New Book - Coming November 2010

New Book - Coming November 2010
Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

This Time It's Different?

The late Sir John Templeton, founder of Franklin Templeton Investments liked to say, "The Four most expensive words in the English Language are ‘This time it’s Different.’"


Is it really?

The National Bureau of Economic Research states that the United States has weathered a recession in EVERY decade since the 1920′s.



It is easy to say “This time its different.” Many people are still feeling that way.
However, it is important to keep in mind a few points.


* Financial decisions (any financial decisions) should not be based on emotion.

* Historically, after every past recession, the market has gone on to hit new highs.

* Declines in the market & economy, even our most severe ones, have been temporary.

* Since 1926, the Dow Jones has had TWICE AS MANY positive returns as negative ones.

Despite more than 12 recessions dating back to 1926, $1.00 invested in the Dow in 1926 would have been worth $2045.00 at the end of 2008.

It was two years ago this week (Oct. 16, 2008), that Warren Buffett wrote his “Buy America, I Am” article in the New York Times. Buffett encouraged investors to “be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.” Since Mr. Buffett wrote this letter, the S&P 500 Index has gained 29.1% on a total return basis through the close of business on Friday October 8, 2010, according to the New York Times.

“This time it’s different?” Warren Buffett didn’t think so. Neither did Sir John Templeton. Neither should we. Investing is a long term process. Recessions are opportunities. My job as an advisor is to provide you with a beacon of hope, and see the light at the end of the dark tunnel.

Let me know how I may be of service. Contact me about the IRA Security Blanket!

Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen – And Must Get Up! is my new book. It has several ideas and strategies which will help you in your retirement savings journey. Get your ‘Fallen’ 401(k) back on its feet. Contact me to reserve your copy today. You can also get a FREE report at my website The 5 Biggest Problems With 401(k) Plans – And How To Fix Them.

You may also listen to my weekly radio program – Improving Your Financial Health on WHME-FM in South Bend. Archives can be heard on my website as well. If you live in the South Bend, IN area, I specialize in 401(k) rollovers or IRA reviews. You can also follow me on Twitter, Linked In, or Facebook.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Grand (Money) Illusion - Why Grow?

Recently, I wrote an article here titled, It's Not Much, But It's All I Have . This has been a very common reaction among people when talking (or not talking) about their money. We continue to deal with economic uncertainty, and its human nature to be afraid of losing it. However when we let fear control our thoughts, we also prevent growth. Money closed inside of a fist serves no purpose and can't grow. To grow your funds, you have to open your hand - and your mind.

"Hold on loosely....but don't let go. If you cling too tightly....you're gonna lose control." (.38 Special)

Why do we need to grow our money? One word - INFLATION!

According to the US Bureau of Labor Studies, $400,000 of taxable income in 1953 is equivalent to $2.8 Million in today's dollars.

When you decide to retire, you could easily be retired for 20 years or more. Do you believe that the costs of living for you will go up - or stay the same? Consider this - in 1990, a loaf of bread costs about $1.00. Today, we pay an average of $2.69 for the same loaf. A postage stamp was only .08 in 1990, while today it's .44....and climbing.

If you have been on a fixed income for the last 20 years, you have suffered a 40% loss of purchasing power. Plain and simple - your money must continue to grow over the long term to keep up with rising costs. You just can't keep stuffing it under a mattress, which is paying about the same interest as a CD today.


So what can you do?

Start by putting more money into your 401(k) plan or IRA. Look at your cash flow, and give yourself a pay raise! Pay yourself first - 10% of your income should go into your 401(k) plan. Meet with an advisor to set up an ongoing program for you. Talk with them about which investments are most appropriate for you in your 401(k) or IRA, based on your time horizon, risk tolerance and future income.

“Some people say they want to wait for a clearer view of the future. But when the future is again clear, the present bargains will have vanished. In fact, does anyone think that today’s prices will prevail once full confidence has been restored?” (Dean Witter, May 1932)


Please Contact Me for more information on how to protect your long term savings and USE your money wisely. I can help you create lifetime income from an IRA or Roth IRA. If you live in the South Bend, IN area, I am also happy to help with 401(k) rollovers or IRA reviews. You can follow me on Twitter, Linked In, or Facebook.

You can also listen to my weekly radio show, Improving Your Financial Health on WHME-FM in South Bend, and archives are available for listening on my website. My book, Help My 401(k) Has Fallen – And Must Get Up is helping everyday people to get their 401(k) plan back on its feet and working harder. Contact me about how to get a copy.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Grand (Money) Illusion

OK, admit it. You've done it too. With the recent rise in the stock market, you've seen your 401(k) balance rise also. You've started to think "Its going up, so everything is fine. It was down for a while, but now its coming back."

Does that sound like you? When you open your 401(k) or IRA statement, do you just look at the total balance and try to figure out if it's up or down? 

Money Magazine has their 2011 Retirement Guide out now. Senior Editor, and Retirement Expert Penelope Wang urges you to think of your retirement differently. Don't just look at the total lump sum. Look at what the future income will be, which the lump sum will generate. This is the Grand Illusion (not the Styx song) when it comes to your 401(k), she says. Remember that your future purchasing power also will be eroded by inflation.

Recently, I had a client ask me if $1,000,000 was enough to retire on. My answer was that we don't know until we look at your income needs, and cash flow. What are your monthly and yearly expenses? 

Let's assume that you have $1,000,000 (I know, I know.....just play along, OK). Let's assume also that you will be drawing 4% per year from the $1,000,000 nest egg. In order to do that, your money needs to be invested so that you are getting at least a 4% real return (after taxes and inflation). That way you can take money out without shrinking your nest egg.

So, using the $1,000,000 figure we can multiply that by .04 and get $40,000. We will take $40,000 per year for income. Will $40,000 meet your expenses? Do you have other debt? How about other sources of income?  

You MUST look at your 401(k) or IRA this way! It is a source of future income for you. The bigger the nest egg, the more income it will generate. But now you know WHY you need a bigger nest egg! "People understand how much money they need each month, so it makes the saving process more relevant," says UCLA behaviorial finance professor Shlomo Benartzi.

By the way, Ms. Wang also shows an illustration in her article on how long we think our money will last. Although most experts asvise retirees to limit their withdrawals to a maximum of 4%/year, there is a myth that you can take out more. According to the Met Life Retirement Income IQ Test (2008), about 26% of those surveyed thought that withdrawing 7%/year from a nest egg was safe. A whopping 43% (nearly HALF) of the respondants believed that it would be OK to withdraw 10% or more per year!!

Picture a small boat with a leak.


At first, you may not notice the leak. As water rushes into the boat, you start to panic. The water pours in
faster and faster, until the boat begins to sink. That's what happens to IRAs when you take out too much money. Eventually you reach a point where you can't keep up.

