Financial Symmetry: Balancing Today with Retirement

When considering retirement, do you wonder what financial opportunities you may be missing? Busy lives take over and years pass without taking advantage. In this retirement podcast, the Financial Symmetry advisors unveil financial opportunities, to help you balance enjoying today so you are ready to retire later. By day, they are fiduciary fee-only financial advisors who answer questions about tax savings, investment decisions, and how to save more. If you’ve been putting off your financial to-do list or are just not sure what you’ve been missing, subscribe to the show and learn more at Financial Symmetry is a Raleigh Financial Advisor. Proudly serving clients in the Triangle of North Carolina for over 20 years.
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Now displaying: 2020
Dec 28, 2020

As we come upon a new year it is a good time to reflect on your finances and set goals.

Video Recap:

In this episode, we discuss 12 steps you can take action on to improve your financial outlook. If you’re looking to get off on the right foot in 2021, print out this checklist and run through it to find improvements you can make now.

12 easy steps you can take to improve your finances

Record your financial goals and positive habits. Writing things down is a great way to hold yourself accountable and see how far you have come. When you write down your goals you can refer back to them later. Our clients have the added benefit of using our Global Dashboard to help them keep track of their financial goals and habits. 

Check your estate documents. This is something that we all push off until later. Do your heirs a favor and review your estate documents now. Are they up to date? This can save your family a lot of headaches. 

Set up an income and expense tracking tool. You need to have an understanding of how much money is coming in and going out each month. When you start tracking your income and expenses you may discover a lot about yourself. It’s also a good idea to compare your cashflow this year with years past. What has changed?

Make sure you have emergency savings. The general recommendation is to have 3-6 months in an emergency fund, however, this can be specific to you and your situation. You may need more. If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that the world can throw you some unexpected situations and it is important to be ready. Where is your emergency savings fund?

Match and max your 401K. Are you taking advantage of the company match in your 401K? Can you amp up your 401K? It is important to remember that the company match amount is not the maximum that you can save. $19,500 is the IRS maximum per year. Are you maxing out your 401K this year? Did you have to make any adjustments to your savings? 

Review your investment strategy. There have been so many changes this year in the stock market this year. Your stock allocation may have grown so it is a good time to check whether your allocation is in line with your investment strategy. Remember that investment behavior is much more important than individual stock picks. 

Make sure you are maximizing tax efficiency. Are your assets the most tax-efficient? All accounts are taxed differently. Think about what assets are best to hold across which accounts.

Pay down high-interest debt. Many times we tend to ignore our high-interest debt, but it is important to understand how often you use debt. Focus on the interest rate and balance of your debts. What is your overall debt? Is it good debt or bad debt? Listen in to hear what we think of different types of debt. Our thoughts may surprise you.

Order your free credit report. Every year around the holidays there is an increase in fraud. Try using Credit Karma to keep track of your credit score.

Review your insurance policies. Do you still need life insurance, disability, or an umbrella policy? You may be carrying too much insurance.

Show me the money! Understand where your accounts are and how they are structured. Keep an inventory of where your accounts are and consolidate them if needed. Its easier to make decisions when you are organized

Communicate with your spouse. Are you both on the same page financially? Has your financial situation changed this year?

After listening to this episode feel free to download this sheet and print it off to use it as a checklist.

Read the full post here:

Dec 14, 2020

Motivated by the new book, How I Invest My Money, I (Mike Eklund) wanted to communicate how I manage my own money.  In our recent podcast, we discuss my approach with investments, savings, spending, debt, insurance, and what the money is for (goals).  We also review some of my core beliefs which include:

  • Spend less then you earn
  • Automate savings, investing, and anything else that you can
  • Invest the majority of portfolio in growth assets (stocks)
  • Spend money on experiences, relationships and to save time
  • Insure against big risks (life/disability)
  • Avoid high-cost debt
  • Keep it simple. Complicated is the enemy for most individuals.

Near the end of the podcast, we discuss one of the best investments I’ve ever made.   As a married father of four kids, it is our purchase of a lake cabin where we create many family memories.  This investment return is determined based on actual experiences as they far outweigh any financial return.

Finally, we finish with what the money is for.  Primarily three things:

  • Time to do the things we enjoy (family, friends, and staying active)
  • Freedom (peace of mind that we’re ok)
  • Legacy for kids (help them get started)

I hope you enjoy the podcast!

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:14] What are my belief systems about investing?
  • [4:45] How did my family shape his views about money?
  • [6:22] My views on net worth
  • [10:45] My views on investing
  • [15:03] Have I been scarred by my investment history?
  • [20:50] How much spending is too much?
  • [29:19] How do we manage risk?
  • [32:58] Creating moments is important

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect With Chad and Mike

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Nov 30, 2020

Growth stocks have been on a tear over the past several years. However, traditionally value stocks have been the big performers in the long-term. But with the rapid rise in growth over the last 10 years, are value stocks still worth it?

Video recap:

Today we explore the question: can value stocks still outperform in today’s environment? We’ll look at the data, provide you with the information, and then lay out action steps that you can take to act on what you learn.

What are value and growth stocks?

Before we begin to explore our question we need to clarify the difference between growth stocks and value stocks. Growth stocks are faster growing, more expensive, and have a lower dividend yield. They are those stocks that you hear about on the news: Facebook, Tesla, and Google are a few. Value stocks have slower growth, are cheaper, and have a higher dividend yield. These are the ‘boring’ stocks and include Berkshire Hathaway, JP Morgan, and Wal-Mart. 

Is this time different?

Let’s look back at history to compare the two types of stocks. From 1926-2010 value stocks grew 12.4% per year whereas growth companies returned 9.8% per year. However, the last ten years have been very different. 

Over the last 3 years, growth stocks have outperformed value stocks by 21% per year. This is the highest 3-year difference on record. Which begs the question, is this time different? Listen in to hear about a similar time period in history. 

Can you really compare this new economy to the 1998-2000 economy?

Much of the growth that we have seen over the past 3 years has been driven by FAANG stocks (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google). It seems like these stocks could keep growing forever without any competition. And most recently they have all accelerated their growth with the Covid situation. On the flip side, value stocks have been hit hard by the pandemic. 

But are the growth stocks becoming overvalued? Will this growth end up collapsing like the tech bubble of the late 90s?

How do we adjust our investment strategy?

Do you have an investment strategy? It is important to implement a disciplined, rules-based process. Have a process, have a plan, and stick with it. At the end of the day, investor behavior is the key to success.

We’re not saying that you shouldn’t own growth companies, we simply recommend a using diversified approach. We like to say that something in your portfolio should always stink. What does your investment strategy look like? Do you have a hard time hanging on to the losers? 

If you are interested in working with a professional to help you come up with an investment strategy, consider using a fee-only financial advisor. Learn what makes fee-only financial advisors different by visiting our website

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:43] What are value and growth stocks?
  • [7:12] Why has growth outperformed value by so much over the past 3 years?
  • [12:25] How can you compare this new economy to the 1998-2000 economy?
  • [14:10] How do we adjust our investment strategy?
  • [17:18] Today’s progress principle

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Nov 16, 2020

Have you been offered an early retirement package?

Video recap:

Early retirement packages are on the rise. Companies are often looking for ways to cut costs and one way to do that is to give highly compensated employees an incentive to ease into retirement. Usually, these packages offer a one-time payment and sometimes they come with a period of additional healthcare coverage. 

If you are offered an early retirement package many questions will arise. Is this a good deal? Is the package negotiable? What will I do about health insurance? And, of course, should I take it? 

On this episode, Mike and I will give you the tools to create a framework to think about the questions that early retirement packages bring. Listen in to learn how to weigh this huge decision. 

How does this early retirement package affect your long-term financial plan?

Before you consider anything else you need to think about how this package fits into your long-term financial plan. Receiving a lump sum can give you a lottery mindset, so you’ll need to consider what is most important to you. How would this package fit into the bigger picture of retirement?

This is a good time to ask a professional for help. If you are working with a financial advisor, you’ll definitely want to ask their opinion. A financial advisor can help you spot risks and opportunities that you may not have otherwise seen. Mike has some questions you may not have asked yourself about this early retirement package, so make sure you listen in to hear all the questions. 

What about insurance?

