How Much Risk Can You Tolerate?

Are you the kind of person who enjoys a night at the casino, who knows better than betting too much but gets caught up in the excitement? Or are you someone who decides beforehand what your maximum losses should be before you even bet your first dollar?

It probably comes as no surprise that many people are wary of losing their cash at card games and the roulette wheel but don’t have the same understanding or limits when risking their wealth in the markets.

As we’re sure you know, there are no guarantees when investing your money because every investment, no matter how conservative, still has some degree of risk.

For example, if you’re investing your money in the stock of only one company, you are not diversified and your risk is very high. If this company goes through a difficult patch, the value of your stock is likely to decrease. If the company goes out of business, you could lose the entire investment. Even if you invested in a United States government bond, your investment is likely to be more secure, but even with this apparent safety, the value of that bond could still decrease.

The good news is that risk can be controlled, and a financial advisor can show you how to invest wisely, and potentially increase your wealth from an investment position that is prepared for reversals with a plan for both safeguarding and expanding your capital.

So, how much risk tolerance do you have?

Risk tolerance is a term that is defined as the amount of risk that’s acceptable for your investments given your unique financial situation. The two parts to this term are (1) your ABILITY to suffer investment losses from the risks you’re taking, as well as (2) your WILLINGNESS to suffer losses. Financially, you might be quite capable of absorbing decreases to your wealth. For example, a -20% loss might be uncomfortable but acceptable for one person, yet completely catastrophic for another.

Willingness to take a risk is often more acceptable for young people who have more time to rebuild their wealth in the event of losses, while a retiree might be completely unwilling to sustain any losses because every dollar is dear. Risk tolerance is different for everyone, and is based on their unique individual circumstances.

Of course, no one likes to see the value of their portfolio decrease, and yet it happens every day. Knowing your appetite for risk is essential before building your portfolio, and when adding or eliminating investments. Your financial advisor will be extremely helpful with analyzing risk before you add assets to your portfolio, and can help you diversify your vulnerability to risk among the assets you select while working with you to maximize your portfolio’s rate of return and minimize your exposure to risk.

When you meet with your financial advisor, your conversation may determine whether you can accept minimal, moderate, or aggressive risk selections. Many investors prefer a combination of these three levels of risk, and depending on their tolerance for risk, they may have a more conservative portfolio with a few moderate and aggressive investments, or they may choose a more aggressively focused portfolio because other factors in their estate, or overall wealth, are secure.

Most people do not want to throw the dice when it comes to their financial well-being and the effect an aggressive approach may bear on their retirement years. I am reminded of the two sides to the risk tolerance coin in these quotations:

“Risk is like fire: If controlled, it will help you; if uncontrolled, it will rise up and destroy you.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.” ~ Geena Davis 

We hope this article about understanding your personal risk tolerance was informative, and gave you some ideas about how to approach risk when you make investments. We welcome your getting in touch with us so we can review your portfolio and help you determine if the risk you are carrying fits your investment profile and financial requirements. We would also welcome helping you determine if you’re on the right track for the retirement lifestyle you desire. Thank you!

Joseph M. Maas, CFA, CVA, ABAR, CM&AA, CFP®, ChFC, CLU®, MSFS, CCIM

Synergy Financial Management, LLC

13231 SE 36th Street, Suite 215

Bellevue, WA 98006

ph: 206.386.5455

fx: 206.386-5452

www.sfmadvisors.com

3 Ways to Preserve Your Wealth at Tax Time

As the third quarter comes to an end with the arrival of cool autumn weather, this is one of the best times to get serious about planning how to minimize the inevitable. Over 65% of the year has transpired so by now a more factual attack strategy can be implemented because much of what has occurred during the year is known or can be anticipated.

At this point, your financial planner may now be more precise with recommendations to delay income for subsequent years as a tax strategy, and can be more specific about deductions you should take or delay to limit your estate’s tax exposure. Here’s a little primer on what to consider.

1. Defer Your Income: The first strategy to consider when planning ways to reduce your annual income tax is to discuss with your financial planner if it’s possible to defer your current tax year income until a future year. This could reduce your immediate tax liabilities and may also place you in a lower tax bracket as well, saving tax costs in two important ways. The strategy as possible with certain retirement plans, or if you own a business there may be ways to shift income to another year.

