Ultimately, it’s all about retirement

By BOB CUNNINGHAM

On this website, and hundreds of others like it that I read and monitor, we talk about practically anything that has to do with money/personal finance.  And we should… there’s a helluva lot to cover about the subject.

But what it all boils down to, whether you’re in your 50s or half of that, is preparing for the “Big R.”  What proactive steps are you taking, now and in the near future, to properly prepare for retirement?

So let me ask you, is that what we should really focus on ad nauseum?

While planning for the long-term future is certainly important, I contend that excelling in the short-term, including the ‘now,’ is at least equally vital.  In fact, one often facilitates the other.

Maximizing your efficiency in saving and investing now, logically, will result in you having more money to work with later.

Let’s take a quick look at why planning for retirement has become such big business, cliff notes version.  You ready?  It’s because virtually all private companies have deserted the traditional pension system in favor of a 401K/IRA-led way of saving for one’s own career conclusion.  And, many public and government agencies appear headed in the same direction.

Sure… just save some money with your company in its 401K, or do it on your own with an Individual Retirement Account, combine those with the scraps that are our social security payouts – assuming those rates stay where they are now – and you’ll be set.  Who needs a big, fat monthly pension check when the S&P 500 historically averages a 10% annual return?

I’m tellin’ ya, it’s bananas.  And yet our society has fully accepted this monumental shift in monetary focus.  But what people fail to properly gauge is that, while $500,000 in a retirement account may sound like a butt-load of money, it is in fact barely enough to keep a retired couple above the poverty line.

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard that experts traditionally recommend drawing down your nest-egg at about 4% per year, so that you can live while retaining the full balance of your primary account.  In other words, if you start with $500,000, and want to leave a legacy, you should take annual withdrawals from that account of no more than 4%.

Really?  Hmmm… let’s see how that might play out.

Let’s say you’re an average wage-earner in the U.S., about to retire.  Your household income, says Betterment.com, is about $68,000 a year gross.  That’s roughly $50,000 net spendable money after taxes.

If you expect to maintain the same standard of living you’ve become accustomed to, you would have to have about $1.25 million saved.  And that’s not even considering the erosion caused by inflation.  At a 3 percent inflation rate, $50,000 of net spending power becomes just $25,000 in about 24 years, which is roughly the average length of retirement nowadays.

Of course, you can always sacrifice your kids’ inheritance and spend down your money – in fact, I think you should because it’s your money.  But try making $500,000 last 24 years when you’re taking $68,000 withdrawals on a taxable account.  According to calculators on the BankRate.com website, do that and you will be out of money in less than 15 years.

Your retirement account is a Roth IRA?  Cool.  No taxation on the withdrawals.  But with $50,000 annual withdrawals and inflation, your investments had better return more than 14% each and every year if you expect to continue paying the bills 24 years later.

Also, we didn’t enter increased medical expenses or anything else into the equation.  Scared yet?  Ya should be at least nervous.

So what do we do?  If we’re smart, we utilize specific strategies that take the guesswork out of money, and we start doing them now… to benefit us now, a little later, AND into retirement.  We do things that allow us to live a better, smarter life RIGHT NOW and over the ensuing years, and not just obsess about what we’re going to do when we actually get old.

And I have a strategy that makes all of this relatively simple and definitively painless.  Beginning in 2018, this website will be dedicated to detailing this approach and its various advantages on a regular basis.  Yep… I’m going to make you wait for it.

But, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you already know what I’m talking about.  DPWLI… to know what this acronym stands for, refer to earlier posts, and let me know your reaction to the suspense.

Yes, admittedly, I’m messing with my audience a little here.  But teasers are good, and it won’t be long now before the info will be at your fingertips.

In the meantime…  thanks, as always, for reading.

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DISCLAIMER:  This post represents the author’s opinions only.  In no way should any part of the content of this post be interpreted as official financial advice, nor does it represent an intention to solicit readers into a specific company or investment.  Results are never guaranteed.  Utilize the information as you see fit, make all money decisions at your own risk.

