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, Chad Smith and Mike Eklund 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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Financial Symmetry: Balancing Today with Retirement








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Mar 8, 2021

It’s always fun to peek behind the curtain and see the strategies and process people use for their decision making.

Video recap:

During this conversation, we review some of my core beliefs around:

  • importance of tradeoffs - how every financial decision affects others
  • being intentional in being a good steward
  • Defining the balance between enjoying today while saving for tomorrow
  • Structuring your money management around the give, grow, owe and live philosophy

4 Primary Uses of Money

You can use it to live, give, owe or grow. For us, we rank these in the following order: give, grow, live, owe.

Giving is at the top of our budget. Giving first breaks the power of money and releases its hold over people. Therefore, tithing to our church has been at the top of our priority list.

We then focus on the growth aspect. This starts with automating our savings so that we can reach 15% of our income. As for how we invest we focus on various types of accounts from 401K to Roth IRAs to 529s for the kids. We explain in the episode how we've set up a system to where we don't lose sleep over our 90% stock allocation.

With 3 yr old twins, a large part of our spending goes to daycare costs. My spouse and I try to spend our money on the things that create joy, including going to NC State sporting events and going on camping trips.

I've always used debt as a tool for large, low-interest purchases such as his home and car. We only hold one credit card and doesn’t want to open any more accounts than are necessary.

Outline of This Episode

  • [4:25] What are Cameron’s money influences?
  • [9:07] How does Cameron divide up his resources?
  • [15:27] Does he worry about his 90% stock allocation?
  • [21:26] How does he see debt?
  • [26:30] What was the best money he spent in 2020?
  • [31:15] The power of small wins

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect With Cameron

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Feb 22, 2021

Have you wondered if there are any financial mistakes that you may have been making?

Video recap here:

Sometimes our financial mistakes aren’t obvious, so in this episode of Financial Symmetry, we discuss 3 hidden financial mistakes that you may be making and how you can spot them. 

Uncertain outcomes cannot be predicted

Are you guilty of believing an uncertain outcome is certain? Sometimes we feel confident that things are going to happen. This can be true even with geopolitical events like the Coronavirus. You may have known the virus would happen, but could you have predicted this current situation? 

People are naturally overconfident, but the market is smarter than you. Trying to anticipate corrections will cost you money. In fact, trying to anticipate market corrections will end up costing you more money than the market corrections themselves.

One way to prevent overconfidence is by talking through potential outcomes with a financial advisor or a financial accountability partner. 

Don’t underestimate the market’s ability for positive surprises

Many people have a negative money script or way that we view finances. This scarcity mindset could penalize their financial potential. There will always be reasons to wait it out or not invest, but instead of focusing on those reasons focus on not missing out on opportunities. You don’t want to take a pay cut in retirement because of missed opportunities. 

We often delay financial decisions to give ourselves time to think about it more or evaluate the alternatives and to consider all outcomes. But often the best investments are the most difficult ones that you have to make. This is why having an investment plan makes sense. 

“Investing is a lifelong journey. Making money slowly is much better than making then losing money quickly.” -- David Booth

Are you missing hidden tax opportunities?

There are different tax opportunities that can be taken depending on your phase of life and how the laws change. One opportunity that many retirees were able to take advantage of this year was the lack of required minimum distributions (RMDs). This allowed people to do Roth conversions. Retirement brings on a wealth of tax planning opportunities since you have more control over your income in retirement. Advanced tax planning early in retirement can help you save on your lifetime tax bill. Listen in to hear how long-term tax planning can save you money over your lifetime. 

Estate planning pitfalls

Estate planning is often the last part of a financial plan that people want to address since it is the least enjoyable part of financial planning. But if you want a say in what happens to your money after you are gone then you’ll need to create an estate plan and review it periodically. Check out episodes 102 and 122 to learn more about estate planning. 

Do you have enough? Are you saving enough? When is the best time to invest? Are you missing out? These are all questions that can be answered with the right financial plan. Think about what a financial plan can do for you. If you are looking for a financial advisor to help you create a financial plan click through to our website.

.Outline of This Episode

  • [2:40] Believing an uncertain outcome is certain 
  • [10:16] Missing hidden tax opportunities 
  • [14:50] Are you taking advantage of an HSA?
  • [17:15] Estate planning pitfalls
  • [21:18] Today’s progress principle

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect With Chad and Mike

Subscribe To This Podcast

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Jan 25, 2021

What is the most important thing you can do for building wealth?

Video recap:

Recently, Jeff Levine (@CPAPlanner) put this question out into the Twitterverse: Other than saving and investing, what is the one single most important factor to financial success?

Too often when dealing with financial decisions, we try to overcomplicate what is best for us. We liked the simplicity of a single thing to focus on, so this week we are breaking down our version of the most important thing you can do in each decade to improve your financial journey.

Harness the power of compound interest while you’re young

If you are starting to build wealth in your teens and 20s you’re in luck. Time is on your side.

An often cited roadblock to getting this started, is the overwhelming debt obligations to student loans. While important to tackle high interest rate debt, carving out a small amount of automated savings can be life-changing.

For many, the first time we see a compound interest example, we are inspired. We included a powerful example below to demonstrate how much investment growth accumulates over 40 years, compared to the amount you are saving.

By saving small amounts early, compound interest becomes your super power. Automating this savings each month in an investment account with exposure to a diversified stock portfolio starting in your 20s, is arguably the single biggest impact decision you'll make in building wealth. Because of the natural discipline it creates, making it harder to stop it down the road.

Continue to pay yourself first

During your 30s, life often becomes busier. Between new marriages, job changes and growing families, consequential decisions can pile up. These exciting changes bring curveballs you often don't expect, like childcare for remote school over the past year.

This is when deciding to pay yourself first benefits you behind the scenes when life decisions are taking priority. If your saving and investing decisions are made only after you cover your expenses, then your budget is upside down.

Automating your savings and charitable giving can leave you better positioned as you head in to your 40s.

Don’t compare yourself with those around you

During this decade, it's tempting to continue moving the goalposts as you reach certain levels of success.

Comparing your financial situation to others is a common derailment to your long-term success in your 40s. Keeping up with the Joneses can feel like an endless treadmill.