2. Shift Income to Family Members: It may also be possible for you to reduce your federal income tax liabilities by shifting income to other members of your family who are in lower tax brackets. For example, you may own a stock that generates a lot of dividend income; when you gift the stock, the tax responsibility is also shifted, and assuming you don’t exceed the $13,000 ceiling on tax-free gifts, you can reduce your tax burden. A family limited partnership might also be an appropriate way to shift income so tax liabilities can be reduced.

Of course, there are a number of factors involved with shifting income to family members so you’ll need a tax advisor to guide you on the feasibility and the consequences of moving income to family members, including children, and whether or not your income is from a C corporation, an S corporation, or a Family Limited Partnership.

3. Deduction Planning: By knowing all the deductions for which you are entitled, you may be able to significantly reduce your income tax liabilities. Part of the discussion between yourself and your tax advisor should include the value of placing a deduction in one year or another, which could increase your tax liability reduction.

It’s important you plan as well as you can to legally limit your taxation. When means are provided so you can save more of your hard-earned money, it is in your own best interests to accept the opportunity! Remember, your retirement may last three decades or longer, and you may need every penny that’s available, especially in the final years of your life you may not be able to work at a job anymore.

Unless you have an MBA in finance, it’s quite likely you don’t know the many choices available that could allow you to conserve your wealth and legally pay less in taxes. This is why it’s so important you receive advice from a competent financial professional. With the recent tax law changes and your own unique personal circumstances, it will probably be worth your while to consult with an expert in the field.

Of course, there are other strategies as well such as investing in tax-exempt income or tax-deferred income, but these will be a topic for another time.

I know it may seem strange to actually look forward to paying your taxes, but when you’ve done your homework and receive the professional advice of a credentialed tax advisor, the process of paying what you owe for the privilege of being a US citizen might not be as painful as you once imagined, and though you won’t be eager to write your check to the IRS, you’ll know that your annual legal contribution is based on indisputable facts used to your advantage which help preserve your wealth so you can provide for your family as well as secure your financial freedom during your anticipated lengthy retirement days.

Please contact us if you would like to have your tax planning reviewed now, while there is still time to make the necessary adjustments that will augment your holiday season with relief from anxiety and the security of knowing you have preserved the harvest of your year’s work. Thank you!

Joseph M. Maas, CFA, CVA, ABAR, CM&AA, CFP®, ChFC, CLU®, MSFS, CCIM

Synergy Financial Management, LLC

13231 SE 36th Street, Suite 215

Bellevue, WA 98006

ph: 206.386.5455

fx: 206.386-5452

www.sfmadvisors.com

Secure Success with Your Personal Financial Pyramid

Using a Personal Financial Pyramid is a great way to understand how to plan for your financial future because it structures your financial health and financial growth in a way that helps you take care of the basics while also helping you achieve your midterm and long-term goals.

The pyramid’s base is composed of four elements you need for daily life:
Cash Flow: The money you need for your daily living expenses includes funds to pay your rent or mortgage, purchase food and supplies, and pay for your utilities.
Insurance: The base of your pyramid also covers all your insurance expenses such as the premiums on your home insurance, car insurance, medical/dental, long-term care, and life insurance. You should also consider having disability insurance as part of your shield. Though most people are eligible for Worker’s Compensation, the amount you’ll receive in case of a physical disaster won’t be a lot and will probably be insufficient to handle your monthly costs when you’re not able to work. If something happens that prevents you from working and you wind up in rehab for six months or a year, your family will need sufficient revenue until you can return to work. The price of this insurance is less costly than suffering without income for a lengthy period of time.
Discretionary Funding: In the base, such items as household supplies, clothing, cell phones and entertainment can be included as extras if they are reasonable and not too much of a splurge.
Your Emergency Fund: This segment of the pyramid also includes your emergency fund so you have money you can use when the disaster arises and won’t have to dip into your investments to rescue yourself. Protecting your wealth is as important as creating it because the future, by definition, is unknown.
Remember it’s important to retain your money for more important purposes than squandering cash on your daily $5 cup of coffee. Every dollar invested at 10% becomes $8 in 21 years and because of inflation, every dollar today may only buy a third of what you’ll need in the future.
The Pyramids Core:
The middle section of the pyramid focuses on helping you build your wealth and includes three types of investment portfolios:
Short-term Investment Portfolios: Your short-term portfolio is where you save money for short-term needs such as your annual vacation, to replace an aging appliance, or to buy an extra car for your high school aged child. Otherwise, short-term investing is generally considered risky or a misuse of your investment potential.
Midterm Investment Portfolios: These portfolios are for expenditures that are about 3-5 years away. This category includes such things as your child’s college fund, your daughter’s wedding, and maybe installing a new bathroom in your home or repairing the roof. Investments for this mid-time range should be in conservative funds so you’re generally assured the funds will be there when you need them.
Long-term Investment Portfolios: These portfolios are intended to secure your financial future. The more time you have, the more risk you can reasonably absorb. We’ll discuss the topic of risk in a future article, but for now, understand that the funds in this category should remain there so you can benefit from the anticipated increase of your funds over time. Time is an ally, and it truly can make your Golden Years golden.
The Top Of Your Pyramid:
At the tippy-top of your pyramid are funds reserved only for discretionary investments, specifically those investments that have a magnified element of risk. This means these funds may or may not provide the investment returns you seek, and because of their insubstantial nature they are at the top of the pyramid and only come into play when your basic and core investment needs are thoroughly satisfied.
Discretionary investments can focus on a certain global region that’s politically unstable but has growth potential, or an industry sector such as technology which has accelerated advances and declines; or futures and commodity funds where value changes rapidly and is extremely sensitive. These examples of discretionary investments all have high volatility with high risk and they should only be funded when your financial strength is secured by the lower two sections of your pyramid. Of course, if you don’t have the stomach for a discretionary investment account, that’s okay, too.
Your Personal Financial Pyramid is a great way to target your financial goals at different levels of needs and time frames. If you’d like to establish a Personal Financial Pyramid, or if you’d like us to review your retirement plan and your financial investment strategy, please give us a call. We believe we can help you achieve the financial future you have in mind.

