Stick to Fundamentals

Stick to Fundamentals when it comes to your retirement planning. At the very least focus on the fundamentals first. You start with consistently saving as much as possible from your first day of work. You add to that using all the tools provided by the Government, i.e. tax advantaged savings.  Next you focus on balancing fees and performance. You must keep in mind that fees will eat your returns alive. You also need to remember that retirement investing is a long horizon game. That means you should stay aggressive in your investing and not panic or chase markets. Lastly, when you do retire, change your mindset from accumulation to distribution. You are no longer adding to your assets, now you must make them last as you take income and enjoy retirement.

Stick to Fundamentals: Leverage tax advantaged savings.
This is not the first time and will not be the last that we mention Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). We also often comment on the incredible burden of healthcare in retirement. It is time you put the two together in your mind. Leverage the HSA structure to minimize the exposure in your later years. The Best Retirement Account You Don’t Know About Health Savings Account: Your Extra Retirement Funds

Stick to Fundamentals: Keep a keen eye on total returns.
Yes, we talk about fees a lot here, too, and they are hugely (bigly if you will) important. You still have to balance with performance. So, look at total returns or net returns, i.e. returns after fees. Vanguard is keeping the pressure on their competitors. More Fee Cuts at Vanguard
One interesting spin on total returns has to do with sequence of returns risk. It is hard to find a well written piece on this, but here is one. The bottom line is that when you retire matters. There are good years and bad years, and being aware may make a monumental difference. How Timing Impacts Your Retirement Portfolio Longevity

Stick to Fundamentals: Once you retire, change your mindset.
Once you retire you are no longer in the accumulation phase. Now, in the distribution phase, you have to manage principal, income and withdrawals. That calls for a different mindset. How to Invest During Your Retirement Years
Yes, you will find a million tips on how best to do all this. Here is one that balances the fundamentals. 3 ETFs to Help You Make More Money in Retirement

Optimizing Trump

We have turned our focus back to your retirement and plenty of disgruntled people out there will be well served by Optimizing Trump. What that means is identifying the potential implications of a Trump presidency for your retirement and addressing them now.

Optimizing Trump: Locking in things as best you can before it gets any crazier.
One of our common themes is income generation in retirement. Whether using tools like longevity annuities or investing in the finest dividend stocks, securing income streams matters.
Plenty of dividend stocks and funds, and plenty of tips on them, too. This one is intriguing, though. One of the Best Dividend Growth Stocks Around Regardless of the State of the Economy
This is way, way in the weeds for most, but it portends something worth understanding. The bottom line is that the Fed bought up lots of stuff in propping up the economy. Now, they are thinking about exiting some, specifically mortgage backed securities. It is good to be aware, at least. Everyone is suddenly worried about this U.S. mortgage-bond whale

Optimizing Trump: Finding weaknesses before they overwhelm.
Safe to say whether you like Trump or not, you probably expect there will be turmoil at some point. Turmoil equals uncertainty, and uncertainty drives volatility. If Trump Flares Up Uncertainty, Profit from These ETFs

Optimizing Trump: always focus on the fundamentals … fees, longevity, etc.
It has been some time since we have harped on the fact that you will live longer and that means you will need more savings. Perhaps the oracle of The USA Today will lend some credence to the argument. How much do you need to fund retirement? More than you think.
Now a somewhat different angle on the same topic…your spouse is likely not the same age. That matters. Retirement Planning? Couples, Mind the Age Gap

Refocus on Retirement

It always seems to be the best advice to focus on what you can control; right now that means Refocus on Retirement. As satisfying as a snarky Facebook post or march to Trump Tower may be, it will not improve your life. Getting your retirement strategy straight and working on your retirement account and assets, that will matter. Indeed, with only so many hours in the day, you are far better served by getting your retirement in order. You might find value in spending time with your loved ones after that. To this end, we return to our core value proposition here, delivering insightful reading on retirement topics.

Refocus on Retirement: Navigate a challenging environment
With equity markets on an extended tear, one must wonder when it ends. Market timers never prosper, but vigilance is very much in order.
As ETFs have prospered many have shifted from active strategies to passive. Is that still a good idea? When markets correct what happens to indices? What drove the performance in the first place? What if Everybody Became an Indexer? Financial Advisor Daily Digest US ETF Industry Growth Shows Signs of Maturity
Be prepared for a downturn by repositioning assets as needed. No magic, just an open mind: How to survive a ‘worst-case’
The uncertainty driven by the Trump Administration has generally worked favorably for US markets. Will that continue, or should you seek shelter now? Emerging-Market ETF Strength is More than Meets the Eye
In the same vein, volatility may be a decent play as the Administration finds its footing. Market Volatility Bulletin: VIX Back in Bed?

