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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20 Jun 2023

Nick L.

Pay Stubs & Tax Withholding 101

If you are like most Americans, you no longer or perhaps have never received your pay in the form of a paper check.  American Payroll Association estimates that while some people are still paid with paper checks, an overwhelming 93% of employees receive their paycheck directly deposited. Additionally, some employees use payroll cards and reloadable prepaid debit cards to receive their pay. The shift from old school paper checks to direct deposit has caused us to be less aware of all the deductions that come off the top of our checks. It is this unawareness that can cause issues in the long term. For most people who get paid through direct deposit, pay stubs are available through an employee portal. For those who are paid a salary, the amounts won’t change much from check to check, however it is important to make sure that tax is being withheld appropriately and deductions for benefits such as health insurance and retirement savings are accounted for. You should also make sure that vacation, sick, and personal days are both accruing correctly and being applied correctly when you take them. For those paid an hourly rate, the same applies, but additionally you should verify hours worked and hours paid match and that any overtime or holiday hours are paid at the appropriate rate. Those paid commissions should not only review their paystubs for the basics, but they should also audit their sales and make sure that all commissions are paid out appropriately. Understanding Tax Withholding In 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act became law which removed personal exemptions while increasing the standard deduction and expanding child tax credits. Because of the significant amounts of change, the W-4 that was familiar to most of us was replaced with an updated W-4. The new form differs from past forms in that it does not require you to figure out your tax exemptions. Some employers will require you to fill out a new W-4 annually, however even if they don’t, it is a great idea make sure you are withholding enough regularly. You probably will be prompted to look at if you got a surprise at tax time. If you have too large of a refund, you may need to lessen your withholding. If you owed a large amount, you would want to talk to your tax preparer to understand the root of your tax bill. While it is possible that you may have had something out of the norm happen within the year, you may have had a change to your tax situation. Marriage, divorce, death, babies, and kids growing up can cause the need for you to adjust how much you are withholding from your paycheck. If your income has changed, you may also need to check your withholding. Perhaps you took a new job, got a raise, or took a second job. Note that each job will come with its own W-4. If you have income from other jobs, have a spouse with income or have other sources of income, you may need to withhold tax differently than what the W-4 indicates. The new W-4 has worksheets for those situations. The case for being proactive Because our paystubs are out of sight, they are often out of mind until we have neglected them long enough to cause a big hassle. It only takes a small issue to snowball into a much larger one. Taking the time to review your paystub regularly can really help you in the long run. If you have questions about filling out your W-4 or how much you need to withhold, your payroll professional can be a great resource. If they are unsure how to help you, they may direct you to https://www.irs.gov/individuals/tax-withholding-estimator. This can be a great option to help you figure out how much tax you should withhold, however many people find this calculator to be difficult. Also, missing or incomplete information can lead you astray. Your tax professional can help you to be sure that you are on the right track as well as help you to increase your tax efficiency and help you to understand how changes in tax law affect you.   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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19 May 2023

Nick L.