Let's keep your boat floating!

Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen – And Must Get Up! is my new book. It has several ideas and strategies which will help you in your retirement savings journey. Get your ‘Fallen’ 401(k) back on its feet. Contact me to reserve your copy today. You can also get a FREE report at my website

The 5 Biggest Problems With 401(k) Plans & How To Fix Them.


You may also listen to my weekly radio program – Improving Your Financial Health on WHME-FM in South Bend. Archives can be heard on my website as well. If you live in the South Bend, IN area, I specialize in 401(k) rollovers or IRA reviews. You can also follow me on Twitter, Linked In, or Facebook .

Monday, October 4, 2010

Its the Great Security Blanket Charlie Brown!

Get A Blanket!

Did you have a "blankie" as a child? Was the "blankie" your contstant companion, protecting you from the forces of evil? No matter what happened, your blanket was there for you.

The late cartoonist, Charles Schulz popularized the image of Linus and his blanket in his Peanuts comic strips and cartoons. You may even remember that Linus was quite skilled at using it. He could catch fly balls, use it as a parachute, and even revive a sickly Christmas tree.

If you are like most people, your 401(k) or IRA has taken quite a beating the last few years.

What if I told you that you could have your very own IRA Security Blanket?

* Protect yourself against future market disasters.

* Protect yourself from inflation and rising costs.

* Protect yourself from the uncertain future of Social (In)Security.

To learn more about how to get your IRA Security Blanket, you can contact me at http://www.helpmy401k.us/.

Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen – And Must Get Up! is my new book. It has several ideas and strategies which will help you in your retirement savings journey. Get your ‘Fallen’ 401(k) back on its feet. Contact me to reserve your copy today. You can also get a FREE report at my website - The 5 Biggest Problems With 401(k) Plans – And How To Fix Them.

You may also listen to my weekly radio program – Improving Your Financial Health on WHME-FM in South Bend. Archives can be heard on my website as well.


If you live in the South Bend, IN area, I specialize in 401(k) rollovers or IRA reviews. You can also follow me on Twitter, Linked In, or Facebook.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Can Facebook Help You Save Money?

As I have been out talking about my new book, Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up!, one of the most common questions I am asked is this -

What is the one thing I can do to fix my 401(k)?

Of course, the person asking wants a simple answer, not a lot of broker speak. So here it is. Regardless of age, gender, or income, the simplest best answer I can give is:

Save More Money!  

How's that for simple? Money Magazine released some new information in a study from their Retirement Guide 2011 (Oct. 2010 issue).  If you are 35 years old and earn  $70,000/year and you save 10% of your pay, you'll have saved $936,100 by age 65.*

By waiting just 5 years to start and doing the same - saving 10% at age 40, your nest egg at age 65 will be $697,700.* (*Assumes 3% annual pay increases and 7% average annual returns on investment into a tax-sheltered account - IRA, 401k or 403b.)

While both figures sound like a lot of money, the difference of $238,400 means a difference of what you can potentially use for income. Assuming you take out 5% per year from your nest egg ($238,400 x .05 = $11,920/year) means that by starting at age 40, you could be cutting your future income by nearly $1,000/month!

Ben Franklin often preached on the virtues of compound interest. He called it the 8th wonder of the world.

So how do we save more money? As Nike might say, "Just Do It!"

It is much easier though if you can have someone to hold you accountable. This is where Facebook might come in. What if you posted a notice on your Facebook page to your friends and tell them to hold you to it. You could "tweet" it also.

"I promise, starting TODAY to pay myself first and put 10% of my pay into my 401(k)." 

Honestly, when you see some of the others posts on Facebook (i.e. "I hate rainy days.", "Halloween is coming.", "Out walking the dog."), you'd have to feel a bit proud posting something inteligent that will make a positive difference in your life, wouldn't you? You could start a trend. Have your friends (or at least one or two) hold you accountable.  

You could also set e-mail reminders which are specific. use a personal website such as http://www.mint.com/.
Send a message to your e-mail Inbox such as "Put $1000 into my Roth IRA this month." or "Every 3rd of the month I put $400 into my Roth IRA." You could arrange these to hit your Inbox when you get a bonus or unexpected money.

Don't despair if you've turned 45 and still haven't done much. Remember we had talked about how you could still achieve an added $1000/month of income at retirement by starting now and following a disciplined goal. I'll be reviewing some other ideas from the Money Magazine retirement guide in upcoming posts.

My book, Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen – And Must Get Up! has several ideas and strategies which will help you in your retirement savings journey. Get your ‘Fallen’ 401(k) back on its feet. Contact me to reserve your copy today. You can also get a FREE report at my website. The 5 Biggest Problems With 401(k) Plans – And How To Fix Them. I also host a 30 minute weekly radio program - Improving Your Financial Health on WHME-FM in South Bend. Archives can be heard on my website as well.

If you live in the South Bend, IN area, I am also happy to help with 401(k) rollovers or IRA reviews. You can follow me on Twitter, Linked In, or Facebook.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Seven Things You Should Knew About SIMPLE IRAs

Most people have never heard of a SIMPLE IRA before, and are curious to know how it differs from a 401(k). A SIMPLE IRA stands for Savings Investment Match PLan for Employees.


One of the key differences of why your employer may have a SIMPLE IRA versus a 401(k), is that SIMPLE IRAs are geared for employers with less than a 100 employees. In addition to that, the administrative cost of a SIMPLE IRA for your employer is considerably much less than what a 401(k) would be. (It’s shortened to SIMPLE because it’s…..SIMPLE for small businesses.)

1. Your Employer’s Contributions Are 100% Vested

With some 401(k)s you need to have worked for the employer for a certain number of years to be vested. That means that if you were to leave that employer you could take that employer’s matching contribution. With 401(k)s, you have anywhere from three to five years to where you’re 100% vested. Anything you put in is yours, but anything which they put in may be subject to a vesting schedule. With a SIMPLE IRA, you are 100% vested whenever the employer deposits that into your account. There is no vesting schedule at all.

2. Employers Have To Match In A SIMPLE IRA

Each year, the employer is required to make a contribution to your SIMPLE IRA account whether it be in the form of a match or what’s called a non-elected contribution. Matching contribution states that the employer has to match at least what you match. So, if you’re matching 3%, the employer has to match 3% as well. Note that 3% is the most that the employer has to match, which could be considerably different than compared to a 401(k).

If the employer chooses to not do a match, then they may do what is called a non-elect contribution and what that means is that they will contribute 2% of your salary no matter what. Even if you are contributing 3% of your salary, they will only contribute the 2%.

To sum this up, the employer can choose:

* Match contributions up to 3% of salaries for any employees who choose to participate in the
   SIMPLE IRA.


* Contribute 2% of salaries for ALL employees, whether or not they participate.

The decision should be based on which option provides the most benefits and tax savings to the employer.

