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The Labor Market in the Post-Pandemic Era

According to the most recent Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum, 50% of employees will need new skills training by 2025 as the pace of technological innovation continues to grow. Among business leaders, 94% say they expect employees to learn new skills while on the job, compared to just 65% who made that claim in 2018.1

However, the amount of time it takes to reskill will depend on the industry, according to the online learning platform Coursera. For example, only one or two months is necessary to acquire skills in emerging professions such as content writing, sales and marketing; in contrast, it could take up to three months to expand skills in product development, data and artificial intelligence. Skills needed for roles in cloud computing and engineering could take up to four months. Among soft skills that will increase in demand, critical thinking and problem-solving top the list. But post-pandemic, skills in resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility also are highly valued.2

This recognition of the need for new skills training opens up avenues for all types of people, even retirees and middle-aged professionals who would like to change careers. After all, the acquisition of skills based on new technologies means no one will have a huge edge in terms of experience. Therefore, people with the ability to learn technical skills quickly – who already possess high-value soft skills – have strong potential to vie for a new career. If you’re thinking about making such a move, we’d be happy to review your financial portfolio to help make sure you are on the right path toward your retirement.

Another labor trend is the rise of remote work and its impact on employees’ lifestyles. With the pandemic clearing the way for many white-collar workers to work remotely, younger workers have been able to move to more affordable locales and buy their first homes. On the other hand, established homeowners can now consider relocating to wherever they’d like to retire, trading in their current home equity for their retirement home – with a plan to pay off that final mortgage while they’re still working. This way, they can move and start enjoying a retirement lifestyle near the beach, lake or mountains while still gainfully employed, albeit working remotely.3

 Unfortunately, low-skilled, blue-collar professions are on the other side of that coin. Many either lost jobs during the pandemic or were classified as high-risk “essential workers.” Just because grocery store clerks became essential, it doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in pay or benefits. While the debate over raising the national minimum wage continues in Washington, there’s little doubt that many low-paying jobs will always be necessary, but experienced workers in those positions are not necessarily low-skilled.4

For example, what is the value of caregivers who can skillfully attend to mobility-challenged people? Or workers who serve multiple tables of hungry and thirsty patrons who want their meal yesterday? Skills like patience and equanimity have not traditionally received the same level of pay as an office worker, but they are no less valued or necessary. It will be interesting to see, post-pandemic, if these types of jobs begin to translate into fair pay and good benefits.5

 After decades of steady decline, labor unions are hoping for greater respect and participation moving forward – based on support by President Joe Biden’s administration. Today, only one in five households has a union member, and the Economic Policy Institute estimates the decline of unions translates to an average loss of $3,250 per year for a full-time worker. Biden is advocating passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) bill, which would abolish state laws that ban mandatory collection of dues as a condition of employment, penalize businesses that retaliate among union drives and extend federal labor rights to independent contract workers. So far, the House has approved the legislation, but it faces a more difficult path in the Senate.6

1 Kate Whiting. World Economic Forum. Oct. 21, 2020. “These are the top 10 job skills of tomorrow – and how long it takes to learn them.” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/10/top-10-work-skills-of-tomorrow-how-long-it-takes-to-learn-them/. Accessed April 30, 2021.

2 Ibid.

3 Liam Dillon. Los Angeles Times. April 30, 2021. “The remote work revolution is transforming, and unsettling, resort areas like Lake Tahoe.” https://www.latimes.com/homeless-housing/story/2021-04-30/covid-wfh-boosts-palm-springs-lake-tahoe-housing-markets. Accessed April 30, 2021.

4 Annie Lowrey. The Atlantic. April 23, 2021. “Low-Skill Workers Aren’t a Problem to Be Fixed.” https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/04/theres-no-such-thing-as-a-low-skill-worker/618674/. Accessed April 30, 2021.

5 Ibid.

6 Steve Matthews and Payne Lubbers. Bloomberg. April 15, 2021. “Biden Confronts Decades of Union Decline in Bid to Boost Pay.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-04-15/biden-confronts-decades-of-union-decline-in-bid-to-boost-wages?sref=wFA4tJCq. Accessed April 30, 2021.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.

 The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions.