Joseph M. Maas, CFA, CVA, ABAR, CM&AA, CFP®, ChFC, CLU®, MSFS, CCIM

Synergy Financial Management, LLC

13231 SE 36th Street, Suite 215

Bellevue, WA 98006

ph: 206.386.5455

fx: 206.386-5452

www.sfmadvisors.com

Hot Tips for Shaping Your Long-Term Goals

The future is not so far away as you may think, and to quote a favorite line from W.H. Auden, “The years shall run like rabbits”. You may have noticed that as you get older, time goes by faster and the months begin to blur into years. Planning for the future you want to enjoy when you’re older, and taking action to secure that future, is paramount!

We’ve previously discussed the nature of short-term goals, which are for saving money for emergencies, and six months of income in case you lose your job. Midterm goals, as you know, are for funds you’ll need in the next 3-5 years. Long-term financial goals are goals that may take more than five years to achieve, and consist of substantial outcomes such as saving and investing for a comfortable retirement, paying off all your debts including your mortgage, and perhaps building a legacy to pass on to your children and grandchildren.

Achieving your vision depends on several factors, such as how much money you save and invest each month, how many years you save and invest, the amount of time remaining before you’ll need your funds for retirement, and reflecting carefully on the kind of lifestyle you want to enjoy when you are in retirement.

We’re fortunate that in the United States there are a number of opportunities for accelerating your savings. One of the best ways to meet your long-term goals is by partly funding your retirement account with your employer’s 401(k) plan. Among employers who offer a 401(k) plan, the plan often includes annual contributions paid by the company into your retirement account, capped at a set dollar amount. This means your money will grow faster and your goals will draw nearer to achievement because of employer contributions. Whenever you can, take advantage of the opportunity to grow your retirement account, especially with “free” money that could be available to you as an employee benefit.

If your employer does not have a 401(k) plan, consider asking your employer to establish a company 401(k) plan. The company could save money by diverting funds that would otherwise be spent on taxes, and the owner and top executives can also increase their retirement savings with pretax dollars, benefiting everyone in the company.

With a 401(k) plan, not only would a financial program be available that builds everyone’s retirement account, but also, because taxable income is reduced, there is likely to be an additional tax savings benefit as well.

If you are self-employed, you can establish your own individual 401(k) plan if you are a sole proprietor with no employees other than your spouse. Just like IRAs, the individual 401(k) has a traditional and Roth version.

When saving for your long-term goals, a general rule of thumb for families is saving at least 10% of the family’s monthly gross income for retirement. Single people should allocate an even larger percentage of their monthly gross income because even though there are many exciting things on which to spend your money, it’s inevitable that the day will come when your priorities will change and you’ll want to have a home, maybe raise a family, and certainly prepare now for the funds you’ll need in the last third of your life.