3. Employees Control The Investments

With most 401(k)s, you are limited to the investment options that you have. This is considerably different when compared to the SIMPLE IRA. Being a self-directed retirement plan, the SIMPLE IRA gives you the discretion of what exactly you want your money invested into. That means that if you want to buy individual stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, or CDs, you are allowed.

To keep things “simple”, it is most common to work with an established family of mutual funds which offers a wide variety of investments.

4. Employees Can Contribute 100% Of Income Into A
    SIMPLE IRA

As of 2010, you are allowed to contribute up to $11,500 per year in a SIMPLE IRA. For those who are age 50 and older, you are allowed a catch-up contribution, which is currently $2,500, for a maximum total of $14,000 in 2010. To do this, you must have at least $14,000 in earned income. Currently, the maximum contribution for a 401(k) is $16,500 with a catch-up of $5,500 for ages 50 and up. The SIMPLE IRA is tax-deferred similar to a 401(k).

5. SIMPLE IRAs Do Not Allow Loans

A lot of 401(k)s have loan provisions that allow the employee to borrow against their money if need be. With SIMPLE IRAs, this is not the case. For employers who are weighing their options on retirement savings plans, that may be a consideration. No matter which type of plan you have - Loans are NOT advised. Money which is contributed to retirement savings is to be used for exactly that - retirement! The drawback to using a loan in a 401(k) is that when you leave the company, the loan is immediately due, and then treated as a withdrawal. The withdrawal is then counted as income, and taxed and penalized accordingly.

6. The SIMPLE IRA Two-Year Rule

This is something that should be definitely different from a traditional IRA within the SIMPLE IRA. Most retirement plans — 401(k)s, IRAs, or Roth IRAs — have the 10% early withdrawal penalty if you take money out and you are under the age of 59.5. The SIMPLE IRA goes one step further. If the SIMPLE IRA that you’ve started is less than two years old, and you cash that out, you will be subject to a 25% penalty in addition to ordinary income tax. That is a huge item to not be overlooked. Again, we do not recommend withdrawing money from a retirement savings account before retirement.

If you were attempting to roll over your SIMPLE IRA into a rollover IRA, the 25% penalty would apply as well if the SIMPLE is less than two years old. Once the two year period has passed, a SIMPLE IRA can be easily rolled over into a traditional IRA with no tax consequence. Cashing it out would then incur the same 10 % penalty and taxation as any other account.

7. Which Businesses Use SIMPLE IRAs

Any business which has less than 100 employees may consider using a SIMPLE IRA. The main benefits are:

* SIMPLE to set up and maintain.

* Variety of investment choices available.

* Employer contributions are tax-deductible.

A SIMPLE IRA may be established prior to October 1 to be recognized for that year.

My book, Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up! has several ideas and strategies which will help you in your retirement savings journey. Get your 'Fallen' 401(k) back on its feet. Contact me to reserve your copy today. You can also get a FREE report at my website. The 5 Biggest Problems With 401(k) Plans - And How To Fix Them. If you live in the South Bend, IN area, I am also happy to help with
401(k) rollovers or IRA reviews. You can follow me on Twitter, Linked In, or Facebook.

My weekly radio show is Improving Your Financial Health on WHME-FM in South Bend, and archives are available for listening on my website.

Friday, September 3, 2010

It's Not Much But It's All I Have

Probably the most common response I get when people talk about their long term savings or retirement money is this. "It's not much, but it's all I have. I can't afford to lose it."

Well, I certainly understand how you feel. I am investing and saving for my retirement as well. Author Robert Gignac writes that people are "afraid of money" in his book, Rich Is A State Of Mind. Mr. Gignac will be an upcoming guest on Improving Your Financial Health to discuss his book. He goes on to make a very interesting observation. If money was meant to make us happy, we should have better looking people - or at least smiling faces.

With all due respect to George Washington, would something like this encourage you to save a little more?





"It's not much, but it's all I have. I can't afford to lose it."

If that is true, then wouldn't it make sense to PROTECT it? To truly PROTECT your money, you also need to protect your purchasing power. Your money must be able to keep up with rising costs. Just how much interest is that Folger's coffee can or cookie jar paying these days? Perhaps you keep it under a mattress so you can 'sleep on it'. (Last time I checked, the First National Bank of "Sealy" was paying CD rates 0.25 % higher than the national average.) However, we all know that your money won't grow under the Sealy, or in the Folger's can.

"It's not much, but it's all I have. I can't afford to lose it."

This type of thinking practically guarantees that you WILL LOSE IT! Author Rhonda Byrne says that we transmit thoughts as if our brain was a powerful radio signal. In her book The Secret, she writes that we always get what we visualize. If you say you don't want to be late for a meeting, guess what almost always happens?

"It's not much, but it's all I have. I can't afford to lose it."

Perhaps you have heard this story before.

The kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five gold coins, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 

Then he who had received the five gold coins went and traded with them, and made another five coins. And likewise he who had received two gold coins gained two more also.


But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid the money there.


After a long time the man came home and settled accounts with his servants. He who had received five coins came and brought five other coins, saying, 'Lord, you gave to me five gold coins. Look, I have gained five more.' The man said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.'


He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you gave to me two gold coins. Look, I have gained two more.' The man said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.'


Then he who had received the one coin came and said, 'Lord, I was afraid, and went and hid your coin in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.'


His lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Take the coin from him, and give it to him who has ten gold coins.


For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.

This is the story from Matthew 25: 14-29. The moral is of course to use what we are given. We strengthen and grow our financial muscles from using them. Not using them makes us weak.

"It's not much, but it's all I have. I can't afford to lose it."



One other thought I am having today on this theme, from 1 Kings.

Elijah the prophet told the woman. “Please bring me some bread to eat.”


The widow stopped, turned around, and looked at him in surprise. The widow answered Elijah, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and then we will die.”


Elijah then said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small loaf from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’”

She took the last of her flour and oil and made some bread for Elijah to eat.


Here is what happened; “She and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah.”

USE it - or LOSE it!

Keep your money HAPPY!

Please Contact Me for more information on how to protect your long term savings and USE your money wisely. I can help you create lifetime income from an IRA or Roth IRA. If you live in the South Bend, IN area, I am also happy to help with 401(k) rollovers or IRA reviews. You can follow me on Twitter, Linked In, or Facebook.

My weekly radio show is Improving Your Financial Health on WHME-FM in South Bend, and archives are available for listening on my website. My book, Help My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up is helping everyday people to get their 401(k) plan back on its feet and working harder. Contact me about how to get a copy.





















 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Could You Use An Extra $1000/Month - Legally?


OK, that's a silly question. OF COURSE you could use an extra $1000/month. Who couldn't?

