What a week it has been, clearly it is time to focus, focus, focus. Donald Trump won the election by promising a whole lot of things. Not much of this has been done, one might argue none of it. Boy has there been controversy, though. Whether you agree that media reports and hearsay trump first person accounts from General McMaster or not, Congressional Democrats and the media will not let the latest story go. All this smoke seems to mean that any progress you were hoping for on taxes, healthcare, jobs, or any other important area of focus for the government is not likely to happen any time soon. That’s why you and I need to focus, focus, focus on what we can control. Sadly, this seems to be a theme of late because there is a never-ending stream of scandals or wanna be scandals. Don’t fall for it, wait for the process to work. Did you notice the reporting on Seth Rich and Wikileaks? http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/05/16/family-slain-dnc-staffer-seth-rich-blasts-detective-over-report-wikileaks-link.html Here, too, sensitivity to the nature of the underlying evidence produced – in both these cases none – is paramount, and the lack of actual evidence reinforces our topic today: focus, focus, focus.
Focus, Focus, Focus: Have a plan and stick to it.
There are only so many drums we beat here to help you navigate your way to a comfortable retirement. One of those is to have a plan and stick to it. This article reinforces this notion, pointing out that investor behavior is a big driver in returns. Don’t get sidetracked by Washington, please. Up on Trump or in the dumps, don’t invest emotionally
In that vein, here is a nice tutorial on why it is important to have a plan and stick to it. The Most Important Rule in Investing
Another important thing, have the right expectations. With retirement savings so anemic in the US, ever increasing longevity and related healthcare costs … what do you expect? This is somewhat cutesy way of slapping you on the same old retirement notion. A personal finance writer explains what too many people get wrong about retirement
Focus, Focus, Focus: Another dose of dividend investing ideas to keep you thinking.
Yes, dividend stocks and ETFs may not be the sole component of your strategy, but the right ones can provide income and principal protection. Here are some interesting takes on the space right now: Not all Dividend Growth ETFs are Created Equal Great Dividend ETF to Simulate Dividend Yield of 21.5% and Recent Price Declines Make MORL Attractive Dividend Champions Everywhere Patience Leads to Great Dividend Growth
We focus our effort on improving your retirement, today we start by looking at moving targets in Washington. Healthcare reform is dead. There is no coherent tax reform strategy. The budget talks will inevitably end in an impasse. They have no chance at a comprehensive immigration policy. Have you thought any of those things? Of course, you have, and now we have a stop-gap budget. There is a very high level White House outline of tax reform. The Affordable Care Act is back in the crosshairs, and immigration continues to brew on the side. Smart money seems to indicate that the House Republicans’ tax outline from last fall is the likely jumping off point. You can learn more about that here: http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/publications/analysis-house-gop-tax-plan/full. Should the ACA repeal and replace fail again (Don’t look now but the Republican health care bill is in trouble again. Again.) All the more reason to believe they will fight mightily to get something done on taxes.
The apparent lesson of the first 100 days is that this will not be easy. Turns out the Washington system is so dysfunctional that you cannot simply will it to work. Coalition building, which should be a deal maker’s forte, seems to be a giant vacuum. The far right of the Republican party want little to do with progress, standing on principle. The Democrats see that as an opening to stand firm. So, how does the deal maker in chief make these big things happen? Seems to me there will have to be some serious horse trading. If neither the Freedom Caucus nor the Democrats play, we may be in for a long two years. Unfortunately, big things need to get done and there is no template for making that happen.
With all these moving targets where does that leave you and me? Well, we have said this before, focus on what you can control. Today we will throw out a few facts, figures and ideas to help you improve your retirement. Perhaps a little pressure on your elected representatives to move some of these big agenda items will help, too.
Moving Targets: What is the landscape now? What can you be doing?
As always when it comes to major policy changes in DC, don’t hold your breath. It is best to plan given what you do know and what you can control.