The main reason that many people decline an early retirement package is due to insurance. You may want to see if health insurance is a negotiable part of the package. Sometimes the company will offer to pay for your health insurance for a certain period of time. 

You can also check into COBRA coverage which will guarantee you 18 months of health insurance coverage under your old plan--just be prepared for a bit of sticker shock. 

Another way to cover your health insurance is to check into the ACA healthcare exchange. Be sure to weigh all of your healthcare options before signing the deal. 

How will this influence your tax picture down the road? 

So many tax opportunities pop up with an early retirement package. You’ll want to consider all the ways that you can save on taxes if you do decide to accept it. Do you have a health savings account? If so, make sure to max it out. Have you maxed out your 401K for the year? What about your company stock?

If you are under 59 ½, where will your income come from? When do you plan on taking Social Security? Now is the time to plan how to build your ultimate retirement withdrawal strategy. 

Ask yourself: what’s next?

Will you be able to transition into retirement successfully? The answer to this may be dependent upon whether you are retiring from something or to something. This is why it is important to consider what’s next. 

Will you relax on a beach somewhere, find another job, become a consultant, or try your hand at entrepreneurship? An early retirement package can bring about myriad choices, but you need to make sure that you are financially prepared to accept them. 

Outline of This Episode

  • [3:15] How does this decision affect your long term financial plan?
  • [8:02] Health insurance often makes or breaks this offer
  • [10:02] How will this influence your tax picture down the road? 
  • [15:04] Ask yourself: what’s next?
  • [17:43] Alternate scenarios
  • [18:40] The progress principle

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect With Chad and Mike

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Nov 2, 2020

While the FAANG stocks have been the most obvious enviable stock positions over the past decade, there are always success stories readily available to raise feelings of doubt and FOMO in even the most disciplined long-term investors.

Video recap:

For example, investors who purchased $100,000 of Zoom stock at its IPO price of $36/share in April of 2019 would have earned a cumulative rate of return of about 590% and built a nest egg of ~$650k.

Zoom is one of the most recent examples of a company whose stock performance has exceeded expectations so wildly over the past 18 months that it is tempting to wish we were a part of the action and predict that those results will continue in the future, making us very wealthy in the process. After all, the path to extreme wealth is often created through very concentrated positions in individual companies. Examples include Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and many others. What made them so lucky? And why shouldn’t we be able to identify companies that will post results like these?

While individual stocks might not kill us, they do pose catastrophic risks that have the potential to be detrimental to our wealth. The nature of individual stock returns was studied in detail in Hendrik Besseminder’s 2018 study in the Journal of Financial Economics, “Do Stocks Outperform Treasury Bills?” which covered stock performance from 1926-2015. These are some of the key findings:

  • A minority of common stocks have a positive lifetime holding period return, and the median lifetime return is -3.7%
  • Only 3.8% of single-stock strategies produced a holding period return greater than the value-weighted market, and only 1.2% beat the equal-weighted market over the full 90-year horizon
  • Just 42% of common stocks have a holding period return greater than one-month treasury bills

While the data is compelling that the odds are stacked against us on individual stocks, often the allure is just too strong. There is no reward without risk, right? Some of us may still want to take advantage of the growth potential of an individual stock position for any number of reasons. Maybe you want to have ownership in the company you work for or do business with frequently. You may have also inherited or been gifted individual stock positions. These might even have sentimental value for your family. Or you may just have a feeling about that company. If you find yourself in one of these situations, we recommend setting a decision-making framework for how you will buy, hold, and sell these positions:

  • Perform a portfolio Deep Dive. If you are holding a portfolio of diversified mutual funds or ETFs, it’s likely you already hold a position in the stock(s) you are considering. This means you have already been riding the wave of success and benefiting from the stock’s stellar performance. It has simply been less visible, and the return was muted by subpar performance in other areas. Diversification means you will always hate something in your portfolio, but it also gives you the best odds of long-term success.
  • Decide how much. If after performing your portfolio analysis you still decide you want to buy an individual stock, you will need to choose a prudent amount. We recommend individual stock positions account for no more than 5-10% of your portfolio. You don’t want to be overexposed to a position that has the potential to kill you, even if it might make you a killing.
  • Consider Taxes. While we never want to let taxes guide our investment strategy, it is prudent to consider how tax-efficient the position will be. If the outsized returns you expect come to fruition it may be beneficial to purchase the position inside your Roth or Traditional IRA for tax-free or tax-deferred gains. Conversely, you may be in a high tax bracket now, but expect that to fall in a few years when you retire. This may present the opportunity to realize any capital gains at a lower rate or even 0% in the future. Take a peek at your financial plan for context.
  • Set target prices for buys and sells. Often the stocks that feel most attractive are those with fantastic recent past performance. They are also often very expensive relative to their peers and the broader stock market. Researching the company’s current and historical price to earnings ratio as well as estimates of fair market value is informative for making buy, hold, sell decisions.
  • Ask: What if I am wrong? Our natural tendency when faced with the prospect of incredible return potential is toward overconfidence. Make sure your answer to #2 is an amount you are willing to say goodbye to if the outcome is not what you hoped for.
  • Ask: What if I am right? If your hopes and dreams come true with a winning stock pick it is important to set rules around trimming that position back to target to periodically take profits, diversify, and reduce risk. Recognize that dabbling in individual stocks is a form of gambling, and it is important to know when to walk away.

For further reading on creating a decision-making framework and avoiding common investor pitfalls, we recommend Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow,” and“Decisive,” by Chip and Dan Heath. If you find yourself called by the Siren Song of an individual stock or deciding how to manage positions you may already own, please contact us to discuss the best approach for your personal situation in more detail.

Outline of This Episode

  • [3:03] If others can do it, why can’t I pick a winner? 
  • [6:20] Industrial change can happen very quickly and cause a shift in industries
  • [10:02] Perform a portfolio deep dive
  • [12:36] Don’t choose an individual stock to make up lost ground
  • [15:02] Consider taxes
  • [17:16] Set target prices to buy and sell
  • [19:39] Ask yourself “what if I’m wrong?”
  • [20:39] Ask yourself “what if I’m right?”
  • [22:34] List the potential scenarios

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Oct 19, 2020

Estate planning is one of the most overlooked and procrastinated upon areas of financial planning.

Video recap:

While your legacy is important, it doesn’t generally take the front seat of your thoughts or your financial plan. There’s more to legacy planning than just having a will, but how much more depends on which stage of life you’re in. Find out what you should be doing to plan your legacy whether you’re in your 30s, 40s, 50s, or 60s by listening to this episode of Financial Symmetry. 

What should someone in their 20s and 30s be doing about their estate planning?

When you’re in your 20s and 30s legacy planning starts with creating a will. A will gives you a good foundation and will get you thinking about electing your beneficiaries. You’ll also want to select your beneficiaries on your investment accounts. 

Once you get married and start having children, then it’s important to keep your plans updated. It’s also a good time to get term life insurance. Make sure to revisit your will and the beneficiaries on your investment accounts periodically or with major life changes like a move or a new baby. 

What are the important legacy planning considerations for someone in their 40s?

When you’re in your 40s you probably have more accounts and higher balances than you did in your 30s. Have you kept up with all of your retirement accounts from previous employers? The key to staying on the right track is to stay organized. Make sure to check in on your beneficiaries and estate documents from time to time. 

Tax planning is important in your 50s and 60s

If you are in your 50s and 60s you may be in the sandwich generation. This means you may have elderly parents and your own kids embarking on adulthood. This is an age when many really start thinking about their own legacy. It’s a good time to start thinking of Roth conversions. You can start tax planning not just for yourself but for your entire family. Think about how you can pass on your assets with the most after-tax value.

What should you do if you inherit money?

If you receive an inheritance there are different things to consider depending on your age and financial situation. You may want to consider paying off loans, buying a house, or even taking a mini-retirement. Having a financial plan in place can give you the confidence to do exactly what you want with those funds. 

Estate planning is usually the last item on your financial planning list of things to do and it often takes another person to spur you on. A professional like an attorney or a financial planner often help guide you through this process. Let us know if you would like some help getting your estate planning in order. Plan today to make the most out of your retirement.

