Is it DĀTA or DĂTA?

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

I’m here to tell you once and for all.

Yes, I know . . . this is a little off the beaten path for me. 

The World is Not in Good Order

I usually write about financial topics, given that I’m a professional financial planner.  But occasionally some NIGO aspect of the world (that’s Not in Good Order, in my professional parlance) comes to my notice with such frequency that I just can’t take it anymore.  Sort of like the crescendo in Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.  It builds and builds, and you know that a climax is coming. 

Well, today it peaked, and I’m seized with great generosity of spirit (and indeed, humility) to set the English-speaking world right. 

Ready?  Here it is:  data is the plural of the singular datum.  There is your pronunciation:  dāta with a long a.  Not dăta with a short a.  Never ever EVER. 

Now that that’s settled, let’s turn...

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Top Five Mistakes People Make With Their Money

 

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

Channeling David Letterman and all those Top Ten lists. I thought it might be fun to compile one of my own. To wit:

The Top Five Mistakes People Make With Their Money

This is a list compiled after about 25 years of experience. 

Mistake #5

You eat out way too much. This is what your kitchen is for! If you get a sandwich and a coffee in Miami on a daily basis, you’ve spent ($10/day * 20 days) $200 in a month! How about all that fast food? I’m seeing families who spend several hundred dollars each month eating out, when a little planning and Publix time could save much of that money and everyone would be healthier and richer for it.

Mistake #4

You don’t have enough life insurance. What happens if you get hit by a bus? Are your existing savings enough for your surviving spouse and children? Term insurance is relatively cheap and easy to obtain. No excuses. See Mistake #5.

Mistake #3

You don’t have an emergency fund....

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Retire to What?

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

Picture the scene: My wife has a group of friends visiting. I come home from work, greet everyone, and have a glass of wine to be sociable. At some point I announce that I’ll retire to my study for the evening. What does that verb mean – to retire? It means to go away or apart; to withdraw; to be in a place of privacy or shelter. It can also simply mean that I’m going to bed for the night. It isn’t until about three generations ago that the definition expanded to mean cessation of paying work.

Retirement, as we currently think of it, is a relatively new concept.

Up until WWII people simply worked until they could no longer do so. Retirement, as we currently think of it, is a relatively new concept. When extended families lived together on the farm, everyone worked and contributed in some way. When the same families moved to the cities at the beginning of the last century, it was the same way. So how did our current concept...

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The Time Value of Money

 

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

We usually understand the time value of money in two contexts: the growth rate of an investment, and the inflation rate.   Nonetheless, the TVM is a topic that should be understood by everyone serious about financial planning.

Sketch Out a Timeline

To conceptualize this, sketch out a timeline of your life. At the leftmost point is your date of birth. The rightmost point is your date of death. In between, mark your retirement date, and today’s date. If you are not yet retired, then the time value of an investment pertains to you in particular.

TMV: Investment Growth Rates

Let’s look at investment growth rates.  On your timeline you have 10 years before your retirement.  You're interested in projecting out your IRA balance over these 10 years, assuming an 8% annual rate of return, compounded monthly. Your current balance is $250,000, and you are depositing $300/month – less than what is permissible by law. I make...

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Student Loan Forgiveness

by Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

By early 2015, the amount of outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. exceeded $1.2 trillion. What a staggering number! Tens of millions of young professionals carry significant student debt balances. The payments may be stiff. It can take years to pay off many of these loans. Consequently, other financial priorities get postponed. Commonly we see saving for retirement pushed ahead into the future. Does this describe you?

There is Some Good News

The good news is, there are federal programs for income-based repayment and even loan forgiveness. Before you get too excited, though: only certain kinds of federal student loans qualify. These include Stafford and Grad PLUS loans. Each year, program participants verify their income and family size. The loan servicer then calculates a new required monthly payment amount. Loan payments go up or down as appropriate. The intent is to assist borrowers in making on-time payments. These payments, however, may...