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How to Plan for Old Age

Thelma Sutcliffe turned 114 years old in April, making her the oldest living American and the seventh-oldest person in the world, according to the Gerontology Research Group. The Omaha, Nebraska, resident attributes her relative good health and longevity to the fact that she never had children, never smoked and made it a habit not to worry.1

Not many people make it to 114, but those who do outlive their friends and loved ones. That’s why it’s important to develop passions and hobbies you can enjoy for the rest of your life, no matter how long you live. It’s also a good idea to establish a plan that provides a confident retirement. That may include living below your means and casting a wide net of friends to help ensure you have close ones to grow old with. It also may include buying insurance policies that offer reliable income. If you’d like help planning, please give us a call.

One key factor to consider is where you want to live in retirement, particularly during the later years when you may need help. Paying for full-time care in your own home can be very expensive. However, COVID-19 has caused some hesitation moving to assisted living and nursing homes due to the potential for disease outbreaks in the future. You may want to start thinking and talking with family members about the possibility of moving in with them later in life, if necessary. You could even use proceeds from the sale of your home to build an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) next to their home. Also known as a backyard cottage or granny flat, an ADU can help cut expenses to pay for in-home care – so there is less burden on family members.2

Some ADU floorplans even feature two bedrooms, so you could hire a full-time caregiver and provide room and board. Later, your heirs can use the ADU for rental income or to plan for their own long-term care.

Apart from financial and housing plans, consider developing hobbies you can enjoy later in life. You may cultivate a love of history, art or music early in retirement through volunteer efforts. For example, work as a docent, usher or fundraiser for a local museum, art gallery or concert hall. A heartfelt appreciation of the arts has a way of eliciting joy, even if you develop mobility or cognitive issues.

1 Leah Asmelash. CNN. April 29, 2021. “She just became the oldest living person in the US and all she wants is to be able to eat meals with her friend again.” https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/29/us/oldest-living-american-trnd/index.html. Accessed May 3, 2021.

2 Zillow. March 18, 2021. “What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) – and Tips for Building One.” https://www.zillow.com/resources/stay-informed/2021/03/18/how-to-build-accessory-dwelling-unit-adu/. Accessed May 3, 2021.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

 The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions.

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How Infrastructure Spending Affects Municipal Bonds

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the 10-year tab to meet the country’s basic infrastructure needs is about $6 trillion. The report, published in March, includes $125 billion needed for bridge repairs, $435 billion for roads and $176 billion for the nation’s transportation systems.1

For more than 200 years, municipal bonds have been used as public financing instruments in the U.S. Today, two-thirds of infrastructure projects such as schools, hospitals, highways and airports are financed by municipal bonds.2

In addition to providing revenue for infrastructure projects, muni bonds offer an attractive investment opportunity. They provide tax-advantaged yields for current income, stable credit quality and a risk-averse allocation for an investment portfolio. One way to diversify municipal bond investments is through a municipal bond fund or ETF. Given the potential for increased interest and investment in infrastructure in the foreseeable future, we’re happy to discuss opportunities suitable for your portfolio. Give us a call if you’d like to learn more.

President Joe Biden recently proposed a $2.3 trillion plan to invest in the nation’s infrastructure. One funding option Congress may consider is the Build America Bonds (BAB) program, which was introduced during the Great Recession as a means to fund recovery efforts through infrastructure repairs and development. BABs were originally structured for states, cities, schools, airports, mass transit agencies and other public entities to sell for a limited time. They were particularly attractive because the federal government kicked in 35% of interest costs.3

Stimulus packages over the past year have benefited the municipal market by making funds available to state and local governments to make up for lost sales tax revenues due to lockdowns and the beleaguered economy.5 Now, with more revenue available, local public agencies may be inclined to issue debt for capital purposes.

Bonds backed by states and cities tend to have high credit ratings and low default risk, and the federal government underwriting municipal debt makes them even more attractive. Historically, muni bonds have offered rates as high as 7% or more.Furthermore, given the potential that an expensive infrastructure bill may be supported by an increase in income tax rates, municipal bonds offer an opportunity for investors to shield income from taxation.7

1 Thomas Franck. CNBC. March 26, 2021. “Build America Bonds may be key to financing Biden’s infrastructure plans.” https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/26/build-america-bonds-may-be-key-to-financing-bidens-infrastructure-plans.html. Accessed May 5, 2021.

