Should Your Investments Do More than Make Money?

Social responsibility is a rising phenomenon in the financial planning and investment world. Its roots can be traced to 18th century religious movements, such as the Quakers, who would in no way participate in the slave trade, and the Methodists, whose founder chided followers to avoid doing harm by avoiding industries such as tanning and chemical production. In the 1920s, socially responsible investing (SRI) tended to be more about avoiding “sin” stocks, such as tobacco and alcohol.  Today, however, SRI is becoming a common way for people with a wide range of values to express them in the marketplace. Read more

Take Control of Your Student Loan Debt

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One of the most effective ways to secure your financial future is to get rid of your current debt.  Student loans are growing source of debt among Americans, second only to mortgage debt. According to Forbes, the average U.S. college graduate now enters the workforce with $26,000 in debt, and 10% accumulate over $40,000 in student loans. This level of debt can be a tremendous burden and force borrowers to delay life important life events such as home ownership, starting a business, or starting a family.  Prolonged payments can also make it exceedingly difficult to save and invest for future needs. Fortunately, programs are available to help many borrowers lighten their debt load. If you are carrying student loan debt, dealing with it in the most cost-effective way possible should be a key part of your financial plan.  It’s important to know if you qualify for reduced payments and/or forgiveness of all or part of your student loans.  Failing to take advantage of programs like these might mean paying several thousand dollars more than you must toward your student loan debt. That is money that you could otherwise be using for retirement savings, buying a home, or funding your child’s education.

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Generation X Struggles with Retirement

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It’s not that we’ve been slacking…

The news about Gen X’s preparedness for retirement is less than encouraging.  Their plight is not, however, a result of the “slacker” mentality with which Gen Xers are often branded.  Workers currently in their mid 30s to late 40s have had a number of economic hurdles to overcome, including the bursting of the real estate bubble, a skyrocketing income gap that has been squeezing out the middle class, the stock market plunge, and massive student loan debt acquired at a time when we believed that a good education would translate into a good job. Read more

Retirement Planning for Small Business Owners

If you own a small business, chances are that it is tying up the majority of your wealth at the expense of your personal financial security.  That is what a recent survey by CNBC and the Financial Planning Association (FPA) found.  The poll sampled 178 financial advisors across the U.S. who provide services to small business clients aged 35-70 and found that on average, 70% of small business owners’ wealth is invested in their companies.  Many of the advisors expressed that this creates a high degree of financial risk for these business owners and their families. Read more

Marriage Financial Planning – Beyond the Wedding Plans

Many couples decide to get married without giving a lot of thought to financial planning. If your love is strong, you can figure out these little details, right?  Maybe, but by taking the time and energy to talk about your financial life together before the wedding day, you are giving yourselves a much better chance of marital harmony in the coming years.  If you and your betrothed have different attitudes, values, habits, and goals around money, it is much better to find this out now than after you have joined your financial destinies. Read more

Investing for Beginners: Index Mutual Funds

If you are new to investing, an index mutual fund is a logical place to begin.  Index funds have comparatively low costs and carry less risk than actively managed funds.  They obviate the need to pick outperforming stocks, since the fund’s purpose is simply to mirror its index through diverse investments.  Index funds also make it easy to maintain the asset allocation that is most appropriate for your needs.  Warren Buffet touted the virtues of the index fund in his 2014 letter to shareholders:  “The goal of the non-professional should not be to pick winners – neither he nor his “helpers” can do that – but should rather be to own a cross-section of businesses that in aggregate are bound to do well. A low-cost S&P 500 index fund will achieve this goal.”

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How to Shop for Your IRA

Deciding to open an IRA is an important step in your retirement planning.  Before you are ready to deposit funds, however, you have some additional decisions to make:

1.  Which type of IRA will you open?

2.  How much will you invest?

3.  How will you invest?

4.  What type of IRA provider will you choose?

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Pros and Cons of Annuities for Retirement Income

Annuities have seen a rise in sales in recent years.  While some financial advisors endorse them heartily, others are cautious, if not outright hostile toward this entire class of investments.  The appeal of annuities is the guaranteed income stream they promise.  Many investors are more hesitant to invest in equities in shadow of the market volatility that unsettled and even decimated many Americans’ retirement plans in too-recent history.  Guaranteed long-term income, even at modest rates of return, can be incredibly appealing.

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