Making Credit Cards Work for You

Credit cards can be an important part of managing your financial situation when used correctly, but what do you need to know about being smart when it comes to credit cards? Making credit cards work for you can be confusing, but here are some tips to help you get started. Choose 0% According to Lendingtree, the average credit card interest rate in the US is 23.84%. Remember that this is an average. If you have great credit, you probably have a better rate and if your credit is poor, it can be nearly 30% interest. If you are like most people, this may come as a surprise to you, but credit card rates have steadily increased over the past decade. The good news is you can avoid interest if you do not carry a balance on your credit cards. By paying off your charges monthly, you will not pay any interest regardless of the rate of your card. Paying your bill on time you will also show good credit habits and avoid late fees and penalty interest rates. If you are making a purchase of a big-ticket item, such as furniture or appliances, go ahead and use a payment plan that will allow you to make payments over a set amount of months interest free, but do pay it off before the end of the promotional period. These types of cards will often give you a set amount of time interest free, however will charge interest back to the date of purchase if you fail to pay it off within that time. Use it as a tool Using a credit card can streamline how you spend money day to day, but it must be used responsibly. Some people choose to pay for most expenses on their credit card and pay only one bill at the end of the month to maximize credit card perks such as cash back or travel benefits. Credit cards are one of the safest ways to conduct business such as online purchases and often have tools to protect you from fraudulent activities. When using a credit card, you protect money that you have in your bank account should someone take your card number while you are making a purchase. Compared to the process of reporting fraud on your bank account, reporting credit card fraud is fast and hassle free. They will typically reverse the transaction and shut down the card quickly. You will have a new number and new card within days. Credit cards can also help you track your spending, plan your budget, and monitor credit. Many credit card websites offer you the ability to track your spending and break it down by type. This can help you to diagnose your spending habits and determine how to be smarter with your money. Live credit monitoring and score modeling is often found on credit card websites. For younger consumers or those trying to restore their credit, this can be a powerful way to move you forward financially. Avoid Pitfalls Credit Cards can offer a lot of great perks ranging from cash back to points that you can redeem for travel. It’s important to read the fine print on these types of cards to determine if you can make the benefits work for you. For example, airline cards are notorious for offering free baggage, companion flights or statement credits. This can be very attractive especially if you are looking to save money on your next vacation. Most of the major airlines offer similar cards, although they are advertised as “no annual fee”. If you read the fine print, you will see that they carry significant fees after the introductory period. So, you may get some perks, but if you keep the card past the first year, you may find a hefty annual fee after that. The better the perks, generally the higher the costs associated with the card. Now, if you fly more than a few times per year on the same airline, the $100 annual fee may be less than paying all the baggage fees. Department store cards often offer coupons and discounts to card holders. These are generally designed to keep you shopping on a regular basis. If you get free shipping and a 10% discount on your order you will come back for more. If they sweeten the deal by giving you a coupon for your next order and give you a range of dates to use it by, you may find yourself shopping again in a week or so. Before you know it, you may find yourself shopping way more than what you would have if you were not constantly being enticed to shop. If you must spend money to save, you may not actually be saving. If you shop too much, you may end up with a balance that you didn’t intend to have. Credit card companies would not offer enticing benefits if the deck wasn’t stacked in their favor. It really is about assessing the benefits and costs and determining if there really is a savings, or if it is just another way to win your business or cost you money. While some consumers have mastered the art of using credit cards, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports that Americans owed $986 billion dollars in credit card debt at the close of 2022. Remember, interest paid on unpaid balances will very quickly outweigh any perk a card has to offer. If you find yourself tending to accumulate debt while using cards, it may be better to just stay out of the game. 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 Apr 2023

Nick L.

Breaking Down Fee-Based vs. Fee Only Financial Advisors

Whether you are shopping for a new advisor, or you have had the same advisor for years, it is important to understand how your advisor and their firm generate revenue. While cost only seems to matter if you fail to see value in the services you are receiving, there are several reasons why it is good to understand the fee structure of your investments. Read more to learn about fee-based vs.  fee only financial advisors. Traditionally, the finance industry was made up of broker-dealers that hired a sales force to sell products. Registered representatives of these broker-dealers earn commission on products that they sold to clients. Products range from loaded mutual funds, brokerage accounts and insurance products such as annuities and life insurance. When transactions or trades are made, the advisor receives a commission. If no transactions are made, the advisor does not receive compensation. Advisors who work for broker-dealers are often referred to as brokers or registered representatives. In recent years, the industry has shifted, and more advisors are working with their clients under fee-only advisory platforms, managing assets for a fee and providing financial planning for a fee. Fees in most cases are assessed based upon how much money is being managed or how many hours are spent on planning, not on how many trades are made. This type of business is offered by a Registered Investment Advisor. Registered Investment Advisor or RIA firms focus on implementing advice driven solutions and work under a fiduciary standard. Investment Advisor Representatives are required to put their client’s best interests before the interests of the company, firm, and themselves. Some firms will choose to register as both a Broker-Dealer and an RIA firm. These dually registered firms blur the line between the two business models which can really be confusing to investors. Advisors who work under this model often refer to themselves as Fee-Based Advisors. They may choose to manage money or prepare financial planning for a fee and sell products. They can switch their role with a client at will and it can be difficult to determine when products are being sold and when fiduciary advice is being given. This can create a conflict of interest for an advisor who must choose between selling a product that creates commission or acting as a fiduciary. Some of the most expensive investments generate high commissions for advisors, which can mean higher costs for clients. Portfolios that have higher costs will need to be invested more aggressively to overcome the expense. If costs are excessive, portfolios may not be able to overcome the expense and may have disappointing returns. How can you avoid choosing advisors with possible conflicts of interest? Choose Fee-Only. Fee-Only Registered Investment Advisors are required to always work under a Fiduciary Standard. They do not sell products, are not registered as sales agents for any investment company. They do not use investments to generate commissions and are never compensated by anyone other than their client. They are not swayed to choose one investment over another based upon how they will be paid. It can be hard to determine whether an advisor is a Fee-Only Fiduciary or Fee-Based Dually Registered Advisor, but you can determine the difference by asking the right questions. Check out this Fiduciary Questionnaire that can help you differentiate between Fee-Only Fiduciaries and Fee-Based Advisors.   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 Mar 2023

