Part B, Part D and Medicare Advantage premiums after you turn age 65. Most HSAs let you invest the money in mutual funds for the long term. Myth: You Can Only Get an HSA Through Your Employer Although many employers pair an HSA with a high-deductible health insurance plan, anyone with an HSA-eligible health insurance policy can contribute to an HSA. (HSA-eligible policies must have a deductible of at least $1,350 for single coverage or $2,700 for family coverage in 2019.) Many banks and other financial institutions offer health savings accounts. You can find HSA administrators at www.hsasearch.com, where you can compare fees and investing options. If your employer does offer an HSA, however, that’s usually your best option because many employers contribute money to employees’ HSAs (an average of $500 per year for individuals and $1,000 for families), and employers tend to cover most of the fees for employees’ HSAs. Also, contributions made through payroll deduction are pre-tax, avoiding federal and Social Security taxes. If you contribute to an HSA on your own, your contributions are tax-deductible. Myth: You Can’t Use Money in the HSA After You Sign Up for Medicare You can’t make new contributions to an HSA after you enroll in Medicare, but you can continue to use the money that’s already in the account tax-free for out-of-pocket medical expenses and other eligible costs that aren’t covered by insurance, such as vision, hearing and dental care and co-pays for prescription drugs. You can also take tax-free withdrawals to pay a portion of long-term-care insurance premiums based on your age, ranging in 2018 from $410 if you’re 40 or younger to $5,110 if you’re 70 or older. And after you turn 65, you can use HSA money to pay premiums for Medicare Part B, Part D or Medicare Advantage. You can even withdraw money from your HSA to reimburse yourself if your Medicare premiums are paid directly out of your Social Security benefits. “You just need to keep your payment notification from Social Security in your tax records, and you can reimburse yourself dollar for dollar,” says Steven Christenson, executive vice president at Ascensus, a benefits consultant. Myth: You Can’t Contribute to an HSA After You Turn 65 Eligibility to make HSA contributions stops when you enroll in Medicare. That’s not necessarily when you turn 65. Some people who keep working for a large employer at age 65 choose to delay signing up for Medicare Part A and Part B so they can continue to contribute to an HSA (especially if their employer contributes money to the account, too). However, you can only delay signing up for Medicare at 65 if you have health insurance from a current employer (or if you have coverage through your spouse’s employer); the employer generally must have 20 or more employees. Otherwise, you generally have to sign up for Medicare at 65. If you are eligible to delay signing up for Medicare, be sure to enroll within eight months of losing your employer coverage so you won’t have a late-enrollment penalty. You can make pro-rated HSA contributions for the number of months before your Medicare coverage takes effect. If you sign up for Medicare Part A after age 65, your coverage takes effect retroactively six months before you enrolled. Myth: You Must Get Permission From HSA Administrators to Withdraw Money Unlike with an FSA, which usually requires you to gather receipts and get permission from the administrator to make withdrawals, you can withdraw money from your HSA whenever you want. Many HSAs have debit cards that make it easy to use the account for eligible expenses, but you can also withdraw money on your own and keep the records in your tax files to prove that the withdrawals should be tax-free. “FSAs require the administrator to substantiate the claim, but with HSAs, there is no substantiation requirement -- you just have to keep the receipts,” says Steve Auerbach, CEO of Alegeus, which provides technology for HSAs. Myth: You Must Use HSA Funds Within a Certain Time Period After You Incur Medical Bills One quirk of the HSA rules is that there’s no time limit for using the money after you incur an expense. Say you have knee surgery and pay a $1,000 deductible in cash. As long as you had the knee surgery after you opened an HSA, you can withdraw that $1,000 tax-free from the account anytime -- even years later. You just need to keep track of your receipts for the HSA-eligible expenses. Many HSA administrators make it easy to import medical claims-payment records from your health insurance to your HSA and keep track of whether you paid the bill with your HSA or with cash. “We store all of those claims and receipts for you. If, say, in two years you want to take the money out, it can come out tax-free because you’ve already incurred those expenses,” says Auerbach, of Alegeus. Myth: You Can Only Invest the HSA Money in a Savings Account HSAs have savings accounts, so you know the money will be there if you plan to use it for current expenses. But many HSA administrators also let you invest the money in mutual funds for the long term. The fees and investing options vary a lot by company -- some offer low-cost funds from Vanguard, Fidelity and other well-known fund companies. You can compare fees and investing options at www.hsasearch.com. Some HSA administrators charge extra fees unless you maintain a minimum balance. Myth: Your Spouse and Kids Can Only Use HSA Money If Covered by Your Health Plan The rules for contributing to an HSA are different than they are for using the money. For 2019, you can contribute up to $3,500 to the account if you have health insurance coverage on you only or up to $7,000 if you have family coverage. You can also contribute an extra $1,000 if you’re 55 or older. But no matter whether you have individual or family health insurance coverage, you can use the HSA money tax-free for qualified medical expenses for yourself, your spouse and your tax dependents -- even if those family members are covered under a different policy, says Roy Ramthun, CEO of HSA Consulting Services. Myth: You Can’t Use the HSA After You Leave Your Job Here’s another way that HSAs differ from FSAs: You can keep the HSA even if you leave your job. You can usually maintain the HSA through the current administrator or roll it over to a different one (similar to an IRA rollover). And if you have an HSA-eligible high-deductible policy -- whether through a new employer or on your own -- you can continue to contribute to the HSA. Myth: It Doesn’t Make Sense to Have an HSA-Eligible Policy If You Have a Lot of Medical Expenses Some people are reluctant to choose a high-deductible health insurance policy if they have a lot of medical expenses. But you need to do the math and compare the overall costs. In some cases, the premium savings by choosing the high-deductible policy rather than a lower-deductible plan may cover most of the difference in the deductible. And if you have employer coverage, your employer may contribute to your HSA to help close the gap. The employer contribution is generally seed money rather than a match. Many employers deposit a fixed amount of money into the account at the beginning of the year for anyone who has an HSA-eligible policy, says David Speier, managing director of benefits accounts at Willis Towers Watson, a benefits consultant. Add up the difference in premiums, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs for your regular medical expenses, as well as any employer contribution, when deciding on a policy. Many employers are introducing decision-making tools to help with the calculations, says Speier. Source: Kiplinger