For someone in retirement, an extra $1000 would certainly help to make ends meet. According to a recent survey done by the Employee Benefit Retirement Institute (EBRI), only 3 in 5 retirees (60%) feel "very" or "somewhat" confident that they would have a comfortable retirement. This is sharply down from just 3 years ago, when in 2007, 79% felt confident in their retirement.

Did you also know that according to the Social Security Administration that the Maximum Social Security retirement benefit the could be earned by an individual reaching full retirement age in 2010 (age 66) is only $2346/month? Think of how many people receive less than this, and depend on Social Security for the majority of their income in retirement.

What would you do with an extra $1000/month?

Would you do more travelling? Eat out a few more times? Spoil the grandkids? Play more golf? Would an extra $1000/month in income give you a little more peace of mind?

What if I told you that YOU CAN have an extra $1000/month TAX-FREE?

No, you don't have to rob a bank or do anything illegal. This is perfectly legitimate.
No silly multilevel marketing schemes either, where you try to sell junk to your friends and family.
You don't need to be able to dunk a basketball, or pound 300 yard drives that split the fairway.

All you need to do is......

Start putting money into a Roth IRA and make regular contributions. That's it! See - simple, legal, and you get to keep your friends.

Here is how it works. Let's use a 45 year old, starting from scratch. Currently, as of 2010, the most which you can put into a Roth IRA is $5000 per year. At age 50 and older, the maximum contribution is $6000.
Let's say that our 45 year old puts in $5000 per year, and at age 50 starts putting in $6000. Let's also say that we get a return of 6% per year on our money. (Contact me for information on how to get 6%.) For someone who is 45 years old now in 2010, their full retirement age to begin collecting Social Security benefits would be 67.

Age    Roth IRA Contribution   Ending Balance (6% Return)
45       $5,000                              $    5,161
46       $5,000                              $  10,632
47       $5,000                              $  16,431
48       $5,000                              $  22,578
49       $5,000                              $  29,094
50       $6,000                              $  37,033
51       $6,000                              $  45,448
52       $6,000                              $  54,368
53       $6,000                              $  63,824
54       $6,000                              $  73,846
55       $6,000                              $  84,470
56       $6,000                              $  95,732
57       $6,000                              $107,669
58       $6,000                              $120,322
59       $6,000                              $133,735
60       $6,000                              $147,952
61       $6,000                              $163,023
62       $6,000                              $178,997
63       $6,000                              $195,931
64       $6,000                              $213,880
65       $6,000                              $232,906
66       $6,000                              $253,073 
          $147,000                          $253,073

Benjamin Franklin once remarked that Compound Interest was the 8th wonder of the world. Saving a nest egg of over $250,000 in 22 years is a great accomplishment.

If you are younger than 45, the message is start NOW. You can do even better.
If you are older than 45, the message is still start NOW!

So how do we get our $1000/month from this?
To get an income of $1000/month, just take 5% per year from this figure $253,073.

$253,073 x .05 = $12,653.65 This is our annual TAX-FREE income from our Roth IRA.
$12,653.65 Divided by 12 months = $1,054.47/Month.   

Please Contact Me for more information on how to make this work for you, and create lifetime income from an IRA or Roth IRA. If you live in the South Bend, IN area, I am also happy to help with 401(k) rollovers or IRA reviews. You can follow me on Twitter, Linked In, or Facebook.


My weekly radio show is Improving Your Financial Health on WHME-FM in South Bend, and archives are available for listening on my website.



 

  

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Match Game

Employers want you in the 401(k) plan at work. The more money which is in their plan, the lower the fees should be. Also, because they most likely do not offer a pension, they want to be sure they are doing their part in helping you to save for retirement.

Many 401(k) plan sponsors are focusing on two features: automatic enrollment and automatic increases in savings as an employee's pay goes up. However, one of the biggest factors which drives plan participation is the matching contribution. Money Magazine writer Penelope Wang wrote in her March 2010 article Make the Best of a Bad 401(k) that in 2009, matches had dropped off due to the sluggish economy.

Matching contributions are great for employers though. They provide a tax deduction and studies have shown that it is a great way to get employees involved with the plan. 401(k) Plans with a match have higher particpation rates than those with no match.  

Matching formulas vary widely. According to Schwab, one of the most common formulas for matching is for the employer to offer a 50% match of an employees deferred salary up to a 6% contribution. In English, that means that the most they put in for you is 3% of your pay - and you have to put in 6% to get that.

Here is an example. Let's say that Bob earns $60,000/year at ABC Company. He puts 6% of his pay into
his 401(k) - $3,600.

                    Bob's Salary (before taxes)                        $60,000
                    Bob's 401(k)                                               $3,600
                    Bob's Taxable Pay                                     $56,400
                    ABC Match                                                 $1,800
                    Total contribution into Bob's 401(k)              $5,400

Now if Bob bumped up his contribution to 10%, he would still only get $1800 from ABC. Many advisors (myself included) believe that we should be saving 10% or more into a 401(k) plan. Over a long period of time, this should allow someone to replace approximately 75% of their income at retirement.

Let's see what happens if Bob decides to put in 10%.

                    Bob's Salary                                               $60,000
                    Bob's 401(k)                                                $6,000
                    Bob's Taxable Pay                                      $54,000
                    ABC Match                                                  $1,800
                    Total contribution into Bob's 401(k)              $7,800 

Changing his contribtuion from 6% to 10% gives him an extra $2,400/year into the plan. My book, Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up! shows that this could be huge over time. The other plus is that even though Bob raises his contribution by $2,400/year, his take home pay after taxes should only be about $1,800 less because the taxes are deferred on this. $1,800/year works out to less than $35/week.

$35/week - that's all!!

Over a 25 year period, if Bob was able to get a 7% average return on his 401(k) plan, here is the difference between 6% and 10% This also includes the employer match of 3% (50 cents per dollar, up to 6%).
The difference after 25 years is $157,493!! 

6%   ($3,600) = $359,789
10% ($6,000) = $517,282
Difference      = $157,493

You can contact me in the South Bend, IN area for 401(k) rollovers. My website is http://www.helpmy401k.us/
Get a FREE REPORT titled "The 5 Biggest Problems With 401(k) Plans - And How To Fix Them!"

My book, Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up! is written to help everyday people to get more from their retirement savings. My radio program, Improving Your Financial Health is also heard weekly on WHME-FM in South Bend, IN and archives are available on my website.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Five Situations for Variable Annuities

According to the Insured Retirement Institute, sales of Variable Annuities grew by 3% from this time last year. VAs aren't for everyone, however in the right circumstances, variable annuities offer solid benefits. There are at least 5 scenarios in which an advisor may consider recommending a variable annuity to clients.

Feel free to add your own to the list! You can contact me for more information on annuties at http://www.helpmy401k.us/

1. Lowering Income Taxes
If you are in the maximum federal and state tax bracket, a VA may help to lower your taxes. Please review your situation with a tax specialist, but a VA can work similarly to an IRA in deferring taxes until money is withdrawn from the acccount.