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:30] What should someone in their 20’s or 30’s be thinking about with estate planning?
  • [5:31] What are important legacy considerations for someone in their 40s?
  • [8:03] When you’re in your 50s and 60s it’s a good time to think about tax planning
  • [13:22] What should you do with an inheritance if you’re in your 20s or 30s?
  • [17:16] What can people in their 40s do if they know an inheritance is coming?
  • [21:52] How does your mindset impact how you use an inheritance?
  • [25:07] Start the conversation with your family 

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Oct 5, 2020

We know the COVID-19 global pandemic has affected everyone in unique ways. Today we want to discuss how this health crisis has affected women, specifically financially.

Video recap:

As working mothers, we have felt the impact of these daily changes acutely. According to Goldman Sachs “single parents, parents with young children and parents who can’t work from home are the groups most at risk to stop working entirely because they have no child care.”

Pre-pandemic the US labor force was split roughly 50/50 between men and women. However, women’s participation rate has always been directly tied to accessible childcare and pandemic-related job losses have disproportionately impacted women. With most schools resorting to distance learning and many childcare options off the table, families are struggling. Many solutions include working mothers putting their careers on hold. According to a study by the US Census Bureau, women are 3 times more likely than men to have left their job due to child care issues during the pandemic. This has negative implications for both the economic recovery and women’s future financial health.

We already know women face unique financial challenges due to three main issues:

In the current health crisis, these disparities have had more severe implications for women of color and millennial women. Sadly, these financial differences compound over time and can have devastating effects. As women grow older, they are also more likely to face poverty. According to the Social Security Administration 17.3% of nonmarried elderly women are living in poverty today. The figure below illustrates the higher poverty rates women over 65 experience in almost every category: 

An article in the New York Times posited that this “Pandemic Could Scar a Generation of Working Mothers.” If that happens it also has the potential to increase the pre-existing retirement challenges women face later in life. While these trends are discouraging, the stakes are higher than ever for women to take control of their financial futures. The current situation also presents new opportunities as companies are more open to hiring a diverse workforce outside their local network. This is one silver lining of the pandemic: companies now have an expanded talent pool to choose from. If your current employer does not allow the necessary flexibility, you may be able to find a better fit. We recommend the following checklist to help you stay sane, maintain your earning power, and safeguard your finances:

We recognize there are no easy answers right now when it comes to meeting increased care giving demands while balancing career aspirations and financial stress. If you have questions about the best way to balance these changing demands with your long term financial goals, please contact us to speak with one of our financial advisors. We have four female advisors who are passionate about these issues and would love to help you position yourself for financial success.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:27] Challenges women are facing during the COVID-19 crisis
  • [4:30] How has the pandemic affected women’s spending?
  • [8:32] One benefit of working from home is working from anywhere
  • [11:22] Work-life balance is a new struggle for many women
  • [13:32] This checklist can help you stay sane during these trying times
  • [15:58] What are you doing to stay healthy?
  • [20:33] It’s okay to accept help

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Sep 21, 2020

Every 4 years it happens: an election comes along and threatens everything. Or so it seems.

Video recap:

Regardless of how you feel about the candidates, we’re here to discourage you from making fear-based financial moves. Learn how to overcome your emotions so that you don’t derail your careful long-term investment strategy. 

The media won’t help you achieve your financial goals

It’s hard to get away from the drama of the election coverage. It’s everywhere you look: on the TV, in the newspapers, and even from the notifications on your phone. This kind of round the clock, in your face news coverage can heighten your anxiety about the state of the world and even make you worry about your investments. It is important to remember that the media is not there to help you. Its goal is to sell advertising, not to help you achieve your financial goals. 

While 2016 may seem like a distant memory, many investors were concerned at the time that a Trump victory would surely tank the stock market.  We fielded a lot of calls leading up to the 2016 election discussing if a more conservative approach should be taken, at least until we had more certainty.

While Trump’s victory was a surprise to many 4 years ago, it certainly was not devastating for the stock market.  In fact, the S&P 500 with dividends returned 21.83% in the following calendar year of 2017. 

Investors who moved into cash to await more clarity would have swiftly regretted their decision.  Check out the chart linked below which shows annualized returns for each president dating back to 1969 with the red and blue bars depicting results for Republicans and Democrats.

How to stay focused on long-term financial results during an election year

Staying focused on your long-term financial goals can be a challenge when the short-term seems so uncertain. People often feel tempted to time the market when the world feels up in the air. It’s important to remember that the market is influenced by many other events, not solely the election. So even if it seems that the election is the only thing going on, you need to stay focused on your long-term financial goals, stick with your investment plan, and avoid market timing.

Focus on the facts to help you through uncertainty

One way to help you stay focused on your long-term financial goals is by looking at the facts. If you were thinking that this might be a good year to sit out the stock market, you may want to think again. On average, the stock market return in an election year is 11%, which is well above average.

Another surprising fact is that it doesn’t matter to your portfolio who is in the White House. There is actually no correlation between stock market performance and which party leads the country. Listen in to find out which two presidents saw the same economic growth during their first three years in the Oval Office, the answer will surprise you.

Focus on what you can control

In investing, there are many factors that are beyond your control. However, that does not mean that your entire financial life is uncontrollable. Actually, the factors that you can control have a lot more to do with your financial success than which investments you choose. Think about all you can control: your cash flow, when you need money, when you stop earning income, what your income sources in retirement will be, how you pay for healthcare, and your estate planning. These controllables are much more important to your financial well being.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:42] We go through this emotional roller coaster every 4 years
  • [7:35] Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing
  • [10:24] Have an investment plan and stick with it
  • [13:14] Focus on what you can control
  • [14:44] Today’s progress principle

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect With Chad and Mike

Sep 7, 2020

2020 has been a year of change. The pandemic has given people an opportunity to rethink their lives and many have been rethinking their career.

Video recap:

Whether you are one of the millions of people that have been forced into a job change or whether you are considering a professional pivot on your own, there is a lot to think about when changing jobs.

On this episode, Grayson Blazek and I will walk you through all the considerations when taking on a new job. If you are rethinking your career listen in to hear how you can take advantage of your human capital. 

Think about the total compensation not just the salary

Often when we consider a job offer there is only one number we look at. But there is more to a job than the base salary; it is important to consider the total compensation. The base salary helps you plan your monthly expenses but understanding the bonus and stock compensation is also important. 

When thinking about the bonus structure of a potential job you’ll want to consider the target. Ask what the confidence in that target is. You’ll also need to understand how the bonus incentive works. How often does it payout? Is the bonus based on your personal performance or on the performance of the team?

Some other financial considerations are the stock options and the sign-on bonus. That hiring bonus can be enticing, but don’t let it cloud your judgment. Remember a hiring bonus is only a one-time payment. 

Consider the benefits package

When comparing job offers you’ll also want to compare the benefits package. Make sure to request an employee benefits brochure if they haven’t given you one. The benefits package is often seen as secondary to the financial compensation but those benefits can add a lot of value to your life.

First of all, you’ll want to consider the healthcare plan. Does the company offer one? How does it compare with your current plan? How much of the plan is covered by the employer? Do they offer an HSA?

Healthcare isn’t the only benefit to consider. What about life insurance and disability? Does the company offer a student loan repayment program? How about a fitness membership. Consider the entire benefits package and how it could add value to your life. 

What is the retirement plan like?

In addition to the health benefits and salary, you’ll also want to investigate the retirement plan that comes with this new position. Do they offer a 401K? Will they match your contribution? What are the plan costs? What about vesting, will you actually realize that vesting period? Do they offer other ways to save for retirement?

Your human capital is one of the biggest assets you have and the way you spend it will greatly impact your financial future. So when considering a job transition, there is much more to think about than the base salary. Tune in to this episode to discover all the details you need to consider when evaluating a job change.

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:50] Think about the total compensation not just the salary
  • [8:30] What is included in the benefits package?
  • [13:42] What is the retirement plan like?
  • [20:22] Does the position include an employee stock purchase plan?
  • [24:31] What about the flexibility factor?
  • [27:54] Consider all your details

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect With Chad and Mike

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Aug 24, 2020

We know how important it is to save for retirement, but at the same time, it’s important to enjoy life now. In this episode, we’ll walk you through how to set up a framework for your investment strategy.

Short Youtube Recap:

You’ll learn how important your behavior is to your investment success, how to think through your asset allocation choices and finally how to select the investments themselves. 