2 Jenna Ross. Visual Capitalist. Nov. 4, 2019. “From Coast to Coast: How U.S. Muni Bonds Help Build the Nation.” https://www.visualcapitalist.com/municipal-bonds-build-nation/. May 5, 2021.

3 Karen Pierog. Reuters. March 31, 2021. “Build America Bonds may stage a comeback in Biden’s infrastructure plan.” https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-biden-infrastructure-bonds/build-america-bonds-may-stage-a-comeback-in-bidens-infrastructure-plan-idUSL1N2LR1UZ. Accessed May 5, 2021.

5 Sanghamitra Saha. Nasdaq. April 7, 2021. “4 Factors Why Muni Bond ETFs Could Rally.” https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/4-factors-why-muni-bond-etfs-could-rally-2021-04-07. Accessed May 5, 2021.

6 Ibid.

7 Franklin Templeton. March 18, 2021. “Stimulus and Infrastructure: Boon for Muni Bonds?” https://www.franklintempleton.com/investor/tools-and-resources/investor-education/talking-markets-podcast/stimulus-and-infrastructure-boon-for-muni-bonds. Accessed May 5, 2021.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions.

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Why Buy an Annuity When the Market is Up?

Perhaps you are familiar with an annuity. The basic premise is that you convert a lump sum of money into a stream of income. Unlike an investment, once you commit a fixed amount of money to the insurance company, that company is contractually obligated to provide you a minimum level of income with the option to continue receiving it as long as you live. All guarantees are backed by the financial strength of the issuing insurance company.

An annuity is similar to Social Security benefits or a company pension plan in that it generates income from money over which you have little or no control. However, an annuity gives you many options to design your own income plan. It can offer flexibility in terms of how much income you’ll receive, as well as how much and how long, based on the premium you pay and the terms of the annuity. Additionally, many annuities offer features that enable access to funds for emergencies, health concerns, a surviving spouse and even beneficiaries. That said, it’s generally not a good idea to put all of your eggs in this basket. Think of an annuity as a guaranteed source of income in a well-diversified financial strategy.

Annuities include many options, ranging from immediate annuities to fixed, fixed index and longevity annuities. Each policy varies by issuer, and many can be customized with optional features and riders, which may require an additional fee. Keep in mind that annuities are designed for retirement or other long-term needs. They provide guarantees of principal and credited interest, subject to surrender charges. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced financial professional to help determine which option is appropriate for your situation.

A common question among those planning for retirement is: Why purchase an annuity when the market is performing well? Remember the adage: What goes up must come down. If and when the market experiences a decline, your potential profit is reduced and your income may drop. If you sell out of the market before it goes down, that’s some pretty good market timing. The problem, however, is that to take advantage of a subsequent market recovery, you might have to buy back in when prices are on the rise – which means you’ll lose some of that profit you earned.

The bottom line: Economic factors and the stock market fluctuate, but a guaranteed income annuity does not. Once you lock in income payments, that’s what you get. They are unaffected by market fluctuations. If you are near or in retirement, an annuity can help provide the income you need without your having to be concerned with day-to-day market moves that could potentially impact both your short- and long-term retirement income.

It’s also worth considering that when you purchase an annuity using profits from stocks sold when the market is up, you’ll have more money to purchase the annuity, thus yielding higher income in retirement. If you’re going to buy an annuity, that may be a good time to do so.

An annuity can also help provide income protection at the beginning of retirement. That’s because if you retire earlier than expected, converting a portion of your assets to an immediate annuity will enable you to begin taking income right away. In doing so, the rest of your retirement portfolio has the opportunity to continue growing and you may be able to delay drawing Social Security benefits so they continue accruing. This is important to consider because research reveals that 37 percent of older workers retired earlier than they had planned.1

An annuity also can provide income for loved ones after your death. One way you can do this is by choosing a “period certain” option. For example, instead of lifetime income, you may choose to receive income for 30 years. This means that even if you pass away after 10 years, your designated beneficiary would continue receiving that income for another 20 years.