Nick L.

Forgetting something? What to do with your 401k when leaving a job

Changing jobs can carry a mix of emotions depending on the reason for the career change. Regardless of the reason for the job change, one thing everyone needs to know is what their options are with their 401k account from a previous employer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that Americans will hold over 12 jobs over the course of their career. While younger workers are more likely to move around, the average job in the U.S. is held just over 4 years. Compensation and advancement are often the largest driving factors that leads people to make job changes. As people move from one phase of life to the next, sometimes they underestimate the importance of taking their retirement savings with them. While it may seem insignificant, making a conscious decision about your retirement nest egg can help you to keep moving forward financially. After you leave your job, you have four options for your old 401k account. Option 1: Leave your 401K where it is In most cases, you can leave your 401k in the former employer’s plan.  This option requires the least amount of work since there is no additional paperwork needed. Also, your account is still able to grow tax-deferred until you withdraw funds. While this option might be an easier option it may not be the most advantageous. One of the limits of a 401k plan is that there can be fewer investment options. Also, 401k maintenance fees may be passed on to you, which can increase the expenses of the 401k plan. Another restriction is that you cannot contribute to a 401k once you no longer work for that employer. Finally, it can be complicated to keep track of where you have funds if you have multiple 401k with past employers. Option 2: Roll it over your 401K to your new employer If your new employer has a 401k and the plan allows rollovers, consolidating your 401k from your previous employer with your new employer may make it easier to keep track of where your funds are located.  Earnings will accrue tax-deferred until you withdraw funds. Some 401k plans allow loans, by rolling over your previous 401k to the new one you may be able to borrow against that balance in the future. The are some potential downfalls of rolling over your 401k to a new employer. Most 401K plans have limited investment options.  Those investment options can be replaced by the plan trustee without your approval. In addition, record keeping and administrative fees of the plan may be passed on to you. Option 3: Cash out your 401k Cashing out your 401k is another option for an old 401k. While this option allows you to gain access to your funds, it usually carries a penalty if you don’t meet certain qualifications. If you withdraw the money from your 401k and do not meet the required qualifications for a withdrawal (such as age, typically 59.5, financial situation, or disability) you will be required to pay a penalty for the early withdrawal. In addition to the early withdrawal penalty, income tax may also need to be paid on the withdrawal. Option 4: Rollover your 401k to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) Rolling your 401k to an IRA allows for the most flexibility with your investment choices. This can give you access to mutual funds, exchange traded funds, stocks and bonds, to name a few.  You may also have greater flexibility with investments that provide income, such as dividends and interest.  IRAs can provide for greater flexibility with withdrawals and various tax withholding.  IRAs continue to allow for tax deferred saving. There are some possible disadvantages to using an IRA.  You are not allowed to take a loan against an IRA.  Depending on your investment choices there could be upfront commissions, high annual fees or even back-end charges limiting you from withdrawing money from the IRA within a certain period of time. It is important to remember everyone’s situation is different. When deciding what is the best option for you, it is wise to research all options and understand the fees involved with those options. These decisions are difficult, and you may want to reach out to a financial professional to assess your situation. In doing so, we suggest you work with a fiduciary, an advisor that works in your best interest. Shay Benedict Trading Specialist Shay joined Advisors Management Group in June of 2020. Shay works as a Trading Specialist for AMG. He works alongside the advisors to trade client portfolios. He helps to provide continuous improvement within the trading department, to ensure we meet our client’s needs. 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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09 Feb 2023

Nick L.