Do you have to take risks to make a return on your money? Emphatically… No!

By BOB CUNNINGHAM

Greetings, all.  I’m tapping out this post from the Rio Hotel & Suites in Las Vegas.  I’m here to attend a convention – so it seems appropriate to discuss what some call the “Wall Street Casino.”

Essentially, what we’re talking about is the subject of risk.  More specifically, we want to ascertain why it has become common “knowledge,” that in order to get good returns, you have to be willing to take some risk.

There is some truth to that notion when you look at it from the risk perspective.  There are investments out there that are highly speculative. No one knows what’s going to happen, and folks don’t even have a decent idea of what’s going to happen even if they pretend they do.

And I’m not talking about investments that have a reputation as being risky, such as options trading, day trading, commodities, or even collectibles.  No, sir, I’m referring to that mainstream investment called the S&P 500 Index.

You may have heard of it.

Obnoxiousness aside, financial experts of all kinds will have you believe that investing in the stock market is the only legitimate way to earn good returns, and that if you do it right by conducting proper due diligence, diversify your portfolio, consult a professional, etc., you will most certainly be fine in the long run.

These know-it-alls love to cite that the S&P, which stands for Standard & Poor, has returned an average of about 10% annually since The Great Depression.  I’ve read multiple articles on-line and in print magazines, of late, suggesting you shouldn’t be wary of the potential for a sharp decline in the market such as what we experienced in 2008 and 2009 – even though we’re nearing a record-duration bull market as I write this – because even if it does drop sharply at some point, the market inevitably comes back and then some…

Pish posh.

Folks who saw their investment account balances drop 40% or more nearly a decade ago are just now catching up.  A few are showing a slight gain from pre-2008 levels, but projected as an annual return most would have been better off keeping their money under their Serta Perfect Sleeper.

And with retired people who are counting on taking an income from their investment assets, a volatile market can literally make them queasy because they’re not sure if they’re going to have enough money to do the things they want to do in their golden years.

By the way, that aforementioned 10 percent annual S&P growth is before taxes and fees, and your actual return isn’t 10% because you can only earn that if the market were to return exactly that percentage every year.  We’ve demonstrated multiple times on this site how average returns are a far cry from actual returns.  Here’s another quick example:

(Start with $1,000 account balance.  Earn 60% the first year, lose 50% the second. Your average annual return would be 5% (60 – 50 = 10, divided by 2 years), but your actual return is a 10% annual LOSS ($600 gain first year = $1,600 in account, 50% loss the second year = $800 loss – net result is $1,000 + $600 – $800 = $800 balance in account after the second year.  $1,000 – $800 = $200 loss is 20%, divided by 2 years = 10% loss per year).

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a financial instrument in which you could store money safely, and still earn a respectable annual rate of return with virtually zero risk?  How sweet to fund it and forget it, knowing that you have a better chance of being struck by lightning – twice – than of losing with that account!

Dividend-paying whole life insurance.  Yes, we have introduced this product on this site, and I’ve written on it numerous times.  And in the coming weeks and months, this blog will adjust its focus from a general personal finance educational approach to a site dedicated to teach as many folks as will take the time to learn, the numerous benefits of utilizing life insurance “living benefits.”

It has to be the right kind of insurance, set up by properly trained agents representing carriers who have been established for more than a century.  But when you use this tool to hold your nest-egg, you will get the following:  Safety of principal and gains, a guaranteed rate of return that can be even higher depending on annual dividends, a structure that legally allows you to access your funds tax-free whenever you want, and a system available by some companies (but not all) that allows you to borrow funds from your cash value – without qualifying – and yet your full cash value continues to earn returns and grow as if you never took a loan at all.

It’s all about educating people.  Our public school system falls far short of any legitimate teaching about money or investments or retirement savings, so it’s up to citizens like myself who are passionate about people of all ages succeeding financially, for the short- and long-term.