Most people don’t really know how much money to set aside every month for their retirement, so saving and investing becomes a frightening prospect because of the unknown. Many people become paralyzed with the prospect of saving vast amounts of money over a long period of time, so they hesitate to look at and face the challenge. The longer they wait, the less time they have to invest properly. and yet, the solution is not as complicated as it may appear.

A wise solution is to consult with a financial advisor who can discuss your long-term goals with you, consider the amount of time you have left to set aside these funds, analyze your risk tolerance, and devise an investment plan along with a rate of return your investments should achieve annually to keep you on track with having the money you’ll need 20, 30, or 40 years in the future. An experienced financial advisor is a great resource for determining the precise amount of money you’ll need for your unique financial situation, and creating a tailored plan to help you acquire your funded future during the intervening years between today and the age when you want to step through the Golden Door.

If you don’t yet have a coordinated retirement plan that you review annually with your financial advisor, or you’d like to review the one you have for a second opinion, or perhaps you need to make changes to the plan you now have because your financial circumstances have changed since the plan was first created, consider contacting a fee-based financial advisor as soon as possible. Just think how relaxed and confident you’ll become when you know that every day your future is growing brighter!

We hope this article about 401(k) plans and the importance of setting long-term goals was informative, and if you’d like to establish a 401(k) plan in your company, or if you’d like us to review your retirement plan and your financial investment strategy, we’d be delighted. We believe we can secure and increase your personal wealth while enhancing your retirement. Thank you!

Joseph M. Maas, CFA, CVA, ABAR, CM&AA, CFP®, ChFC, CLU®, MSFS, CCIM

Synergy Financial Management, LLC

13231 SE 36th Street, Suite 215

Bellevue, WA 98006

ph: 206.386.5455

fx: 206.386-5452

www.sfmadvisors.com

Thinking Ahead with Midterm Financial Goals

The purpose of your short-term goals is to set the foundation that prepares you for the sudden immediate financial needs of daily life, like having enough funds to cover a medical or dental emergency, unexpected car repairs, and stockpiling the equivalent of six months’ income in case your job situation is disrupted. Funding your short-term goals eliminates anxiety and helps you move forward so you can secure your midterm goals without the financial chaos that surprise expenses create.

Midterm financial goals are different, and these are the funds you’ll need in the next 3-5 years. Some examples of midterm goals are such things as saving enough money to replace your car, pay off your debts, or finish coursework for a degree or certificate that advances your future financial situation.

Because you’re planning 3-5 years out, it’s best to keep your goals realistic but also flexible. If you set your goals too high, frustration can prevent you from reaching them. While we’ve all mastered the ability to save money for an annual vacation or new bedroom set, when it comes to more ambitious goals, sometimes the price tag and the amount of time it takes to achieve goals with a longer timeline can require real personal effort and dedication to your purpose in order to stay disciplined for the length of your savings path.

If one of your midterm goals is to save enough money for a down payment on a home, or you want to set aside the funds you’ll need for your daughter’s wedding, or create a savings fund for your child’s college education, you have to have the discipline to save a specific amount of money every month.

The importance of establishing a monthly budget cannot be overstated, and one of the ways to have an effective monthly budget is to identify how you might be spending excessively. When you keep a log of all the expenditures you make during the month, you may be surprised to see how much you spend on coffee, cell phone service, birthday gifts and fast food lunches. Once you see how your funds are being spent, you’ll see the value of taming or eliminating some of your spending habits so you can have enough money to achieve your more important financial goals.

A wise suggestion to follow is that every time you receive your paycheck or monthly income, the first person to pay is yourself. The first check you write is to pay a deposit into your savings plan just as if your savings plan was a monthly bill. Most people save money as though it were an option, not a requirement, and typically money is spent on a variety of nonessential miscellaneous temptations and purchases. This is why it’s important to change your thinking and recognize the importance of establishing a budget and making a monthly deposit that meets your intended midterm goals.

Your Lifestyle Protection Plan will help you organize your thoughts and provide the structure you need to plan for your financial future. With midterm goals, the funds are not needed immediately like they are for short-term goals, so these funds can be invested, allowing the value to appreciate over time and speed up the accumulation of your goal funding. Your midterm savings could be placed in a growth mutual fund where your funds are relatively safe and yet still have a good opportunity for growth until you need them. Of course, you should always check with your financial advisor to make the best choice for your unique financial situation.