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18 Oct 2018

Advisors Management Group

7 Ways to Save Money on Halloween

You don’t have to play trick or treat with your budget this Halloween when you plan those candy purchases and flex your crafting muscles to make decorations. The National Retail Federation estimates that consumers will spend $7.4 billion on Halloween this year, with the average person shelling out about $77 on decorations, costumes, and candy. But it's possible to make savvy purchases to bring down the cost. Follow these seven tips to save money on Halloween this year. 1. Buy Halloween candy from a warehouse club.  Buying your Halloween candy in bulk from a warehouse club can help you save money and avoid the hassle of making multiple trips to the grocery store to stock up on popular types of candy during the weeks leading up to Halloween. Pick up a few mixed bag varieties to give your trick-or-treaters plenty of options. If you’re feeling generous, go with regular-size candy bars that are also priced at a discount at warehouse clubs. 2. Shop at online party stores for Halloween decorations.  Whether you're hosting a Halloween party or want to deck out your home in Halloween décor, peruse the inventory of online party stores for some great deals before you head out to your local big-box store. Many party stores will offer discounts on bulk buys and run specials on Halloween items throughout the season. Keep an eye out for coupons and online-only offers to save even more on your purchases.  3. Buy arts and craft supplies at the dollar store.  If you’ve caught the crafting bug this season, head to the dollar store or other discount stores in your area to round up basic supplies to make your own decorations. Be creative with ready-made treat bags and other Halloween decorations that you can repurpose to make wreaths, centerpieces and other festive decorations. 4. Search for free activities in the community.  If you don’t have room in the budget to host a Halloween party for the kids or even to stock up on holiday candy this year, plan on taking everyone out for some free Halloween fun at your local community center, school, museums and other local venues. Take a look at the events page in your local newspaper, find events on the Facebook pages of organizations you are a part of or review the community calendar at civic centers and other local organizations to find low-cost ways to celebrate Halloween. 5. Hold off on the pumpkin roundup.  Waiting until Oct. 30 or a few days before Halloween to buy pumpkins could save you some money. Plan on carving the pumpkins on Halloween instead of earlier in the season when the pumpkins are prone to rot. Many stores sell pumpkins at deep discounts right around Halloween to clear out some of the inventory before the big post-Halloween price drop. Keep in mind, you could still use uncarved pumpkins as decorations for Thanksgiving. 6. Make your own Halloween costumes.  You’ll find plenty of tutorials and tips for making Halloween costumes with inexpensive materials online, so get inspired by perusing some Pinterest boards and posts from crafty bloggers. Even something as simple as a decorative mask or a cape embellished with Halloween motifs can be enough to get you in the Halloween spirit. Buy items you can reuse for next year’s Halloween events or even for a costume party this upcoming holiday season. 7. Shop at surplus stores. Stores that carry overstock, surplus and slightly damaged or irregular merchandise can be a treasure trove for bargain hunters and typically carry a large selection of holiday-themed merchandise. Whether you’re in the market for a Halloween-print tablecloth, candelabras or a festive door hanging, surplus stores may have just what you need to create a spooky space at home or in the office. Some of these stores also carry a line of Halloween costumes for kids and accessories you could use to put together your own costumes. If an item is visibly damaged but still usable, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount – some stores will take 10 percent or more off the sticker price to make the sale. Source: USNews.com

