retirement saving

Working? Here’s Some Basics.

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What has been the biggest factor in helping people end up financially sound in retirement?

In our opinion, it is the availability of retirement plans in the workplace. This article is a primer on the high points. If you are on the job, this may be key information for you.

Employer-sponsored retirement plans have a number of features that may help people build wealth. They go by different names (401k, SEP, SIMPLE, 457, TSA, 403b etc.) but generally share these features:

1. Once you sign up, you invest automatically every payday. It takes no effort or thought month to month—you put your asset-building on autopilot when you enroll.

2. The arithmetic of pre-tax retirement plans can be compelling. For some, for every $5 they contribute, their paychecks may only go down by $4. Taxable income goes down, so your income taxes go down. A potential tax break for the working person—imagine!

3. Some employers match your contributions to some extent. A fifty-cents on the dollar match means if you put in $5, your employer will add $2.50. That’s like a 50% return on Day One! (Employer contributions may be subject to vesting, so you might not keep the whole match unless you stay on the job for up to five years, for example.)

We are always happy to talk to you about your situation, and how you might use an employer plan to get you where you want to go. But here are a couple of rules of thumb. These are general pointers that may or may not fit you, but some have found them useful:

First, saving 10% of everything you ever make is a good way to start on a sound retirement. If you aren’t there and cannot contribute that much, ratchet up your savings rate by 1% a year if you can—every year. Some clients make a habit of putting raises (or half of them) into the plan, or increasing their contribution rate by 1% per year.

Second, if you are a long way from retirement, you can afford to take a long view with the investments you choose for the plan. Why take a short term view on money you probably won’t spend for many years, or even decades? But the choice is yours—most plans give you options.

Clients, call or email if you would like to talk about your situation or any other pertinent topic.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Clothes, Money, Wealth–Simplicity

© Can Stock Photo / daoleduc

When I graduated from college just before my 21st birthday and went into business, I dressed to appear more experienced than I was. Suit, tie, wing-tip shoes—you know what I’m talking about. As the years went by, ‘trying to look experienced’ ceased to be an issue, somehow.

Over time, my wardrobe evolved into a new kind of uniform. Doc Martens casual shoes, gold socks, khaki slacks, polo shirt. In winter, add a sweater. When something wears out, replace it with like kind. I might be spending about $150 or $200 per year on my business wardrobe these past many years.

One of the byproducts of this simplified wardrobe is pure efficiency. I spend no time working out what to wear. My socks are all the same color. Choice of slacks is easy: the clean ones. And the polo shirt I select each day is the one whose ‘turn’ it is. My conscious thoughts run more to how to grow your bucket, and not so much trying to match colors on my fashion plate.

Mark Zuckerburg, billionaire social media pioneer, is famous for wearing the same modest clothes every day. Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple, had the same habit. Anybody who has seen television talent show personality Simon Cowell has noticed his ever-present trademark black T shirt. Many decades ago, scientist Albert Einstein owned a number of suits—all grey.

Some of these luminaries are on record with the notion that the simplicity of standard routines creates time for them—and time is money.

Friends, I am not promoting the idea that you should be as boring as I am, sartorially speaking. There is a different way that standard routines can replace conscious choice and enrich you.

By making your periodic investments automatic instead of the product of a deliberate, recurring decision, you accomplish two things. First, the investment actually happens on schedule, every time—it is automatic. And second, you spend no time working on it or thinking about it every month—and time is money.

This is the way 401(k) and other retirement plans work. We know people who signed up for them, paid no attention for some period of years, and were surprised to find out later that they had accumulated tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Roth IRA’s, college savings plans, and other forms of investment can be set up the same way. Automatic monthly investments may be drafted straight from your bank account, without the need for thought or action on your part.

Clients, if you would like to simplify more parts of your financial life, or talk about any other pertinent topic, please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

The Roth IRA offers tax deferral on any earnings in the account. Withdrawals from the account may be tax free, as long as they are considered qualified. Limitations and restrictions may apply. Withdrawals prior to age 59 ½ or prior to the account being opened for 5 years, whichever is later, may result in a 10% IRS penalty tax. Future tax laws can change at any time and may impact the benefits of Roth IRAs. Their tax treatment may change.

The Next Best Thing to Free Money

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / turk12

We are always gratified when clients find themselves with money to invest and their first thought is to put it to work with us. We pride ourselves on our ability to help clients work towards their financial goals, and believe that we provide a compelling service. But regardless of how good we might be at what we do, there are some situations where you can definitely do better with your money elsewhere.

Occasionally, younger clients who find themselves with extra money to invest will ask us whether they should contribute to their brokerage accounts or their employer retirement plan. Sometimes, their employer plan has an employer match they have not yet maxed out, which makes this question a real no-brainer. A dollar-for-dollar employer match is essentially a guaranteed, instant doubling of your investment. We might be good—but we’re definitely not that good. Even if you are unhappy with your employer plan’s performance, an employer match lets you take quite a lot of losses and still come out ahead of a more successful portfolio that doesn’t have the match.

Another situation where it makes sense to put your money elsewhere first is debt. In today’s low interest environment, you might not feel a lot of pressure to pay off cheap loans. However, if you have debt you’re paying 8, 10, or even 12% on, you should put some serious thought into paying off that debt before you invest that money in the markets.

If you pay off $5,000 of credit card debt that you are paying 12% interest on, your $5,000 “investment” will save you $50 a month, $600 a year, like clockwork. You’d be hard pressed to find any other investment that will pay you that kind of return—and if you did, it would likely have many risks associated with it. But once you pay off your debt, those interest payments are gone forever. We can’t really compete with that.

This is basic financial literacy you can use to improve your financial situation before you think about investing. As always, everyone’s situation is a little bit different, and we’re more than happy to discuss the particulars of your situation with you—even if the obvious conclusion turns out to be that you have more important places to put your money.


Investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.