Tax Time Tips

Whether you are planning to do your own, or hire a pro, you are probably getting ready to file your tax return soon. You may wonder why you need to file a tax return. Think of your return like this, you probably made money from a few different sources (income) last year. You probably paid some tax along the way (withholding). You probably get some tax breaks (deductions). Your tax return adds up the income, subtracts off your deductions and determines how much tax you owe. This amount is compared to what you paid throughout the year. If you paid too much, you get a refund. If you didn’t pay enough, you have an amount due. As you assemble your documents, it can be helpful to understand what documents you should be looking for and how they tell the story of your prior year. Income Forms If you are an employee of a company: If you are employed, you will likely get a W-2. This form reports how much you made, taxes withheld and voluntary deductions such as health insurance and retirement savings. If you work for yourself: 1099-NEC is issued to those who work as consultants, independent contractors and those who take temporary assignments such as traveling health professionals. If you have bank accounts, investments or cashed savings bonds: If you have savings, be on the lookout for several different 1099 forms. 1099-INT reports interest earned. 1099-DIV reports dividends earned. 1099-B reports stock sales. 1099 Composite is a combination of 1099-B and 1099-DIV. These are commonly associated with checking, savings, and brokerage accounts. 1099-R reports income that comes from retirement accounts such as IRA’s and pensions. Note that if you rolled over a 401k to an IRA, you may receive a 1099-R even though you did not have a taxable event. If you are disabled or retired: If you are receiving Social Security payment in retirement, due to disability or as a survivor’s benefit, you will receive a SSA-1099. If you were unemployed: If you received unemployment benefits, you should expect a 1099-G. If you were a lucky winner If you won money or a prize as the result of a contest or gambling, you should expect to receive a 1099-MISC or W2G. Deduction/Credit Forms Forms for Homeowners 1098 reports mortgage Interest, Property Tax Bill. Education If you have a student with college tuition, their school will issue a 1098-T. Dependent Care If you have a child or qualified dependent in daycare or other dependent care, be sure to get a receipt from your provider that includes the EIN/Social Security number of the care provider. Renters Rent payments can be used as a deduction or used towards a credit on some state tax returns. In some cases, you may need a rent certificate from your landlord. Charitable Donations Due to the increased standard deduction, most people will not be able to use charitable donations on their federal return however, your state may offer some tax benefits for donations. Help for Those in Need If you have tax questions or need help preparing your taxes, but are unable to pay for help, check out resources in your community that aid low-income individuals, disabled and retired people in navigating simple tax returns at low or no cost. Organizations like Goodwill, VITA and AARP have volunteers on hand who have tax knowledge and can help those in need. Final Thoughts Many people find tax season to be stressful. Keep in mind that with a little up-front organization, tax season can be a breeze. Before gathering your documents for this year’s return, you may find it helpful to review last year’s return to see what forms you had last year. Use this year’s completed return as a planning tool for the year ahead. If you owed too much money or got too much back, consider adjusting your withholding. If you have deductions that you will lose in the coming year, you may also need to change your withholding. Small changes early in the year can help you avoid the unexpected next year.   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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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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08 Dec 2022