Investment behavior matters more than any investment you pick

What is your investment approach? How you make decisions with your investments can make or break your investment success. You may think that your returns are solely based upon which investments you choose, but the reality is that your investment behavior figures into your returns much more than any specific investment that you choose.

Think about last March. What was your reaction to that volatile market? Did you buy, sell, or do nothing? Even though it’s challenging to know how to react in those moments, in a volatile market every move you make counts.

The dominant determinant of long-term, real-life financial outcomes isn’t investment performance; it’s investor behavior. –Around The Year with Nick Murray

Asset allocation is also important to your investment strategy

The second driver to success in investing is your asset allocation. Asset allocation is simply the measure of how your portfolio is dispersed. How much do you have invested in stock and bonds? What percentage of your stocks are US-based? What percentage are international? Asset allocation also takes into account whether your stocks are large-cap, small-cap, etc. Your asset allocation is an important part of realizing your investment returns.

How we pick investments 

It’s important to have an independent mindset to help you pick your stocks. You don’t want to just follow the pack and do what everyone else is doing. There are several key areas that help us choose stocks at Financial Symmetry. The areas are ethical company culture, low costs, evidence-based, tax-efficient, and whether it is repeatable. We continually ask questions about the investments we choose. And if we don’t like the answers, we don’t invest in those companies. 

Do you have an investment plan in place?

What is your investment plan? Think about the strategy that you have used to make decisions about investing. An investment plan includes more than investments, it encompasses behavior and asset allocation. If you don’t have one consider working with a fee-only financial advisor. Having an investment plan could be the difference between a successful retirement and an uncertain one. What is your investment strategy? Try taking the quiz in our blog post to determine your investment composure.

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:25] Investment behavior matters much more than any investment that you pick 
  • [5:28] How to pick investments
  • [9:41] Active funds vs passive funds
  • [14:41] Process is important
  • [19:50] Think about the strategy that you have used to make decisions about investing
  • [20:12] Progress principle of the day - take the quiz

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect With Chad and Mike

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Aug 10, 2020

There are fundamental principles that we all need reminders of from time to time. As kids and grandkids are heading off to college, we're talking through 6 core principles to getting off on the right financial footing. We also include a chart demonstrating the power of saving 15% of your income. 

Youtube video recap:

If you can follow these 6 steps, it's very likely your future self will thank you.

6 Tips to Begin on the Right Financial Foot

  1. Know where your money is going. Track your spending. Review your spending periodically so that you can hold yourself accountable. Budgeting brings awareness to your spending and money habits. There are many online tools that you can use to help yourself with this task. 
  2. Don’t underestimate the impact of a large purchase on your finances. People often underestimate the impact of a large purchase such as a large house or car. Big purchases that you aren’t ready for can really impact your future self. The payments you make toward these purchases add up over time. Give yourself more freedom by buying smaller. It’s also important to keep in mind the total costs associated with those large purchases. Maintenance and insurance increase the costs of those big purchases. When contemplating a large purchase think about the time value of your money. This exercise can really help you make these decisions.
  3. Sign up for your employer-sponsored retirement plan. It’s important to take full advantage of the retirement plan that your company offers. Make sure that you are signed up for the company matching option if it is available. You want to take full advantage of compounding interest over the course of your working life. 
  4. Invest in a Roth IRA. The Roth IRA gives you 30-40 years of tax-free growth. You may not have access to a Roth as you get older due to income limitations, so it is a good idea to take advantage of it while you can. 
  5. Don’t skip risk planning. Young people often think of themselves as invincible, but life carries risks. Plan for those risks accordingly by utilizing health insurance, life insurance, and disability insurance. It is also important to create estate documents like a will as well as a financial and healthcare power of attorney. 
  6. Discuss money in relationships. Discuss goals and financial expectations with your partner. Don’t shy away from discussing your feelings about gifts, debt, saving, and investing. 

Visualize your future self

Your ability to create wealth impacted by your ability to earn as well as understanding how you spend money. If you have had trouble saving and investing, visualize your future self. When you are making a decision think about how it will affect you and your finances, not just now, but 20 or 30 years from now. What are you doing now to help your future self?

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:35] Know where your money is going
  • [5:15] Don’t underestimate the weight of bigger purchases
  • [7:23] Sign up for your employer-sponsored retirement plan
  • [9:27] Invest in a Roth IRA
  • [11:23] Don’t skip risk planning
  • [14:00] Discuss money in relationships
  • [16:38] Today’s progress principle

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Haley Modin

Connect With Chad and Mike

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Jul 27, 2020

2020 has brought us a new reality with our vacation mindsets. With many vacation plans put on hold or completely cancelled, the pandemic has become the impetus for second homes becoming more of a reality.

Short Youtube video recap:

If you have been considering purchasing a second home, we lay out 5 questions to consider as you're analyzing your purchase decision.

Questions to ask yourself before buying a second home

Have you ever considered buying a lake house, beach house, or mountain house? Vacation home purchases have surged this year, quadrupling the sales of last year. After an amazing vacation, some people want to jump right in and buy. But before you apply for that second mortgage there are some questions you need to consider. 

How much can you afford?

Many people only consider the cost of the mortgage, but with a second home, there is much more to consider. Where will you get the down payment? How will you pay 2 sets of utilities? Will you have 2 HOA’s to pay for? If you or your spouse lost a job, how would you continue to pay for this second home? Remember, typically a second home is not a great investment. They can be hard to sell and generally do poorly in recessions. Another important consideration is: how will this purchase impact your other financial goals? 

How often will you use it?

When will you use your new home? Every weekend? Winters? Summers? Will you rent it out? Consider whether you really want a second home, or 2 nice beach vacations a year. 

How much time will you use it? Will you feel like you have to go there? Will it limit other vacations? Is this really where you want to spend all of your time? 

Many people end up selling their vacation home because they realize that they didn’t use it as much as they had envisioned. How close is it to your primary residence? Oftentimes, the amount of use a vacation home gets is based on proximity to one’s house.

How will your life be affected by a second home purchase?

Remember there are not only the financial costs to consider but the time cost as well. Another house means more maintenance. This upkeep requires a financial cost but it could also mean that you have to spend your own personal time fixing up the place. What will you be giving up in return for the new house? 

If you are still keen on the idea of purchasing a vacation home after answering all of these questions, listen in to hear what steps you should take next are. 

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:37] This year second home purchases have increased
  • [4:19] How much can you afford?
  • [7:40] How often will you use it?
  • [9:16] How will your life and kids’ lives be affected by this purchase?
  • [10:32] What about the ongoing maintenance?
  • [13:07] Describe your ideal second home
  • [13:45] How far is it from your home?
  • [15:47] Do you plan to rent it out?
  • [20:57] The key takeaways from today

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect With Chad and Mike

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Jul 13, 2020

You spend half your life preparing for retirement, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be surprises when you get there.

YouTube Recap here:

Retirement can bring on both positive and negative surprises, so it's important to prepare the best you can beforehand. So in this episode we breakdown the different kinds of surprises you may experience in retirement and how you can be ready.

A year of surprises

2020 has been a year of surprises. It seems that every time we turn around the world has something new in store for us. Life has changed substantially and we are all dealing with a new reality. A changing reality amidst retirement can be scary if you aren’t prepared. If you want to be prepared for any eventuality during retirement then listen to this episode now.

5 positive retirement surprises

In retirement, there could be good surprises or bad ones. We like to start out with the potentially beneficial surprises. You’ll want to hear which surprises might start out negative but could lead to positive changes.

  • A second career - Some people find that retirement brings them into a second career. They may find this second round more fulfilling or it could be a way to give back to their community. Being able to contribute and still earn an income is an unexpected surprise for many. 
  • An unexpected inheritance - While the situation may not be that positive, an unexpected inheritance could completely change your retirement plans. Coming into money unexpectedly requires careful consideration and planning
  • A layoff - Not everyone retires when they want to. If you get laid off close to retirement age you could turn that negative into a positive especially if it includes a severance package. 
  • Increased travel - If you have family that moved across the country or even across the world this could bring more travel into your retirement itinerary. Although seeing new places is always exciting, it’s important to prepare for the added expenditure. 
  • A change in family dynamics - You may be surprised by taking on a caregiving role in retirement. This role could be for aging parents or even raising the grandkids. Another way that family dynamics change in retirement is through grey divorce. Listen in to discover how changes in family dynamics can change your financial outlook as well. 