In the The Psychology of Money, Morgan Housel writes, “the ceiling of social comparison is so high that virtually no one will ever hit it, which means it is a battle that can never be won or that the only way to win is to not fight it to begin with, to accept that you might have enough even if it’s less than those around you.”

Determine your definition of enough. Is it a certain amount of money in the bank? A bigger house? Being laser focused on your ultimate financial goals, allows you stick to your financial plan, providing peace of mind along the way.

Be flexible in your 50s

Successful financial planning begins with understanding potential high impact risks.

More and more, we see unexpected hurdles for people in their 50s. It could be a layoff or a loss of assets due to grey divorce, but understanding the potential impact with scenario planning beforehand can leave you more agile to adjust.

Investing in your personal and professional relationships through the years, allows for more flexibility when reinventing yourself in these circumstances. Additionally, understanding the impact of withdrawals on your assets can be valuable in the case you need temporary withdrawals to sustain you during a transition.

After building wealth, keep perspective

Hopefully, in your 60s you are reflecting on a life well lived. This is a time to gain perspective. Common rules of thumb or family recommendations may not be the best. Some common things we hear related to this are:

  • Because I'm retiring soon, shouldn't I reduce the risk in my investment strategy?
  • I need to pay off your mortgage before I retire.
  • Shouldn't I take Social Security at 62, because I not sure it will be there if I wait?
  • Why would I want to make withdrawals from my IRA before I have to?

Having a plan in your 60s provides confidence. Hiring a financial professional can help you develop a plan and to gain perspective so that you can create a long term plan for your money.

Outline of This Episode

  • [4:06] What is the one thing you can do in your teens and 20s to help build wealth?
  • [8:23] The one thing in your 30s that you can do to build wealth 
  • [10:57] What should you be doing in your 40s to build wealth?
  • [14:35] The one thing in your 50s that you can do to build wealth
  • [17:49] What can you do in your 60s to build wealth?
  • [21:30] Consider continuity in your 70s
  • [22:55] What should you be doing in your 80s?
  • [25:32] The progress principle

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect With Chad and Mike

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

Subscribe To This Podcast

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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

Subscribe To This Podcast

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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

Subscribe To This Podcast

Apple Podcasts <> Stitcher <> Google Play

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 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

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 13, 2020

The SECURE Act is the biggest piece of retirement legislation to pass since 2006.

On this episode, we discuss what the SECURE Act is and how it will affect you and your retirement plans. The acronym SECURE stands for "Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement." 

Watch corresponding Youtube video here:

In our breakdown of the new bill, you’ll learn about the highlights including new IRA rules, changes to 401K’s, non-retirement changes, and extenders.

The Stretch IRA is not as stretchy

One of the most impactful changes in the legislation deals with the Stretch IRA provision for non-spouse beneficiaries. Under the old law, upon a person’s death, the non-spouse beneficiaries of their 401K’s and IRA’s could withdraw savings over the span of their entire lifetime.

Now, as of January 1, 2020, the Secure Act compresses that time period to only 10 years after the year of death, thus speeding up the timeframe for taxes to be paid on these pre-tax savings. This complicates some old strategies being used, but creates new planning techniques for others.

There are a few eligible designated beneficiaries that will avoid the 10 year payout. These include:

  • the surviving spouse of the deceased account owner
  • a minor child of the deceased account owner
  • a beneficiary who is no more than 10 years younger than the deceased account owner
  • a chronically-ill individual
  • a disabled individual

Tune in to see how you may need to tweak your retirement withdrawal strategies to best work for you and your heirs.

More changes to IRA’s

The Stretch IRA wasn’t the only thing that changed with IRA’s. The required minimum distribution (RMD) age was raised from age 70 ½ to 72. This means, for those yet to reach 70.5 by 1/1/2020, that you won’t have to take funds out of your IRA until age 72. You’ll have a year and a half longer to convert those funds to a Roth IRA, depending on tax brackets.

Despite the RMD age moving back, you still have the option to make a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) at age 70. If you'd like a refresher for some of these financial acronyms we're mentioning, check out episode 63, our Financial Acronymology guide.

Additionally, those over 70 and still working can now contribute to a traditional IRA if they have earned income. In the old law, this ability stopped at 70.5. But people are living and working longer now (without adequate retirement savings for many), so the SECURE act makes this possible.

Good news for 401K’s

Finally, we get to the part about setting communities up for retirement. With the changes in the Secure Act, more small business owners will be able to offer 401K’s to their employees.

The bill makes it easier to be auto-enrolled to help those people that never get around to setting up their 401K contributions. Part-time employees will also benefit from the new bill. Now part-timers who have worked 500 hours over the past 3 years will have access to 401K’s. These changes are designed to make retirement savings a bit easier.

How will the Secure Act change your financial plans?

The Secure Act is a great reminder of how quickly laws can change. Without close attention, your original intent could no longer be the most optimal strategy for your retirement plans.

One of our primary responsibilities is to help you uncover tax saving or planning opportunities when they become available. Remember, financial planning is like putting together a puzzle. Make sure you have all the pieces by learning as much as you can to improve your financial opportunities.

Financial Symmetry is a Raleigh Financial Advisor. Proudly serving clients in the Triangle of North Carolina for 20 years.

Outline of This Episode

  • [3:04] The biggest changes with the Secure Act are to IRA’s
  • [11:44] Small businesses will find it easier to offer 401K’s to their employees
  • [17:07] Non-retirement changes
  • [18:55] The extenders

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect With Chad and Mike

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Dec 2, 2019

Who you gonna call? Retirement Mythbusters!

Short Youtube recap here:

Visit Full Article Here:

Not as catchy as Ghostbusters, we know, but these retirement myths can be much more hazardous to your long-term financial health. Many of us have certain beliefs, internet rumors or family hearsay that are passed down about retirement rules of thumb. But believing in these stories could be detrimental to the long-term success of your retirement. On this episode, we do our best Mythbusters imitation (of Discovery Channel fame) to bust these common retirement myths. Listen in to hear why you may want to challenge conventional thinking, and discover what it could cost you to continue to buy in to the hype. 