We hope this article about the importance of establishing midterm goals was informative. Please contact us so we can review your Lifestyle Protection Plan and help you achieve the goals that set you on the path to financial independence. Thank you! 

Joseph M. Maas, CFA, CVA, ABAR, CM&AA, CFP®, ChFC, CLU®, MSFS, CCIM

Synergy Financial Management, LLC

13231 SE 36th Street, Suite 215

Bellevue, WA 98006

ph: 206.386.5455

fx: 206.386-5452

www.sfmadvisors.com

Have You Met These Short-Term Goals?

Very rarely can significant gains be realized without first setting goals, and the first set of financial goals that serve as the base for your financial independence are your short-term goals. Short-term goals are for saving money for emergencies, and six months of income in case you lose your job.

While most people focus on their midterm and long-term goals, they may be doing themselves a disservice by not taking care of the basics. Short-term financial goals are important because life sometimes presents unexpected surprises. Having a few thousand dollars set aside and easily available for an emergency is a smart thing to do. Having some handy cash will limit the anxiety and stress many people suffer during periods of uncertainty.

Your Lifestyle Protection Plan is designed to help you preserve your current lifestyle until you reach retirement, and being prepared for setbacks like a medical emergency, the sudden need to see a dentist, or perhaps something that happens in your home like the refrigerator giving out, or flooding in the basement, or an unexpected visit to your automobile mechanic are all circumstances that are difficult to handle if you don’t have a set aside fund designed for unexpected emergencies. One of the features of your Lifestyle Protection Plan is being prepared by achieving solid short-term goals.

When a difficult situation appears, you can’t keep it on the back burner; the situation needs to be resolved right away, and having some money set aside protects you from having to use a credit card and incurring outrageous interest rates, or having to ask a friend to bail you out. You need an emergency fund for life’s stressful moments because they do happen!

The first thing to do is to figure out how much money to set aside in your emergency fund. Start by making a list of the potential costs that might suddenly appear. You probably have insurance for your car, but you might have to have money set aside to cover your deductible, so find out what that dollar amount is and calculate it into the total. You also probably have medical insurance, but there might be an annual deductible that first has to be paid; determine what that amount is and add that into the total, too. What does it cost when your child needs to see the dentist? Make a guesstimate and add that to the total. If you own your own home, think about which appliances might suddenly need to be repaired or replaced; maybe it’s the lawnmower, or an aging tree might need to be taken down; consider the cost and add that into your total as well.

You should also think about setting aside six months of income so just in case you or your spouse/partner should lose their job, or your work hours are cut back, you have the resources to get through the hard times until a new source of income can be established. If you haven’t done so already, you should create a monthly budget and write down all the expenses you typically have every month such as mortgage or rent, utilities, food, and transportation. Take a close look at what your monthly expenses are, and then consider which of them are essential and which you could cut-back if your income was reduced. Multiply this dollar amount by the six months of cushion you should build, and add it to the total.

Now that you know what your short-term savings goal should be, you should set aside money each month until your short-term goal is reached. These contingency funds should be kept in a safe and stable investment that provides you with immediate access. You can park this money in a savings account at your local bank, but you might also consider saving the money in a money market fund offered by your bank because you may earn a little higher interest than you would in just a savings account.

You can also include such things as paying off a specific debt, or saving to replace an appliance you know will soon require your attention as an emergency expense.

Short-term goals could also include something fun, like maybe a nice vacation, or a new wardrobe. Once your emergency fund is established, you can then consider other expenditures that allow you to enjoy the spice of life.

If you plan your short-term savings goals wisely and execute your plan, you will be more capable of overcoming the financial hurdles or emergencies that present themselves, and you may also be able to sleep better at night knowing you have all the immediate bases covered.

We hope this article about the short-term financial goals in your Lifestyle Protection Plan was informative. Please contact us so we can review your Lifestyle Protection Plan and help you secure and increase your personal wealth while enhancing your retirement. Thank you! 

Joseph M. Maas, CFA, CVA, ABAR, CM&AA, CFP®, ChFC, CLU®, MSFS, CCIM

Synergy Financial Management, LLC

13231 SE 36th Street, Suite 215

Bellevue, WA 98006

ph: 206.386.5455

fx: 206.386-5452

www.sfmadvisors.com

How Well Are You Protecting Your Future Lifestyle?