Advisors Management Group

Holiday budgeting tips: Helping you stay smart with your jingle

This year, the average American household plans to spend over $1000 this holiday season on gifts, decorations, travel to family, and holiday meals. This, on top of normal monthly spending, can make December one of the most expensive months of the year. Without a plan of attack, December’s holiday magic can easily turn into January’s credit card nightmare. Taking just a little time now (even just an hour) can save you a lot of stress, money, and time later on when you’d rather enjoy the holiday season. Keep reading for a few easy, important tips to get organized now for a successful shopping season later. Part one: 5-step early holiday shopping budget 1. Review last year’s budget Dig out last year’s shopping list. In today’s digital age, “digging out” last year’s shopping list is hopefully as easy as opening a saved file on your computer, tablet or smartphone. Take a look at who you shopped for last year and how much you spent. This can refresh your memory, help create a budget for this year and kick-start your new shopping list. 2. Set a maximum spend and account for extras Knowing how much you spent on gifts last year is helpful, but you should also survey this year’s financial situation to see how much you can afford to spend. If you have a savings account for holiday shopping, check the balance. Also see what expenses are coming up and make sure you have a cushion for emergencies. When creating a budget for the holidays, give yourself a spending limit for gifts and don’t forget to account for entertaining and party hosting, decorations and travel costs. For even more control over your budget, you can narrow down a budget per person on your shopping list. If this is sounding like more lists than you know how to manage, you’ll want to check out the next tip. 3. There’s an app for that Download a holiday planning app. Technology saves the day again: There are several helpful (and free) apps to help you plan, budget and organize the holiday season. Santa’s Bag is a popular iOS app that gives you an easy and colorful platform for budgeting, planning and checking off the items on your list. You can create a total budget amount and an amount per person, and the app will automatically update your budgets when you tell it how much you spent. The app allows you to enter everything from your gift ideas to whether an item has been purchased and even wrapped. Christmas Gift List is a similar solution for Android users with the ability to track all your shopping, keep an overall and per person budget, and even archive lists so you can check back on previous years. 4. Prioritize shopping After you start your list, you might notice there are a few gifts that are more specific than others. Your wife might be hoping for a new cashmere sweater, but your daughter has that specific new smartphone in mind – plus, she’d love it in that hard-to-find color. For gifts that will fly off the shelves early, make it a priority to get these first. Note which gifts on your list need early attention and which ones are more generic or flexible that can wait until later. 5. Subscribe to stores and coupon websites Now is the perfect time to get on the email lists of the stores where you know you’ll do most of your shopping. You’ll be first to know when they have flash sales or free shipping days. You can also follow the accounts of your favorite shops on social media for exclusive sales and promotions. Subscribe to coupon and cashback websites and sign up for alerts now, and you’ll have all the best deals hitting your inbox directly – the perfect solution when you need an idea for the sibling who has everything. See, that wasn’t too hard. Now that you spent a little time getting organized for the holidays, you can go back to enjoying the season. Part two: Tips for sticking to your budget (and saving money) 1. Shop online Using a credit card is the most secure way to shop online. It is easier to dispute a fraudulent transaction on a credit card than with a debit card. Remember not to charge anything you cannot pay off when the statement comes. Check multiple websites to make sure that you are getting the best deal. Aim to get free shipping and check for coupon codes. Avoid paying more for something than you should. Items like gaming consoles and other highly desired items are often sold brand new by private parties for a healthy upcharge to parents who are willing to pay anything just to get something that they can’t find in the stores. These items can often be purchased at a fair price after the holidays when the demand drops. 2. Avoid holiday scams and frauds Be mindful of your purse, wallet, and credit cards. Watch for skimming devices and be discreet about how you enter your PIN number. Track packages and know when they are being delivered. Arrange to have them shipped to your place of employment or to have a neighbor pick them up off your porch. Be wary of vendors selling goods online who ask for gift cards as payment. This is a common internet scam, and it is likely that you will not receive the goods you purchased. Review your credit card statements often. Report and dispute any suspicious transactions right away. More holiday budgeting tips from Advisors Management Group By being prepared and organized, you can save time and money so that you can focus on what really matters this holiday season. When you’re ready to get started with robust financial planning, call Advisors Management Group. May your shopping be stress-free and may your holiday season be merry and bright!

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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 2022

Nick L.