Don’t let negative changes in retirement surprise you

Unfortunately, retirement doesn’t always bring sunshine and rainbows. It’s important to be prepared for negative surprises in retirement as well. 

  • A decline in health - Health changes can change your finances as well. You may find that your Medicare premiums are higher than expected. Find out how you can rectify that by listening to episode 104. Long term care can also have a huge impact on your retirement finances. 
  • Downsizing didn’t have the expected effect. Sometimes we think that downsizing in retirement will bring substantial financial benefits but that isn’t always the case.
  • Inflation can be the silent killer of retirement savings. Even if you pay off your home taxes and insurance are still there and they tend to increase over time. Is your portfolio prepared to battle inflation?
  • Taxes continually surprise us. Many people discover that in retirement they are still paying high tax rates.
  • A market correction - sometimes the timing of market corrections can come as a surprise (although it shouldn’t!) How you respond to a market correction matters. Learn how to factor your risk tolerance into your portfolio so that you can be prepared for any eventuality.

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:30] What are you going to do in retirement?
  • [4:38] You receive an unexpected inheritance
  • [6:01] Turn a negative into a positive
  • [10:12] A caregiving role can be a surprise
  • [13:42] Healthcare costs can be surprising in retirement
  • [16:02] Sometimes downsizing doesn’t provide the expected financial benefits 
  • [19:35] Taxes can be surprising
  • [20:21] Market corrections can come as a surprise

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect With Chad and Mike

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Jun 29, 2020

No one can argue that the stock market has been tumultuous lately. During times of market uncertainty, investors seem to become even more certain about their predictions of the next stock market moves. 

Short YouTube Recap:

As people make these predictions over time the stakes get bigger and bigger. Listen to this episode to hear what steps you can take to fight this prediction hubris. 

Wealth isn’t determined by investments selected but by investor behavior

When markets become more volatile, the desire to control our outcomes becomes stronger. Our instincts pressure us to make predictive moves of what we feel is going to happen. This is when the ability to stay disciplined can have the biggest impact.

Otherwise, we find ourselves sweating out extreme buy and sell decisions that could cause you to miss the biggest market moving days. There was a good chance of this with our latest examples over the last 3 months, when you saw 3 of the worst 25 single day losses and 2 of the largest 25 day gains, happened in the S&P 500.

This is why we created a thought exercise to help you reflect on your investment strategy during times of market stress. We’re calling it the “R” Plan, where we provide five steps to fight the inevitable prediction hubris that occurs during these periods.

 The R plan 

  1. Remember your past predictions. Think about the predictions that you made over the past few months. How did those turn out? Do you remember that overwhelming fear we all felt in March? Do you remember 2008? How about the tech bubble? How did your stock market predictions turn out during those tricky times?
  2. Regret - The decisions you make in the short term can have a big impact on your long-term wealth. The day to day swings can be huge when the market is volatile. Retirees often feel that they don’t have the time or ability to make up for losses and many decide to sell and flee to the safety of cash. But deciding not to ride the wave can lead to serious regrets. 
  3. Resilience - We often forget how resilient the stock market is over time. People don’t acknowledge the fact that stock market declines are always temporary and that they advance 75% of the time. It’s also good to remember that bear markets are shorter than bull markets. Declines are temporary but gains are permanent
    1. Be more conservative if you are uncomfortable with the thought of losing half of your asset value.
    2. Diversify - we may have mentioned this a few times before.
    3. Hire a professional an investment planner as well as a financial planner
    4. Consider all your options
    5. Implement an investment strategy based on your financial goals
  4. Review - When markets are volatile take the opportunity to reflect on your portfolio. Think in dollar figures rather than percentages to make potential losses more real to you. Consider these tips as you review your portfolio
  5. Reward - Staying invested in a balanced portfolio with equity exposure has provided long-term rewards. Also, returns are strongest after the steepest declines. Sticking through the rough periods to get to the rewards is the hard part. Because it’s rarely a smooth ride. Returns in any given year have ranged from as high as 54% to as low as -43%. In fact, the S&P 500 had a return within plus or minus 2% points of this 10% average in only 6 of the past 94 calendar years, according to Dimensional research.


Outline of This Episode

  • [2:06] How can you fight against your instincts of making predictions?
  • [7:04] The decisions you make in the short term can have a big impact
  • [10:21] The stock market is resilient
  • [14:54] Tips to fight stock market worry
  • [20:54] Focus on the reward

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Jun 15, 2020

Special needs financial planning is an intricate and delicate process.

Youtube Recap Here:

A process loaded with challenging emotional and financial decisions. So below we provide 4 steps to think through if planning for your special needs loved one’s future.

More than 40 million individuals or about 10% of total American population are living with a disability according to the US Census. This takes a careful planning approach to assure needs are met.

More Detail Here:


  • Approach – Highlighting the importance of constructing an experienced team to help guide families through the special needs planning process
  • Benefits Available – What governmental benefits and programs are available to my special needs loved one now and as they age?
  • Consider Your Estate Plan – What steps should be taken to align your estate plan to provide ample financial support to your special needs loved one while making sure their benefits are not negatively affected.
  • Develop Your Savings Strategy – What accounts are available for special needs individuals and which are the best fit for your situation
Jun 1, 2020

In times of crisis and uncertainty, the potential need to access our savings seems to rise to the forefront. However, many of the accounts that we utilize for our savings are tied to certain restrictions. For example, the age 59.5 restriction for retirement account withdrawals without facing a 10% penalty, or HSAs and 529 accounts which must be used for medical expenses and education expenses respectively. These unique accounts are great tools to efficiently invest our savings given the tax deferred or tax-free growth. The issue though is what happens when we need funds to cover items that don’t meet the parameters and restrictions set forth by these accounts.

COVID-19 has me pondering my own finances and how well equipped they are to be flexible in times of need. These circumstances we’re in have produced many implications to our finances and society with a big one being the impact of education from pre-school age all the way through college.

We’ve seen a shift to more online educational resources in recent years and this has only escalated with the impacts of COVID-19. College students have spent the better part of their spring 2020 semester living at home and completing their coursework online. While certainly not the college experience these students anticipated, they’re still able to receive a quality education without the cost of living in a dorm room on campus or 3+ meals per day at the campus dining hall. We’ve even seen some refunds returned to students which if were withdrawn from a 529 account originally, then that money needs to go back into the 529 account to avoid taxes/penalties.

So what does this mean for our college savings strategy? For my two 2.5-year-old boys I’ve been saving monthly in a 529 account since they were born with intention to provide a portion of their college education from the 529 account. However, I’ve reconsidered this strategy this week and am shifting to utilizing a couple other accounts for their future savings. At Financial Symmetry we had many discussions with clients about not over-funding college savings accounts given the high taxes and penalty if not used for education along with discussions about savings for the parents own retirement and financial independence.

Roth IRA

A great savings tool as the contributions can we withdrawn at any time tax-free, and the earnings grow tax free and can be withdrawn after age 59.5. This is the primary account I’ll now be using for future education needs for my twin boys as I’ll be able to withdraw the contributions for the education if needed. If for whatever reason they don’t need those funds for college then no worries as I can retain the Roth IRA for my own future financial needs. With a 529 plan though, I wouldn’t be able to do that as those funds would be restricted to education expenses.

Brokerage Account

I ran the numbers on the actual advantage 529 accounts do provide. Say my monthly contributions add up to $15k and earn $5k over the years to equate a $20k balance. Those earnings would be tax free in a 529 account for education expenses. If those funds were instead in a taxable brokerage account and assuming a 22% federal tax bracket this would be $1,100 of tax due on those earnings. You must weigh the flexibility of a non 529 account vs. the tax savings it can provide. Also consider that with proper tax planning in a brokerage account could mean even less taxes due given accessibility of tax efficient funds, tax loss harvesting, donating earnings to charity as ways to lower that tax bill.

So who should use a 529 account?

  • For those that already are maxing Roth IRA contributions, contributing a large amount to 401ks, and maxing HSA contributions.
  • Those who exceed the AGI limitation of Roth IRAs and are unable to utilize the back-door Roth strategy
  • High probability of attending private grade school as 529 accounts can now be used for earlier education than college.
  • If grandparents or others are making gifts to the child, then a 529 account is still a great vehicle to receive those gifts.
  • If you live in state with tax deduction for 529 contributions (North Carolina does not offer this).

