Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Conversations with Chuck: Charles Schwab on Volatility

Check out this video interview with Charles Schwab on market volatility and portfolio diversification.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Creative Strategies to Collect More Social Security Income (Part 2 of 2)

By Olivia Sandham
Continuing from last week’s post, this week we will finish our discussion on “Creative Strategies to Collect More Social Security Income”.  Before jumping into Part 2 of 2, we recommend revisiting last week’s post for an overview of the terms FRA and PIA.
Besides 1) Waiting as long as possible to claim Social Security (SS) and 2) Claiming SS benefits correctly the first time, here are a few other creative strategies you could implement to collect more SS income:
3)  Harness the power of the little-known Spousal Income Benefit:  Once one spouse is eligible to receive SS benefits, the other spouse may be eligible to get up to 50% of those benefits as well, until claiming his or her own SS benefits.  This option is also available to divorcees as well.
  • The Spousal Income Benefit is available to the second partner regardless of whether the first partner is actually collecting benefits or has decided to file and suspend.
  • The Spousal Income Benefit will be available to the second partner once he or she reaches the age of 62, but will be available at a reduced/pro-rated amount until he or she reaches FRA.  At FRA, the second partner can receive 50% of the first partner’s PIA.
  • It is important to note, once the second partner starts collecting the Spousal Benefit Income, the amount he or she claims is the amount of Spousal Benefit that will be received for the rest of his or her lifetime, until claiming his or her own SS benefits.  Once claiming his or her own SS benefits, the second partner will receive the higher benefit of the two.
4) Plan for the Surviving Partner’s Income Benefit:  Widows or widowers may be entitled to receive a portion of their deceased partner’s SS benefits, which may be increased by using the previous strategies.  Click here to see how much surviving family members would receive.  As a side note, the Social Security Administration should be notified as soon as possible when any family member passes away, because there are several other ways that Social Security can help you when a family member dies.
5) Compute your optimal benefit amount:  Rather than picking one or two strategies to increase your SS benefits, finding the right combination of all the strategies discussed for your situation can be advantageous in figuring out how to collect more SS income.  Since Social Security rules are very intricate and every situation for every family is different, meeting with a Social Security specialist would be your best way to use this strategy.
This post is for information purposes only. It is not intended for use in determining when or how to claim Social Security benefits, as benefits and strategies vary based on individual circumstances. Our firm is not affiliated with the Social Security Administration. For more information or for help determining a specific strategy for your own situation, please contact our office at (816) 233-4100, or contact the Social Security Administration directly by visiting

Friday, April 4, 2014

Creative Strategies to Collect More Social Security Income (Part 1 of 2)

By Olivia Sandham
As mentioned in last week's post, this week we would like to start discussing “Creative Strategies to Collect More Social Security Income”.  Lucky for us, one of our Family Investment Center advisors, Mrs. Elaine Coder, is our designated Social Security Specialist.  I recently worked on an educational presentation with Elaine, and through that experience I gained a lot of insight into how just about anyone, in just about any situation, can use these strategies to incorporate Social Security as a key factor in their retirement plan.
Before jumping into Part 1 of 2 of our discussion about the main strategies to collect more Social Security (SS), let’s cover a few terms that we will be using throughout these posts:
Full Retirement Age (FRA):  The age at which a person may first become entitled to full or unreduced SS benefits.  Click here to find your FRA.
Primary Insurance Amount (PIA):  The benefit amount a person would receive if he/she elects to begin receiving SS benefits at his/her normal retirement age.  At this age, the SS benefit is neither reduced for early retirement, nor increased for delayed retirement.  Once claimed, this PIA is what you will receive for your lifetime.
Life Expectancy (LE):  The average period of time that a person can expect to live.  Click here to calculate your estimated LE.
Now that we know the terms we are going to use, let’s get started discussing the first couple of “Creative Strategies to Collect More Social Security Income”:
1) Wait as long as possible to claim SS benefits:  There are many advantages to waiting to claim SS benefits. First, by the taking time to research and meet with a Social Security Specialist, you ensure that you have covered all strategies and that you will be applying for the maximum PIA when it is time to claim.  Second and third, by waiting to claim until you are past your FRA, your PIA will not be penalized for claiming early, and you will earn delayed retirement credits, which increases your PIA.  Finally, since your PIA is adjusted based for inflation, each year you wait to claim can increase your PIA even more.
2) Claim SS benefits correctly the first time:  Once you apply for your SS benefits, you only have 12 months to withdraw your application, and you are limited to one withdrawal per lifetime.  There are several other “hoops” to jump through if you withdraw, including paying back the benefits you and your spouse/children received, as well as having anyone who received any of the benefits consent in writing to the withdrawal.  Also, if you miss the 12-month window to withdraw or adjust your claim, you can no longer make any changes and the PIA you claim is the PIA you will receive for the rest of your life.  So, if after applying and claiming your SS benefits, you find out that you missed a step or didn’t capitalize on a claiming strategy, there is nothing else to be done. Claiming correctly the very first time avoids all of these concerns.
Next week we will discuss strategies including the living spousal and survivor benefit incomes, as well as how you can combine strategies to be able to compute your overall optimal benefit.  Make sure to stay tuned!
This post is for information purposes only.  It is not intended for use in determining when or how to claim Social Security benefits, as benefits and strategies vary based on individual circumstances.  Our firm is not affiliated with the Social Security Administration.  For more information or for help determining a specific strategy for your own situation, please contact our office at (816) 233-4100, or contact the Social Security Administration directly by visiting