Retirement Myths and Realities

As financial planners, we hear all kinds of thoughts that people have about retirement. The fact is that no two people are the same and neither are two retirement scenarios. Your neighbor may plan on spending a whole winter in warm weather and you may prefer to stay near your children and grandchildren. There isn’t a right or wrong way to do retirement, but it is important to plan properly to make your ideal retirement happen. Let’s break down some of the common misunderstandings about retirement. Myth # 1 - I need $1,000,000 to retire You may need 1 million, 2 million, 10 million or perhaps you can retire on far less. It really is relative to what you need monthly to make your world go around. Let’s reframe this scenario and completely take a dollar amount out of the equation. You will need a certain amount per month to pay all your bills and pay for the extras you desire. If the mix of income, market growth, inflation, and distributions you have will provide what you need per month, you may be able to retire. Let’s say Jeff and Sharon are 65 and 67. They do not have a million dollars saved. They own their home and have paid off their mortgage and have no debt. They have normal bills such as utilities, insurance, home maintenance, and taxes. Additionally, they spend money on gas, groceries, gifts and other discretionary spending. Both Jeff and Sharon receive Social Security and Sharon has a teacher’s pension. These 3 sources of income pay for most of their expenses, but they do have other expenses that it doesn’t cover. They both have IRAs, and they have some money in accounts at their local bank. They withdraw a small amount from their IRAs to cover expenses that Social Security and pension does not cover. They work with their advisor to make sure they do not take too much money out of their IRAs, putting their portfolio in danger of running dry. Since their IRAs are invested, they see modest long-term growth that will allow them to increase their draw in the future as inflation increases their income need. This works well for them. A solid financial plan and an experienced advisor will help you to determine what you need to save, how much you need to accumulate and help you manage investments and plan out how to start to spend your money. Myth # 2 - I don’t have enough money saved to hire an advisor While there are some firms that require a certain level of wealth, many, like ours do not. We believe that having an advisor at all levels of wealth will put you on the right path to accomplishing your goals. If you wait until you feel your portfolio is large enough, you may not have enough time to change the path of your strategy. It is far better to seek help earlier in the game so that you can determine what is appropriate for your situation and what you will need to do to get there. Myth # 3 - My employer manages my 401k Nope, nope, nope…this is absolutely false. In fact, your employer cannot manage your 401k. Your employer is responsible for choosing suitable options for employees to invest in and getting the contributions into the plan, but they are not choosing what you personally are investing in or managing it for you. You will decide how much you’d like to contribute and what to invest in. There may be an investment person that will help you fill out the paperwork to enroll, but they won’t automatically make changes to your account through the years. Because a 401k plan sponsor (your employer) has a fiduciary responsibility to provide a suitable plan, many have included Target Date Funds or Lifestyle Funds to help investors select something suitable, but these are not personalized portfolios. Some financial advisors will help their clients oversee their retirement plans and adjust their strategy as they get closer to retirement. Some people may even decide to move a portion of their investments to IRAs as retirement approaches for a more hands-on approach to management. Myth # 4 - I should contribute all my savings in my pre-tax 401k to save on my taxes It is by no means wrong to save as much as you can afford in your pre-tax 401k, but it may not be the most tax efficient way to do things. In fact, you may want to include investments that are not in your 401k plan. Having different “buckets” of money that will be taxed differently will allow you to control tax in retirement and gives added flexibility to a retirement plan. You will however want to make sure that you continue to save enough in your 401k that you pick up any match that you are eligible for. Roth-401k - Many employers are offering Roth 401k as a supplement to the traditional pre-tax 401k. With Roth 401k you can use after tax dollars to fund the same employer sponsored plan. You won’t get a tax break this year, but you can take it out later without paying tax. Roth IRA - These work in a similar way as a Roth 401k; however, they are outside your employer’s plan. This puts you in the driver's seat when it comes to choosing the investments and allows for professional management. Again, you won’t get a tax break in the year you save it, but if you follow Roth IRA rules, you will be able to take it out tax free later. Please note that Roth IRAs are subject to income thresholds. Be sure to verify with your financial advisor or tax preparer that you are eligible to contribute. Brokerage - Retirement savings do not need to be in a retirement account at all. You can use accounts such as brokerage accounts or even bank accounts that are funded with after tax money to fund your retirement. You will owe tax when dividends and interest are paid on investments and when investments are sold at a gain. It is possible to control taxes by offsetting capital gains with losses as well. Brokerage accounts do not have the age restrictions on them like retirement accounts do; this allows you flexibility with retirement age and can be very useful if you are planning to retire before age 59.5. When you diversify your savings strategy, you also diversify your tax strategy which can pay off when it is time to start your spending strategy. Retirement Reality When considering what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to your retirement, it is important to know what facts apply to you. The perfect retirement is as individualized as you are. Working together with a trusted professional will help you to determine how you need to save, grow, and distribute the money you will need for your retirement. 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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