Then again, knowing what you are up against is perhaps the best place to start. Imagine this, global central bankers continue to intervene in the world economy on unprecedented scale. Presumably this cannot go on forever … what is their plan? What is yours? BAML: The ‘$1 trillion flow that conquers all’ explains everything happening in markets
In the what else is new category we find another study indicating that Americans are not saving nearly enough for a secure retirement. Hopefully since you are this far down in the piece you are not among them … or committed to changing your ways. Only 1 in 10 Americans in Peak Financial Health
So, start working on your own situation. These 3 easy steps can improve your retirement savings – in less than an hour and Slash your retirement costs with these 5 tips (everyone read #3)
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
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
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.
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
With the election just behind us and year-end just ahead it is time to seriously consider your retirement status. Why not start with a behavioral check-up: are you doing the right things and enough of them? Follow that with a quick look at what a Trump administration might mean for your savings. If that scares you away – or the election did – by all means save money on your international flights!
Retirement Status: No time like the present to have a close look
First and foremost, don’t be overconfident. Americans have a dismal track record on saving for retirement. Do yourself a favor and stay on it. Think you’re prepared for retirement? Answer these six questions.
We often focus on longevity here, a corollary to that is aggressiveness. Since you will be retired for a long time, you need to invest appropriately. The old rules may not apply. 60% of Americans Invest Too Conservatively for Retirement, Study Shows
Always be looking for good tips. 3 Fantastic Retirement Tips and Tricks
Then, of course, we really do not know what a Trump Presidency will bring. So, be cautious and look for opportunities. How Trump Could Change the Retirement Landscape An Unexpected $12 Trillion Hole Emerges in Donald Trump’s Plan to “Make America Great Again”
Retirement Status: Tips if you plan to leave the US now (Kanye, Miley, Whoopi, etc.)
You may as well leave on the cheap, and I have come across a whole lot of good ideas on how. Revealed, the Secret Travel Tips that Airlines Don’t Want You to Know
Here is Why Using Google Flight Track Can Save You Serious Money
Never book flights on Fridays – and eight other tips for getting cheap airfares
I’ve Accidentally Discovered a Way to Save up to 75% on American Tickets
This week we have a hard look at your optimized retirement. Make sure you are not missing something in your retirement planning. Plus, keep a keen eye on your retirement plan … what is your goal and what is your strategy?
Optimized Retirement – never miss a trick.
If you are like most, you are behind the curve on saving. Here are some tips to beef it up as quickly as you can. 7 Retirement Planning Steps Late Starters Must Take
We can’t say it enough, make the most of your tax advantaged retirement plans. Four 401(k) Benefits You Should Take Advantage Of
This is not what you may think … beware of concentration in one company’s stock … your company. Wells Fargo Is Your Last Warning: Check Your 401(k)
No surprise here, but the mistake is pretty simple, be more aggressive. Over 50% of Americans are Making This Colossal Mistake How to Get Over Your Worries and Invest Like You Should for Retirement
If you are close to retirement, read this now. 5 Things Near-Retirees Need to Do Before Calling it a Career
Optimized Retirement – do your planning and start early.
This one is not precise, but it is thought provoking, and that is what matters. How Do You Know How Much Income You Need In Retirement?
Planning is great, but you need to act, too. Here are some reminders on that front. Retirement Planning Moves to Make Right Now
Here is an interesting blog focused on retirement income planning. Fish around, you may find something that strikes a chord. The Retirement Cafe
This blog is a little more basic, explaining some fundamentals, but that does not mean it is not worth a look. The difference between a managed fund and an index fund, for example, may be a worthwhile read for some. AssetBuilder
Optimized Retirement – this crazy election threatens to tear us apart, don’t let it.