Friday, March 28, 2014

AARP Retirement Calculator: Are You Saving Enough?

Are you looking for a fun, free, and easy method to try estimating your retirement? We discovered the AARP Retirement Calculator, a neat online device that can make thinking about your future and retirement a little more enjoyable. Using the calculator can be a great way to check if the plan you currently have for your financial future should allow you to retire when and how you want. Discover all your options and how the choices you make today and in the near future could ultimately affect your retirement finances!

Before using the calculator, we encourage you to read our list of “Pros and Cons of Using the AARP Retirement Calculator”:

  • Using this calculator can be a good starting checkpoint to see if you are currently on track for retirement, currently way off track for retirement, or somewhere in between.
  • After inputting your information, click on “Options” to see what changes you can make in retirement to help you have more income available if needed or desired.
  • At any point, you can also go back to the “About You” section and change answers, allowing you to see how different choices starting now could possibly affect how much income will be available to you in retirement. This can be a helpful tool if you are able to actually implement some of these changes in your life, such as how much of your income you and your partner save for retirement each year.
  • When deciding your lifestyle in retirement, click on “Learn more about Retirement Lifestyle Assumptions” and you can manually input what percentage of your current lifestyle expenses you plan to have in retirement.
  • The calculator does take into consideration the multitude of creative ways you can collect more Social Security income (to be discussed in next week’s blog!)
  • The calculator cannot substitute for the valuable knowledge and experience of a financial advisor. This tool should only be used for fun to see where you are at now and how different decisions could affect your future outcome, but make sure you discuss any officially changes in your retirement plans with your financial advisor.
Think you’re ready to give it a try? Click here to Get Started.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 Survey: Best Savings Accounts 2014