Thoughtful people think about the lifestyle they want when they retire, and make plans to accomplish their goal. They think about where they plan to live when they reach retirement age, how much annual and monthly income they want to have, if their retirement includes travel for fun and to visit their children, how they choose to spend their time, and the activities they value.

Usually people wonder if they’ll have enough money when they retire, a question that can be answered through the calculations of an experienced financial advisor. All the details of a retirement lifestyle can be monetized and a very accurate financial picture can be established that clearly articulates the amount of money that must be set aside annually in the time remaining before retirement to reasonably assure the desired lifestyle can be achieved.

The key to attaining the lifestyle of your choice depends on the amount of time available before your retirement age is reached, of course. Another key factor is the amount of savings and investments that can be developed in the time remaining so there are sufficient resources steadily building wealth toward the total amount of money needed for the desired lifestyle.

As you know, not everyone can achieve the retirement lifestyle of their dreams because of the interference of various factors that erode wealth. Divorce, illness, and poor choices are some of the detrimental factors that become obstacles to people’s hopes for their confident and comfortable financial future.

Having a retirement plan may not be essential to retiring, but it does provide the best chance for having a decent retirement. Think about the last vacation you took. One of the things you probably did on your trip was pull out a map, and maybe you consulted the Internet about some of the important details to include on your trip. Just as you would not get into your car and take a 3,000 mile road trip without a map and some idea of where you were going, neither should you assume that the money you’ll need in retirement will be available in 10, 20, or 30 years without making some plans now on how you expect to have enough.

Money is quite a magical thing. If you’re careful with your money, and save a reasonable amount of it, the time value of steadily adding to your savings and carefully investing these funds will multiply what you have many times over. Even if you won the lottery, you would still need to know how to prepare for your financial security. The news regularly relates stories of people who had fortunes and squandered them.

There are three steps that can provide you with the security of a Lifestyle Protection Plan. Your Lifestyle Protection Plan is designed to serve your current lifestyle, and help you preserve this lifestyle when you reach retirement. The three steps are:

  • Setting short-term, midterm, and long-term financial goals;

  • Understanding your financial pyramid and developing it;

  • Setting a pattern of allocating resources toward your goals that result in your financial success.

Your Lifestyle Protection Plan will be more thoroughly explained in the next several articles, and is a tool that should become an essential feature of regular interest to you throughout the year. No one but you and your family will have more than a passing interest in your retirement preparations, so it’s incredibly important that you establish your retirement plan as soon as you can, begin making allocations right away, and seek professional advice at least annually about the progress you’re making toward achieving your goals. With some forethought and determination, you can build your retirement account and live comfortably and securely during the last third of your life.

We hope this article about protecting your future financial lifestyle was informative, and if you are interested in consulting with us about your own Lifestyle Protection Plan, please contact us so we can begin a discussion about achieving your retirement goals. Thank you!

Joseph M. Maas, CFA, CVA, ABAR, CM&AA, CFP®, ChFC, CLU®, MSFS, CCIM

Synergy Financial Management, LLC

13231 SE 36th Street, Suite 215

Bellevue, WA 98006

ph: 206.386.5455

fx: 206.386-5452

www.sfmadvisors.com

Plan B: When Your Gap Is Too Big

It may happen that because of a wide range of circumstances you don’t have enough time to close the gap between the amount of wealth you have today and the amount of wealth you need to enjoy the retirement lifestyle you want.

Any number of reasons could have led to this situation, of course. Perhaps you started investing too late, or suffered heavy losses with your investments, or needed to use your funds for personal reasons such as health issues for yourself or a family member, or you were divorced…the reasons can be diverse. Nevertheless, this is the situation you find yourself in now, and you need to develop a Plan B going forward, and right away.

There are a number of things you can do now to prepare for retirement and still build a nest egg that will support you in your later years. Here are five things you can do to improve your situation.

1. First and foremost, you should make an appointment with a financial advisor who can take a close look at your circumstances and help you create a plan to make the most use of the time and resources you currently have. Remember the adage, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” There could be a number of options available you haven’t thought of which could be brought to bear and make your path easier, less stressful, more effective, and comprehensive. Perhaps looking into a reverse mortgage could provide the financial security you seek, or buying a rental property and earning monthly income is a solution that’s right for you. Meeting with a financial planner could get you back on track in ways you can’t imagine because an experienced professional often knows strategies you haven’t thought of.

