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Does it Make Sense to Pay Off Your Mortgage?

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A home mortgage is something that the majority of Americans need to obtain in order to purchase a primary residence. A mortgage is considered “good debt” because it is tied to an asset that has the opportunity to appreciate in value over time. It is usually issued at a lower interest rate compared to consumer loans and the interest can be tax deductible.

A common question people have is whether or not they should pay down their mortgage early. The first thing to look at when trying to answer this question is the interest rate on the loan. Since the Financial Crisis in 2008, we have seen historically low interest rates. According to FreddieMac, the average 30-Year Fixed-rate mortgage has been between 3.5% and 5.5% since 2010. It is important to take into consideration the opportunity cost of paying down your mortgage. If you have a low rate (in the 3.5%-4.5% range), it may make sense to invest that money rather than using it to aggressively pay down the mortgage. Going back to 1926, the average annual return on a 60% stock and 40% bond portfolio is about 8%. If you’re a long-term investor, it would make more financial sense to invest that money in a diversified portfolio instead.

Another aspect of this decision is the emotional side. A housing payment (whether it be rent or mortgage) is often the largest expense item in a person’s budget. For some people, you cannot put a price on the feeling of owning your own home free and clear and never having to worry about a mortgage payment again.

Are you wondering if you should pursue paying off your mortgage early? Contact Sharkey, Howes & Javer today to speak with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. We’ll help you answer this question and provide you with the advice you need to help meet your financial goals.

Three Budget-Friendly Vacation Destinations for Spring

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Spring is a glorious time to travel. Tourists are fewer and prices are often cheaper. Flights have fewer delays and cancellations, and the weather is starting to warm up. We have selected three budget-friendly trips from Denver that may appeal to you whether you’re traveling alone, with a partner, or with your family.

Get Your Groove on in Memphis

United Airlines has non-stop flights from Denver to Memphis that can usually be found for under $250. The Memphis Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Soul Museum are just two of the many Memphis museums that feature music. Live music can be found all over town, and Beale Street is the epicenter with three blocks of nightclubs, restaurants, and stores. It is best known for delta blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, R&B and gospel music. The Beale Street Music Festival, held May 3rd to 5th, draws thousands of music fans from around the world for live performances.

Another claim to fame is the city’s barbecue. Barbecue tours offer tastes of a variety of barbecue styles — up to seven for $65. Or, just pop into a nearby BBQ restaurant and make your own discoveries.

The National Civil Rights Museum incorporates the motel where Martin Luther King was murdered and displays a compelling overview of Black history from slavery through the Civil Rights movement.

Lodging in Memphis ranges from the historic Peabody Hotel downtown (about $230 a night) to chain hotels that offer rooms for $100 or less. And if you’re an Elvis fan, you can stay at the Guest House at Graceland for $161 a night.

Fly to the Windy City

United Airlines offers round trip fares to Chicago for around $170. Getting from the airport to the city is just $5 on the L train that has a station in the airport. Or, you can purchase a $28 Ventra pass that is good for a week of unlimited rides on Chicago’s L trains and busses, including to and from the airport. Check into a small charming hotel, such as the historic Old Chicago Inn ($135 a night) with its Prohibition-era inspired speakeasy. The weather is usually balmy in late spring, so walking through the city parks, along the lakefront, and down the Magnificent Mile (a shopping mecca) can be delightful.

Chicago offers world-class museums such as the Art Institute, the Field Museum, and the Museum of Science and Industry. A $106 VIP CityPASS lets you skip the lines at five major museums and attractions. Chicago theaters offer performances of many varieties with a wide range of ticket prices. The Looking Glass Theater is one of the more affordable and unusual as it is situated in the Water Tower Building. Act(s) of God is playing through the start of April and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is playing in May. Expect to pay $35 to $45 a ticket.

You can eat your way around the world without leaving the city. Chicago’s iconic staples are deep dish pizza, Italian beef sandwiches, and the Chicago hot dog on a poppy seed bun. Other popular cuisines includes Italian, German, Irish, Asian, and Mexican. Try little restaurants in ethnic neighborhoods for meals prepared by families from the recipes they brought from home.

With so many things to do and see, a Chicago vacation can be geared towards children, families, or adults.