Reference to any specific commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public, and does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Family Investment Center.
Earlier this year, Senior Financial Analyst Richard Barrington, CFA, published an online article analyzing a survey that performed to find the Best Savings accounts for 2014.
"The study indicates that the yields on the nation's best savings accounts have offered more than four times the interest of the survey's average rates, and that the top accounts have been consistently at the front of the pack quarter after quarter,” according to Barrington.
Barrington’s article points out the importance of finding savings accounts with consistently high rates. Barrington states, “It is smart to compare savings account rates before choosing a bank, but it is even smarter if you look at a bank's interest rates over a span of time rather than on any one day. Some banks temporarily raise rates in an attempt to draw some quick attention, but the more consistently a bank has featured leading rates in the past, the more likely it is that this is a long-term strategy that will continue in the future.”
But where can this information be found, and why is comparing it so significant? “Every quarter lists the top savings accounts, based on their average rates throughout the quarter, in its America's Best Rates articles. Then, once a year, [calculates] which savings accounts had the best rates over the course of the prior year,” says Barrington. “Identifying the banks that offer the best interest rates is important [because] if you chose the wrong bank to open a savings account a year ago, you would have earned less than a quarter of the interest you could have at one of the higher-paying institutions. At a time when bank rates are generally low, shopping for that kind of edge is more important than ever.”
Based on the mentioned survey, created this list of the top rate performers of the past year (2013). According to Barrington’s article, “Their strong performance over the last four quarters places these institutions as the current favorites to offer the best savings accounts in 2014”:
1) Ally Bank. “With its user-friendly web site and welcoming policies, such as free ATM use anywhere in the country, Ally has become something of a model for how online banking should be done,” says Barrington. “Ally also delivers some substance to back up its customer-centric style, in the form of the highest average savings account rates over the past year.” While savings account rates at the banks MoneyRates surveyed throughout the past year averaged just 0.186 percent, Ally's average was 0.883 percent. According to Barrington, “Whether it is the style or the substance, whatever Ally Bank is doing, it is attracting customers.” The most recent FDIC figures available show Ally Bank's total deposits up 15 percent year-over-year.
2) American Express Bank. With savings account rates that averaged 0.869 percent over the past year, Barrington claims American Express Bank to be “a strong runner-up to Ally Bank.” Barrington continues to state that the savings account rates at American Express Bank “edged out those at Ally Bank during the two most recent quarterly surveys, so this could be a fun competition to watch over the next year.” Like Ally Bank, American Express Bank demonstrates that offering competitive rates helps attract business, with its deposits up 22 percent year-over-year.
3) Sallie Mae Bank. Sallie Mae Bank's savings account rates averaged 0.867 percent over the past year, putting it behind American Express Bank by a miniscule margin, just two one-thousandths of 1 percent. “Though considerably smaller than Ally and American Express, Sallie Mae Bank is coming on strong,” claims Barrington.  Its deposits were up by 48 percent year-over-year.
4) Discover Bank. Discover Bank's savings account rates averaged 0.800 percent over the past year, and “it showed true consistency by having the same average rate through each of the last four quarters,” states Barrington.
5) EverBank. Savings account rates at EverBank averaged 0.717 percent over the past year. Barrington says, “This is another bank whose high interest rates are helping it attract customers, [since] its deposit base grew by 27 percent year-over-year.”
6) Capital One Bank. Capital One kept its savings account rates above the 0.500 percent mark all year, averaging 0.508 percent. Also, Capital One Bank's new online arm, Capital One 360, has been offering even higher rates “and might be a competitor to watch,” claims Barrington.
7) Zions Bank. Zions Bank's savings account rates averaged 0.495 over the past year. “Zions Bank is a bit of a throwback compared to most of the institutions on this list, in that it still has a fairly extensive branch network, albeit one that is limited to Idaho and Utah. For consumers in those states who want decent rates and traditional, branch-based banking, this might be an option worth looking into,” according to Barrington.
Barrington also includes his list of Honorable Mentions:
“It should be noted that besides the consistently strong performers listed above, a number of banks that were added to the survey during the course of the year made the top 10 in their first two quarters.” These banks included Barclays, GE Capital Bank, FNBO Direct and CIT Bank. “With these banks having shaken up the leader board so quickly, it will be interesting to watch if they can continue their strong rate performance in 2014,” writes Barrington.
Barrington summarizes: “Given the recent strengthening of the economy, it seems likely that bank rates will move upward in 2014. Though rates may change, it is reasonable to think that banks that offered the best rates at the bottom of the interest rate cycle are likely to lead the next upward phase of that cycle as well.”
Barrington finishes his analysis and recommends, “Looking for even higher deposit rates? Check out the CD offerings from GE Capital Bank, Barclays and Ally.”

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Video: How to Build a Budget

Financial situations can change quite frequently.  Everything from employment changes to new family life stages can greatly alter your income and/or expenses.  Therefore, it's a good idea to reevaluate your budget every few months.  Watch this video from on "How to Build a Budget" and follow the steps to see if you are still on track, or if your current budget may need a few adjustments.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The "Backdoor Route" to Roth IRAs

High earners may run into issues trying to contribute to IRAs or trying to receive tax deductions for IRA contributions.  If you fall into this category, watch this video from to find out the "Backdoor Route" to contributing into a Roth IRA to help save for your retirement.

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