2. Calming Jittery Investors
This is likely the biggest reason why VA sales are up. If you are nervous about the market but still need your money to grow over time, a VA can act as a "life preserver" for your long term savings.

3. Saving Above Contribution Maximums
If you have maxed out your IRA and 401(k) and still want to save more for retirement, you can put money into a VA. If you are a small business owner, you may also consider a SEP IRA (Simplified Employee Pension). The SEP allows you to save up to 25% of your income and deduct it from your taxes.

4. Guaranteed Income
Annuities have a primary purpose of providing guaranteed income. With people living longer and needing income in retirement, having an annuity can be like setting up a personal pension plan from your savings. Look for plans which offer Lifetime Income.

5. Death Benefit
If you haven't taken income, many annuities will guarantee a death benefit of the amount you invested as a minimum. This is important, and this is where an annuity differs from ordinary mutual funds.

Here's an example. Let's take 2 investors, George and Jerry. Let's say that both of them retire at 65 years old and have 401(k) balances of $100,000. They roll their 401(k) plans over to IRAs. George invests in mutual funds, while Jerry invests in a variable annuity with a guaranteed minimum death benefit. After 4 years, we have another huge loss in the stock market, and their accounts drop to $80,000. Neither of them have taken any income out of their IRAs yet, and are still under the age of 70 1/2 when they would need to take a Required Minimum Distribution.

If George dies, he leaves the balance of his account - $80,000 to his beneficiaries. If Jerry dies, he would leave $100,000, which is what he started with, even if the value of the account is less. Of course, if the account balance in either case is more than $100,000, the death benefit would be the same as the account balance.

Annuities can be beneficial in the right situations. Please contact me and let me know how I may help further.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ageism

Ever heard of ageism? Ageism is a term coined by Dr. Robert Butler which refers to discrimination against the elderly. How does this affect you?

As a nation, we are getting older. People are living longer than they did in previous generations. According to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ a male who lives to age 65 can reasonably expect to live until age 82. A female at age 65 can reasonably expect to live until age 85. Earlier this year, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke discussed the effects of aging on the U.S. economy. Mr. Bernanke stated that "the U.S. must begin now to prepare for this coming demographic transition."  
Dr. Robert Butler, 83 is in charge of the National Institute on Aging. Dr. Butler, a Pulitzer Prize winner, has also written six books about aging issues and is the the founder of the International Longevity Center. In a recent article in Investment Advisor magazine, Dr. Butler discusses his thoughts on aging. Did you know that in 2025, only 15 years from now, more than 1 in 5 persons will be 65 or older?

Dr. Butler says that older people "should probably plan to work longer than they envisioned." He adds that regarding Social Security and our workforce, "It's very obvious and striking that if people stay in the workforce longer, they put more money into the system and take less money out."

What does this mean for you?

For those in my generation (I am 46 at this time.) we need to think seriously about working longer. Also, we need to prepare for changer in Social Security. We must do a better job of saving and investing in our 401(k) or 403(b) plans. Since we don't have pensions and can't count on Social Security for our future income, the 401(k) has to be our main method for retirement savings.

Saving in a 401(k) means you have to do the work. No one else will care about your future the way you do. My book, Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up! has several ideas and strategies which will help you in your journey. Get your 'Fallen' 401(k) back on its feet. Contact me to reserve your copy today, or visit http://www.my401khasfallen.com/.

You can also get a FREE report at my website, http://www.helpmy401k.us/ The 5 Biggest Problems With 401(k) Plans - And How To Fix Them. If you live in the South Bend, IN area, I am also happy to help with 401(k) rollovers or IRA reviews. You can follow me on Twitter, Linked In, or Facebook.

My weekly radio show is Improving Your Financial Health on WHME-FM in South Bend, and archives are available for listening on my website.   

Thursday, June 17, 2010

3 Big 401(k) Mistakes


I had a chance to read a great article this week by Joe Mont. Big 401(k) Mistakes That Hurt Savings - June 1, 2010. This article was interesting to me for a few reasons. The facts he outlines tell me that there is definitely a need for my book,
Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up!

Mr. Mont agrees with me that "neither the market losses of 2008 nor the robust rally of 2009 have motivated workers to make their 401(k) plans their top priority." This is based on Hewitt Associates annual retirement study.

"While it's encouraging that most workers stayed the course, most did so simply because they were disengaged with the retirement saving process or too paralyzed with fear and confusion to touch their 401(k) plans", says Pamela Hess, Hewitt's director of retirement research. "If employees continue to ignore their 401(k) plans, they're hurting themselves by letting the market dictate their retirement strategy."

Mistake #1 - We Don't Save Enough

We don't save enough in these plans! There STILL needs to be a sense of urgency. Your 401(k) = Your Retirement - PERIOD!

Pensions began to disappear at about the same time leisure suits and Betamax video did - and NONE of these are coming back! When it comes to Social Security, Americans everywhere of all ages are concerned about the Federal Government's ability to continue the program as it currently exists. Also, it was never intended to be anyone's main source of retirement income. However for 1/3 of elderly Americans, it is the source of nearly all their income. This is according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Your 401(k) - or 403(b) if you work for a non-profit organization may be ALL YOU HAVE!

Hewitt's study also shows about 28% of participants don't contribute enough to even get the full matching benefit from their employers. That's frightening especially considering that many companies have reduced or eliminated matching contributions over the past year. Penelope Wang reports in her March 2010 article, Make the Best of a Bad 401(k) that "before the financial crisis, only 6% of plans didn't offer workers a matching contribution as an incentive to boost participation. But that number spiked last year, as another 12% of employers reduced or suspended their matches." 

Ms. Wang goes on to add - "If you have a missing or reduced match, there's no getting around the fact that you'll have to make up the difference by saving more."




Pamela Hess of Hewitt says, "It was interesting to watch employee reactions to the match suspension. We had expected some really serious impacts to the savings rates, but it didn't change things as much as we thought."

Mistake # 2 - We Don't Rebalance

Here's a question for you. How often do you visit your dentist? What would happen to your teeth if you didn't brush or visit the dentist regularly?

Just like the dentist, you need to review your 401(k) plan with a professional to make sure you are on track with your retirement goals and that you have the right mix. Balance helps you to lower your overal risk. You get your tires re-balanced to keep your car straight, and rebalancing your account serves the same purpose.

With that in mind, target-date funds have become much more popular. A 'target-date fund' is one made up of a blend of several mutual funds. You can easily spot them in your menu of investment choices because they have a year in the name of the fund. "Fidelity Freedom 2040" would be an example of a target-date fund. The year represents the approximate time in which you would wish to retire. With this type of fund, it gradually become more and more conservative as the year approaches.