Refocus on Retirement: As always, find ways to optimize your retirement income
One obvious way to optimize your retirement income is though income generating investments. This REIT Yields 7.4% and Could Return Over 50%
Stay current in your awareness of dividend stocks. Dividend Champions for February 2017
Another great way to improve your retirement is leveraging the tax code. Retirement: Use extra cash to cover retiree health costs

Refocus on Retirement: As promised, your getaway section for this post
A getaway may simply be in your mind. Try these on for size, it won’t take long. 25 Shortest Jokes Ever
Here is a classic case of careful what you wish for … look at the budget numbers! Still, worth a side trip, at least. The world’s first “acoustically perfect” concert hall opens in Germany
Since we advocate saving money and traveling (well). These sites might help. The Checking Accounts That Let You Avoid Foreign ATM Fees The 12 Best Travel Sites and Apps You Need Right Now 

Washington Mayhem

Our political environment continues to be contentious and the Washington Mayhem shows no signs of abating. One might hope our elected officials would seek common ground, but there seems to be little appetite for this. Like it, or not, President Trump has been following through on campaign promises. Still the execution seems sloppy and Executive Orders always feel somehow illegitimate. The brevity, speed and seeming lack of vetting and buy-in on some of these have only exacerbated this inherent issue. The fact that the Senate has not moved on all the Cabinet positions leaves us unable still to judge the leadership style from the White House. Hope remains that a full Cabinet of independent thinkers, combined with an open minded President can yield effective policymaking. What can or should you be doing about this? Let us outline some options below.

Washington Mayhem: Become more involved.
Our government is meant to be of the people, for the people and by the people, right? In large part that means if you don’t like it, do something about it. Strangely enough the Tea Party is a manifestation on the right of this very concept. The talk is that the left may develop a Tea Party of their own as a counter weight. It is worth remembering that no small measure of success for the Tea Party has been heightened voter engagement. Marching and calling representatives is one thing, but getting involved in local politics – committees, town councils and the like – is the most pro-active approach.
Washington Mayhem: Find your quiet place.
One thing we likely all have too much of these days is connectivity. Perhaps a very good idea is to disconnect more. Put down your phone, stop checking the news sites, and find some solace in the forgotten quiet time of pre-internet days.
Washington Mayhem: Literally get away.
In our last installment we highlighted some good getaway spots and encouraged our Hollywood friends who promised to leave to please do so. Now, as we settle into the Trump Administration, here are some additional getaways worth considering. Note that these may not all be practical, but then are you really going to do it? The best hotel suites in the Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean 26 places you should visit before they disappear forever The 7 most incredible train trips to take in Europe 

Inauguration 2017

Today, Inauguration 2017, we witness the most divisive inauguration of our time, indeed since 1860. Yet this is so unlike 1860 when the nation was truly divided by an unconscionable practice which needed rooting out – yet drove the discontent in the electorate. Inauguration 2017 is borne of the most unlikeable candidates who yielded a President-elect whose brash, often offensive behavior creates deep dislike and distrust. Still, beginning today Donald J. Trump is our President, and everyone should hope for the best possible outcomes. Perhaps by focusing your energy on a single element of the Presidency the Country can come away better than we begin. I am most interested in the leadership element of this unusual Presidency.

Inauguration 2017: What will be the leadership style of Donald J. Trump?
Donald J. Trump has yet to follow a proven playbook in his drive to the Presidency. With his late night Twitter rants, relentless travel and off the cuff speeches he turned the process on its head. His failure to produce tax returns leaves the electorate blind as to his self professed business acumen, yet some things seem obvious: He is used to getting his way. He surrounds himself with his family. He does not react well to criticism. The Trump Organization is less real estate developer, more marketing machine. All this seems to indicate a command and control decision making style. This approach may work fine in a reasonably sized, family business, but the Federal Government is anything but this. Complex organizations with vast headcount and diverse areas of interest are far better led by leadership teams. The President is best served by choosing a capable, trustworthy team and letting them do their jobs.

Inauguration 2017: What to look for this Spring?
I think the first 100 days should be watched for evidence that this leadership team – The Cabinet – have agreed upon a clear direction and begun the work of translating that vision into actionable tasks. Whether this is a four year experiment or eight, the Trump Administration is best served by outlining a philosophical framework, garnering support from key stakeholders and driving to execution across the behemoth that is the Executive Branch – without undue check-ins with ‘dad.’ If we see this happen, we may actually make some progress during this term – progress we can all be happy with. That is what everyone should be hoping.