8 common retirement myths

  1. I’m not going to live that long. So many people don’t think they will live until age 90. But the truth is, men who are 65 today have a 20% chance of living until 90 and women have a 33% chance. Couples have a 48% chance of one of them making it to age 90. You need to make sure your money will last as long as you do. Does your financial plan cover you until age 90?
  2. I’ll work until age 65. The actual median retirement age is 62. Many people plan to work longer, but they are forced into retirement early. Some people try out a second act. Whenever you do choose to retire, be sure that you are retiring to something, not away from something. Do you have big plans for your retirement? 
  3. Social Security will run out. Some people use this myth as an excuse to claim their Social Security benefit early. But claiming Social Security below your retirement age greatly reduces your lifetime benefit. If you delay until age 70 will result in an 8% increase per year!
  4. Once I reach X amount of money I can retire. The reality is that everyone’s situation is different. There is no magic number! There is so much more to retirement planning. What magic retirement number did you have in mind?
  5. Paying the lowest amount of tax is always best. Are you trying to be too tax efficient? Think about optimizing your tax situation rather than minimizing your taxes. Consider working with a financial planner and an accountant to help you consider long-term tax planning. 
  6. When I retire my investments should be conservative. This isn’t always the case. People are living longer than ever so you may need your investment portfolio to last you 30 or 40 years. There is actually a bigger risk of being too conservative rather than risky. 
  7. I need to pay off my mortgage now. A mortgage is the cheapest money you can get in a loan. So not paying it off and investing the difference actually makes more sense financially. But for some people paying off their mortgage provides them with peace of mind. Which camp do you fall into? Would you prefer the peace of mind that a paid-for house provides?
  8. Retirement spending is the same throughout retirement. Retirement planning is more complicated than you think. Your spending in retirement changes throughout the years. In the first 5 years of retirement, people spend a huge amount of money. You may spend it on travel, fixing up your home, eating out, or whatever it is that interests you. You finally have the time to spend all the wealth that you have built. Then spending slows down as you do. Unfortunately, retirement spending tends to increase the older you get, but this time it’s on medical expenses. Have you planned to spend the same amount each year in retirement?

Financial Symmetry is a Raleigh Financial Advisor. Proudly serving clients in the Triangle of North Carolina for 20 years.

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:47] I’m not going to live that long
  • [5:30] I’ll work until age 65
  • [9:22] Social Security will run out
  • [13:12] I can retire after I have $1 million saved
  • [15:10] Paying the lowest amount of tax is best
  • [18:00] When I retire my investments should be conservative
  • [21:00] I need to pay off my mortgage now
  • [23:55] Retirement planning is more complicated than you think 

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect With Chad and Mike

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Oct 21, 2019

There’s a lot of conflicting information about buying a timeshare. Some call it the worst financial decision you could make. But is that true? On this episode, we invite Allison Berger to discuss the pros and cons of buying a timeshare. If you’ve ever been roped into one of those high-pressure sales meetings you’ll want to listen to consider if you made the right decision.

Short YouTube video:

In this episode of Financial Symmetry, host Chad Smith talks with Allison Berger about strategies for spotting timeshare scams and thinking through decisions about timeshares.

If you have ever been on vacation at a nice resort you may have sat in on a timeshare presentation. These high-pressure sales meetings are designed to make you a buyer and they pull out all of the stops to get you to sign on the dotted line. They claim to only need 90 minutes of your time, but those 90 minutes can be pretty intense. According to the American Resort Development Corporation, 2018 was the 9th consecutive year of growth for timeshare sales. Out of 127 million households in America, 9 million own at least 1 shared vacation product. So 7% of families are also timeshare owners. That means they must not be too bad, right? But what exactly are you buying? What is a timeshare?

If you have ever stayed at an upscale resort, you may have sat in on a timeshare presentation. These high-pressure sales meetings are designed to make you a buyer and they pull out all of the stops to get you to sign on the dotted line. They claim to only need 90 minutes of your time, but those 90 minutes can be pretty intense.

According to the American Resort Development Corporation, 2018 was the 9th consecutive year of growth for timeshare sales. Out of 127 million households in America, 9 million own at least 1 shared vacation product. That means they must not be too bad, right? But what exactly are you buying?

We all know about the incentives to get you to buy a timeshare (or even just to sit in on the sales meeting), but what other positive experiences can be had from buying a timeshare? You will guarantee yourself a vacation each year if you buy a timeshare. The accommodations are typically very nice and often include two-bedroom suites with a kitchen. This beats staying in a cramped hotel room. Typically the break-even point of buying a timeshare is between 8-14 years, so if you vacation every year for 20-30 years you’ll come out ahead. 

But there are many negatives that come along with timeshares. Even though the average maintenance fees are only about $1000 a year, the average sales price is $21,000. If you change your mind and wish to resell the timeshare you may be out of luck. There isn’t much of a market for timeshare resales. Timeshares are complicated and can be challenging to book. If you don’t know the jargon of the timeshare company you could be lost and stuck vacationing somewhere you never wanted to be. Tell us about your experiences with timeshares. Shoot us an email, we’d love to hear your stories. 

Resources Mentioned in the Episode

Sep 23, 2019

Many of you are inching closer to retirement and the decisions you make now will have a big impact on your retirement lifestyle. It’s time to start thinking ahead and seriously consider your retirement strategy. Are you concentrating on the best ways to save to set up for the life you want in retirement?

This is why we have created a pre-retirement checklist with 8 key wealth builder areas for you to consider. Listen in now to discover what you need to think about now that you are rounding the final stretch in this race to retirement. 