Hewitt's study from Mr. Mott's article shows that in 2009, 25% of workers use target-date funds in their  401(k) plans. Mr. Mott explains that some of this is due to employers who automatically enroll their new workers into the company 401(k) plan. 69% of these employers use a target-date fund as the default option.
Greg Johnson, president and CEO of Franklin Resources says that "target-date funds will become a bigger and bigger part of the new money that's flowing into 401(k)s."  

Even if you do use a target-date fund, please review your account with an advisor. Ask them about the mix. Is it too conservative? too aggressive? or just about right? Are you saving enough to reach your goals? What will your income needs be at retirement? How will your 401(k) be able to meet your income needs? All great questions for an advisor. Don't do your own dental work! Get a pro to prevent 'decay' in your 401(k).

Mistake # 3 - We Kill Our 401(k)s From Withdrawals

Hewitt's study shows that in 2009, 7.1% of participants withdrew from reitrement plans. That is more than in any year since 2002. Loans kill 401(k)s also, and loans automatically become withdrawals once employment ends at the company. Hewitt reports that more than 25% of employees had an existing loan on their 401(k) plan at the end of 2009.

This isn't all that surprising to me. I have spoken with several people who have cashed out 401(k)s. The reasons are varied, but they all boil down to "I need the money right now." It is especially common among younger workers who don't see the future and feel the need to use the money for something else. They don't seem to realize or be concerned that this money may be cut almost IN HALF after taxes and penalties are taken out. A $20,000 account could be reduced to about $11,000 or $12,000 easily when it is withdrawn.

Joe Mont's article is right on time. Please AVOID these big mistakes in your 401(k). I have attempted to contact Mr. Mott after reading this piece and offer him a guest spot on Improving Your Financial Health. As of today, I am waiting to hear back from him.

Please contact me at my website, http://www.helpmy401k.us/ for more information and a FREE REPORT, The Five Biggest Problems With 401(k) Plans - And How To Fix Them! I'm also well equipped to help with 401(k) rollovers or plan reviews.


You can follow me on Twitter, Linked In, or Facebook. I also host a radio program, Improving Your Financial Health, on WHME-FM (103.1) in South Bend, IN.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Happy 30th Birthday!

Happy 30th Birthday!


Did you know that the 401(k) plan is 30 this year? In 1980, Ted Benna, a Human Resources representative for Johnson & Johnson was asked to put together a new retirement savings plan for the employees there. The plan he devised was based on a new section of the Federal Tax Code, section 401(k).

Section 401(k) allowed corporate employees to direct a portion of their income into a special savings plan for their retirement. There are very similar sections in the code for employees of non-profit organizations - 403(b), and for governement workers - 457(b). Employees were encouraged to do this to create their own savings AND lower their taxable income. For example, if you had a salary of $40,000/year and you were able to put $4000 into your plan, your taxable income automatically drops to $36,000. Savings plans quickly became known as "401(k) plans" from this part of the tax code.

Mr. Benna realized that pensions could not continue effectively. People were living much longer than they did in the 1930's and 1940's. Because people were living longer on average, it created a serious cash flow problem for companies. They simply could not afford to pay retirees for 20 or 30 years. We are also seeing the same problem with Social Security, which is our national 'pension' plan.

What the 401(k) plan did was to shift the responsibility of retirement savings from the employer to the employee. That changed everything!

Once Mr. Benna's new savings plan was in place at Johnson & Johnson, this idea spread like crazy around the country. Companies saw that they could save millions of dollars by eliminating pensions and having workers fund their own retirement. Companies were able to acheive even greater tax savings by making matching contributions on behalf of their employees.

So what does the 401(k) mean to you?
Why do you need one as a corporate worker?

That's simple. No one else (including your employer) will help you to save for your future! For years, financial advisors have thought of retirement income as a three-legged stool - Pension Income, Social Security Income, and income from personal savings.

Well, these days 2 of the 3 legs are broken! If you have no savings, the whole stool is collapsed. For many people I know, the 401(k) at work may be the only real savings they have. Because "life happens", as I have seen on a bumper sticker, it can be very tempting to stop putting money into your 401(k). You may also be tempted because of the doom & gloom we see on the news. Some people have also taken money out which can significantly affect your taxes.
Even after 30 years, the biggest concern with 401(k) plans is that companies don't really do much to inform their employees on how to properly use their 401(k). It's just not enough to have a guy come out twice a year and hand out packets.

Remember, this is your future savings after all! Ask questions. Work out a plan for how much you should save based on your age, income needs, and willingness to take risk.

You need to build a solid 401(k) to give yourself a chance in retirement. Without it, your future vocabulary may include the sentence "Welcome to Walmart."

Those who are unwilling to take risk should listen to what Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur says on the subject. "There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity."

There is a difference though between taking educated and uneducated risks.

My book, Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up! will help with this. In the book, I will share secrets with you about your 401(k) which will let you get more out of the plan. For about the price of a pizza, you can learn about how to get your 401(k) back on its feet. Please contact me at my website, http://www.helpmy401k.us/ for more information and a FREE REPORT, The Five Biggest Problems With 401(k) Plans - And How To Fix Them!

You can follow me on Twitter, Linked In, or Facebook. I also host a radio program, Improving Your Financial Health, on WHME-FM (103.1) in South Bend, IN.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy 401(k) - Editing (Part 2)

Well, I am finally done with typesetting and editing on the book, "Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up!" . The process of editing reminded me of watching a potter making a clay jar. We've all seen the image of a lump of wet clay on a turntable, spinning while the potter's hands mold the clay into a beautiful jar.

I actually finished writing in March, and have had my mother, my sister, an attorney friend, my compliance department, and several financial authors look at my "lump of clay" and give feedback. Then, when all of that was done, I turned it over to Angela Werner of Hohne-Werner Design. She was able to typeset the book and also offered a few tips of her own. Looking at the first draft she sent me almost felt like I was starting all over with a lump of wet clay again!

I pored through my review copy and made many edits, notes, and wording changes. I was pretty surprised at how many changes I wanted to make. My mother & sister did the same, and both of them caught things I had not. The great news is that now I have a finished "jar". Now we just need to take it to the kiln and bake it. Amazon can take my material, combine it with the book cover - and "Voila!" we have a book!

Tell a friend. Use the promo code "401k" when you order the book, "Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up!" and get $4.01 off the cover price. By the way, you can get FREE SHIPPING when you order TWO copies. I will also have the e-book version available, which would save you even more. Just download it directly and enjoy the book!

You can contact me for 401(k) questions or rollovers at my website http://www.helpmy401k.us/. You can also contact or follow me on Linked In or Twitter. My radio program, "Improving Your Financial Health" can be heard on Saturday mornings at 9:00 am on WHME-FM in South Bend and recorded archives can be heard on my website.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What Do Mary Kay and Your 401(k) Have In Common?


