What Do Your Mattress and a Roulette Table Have in Common? (HINT: more than you think.)

With this blog post we’d like to share some thoughts with our readers about investment risk tolerance.

Generally, we think about risk as a bad thing – something we want to avoid. “I won’t drive faster and risk a speeding ticket”, and, “No, baby, that dress doesn’t make you look fat,” are two examples of conscious choices made to avoid unpleasant consequences.

The context for risk in this post is investment risk – I put money out there in some type of vehicle, and expect it to be returned to me, and then some. And then some can be interest, dividends, capital gains, and lottery winnings.

The risk return spectrum looks something like this:

  • If I keep money under the mattress, what is my expected return? Zero. It is not invested.
  • If I want safety, and put my money in the bank, what is my risk? Next to nothing. But the return is also small.
  • I can make a little more money in bonds with some risk to my invested principal –...
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The Surgeon Who Lost His Fingers

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 when you have an 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 insurance policies now offer chronic or terminal...
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Top Five Mistakes People Make With Their Money

 

Thinking about David Letterman retiring 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 20 years of experience. You’ll find a video version just below.

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...

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Student Loan Forgiveness

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?

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 not even cover the interest due on the loan. Consequently the...

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Retire to What?

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. Before that, for all of human history, people simply worked until they could no longer. 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 develop?

You mean I’m not working but you’ll still pay me?
During WWII, the...

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You Are Generous. Give Creatively.

financial planning Aug 01, 2017

Charitable Giving
As a financial adviser, I am privileged to work with many wonderful and generous people who give generously. These are people who want to leave a legacy. These are clients who want to leave money behind which will continue to accomplish the good works the donor did during his or her lifetime. You may see or hear the names of prominent donors – sponsors of a university building or underwriters of NPR News – and think, Well, yes; I’d love to endow this or that organization or charity, but I’m simply not in that league.

Leave a Legacy
Even if you don’t have a lot of spare cash kicking around, you may still be able to leave a legacy. One of the best ways to do this is with life insurance. For a manageable annual premium, you may be able to leave hundreds of thousands of dollars to your favorite organization. It works like this:

Decide which non-profit you’d like to see flourish.
Typically, this is a 501(c)(3) organization such as a...

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How Do I Improve My Credit Score?

An important financial concern that we often hear from clients is, “How can I improve my credit score?” First of all, I have to give a quick disclaimer that our company, CameronDowning, is not a credit repair or debt consolidation service. Our goal is to arm you with the education you need to establish a strong financial foundation. Consequently, this often includes advice on how to raise your credit score.

If you’re considering buying a home, taking out a loan, or you’re getting yourself organized after a season of personal financial challenges, you understand that your credit score may determine what you can and cannot do in life.

The most widely used credit score are FICO scores. FICO score and credit score are often used interchangeably. FICO is an acronym for the Fair Isaac Corporation. Founded by William Fair and Earl Isaac in the late 1950s, they developed a mathematical algorithm that predicts consumer behavior, resulting in a score. These scores are...

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Don’t Get Distracted by Financial Headlines – Stick to Your Financial Plan

financial planning money Jul 25, 2017

We’ve all seen the financial headlines:

“Sell everything and buy gold!”

“Time to take profits off the table!”

“The market is poised for a big upswing – get in now!”

“Make 16% guaranteed with tax lien certificates!”

“Buy my real estate flipping system and control your own rental empire!”

…I’m getting an Excedrin headache.


The Trap of Financial Headlines

If you’re like many people, reading the financial headlines every day can make you crazy. Yet you continue to watch in order to stay informed. You want to be in the know about financial markets so you follow CNBC, Money Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and others. Some outlets are better than others. There is so much economic uncertainty in the air, so you invest time and energy reading, or listening, to these “experts” to get a sense of what you need to do with your money.

We believe the best investor is an...

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The Thrift Savings Plan for Federal Employees

 

The Thrift Savings Plan, or TSP, is the equivalent of the 401k for federal government employees. My intention is to cover the main highlights of this fantastic retirement benefit. Much more detail is found on the TSP website.

As in a 401k, you contribute pre-tax money into a Thrift Savings Plan. Earnings in the account are tax-deferred. You are taxed only when you withdraw funds in retirement. If you work long enough, consistently contribute to your plan, and invest appropriately, you can potentially retire comfortably.

Thrift Savings Plan: military and non-military accounts
This post is for non-military TSP retirement participants. The TSP offered to those in the military is different. Elsewhere I discuss the benefits of a Thrift Savings Plan retirement account as a High-3 and as a BRS (blended retirement system) participant.

FERS – the Federal Employment Retirement System
If you are a federal civilian employee, and began employment after 1983, you are automatically a FERS...

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What Happens When My Mother Runs Out of Money?

financial planning money Jul 18, 2017

Increasingly as we work with people of retirement age, we’re hearing a new concern: What happens when my mother runs out of money? This is something relatively new. Those in their middle ages used to be called the sandwich generation, because they were in the middle, caring for both their children and their parents. But this is something new . . . we’re speaking of people in their 60’s and 70’s caring for parents in their 80’s and 90’s.

By the time we hit our latter 60’s, most of us hope that the retirement nest egg is firmly in place, children are married off, and grandchildren are a joy. But since we’re all living so much longer, caring for one’s very elderly parents is now a large financial planning topic.

Medical issues are a primary cause for concern
Too often we see the client who is concerned about his parents outliving their assets. A parent with a long and debilitating illness is a common story, which can lead to an...

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