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The Printed Word

We blog, tweet, post. Read, skim, search. We can now receive so much of our information online, on demand, and choose exactly what sources from which to receive it. We’re no longer limited to three nightly newscasts and our daily local paper.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "The Future of the News Business: A Monumental Twitter Stream All in One Place," from Andreessen Horowitz, accessed June 6, 2014.]

But with such a cache of information comes a few disadvantages, like the lack of attention span to sit down in a comfortable recliner or hammock and read a long-form article in a magazine. They still exist, of course, but part of the challenge is conceding that we want to invest the time it takes to read a printed Time article versus reading a quick summary of the same topic’s salient points via an online source.

Just recently, Time Inc. — publisher of such popular magazines as Time, People, Sports Illustrated and more than 50 other titles – spun off from its parent company, Time Warner. The publishing magnate’s revenues have plummeted by 34 percent and its operating profit by 59 percent over the last 10 years. As readership and paid subscriptions drop, so do advertising revenues. Let’s face it, why buy a weekly People magazine when you’ve already seen photos of a Kardashian wedding online — including collaborative selfies posted on Instagram by celebrities in attendance?

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Time Inc. Spinoff Reflects a Troubled Magazine Business," from Pew Research Center, June 5, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "State of the News Media 2014," from Pew Research Journalism Project, March 26, 2014.]

There used to be more value attached to what we refer to as “the printed word.” Hemingway and many other iconic American writers started out as journalists and honed their craft with shorter pieces. They wrote and rewrote, and then their editors shaped and corrected and edited to perfection. There was time to fact-check and proofread — and it mattered. It mattered that readers got correct information with correct grammar because they couldn’t make corrections in real time. Published retractions were disgraceful admissions of error, not acceptable de rigueur as they are today.

In the past, the news was neutral and facts were reported without opinion — Walter Cronkite style. His nightly sign-off, “And that’s the way it is,” was never doubted because viewers trusted the impartiality of his news reports. Today, even well-respected, well-established media outlets trend toward far more news bias than in the past.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Poll: Media Bias Tops Money as the Biggest Problem in Politics," from Washington Examiner, May 28, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "And From the Left ... Fox News," at Columbia Journalism Review, March 3, 2014.]

Now, anyone can have an online voice as a reporter, writer or photographer. A global medium now exists where everyone can express opinions and ideas. The Internet blurs the line between expert opinion and opining by “Everyman.” While it makes for interesting reading, we’ve learned we must frequently take what is published on the Internet with a grain of salt. In fact, the value of information generally comes from the source that provides it, and that’s where we come in.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "On TV, Few Amateur Journalists Get Credit for Their Contributions to the News," from Pew Research Center, June 5, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Here's What Happens When the Readers Choose the Front Page Story," from NewsWhip, March 6, 2014.]

When it comes to your finances, what matters most is what matters to you. News stories can update you on local and global happenings, but can they inform you of the potential effect an economic indicator may have on your retirement strategy? We are happy to help translate how current events in the news and in our industry may impact your financial life. Please give us a call to discuss what matters to you.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies that include the use of insurance products.

These articles are being provided for informational purposes only and should not be used as the basis for any financial decisions. While we believe this information to be correct, we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included. All clients are encouraged to consult qualified tax and legal professionals before making any decisions about your personal situation.

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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All Things Inflation

At the end of May, the Commerce Department reported that the price index for personal consumption expenditures increased by 1.6 percent in April from a year earlier — the fastest pace since November 2012. This is the latest sign that U.S. inflation is starting an upward trend.

Banking on expectations for a targeted 2 percent inflation rate, the Federal Reserve Bank is scheduled to phase out its bond purchase program this fall. New Federal Reserve Bank Chairwoman Janet Yellen has indicated that the Federal Open Market Committee plans to keep short-term interest rates at near-zero level for a “considerable” time after the quantitative easing program ends. The plan is to increase rates very gradually thereafter.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Inflation Creeps Higher but Undershoots Fed Target for Two Years," at The Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Fed's George wants rate hikes soon, and not too gradual," at CNBC, May 30, 2014.]

