I’ve been a financial planner in Orange County for many years, and I’ve helped hundreds of people reach their retirement goals. As the founder and CEO of Cinergy Financial, we take pride in not only offering ongoing education and guidance, we also take time and diligence to get to know each one of our clients. This begins with a three-step process that involves a good fit meeting where we address all of the questions and concerns for all of our potential clients; followed by a discovery process where we identify and personalize your financial goals, risk profile, budget and savings capacity, and other facts about you; and finally, we device a plan of action for your financial and retirement future. In addition to offering excellent service to my clients, I’m also an educator. From my blogs to monthly lectures; radio and television interviews to podcasts, I’ve made it my mission to help educate the public about the importance of financial literacy and retirement planning. It was, after all, my deep-seated desire to improve the financial literacy of all Americans that I wrote my Amazon and Wall Street best-selling book, Redefining Financial Literacy.
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Investment management refers to managing investments offered by financial professionals and other financial institutions such as investment banks and university endowments. Asset management aims to increase a client’s assets over time while managing risk. Asset management utilizes both fundamental and technical analysis. Asset managers may use fundamental analysis to study anything that can impact an asset’s value. For example, any economic or political news can impact the value of a security or asset. Technical analysis, on the other hand, relies on previous prices and volume. In other words, asset managers may look at historical data and mathematical patterns, known as technical indicators, to fine-tune their investment entry and exit points. Investment management services include asset selection and allocation, portfolio strategy, investment monitoring, and portfolio analysis.1
Alternative Investment Strategies
An alternative investment includes a set of alternative asset classes that do not fall into the traditional investment assets which include stocks, bonds, and cash. Some examples of alternative asset classes include real estate, private equity, hedge funds, annuities, mutual funds, and ETFs. Alternative investments have long been used by university endowments with great success. For example, Yale University’s endowment was valued at $1 billion in 1985. Under David Swensen’s leadership as the fund’s manager, Yale’s Endowment ballooned to $31 billion in 2020.2 Over the past several years, alternative investments have become available to retail investors.3
Alternative investments are gaining popularity, as more investors are either adding them to their portfolio or increasing their current allocation. One important reason alternative investments are becoming popular is diversification. According to research by Connection Capital, “87 percent of investors plan to maintain, if not increase, the proportion of alternatives in their portfolio as alternatives remain a vital portfolio diversifier.”4 The reason alternatives improve diversification is that they “behave differently from stocks and bonds, [which helps] balance risk and return.”5 Please be advised that alternative investments are speculative by nature and have various risks including possible lack of liquidity, lack of control, changes in business conditions and devaluation based on the investment, the economy and or regulatory changes. As a result, the values of alternative investments do fluctuate resulting in the value at sale being more or less than the original price paid, if a liquid market for the securities is found.
Before I offer specific retirement advice, let me repeat a mantra that I tell all my clients: The earlier you prepare for retirement, the better off you will be. Retirement often creeps up on us and we often find ourselves saying, “Where did all the years ago.” Below are some concrete steps that in my opinion, will help you prepare for retirement:
- Monitor your investments prior to retirement and avoid overspending.
- You need to account for inflation as an inevitable fact of life. When planning for retirement, it’s advisable to plan for inflation as part of your strategy.
- While this is not an easy conversation to have, you need to talk with your spouse or significant other about retirement spending. During pre-retirement, it is critical that you both cut out any unnecessary spending.
- Not everything about retirement planning is about money. You need to focus on your physical health. As we get older, our physical health declines, which increases health costs. If you want to avoid sudden health costs that can potentially undermine your retirement planning, make sure you take care of your health.
- Create a budget and stick with it.
- Most importantly, you need to sit down with a qualified and experienced professional advisor who will help you become fiscally healthy.
- Watch travel expenses during retirement. Many people dream of traveling when they retire, but that only eats away at your retirement goals. It is best to do much of your traveling prior to retirement.
- If you can work longer, you will increase your chances of having a more comfortable retirement. For example, people who retire at 70 years will get a larger Social Security check than those who retire at age 66. That’s extra money for life in your pocket.