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19 Jul 2018

Advisors Management Group

3 Tips to Chart Your Own Map to Retirement

When it comes to retirement planning, working Americans are primarily on their own -- pensions are a thing of the past and the future of Social Security is increasingly uncertain. As the retirement landscape continues to change, so do Americans' expectations about this phase of life. Many of the pre-retirees we speak to say they're not interested in following an established retirement road map and want to stay professionally engaged. Others tell us that saving enough to live off of for 20 to 30 years simply isn't feasible. The 2018 Capital One Financial Freedom survey found that while two-thirds of Americans (65 percent) say they're confident in their financial future, many have a long way to go -- just half have a long-term financial plan, and among non-retired Americans, nearly one-fifth don't expect to or don't know if they'll ever retire. Given these dynamics, it's important to take the time to reflect on your own financial situation, long-term goals and timeline for working and generating income so you can take control of your financial life. Here are three tips to help you build a realistic retirement strategy so you can enjoy this evolving, yet exciting, time: 1. Take control of your financial situation. When you start thinking about the future, begin by answering these three questions -- do you have credit card debt, and a game plan to manage it? Have you established three to six months of emergency savings? And are you leveraging a 401(k) or an individual retirement account? Working to reduce debt and build up savings is an important first step in building a long-term financial plan. Don't forget to also reflect on your goals and consider how much money you'll need to reach them. Retirement looks very different to different people, and it's important to enter this phase with eyes wide open. When determining how much to save, understand your timeline, risk tolerance (how you handle the markets ups and downs) and future plans -- will you move, travel or pursue new hobbies? You should also prepare for unexpected and rising costs, like health care. If you're not sure how much to put away, common wisdom suggests saving 10 to 15 percent of your income, but if that's not feasible starting small is OK too. The important thing is to start saving something now. 2. Think about ongoing income streams for your future. As you begin planning for the future, think through how a combination of savings, benefits, wages and investment income can work together to support you. If you don't want to keep working full-time but living off your nest egg isn't practical, explore transitional employment options or consider selling real estate or other assets. And remember, it's never too late to start saving -- even if you haven't saved aggressively earlier in life, you can still make the most of accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs now. Try to stay proactive and don't dwell on missed investing opportunities. Focus on what you can do now, which can make a big difference for you and your loved ones. 3. Put yourself first. Putting yourself last has serious consequences for your financial future and may have an adverse impact on others, too. In fact, The Pew Research Center recently reported the number of parents living in their adult children's households has doubled since 1995 (increasing to 14 percent). Understandably, many of us put our family first and prioritize our children's education costs over retirement planning, but the later you start planning for your future, the less time you have to grow your nest egg. You can always take out education loans, but you can't borrow for retirement. Whether retirement is right around the corner or further out on the horizon, it's important to take steps to gain control of your financial life and build a specific plan that works for you. No matter your age or stage of life, establishing sound financial habits helps give you the security and flexibility to enjoy retirement on your own terms. Source: Yahoo Finance

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19 Jul 2018

Advisors Management Group

Why Americans Tap Their Retirement Savings Early

Most people don't intend to raid their retirement accounts — and that's just the problem. Tapping your retirement dollars early is almost always considered taboo, although, at times, it can seem unavoidable. By far, the majority of Americans said they dipped into their retirement funds to pay off debt or bills. In fact, GOBankingRates polled nearly 2,000 people who dipped into their retirement funds. The other most common reasons cited were to cover a financial emergency or medical expense. Less than 10 percent said it was to buy a home and just said 3 percent said they tapped their retirement savings to pay college costs. But for those with little or no savings, a lack of proper investment income and planning leaves many Americans at risk of retiring broke. Most financial experts recommend stashing at least a six-month cushion to cover anything from a dental bill to a car repair — and more if you are the sole breadwinner in your family or in business for yourself. Source: CNBC

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26 Jun 2018

Advisors Management Group

Are You Saving Enough?