An annuity can offer the flexibility to address several different needs, including retirement income, access to emergency funds (some annuities allow you to withdraw a certain percentage each year without a penalty), payouts to assist with the costs of long-term care, and even inheritance proceeds. With an annuity, these options can be included as part of the contract’s guaranteed structure at the time you purchase it. While an investment portfolio may be able to pay for these needs, you might have to sell when the market is in a decline. In such a case, you would lose both money initially and the opportunity to recover lost gains on those sold assets.

Many of those in the financial industry recognize the value of an annuity within a broader retirement strategy. One study found that by purchasing an annuity contract, a retiree can improve the chances of his portfolio lasting to age 95 by nearly 20 percentage points when compared to a pure investment portfolio.2 Another study found that a 401(k) plan investor with at least $65,000 would be better off if he put 10 percent of those assets into a deferred annuity.3

Keep in mind that with an annuity, it’s all about the guarantees. If you’re a planner and you want to know how much guaranteed income you can count on in retirement, purchasing an annuity may make sense for you.

If you’d like to learn more about how an annuity could fit within your overall financial strategy, please feel free to give us a call.

Alicia H. Munnell. Marketwatch. Feb. 27, 2019. “Why do 37% of older workers retire earlier than planned?” https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-do-37-of-older-workers-retire-earlier-than-planned-2019-02-27. Accessed May 9, 2019.

Michael Finke, Ph.D., CFP®, and Wade Pfau, Ph.D., CFA®. Principal. “It’s more than money.” https://landing.principal.com/more-than-money. Accessed May 24, 2019.

Olivia S. Mitchell. Knowledge@Wharton. May 2, 2019. “Can Annuities Help Grow Your Retirement Nest Egg?” https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/annuities-retirement-income/. Accessed May 9, 2019.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Social Security Proposals and Strategies

As the Social Security Trust Fund approaches its expiration date, many existing entities are offering helpful suggestions for funding alternatives. For example, the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) recommends a combination of changing how cost of living adjustments are made, delaying retirement age and updating the delayed credit strategy. Among its proposals, the AMAC also advocates establishing a new “Social Security Plus” account — a personal retirement savings account that begins paying out at age 62. Specifically, this account would:1

  • Be funded on a strictly voluntary basis by both employees and employers
  • Be owned by the individual
  • Provide a tax deduction for employer contributions
  • Allow after-tax contributions by employees with tax-free withdrawals (similar to a Roth IRA)
  • Be funded via payroll deduction

Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College and a respected individual in the retirement income field, advocates a long-term approach to solving the pending Social Security shortfall. While she does not advocate cutting benefits, Munnell believes that the only way to fund full benefits for the next 75 years is to raise current payroll taxes.2

Those who have already retired are less likely to be affected by changes to the Social Security system than those who are currently preparing for retirement. It’s important to have your own plan for an independent retirement income stream, separate from government benefits, to ensure your needs will be covered. Feel free to reach out to learn more about current income vehicles that can help secure your financial future.

In a recent proposal for funding Social Security, President Biden proposed:

  • Raising the guaranteed minimum benefit to 125% of the federal poverty level
  • A 5% increase for retirees who have been drawing benefits for at least 20 years
  • Enhancing payouts to surviving spouses by 20%
  • Boosting the annual cost-of-living adjustment for benefits

Biden proposes paying for benefit increases by levying FICA taxes on workers who earn more than $400,000 a year. Other proposed ideas include imposing FICA taxes on income above $142,800 (which is currently the limit for this tax), gradually increasing the payroll tax rate from the current 12.4% to 14.8%, reducing benefits for those with higher lifetime incomes, reducing cost-of-living adjustments, and limiting benefits for spouses and children of higher-income earners.3

Those are all proposals that, in some form, may likely change the future Social Security landscape. Those nearing retirement can utilize a couple of strategies now that may not be as lucrative once proposed changes are made.