When it comes to inflation, however, the consumer price index is not the only indicator to monitor closely. Wages — including the current debate over whether (and by how much) to increase the minimum wage — also tend to be a powerful influence. That’s because once increased, wages tend to stay at a certain level — they do not fluctuate up and down like inflation rates and stock prices. Consequently, wage hikes can have an enormous impact on consumer confidence and spending. Greater spending, in turn, can influence prices — which affects inflation.

However, high unemployment tends to put a downward pressure on inflation, as spending rates remain conservative. With fewer jobs available, employers can offer lower wages. Add in competitive labor markets across the globe, and there is further downward pressure on both wage and employment rates. So you can see how both unemployment and wage levels impact inflation — which then impacts the direction of interest rates.

[CLICK HERE to read the report, "Janet Yellen on Inflation," at Western Asset Management, April 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Why Inflation Is So Low," at NPR, May 15, 2014.]

Despite the leading economic indicators that are tenaciously tracked and analyzed by nearly every economist, money manager and think tank out there, inflation continues be relatively unpredictable — and in some cases uncontrollable.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Weird Money Facts: 5 True Cases of Unbelievable Inflation," at WiseBread.com, retrieved May 15, 2014.]

But like most things in life, how well we weather the unknown comes down to how well we prepare for it. Inflation can impact each of us differently because we all have different priorities — such as the value of education, health and nutrition, lifestyle luxuries and ideas for retirement.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "How to Protect Clients' Portfolios against Inflation," at Financial Planning, May 28, 2014.]

It’s our job to help protect our clients’ retirement income from the effects of inflation. Please contact us if you would like to inflation-check your current financial situation.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies that include the use of insurance products.

These articles are being provided for informational purposes only and should not be used as the basis for any financial decisions. While we believe this information to be correct, we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included. All clients are encouraged to consult qualified tax and legal professionals before making any decisions about your personal situation.

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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Bully for Us: Consumerism Soars

Summer is here. The housing market has gained strength, jobs and incomes have risen, and overall consumers are feeling bullish. Seeing most of us have had to adjust to the “new normal” since the turn of the millennium, recent conditions are the relative equivalent to “happy days are here again.”

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Economic check-in: Good backdrop for stocks," at Fidelity, May 16, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Sales of New U.S. Homes Increase by Most in Six Months," at Bloomberg, May 23, 2014.]

As it turns out, we’re also pretty good at turning a negative event into a positive force. For years we’ve been reading about how the “graying of America” will leave shortfalls in the workforce and medical field while spending will increase exponentially in health and long-term care. Fortunately, the market tends to follow demand.

According to Chief Investment Officer Chris Hyzy at U.S. Trust, baby boomers are the largest demographic force we have in terms of volume, wealth, consumer spending and jobs. He observes that older Americans are emerging as a tremendous economic asset – working longer, buying more goods, and generally propelling economic growth.

Here are a couple of examples of how markets have adapted to our aging workforce. In the U.S., one drugstore chain noticed that senior customers felt more comfortable asking older employees for assistance. As a result, the chain offered retiring workers who planned to spend their winters in warmer climates the opportunity to split their time between store locations and work more flexible hours. In Germany, one factory made physical changes to accommodate older workers so they would stay on the job longer, including softer wooden floors, adjustable worktables and orthopedic shoes. The changes yielded significantly lower absenteeism and productivity soared.

One forecasting firm has estimated that the products and services Americans over 50 consume, and the industries that serve them, generate about $7.1 trillion annually. This number is expected to increase to $13.5 trillion within 18 years, at which point they will represent more than 50 percent of our gross domestic product.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "The End of Old," at Merrill Lynch, retrieved May 23, 2014.]

A couple of the challenges we can expect moving forward are relatively new to us; the impact of adult children — or boomerang children — returning to the proverbial “empty nest” for financial reasons, and the dominance of large corporations. On the surface, you would think more breadwinners under one roof would provide a stronger fiscal picture. In reality, perhaps not.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Your kids will never let you retire," at Marketwatch.com, May 23, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "The biggest economic threat? Big companies," at Marketwatch.com, May 22, 2014.]