Your pre-retirement checklist

  1. How will you spend your time in retirement? Explore what you might enjoy doing and give it some practice. Try to structure a calendar of your average week. How might you allocate your time? How will you challenge yourself? What new skills will you learn?
  2. How will your income change? What will it take for you to retire? How much will you need and where will that money come from? Most people have a combination of 6 sources of income to provide for their retirement which includes: social security, pensions, deferred compensation, withdrawing from savings, part-time work, and passive income.
  3. What will your retirement lifestyle be like? The more you spend the more income you’ll need and the less you spend the less income you’ll need. Think about how much you plan to spend and how will you spend it. 
  4. What is your current net worth? In retirement, your accounts will no longer grow and they may start to fall in value. Take an inventory of what accounts you have. Are they pre-tax or post-tax? Do you have an HSA? Brokerage accounts? Annuities? Where do you stand financially? Lay it all out on paper so that you can decide what you need to do next. 
  5. Tax diversification is as important as investment diversification in retirement. How tax-efficient are your savings? A 401K conversion is a great way to save in taxes. You should also consider what your tax bracket will be in retirement. 
  6. What is your investment strategy? How do your emotions play a role in investing? What is your risk capacity? What is your risk tolerance? You will need to understand when and how much you will need from your investments and have the appropriate asset allocation. Know what your expected returns will be. This will help you understand how long your portfolio will last you.
  7. Healthcare can be the deciding factor for how and when you retire. If you are planning to retire before the age of 65 you’ll want to factor in healthcare costs. How will you bridge the gap until Medicare kicks in? Will you take COBRA or use your state’s health insurance exchange? You should also consider whether you want to get long-term care insurance. 
  8. Do an annual review of your estate. Block off some time each year to check if your estate plan still reflects your wishes. 

Are you in your catch-up years?

Your 50’s are often referred to as the catch-up years when it comes to retirement planning. There are lots of opportunities to think about as you approach retirement. Successful retirees look at all of these considerations as they make decisions. The decisions you make now can have a major impact on your retirement lifestyle. Use this pre-retirement checklist to help you begin to plan your retirement strategy.

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:27] Are you on the final stretch to retirement?
  • [6:33] How will you spend your time in retirement?
  • [7:37] How much income will you need?
  • [11:35] What is your net worth?
  • [14:24] What is your investment strategy?
  • [20:11] What kind of insurance do you have?
  • [23:45] Do an estate review

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect With Chad and Mike

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Aug 12, 2019

The Mega Backdoor Roth IRA could be the secret weapon you have yet to use in your retirement saving strategy. If you consider yourself a super saver, looking for alternative ways to save tax efficiently, this could be a great option. This strategy is of most interest to those maxing out all other tax-efficient savings accounts. Including standard employee 401k contributions, Roth IRA, 529, and HSA. In this episode, you'll see why we call this the secret weapon for super savers, as we breakdown who the Mega Backdoor Roth is for, why you might be interested in it, and how it compares to other IRAs.

Who should take advantage of the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA?

In order to take advantage of the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA, you first have to have access to a 401k that allows after-tax contributions. These are contributions on top of your regular $19k allowable contributions to a 401k in 2019. Hence the "Mega" moniker. So if you are already maxing out your 401K, Roth IRA, 529, and HSA contributions then the Mega Backdoor Roth IRA could be a great extra additional savings opportunity. Many get confused as to why it's called a Mega Backdoor Roth IRA when we are talking about your 401k. Good question. The name derives from where the money will be after you complete the consolidation process.

You're now seeing more larger companies and solo 401ks allow for "in-service" distributions. Meaning, you could withdraw portions of your 401k savings, while still employed. The real benefit with this savings strategy, is when you can save the extra after-tax contributions and then roll them to a Roth IRA in the same year. Meaning, you could get a larger amount in to a tax-free savings account to grow for years to come.

What’s so great about the Mega Backdoor Roth?

If done correctly, the Mega Backdoor Roth can allow you to contribute up to 6X what you can contribute to a regular Roth IRA. With a regular Roth IRA, you can contribute only $6,000 per year in 2019. The Mega Backdoor Roth allows you to contribute up to $37,000 extra each year on top of your normal employee 401k contributions.

Many people don’t know this, but the limit for 401K contributions is $56,000 or $62,000 and for those over 50. Many people assume that the limit is only $19,000. But this $19,000 limit is for pretax contributions. You can actually contribute up to $37,000 more after taxes are withheld (depending on your employer match amount). You can ask your employer if they contribute to after-tax contributions. If you aren’t sure then you should contact your HR department. They may not even know about the Mega Backdoor Roth, but if you communicate with them you could get it started in your company.

What is the difference between the Mega Backdoor Roth and the regular backdoor Roth?

If your income for a married couple is over $203,000 then you are ineligible to contribute to a typical Roth IRA. Instead, you can implement the Backdoor Roth IRA strategy. But this strategy has multiple steps to assure it's done correctly which we wrote about in a previous post. To be a good candidate for this strategy, you need to first move existing pretax accounts to an existing 401K, if you have one. The next step is to contribute $6000 to a regular non-deductible IRA. After completing this, you can convert the non-deductible IRA to a Roth IRA. The issue with the Backdoor Roth is that you can only contribute $6,000 per year.

The Mega Backdoor Roth allows you to contribute much more and would be a provision of your 401k account. Essentially, is the amount above your normal employee contributions ($19k in 2019; or $25k if over age 50) plus your employer match contributions. It’s important to consider all of your options to see if the Mega Backdoor Roth is right for your circumstances.

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:27] Who is the Mega Backdoor Roth for?
  • [4:31] What is the difference between the Mega Backdoor Roth and the regular backdoor Roth?
  • [12:33] How do you know if you can take advantage of the Mega Backdoor Roth?
  • [17:59] What are the risks?

Connect With Chad and Mike

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Jul 15, 2019

Most people know little or nothing about sequence of returns risk. The subject doesn’t make for the most interesting topic for cocktail party discussions. Some refer to it as your biggest retirement risk. Reason being, sequence of returns risk can have a major impact on how long your hard-earned savings will last through retirement. This week's episode we dive in to examples of how you could be affected and steps you could use to fight against it.

Dollar-weighted returns vs time-weighted returns

Many people aren’t familiar with the difference between dollar-weighted returns and time-weighted returns. Dollar-weighted returns are the actual returns you get. The dollar-weighted return is a more accurate representation of your actual return. A time-weighted return impacts your cash flow. A time-weighted return assumes you don’t contribute or withdraw any money during a period of time. If you put a lot of money in the bottom of the stock market and pull the money out at the top of the stock market then you will have a better dollar rated return than a time-weighted return. 

An example of sequence of returns risk

Let’s consider a couple that is 60 years old with a million dollars who just retired. In the first example, they earn 8% each year over the next 30 years. They withdraw at 6% which leads them to the ideal scenario and after 30 years in which they end at zero dollars. Their money ran out just as they did. The second example takes the same couple but rather than earning 8% each year they had great returns of 25% for the first 2 years, then they averaged 8% and then the last 2 years they averaged 0%. This scenario left the couple with a million dollars at the end of 30 years. The last scenario has the couple experience a bad market the first few years then 8% returns and then a great market at the end. This scenario leads the couple to run out of money. Although all of these examples had the same average return the end results were completely different. The first few years have a big impact on your long term success. 