2. Second, you and your financial planner can discuss the possibility of putting off retirement for a few more years. Your advisor can calculate the outcomes of different scenarios that may result in securing the future you hope to have, either by working a few more years to build your business to the point where you can retire the way you choose, or working longer as an employee so you can continue to build your 401(k) or some other retirement funding plan that can contribute to your ultimate success.

3. It might be a good choice to consider decreasing the amount of funds you wish to have in retirement, realizing you can live well with less and can enjoy the remaining years without having to sacrifice more time or your health. By reducing your retirement spending plans, you’ll need less money to cross the finish line into your new life.

4. Without question, you should review your current assets with an eye toward preserving and protecting your wealth from predators such as taxes and fees. Your financial planner can review your accounts with these costs in focus, and possibly help eliminate their drag on your wealth-building.

5. Your financial planner could recommend purchasing some form of insurance to protect and mitigate a multitude of risks that will help protect the wealth you’ve built because insurance, when applied properly, is a marvelous tool.

These are some of the ideas that could form the basis for your Plan B, and your financial advisor may be able to offer several more once he or she has had a chance to analyze your financial situation.

If you’re interested in discussing your financial plans for closing the gap and moving forward toward a relaxed and comfortable retirement, make an appointment to consult with your financial advisor today so you can develop a plan of action that brings you closer to your goal.

We hope this article about closing the gap and securing your financial future was helpful. Please contact us so we can review the possibilities for building and safeguarding your personal wealth while enhancing your retirement. Thank you! .

Joseph M. Maas, CFA, CVA, ABAR, CM&AA, CFP®, ChFC, CLU®, MSFS, CCIM

Synergy Financial Management, LLC

13231 SE 36th Street, Suite 215

Bellevue, WA 98006

ph: 206.386.5455

fx: 206.386-5452

www.sfmadvisors.com

Why Would You EVER Hire a Fee-Only Financial Planner?

There are generally only two types of financial planners…advisors who are fee-only and paid solely on the work they do for you, and the other group of advisors who receive commissions on the investments they recommend for your purchase. The difference between the two is that a fee-only advisor has no inherent bias to steer you one way or the other because they have no self-interest in the products they suggest…except to do their best for you so they retain you as a client.

This does not mean that a commission-based advisor would willfully misdirect your investments because they also have self-interest in wanting your portfolio to perform well so you’ll retain their services as well, but human nature can be subtle if only subconsciously, and selecting a fee-only advisor could be the better choice for you.

Let’s back up a square. A registered investment advisor, or RIA, is a financial advisor with a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interests of his or her client, which means they are required to put your financial interests above their own. Not all financial advisors are fiduciaries, but all RIAs, who are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), are fiduciaries and must perform their duties with undivided loyalty and the highest good faith dedicated to their clients.

There are three ways RIAs are typically paid: 1) a flat or hourly rate for work performed; 2) fees for a particular service; 3) a percentage of the funds being managed. A fee-only RIA does not earn commissions on sales or trading fees, so their compensation is not dependent on the investments they recommend for your portfolio, keeping their opinions independent of the pressure to sell you self-serving investment products. For this reason, fee-only advisors have less inherent conflicts of interest.

Recently there has been some confusion in the industry as commission-based advisors have used the term “fee based” when they charge a fee as well as ALSO receiving a commission, so investors need to be aware and clear about these terms when interviewing a financial advisor. The difference between “fee-only” and “fee based” could mean a lot to your bottom line!

The leading professional association of fee-only advisors is the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), and this agency is widely and highly regarded for the expertise of its members and their forms of compensation. A portion of the fiduciary oath NAPFA members annually sign states, “The advisor does not receive a fee or other compensation from another party based on the referral of a client or the client’s business.”

By contrast, the sales commissions the non-NAPFA advisors receive come from the sale of specific investment products (mutual funds, stocks, bonds…) that may or may not be precisely suited to the investment goals of your portfolio or your needs for wealth management. If an investment product is not completely aligned with your investment goals, as stated in your Individual Investment Plan (IPA), or is not a good fit for the combination of investments you own and which work together as a single well-structured investment system, why would you purchase it? Being aware of the difference goals of the fee-only and fee-based advisors can give you a serious investment edge! Wouldn’t you rather have the money you’d pay in commissions go instead to the productivity of your portfolio?

The achievement of your portfolio depends upon the foresight and strength of an integrated plan that weaves the synergized strands of wealth-building, risk protection, tax strategies, fee limitations, retirement planning, insurance, alternative assets, and estate planning.