One option is the delayed credit that accrues if you wait until age 70 to draw benefits. Now that people are living longer, this accrual strategy, which was implemented by the Social Security Administration back in the 1950s, produces a substantially higher advantage for retirees who delay drawing benefits and then live to a ripe old age. In fact, waiting until age 70 can make lifetime benefits worth 76% more than claiming them at age 62. This actuarially enhanced perk is available only until benefits are adjusted to match to today’s longer life expectancy.4

Also be aware that widows and widowers do not necessarily have to wait until age 62 to begin taking Social Security benefits based on the earnings of an eligible spouse who passed away. A surviving spouse can begin drawing the deceased spouse’s benefit at age 60, then switch to his or her own benefit later (if higher). They can even wait until age 70 for the delayed credit and begin taking the enhanced benefit at that point.5

1 Association of Mature American Citizens. 2021. “The Combined Social Security Guarantee and Social Security Plus Initiative.” https://amac.us/social-security/. Accessed March 30, 2021.
2 Jane Wollman Rusoff. ThinkAdvisor. March 14, 2021. “Alicia Munnell: Biden’s Social Security Tax Hike Plan Falls Short.” https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2021/03/19/alicia-munnell-bidens-social-security-plan-falls-short/. Accessed March 30, 2021.
3 Bob Carlson. Forbes. Feb. 22, 2021. “Changes Must Come To Social Security.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/bobcarlson/2021/02/22/changes-must-come-to-social-security/?sh=50094aa115e4. Accessed March 30, 2021.
4 Investopedia. Dec. 21, 2020. “How Much Can I Receive From My Social Security Retirement Benefit?” https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/102814/what-maximum-i-can-receive-my-social-security-retirement-benefit.asp. Accessed April 14, 2021.
5 Social Security Administration. 2021. “Receiving Survivors Benefits Early.” https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/survivors/survivorchartred.html. Accessed March 30, 2021.
We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.
The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.
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Banking Industry Trends

The prodigious bank ledger used to be one of most important components of America’s financial system. Hand-written entries detailed every account holder’s deposits, withdrawals, loans and payments.

A lot has changed since then. In fact, in just the last decade, banking has become as much a technological innovation as it has a money manager. Even 21st century holdovers like checks and debit cards are gradually being replaced by more immediate transactions. Moving forward, we can expect increased activity in the areas of automation (bill paying, auto saving), personalization (fraud alerts, apps for budget tracking, spend forecasting) and real-time payments (Zelle, Venmo, CashApp).1

If you’re not keeping up with banking trends, now may be a good time to get on board. Not only do “set and forget” functions make it easier to pay bills and save regularly, but these things become even more important when we retire. For example, if you are a “snowbird” with homes in different states, online banking and e-bills can help you stay current without having your mail forwarded. The same is true if you decide to travel extensively. Even abroad, you can pay your bills anywhere that provides a secure Wi-Fi connection. Moreover, today’s banking innovations provide ways to ensure we don’t forget to pay bills or overdraw on our accounts. If you’re looking for other ways to consolidate and simplify your financial activities in retirement, we may be able to help.

If you decide to “retire” your investments and consolidate cash accounts, bear in mind that both the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) insure deposits up to $250,000 per account holder — per each qualified account type — per each insured institution. This means that even if your bank were to fail, the federal government insures that your money is protected.2

After the Great Recession, Congress passed legislation that required banks to hold more capital on reserve for account holders. However, during the pandemic, the Federal Reserve loosened those requirements for lending purposes, allowing a greater cash infusion to help boost the economy. Now that the U.S. is on the road to recovery, the Fed announced in March that it would not extend the relaxed requirements past March 31.3

1 Liz Frazier. Forbes. March 22, 2021. “Digital Banking Trends Evolve In 2021, But Customer Needs Stay The Same.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizfrazierpeck/2021/03/22/digital-banking-trends-evolve-in-2021-but-customer-needs-stay-the-same/?sh=2dc8b9d91cd3. Accessed March 23, 2021.
2 Melissa Lambarena and Chanelle Bessette. NerdWallet. Dec. 7, 2020. “How NCUA Insurance Works.” https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/banking/ncua-insurance-keeps-credit-union-deposits-safe. Accessed April 14, 2021.
3 The Tribune. March 19, 2021. “Fed to end relaxed capital requirements for large banks.” http://www.tribtown.com/2021/03/19/ap-us-federal-reserve-bank-regulation/. Accessed March 23, 2021.
We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.
The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.
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A Shot for Economic Improvement

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the ongoing distribution of vaccines combined with the latest government stimulus is expected to jumpstart economic activity in the U.S. However, projections for sustainable growth are not equitable among various countries and business sectors. Faster and more effective vaccination deployment across the world is critical. The OECD emphasizes that the key to global recovery is widespread inoculation conducted at a faster rate than variant strains of the virus are mutated.