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The Ins and Outs of Traditional IRAs

 

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

In this blog post I want to go just a little bit beyond the basics of traditional IRAs and how they work. 

What are Traditional IRAs?

An IRA is an individual retirement account by definition, with the emphasis on individual. One IRA means one owner, so there can be no joint titling. In order to contribute to an IRA you must have earned income. That is, income from compensation defined as wages, salaries, tips, alimony, and separate maintenance payments. These are all earned income. Income from capital gains, dividends, and interest is not considered earned income by the IRS – they classify it as investment income.

How Much Can I Invest?

Your contribution limit is $6000 per year (2020). If you’re over 50 an additional $1000 catch up contribution is allowed, so the limit becomes $7000.  Age limits on contributions have been repealed in the 2020 CARES Act, so as long as you have earned income you can contribute.

What’s the...

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A Guide to 403b Retirement Accounts

 

By Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

Most people are familiar with the 401k, but what’s a 403b? Basically a 403b is a retirement plan that is sponsored by a 501c3 organization, meaning a not-for-profit employer. A local school board or hospital are good examples. The employee invests in mutual funds or annuity contracts – the only choices available. If annuity contracts are the only investment choice, the plan is likely administered by an insurance company, and can also be known as a TSA, or tax-sheltered annuity.

Money can go into your account from two sources: deferrals from your paycheck (money that you could have taken in cash) and your employer can also make contributions. The employer’s contributions can be discretionary or according to a match formula. Say the employer will offer you 50 cents on the dollar of whatever you contribute, up to 6% of your earnings. That’s a fairly typical formula. We’ve seen some out there more generous, and some not...

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The Surgeon Who Lost His Fingers

by Jonathan G. Cameron, CFP®

Nobody plans for a disability. In our experience, people are more willing to incorporate life insurance into their financial plan than disability insurance. Why is this? Let’s first get into the differences between disability and life insurance.

Disability Insurance vs. Life Insurance

Here are a few key differences between these two types of insurance:

  • With a life insurance a policy claim, your insurance company pays others at your death. A disability income claim pays you, maintaining your family’s financial well-being during an illness or injury.
  • Death is a certainty, so your beneficiaries will get paid the life insurance death benefit. A disability benefit pays only when you have a covered injury or illness, insuring against the loss of earned income.
  • Traditionally, a life insurance death benefit pays beneficiaries in a lump sum. A disability policy typically pays a monthly income to the policyholder up until age 65.
  • Many life...
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This Page is Intentionally Left Blank

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

I’ve been pondering this.

This Page is Intentionally Left Blank

It sort of hit me one day after having noticed This Page is Intentionally Left Blank in clients’ brokerage account statements.

Seems to me that if there’s printing on the page, it is not blank, is it?  Brokerage statements go on for pages and pages.  Who formats these things?  Why not print on it and save a tree?

Sometimes business written communication makes me crazy.  Why not say use instead of utilize? Or even worse, why not say complete instead of effectualize? Seems the more jargon the better.  Or how about our deliverables?  Deliverables indeed!  We sell deliverables? I though we sold products!

Personally, I’d rather eschew obfuscation. (That’s a joke.)

Ok, I'm ranting.  I guess we should close the flight plan on this.  (Really? Why not simply conclude?)

Just wanted to get this off my chest. It all...

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Taxation of Social Security Benefits

 

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

Oh yes. Many new Social Security retirees get a big surprise when they learn about the taxation of Social Security benefits. This started during the Clinton administration. That administration added a formula to the tax code to determine how much, if any, of your Social Security benefit is subject to tax. Previously Social Security benefits did not count as taxable income at all.

Provisional Income

The formula used to determine how much of your benefit is taxable is the provisional income formula. It boils down to this: add all of your income together – wages, business earnings, tax-free bond income (yes – non-taxable income is included in this formula), IRA distributions – everything – plus ½ of your Social Security benefit. If the result falls into the following ranges, then that portion of your Social Security income gets taxed along with everything else:

Married filing jointly
If provisional income is:

  • ...
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