Certainly nothing wrong with using a 529 account as you’re still saving for your children’s future needs, but just consider there are other vehicles that may be more appropriate given your financial situation. Also, depending on your financial situation there are other factors to consider such as financial aid.

Resources and Other Podcast Episodes

Best Tips for Your Young Child’s College Savings

Great Options to Save for Your Child’s College Education

Tax Breaks and Loan Options to Pay for College

My Best Spring Break Ever (The Cost of College)

College Planning Night

 7 Ways to Use Your 529 Plan

May 18, 2020

Why is the stock market doing so well when the economy is not?

Short Youtube recap here:

With headlines about skyrocketing unemployment and an impending recession, how has the stock market rebounded so quickly? Despite the historic drops in March, the S&P 500 is only hovering in a range 10-15% from its overall highs. While the stock market and the economy are influenced by each other, there are key differences that emerge during market extremes.

The economy has taken a beating

We have all heard the negative news surrounding the economy. It seems to be one of the only topics that news channels talk about. GDP declined 5% in the first quarter and is expected to decline by 20-30% in the second quarter. Unemployment has shot up at a historic pace from 5% to 15% in just a few short months. However, the Federal Reserve and the CARES Act have helped keep people and companies on their feet.

Why is the stock market doing so well?

The stock market went through record-setting drops back in March but since then it has bounced in the 35-40% range off the lows. We are still nowhere near the all-time highs that preceded those March declines, but the S&P 500 continues to rise and has been trading in a range 10-15% below it's all time highs reach in February. This creates confusion for most in the face of terrible economic headlines. One reason is that companies and investors are constantly looking at what is to come. They aren’t making decisions based just on the next 6 months, instead, they are projecting the growth over the next 5-10 years. It’s also important to remember that for every distressed seller there is a buyer. Investors are considering their bets for the future and if they anticipate we've seen the worst, then better than expected potential outcomes can drive stocks higher.

The stock market recovers before the economy

Historically, the stock market tends to make a recovery before the economy. For example in 2009 the stock market hit its bottom in March, but the country continued in its recession until the second half of that year. World War II is another example. The stock market was up every year during that period, despite all the turmoil going on in the world and the restrictions that were put in place by the war.

What will happen in the stock market going forward?

Well, unfortunately, we don’t have a crystal ball. But there are plenty of opinions you can find from watching the headlines or talking to your neighbors. This type of information can be detrimental not only to your mental state but also to your pocketbook. Allowing your emotions to take the investing wheel, can leave you second-guessing your investment strategy. In fact, the next time you want to look at your investment statements, we'd suggest opening your financial plan instead. You’re better off focusing on what you can control, like your risk tolerance, your rate of saving and spending, and your tax situation. Evaluating how your personal economy has changed, can leave you better positioned for the long-term. This allows you to have the appropriate investment allocations, so your worry can be abated, no matter how wild the stock market or economy gets in the short-run.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:27] Investments, forecasting, and good investments strategy
  • [5:14] The stock market looks forward
  • [6:24] What will happen with the economy and the stock market going forward?
  • [9:09] The stock market doesn’t trade on good or bad, simply better or worse
  • [11:43] Focus on what you can control

Connect With Chad and Mike

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May 4, 2020

Today we're taking a deep dive to explore the retirement changes within this landmark piece of legislation. On this episode, you’ll learn what CRD’s are, who are qualified individuals, and how to note CARES Act withdrawals on your tax return. Join us to hear about financial opportunities that you may not have considered.

Short Youtube video recap:


What is the purpose of the CARES Act?

The CARES Act was recently passed to help Americans get through this difficult time that has been filled with job losses, furloughs, lay-offs, and the mandatory closing of workplaces. The goal of the new law was to make it easier for citizens to access their money during these stresses. The CARES Act makes retirement account withdraws easier and more accessible without the standard early withdrawal penalties.

What are Coronavirus Related Distributions (CRD’s)?

Coronavirus related distributions or CRD’s allow for qualified individuals to take up to $100,000 from their retirement accounts during the period of January 2020 to January 2021. This withdrawal for qualified individuals is taxable but you can pay the taxes on these withdrawals over a period of 3 years. It’s easy to remember what the CRD’s offer by thinking of the 3 R’s. 

  1. Relief - The CARES Act offers relief from the standard 10% penalty when you pull money from an IRA or 401K.
  2. Repay - You can repay the withdrawals over a 3 year period. 
  3. Regimented - The taxes from these withdrawals are regimented and can be paid over a 3 year period. 

Who are qualified individuals?

The CRD’s are only available to qualified individuals, but who exactly can qualify for these withdrawals? You can qualify if you or your spouse has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or if you have experienced a loss of income during this time. You may have experienced a job loss, a reduction of hours, or an inability to work due to lack of child care. If you do qualify for a CRD you’ll want to examine all of your options before you make this choice. Make sure to work with a professional to see if this is the best choice for you. 

This year you do not have to take an RMD

The government doesn’t want to force you to sell your stocks at lower prices, so for 2020 RMD’s will not be required for anyone. If you have already taken your RMD for the year you can even pay it back. Listen in to learn how. Instead of taking your RMD, you may want to consider doing a Roth conversion. 

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:27] $100,000 withdrawal for qualified individuals
  • [4:46] Examples of how to use your withdrawals
  • [5:55] Who are qualified individuals?
  • [8:00] This year you do not have to take an RMD
  • [13:10] Make sure to note the CRD on your tax return

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect With Chad and Mike

Subscribe To This Podcast

Apr 20, 2020

Today we explore some of the most common questions that people ask during a market decline. We discuss what a financial advisor does and doesn't do for their clients in bear markets, whether you should refinance, and the benefits of tax-loss harvesting. Listen in to hear what you could be doing to stay proactive during this market decline. 

Youtube recap here:

What are the benefits of working with a Financial Advisor during a Stock Market Decline?

Financial advisors can be a great resource during a stock market decline. The fear you feel in these situations can be paralyzing. If you don’t have a financial advisor to help you act in your best interests, you may end up not taking any action at all. So what are some things a financial advisor can do for their clients during these challenging times? 

  • Creating a financial plan and an investment plan. You need to know what your strategy is and why you are investing. Not having a plan is putting yourself at too much risk. Listen to the wise words of Warren Buffett, “risk is not knowing what you are doing.”
  • Rebalancing. When the market takes a dive, it could be an excellent time to rebalance your portfolio.
  • Tax-loss harvesting. Nobody likes to pay taxes and tax loss harvesting is a great way to minimize your current and future taxes. 
  • Help avoid making irrational decisions. It’s hard not to sell when the market drops 10% in a day or 30% in a month. A financial advisor can help talk you down off of that cliff and show you the light

Should I Refinance my Home?

One way to give yourself a bit of control during times when life is feeling out of control is to consider refinancing your home. Since mortgage rates have declined in recent months now may be the right time for you to refinance. You’ll want to analyze what your break-even point is to see if it is worth it. There are many different ways you can go about refinancing. You could use a mortgage broker, you could go through your own bank, or you could use an online mortgage lender. Listen in to hear the differences between those 3 options. 

What is Tax-Loss Harvesting and why is it important during a market decline?

We all feel the urge to do something right now. But instead of doing something that could be detrimental to your wealth, tax-loss harvesting can give you the opportunity to do increase your wealth over time. The biggest question we hear surrounding tax-loss harvesting is why would I want to lock in losses? The answer is don’t think of it as a loss, but an exchange. You are taking that loss to reinvest in something similar. Look at tax-loss harvesting as a one way to help you rebalance. Find out if tax-loss harvesting is right for you by listening to Allison Berger’s excellent analysis. 

Outline of This Episode

  • [0:27] Should I use a financial advisor during a market decline
  • [4:50] Should I refinance my home?
  • [8:36] What is tax-loss harvesting?

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect With Chad and Mike

Subscribe To This Podcast


Apr 6, 2020

The CARES Act was just recently passed and the new law will impact just about every American. But do you know how it will affect you?

View Youtube recap here:

On this episode of Financial Symmetry, Grayson Blazek joins me to give you some actionable information that you can use to help you consider how best to take control of this challenging financial situation. During this stressful time, it will be helpful to learn as much as you can to give you a feeling of empowerment.

Who is eligible for the recovery rebate? 