Not only does the unequal vaccination rate restrict productivity worldwide, but the lack of certainty regarding economic recovery will fuel negative consumer and business confidence. Because the rate of infection caused by new variants is competing with the rate of vaccination rollouts, time will decide if and when economic growth and job creation becomes sustainable.1 The U.S. relies heavily on raw materials and manufacturing in other countries, so the continued spread of the virus worldwide affects our own job growth and economic viability, and will continue to restrict global business and consumer travel.

Clearly, spending is key, and households that have reduced activities in the past year likely have the capacity (and pent-up desire) to venture out and spend, travel, dine out and enjoy entertainment venues. Since we’ve all learned how to (inadvertently) tighten the belt throughout the past year, reworking your budget for increased saving and disciplined spending might interest you if your situation allows it. If you’d like some assistance in assessing your retirement income strategy and how insurance products may fit into that strategy, we’re here to help.

One economist observed that delays in the immunization program mean the difference between a quick recovery and long-term labor market “scarring.” In other words, high unemployment could lead to more defaulted loans, bankruptcies and shuttered businesses. This economist projects that if the vaccinated share of the population hits 92% by August, the U.S. should experience 5.2% growth for the year. If vaccinations are at 68%, we can expect about 3% growth for 2021.2

An interesting dilemma that many employers face is whether to require workers to get vaccinated. Not only do unvaccinated workers put each other and customers at higher risk, but by not reaching herd immunity, every company is likely to suffer revenue losses. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers can institute a policy that requires workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, under the following guidelines:3

  • The vaccine must be generally available to the entire employee population.
  • Exceptions can be made for individuals who cannot obtain a vaccine due to a personal health or disability reason.
  • Employees can be excused for a sincerely held religious belief that prohibits the vaccine.
  • Labor union members may object to a mandatory vaccine policy based on provisions in the National Labor Relations Act.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided guidelines to help employers encourage inoculating their workforce voluntarily. Recommendations include hosting on-site vaccination opportunities, mobile vaccination clinics and employer-sponsored temporary vaccination clinics.4 

1 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. March 3, 2021. “OECD Economic Outlook. Interim Report March 2021” https://www.oecd.org/economic-outlook/march-2021/. Accessed March 22, 2021.
2 Howard Schneider. Reuters. Jan. 12, 2021. “Jabs equal jobs? Fed sees possible economic boom if vaccine gets on track.” https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-economy-vaccines/jabs-equal-jobs-fed-sees-possible-economic-boom-if-vaccine-gets-on-track-idUSL1N2JJ28N. Accessed March 22, 2021.
3 JD Supra. Feb. 8, 2021. “Employment Issues And The COVID-19 Vaccine.” https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/employment-issues-and-the-covid-19-2739205/. Accessed March 22, 2021.
4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. March 16, 2021. “Workplace Vaccination Program.” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/essentialworker/workplace-vaccination-program.html. Accessed March 22, 2021.
We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.
The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.
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Building Wealth and Income

Spectrem Group’s recent Market Insights Report found that millionaire investors in the U.S. achieved a new record last year. The number of households with a net worth ranging between $1 million and $5 million (excluding primary residence) increased by 600,000, reaching 11.6 million in 2020.

In addition:1

  • The number of households with a net worth between $100,000 and $1 million increased by 500,000.
  • The number of households with a net worth between $5 million and $25 million increased by 324,000.
  • The number of households with a net worth of more than $25 million increased by 214,000.

While many households have accumulated a substantial net worth, a way to finance your retirement is how you convert that wealth into income. According to the chief financial analyst at Bankrate, your chances of success are better if you are producing multiple streams of income at the same time. He lists consulting or other part-time income, rental properties and business ventures as ways to diversify your income streams.2

Real estate is another income-producing asset. Even if you finish paying off your own mortgage by retirement, another option is “buy to rent.” While renting and building equity via real estate has produced many millionaires, remember that the job of a landlord requires a variety of skills, from navigating tenant law to plumbing repairs. It’s also important to evaluate your financing options – including whether to mortgage a property or buy it outright. If mortgaging, your interest rate needs to be low enough to establish a competitive market rental fee that covers expenses and still yields revenues.