This is why meeting periodically with an experienced fee-only Registered Investment Advisor acting solely on your behalf as your fiduciary can be so significant…providing you with a portfolio that’s customized to your precise financial situation and attuned to your specific goals for security and a comfortable lifestyle.

We hope this article about the advantages of working with a fee-based RIA was informative. If you’re ready to meet with an expert who can guide your interests, please contact us and make an appointment to consult with an RIA today so we can review the possibilities available to you for building and safeguarding your personal wealth while enhancing your retirement. Thank you!

Joseph M. Maas, CFA, CVA, ABAR, CM&AA, CFP®, ChFC, CLU®, MSFS, CCIM

Synergy Financial Management, LLC

13231 SE 36th Street, Suite 215

Bellevue, WA 98006

ph: 206.386.5455

fx: 206.386-5452

www.sfmadvisors.com

The 6 Key Aspects of Your Personal Finances

There could be some measure of relief, or perhaps consternation, in knowing the exact dollar value of your net worth. For good or ill, it’s important to know the precise value of all your holdings so you can more accurately plan your financial future. When you don’t know what you have, it’s hard to know how much you need to step into the dream life you envision.

When you work with a professional financial advisor, you will be asked questions about your salary, your spouse’s salary, savings accounts, portfolio investments, real estate and the other material assets you own so an accounting can be made that determines your current financial worth.

Similarly, there will be a discussion about your liabilities, such as your mortgage, credit card balances, loans, and any other forms of indebtedness. The difference, of course, between your assets and liabilities is your net worth. Once your net worth is known, your assets can be reviewed in relation to the capacity of time to enhance your wealth, and plans can be developed to help you meet your goals.

Here is an overview of the six key areas to study when conducting an analysis of your personal financial circumstances:

1. Retirement Planning: Retirement planning is a complex and serious activity because so much is at stake and there are limited second chances. Planning for a future based on guesswork requires knowledge and experience, and is best conducted by hiring the services of a financial professional specializing in retirement planning. Just as you wouldn’t entrust an appendectomy to a carpenter or drilling an oil well to a dentist, you need a professional with the right kind of experience and training. Food and gas prices are continually increasing, health and technology advances are extending lifespans, and the social patterns of our daily lives keep changing which impacts the amount of funds needed for securing a potentially lengthy retirement.

2. Estate Planning: Most people want to leave something for their heirs, and wish to distribute as much as possible to their families, friends, and to special causes they support. A careful plan will ensure your legacy is not lost to creditors, predators, or squandered by your children. The estate tax can reduce your assets substantially, but smart planning is likely to fulfill your intentions.

3. Insurance Planning: The proper use of insurance can protect you and your loved ones from the financial risk of the unexpected, and can also provide financial security and benefits such as long-term care. There are varieties of special and standard insurances that can protect your financial well-being when you and your family need stability.

4. Tax Planning: Taxes are needed by local, state and federal governments to fund various community programs, but there are also many incentives available that can reduce your personal tax burdens. Research shows that taxes are the greatest expense to a person’s net income and knowing how to apply tax reduction incentives can serve ably to retain and build your financial strength.

5. Investment Planning: Precision investment planning can help an investor employ his or her current resources to accelerate return while guarding against risk. Each investor has their own unique circumstances, so a customized portfolio built to suit the investor’s personal financial needs should be crafted to protect the investor’s resources while identifying opportunities that can increase the investor’s wealth at a pace that reaches the goal within a calculated timeline.

6. Real Estate Planning: Real estate can be a benefit to a portfolio as an alternative asset class, either through the appreciating value of a primary residence or purchased as an opportunity for investment appreciation as well as rental income.

These are the six categories your financial planner will study to assist you with understanding the value of your personal assets and then determining the potential for augmenting their value and help you achieve your financial goals.

If you’re interested in reviewing these six key areas to help you determine your current net worth and devise a plan for building toward a comfortable and secure retirement, make an appointment to consult with your financial advisor today.

Joseph M. Maas, CFA, CVA, ABAR, CM&AA, CFP®, ChFC, CLU®, MSFS, CCIM

Synergy Financial Management, LLC

13231 SE 36th Street, Suite 215

Bellevue, WA 98006

ph: 206.386.5455

fx: 206.386-5452

www.sfmadvisors.com

Is your business worth enough to secure your retirement?