The most discussed part of the CARES Act is the recovery rebate. The full rebate is eligible for taxpayers that make $150,000 or less when filing jointly with their spouse or $75,000 for single filers. If you make more than that you can use a calculator discover how much you will receive. The full rebate is a one-time payment of $1200 per adult and $500 per qualifying child. The recovery rebate will be directly deposited into the bank account listed on your most recent tax return. Listen to this episode to hear if you should file your taxes right away or if it would be best for you to wait a bit longer. 

What happens if you or your income is impacted directly by Coronavirus?

If you have been impacted directly from the Coronavirus directly or if you have experienced lost wages then you will be able to pull funds out of your retirement accounts in the year 2020 without the usual 10% early withdrawal penalty. These funds will still be taxed, but you can spread the tax burden over a period of 3 years if needed. The CARES Act also changes the maximum 401K loan limit from $50,000 to $100,000. You’ll want to carefully consider before taking the full loan amount. 

What else did the CARES Act change?

There were several other changes that should be noted as well. 

  1. No RMD’s in 2020. The CARES Act waived the required minimum distributions for the year 2020. 
  2. You can take an above the line deduction of up to $300 for charitable giving. To encourage citizens to continue supporting their favorite charities during this crisis the law has created this deduction for one time charitable giving. 
  3. Federal student loans have been suspended until September 2020. This is only for federal student loans, but this was designed to help people free up their cash flow.
  4. There has been an increase in unemployment benefits in both the maximum amount of money you can receive and the amount of time that you can receive it. 
  5. If you have a federally backed mortgage you can extend your loan by up to 6 months.

How did healthcare change with the CARES Act?

This landmark legislation didn’t only affect people’s finances, it made some changes to health care as well. The CARES Act has ensured that health insurance will have to pay for any COVID testing or potential vaccines that are developed. It also expanded qualified medical expenses for HSA’s. What will be the biggest change brought to you by the CARES Act?

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:27] Who qualifies for the recovery rebate?
  • [8:18] What happens if your income is impacted directly by Coronavirus
  • [13:12] What has changed with RMD’s?
  • [14:30] Qualified charitable contributions have changed
  • [17:38] Federal student loans have been suspended until September 2020
  • [20:11] Increase in unemployment
  • [23:44] Will your mortgage payment be delayed?
  • [26:52] What changed in health care?

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Grayson Blazek

Connect With Chad and Mike

Subscribe To This Podcast

Mar 23, 2020

We’re all surprised at the speed of changes the coronavirus has brought in our lives. Working from home, school closures, and social distancing have become our new norms. Stock markets have fallen in to a bear market in less than a month. Uncertainty related to COVID-19 grows daily, as we all know the amount of new cases are destined to rise.

It can be hard to find positives through the barrage of more disappointing news each day. But there are steps you can take to prepare your portfolio during this bear market. In today’s episode, we share 7 tips to help ease your worries during this challenging time.

Behavior Determines Results

We all feel nervous about stock market drops. Despite bear markets happening an average of every 6-7 years, it never gets easier to handle emotionally. During these times, investment behavior determines your returns more than the investments themselves.

Having an investment plan beforehand adds discipline to your decisions amidst the turmoil. If you’re questioning what you should do, then referring back to your plan will remind you of your highest priorities.

When you think about it, you only really have 3 options to choose from.

  1. Sell and go to cash
  2. Hold tight and don’t do anything
  3. Buy and take advantage of the discounts

With the first one, being much more damaging long-term than the others. To cope with this, we’ve put together seven things you can do to help ease your worry so you are better prepared to make more sound financial decisions.

7 things you can do to prepare your portfolio during a bear market

  1. Don’t react to panic – Panic is the enemy of a sound investment strategy. In the heat of a decline, is not the time to rush into irrational thinking. Even though it’s difficult to fight your emotions, your investment behavior will determine your return more than the investments themselves.
  2. Write down how you’re feeling – Do you remember how you felt in 2008? With the passage of time, our brains rewrite our history. If you write down how you are feeling now, then you can reflect back and read how you really felt during that time period rather than reciting stories your brain selectively chooses to remember. This will help you more accurately temper or accelerate your risk once things start to look up again, depending on your situation.
  3. Take advantage of tax-loss harvesting – Help your future tax bill by making some moves now. Tax-loss harvesting is a strategy that is used by selling one holding that has a loss in a taxable account to buy a similar holding, so that your overall allocation doesn’t change. You can then use the realized loss to offset investment income (and up to $3k of ordinary income) in the future. Often there are a few investments that you may have been holding because of large capital gains. This may now allow you to exit those holdings and bank realized losses providing a nice silver lining.
  4. Roth conversions – If you were looking to convert money from a pretax IRA to a Roth IRA then this may be a good time to evaluate. With stock market values lower (currently over 30%), IRA accounts could be significantly discounted. If converted to a Roth IRA, the growth that occurs when the market recovers would then be tax-free. This maneuver takes careful analysis for your specific tax situation as the IRA conversion will be taxable.
  5. Could be good buying opportunity – This might be a good time to think about dipping your toes back into the water. The hardest times to buy are when you typically get the best returns. Depending on your cash flow needs, this could be a very attractive long-term buying opportunity. No one knows where the bottom will be, but by buying now you’ll be saving 30% from just last month.
  6. Focus on what you can control – You can’t control what’s happening in the stock market but you can control your spending. You can also think about other controllable actions like whether you have enough life insurance or if your estate documents in place.
  7. Having a financial advisor can help you – if you are struggling right now and doing it all on your own an advisor can help you talk through your feelings and use the tools you have in your toolbox.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:27] Don’t rush into irrational thinking
  • [5:58] Record how you feel now so you can reflect on it later
  • [7:23] Take advantage of tax-loss harvesting
  • [10:25] Roth Conversions
  • [14:26] Focus on what you can control
  • [17:36] Having a financial advisor can help you walk through your feelings

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect With Chad and Mike

Subscribe To This Podcast

Mar 6, 2020

Cornoavirus concerns continue to impact the financial markets, as have all the numberless crises that have gone before it.

While the potential human and economic effects are very unsettling, what actions should a prudent investor take given this new development?

Short Video Recap Here:

It remains impossible to predict when and how this problem will be resolved.  Likewise, it is impossible to know when and how the markets will anticipate (or react to) such a resolution. 

In this episode of the Financial Symmetry show, hosts Chad Smith and Mike Eklund, evaluate all the available information to determine how you should approach your investment strategy.

Market declines are a regular occurrence and happen frequently. Selloffs provide an opportunity for investors to absorb new information, squeeze out excesses and reset values to more attractive levels.

For existing retirees, we set-up portfolios to include 5-7 years’ worth of high-quality bonds/cash to absorb market declines.  For savers, market declines are great news as it allows you to buy stocks at lower prices through regular contributions.

We understand the desire to try to head off market declines by moving into safety. However, our view is that the only way to capture the full permanent returns of equities is to ride out their temporary declines.

The danger of trying to time the market is that you will sabotage your personal investment strategy by getting out at the wrong time and then compounding that by getting back in at the wrong time.


  • Fear is a natural reaction.
  • It's impossible to predict the future.
  • There is always uncertainty in investing.
  • Disciplined investing is hard.
  • If you are feeling uncertain, review your financial plan before your portfolio.

Other Helpful Links

The Financial Symmetry Podcast is an original podcast from Financial Symmetry in Raleigh, NC. To learn more about the show or the past 105 episodes, visit

The hosts and guests in this video do not render or offer to render personalized investment or tax advice in this podcast. This podcast is for informational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice or a guarantee that you will achieve a desired result. You should consult with appropriate tax and financial advisors for advice specific to your situation.

Feb 24, 2020

Will your retirement regrets list be full of "I wish I would have...?" What if you could use regrets of other retirees to change or improve your current course?

Short Youtube Recap here:

Listening to the wisdom of those that have gone before you, can help you avoid their big mistakes and take advantage of financial opportunities you may have missed.

In our role as financial advisors, we have the unique opportunity of hearing a long list of retirement regrets. In listening to their perspectives, we gain an understanding of the path they took and the things they wish they could have done to prepare for retirement.

In this episode of the Financial Symmetry podcast with Chad Smith and Allison Berger, we break down the top retirement regrets that investors typically experience. Listen in so you can learn from others and ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes they did.