Keep reading this space every week, friends.  We will continue to shed light on what is not only a desirable alternative to the gambling that investing in Wall Street and the money markets is, but also a critical undertaking we need to be aware of… NOW.

Thanks for reading.

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DISCLAIMER:  This post represents the author’s opinions only.  In no way should any part of the content of this post be interpreted as official financial advice, nor does it represent an intention to solicit readers into a specific company or investment.  Results are never guaranteed.  Utilize the information as you see fit, make all money decisions at your own risk.

My apologies: No new post this week

A QUICK NOTE FROM BOB CUNNINGHAM:  Unfortunately, I will be unable to post this week due to illness.  An abdominal issue forced me into surgery Sunday, July 16 and I’m now recovering (nicely, thank you).  I will return to this space for a new post no later than July 25.

Please take this time, if you would be so kind, to review some of my previous posts and submit comments.  Just scroll down, or you can refer to my list of Recent Posts on the right-hand portion of this page.  The battle to do the best and most with your money should never take time off.

Thank you for your time and understanding. See you next week.

Top 5 LEGIT Personal Finance Books

By BOB CUNNINGHAM

Ever since I became enamored with personal finance and, more specifically, unearthing guru-promoted myths, I have developed my favorites from the list of all the PF books I’ve read over the last decade-plus.

Now before I go any further, I want to point out that just because a book may not have earned a mention in this space doesn’t mean that the book in question doesn’t offer some value (how ’bout that artfully crafted triple-negative?!).  There are money authors out there who I personally believe are way off the mark in several areas of finance philosophy (mostly those who insist government programs are the best way to save and invest), but I nevertheless agree with them on other topics.

With that caveat out of the way, the following is a summary of the books that are the most worthy of you spending your money to obtain, simply because they offer information that, in my opinion, is generally spot-on with what is best for the vast majority of people.  These selections are easy to understand, follow, and implement, yet don’t dumb things down to a juvenile level.

Many of these books support somewhat unorthodox solutions, and are even outright contrarian to some of the most popular conventional advice.  In many instances, the courage demonstrated by the writers is a primary reason I like the work.

All are available through normal sources, so I won’t be delving into individual websites, book costs, etc.  Just titles and authors, and why I believe they’re worthwhile:

1. The Bank on Yourself Revolution, by Pamela Yellen

A topic of this blog in the near future, and indeed it will be arguably the most important post I’ve ever written, will be about how the correct type of whole life insurance is far and away the best tool available for short-term and long-term savings, retirement planning, funding college educations, and more.  Yellen, who should not be confused with Janet Yellen, the current Chairperson of the Federal Reserve, summarizes the in’s and out’s of this strategy in the most contemporary sense considering the philosophy itself is more than a century old.

Earlier works, such as Become Your Own Banker, by Nelson Nash, are better known in the financial publishing sector, but Pamela Yellen’s most recent release is the best guide to understanding and implementing the approach now.

2. Last Chance Millionaire, by Douglas R. Andrew

The author of two preceding and related works, Missed Fortune and Missed Fortune 101, Andrew lays out an extensive strategy regarding the value of mortgages, tax management, and arbitrage… this was the first book that led me to conclude that so much conventional personal finance wisdom is hokum.

In my opinion, combining the strategies laid out in this book, and the Bank on Yourself approach in No. 1 above, can put folks of numerous financial categories onto a path that results in superior overall results.

3. Money: Master the Game, by Tony Robbins

Better known for his dominance of the personal development niche, and a guy who gets a lot of unwarranted flak in my view, Robbins put together a marvelous all-star team of financial experts and lays out an outstanding overall plan to take care of virtually all areas of finance.

Robbins didn’t try to pretend he is the expert, although he comes off a bit arrogant in acknowledging that his celebrity gave him the ability to contact, and sit down with, literally dozens of influential, acknowledged money master minds. His newest spin-off release, Unshaken, was mostly a disappointing re-hash of many of the points he was able to make in MMTG (i.e., a not-so-subtle attempt to milk the cow twice during the same dawn), but that misfire doesn’t detract from his successful initial foray into personal finance education.