If you go by the book, you would shoot for 10% to 20% of your gross income. But that ballpark figure can be deceiving. Savings and retirement estimators are helpful, but often misleading, tools. These calculators can be insufficient to determine how much money you should be saving based on a few calculations. It’s not wise to solely trust calculators to tell you if you’re adequately prepared for an emergency or retirement. In addition, some people trying these calculators may be so discouraged by the numbers they see that the tools end up not helping at all. If you looked in a financial planning textbook, an individual should be saving 10% to 20% of his or her gross income. However, that number, in and of itself, doesn’t tell the entire story. To estimate how much money you should be saving you can’t rely on general advice. And maybe that isn’t the right question to be asking anyway. Maybe instead of asking how much should you be saving, you should ask yourself how much can you save? Are you saving as much as possible? In a time when many Americans live without an adequate safety net, prioritizing savings is increasingly difficult for many people. Here are a few things to consider as you start thinking about your savings goals and how to ramp them up. Lifestyle Choices Affect Savings One of the biggest obstacles to savings is living outside of one’s means. Acquiring debt, installment payments and frequent “Keeping up with the Joneses” spending binges consume funds that could otherwise be saved and earn interest. That probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you, but what if you are living within your means? Your money decisions money can still have an impact on your ability to save. We all can do better. Not being purposeful in aligning your current spending with your priorities will undoubtedly leave you falling short of achieving your goals. I have seen many people who say being prepared financially for retirement is extremely important to them. However, when you look at their finances you quickly see that they’re spending a major portion of their income maintaining their current lifestyle. For example, I knew one man who was saving 6% of his gross income in a retirement account, while also receiving a 3% match from his employer. The problem was that he was also spending, on average, 20% more a month than what he made, running up credit card and home equity debt while depleting his savings. While he was saving for his future, at the same time he was destroying his current wealth and on the path to financial distress. The Curse of Instant Gratification Another problem many families face is the drive for instant gratification. Instant gratification is a curse to savings, in part because of the ease and convenience of both online shopping and digital banking. Advancing technologies facilitate spending money, and consumer demand drives technology’s march forward. More than simple wasteful spending, instant gratification may sometimes include necessary and functional purchases — just at the wrong time. For example, many people like driving a new car with the latest technology, but do you really need it? You may need a car because of where you live or your job, however do you need to purchase the latest model factory delivered with all of your specifications? Ways to defer gratification include: Make a list of wants, and save toward large purchases so you can pay in cash. These don’t have to be major purchase like a home or car, but could be a family vacation, a new washer and dryer or that new Ultra 4K TV. Use a debit card for purchases, not a credit card. If the money isn’t in the account, don’t make the purchase. Leave credit or debit cards behind completely and use only cash. Basically, don’t blow your money. Simple enough, right? But even the rich and famous can have trouble with that concept. Take Johnny Depp. His business managers, whom he is suing, say his “lavish spending” — $30,000 per month on wine, $200,000 per month on private jets and reportedly $75 million to buy homes, a horse farm in Kentucky and several islands in the Bahamas — has put him in dire straits. Saving enough for wants, emergencies and other unpredictable expenditures means having enough money left over from paychecks to save. For many this will be a difficult change to make. It will mean that you are willing to exercise financial discipline and delay purchases until you can afford them while also meeting your savings goals. Conclusion No calculator or estimator can come up with the exact amount for any one person to save. Knowing what to prepare for is personal to each individual situation. Every person who wonders how much to save must first examine a larger picture that includes long-term financial goals, lifestyle choices, spending habits, wants, desires and necessities. It is a personal decision that deserves thoughtful contemplation and strategic financial planning. If you are currently wondering how much you should be saving to reach your version of financial success, you can always reach out to a Certified Financial Planner. The time you take now to prepare for your financial future can make all the difference in your long-term quality of life. Source: Kiplinger.com

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17 May 2018

Advisors Management Group

Are You Overspending on Groceries?

Parents know all too well that getting food on the table doesn't come cheap. If you're not careful about your expenses, you might just blow a good portion of your paycheck on a routine stop at the supermarket. To help you figure out if you're overspending on food for your family, budgeting website Growing Slower created a monthly grocery spending guidelines chart. The guideline, which was shared by The Real Deal of Parenting Facebook page, uses data from the USDA's Cost of Food report to make recommendations for a thrifty monthly grocery budget based on family size. The chart starts with a family of one and goes up to a family of 11. For just a mom, dad and child, for example, Growing Slower suggests dedicating between $475 and $558 a month on groceries. For a family of six, the range is $768 to $999 per month. The chart can be seen here or below: Family Size (Total) Thrifty Monthly Grocery Budget 1 $200 - 227 2 $392 3 $475 - 558 4 $557 - 707 5 $633 - 882 6 $768 - 999 7 $870-1089 8 $1013-1216 9 $1166-1343 10 $1355-1442 11 $1543-1536   When the chart was shared on The Real Deal of Parenting's Facebook page, a lot of parents were surprised at how they actually spent less than the range given for their size family. Though, it's worth noting that a family of four that includes a toddler and a breastfeeding baby is very different than one that includes two voracious middle-schoolers. It's also not a complete science — it doesn't account for the cost of groceries in more expensive cities, and it doesn't account for extra spending on meals out of the house. So take it with a grain of bargain salt, and see if your family's spending is on track. Source: PopSugar.com

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