The U.S. economy and many households have come a long way. Not just since the recession, but since the beginning of the millennium when progress was thwarted by the technology industry bust and the events surrounding 9/11. While financial markets seem to teeter on 24/7 exposure to news stories, most of us have worked hard toward improving our fiscal house and creating a more cautious plan to help foster a future unfazed by fleeting headlines.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "America's Lost Decade Turns 12: Even the Rich Are Worse Off Than Before," at The Atlantic, Sep. 17, 2013]

As is usually the case, past events breed insight and wisdom, and Americans have plenty of that going forward. If we can assist you in harnessing that wisdom for an income plan to help facilitate your future, please contact us.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies that include the use of insurance products.

These articles are being provided for informational purposes only and should not be used as the basis for any financial decisions. While we believe this information to be correct, we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included. All clients are encouraged to consult qualified tax and legal professionals before making any decisions about your personal situation.

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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Positive News on Jobs, Food and Fitness Fronts

April unemployment numbers brought good news. About 288,000 new jobs were created, representing the highest one-month total in two years. Unemployment is now at 6.3 percent, its lowest level since September 2008. Employers added an average of 238,000 jobs each month over the last three months, which is a substantial improvement over the average of 167,000 per month in the previous three.

Consumer spending is up, but only modestly. Due to the chilly weather, in the first quarter we spent more money on utilities and health care. Spending on consumer goods was relatively flat, but in March Americans bought more cars and boosted retail numbers at shopping malls.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "American Economy Bounces Back From Brutal Winter" at UT San Diego website, May 2, 2014.]

Home sales are also up. March marked the first gain in pending sales over the last nine months. Like a stack of dominoes, as more jobs become available, more people will move to accept them, and that brings about more inventory in the real estate market. Low inventory is viewed as the main snag for lagging growth in this market. However, houses valued at one million dollars or more represent the greatest number of sales, and the vacation home market is robust as retirees seek to replace their primary homes. Housing prices continue to increase, but as more inventory enters the market that is expected to level off price growth.

[CLICK HERE to read the article and view the video, "Pending Home Sales Increase in March," at National Association of Realtors, Apr. 28, 2014.]

It may take a couple of years, but food manufacturers will soon be required to change the way they label nutrition information on packages. The format for providing information on these labels hasn’t changed in 20 years, so many in the healthcare and food industry are applauding the initiative. New labels will display the calorie count in a larger and more prominent manner to be easily read by consumers, and will also reflect a change in the base serving size to mirror today’s consumer’s eating portions and habits. Another positive change will be an accurate representation of sugar that is added to food. As of now, that line item includes both naturally occurring and added sugars.

Much of the influence for requiring new standards for labeling nutrition facts on food containers is attributed to First Lady Michelle Obama. Her high-profile “Let’s Move” campaign to educate children and parents on the importance of exercise and nutrition also appears to have made an impact on recent lower childhood obesity rates.

[CLICK HERE to watch, "Michelle Obama Puts Nutrition Center Stage," at ABC News, Feb. 27, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to watch, "Obesity Rates in Children Decline 43 Percent in Ten Years," at ABC News, Feb. 25, 2014.]

This increased focus on fitness and healthy eating provides interesting avenues for economic growth. Companies associated with or benefiting from this trend appear to be outpacing other industries. Costco is one company that is capitalizing on the newfound interest in natural and organic food. In the first year the warehouse chain began offering fresh organic ground beef, it generated $25 billion in sales – 80 percent of those sales were to members previously not in the habit of purchasing beef there.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "How to invest in healthy living" at Fidelity, May 1, 2014.]

It’s always great to get some positive news, and we’re excited about the continued economic prospects for 2014. If we can help assess your financial picture and position you to take advantage of your future financial strategy, please contact us to schedule an appointment.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies that include the use of insurance products.

These articles are being provided for informational purposes only and should not be used as the basis for any financial decisions. While we believe this information to be correct, we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included. All clients are encouraged to consult qualified tax and legal professionals before making any decisions about your personal situation.

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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Global Perspectives

Many Americans tend to assume we’re the greatest nation. After all, people from other countries are frequently trying to move here. For the most part, we have a strong economy, we’re well educated, we make decent money, and we have the NFL, NBA, and MLB for gosh sakes. The U.S. rules.