Be aware that interest rates on investment properties tend to be higher than for a primary residence. Also, rents charged need to cover more than the mortgage; they need to also pay for homeowner insurance, property taxes, potential HOA fees, ongoing maintenance and repairs. There’s also landlord insurance to consider, which can cover property damage, lost rental income and liability protection.3

1 SpectremGroup. March 15, 2021. “New Spectrem Study Reveals US Household Wealth Climbed to Record Levels in 2020 After Rebounding from the March Pandemic-Related Market Crash.” https://spectrem.com/Content_Press/spectrem-press-release-march-15-2021.aspx. Accessed March 15, 2021.
2 James Royal. Bankrate. March 4, 2021. “14 passive income ideas to help you make money in 2021.” https://www.bankrate.com/investing/passive-income-ideas/. Accessed March 15, 2021.
3 Tim Parker. Investopedia. Sep. 17, 2020. “15 Tips for Buying Your First Rental Property.” https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/090815/buying-your-first-investment-property-top-10-tips.asp. Accessed March 15, 2021.
We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.
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New Status on Pension Plans

Financial professionals and economists have been talking about the “graying of America” and the retirement crisis for at least a couple of decades. Now, it seems, things have reached a tipping point.

Even labor union workers, largely beneficiaries of rich benefits and pension plans, have been hit hard. Throughout the past century, unions set up multiple-employer pension plans so that unionized workers in the trucking, trade, construction, ironworking, carpentry and other industries could change employers throughout their career while staying with the same union and continue accruing pension benefits from job to job.1 Despite that effort, more than 1,400 multiemployer pension plans covering about 11 million U.S. workers have fallen into a financial hole.

For example, a worker who retired in 2009 with 37 years paid into his pension fund was due $4,265 per month for life. However, in 2015 his pension benefit was slashed to $2,217 per month due to underfunding.2

This problem doesn’t just affect pensioners, it affects the nation’s overall economy. According to the National Institute of Retirement Security, each $1 spent on pension benefits supports $2.19 in economic output. In some coal-mining areas, entire towns are supported by union pensioners. In Detroit, nearly a third of income comes from pensions, union retiree health, Medicare and Social Security. If pension plans fail, communities throughout the heartland, including Ohio, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana, will suffer immeasurably.3

Union pensions are not the only plans under financial pressure. According to the 2020 Social Security Trustee report, the Social Security retirement trust fund was scheduled to run out of money by 2034. But that estimate was before the pandemic when unemployment and suspended FICA payroll taxes significantly reduced Social Security revenues while at the same time millions of people retired early and began tapping their benefits. The new trustee report, due in a few months, will likely update that depletion date to 2032 or sooner. Without changes, Social Security benefits soon will be funded solely by current payroll taxes, which would reduce benefits by as much as a quarter of previous estimates.4

It may be a good time to review your individual retirement plan to shore up any gaps that may be affected by reduced pension and government benefits. Feel free to contact us to discuss your situation and explore tax-efficient ways to provide more financial confidence to your retirement plans.

The recent $1.9 trillion stimulus bill took a first step to help stabilize pension plans. It authorized funding by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) for eligible multiemployer plans to enable them to pay benefits at plan levels and remain solvent. The funding is being paid out from general revenues of the U.S. Treasury.5

1 Chris Farrell. Marketwatch. March 15, 2021. “The new stimulus bill will help shore up some shaky pension plans.” https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-new-stimulus-bill-will-help-shore-up-some-shaky-pension-plans-11615586775?mod=home-page. Accessed March 22, 2021.
2 Teresa Ghilarducci. Forbes. March 15, 2021. “What Is The Pension Provision In The Stimulus Package? An Explainer.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/teresaghilarducci/2021/03/15/what-is-the-pension-provision-in-the-stimulus-package-an-explainer/?sh=7fdbc4c257d1. Accessed March 22, 2021.
3 Ibid.
4 Bob Carlson. Forbes. Feb. 22, 2021. “Changes Must Come To Social Security.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/bobcarlson/2021/02/22/changes-must-come-to-social-security/?sh=44501abc15e4. Accessed March 22, 2021.
5 Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. March 12, 2021. “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.” https://www.pbgc.gov/american-rescue-plan-act-of-2021. Accessed March 22, 2021.
6 Jory Heckman. Federal News Network. Feb. 24, 2021. “USPS 10-year plan looks to redefine ‘unachievable’ service standards.” https://federalnewsnetwork.com/agency-oversight/2021/02/usps-10-year-plan-looks-to-redefine-unachievable-service-standards/. Accessed March 22, 2021.
7 Govtrack. Feb. 2, 2021. “H.R. 695: USPS Fairness Act.” https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/117/hr695. Accessed March 22, 2021.
We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.
 The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.
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Warren Buffett’s Annual Shareholder Letter