For one thing, this is not the first time. The Top 10 Ways 2016 Presidential Politics Are So 1840
Now I will say this again, for those who get this far down, I take no side in this and feel everyone should educate themselves about each candidate … since most agree there is no perfect solution this time. So, with that in mind, I give you some interesting background reading. Even critics underestimate how catastrophically bad the Hillary Clinton-led NATO bombing of Libya was The Daily Trump The Clinton Russia Fiction HSBC case blows lid off Clintons’ offshore empire
This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day. Perhaps celebrate is too strong a word, or maybe we tend to lose sight of the reason for the holiday. Indeed, it is far too easy to get caught up in the ‘start of Summer’ mayhem typical for the cherished long weekend. So, I give you some perspective: since the Revolutionary War, US forces have suffered 1,354,000+ deaths and 1,498,000+ casualties (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_casualties_of_war). Of course, these days we hear a lot about PTSD and the epidemic of suicides in our veterans. When you are enjoying your weekend, I implore you to reflect a moment on the sacrifice made by these brave men and women to make that possible.
Busy week in the Presidential race.
Defying all odds, Donald Trump surpassed the 1,237 delegates necessary to secure the Republican nomination. Just what are we in for this Fall?
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton continued to have a rocky path to the Democrat nomination, with Bernie Sanders staying wholeheartedly engaged in the race and the State Department Inspector General releasing a scathing rebuke on the email server scandal. The Washington Post is the last place you expect to see critic of Mrs. Clinton, but Washington Post scorches Hillary Clinton in scathing editorial slamming her email setup. Even the AP is calling her to task: AP Fact Check: Clinton misstates key facts in email episode and Clinton email use broke federal rules
Even found a couple of good analysis pieces for your reading pleasure. How Hillary Loses and Trump, Clinton and Sanders: What’s the difference, fiscally speaking? Hint, it’s not a pretty picture.
As we enter peak travel season, some tips.
Do what you can to improve your travel experience. Travel like a CEO: Five experts on how to master the business trip and 13 Hacks for traveling like the 1% at no cost
Don’t get greedy, though, there are plenty of traps out there, too. Fraudulent hotel booking sites are more common than you might think – here’s how you can spot them
When you get to your destination, have fun. Amazing bars around the world to drink at before you die
Today we will focus our energy on Retirement Security. Fact is I often harp on fees and generating income, but keeping a sharp eye on your retirement security is equally important.
Retirement Security: Protecting what you already have.
I really like this one because it does what it says, gives you a simple set of rules you can easily follow to help ensure your retirement security. For Investment Success, Keep it Simple
This one is a little more complex, but it pretty clearly explains the tools you can use to get you retirement security through protecting your downside risk. Protect Your Portfolio Like a Pro
One way to protect what you have is to be prepared for ‘unexpected’ expenses. This study shows what has tripped up retirees before you. 17 unexpected expenses in retirement
As expected, the government is planning to do more to help your retirement security, too. Of course the DOL Fiduciary Rule is out there now and will go into effect by 2018, but that only covers your qualified money, i.e. 401(k), 403(b), IRA, KEOGH, etc. Now the SEC has announced they are following suit on the non-qualified money. No doubt the industry will bellyache and it will take a while, but it should be a good thing in the balance. We just hope there are few unintended consequences, like the potential for smaller investor (most people) to be frozen out of personal financial planning and advice. SEC plans to propose fiduciary rule next April
Construction Marvels Opening: These two projects represent meaningful change.
The Alps by their very nature are a natural obstacle of immense proportion. Here and there they have been breached in various, physical ways, but this takes things to a new level. Switzerland is opening the world’s longest-ever railway tunnel
On a much more impactful note, for the US economy, the Panama Canal expansion is finally set to open. The new Panama Canal is opening soon and will cause an ‘evolution’ in a vital US industry
A little entertainment from the coming election.
The Trump secret is finally out there … it’s all about Mar-a-Lago. Trump could win noise battle with the airport if he is president
The good and the bad of being in the public eye for ever. Clintonism screwed the Democrats: How Bill, Hillary and the Democratic Leadership Council gutted progressivism
Then there’s the other Trump secret … what’s up with that? A hair surgeon explains what’s going on with Trump’s hair