Targeted Retirement Advice
Retirement is one of those life events that many of us procrastinate about. Statistics show that an overwhelming number of Americans are ill-prepared for retirement. This is why you need to begin to ask the right questions and then sit down with a qualified and experienced financial planner to develop a unique strategy to your specific situation. Below are five factors that contribute to financial uncertainty:
- When should you retire?
- How much will I need for my retirement years?
- How much can I safely withdraw each year without depleting my investment portfolio?
- How do I provide a legacy for my loved ones?
- Will I be able to rely on Social Security benefits?
- Will my pension be able to take care of me?
- Should I plan for retirement on my own or get targeted retirement advice from a qualified and experienced financial planner?
Prepare for Retirement
Preparing for retirement is something that occurs over time and requires conscious planning and a clearly defined plan. Retirement is so important that according to the U.S. Department of Labor, financial security “doesn’t just happen. It takes planning and commitment and money.”6 There are two words in this quote that stand out: commitment and money. Dreaming about retirement isn’t enough. You need to be committed by accepting the responsibility for your money. Below are a few actionable steps that you can do now to help you focus on your retirement future:
- One rule of thumb is that the earlier you prepare for retirement, the more comfortable you will be during retirement.
- Start saving at an early age, keep saving, and stick to your goals.
- Get to know your retirement needs.
- Some experts maintain that you will need 70 to 90 percent of your preretirement income to maintain your standard of living when you stop working.
- Contribute to your employer’s retirement savings plan, such as a 401(k) plan.
- Learn about your employer’s pension plan. Make sure you are covered by the plan and understand how it works.
- Learn about how your pension is being invested.
- Most importantly, you do not touch your retirement savings.
Estate conversation is essentially the process of managing “assets during your lifetime and [distributing] assets upon your death.”7 Think of an estate as, “everything comprising the net worth of an individual, including all land and real estate, possessions, financial securities, cash, and other assets the individual owns or has a controlling interest in.”8 In most instances, estates act as a mechanism for the passage of wealth from one generation to the next. The transfer of an estate can be done through a will or trust. A will is a legal document that “coordinates the distribution of your assets after death and can appoint guardians for minor children.”9 Another legal instrument you can use to manage your assets is a trust, which offers legal protection for your assets. A trust is a, “fiduciary relationship in which one party, known as a trustor, gives another party, the trustee, the right to hold title to property or assets for the benefit of a third party, the beneficiary.”10 There are typically two types of trusts: a living trust and a testamentary trust. A living trust is a legal document where an individual’s assets are provided as a trust for the individual’s benefit during their lifetime. A testamentary trust specifies how the assets of an individual are designated after the individual’s death.11 Regardless of whether you use a will or trust, it is important that you have a will or trust in place. This will save your heirs a great deal of money and headaches going through probate court.
1. James Chen, “Investment Management,” Investopedia, April 30, 2021. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/i/investment-management.asp
2. Juliet Chung & Dawn Lim, “David Swensen, Yale Endowment Chief who Changed the Course of Institutional Investing, Dies at 67,” wsj.com, May 6, 2021. https://www.wsj.com/articles/david-swensen-yale-endowment-chief-who-changed-the-course-of-institutional-investing-dies-at-67-11620305438
3. Cabot Lodge Securities, “What you Need to Know about Alternative Investments,” clsecurities.com, Retrieved June 25, 2021. http://www.clsecurities.com/alternativeinvestments.html
4. Edward Plazza, “Why Alternative Investments Gaining Popularity?” titanfunding.com, May 12, 2021. https://www.titanfunding.com/blog/why-are-alternative-investments-gaining-popularity/
6. U.S. Department of Labor, “Preparing for Retirement,” dol.gov, Retrieved August 17, 2021. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/workers-and-families/preparing-for-retirement
7. Broadridge Advisor, “Estate Conservation,” broadridgeadvisor.com, Retrieved August 17, 2021. https://www.broadridgeadvisor.com/docs/seminar/estate-conservation-workbook.pdf
8. Julia Kagan, “Estate,” Investopedia, November 22, 2020. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/estate.asp
9. Fidelity, “What is a Will?” fidelity.com, Retrieved August 17, 2021. https://www.fidelity.com/life-events/estate-planning/will
10. Julia Kagan, “What is a Trust,” Investopedia, October 19, 2020. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/trust.asp