Every year, Berkshire Hathaway’s Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett sends a thoughtfully crafted letter to the company’s shareholders from which the investment industry gleans whatever newfound wisdom possible. Given that 2020 was an unusual year by economic, social and financial standards, there is much to glean.

Despite the difficulties the U.S. has experienced in managing the COVID-19 virus, Buffett has one sustaining message: “Never bet against America.” He also is a man who aligns his money with his beliefs. Presently, Berkshire Hathaway owns the highest value of U.S. business assets – comprised of property, plants and equipment – than any other company in the country.1

Berkshire is a conglomerate of disparate companies, and Buffet spends much time in his letter imparting what he’s learned about being a majority shareholder versus running a business. He says that “owning a non-controlling portion of a wonderful business is more profitable, more enjoyable – and far less work.”2

Fortunately, that’s also what it can be like to be an individual investor. While we may not be major shareholders, investors are often rewarded with a slice of the profit pie when we choose a well-run and profitable business. The key, of course, is to pick the right ones. Short-term investors may look to trade high risk for a quick profit, while longer-term investors may seek more reliable performance and give a company plenty of time to deliver. Sometimes it’s a matter of first figuring out what it is you want to accomplish with the money you make and then develop a strategy from there. Let us know if we can help.

One concept Buffett often reiterates is the need to hold a margin of safety when investing. Millions of people who lost their jobs during the pandemic learned just how narrow that margin of safety was within their own households. For those lucky enough to continue working, they may be even better off than before – simply because the pandemic shut down normal spending activities. That means many households are now in a position to reduce their debt and financial risks, and create an emergency fund they may not have had previously.3

Another hallmark move Buffett made in 2020 was an outsized buyback of Berkshire Hathaway’s own shares. The total 2020 tab came to $24.7 billion – compared to the combined total of $6.4 billion from the two prior years. Buffett noted that while he normally shies away from repurchases, the strategy offered “a simple way for investors to own an ever-expanding portion of exceptional businesses.” The strategy proved to be appropriate for an unpredictable year such as 2020.4

And finally, another key component of the shareholder letter was that Buffett admitted to making a big mistake in the past that came to a head in 2020. In 2016, Berkshire purchased aerospace parts manufacturer Precision Castparts for $37 billion. While he still believes the company is the leader of the aerospace industry and will generate solid returns in the future, Buffett cops to an earnings miscalculation that led him to pay too much for the company. 5

1 Yun Li. CNBC. Feb. 27, 2021. “Warren Buffett says ‘never bet against America’ in letter trumpeting Berkshire’s U.S.-based assets.” https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/27/warren-buffett-says-never-bet-against-america-in-letter-trumpeting-berkshires-us-based-assets.html. Accessed March 8, 2021.
2 Warren Buffett. Berkshire Hathaway. Feb. 27, 2021. “To the Shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.” https://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2020ltr.pdf. Accessed March 8, 2021.
3 Chris Farrell. Star Tribune. March 6, 2021. “Take advantage of this rare opportunity to reduce financial risk.” https://www.startribune.com/take-advantage-of-this-rare-opportunity-to-reduce-financial-risk/600031093/?refresh=true. Accessed March 8, 2021.
4 Aparna Narayanan. Investor’s Business Daily. Feb. 27, 2021. “Warren Buffett’s Key Investment Strategy Rests On These ‘Family Jewels’.” https://www.investors.com/news/warren-buffett-annual-letter-signals-maintaining-berkshire-hathaway-strategy-2021/. Accessed March 8, 2021.
5 James Leggate. Fox Business. Feb. 27, 2021. “In Warren Buffett’s annual letter he admits making this ‘big’ mistake.” https://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/warren-buffett-admits-making-this-big-mistake-in-annual-letter-to-investors. Accessed March 8, 2021.
We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.
The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.
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