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Jason Parker
It starts on November 15. What's changing — and what isn't?

This fall, we have another Medicare enrollment season coming — and in the wake of health care reform, some things will start to change while other things will remain relatively the same.

Will Part B premiums increase in 2011? They probably won’t — at least not for most Part B enrollees. Most analysts think premiums will remain at or very near 2010 levels: $96.40 monthly for existing beneficiaries, $110.50 monthly for most new enrollees. read more »

Why four percent?

When retirement planners try to estimate just how much money a couple or individual should take out of their savings annually, their model scenarios often assume a 4 percent annual withdrawal rate. Why is 4 percent used so frequently? Was that percentage plucked out of thin air? No, it actually became popular back in the 1990s.

The “Trinity Study” helped popularize the 4 percent guideline. In 1998, a trio of professors at San Antonio’s Trinity University analyzed historical market data between 1925 and 1995 in search of a “sustainable” withdrawal rate. read more »

Estate Planning vs. Advanced Estate Planning

Everyone has an estate. Rich or poor, it doesn’t matter. When you die, you leave behind an estate. For some, this can mean property, cash money, assets and more. For others it could be as simple as the $10 bill in their wallet and the clothes on their back. Either way, what you leave behind when you die is considered to be your “estate.”

Why plan? Well, even if you’re just leaving behind the $10 bill in your wallet, who will inherit it? Do you have a spouse? Children? Is it theirs? Should it go to just one of them, or be split between them? This (quite simply) is what estate planning is all about. Estate planning determines how your money and assets (property — both real and personal) will be distributed after your lifetime. read more »

Over time, those little mutual fund charges can really pinch you

Funds come with fees. In fact, so do IRAs, 529 plans, brokerage accounts and many other types of investments. Over time, the impact of these little fees is significant.

Back in 2006, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) studied 401(k) plan fees and found that just a one percent increase in these fees could whittle a worker’s 401(k) savings down by 17 percent across 20 years. How would you like to have 17 percent less retirement money?

Fees are inevitable, but it pays to shop around. When you think of the compounding and potential annual gains that one percent or two percent of your current fund balances could enjoy over 10 or 20 years, you see how fees matter. No mutual fund or retirement plan is going to operate for free, but trying to minimize fees could help you save more and retain more for retirement and other goals. read more »

The two words signify a far-reaching kind of financial care

There’s financial planning, and then there’s wealth management. Think of wealth management as a step up from garden-variety financial planning. One office (rather than one person) provides a range of services for a client: personal financial planning and investment management, tax reduction and estate planning strategies, and occasionally in-house legal resources. Business continuation planning, tax preparation and even budgeting and bill paying are sometimes added to the menu. read more »

Create a pool of healthcare dollars that will grow in any market

How will you pay for long-term care? The sad fact is that most people don’t know the answer to that question. But a solution is available.

As baby boomers leave their careers behind, long-term care (LTC) insurance will become very important in their financial strategies. The reasons to get an LTC policy after age 50 are very compelling.

Your premium payments buy you access to a large pool of money, which can be used to pay for long-term care costs. By paying for LTC out of that pool of money, you can preserve your retirement savings and income. read more »


Bond investing basics are simple. When you buy a bond, the bond issuer — either a government or corporation — pays you an agreed-upon rate of interest known as the coupon rate. In addition, you get your original investment back when the bond reaches a maturity date.

Bonds come in many flavors: taxable and tax-exempt, long — and short-term, AAA-rated and junk, inflation-protected, fixed-rate and variable-rate.

Before investing in a bond issue, you should consider several factors. read more »

How will this impact the real estate market?

The Fed pulls out of the mortgage market. On March 31, the Federal Reserve halted its 15-month-long program to buy up toxic mortgage-linked securities. Of all the things the Fed did to try and heal the economy and financial markets, this may have been its most crucial move. It was March 2009 when the program really began to get rolling. Guess when the current Bull run began on Wall Street?

In purchasing about $1.25 trillion in mortgage debt, the Fed held interest rates on conventional home loans down, creating a golden opportunity for anyone who could refinance. Looking at Freddie Mac data, rates on 30-year FRMs were averaging 6.08 percent in November 2008 (when the Fed announced the program) and 4.97 percent in March 2010. read more »

Retirement Lifestyles
As retirees live longer, their portfolios need to be stronger

Decades ago, the “typical” retiree left work for good between age 60-65 and typically passed away at about 70-75. Retirement lasted 10-12 years for many Americans. Now the picture has changed: some of us will spend 30, 40, perhaps even 50 years in retirement. (Imagine retiring at 55 and living to be 105; it is possible.) We may live much longer than our parents, and if we do, we will need a lot more money. read more »

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