Fly to Iceland and Beyond

Round trip tickets from Denver to Iceland are around $552 on Icelandair. The airline allows multi-day stopovers before boarding a plane for your onward journey to Europe. A sample price from Denver to Dublin with a stopover in Iceland is about $1,110. This is about what you can expect to pay on a major airline without a stopover. While in Iceland, enjoy some of nature’s most dramatic displays in The Land of Midnight Sun. By May 21st, there is no night in Reykjavík. Glacier hiking, lava caving, and horseback riding are some favorite activities. Many choose to rent a car and drive the ring road that circles the island, or just explore part of it for extravagant views of the wild and rugged land and seascape.

Be sure to set aside four hours to enjoy the warm, mineral-rich waters of the Blue Lagoon ($57) followed by a snack at Blue Cafe, or a meal at Lava Restaurant that serves a remarkable birch and juniper cured Atlantic char. Reykjavik has lodging options for all budgets. The Icelandair Marina Hotel ($232 a night) is by the Old Harbour beside the downtown area and has stunning ocean views. Budget hotels cost less, and some have a great deal of charm.

All three vacation options are fun to visit any season, but travelers headed for Iceland should be ready for the snow and cold if they plan an early spring trip.

If you’ve been bit by the travel bug and want to make sure your next trip fits in your budget, contact us to speak with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and we’ll help you keep your financial plan on track while you take that vacation you’ve been dreaming of.

Inside The Economy: The U.S. Economy is Growing Slowly, but Surely

By | Economic Discussion, Economy, SH&J Blog | One Comment

On this week’s Inside the Economy with SH&J, we take a look at the drivers of GDP in the United States. With current inflation numbers hovering around 2%, where in the economy are we seeing signs of high and low inflation? Prices at the gas pump have been climbing, what is to blame? With China dipping into recession territory, where does that leave the U.S. in the business cycle? Tune in to find out!

Women & Finance: Are You in Control of Your Finances?

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It is more important than ever that women play a proactive role when it comes to their finances. When asked if women feel that they know less than the average investor about investing and the financial markets, 55% of women agreed. Alongside this, women are more hesitant to invest than men, keeping 71% of their money in cash. The goal of this article is to highlight the importance of investing for women and provide confidence to help you take control of your finances.

When it comes to securing their financial future, women have some obstacles to overcome. There are a few unique reasons behind this. First, women have historically earned less than men. Although women are almost half the workforce and receive more college and graduate degrees than men, their take-home pay is still considerably less. In 2017, female full-time, year round workers made 80.5 cents for every dollar that their male counterparts earned, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. On top of that, women also lose earnings by spending less time in the workforce raising children and caring for family members.

This is especially harmful because women are living longer than men. On average, men are living until the age of 76, while women are outlasting them, living to an average age of 82. That is 6 additional years of expenses that women need to save for. In addition, 56% of working women do not participate in their employer sponsored retirement plans. This savings pattern does not match the long-term need.

Taking all of this in consideration, although women on average are less confident than men when it comes to investing, they tend to be better investors. Analysis completed by Fidelity and SigFig shows that female investors on average outperform men by up to 0.6% in a years’ time. This may seem minor, but year over year can lead to a significant advantage. This can be attributed to a few different characteristics. One reason for better investment returns is that women tend to take on less risk than men by buying less stock. Women also change investments in their portfolios 45% less than men, they tend to be more “buy and hold” investors. Lastly, 64% of women agreed they are more likely to seek advice and work with a financial advisor, compared to 56% of men.

Because of all of this, it is increasingly important that women take an active role when it comes to their finances. In effort to overcome these obstacles, it’s important to ask questions, conduct research and work with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ in order to take control of your own financial future.

Inside the Economy: Wage Gains & Historical Tax Rates

By | Economic Discussion, Economy, SH&J Blog | No Comments

On this week’s Inside the Economy with SH&J, we take a look at wage increases. Wages have recently increased at the fastest rate since 2009. How much does the growth of the manufacturing sector play a part in this increase? There has been quite a bit of media coverage about raising the highest marginal tax rate. Have higher tax rates generated greater tax revenues historically? Tune in to find out!