9 Avoidable Retirement Regrets

  1. I wish I had a detailed retirement plan. 3 out of 4 baby boomers don’t have a detailed retirement plan. Without a retirement plan, it makes it hard to anticipate what may come next. You'll need to consider those big purchases, how often will you buy cars, and if you are going to move. Life can feel much more uncertain in retirement, without the dependability of a steady income you’ve relied on your entire working life. Without a plan, opportunities could be passing you by each year.
  2. I wish I hadn’t planned to work so long. There are many people who plan to work until age 70, but due to unforeseen issues, they had to stop working before they were ready. Some had to stop due to family illness, layoffs, or forced early retirement. Whatever the reason, running what-if scenarios could leave you more prepared to face the unknown risks that are lurking.
  3. I wish I would have started saving in a tax-free account earlier. An often overlooked strategy while saving, is your lifetime tax rate. By focusing on tax-free savings, it creates flexibility for future retirement withdrawals. There are many that think they can’t take advantage of a Roth IRA due to having a high income, but there are options. Back-door Roths, after-tax 401k savings and HSA's all offer other opportunities. We've included past detailed episodes on all three in the links below.
  4. I wish I didn’t have such a big house. Many people become enamored with the idea of a mansion. So much that they sacrifice saving in retirement accounts. More expensive homes require more expensive upkeep. The social pressures in higher priced neighborhoods cause extra lifestyle creep. Years pass, and you realize savings isn't where you thought it would be. Once reaching retirement, downsizing becomes the new trend but moving is often delayed due to frustrations of moving and decluttering their homes.
  5. I wish I hadn’t worried so much about market drops. The idea that you could lose half of your savings is scary. There is always a reason you should not invest, but inflation is the silent killer that awaits you, if you don't. Finding the appropriate risk is vital to helping you sleep at night. Research shows a tremendous difference when missing the best days in the market. So while timing market drops is tempting, a buy and hold strategy with appropriate percentages of risk is your best bet.
  6. I wish I hadn’t counted on rental income. Be careful about counting on rental real estate if that is your plan. Assure you are factoring in all expenses to your calculation with forecasting returns on rental real estate. Appreciation rates will suffer, if proper maintenance is not kept up on properties. This could affect the long-term health of your financial plan.
  7. I wish I would have invested more in friendships. Think intentionally about how you will spend your time in retirement. Many people end up socially isolated in retirement. Retiring to something vs. from something can add to happiness levels and improve your odds of a successful retirement with less regret.
  8. I wish I hadn’t taken Social Security so early. Delaying Social Security can be a benefit in multiple ways. An alarming amount of people (57%) take Social Security before their full retirement age. This decreases the amount they could receive and provides more tax flexibility. Less guaranteed income, provides for more IRA/401k withdrawals at lower tax rates potentially.  If you are married, you might also consider the survivor benefit element. Listen in to hear details of the benefits of delaying your Social Security.
  9. I wish I had had more experiences. Many wish they had traveled more while they were healthy or while their kids were still at home. Too many look back with the regret of waiting to late to travel.

Outline of This Episode

  • [3:07] I wish I would have had a detailed plan earlier
  • [5:06] I wish I hadn’t planned to work so long
  • [7:07] I wish I would have started saving in a tax-free account earlier
  • [10:30] I wish I didn’t have such a big house
  • [12:47] I wish I hadn’t worried so much about market drops
  • [17:45] I wish I hadn’t counted on rental income
  • [20:33] I wish I would have invested more in friendships
  • [22:45] I wish I hadn’t taken Social Security so early
  • [26:00] I wish I had had more experiences

Resources & People Mentioned

The Financial Symmetry Podcast is an original podcast from Financial Symmetry in Raleigh, NC. To learn more about the show or the past 104 episodes, visit

Connect with us here:

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Feb 10, 2020

How closely did you look at your Medicare premium notice letter this past December? If it mentioned an IRMAA adjustment, and you experienced a life-changing event, you may want to look again. There's a few steps you can take that can save you thousands of dollars in Medicare premiums. In this episode, we are breaking down the the tax cliff known as IRMAA and how proper planning can help you avoid overpaying for your Part B and Part D Medicare premiums.

YouTube recap:

What is IRMAA?

This often misunderstood or overlooked area of the tax code is how Medicare determines the premiums that are automatically taken from your Social Security check. IRMAA stands for Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount. Understanding the IRMAA threshold is key to understanding your Medicare premium. 

Watch out for the IRMAA tax cliff

Generally, when you think about Medicare you think about age 65 and above. It’s actually important to begin thinking about Medicare when you are 63. Your Medicare premium at age 65 is actually based on the income that you made 2 years prior. So if you were in one of the higher income brackets before you retired, your Medicare premium will reflect that. There are 5 tiers of IRMAA and if you go even $1 over you will be knocked into the next bracket. If you end up in the highest tier you could be paying over $4000 in extra Medicare Part B premiums. 

How can you plan ahead?

Now that you know about IRMAA you can begin to plan ahead. If your AGI is $87,000 or less for singles or $174,000 or less for a married couple then you will qualify for the Medicare Part B baseline premium which is $144.66 per person per month. It’s important to understand your income sources and whether they are taxable or not. Knowing where you fit in the IRMAA tiers will save you money. Listen in to hear more about IRMAA and how it can affect your retirement plans. 

What can you do to appeal?

If you didn’t plan ahead and are stuck with high premiums you may be able to appeal. You can appeal based on marriage, divorce, death of a spouse, work stoppage, work reduction, or loss of income. If you qualify for an appeal then you’ll need to fill out an SSA44. There are 5 steps to follow to appeal process. Listen in to discover what you can do if IRMAA has got you down. 

Outline of This Episode

  • [3:27] Which parts of Medicare does IRMAA affect?
  • [7:20] An example
  • [9:55] How can you appeal?

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Grayson Blazek

Connect With Chad and Mike

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Jan 27, 2020

How do you best invest at all-time market highs? In this episode, we are walking through the strategies and disciplines you'll need to be a successful long-term investor. 

Short Youtube recap here:

Visit full article notes here:

Short-term market forecasting is impossible to predict

We often get the question of whether people should continue to invest given the all-time market highs. Well, let’s take a look back to just a year ago. At the end of 2018, the U.S. stock market declined by 20% and everyone was worried about a potential bear market. But it turned out that 2019 was a fantastic year despite all the worries.

We can’t tell you when will be a good time to invest in the short-term. No one can. No one has a crystal ball that can predict those outcomes. It is important to formulate a decision-making process that is not outcome-based. Financial decisions should always be processed based instead. 

What does the long-term history of investing tell us?

Think about where you were in December 2009. You probably weren’t too optimistic about the economic future. But it turned out the S&P 500 was the best place to invest over the past 10 years. But in the 10 years preceding it was the worst place to invest. 

There is never an easy time to be an investor. Investing always involves risk and many see that risk as a reason not to invest. There is always a risk and plenty of reasons not to invest. But when you look back, you’ll realize recessions, while painful, happen quickly but the market rises over the long run.

A diversified portfolio will always include something you don’t like

After the S&P’s strong run the past 10 years many people wonder why bother to invest internationally or why they should hold any bonds in their portfolio. Even though the S&P 500 performed quite well over the past 10 years, it was the worst place to invest during the previous 10 years. To protect yourself, you’ll need to be diversified. Bonds can not only provide diversification but they can provide income and capital preservation as well. They may not be the most exciting, but bonds will ensure you don’t have all of your eggs in one basket. 

So what is the 2020 market outlook?

Once again we find ourselves in a time of uncertainty. There’s the threat of war, a presidential election, and who knows what else could happen next. Given this time of uncertainty, what changes should we be making to our portfolios? The only sure answer is that you should only be taking as much risk as you can handle. Don’t let recent market performance lull you into taking too much risk.

Listen in to hear the outlook for 2020 and beyond. 

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:27] Short-term market forecasting is impossible to predict
  • [5:35] Let’s look at how the markets have performed in the long-term
  • [10:52] Take a look at bonds
  • [15:10] What has happened with consumer confidence?
  • [17:35] Why hold foreign stocks?
  • [20:15] What changes should we be making to our portfolios given the current climate?
  • [23:54] What do the experts predict to happen over the next 10 years?

Connect With Chad and Mike

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