Except when it doesn’t. The state of our economy is greatly influenced by what goes on in other countries. For example, as the Ukraine-Russia conflict increases the risk profile in Europe, the United States could benefit from greater global capital inflow. On the other hand, should Russian aggression become more pronounced, our government officials may soften the pressure they have placed on regulators to decrease the U.S. defense budget – requiring politicians to look elsewhere for a solution to the country’s deficit woes.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Old Embers Never Die," at Guggenheim, May 8, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "May market update: Positive signs," at Fidelity, May 8, 2014.]

It’s important – yet often difficult – for Americans to recognize that as powerful as our nation is, we’re not the only players out there. The new millennium firmly entrenched a global economy in which events that happen in far flung countries can impact us, and vice versa. Therefore, it pays to pay attention.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Uneven global economy a test for central banks," at CNBC.com, May 15, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Global Economy Watch: May 2014," at Price Waterhouse Coopers, May 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Global economy strengthening but significant risks remain, says OECD in latest Economic Outlook," at The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, May 6, 2014.]

Some are predicting this could be the era of Chinese consumerism, creating a foundation for China to become the world’s largest economy. In addition, there are increasing signs that India would not be far behind to outpace China’s success.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Why global recovery could depend on China's taste for luxury," at The Guardian, May 10, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "China is an economic powerhouse, but size isn't everything," at The Guardian, May 8, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Why India Will Soon Outpace China," at Forbes, May 4, 2014.]

The U.S. is hardly the only country struggling with government expenditures, high unemployment, and slow economic growth. As we currently grapple with the question of whether to increase the hourly minimum wage to $10.25, Switzerland recently voted on a referendum to raise the national wage to the equivalent of $25 an hour. While the Swiss as a whole enjoy low unemployment and fewer work hours, the average household boasts about $30,000 in net discretionary income. Sound rich? Only for a minority of the population given the great income discrepancy — those in the top 20 percent earn nearly five times what those in the bottom 20 percent earn.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Where could you get $25 minimum wage?" at CNNMoney.com, May 16, 2014.]

It appears that from many different perspectives, the grass may seem greener somewhere else. If we can help you develop a clearly defined picture of your own financial strategy within your household, please give us a call.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies that include the use of insurance products.

These articles are being provided for informational purposes only and should not be used as the basis for any financial decisions.  While we believe this information to be correct, we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included. All clients are encouraged to consult qualified tax and legal professionals before making any decisions about your personal situation.

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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Live Long and Dance

A recent study reveals that engaging in appropriate exercise after age 65 can help conditions such as back pain and arthritis. Even the Mayo Clinic claims that exercise can be effective at helping prevent and even treat a wide range of age-related health conditions.

There are two important components to exercising at an older age: (1) Pick an appropriate activity for your age, health, and condition (2) Pay attention to what your body tells you. In other words, if you start feeling pain, you should decrease your physical activity, reduce the intensity or length of time of the exercise, or even take some time off until the pain has subsided altogether. Some of the activities recommended for seniors include walking, swimming, water aerobics, yoga, Pilates, tai chi, and line, square or ballroom dancing. Dancing, in particular, can help with cognitive functions when coordinating steps are required.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Aging America: Exercise as the Fountain of Youth," at The Associated Press, May 8, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Scottish dancing can help keep old age at bay," at TheScotsman.com, 2014.]

One of the positives to aging in this day and age is that pre-retiree and retiree populations are so large. As such, economic growth can be driven by the demand to serve these consumers. One industry insider commented, “I am convinced that, in the next several years, eldercare will be what child care was in the 70s and 80s.”

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Aging is the next big investment opportunity" at MarketWatch.com, May 9, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "What Baby Boomers' Retirement Means for the U.S. Economy," at Five Thirty Eight Economics, May 7, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Maybe we're not headed for demographic Armageddon after all," at The Washington Post, May 6, 2014.]

As this large generation presses its weight on the national retirement system, more and more emphasis may be placed on finding ways to help boomers become less dependent on government and employer benefits.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Concerned about Longevity: Four Mistakes to Avoid," at Morningstar, May 8, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "How to manage cash flow in retirement," at Fidelity, May 8, 2014.]

We’re happy to help you develop a clearly defined financial strategy and hope you keep dancing your way to better physical and cognitive health. Please give us a call.

