CIGX, LLC, investment counsel, offers financial planning services, including retirement planning, college planning, investment planning, and insurance planning. We take a broad and thorough approach to your financial future. The process begins with data gathering, such as asset...Read More
CIGX, LLC, capital management, offers the global strategies model portfolio series. These model portfolios range from conservative to aggressive and use a macro-economic, a.k.a top-down, fundamental analysis approach to asset management. Emphasis is placed on diversification,...Read More
Speaking to a good friend of mine a couple of weeks ago, he mentioned that he needed to do more for retirement. He had read some statistic, and I remembered it, but I was hazy on the details. How much does the average American investor have saved for retirement? Sometimes it is good to see where we fall on the scale. It can be encouraging or discouraging. A brief online search gave me three sets of statistics. On April 1, 2014, USA Today published an article stating that, in a poll, a third of all workers polled had less than $1,000 saved for retirement. Sixty percent (60%) of those polled stated that they had less than $25,000 saved for retirement. Twenty-two percent (22%) stated that they had more than $100,000 in their retirement accounts (USAToday, 4/1/2014). Statisticbrain.com stated that the average savings of a 50-year old was $44,000 (http://www.statisticbrain.com/retirement-statitistics.com/). Learnvest.com reported a 2012 study in their “how do you compare” series, that workers in the age group of 25-32 had a median $12,000 in their retirement accounts and an average of $37,000. Age group 33-44 had a median of $61,000 and an average of $157,000; and age group 45-54 had a median $101,000 and an average of $219,000 in their retirement accounts. They noted specifically that they had 1300 respondents (http://www.learnvest.com/2012/11/retirement-savings-by-age-how-do-you-compare/). My guess is that none of these polls are scientifically valid. But, they do give you an idea of what individuals say they have saved for retirement in an invalid poll. I would add that many people save for retirement outside of a qualified retirement planning vehicle.
For me, the responses are interesting, but irrelevant. In the end, every individual has to figure out what their lifestyle is and will be in retirement, and how they will prepare for it. These numbers will be different for every single investor. Based on your income, you can plan for a specific savings rate to enhance your retirement. And, as long as you spend less than you make, your retirement will be a successful one. My take-away is simple. It is encouraging for all of us to know that we could all do a little more to prepare for retirement; both in the planning process and the saving/investing process. If we raise our retirement saving/investing rate by just a little bit today, we can have a more secure and joyful retirement in the future.
When we talk asset management, most of my conversations focus on what
to buy, and sometimes when to buy it. These are difficult decisions
to reach. However, We never talk about when to sell an investment.
The sale of a security is at least as important as the purchase, since
the sale completes the transaction and is the only time we know if we
made or lost money. This decision is even more difficult to reach.
The sell decision is mired in complexity. Behavioral finance is
trying to ascertain the reasons for the difficulty in making the sell
decision. The research shows that everyone gets it wrong at least
some of the time. Everyone. Individual and professional investor
alike. In the July 2014 AAII Journal, Jack Schwager addresses the key
elements of investment failure. In essence, our emotions interfere
with our ability to stay objective. For example, most investors hold
on to a losing security for the hopes of recouping those losses, yet
they sell early when they make a winning investment.
At CIGX, we consider a variety of factors in our sell decision. We
consider the status of the overall economy, including trade and
investment, consumer spending, debt and interest rates. We also look
at corporate profits, earnings growth, and dividend programs.
Finally, we do look at minimizing losses and taking gains when
appropriate. We sell a security when the growth prospects are no
longer there. We may sell a security when earnings no longer meet
expectations, or when a dividend is canceled. A change in management
warrants close monitoring.
The are other reasons to sell. A better opportunity has arisen and a
security has to be sold to enable the preferred investment. The
investor’s need for cash is another reason to sell. Cash is an
important asset class and securities may have to be sold to rebalance
the portfolio. Finally, taxes may impact the sell decision. While we
would never not make money to avoid taxes, we could harvest losses to
reduce taxes or sell to avoid moving into the next tax bracket, which
may negate those gains.
In my experience, the budget, is the single most difficult part of the financial planning process. Everything we do in financial planning is based on it, and yet, it is nearly impossible to derive, let alone maintain.
The first problem with budgeting is that top line. We often mis-characterize our income. When business owners tell me how much money they make, we clarify if we are talking about revenues or net income, or something in-between. When we talk about salary, we always talk about “gross” salary. We say, “I make 50k or 100k a year”. We can start there, but then taxes and other payroll deductions need to be accounted for in the budget.
The other problem is that expenses are difficult to predict. We all have unexpected expenses that ruin our budget every month. But, it is still better to have a budget than not. It is difficult to make, let alone reach goals, when you don’t know where your money is going. Taking a step back let’s you know what you are prioritizing today and allows you to change those priorities for tomorrow. Even if you start with one line on your budget, titled miscellaneous, and then put your entire income in that line, it is a start.
Then, specify your fixed costs of rent/mortgage, car note, insurance. Your utilities and groceries are variable and can be managed. However, they still fall within a range. I take the highest amount in utilities I have ever paid, and that is my utilities budget. Then I work hard to keep my utilities as low as possible. Groceries work the same way. It is a fixed cost. You have to eat. But it is also a variable cost. We can buy less or buy differently. We can use coupons. I have a cap on my grocery expenses. When we hit the max, we get very creative in the kitchen, but I don’t go back to the grocery store until next month…. Some essentials excluded.
Importantly, for many of us, savings and investments are not a part of the budget at all. The planner’s job then is to carve out a small piece to put towards savings and investments to help create financial security. In an ideal world, we would figure out our saving and investment targets first, and then figure out how much house and/or car we can afford. In other words, remember to pay yourself first in the form of savings and investments. A wise saying comes to mind: “a penny saved is a penny earned”.