I finally got some feedback from my compliance supervisor, regarding my upcoming book, "Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up!"  
As a licensed Financial Advisor, I certainly want to be sure my book stays "in bounds". I need to "C M A" - so to say.

How do I C M A? (Cover My ***) Two main rules -

             1. No wild promises.
             2. No product endorsements.

Years ago, I remember reading the story of Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics. Mary Kay said that she lived by a principle which I found fitting. "I never promised a woman that my products would make her beautiful, but I always tried to give her hope." 

I like that. You could certainly apply the same concept to financial services and even more specifically to my book. We have been bombarded by the media with "hopelessness" at every turn. My job is to be a beacon of light. Straight talk and common sense to show the way. With no pensions, a weak Social Security system, and people living much longer, you really need your 401(k) to grow strong.

In the book, there are examples which DO show specific mutual funds. However, I was asked to simply enter a disclaimer footnote. This avoids endorsement of a certain product or fund.

"Investors should carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses of mutual funds. This and other important information is contained in each fund's summary prospectus and/or prospectus, which can be obtained from a financial professional and should be read carefully before investing. Investments outside the United States involve additional risks - as does investing in smaller companies - such as currency fluctuations, political instability, differing securities regulations, and periods of illiquidity. Equity investments are subject to market fluctuations."    

There. I feel much better now, don't you? I have also taken a lot of time to make sure that "Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up!" is properly referenced and indexed. If someone else said it, it must be OK for me to say it - as long as I credit the source.

In the end, I'm happy with the way the book is turning out. My next piece will be on the final editing.
I'm proud to say - I covered my "A".

You can contact me through my website. I am currently accepting new clients and specialize in 401(k) rollovers. You can get a FREE REPORT there also, "The 5 Biggest Problems With 401(k) Plans - And How to Fix Them". Follow me on Twitter or Linked In.

My radio program, "Improving Your Financial Health" is weekly on Saturday mornings at 9:00am EST on Harvest 103.1 WHME-FM in South Bend. Archived programs are also on my website under WHME.
Best wishes to you!   

Friday, May 14, 2010

Get The Word OUT!

I've been getting a lot of questions about the book, "Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up!" The book will be available shortly (end of May) for ordering from Amazon. Since this book was written to help EVERYONE with a 401(k) or 403(b), my biggest concern now is -

How do I make sure that EVERYONE knows about it?

Having a radio program is a real bonus. In fact, on May 29, I am doing a special edition of "Improving Your Financial Health". With so many questions about this unique book, I thought the best way to answer them would be on the air. Be sure to listen to the program Sat. May 29 at 9:00 am on Harvest 103.1 WHME-FM. If you don't live in the South Bend area, or aren't able to listen at that time, no worries. You can still catch the archived recording on my website, www.helpmy401k.us . All previously recorded programs are kept there.

My book website, http://www.my401khasfallen.com/ will also include FAQs and resources which were helpful in writing the book. The new video will be there also, and can currently be seen on You Tube. I will write some more about this, and I've gotten a lot of positive feedback so far on the video.

Most people are thrilled that I didn't strip nude, a la Erykah Badu. (You DON'T want to see this body in the buff!) Although I can't say the same for the pig, who is the main character in the video.

Sooooo, if you want to see a naked piggy bank reading a book, you will like this! (Don't worry the nudity is tastefully done in an 'artsy' way.)

Anything that you can do to help get the word out about the book
"Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up!" would be greatly appreciated.

For rolling over a 401(k), or the best rates on tax-free bonds, you can contact me through my website http://www.helpmy401k.us/. You can also follow me on Twitter @deanvoelker or Linked In
"Improving Your Financial Health" is a weekly financial advice radio program, which also showcases interesting guests. This program airs Saturday mornings at 9:00 am on WHME-FM in South Bend, IN and on my website.

Friday, April 16, 2010

You DO Judge A Book By Its Cover


Well, its all coming together now. Here is the final cover design by Aimee Sims for my upcoming book "Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up!"
Currently the book is in typesetting and from there will be sent to Create Space. I am very excited about this and look forward to helping people get more from their 401(k) or IRA. Because it focuses on the
401(k), which is the biggest source of savings for many of us, and it is easy to understand - this book is unique.

It should be available to order by the end of May!

If you feel like you need your 401(k) working harder for you, please contact me. You can contact me through my website , Linked In, or on Twitter. I also host an advice program "Improving Your Financial Health" on Blog Talk Radio and on Harvest 103.1 WHME-FM in South Bend.

The book website will be http://www.my401khasfallen.com/.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy 401(k) - Typesetting

One of the things I wasn't looking forward to with my book was typesetting. I am actually not the greatest typist in the world, and Microsoft Word isn't equipped for a clean copy. Typesetting means 'formatting' the words so that all paragraphs and spacing is even, and all graphs look clean and sharp.

When you self-publish, typesetting is one of those things that will make the book look more professional as opposed to just having it printed yourself. "Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up!" may sound like a catchy title, but I really want a professional look for it, not a 'wimpy' one. This is an opportunity to establish myself as THE authority on 401(k) plans.

I had about 2 options for this. First, I could have used Create Space, which will also assemble and print the book. Since Create Space is part of Amazon, they will also handle the customer ordering and shipping. They offered to do the typesetting also, and thought they could do it for about $1000 for my 100 page book.

They also told me that because I am using some graphs and tables in the book, I should make the size about 7"x10". Fine with me. I just need to let my graphic artist, Aimee Sims know that.

From reading "The Well-Fed Self Publisher" by Peter Bowerman, he also makes suggestions for firms which he uses to get his books done. Peter seems like a straight shooter, who knows what he is talking about, so I e-mailed a copy to a firm he endorses, Hoehne-Werner Book & Graphic Design.

I have spoken with Angela Werner there, and looked at their work on the website. Angela gave me an estimate of $800. If they are good enough for Peter, they are good enough for me. He suggests cutting costs where possible. Its also important to remember that you get what you pay for. With Hoehne-Werner, I believe it will be the right call. Typesetting is their specialty.

One thing I learned right away - I had wasted a LOT of time putting page numbers with my index. Angela suggested taking the page numbers out. Once the book is typeset, the page numbers could easily change!
"D'OH!" Oh well, I will know that next time.

The whole process should take about a month, so I am hoping to have the book out now by the end of May.

You can contact me for more information on "Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up!" at my website, http://www.helpmy401k.us/. Follow me on Linked In or Twitter also. I am currently hosting an advice show, "Improving Your Financial Health" on Blog Talk Radio, which also airs on Harvest 103.1 WHME-FM in South Bend.

Friday, April 2, 2010

James Gandolfini Won't Call Me Back

I got to spend some time this week working on the promotional video for the book, "Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up!"