[CLICK HERE to read the news release, "Fueled by Aging Baby Boomers, Nation's Older Population to Nearly Double in the Next 20 Years, Census Bureau Reports," at Census.gov, May 1, 2014.]

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies that include the use of insurance products.

These articles are being provided for informational purposes only and should not be used as the basis for any financial decisions. While we believe this information to be correct, we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included. All clients are encouraged to consult qualified tax and legal professionals before making any decisions about your personal situation.

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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“Life” Is Its Own Financial Variable

Retirement income is a common topic in the financial services industry, with 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day for the next 15 to 20 years. One of the biggest questions pre-retirees face today is whether or not they’ll have enough income to support their desired lifestyle when it comes time to retire.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Baby Boomer Retirement Confidence Falters," at The Des Moines Register, April 7, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Do You Have Enough Money to Retire?" at Marketwatch.com, April 23, 2014.]

With such keen interest in the financial status of pre-retirees, there are often an overwhelming  number of strategies available to help you prepare for your financial future, with more constantly emerging.  One of the simplest recommendations is to start saving, plan early and be consistent.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Key to Retirement Riches? Start Early," at CBSnews.com, April 23 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "How to Build Wealth the Old-Fashioned Way," at Kiplinger, May 2014.]

Unfortunately, sometimes “life” — as we all know it — creeps in at the most inopportune times. Some people may experience layoffs or emergencies, such as medical, natural disasters and self-made disasters. Others may be challenged by poor investment decisions. Maybe you have children who excel and you want to give them every advantage, or you have children who struggle and you want to support them by any means necessary. “Life” is its own financial variable.

However, if something does interfere with your consistent, progressive saving, there are other strategies available — ones that may be able to help you. Any one of them should be evaluated carefully to determine if it is suitable for your particular situation. You should also seek the advice of qualified professionals in the areas of tax, legal and investments to assist you with your personal situation.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Retirement Strategies for Boomers of All Ages," at FOXBusiness.com, April 3, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "5 Strategies to Build Your Retirement Income," at Marketwatch.com, April 5, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "What Investors Can Learn from Big Dawgs at the Casinos," at CNNMoney.com, April 25, 2014.]

It used to be that financial professionals were key to helping people come up with ways to effectively prepare for retirement. Then, thanks to the Internet providing access to previously less accessible information, many people became do-it-yourselfers. Yet, after a couple of major market corrections, an economic recession and the abundance of information now available, the role of financial professionals may have become even more important than before, to narrow choices and help retirees and pre-retirees customize strategies appropriate for their individual circumstances.

In fact, that’s just what we do. Please feel free to call us if we can assist you with your retirement income strategy.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies that include the use of insurance products.

The information and opinions contained herein are provided by third parties and have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. It is given for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation. All clients are encouraged to consult qualified tax, legal and investment professionals before making any decisions about their personal situation.

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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Living and Working (and Thinking) in a Box

In the late 1970s sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati,” news director Less Nessman would not acknowledge the presence of co-workers unless they simulated knocking on the door of his fake office. His “office” was merely a desk and chair with imaginary walls marked by tape on the floor. Perhaps this was an indication of things to come — the slow evolution of workplace layouts going from private closed-door offices to wide open floor plans filled with individual employee cubicles.

Since then, the open floor plan of amassing hundreds of office workers in one space, divided only by cubicle walls, has become standard in corporate America. However, while the design was intended to create more teamwork and camaraderie among workers, studies in recent years have revealed it has had a more detrimental effect. Today, this cubicle design — which accounts for some 60 percent of office workers — has come to further differentiate a hierarchy of power among those who work in cubicles and the more exclusive managers, directors and vice presidents who may occupy corner offices.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Our Cubicles, Ourselves: How the Modern Office Shapes American Life," from The Atlantic, April 14, 2014.]

Studies have demonstrated that the open office floor plan has reduced employee attention spans, productivity, creative thinking and satisfaction. Compared with standard offices, employees may experience higher levels of interruptions and stress, and, instead of bonding, some coworkers feel a lack of privacy and control. Open-office environments may also lead employees to overlook the importance of their coworkers’ time.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "The Open-Office Trap," from The New Yorker, Jan. 7, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Offices for All: Why Open-Office Layouts are Bad for Employees, Bosses, and Productivity," from Fast Company, Nov. 4, 2013.]