Why did Chad and Mike end up with different balances at the end of their careers?

Chad and Mike work for the same amount of years, they make the same pay and save the same amount each year. One of them begins their career before the other and they retire at different times. The last years before retirement Mike experienced poor returns. Chad had poor returns when he was just starting out. This is an example of a good sequence of returns for Chad and a bad sequence of returns for Mike. The difference ended up being a $300,000 difference between Chad and Mike’s final balance. When you are younger your balance isn’t that big so how the market performs doesn’t matter as much. When you are older it is important to your balance sheet that the market rate of returns are high.

What strategies can you implement to protect yourself from the sequence of returns risk?

  1. Diversification is important. Think about a globally diversified portfolio. U.S. stocks, international stocks, large and small cap investments. 
  2. Consider your asset allocation. The time right before and right after you retire is not a time to take on a lot of stock risk.
  3. Adjust your spending based on portfolio performance.
  4. Adjust the amount of stock you own based on market valuations. If the market is expensive you should own less in stocks, if the market is cheap you can own more.
  5. Don’t get nervous and go to cash and bonds. Stocks are a good hedge against rising costs of inflation. Remember that people are living longer, you may need that money to stretch farther than you thought.

Outline of This Episode

  • [4:27] What constitutes good or bad returns?
  • [8:56] The first few years have a big impact on your long term success
  • [11:15] Why did Chad and Mike end up with different balances at the end of their careers?
  • [14:23] What strategies can you implement to protect yourself from the sequence of returns risk?

Connect With Chad and Mike

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May 20, 2019

Rolling over your 401K is a complicated process so we brought in a few experts that have helped our clients rollover hundreds of 401K’s. Understanding the unexpected roadblocks surrounding a 401K rollover is a vital step in making the best decisions with your money. So listen to this episode to hear steps of how to properly rollover a 401K quickly and efficiently.

How to rollover a 401K?

Maybe you just left a job or maybe you need an in-service rollover but you are at the point that you need to rollover your 401K. So how do you do it? Unfortunately, there isn’t only one way. It depends on the type of account you have and where you want the money to go. If you have a brokerage account linked to your 401K it will make the task a bit easier. Brokerage links give you the opportunity to invest in funds at a lower cost. If you have just quit or left your job you need to ensure that all of your contributions and your employer contributions have settled before you move your 401K or you will have to redo the process again once it does settle.

How do you tackle the 401K rollover paperwork?

401K rollover paperwork can be quite daunting. Nowadays there are many forms that you can fill out online, but there are still actual papers that must be completed in person. The paperwork can be a bit confusing and overwhelming, but it is important to fill everything out correctly. Even if you mis-check just one box they won’t process your rollover and you’ll have to start the process all over again. Oftentimes you may need your spouse to sign, a notary to sign, and you’ll also need your plan administrator to sign. Sometimes finding the plan administrator can be tricky. If you know the right people to call the paperwork really doesn’t take much time. It can take a few days or even a few weeks to complete the paperwork. If you feel daunted by all the paperwork you might want to consider hiring a professional to help you out.

What are some problems that can arise with a 401K rollover?

It's important to reduce your risk of being out of the market. You want to ensure that your money is out of the market for as little time as possible. Pay careful attention to the timing and ensure that you have all your ducks in a row first. This means that you need to have the accounts where the money is going set up beforehand. If you have a brokerage link you can reduce the time out of the market. You’ll also want to double check where your allocations are in case you need to change those settings. There are many steps involved in moving your 401K and you may have to contact different service representatives to get all of your questions answered.

How can you reduce your risk?

Having your money pulled out of the market for any amount of time can be costly. If there is a way to expedite getting your check you’ll want to do it. Think about it, if you have your money out of the market and it goes up a few points you’ll be losing out trying to get it all back in. Getting the money back in as quickly as possible is important. Having a brokerage account linked to your 401K can give you the opportunity to invest in funds at a lower cost. Listen to the experts, Heather and Angela, to help you understand how to rollover a 401K to make your transition run as smoothly as possible.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:27] How do I rollover my 401K is one of the most frequent questions
  • [6:16] How do you tackle the paperwork?
  • [7:24] How much time does it take?
  • [11:03] What are some problems that can arise?
  • [17:05] Where does the money go?
  • [27:07] What can go wrong?

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Heather Gudac and Angela Keeley-White

Connect With Chad and Mike

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May 6, 2019

What does your financial future look like? Do you feel it is secure and well planned out or are you just winging it? Winging it is a great idea for a Sunday afternoon drive or deciding to what to eat for dinner, but winging your financial future is a dangerous decision that will put your future stability at stake. Learn why people decide to wing it and what you should be doing instead, on this episode of the Financial Symmetry show.

Short video recap here:

What are the numbers and why are people winging their financial future?

We love numbers on this show. They help to illustrate the point we are trying to make and sometimes they are truly shocking.

  • 75% of Americans are winging it when it comes to their financial future
  • Less than half of Americans cannot cover a $1000 emergency
  • Most people feel they make about $1200 worth of financial mistakes per year
  • 4 out of 10 Americans simply guess how much they will need to retire.

Why do people do this to themselves? Why do they choose to leave their financial future up to chance? I think there are 3 main reasons.

  1. They don’t want to pay for professional advice.
  2. They can’t afford professional advice (or think they can’t afford it).
  3. They think they can handle the work themselves

Are you letting overconfidence power your financial decision making?

Are you overconfident about your ability to handle your finances? 57% of adults feel more confident today than they felt 3 years ago about their finances. Do you feel a bit overconfident due to the recent success of the financial markets? Overconfidence is a villain when it comes to good decision making. Usually the more intelligent you are the more overconfident you are. Mark Twain had a powerful quote that sums up overconfidence well, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” A great way to ensure that you aren’t being too overconfident in your financial decisions is to hire a financial advisor. Having an objective 3rd party view of things can really help you keep things in perspective.

