All Posts By

buhvdesigns

Will Social Security be Going Away?

By | SH&J Blog, Tips | No Comments

As financial planners, one of the most common questions we receive is regarding the future of Social Security. A lot of this uncertainty is driven by headlines in the media. Oftentimes, the media calls to question whether Americans can rely on the Social Security program to still be viable when current workers reach retirement. Much of the doubt is derived from changing demographics in the United States.

The baby boomer generation is reaching retirement and healthcare advances are allowing us to live longer lives. Combine this with reduced birth rates resulting in less future workers, and some of the skepticism surrounding the Social Security program becomes valid. With that being said, many Americans are afraid that the Social Security program will become obsolete, which most likely will not be the case. What we do know is that over the next 75 years or so, Social Security will have to evolve in order to support future generations of retiring workers.

The Social Security program was signed into existence by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 and has been through a few major changes over the last 84 years. As it currently stands, Social Security is a “pay-as-you-go” program, which means that the current working generations are paying for the current retirees. The system is subsidized by the Social Security Trust Fund, a reserve of funds to cover any deficit between income from taxes and output of benefits. While the demographics continue to change, the program will take on more costs with less workers to fund it. But there are several solutions to this issue, many of which we have seen before throughout the history of Social Security.

The first option, which you can imagine does not resonate well with the American constituents, is to reduce future benefits. According to Barron’s, if the program remains unchanged and the Social Security Trust Fund is depleted, the Social Security program will be able to continue paying retirees 75% of currently legislated benefits. Although Social Security was created to cover 40% of your income needs during retirement, many American’s rely on it as their only financial resource when they retire. Because of this, it is unlikely that politicians would make an argument to reduce Social Security if they are looking to gain approval from the largest demographic of voting constituents, retirees. A way that politicians have reduced benefits in a roundabout way in the past is by gradually pushing back “full retirement age” from 65 to 67. It would be more likely that we would see another push back beyond the age of 67, than an out-right cut in benefits.

The other option is to increase the revenues from payroll taxes that are funding Social Security. No one is a fan of increased taxes, but if it means providing a more reliable stream of income for you during retirement, it may be worth the extra tax dollars. We have seen changes in payroll taxes in the last 10 years with Congress temporarily cutting payroll taxes by 2% in 2011 and 2012, then raising them back up in 2013 by 2%. Many workers never acknowledged the later increase in payroll taxes. On top of that, payroll taxes are typically split between the employer and employee, so workers most likely won’t take full responsibility of any possible tax increases.

So will Social Security be going away? The brief answer is no. What we do know is that the program will continue to evolve with time and with the American population. That is why it is so important that we save for retirement during our working years, so that no matter what is to come, you are prepared. If you’d like to review your own retirement outlook, whether you are close to retirement or many years away, get in touch with us today for a complimentary consultation with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™.

Inside The Economy: Global Debt & U.S. Trading Partners

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

On this week’s Inside the Economy with SH&J, we discuss the rising debt balance in the global economy. How does the total debt in the U.S. economy compare to debt in other parts of the world? The U.S. has imported less from China over the past year and a half due to the change in tariffs. Which country has picked up the slack and increased its exports to the U.S.? Tune in to find out!

Our Financial Checklist for Newly Married Couples

By | SH&J Blog, Tips | No Comments

So you’ve planned night and day, hired incredible vendors, tied the knot, and danced the evening away with friends and family. Or maybe your wedding was a simple, quiet romantic elopement with just a few loved ones present. Either way, as you forge ahead into your new life together, you might be wondering what is next, especially in the realm of finances.

Many couples already live together before they get married, so they probably share finances to some extent. They are already used to setting financial goals together, making budgets, and deciding who pays for what. If you are a newlywed and haven’t done these things, this is a great place to start. But besides these tasks, there are other things to consider to make sure your finances are in order.

Now that you are married, you have to prepare for the unexpected and make sure that everyone is taken care of in the case of the unthinkable, not to mention you’ll need to think about your future together and plan for retirement. Below is our financial checklist for newly married couples, and we hope it helps you out!

Create or Update Documents

    1. Create or update your will. If you don’t have a will already, now is the time to create one. Especially now that you have a spouse, you want to make sure your assets are going where you want them to upon your death.
    2. Create or update your living trust. A living trust is a legal contract with a third party that makes sure your assets go where you want them to go upon your death. Many people choose between a will and a trust. We know thinking about you or your spouse passing away is not enjoyable, but don’t put off creating one of these critical documents just because it isn’t fun. You have the ability to make sure everyone is taken care of while you are well, so make sure you do!
    3. Update your beneficiaries. Any life insurance plan or retirement fund will have beneficiaries listed as to who will receive your assets upon your death. Make sure these are updated to include your spouse because legally, your beneficiaries supersede your will.
    4. Update any titles. If you plan on sharing property, home and vehicles titles should be updated to include your spouse as well.

Combine or Update Insurance Policies

  1. Life insurance: Not everyone thinks about life insurance before they are married, but now that you are, it is time to make sure you both have a life insurance policy to make sure your loved ones will be taken care of if one of you passes.
  2. Auto: Often there is no reason to carry two different policies once you are married when you can save by bundling. If your spouse is going to be driving your car, you also want to make sure both names are attached to the insurance so there are no issues in case of an accident.
  3. Home: You may find that your partner can get a cheaper home insurance rate by bundling with another policy like their auto insurance. Be sure to shop around and ask about discounts for bundling.
  4. Health insurance: If you want to combine health insurance, marriage is one of the few qualifying life events that allows you to change your plan. However, you generally only have 60 days to add a spouse after the wedding, so make sure you get on this right away.

Taxes

  1. Review and adjust your tax filing status. You may need to update your W-4 so you don’t owe money at tax time. This is a great time to run your numbers through the IRS withholding calculator to make sure you’re on track for the year. If both you and your spouse will be working, make sure to check the box for “Married, but withhold at higher Single rate” when you refile your W-4.
  2. Consider your tax-advantaged accounts. Depending on your combined income, you may move in or out of eligibility brackets for various tax-advantaged accounts. Make sure you take advantage of the accounts that will be the most beneficial in the future and consider whether backdoor contributions make sense for you. If one spouse won’t be working, consider opening a spousal IRA which gives you more space for tax-advantaged savings. If you plan to have children, you could also set up a 529 plan to save money for schooling.

If this list seems like a lot, don’t be overwhelmed. At Sharkey, Howes & Javer, we are here to help. Contact us to meet with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ for help setting up your finances and getting the most from your money as a newly married couple.

Inside The Economy: Stock Market Rebound, US Dollar Strength, and the Yield Curve

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

On this week’s Inside the Economy with SH&J, we discuss the recent bounce back in the U.S. stock market. The market is close to the all-time high it reached last Summer, but is it starting to get overvalued? An inverted yield curve has historically been a reliable recession indicator. Is the current flattening of the yield curve a cause of concern for our economic outlook? The U.S. dollar strengthened in 2018 due to many factors, including higher interest rates and tariffs. Are these dynamics still affecting the direction of the dollar? Tune in to find out!

Does it Make Sense to Pay Off Your Mortgage?

By | SH&J Blog, Tips | No Comments

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

By | SH&J Blog, Tips | No Comments

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?

By | SH&J Blog, Tips | No Comments

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!