Getaway Special

We are into the New Year, with the inauguration just around the corner, and maybe it is time for a getaway special. With so much angst surrounding the inauguration, and so many celebrities committed to leaving the country, let’s look at travel. Perhaps you will be inspired regardless your political leanings. If nothing else, you may find some great ideas for 2017 and beyond.

Getaway Special: Finding the best deals…
Using the right tools can make a world of difference. These are worth a look. The 12 Best Travel Sites and Apps You Need Right Now
Maybe you just want to keep moving … seems there are plenty of ‘hot spots’ around the world these days. Staying mobile may improve your odds. How to Fly for Free on Every Business Trip

Getaway Special: If this is it for you, find a good landing spot…
Retiring offshore? Find a safe, cost effective destination with this list. Top 10 Best Retirement Countries for 2017
Then again, you may want to avoid the high profile city destinations. This list will help strike the right balance. Budget European City Breaks: Cut-price alternatives to Paris, London, Amsterdam and more
Wherever you choose, I bet you will want to stay connected. These tips will help keep you in the loop. 8 tech tips I learned while traveling abroad
If you really want off the grid, think private island. Your own coral atoll in the South Pacific

Getaway Special: Perhaps you are not ready to give up on the US just yet…
This is for you if you still love your country, but happen to share Meryl Streep’s take on the immediate future. These doomsday shelters for the 1% make up the largest private bunker community on Earth Luxury bunkers will protect 5,000 from the apocalypse – in style

Year-end Review

Most everyone is taking this week off from work, the perfect chance for a year-end review.

Year-end Review: Tune up your fiscal habits as we enter the New Year.
It is always good to start with the basics. Here you can check your progress and fine tune your approach. 2 Financial Resolutions You Really Need to Make Before the New Year
In a similar vein, but a longer to-do list, this has you checking fees and automatic savings. 9 Smart Money Moves to Make in January
While this may not be a year-end specific thing, you are not getting any younger. So, in the spirit of checklists, here is one for the must do pile. 5 Financial Steps You Should Take Before You Retire

Year-end Review: Do you think you are AOK on retirement savings?
If you have been reading along with each post you likely realize there is still work to be done. If that has not gotten through, or you have not been reading along, try this. My friend Ron Pressman gives a compelling, fact-based analysis of the US retirement situation. Please do have a look. The Retirement Savings Deficit in America

Year-end Review: Inasmuch as it is a week away for most, enjoy some diversionary things.
Who would not want to stay in the most beautiful places in the world? You may as well put some of these in your budget, while you are at it. The Most Beautiful Places to Stay in the World
Of course it did not end well for the old Czar, but boy did they live the high life. This one is really a flip through some unbelievable pictures. Life Aboard the Luxury Super Yacht of Russia’s Last Emperor
Google is full of surprises, and Google Earth and Google Maps are no exception. If you use them, you may be interested in these articles. Google Maps: 14 Hidden Features You Probably Didn’t Know Google Earth now has global Landsat and Sentinal 2 data from 1985 to 2016 and Google Earth Update Shows How Climate Change Has Morphed Our Planet

Christmas Medley

Christmas Medley, how can you resist naming this way? With Hanukkah and Christmas nearly concurrent this year, I am wish the very best of the holidays to everyone. No homework this time, simply things you may find interesting to steer the conversation out of a ditch in the coming week.

Christmas Medley: If you read one thing this holiday season, I implore you to read this.
The Jar
Christmas Medley: Do you like Rome or Game of Thrones?
If you do, you may like this new trilogy of books written by a historian with a love for the fantasy genre.  Epic Fantasy Meets Ancient Rome: An Interview with Michael Livingston, Author of “The Shards of Heaven” and “The Gates of Hell”
Christmas Medley: Fault me if you will, but do you like saving money?
You can never have too many money saving tips for airfare shopping. Plus, you can never be too up to date with your tactics. Here’s the latest from the Chicago Tribune. The best time to buy airline tickets and other travel advice for 2017
Maybe it isn’t all about saving money. Maybe it is about having the best possible experience. 9 travel hacks you’ll wish you knew all along

Christmas Medley: There must be a funny one in here to keep ready for a light moment.
Headline writing gone wrong … who needs fake news when you can have these goofs? Headlines Don’t Always Work Out the Way They Were Intended
Christmas Medley: Lists are fine, but with many of you off next week, here’s a good one.
So, you are off the week between the holidays, right? What will you be doing? The usual stuff, sure, but if you happen upon one of these, who’s to know? The cocktail-lover’s guide to 10 unforgettable, one-of-a-kind bars around the world