Is your confirmation bias affecting your financial future?

The internet is starting to play a major role in creating greater confirmation bias. People tend to follow their own views and they will seek out news that confirms what they already think about something. If someone has a negative worldview and they read an article about how the market will be crashing they will nod their heads and think, yes this is the truth. To combat confirmation bias think of the acronym WRAP from the book Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath.

  • Widen your options
  • Reality test your assumptions
  • Attain distance before deciding
  • Prepare to be wrong

Recency bias can affect your thinking about the future

People think they know more than they do about how the future will unfold. More often than not, the future will surprise us. Our conclusions about the future are often based on our emotions. They can also be affected by recency bias. Recency bias is a bias based on the fact that people tend to think that what happened to them recently will happen to them in the future. This can be seen frequently with finances for instance, if you have received a big bonus, or especially when it comes to stocks. Are you allowing recency bias to affect your financial future?

Outline of This Episode

  • [5:27] Overconfidence can spoil your financial decisions
  • [11:15] Are you allowing confirmation bias to affect your financial future?
  • [13:46] Recency bias affects many financial decisions

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect With Chad and Mike

Subscribe To This Podcast

Apple Podcasts <> Stitcher <> Google Play

Apr 8, 2019

You've just sold your business. Or maybe you received an inheritance. Making decisions on how to handle the lump sum proceeds can be paralyzing. We all have that fear of making a mistake with the money and when the stakes are high, the fear is heightened. You might be wondering how wise it is to invest a big chunk of money with the markets near all time highs. When dealing with a lump sum, there is more to consider than just investment decisions. Listen to this episode to hear about the things you may not have thought about when considering your lump sum investment options.

You have 3 options when you come into a large sum of money

You may have received an inheritance, sold a business, or received stock options or restricted stock. However you received the money, there are really only three things you can do with it. You can spend it, pay down debt, or invest it. In fact, spending a portion of your newfound wealth to treat yourself is a good first step. Then take a step back and analyze your new financial picture. How have your goals changed? Is retirement now just around the corner? How will you need to invest to accomplish your new objectives? Many people are quick to want to pay off all debt. But first analyze the kind of debt you have before rushing to pay it all off. Paying off credit card debt is generally a good idea, but you might want to rethink paying off your mortgage. Before you make any decisions on what to do with the money you should take some time and consider all of your options carefully.

Analyze the tax implications

When receiving a lump sum of money, it is important to estimate the tax burden that comes with it. You don’t want to spend all of the money and then discover that you owe a large amount in taxes. No one likes to pay penalties so it is important to do some tax planning first. Take a comprehensive view of your tax strategies with a professional to help you consider all the options. There are many strategies you can consider to help ease the tax burden. A donor-advised fund is a great choice for the charitably inclined. Are their retirement accounts (SEP-IRA, 401k, Roth IRA, HSA's)  you haven't been maxing prior to the lump sum? Could front-loading a 529 account be right for you? What's your plan for health insurance and how will the premium tax credit affect you? You also want to consider the timing to ensure that your strategies are used in the same calendar year that you receive the lump sum.

What are some lump sum investment options?

We would all love to have a crystal ball to tell us the perfect time and place to invest our money. Instead, we ask questions like, should you invest it all at once? Should you invest in small increments over time? Or do what too many people do, and don’t do anything. Vanguard had an article which analyzed these lump sum investment options from a historical perspective. It turned out that about two-thirds of the time it was better to invest all at once. But, if you were prone to sell if experiencing a big loss in first few months, then investing over the next year may be best. Bottom line was that if you wait too long, you could end up regretting it. We all have that fear of making a mistake, but that fear of missing out in a rising market compounds the difficulty of long-term decision making. Understand that your decisions won’t be perfect but at the end of the day, it's all about the big picture. Think about your investment strategy. What assets make the most sense for your goals? Implementing a customized strategy for your specific desires will give you the comfort of being able to sleep at night, knowing you have a plan in place.

Outline of This Episode

  • [3:27] What are your options if you come into a large sum of money?
  • [7:53] Analyze the tax implications
  • [10:55] How to invest the lump sum
  • [16:08] Update your estate documents
  • [20:05] What is your cash flow?

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Jan 14, 2019

If asked, most people are hopeful they will have a happy retirement. They're just not sure they are taking all the necessary steps to get there. We all have those moments in our busy lives where we stop and ponder, am I doing what I need to enjoy retirement? But then our busyness continues and takes over any productive changes we considered. As financial advisors, we work with people in all phases of life and often chat with retirees that have walked this path. The happiest of them agree, there are 4 main areas that contribute to their happiness. If you want to prepare for a happy retirement then listen to this episode to hear 4 secrets to a happy retirement.

Happy retirees take their health seriously

The happiest retirees are able to move their bodies so that they can remain active. Physical exercise has the benefit of getting the endorphins going and creating joy. Staying active is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle as you age. You can’t wait until you retire to become active or it will be too late. Part of creating a healthy body is by moving more now. Even though it can be a challenge to find the time to create a healthy exercise habit, this is an important part of ensuring that your body will work the way you want as you age. Are you doing what you can now to make sure your body will still function the way you want in your golden years?

Happy retirees have enough money because they had a financial plan

Happy retirees have enough money to retire with and are financially independent. Are you doing everything you can to ensure that you will have a comfortable retirement? What savings rates do you need to have to have a comfortable retirement? How do you know that your money won’t run out when you retire? There are so many questions about money and retirement. A financial advisor can help ease your concerns about finances in retirement.

Having enough money means you will have less stress. A financial plan will help you make sure that you are saving enough. This may be obvious to some, but the fact is, only 35% of pre-retirees have a written financial plan. If you are unsure if you are saving enough now is the time to meet with a professional that can give you peace of mind. We recommend finding a fee-only financial planner to help you make sure you are doing all that you can to have the savings you need so that you won’t have to worry your way through retirement.

A strong sense of purpose can ensure a happy retirement

You need not only have a financial plan but a personal plan as well. If you have a strong sense of purpose that drives you this will help you to spend your retirement in a fulfilling way. Volunteering your time is a great way to further your knowledge and pass on your wisdom. Creating a life of purpose doesn’t just ensure that you aren’t sitting at home watching tv all day, it can result in leaving a legacy behind. What are your retirement plans? Are you planning to retire to something rather than away from something?