Instead of having meaningful conversations with co-workers, easily overheard exchanges may be limited to small talk, and hushed private conversations can promote the feeling that others are being disparaged. But the crux of the open-space design is that it may become more difficult to foster close, treasured friendships and productive collaborations in the workplace.

Although companies continue to place workers in box-like cubicles, many employees embrace the challenge to come up with innovative ways to “think outside the box.” However, according to Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of Human Workplace, employees who are willing to think, speak and act outside the box may feel stifled by superiors who may prefer not to implement any new office initiatives.

She further observes that when people do manage to step out of the metaphorical box of their personal and professional lives, they often find that they actually built the box themselves. “When you complain about your situation rather than change it,” Ryan asserts, “you build a 10-foot reinforced-steel box to live in.”

Regardless of where you physically sit, live, work, and play, perhaps it’s time to re-assess if you have built a box around your life that has limited your options and prevented you from achieving your goals. We would like to help you emerge toward a brighter, box-less financial future for you and your loved ones. Please give us a call.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "How to Step Outside the Box," on Linkedin.com, April 16, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Arianna Huffington on How to 'Thrive,'" at Knowledge@Wharton, April 11, 2014.]

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies that include the use of insurance products.

These articles are being provided for informational purposes only and should not be used as the basis for any financial decisions. While we believe this information to be correct, we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information included. All clients are encouraged to consult qualified tax and legal professionals before making any decisions about their personal situations.

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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The United States: For Richer and for Poorer

A recent Health and Retirement Study by the Brookings Institution found that life expectancy is rising more quickly for people at the highest ranks of socio-economic status, while declining or remaining static for those in the lower levels. This discrepancy was raised in relation to Social Security benefits and posed the question as to whether raising the full retirement age as a means of sustaining the program is fair to those of a lower socio-economic class — since research shows that this group tends to pass away younger and may thus receive fewer benefits. In fact, the study concluded that although higher income earners may pay more into our progressive tax system, the differing rates of mortality among socio-economic classes has a substantial effect on the distribution of benefits in favor of higher income individuals.

[CLICK HERE to read the report, "Differential Mortality and Retirement Benefits in the Health and Retirement Study," at The Brookings Institution, April 8, 2014.]

On the issue of retirement funding, Olivia Mitchell, executive director of the Wharton’s Pension Research Council, recently discussed her new research paper on incentivizing pre-retirees to work longer. Her findings indicated that if workers who choose to delay taking Social Security benefits until after their full retirement age are given the chance to receive their delayed retirement credit as a lump sum payment instead of an increased monthly benefit, they would be more willing to work for one-and-a-half to two years longer.

[CLICK HERE to view the video, "Exchanging Delayed Social Security Benefits for Lump Sums: Could This Incentivize Longer Work Careers?" at RetireSecure Blog, April 9, 2014.]

The debate surrounding an increase of the minimum wage continues to be a topic in the news. To raise awareness of this issue, some legislators have accepted the challenge of trying to live on just $42 a week for food, the lowest amount the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates is possible to provide for a nutritious diet. One state representative noted that she had to pay six dollars for a gallon of milk — which represents almost an hour of work for minimum wage earners — observing that the current minimum wage of $7.25 hasn’t exactly kept pace with inflation.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Lawmakers Take the 'Minimum Wage Challenge' to Eat Off a Reduced Budget for a Week," at ThinkProgress.org, April 10, 2014.]

Another discrepancy between high-income and low-income households is that higher-income households are generally more capable of  saving more for their children’s college education. This could mean that more college graduates from low-income households will be burdened by student loans when they graduate — potentially compounding the income divide in the future.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "College Savings Gap Widens Between Rich and Poor," at CNNMoney.com, April 10, 2014.]