Successful Retirement

Just what is a successful retirement? Perhaps not having to work after you ‘retire’ is how you define it. More likely you are thinking about traveling, time with family, remaining healthy and active…good things. Fact is you should probably avoid the first thing before you focus on the others. Now, you may want to work in retirement, that’s fine. You may call it a ‘second act.’ Maybe you can truly devote your time and energy to a cause you support, or flip properties; more power to you. I think you can do everything right in your run up to retirement: saving more than you think you need right from the start, watching fees, being aggressive enough, etc. If you get the income side of the equation wrong, though, it can blow it all. This brings us back to a few recurring themes: longevity, expenses and withdrawal rates.

Successful Retirement: Just what do you need to do right to make it happen?
This author has put a lot of thought and effort into the right withdrawal rate. Fact is that longevity, fees and investment strategy are all important determinants. If you retire at 65, will you be retired for 40 years? For many of you, yes. That makes this article a must read. It is also a huge eye-opener (sorry). A ‘Safe’ Withdrawal Rate Highly Depends on Longevity and Asset Allocation
These may be repeats, but warrant repeating. The notion that a flat withdrawal rate will match reality is hard to fathom. This construct makes a lot more sense. You will slow down as you age, right? Then the medical bills will likely ramp up later, right? What is the ‘Retirement Spending Smile?’ and Retirement Spending Increases and Decreases Over Time
I really try not to annoy you with hard to read articles. This one makes some good points, but you have a short time to read it. So, keep reloading the page and work your way down. How Much Money Do You Need to Retire?
One thing is certain, your cost structure in retirement will matter. One way to effect that is moving to a lower cost of living. The 50 Cheapest Places to Retire in the US (I suspect my many NJ friends may not have considered Newark!)

Successful Retirement: As suggested above, it is not all about money. Keep your mind active.
And you thought it was a bunch of books. These 250-Plus Violins are About to be Owned by the US Government
Lots of you will make your way to NY City during the holidays. Maybe this is an interesting aside. Secrets of New York’s Grand Central Terminal (remember when that ceiling was black?)
You know this technology will make its way to your phone before too long. I can sure use it! NASA’s New Camera Is Straight from the Future with Incredibly Detailed Footage
This one is a warning that it is not that simple. Climate change is a controversial subject, and it takes more work than you think to understand. How did one volcano confuse scientists, ocean research?

Holiday Push

With Thanksgiving behind us we are into the Holiday Push. Hopefully you are closing deals at work. Holiday shopping is in full swing. You simply do not have time for this retirement stuff. Our regular readers know there is no time like the present to enhance your retirement. With the incoming Trump administration caution is likely the best watchword.

Holiday Push: Always keep doing the right things.
Doing the right things always start with watch your fees. How an extra 1pc investment fee will cost you 16 years of retirement income (don’t be fooled by the UK spin here, the math is the same!)
If you are a small business owner, a large business decision maker, or an employee interested in helping yourself and your fellow employees, consider this. Get Your 401(k) Fees Down Because Your Employees Deserve Better
In the spirit of the season, I’ll give you a contrarian position on fees, too … that is, sometimes active managers actually do earn their fees. Royce Special Equity Fund Earning It’s Fees
If you are in the income phase – retired already – then be sure you are generating income. You will find some interesting thoughts on that in these pieces: Despite Mistakes, a Dividend Growth Investor Retires Early, Part 1 Despite Mistakes, a Dividend Growth Investor Retires Early, Part 2 Good Grief, Don’t Jump Off This Dividend Machine High-Dividend Stock Yields 9%, Pays Monthly, 4 Dividend Hikes in 2016, More in 2017
This one is really interesting, if for no other reason than to understand how convoluted the oil and gas industry has become. Sunoco LP: a 15.2% Yield with Significant Upside

Holiday Push: In December we will ease off retirement focus and give you other valuable leads.
Stay alert, particularly during the holidays, to nefarious doings on your phone. What is spyware? How secret programs can see into your iPhone and record your calls
About that Taiwan phone call … what’s up? Donald Trump is aggressively provoking China. What is he thinking?
Do you realize that yesterday a milestone anniversary passed quietly by your door? Is it time to revisit the thinking behind the words? 20 Years Later, Greenspan’s “Irrational Exuberance” Has Become Even More Irrational

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