I must clear up the crazy rumor that's been going around. James Gandolfini is NOT playing the lead role.....mostly because I can't get him to call me back. Bruce Willis either. (What's with these Hollywood guys anyway?)

James may be pretty useful though for those 401(k) reviews such as the one I mentioned in my last couple of posts - "Is Your Employer Wimpy?"

You know, he could tag along. We would just "have a little talk." Get these companies and their HR people to see my point of view. Bada Bing! Yes, I need to keep that idea on file.

Also, there is NO truth to the other rumor about the video. After seeing all the fuss this past week about singer Erykah Badu and her new video, I won't be shedding any clothing. The book could certainly use publicity, but you DON'T want to see me naked - TRUST ME on that!

What you WILL see when the video is done will be some cool animation with a piggy bank. My new friend Michael Rupchock (who does return calls) does some free lance video work through Pentavision here in South Bend. Michael & I worked through a small script this week and will continue smoothing it out. We are hoping it will be done in a few weeks, about the time the book should be available. This book is one of a kind, one of the few which focuses on helping average people to get more from their 401(k) plan.

Once the video is complete, I will post it here, and on sites such as You Tube. The video will also be on the book website, http://www.my401khasfallen.com/ . The website will be up once we have all the material in place to launch it. You can still contact me through my website, http://www.helpmy401k.us/.

Happy Easter!!

Legal Disclaimer: No animals or trees were harmed in writing this article. James Gandolfini was not actually contacted about making a video. He also was not harmed in any way.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Is Your Employer 'Wimpy'? - Part 2

Last week, I shared the first part of my 'adventure' with G.K. (G.K. is for Gate Keeper, a junior officer I encountered during a recent 401(k) review for a local business.) There is certainly a lot of danger in sponsoring a 401(k) plan for your employees when you don't give a s*** about it.

Danger to employees - They aren't getting the most from this company benefit - which affects their future
                                       and their abilty to retire later.
Danger to employer -   By not taking their fiduciary responsibiltity seriously, the company may be open
                                       to potential legal action.

The problem is that there are too many "wimpy" G.K.s out there. I am purposely leaving the name generic, so you may ask yourself "Is this MY company?" People like G.K. are one of the main reasons I wrote the book, "Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up!" You need to know what to do if you are stuck in a bad 401(k) plan. You also need to know what to do if your employer is "wimpy".

Anyway, as I mentioned in my post last week, I had asked G.K. my usual review questions and was suprised at her careless attitude towards their plan. She had provided me with a 2008 version of their enrollment kit. This was for me to prepare a report on their mutual funds in terms of performance and expenses.

After seeing this, I was pretty sure what to expect. I knew that I could help this company, but only if I was able to talk to the right people. I asked G.K. to please have the President and Vice President available for our next meeting. She said she would 'try' to do this. I told her how urgent this was. The others MUST be present. At the very least, have ONE of them. She needed to understand that being negligent about the plan was costing them money. Surely the other guys would get that.

We scheduled a follow-up appointment on a time when the Pres. & V.P. were scheduled to be in the office.

How did the funds look? Hmmm......imagine letting your lawn grow for several months without mowing or watering. That should give you a pretty good idea.

There were 59 funds in all! That is already a problem, even if they were all great. Imagine going to a restaurant and being handed a menu with that many entree choices (which happens). What do you do?
How long does it take to decide? If it is that hard in a restaurant, imagine poring over mutual funds.

People want SIMPLE! A good selection for a 401(k) is 15-20 funds which include the best possible ones in each asset class.

One of my resources allows me to measure funds and compare them to their peer group. A Large Company fund is compared to other Large Company funds. Internationals are compared to other internationals. In other words - apples to apples. Funds are measured in terms of performance, management fees, risk, and Morningstar ratings.

The finished report tells us very simply whether the fund passes or fails. Passing funds are printed in GREEN on the report. Failing funds are printed in RED. How is that for SIMPLE?

Guess what? Would you believe that 51 out of 59 funds were in RED?

Well, I burned up my toner cartridge and printed out 3 copies of this "tree-killer" report. That showed the problem clearly enough. Now I needed a solution for the company. We needed to address the glaring issues of monitoring mutual funds regularly and keeping fees low. As an advisor, I would also need to be pro-active in showing employees how to use the plan. As long as the "powers that be" were there, I felt pretty good about being able to serve them.

Another great benefit for the company was that because the plan held more than $1 Million in assets, there is no cost for them to change!

Ask Yourself This: If you could trade in your broken down, smelly, rusted out 1980's gas guzzler for a shiny new car - and the cost to you was ZERO - how long would it take to decide?

Wouldn't you know it though? Even though I had called G.K. the day before to confirm that everyone would be there......when I showed up, they were missing. No President. No Vice President. Only G.K.

She mumbled an "apology" without looking me in the eye, saying that "something had suddenly come up" for the guys and I could just show her my report.

"Something suddenly came up"?  What is this - a 'Brady Bunch' episode?

I showed her my report and pointed out my concerns. When I showed her the mutual funds and that 51 out of 59 were in RED, she started looking for which funds were most common to the plan. Then she looked up HER OWN PLAN to see if HER funds were Green or Red. For a few seconds, I could only stare in disbelief - What kind of MORON is this??

I interrupted the insanity. "Ummm....Aren't we missing the big picture here? Rather than try to pick out individual funds, wouldn't you be concerned that 51 out of 59 are failing? You have a real need for a system to monitor the funds in your plan on a regular basis - which lowers your company liability. Think of it this way - if you have a bunch of bananas in the house, and they've gone brown and soft, what would you do? Would you try to pick out a few good parts? Or would it really be better to replace the bananas?" 

G.K. thought for a bit, and admitted that I may have a point.

Amazing! Was I actually getting through?

Not really. G.K. sat there as I pointed out a few other red flags, then said goodbye. "I'll share this with the others. We'll call you if we're interested."

Let me make this clear. I'm not mocking G.K. and the company because they have a bad 401(k) plan. Also, I know not everyone will work with me as their 401(k) advisor. However, the reason for my anger is that the plan stinks - AND they aren't willing to do anything about it! 

Again - If you could trade in your broken down, smelly, rusted out 1980's gas guzzler for a shiny new car - and the cost to you was ZERO - how long would it take to decide?

There are too many G.K.s out there - Lazy, narrow-minded people who oversee the 401(k) at your company. That's why I wrote this book, "Help! My 401(k) Has Fallen - And Must Get Up!" due out soon. This is to help YOU fight back - AND get more from your 401(k). 

You can contact me at http://www.helpmy401k.us/. I am also at Linked In. You can pick up your free report on my website – "The 5 Biggest Problems With 401(k) Plans – And How to Fix Them".

My weekly financial advice program, Improving Your Financial Health is on Blog Talk Radio and Saturday mornings at WHME-FM.