Retirement benefits, student loans and healthcare costs are all factors that may contribute to the growing diversity of income in America. As a result, the country’s middle class has shrunk from 53 percent to 44 percent since 2008. This continuing issue implores the question, how much can the country’s economic growth rate increase if fewer people are able to afford consumer products and services? Consider the recent financial woes of retailers like Sears, J.C. Penney and Loehmann’s. These are just a few examples of businesses that target middle-class consumers, which have closed many of their stores nationwide.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "More Americans See Middle Class Status Slipping," at USA Today, April 2, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "The Middle Class Is Steadily Eroding. Just Ask the Business World," at The New York Times, Feb. 2, 2014.]

Developing an appropriate financial strategy for retirement is important for people of all socio-economic classes. If you’re concerned about how retirement may impact your lifestyle financially, please give us a call.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies that include the use of insurance products.

The information and opinions contained herein are provided by third parties and have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. They are given for informational purposes only and are not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should they be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation. All clients are encouraged to consult qualified tax, legal and investment professionals before making any decisions about their personal situations.

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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Creative Solutions for Life’s Little Problems

It’s refreshing to see that many people are beginning to implement new and innovative ideas to address some of life’s seemingly little problems that may have a more widespread societal impact.

Take teenagers and their penchant for sleeping in, for example. While some teenagers are just  lazy, there is a biological reason teenagers may not be getting enough sleep. During puberty, the hormone melatonin is released at a later time of the day, which means teenagers don’t feel drowsy until about 11 pm. As a result, teens may not be getting an adequate amount of rest each night. If parents continue to wake them for school at six a.m., for example, they may not be getting enough sleep to function efficiently throughout the day.

While it may be more convenient for parents to have teens off to school before leaving for work, there may be an alternative that allows teenagers to get a sufficient amount of rest, while also improving their performance in the classroom.

There’s a growing movement to delay the start of the school day in high school to accommodate a teenager’s natural sleep habits. Studies have revealed that schools that have pushed back start times for teenagers have resulted in better grades, test scores and even fewer auto accidents by teenage drivers. As a result, many teens (and parents) have had to adjust to more independence and autonomy when it comes to getting up, fixing breakfast, and getting to school on their own. That could be an added bonus, depending on your point of view, of this one potential solution to a rather common problem.

[CLICK HERE to read article, "To Keep Teenagers Alert, Schools Let Them Sleep In," at The New York Times, March 13, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to view the presentation, "Teens and Sleep," at University of Minnesota, Oct. 2013.]

Another issue that seems to be affecting America is the decrease in farming alongside the increase in suburban sprawl. During the economic downturn, land-rich but cash-strapped developers stumbled onto a new idea – “Agritopia.” They began to build more modest housing communities with a working farm as the central feature instead of a golf course, pool or fitness center. The result has been embraced by families who convene at the local farm stand to buy fresh produce and visit with neighbors.

[CLICK HERE to read article, "Farm-to-Table Living Takes Root," at The New York Times, March 11, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read about an Agritopia development, 2014.]

With the rising costs of college tuition and subsequent renewed interest in community colleges and vocational schools, four-year universities are thinking outside the campus to recruit new co-eds and better prepare them for college. Their strategy? Pay for committed freshmen to take a”gap year” before the start of their college program to work or volunteer in another country. The college, in turn, covers airfare, housing and even visa fees for that gap year. The result has yielded more mature and experienced freshman who have seen a bit of the world, learned to live without their parents for a year, and are more appreciative of the opportunity to receive a college education.

[CLICK HERE to read article, "College Offers to Pay Students to Take a Year Off," at the Associated Press, March 14, 2014.]

Paris has also come up with its own out-of-the-box solution to its air pollution problem. It recently provided free public transportation to discourage people from driving during a three-day span in which severe pollution took root due to unusually warm weather.

[CLICK HERE to read article, "Paris offers free public transport to reduce severe smog," at the BBC, March 14, 2014.]

Each of these examples demonstrate very reasonable solutions to some rather common problems. Please give us a call if we can help you identify some reasonable and unique solutions to help you address your financial concerns and keep you on the path to achieving your financial goals.

Our firm assists retirees and pre-retirees in the creation of retirement strategies that include the use of insurance products.

The information and opinions contained herein are provided by third parties and have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. It is given for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions,
nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation. All clients are encouraged to consult qualified tax, legal and investment professionals before making any decisions about their personal situation.

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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