Relationships are important to a happy retirement

Happy retirees have friends. The happiest retirees interviewed have stated that they have a sufficient amount of friendships. Those with fewer friends are 3 times less likely to be happy. Are you developing friendships right now that will transcend the test of time? Creating friendships through common interests is a great way to ensure that you will have a number of friendships when you finally leave the work world behind. So how are you doing in these 4 areas? Do you feel like you are setting yourself up for a happy retirement?

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:17] Happy retirees take their health and wealth seriously
  • [4:52] Happy retirees have enough money to retire on and are financially independent
  • [9:22] Happy retirees have a strong sense of purpose
  • [13:03] The importance of friendships

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Oct 22, 2018

October is here so time to gather around the campfire. With Halloween around the corner, we are highlighting a few spooky financial stories that have scary circumstances. These feelings typically bleed in to stock markets as well. October is often wrongly characterized as the worst month for people to invest. Primarily because people remember the big historical market drops that happen during October.  But scary moves for your portfolio aren't the only thing to fear in your financial planning. For all our listeners who love movies, you're in for a treat. We've picked 5 spooky financial stories that pair up with some classic Halloween movies. Listen in for some truly terrifying financial stories.

Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Remember Jack Nicholson’s classic movie, The Shining?  "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Finding a work-life balance is difficult for so many of us. We had a client that saved diligently over a hard-working career. While building an impressive savings for retirement, he put off vacations, opting for promotions up the corporate ladder. But once he was finally ready to retire and enjoy his savings, he was diagnosed with a nebulous nerve condition that required daily care and limited physical motor functions preventing him from enjoying his hard earned savings. While we can't prevent crippling medical conditions, we can build in balance to our financial plans. Understanding how your savings and spending will transform throughout your life helps you make more confident decisions while enjoying time with those most important to you.

Seeing Something Others Can’t

“I see dead people.” A now infamous quote from The Sixth Sense. This is because Haley Jo Osmond's character can see things others can’t.  Similar scenarios occur when life is full of busyness that blinds us to opportunities that could make a noticeable long-term differences. Instead, by surrounding yourself with people who can spot things you can't see, you set yourself up for new opportunities to bolster your financial progress. The back-door Roth provides a great example. You may think you make too much money to enjoy the benefits of a Roth IRA, but maybe you didn't have enough time to fully understand and follow through with it.

How to Avoid the Blair Witch Scenario

The Blair Witch Project is a frightening scenario about a group of friends that wander into the woods without a plan. They lose their map and this leads them into trouble. Don’t let this be you. If you don’t have a plan you can swerve off course and lose your way to retirement. Many pre-retirees lose sleep over not having enough money because they didn’t set spending limits. You need to have a plan in place and know how much you can afford to spend and how much to save. Do you have a specific and customized plan for your life and your retirement?

Nightmares that Bring Confusion

Some employees are confused about how best to handle employee income incentives. This is much like the people in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas who are confused when Christmas comes to Halloween TownMany employees don’t have the time or expertise of how best to deal with RSUs, ESPPs, and Stock Options. Partly due to the tough decisions of when to exercise, sell or hold. So many tend to hold, where positions build and concentration risk grows. This is breeding ground for nightmare scenarios of holding too long and not diversifying. Listen to this episode to learn how to deal with the familiarity bias and ensure that all your financial eggs are not in one basket.

Don’t Neglect to Invest in your Human Capital

Ghostbusters 2 is a classic tale of reinvention. The Ghostbusters are forced to reinvent themselves after their business goes bust at the end of the first movie. But their is beauty in their resilience and how they trust in their expertise. This is a good metaphor for our own lives. It is important to invest in your own human capital and have the resilience to face negative events that can happen in your own life. If you continually improve your knowledge you will be able to bounce back from challenges and change the trajectory of your life. Investing in yourself will always bring a high return on your investment.

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:57] Not being able to see the forest for the trees
  • [7:16] Seeing something others can’t
  • [12:21] How to avoid the Blair Witch scenario
  • [17:50] The nightmares that bring confusion
  • [22:11] The neglect to invest in human capital

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Sep 24, 2018

When making your retirement decision, you likely get one chance to get it right. These type of situations are where checklists can shine. Understanding all your financial opportunities pre-retirement can make life-changing differences in your retirement journey. Which is why on today’s episode, we are giving you our beautifully detailed Pre-Retirement Checklist to help you make the best of your transition. Because the decisions you make now will have a lasting impact on when and how you can retire. This checklist provides you with a detailed step by step approach to giving you the tools to prepare for your best retirement.

“Good checklists...are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything--a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps--the ones that even the highly skilled professional using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.”
― Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto

What Will Retirement Look Like?

Answering this question brings a smile to most people, as they secretly picture the time they'll have to do all the things they've put off. But the biggest secret is some of the biggest financial opportunities occur just before and a few years after retirement. Lowering taxes in your highest earning years, and maxing low tax brackets in the first few years of retirement helps you hold on to more of your hard-earned savings. With so many things to focus on during the retirement transition, maximizing all opportunities is difficult without reminders. Enter the pre-retirement checklist. With 60 items highlighted, you're sure to find something to look in to for your own situation. With a plan this detailed, you can be assured you will feel confidence in your retirement transition.

We are not built for discipline. We are built for novelty and excitement, not for careful attention to detail. Discipline is something we have to work at.” 
― Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto

How Much Can You Spend?

Surveys show when planning for retirement, a major concern is knowing how much you'll have to spend in retirement. Figuring out where income will come from is a significant part of retirement planning. Retirement income can come from social security, pensions, retirement savings, part-time work, and passive income. Knowing how you spend your money informs how much income you will need. Tracking 12 months of spending prior to retirement gives you a great start, but when forecasting you'll want to understand how your priorities will change throughout retirement. Taking time to work through the pre-retirement checklist helps spur thinking how spending may change. Taking a tour through the full pre-retirement checklist will help your achieve the most successful retirement for you and your family.