4. Multiple Streams of Income, by Robert G. Allen

Another author who strayed from his primary expertise — in this case, Allen is a noted real estate investing pioneer who has penned numerous best-sellers on that subject — to delve into areas related to personal finance.

Talking about a myriad of ways to increase income (and thereby, cash flow) is admittedly a bit of a stretch, especially compared to the direct impact of the first three publications on this list, but Allen covers so many straight-forward, self-generating income concepts that you can’t help but significantly improve your bottom line just by implementing one or two of them in addition to how you currently make your living.  I had to include it here, because it has been so influential on me.

5. Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill

Okay, so I had to go a little conventional on you, but for good reason.  Simply put, no credible listing of top financial books can omit this one.  It’s the one that started it all, so to speak.

To be blunt, I only took a few things from this book that have had direct impact on my personal finances or life approach, but to be fair, that is because I got my start in this type of information-seeking relatively late in life.  For anyone who wants a solid foundation from which to begin seeking legitimate wealth, this is the one and only book to start with.

As a special show of respect, I will give one other title a mention in the same “breath” as TAGR, separating it from my list below of others worth reading:  Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki.  Interestingly, I have found myself drifting away from Kiyosaki’s line of thinking for the last few years because he’s gone somewhat in the direction of doomsayer, but I admire the unique perspective he brings as well as his obvious enthusiasm for what he believes to be the smartest philosophy there is on money.  I’ve learned a great deal from his series of books in addition to the one that started it all for him.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Automatic Wealth, by Michael Masterson;   Start Late Finish Rich, by David Bach (author of another good work, The Automatic Millionaire);  The Smartest Investment Book You’ll Ever Read, by Daniel Solin;  The Index Card, by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack.

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DISCLAIMER:  This post represents the author’s opinions only.  In no way should any part of the content of this post be interpreted as official financial advice, nor does it represent an intention to solicit readers into a specific company or investment.  Results are never guaranteed.  Utilize the information as you see fit, make all money decisions at your own risk.

Truly, you CAN retire earlier than by age 65

Thank you for stopping by my website, and welcome.

If you were to do research on me and my credentials in the world of personal finance, you wouldn’t find a lot of impressive-looking acronyms nor are there many lofty degrees or designations I can cite as qualifications.  I am a professional life insurance agent who, through the SOHK (School Of Hard Knocks) over the first 35 years or so of my adult life, has learned a great many simple strategies that are often unconventional yet clearly beneficial.

Heck, a few of the tactics and techniques I intend to share on this site weekly are downright opposed by the mainstream financial community.  And yet, I’m here to tell you straight-up that they are superior for a healthy, wealthy life to conventional methods such as focusing on your job’s 401K plan for savings, or avoiding credit cards under all circumstances, or buying term insurance and investing the difference.

The real truth?  You should mostly avoid government programs, can benefit from having multiple credit cards, and would be smart to make permanent life insurance a central focus of your planning.

But there’s plenty of time to dive into all of that.  And rest assured, this site isn’t about beating you over the head with insurance product pitches.  Truth is, many of you need more basic assistance before you’re ready to delve into more advanced strategies.  And I’m here to show you the way from the beginning.

While I believe the information you will find here can benefit folks of all ages, much of the content is designed to get younger adults/families off to a strong financial start.  The earlier you start saving, for example, the more benefit you will reap from the amazing wonder that is compound interest.  And seriously, starting to save in your early 20’s versus waiting until your 30’s or later can make a monumental difference on how much you can compile, which in turn, goes a long way toward determining how early you can stop working and live on what you have already – if you choose to go that route.

Bottom line:  Do these things correctly from the get-go and you could realistically retire by your late-40’s with a superior level of independence to those who are forced to wait to the traditional age 65, or even longer.

So I would be greatly honored if you’d be willing to check back to this site each week to read my latest post.  And by all means, I welcome feedback – both complimentary and critical are appreciated, as long as it’s constructive.

Thanks again for reading.

-Bob Cunningham