Savings Rates in Colorado vs. the Nation

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As younger workers enter the workforce and the baby boomers make their exit, the importance of savings has reached a new generation. A common rule of thumb for those just entering the workforce is to contribute approximately 15 percent of their income to their retirement. Unfortunately, this percentage is often not met by many, especially for fresh college graduates paying down student loans.

Compounding returns can be a powerful force, but you have to start saving early and often to truly take advantage of it. For every 10 years you delay funding your retirement, it’s possible you will have to roughly double the amount you save. It’s important to make sure you’re saving enough to reach your goals.

Colorado Saving Rates

The Bureau of Economic Analysis rated Colorado at 106.41 on the Nest Egg Index, indicating that Coloradans are more capable of saving money for retirement than Americans are as a whole. However, it does not necessarily mean that they’re saving enough.

As of November 2018, the national average savings rate is 6 percent of household income. This is significantly lower than the recommended 15 percent recommended by financial planners, but the rate is still trending up since its low point of just over 2 percent in 2005.

Colorado vs. Other States

How does Colorado stand in the rankings? Nationwide, Colorado is ranked 10th on the Nest Egg Index, indicating that Coloradans have a better opportunity to save for retirement and financial success than the residents of 40 other states. New Jersey tops the list with a rating of 114.35, Oregon represents the average with a score of 100.04, and Mississippi comes in last at 85.48.

If you’d like to review your own personal saving rate, whether you’re saving for retirement or more immediate goals, get in touch with us today for a complimentary consultation with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™.

Inside the Economy: Government Shutdown & Unemployment Numbers

By | Economic Discussion, Economy, SH&J Blog | No Comments

On this week’s Inside the Economy with SH&J, we discuss the effects of the government shutdown on the U.S. economy. What percentage of U.S. GDP is comprised of Federal consumption and investment? The national unemployment rate remains below 4%. Tune in to find out which states have better unemployment numbers than others and where the chances of a global recession stand.

What to Expect if You Choose Early Retirement

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The age old question: when can I retire? As financial planners, we are often faced with the question: can I retire early? Retirement in your 50’s or early 60’s is a possibility, but there are some additional items to plan for if you are thinking about leaving the work force early. Here are a few considerations to be aware of if early retirement is in your future.

Health Insurance Costs:

Don’t take your employer-provided health care plans for granted. Typically, the biggest expense that individuals in early retirement face is health insurance premiums. While waiting to qualify for Medicare at age 65, you have a few different options. Once you leave the workforce, you have the option to sign up for COBRA benefits which provides continuing coverage of group health benefits for up to 18 months following separation of service. COBRA usually requires the former employee to pay the full premium for health coverage up to 102% of the employer plan cost. While COBRA coverage is more expensive than coverage for active employees, it can still be cheaper than insurance available through the private insurance marketplace. Getting quotes from the private insurance marketplace and under the Affordable Care Act can help you plan for healthcare expenses.

Sufficient After-Tax Savings:

The IRS makes it difficult to access money from retirement plans prior to the age of 59 ½, without facing a penalty. That is why it is important to have an adequate amount of savings held in a taxable account if you decide to retire prior to 59 ½ to avoid a hefty bill from the IRS. There is one exception that allows you to access retirement plan money early, it’s called the “Age 55 Rule”. This rule allows individuals who leave their company at age 55 or older to take penalty-free withdrawals from their 401(k). But, be careful! Once you roll the money from the 401(k) into an IRA, the rule no longer applies.

Time is Money:

For many retirees, the most difficult part of transitioning out of the work force is adapting to having an abundance of free time. It is important to financially plan for how you will fill the hours that you previously spent at work. Whether that be with expanding on hobbies, travel, or more time spent with family, it’s important to prepare for some increased spending in the first few years of retirement as you adapt to your new life. A common habit of new retirees is spending too much too soon, so it is important to monitor your spending so you can sustain your lifestyle throughout all of retirement.

A Plan for Social Security:

Before you enter into early retirement, prepare a game plan for the appropriate time to start Social Security and stick to it! It’s common for retirees to want to take Social Security as early as possible to help with cash flow, but taking the payments before full retirement age can greatly reduce your benefit over the long term.

Are you considering early retirement and need help planning for the future? Are you unsure of how much is enough for retirement? Contact Sharkey, Howes & Javer today to speak with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. We’ll help you get your financial planning on track and provide you with the advice you need to meet your financial goals.