The Tax Diversification of Your Net Worth

Before you retire, taking inventory of assets and debts gives you meaningful feedback. You're now planning to start taking money out of all the accounts that you have nurtured and grown for so long. This actually may be challenging to watch as your savings begin to diminish. One of the more popular (and longest) sections of the pre-retirement checklist helps you understand how you can save more in taxes. Tax diversification helps structure your assets to be as tax efficient as possible.

Insurance Decisions

Insurance may be the biggest question in retirement these days, especially health insurance. Planning to retire before you are eligible for Medicare is creating a conundrum of choices for pre-retirees.  For many COBRA will be your choice for up to 18 months after you leave your job.  However, if you've diversified your savings effectively, you could find cheaper health insurance on the federal exchange via a subsidy.  This takes specific tax planning annually. Outside of health insurance, you may not have thought about long-term care insurance, but it's something you should consider with the rising costs of long-term care. Working with a financial advisor, allows you to model potential scenarios of extended skilled nursing situations providing feedback if you can self-insure or not.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:27] Our pre-retirement checklist
  • [4:29] What are the big decisions that you have to make in retirement?
  • [9:30] Where is your income going to come from?
  • [15:00] What is your net worth?
  • [21:41] How can you save more in taxes?
  • [23:49] Where will you get insurance?

Resources & People Mentioned

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Jul 30, 2018

One of the difficulties in decisions around retirement, is most people only get one chance. One of the more essential decisions centers around when and how you choose to take Social Security. Maximizing your benefit has huge impacts to you retiring well. So this is not a subject that should be independent of your complete retirement financial plan. Carefully analyzing the best options could mean hundreds of thousands dollar differences for you throughout retirement.  So in this episode, we answered 8 of the top questions we hear about social security in less than 30 minutes. Our hope is that you'll have a desire to dig deeper in your on analysis, to assure you are making the best decisions for you and your family.

Who is eligible for social security?

The social security program was created in 1935 to promote the economic security of the American people. It takes about 10 years of work history for someone to become eligible for the benefits. The system works on credits and you need 40 credits over your lifetime (earn up to 4 a year). If you're married, you're eligible for spousal benefits especially if you don’t have as much of a robust work history. There are also disability and widower benefits. If you land in the latter category you should work with a CFP to help you understand your best filing options. Social security benefits are calculated by taking your highest 35 years of earnings and your benefits are calculated by these.

When should I claim social security?

The big question that everyone wants to know is, when should I claim social security benefits? The trick is, the answer is different for everyone. You can start claiming social security at age 62, which 34% of people do, or you could wait until age 70, which only 4% of claimers do. Full retirement age ranges from ages 65-67. Claiming your benefit before your full retirement age reduces your benefits by 5-6% annually. So claiming at age 62 could be a reduction of 25%. On the flip side, every year you wait to claim social security after full retirement age, your benefit grows by 8%. When deciding when to claim your benefit, health and life expectancy also should play a role in your decision. The decision about when to claim is an important one that can have significant financial ramifications.

Married couples have more benefit strategies to consider

A married couple has a lot to consider when it comes to thinking about filing for social security benefits. A spouse that hasn’t worked as much as the other is entitled to 50% of the higher earner’s social security benefit. For those born before January 1, 1954, the restricted benefit is still an option. Where one spouse, can take a "restricted" benefit equal to half their spouses monthly benefit. If one spouse passes early then the other spouse is entitled to the higher earner’s benefit amount. There are 3 main options for couples to consider: both spouses delaying, the higher earner delaying, or both taking early benefits. With singles, it is much easier to decide when to get your benefits, but still should be weighed with other income sources and current market environments.

When will Social Security run out?

A big influence on why people take Social Security early is the fear that it won't be there in the years to come. We've heard for years that the social security fund will eventually run dry. While it's true that the worker to retiree ratio is getting smaller, we shouldn’t have to worry about the program completely running dry in our lifetimes. Current projections show that social security will not be able to fully fund retirees beginning between 2033-2035. But, the system won’t run out completely and it could fund 70% if nothing is done to solve the problem. A few of the potential solutions include:

  • Pushing the claiming age out (last extension in 1983 only affected those 45 and younger at the time)
  • Increasing Social Security taxes through payroll deductions
  • Benefit Cuts to certain income levels

Listen in to hear the rest of the questions chocked full of useful information to help you uncover the mysteries behind the social security system.

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:07] What is social security?
  • [3:07] Who is eligible?
  • [7:00] When should I claim social security?
  • [13:05] Married couples have more social security strategies to consider than singles
  • [17:37] What about widows and divorcees
  • [19:07] Social security taxes
  • [21:49] When will social security run out?

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Oct 25, 2016

Can you really fail in retirement?

For most people, retirement is that time on the horizon when you get to do what you want, when you want. But surprisingly, it's not all that uncommon for people to retire only to go back to work or face other unexpected negative events that occur which people are not prepared for.

You spend a boatload of time planning the financial side of retirement (at least we hope you did). But how much time do you spend planning how you'll spend your time.

In this episode, we share ideas from an intriguing presentation given at NAPFA National 2016 where Mitch Anthony spoke about his new book The New Retirementality. He describes 10 components in the "Return on Life Index" he developed. This index details all the other areas you get a return in life that you may not regularly think about through those lenses. This includes your contribution after work, leisure, health, education, and relationship building opportunities.

Remember, you don't stop investing after you stop working. You just find different areas of your life to invest in, besides your portfolio. Take a listen to find out more of what we learned during Mitch's presentation.

Ways You Can Fail at Retirement

  1. Facts that back up our claim that many people fail at retirement
  2. 4 Key Success factors that have been found to result in a successful retirement.
  3. Resources to help you as you decide if and how to retire.

Facts and Links Mentioned In the Show

  1. For those over 65, the official number of suicides is 14.9 out of 100,000 people per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These numbers for over 65 may be under reported as overdoses are assumed to be an error.
  2. In 2014, people over 50 were twice as likely to get divorced than in 1990.
  3. The book Your Retirement Quest: 10 Secrets of Creating and Living a Fulfilling Retirement by Alan Spector and Keith Lawrence
  4. Retirement Mythbusters Presentation

Two Questions to Help Avoid Failing at Retirement

  1. Think through how are you going to spend your time?
  2. Secondly, how are you going to pay for it?

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Sep 27, 2016

In this episode, Chad and Mike take another look at the 401k, and how important it is to your retirement plan.

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