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Navigating the Transition to Retirement

Transitioning to Retirement

Transitioning to Retirement

You’ve thought about retirement for years. Now, here you are getting close, and you feel… anxious, nervous, and for some of you, even terrified.

You’ve been saving for years. The thought of starting to spend that savings makes all kinds of questions run through your mind. What if the market goes down? What if you don’t have enough? Should you start Social Security now so you have some income coming in… but, wait, you’ve read that it is better to wait and begin benefits later.

How should you withdraw your money? Once a year as a lump sum? Should you take money out of your 401(k) or out of the brokerage or mutual fund savings you have accumulated?

What about taxes? Should you make quarterly tax payments? How much will you have to pay?

These are new questions to you. We’ve heard them hundreds of times. And we have answers.

The answers, however, are unique to your situation.

Take Social Security as an example. Maybe you’ve heard it is better to wait and start your benefits at age 70. Yet just last month we recommended one man start at 65. And the month before we recommended a woman start at 62. Why would we do such a thing?

The man is single, has no previous marriages, is not in great health, and has a family history of short longevity. Starting benefits now made sense based on his circumstances.

The woman is married, not working, and her spouse is much older than she is. When her husband passes, she will get his higher survivor benefit amount and her own benefit amount will be dropped – so in her case it made sense to start her benefit as early as possible.

Such decisions need to be made based on your situation – not based on a generic rule of thumb that may not apply to you.

We don’t use retirement rules of thumb to give advice. Nor should you. We see too many mistakes made that way. Dana covers several of these mistakes in her About.com MoneyOver55 article 7 Outdated Retirement Decisions People are Still Making.

Since we don’t use rules of thumb, what do we use?

We start with each client’s financial situation. We look at their current savings and investments, age, income, and expenses.

We analyze their Social Security options and provide a recommendation on how and when they should begin benefits. We also explain why.

We look at their pension options (if they have one) and determine if they should begin benefits at retirement or at a later date, if they should take a lump sum or annuity option, and if married, what type of survivor benefit option they should choose.

We project their future income taxes to see if it makes sense for them to withdraw funds from an IRA or other type of account, and to determine if they would benefit from converting IRA assets to a Roth IRA.

We put all this info together and test it in two ways; first by using something called a Monte Carlo analysis, which projects potential results using a random sequence of future investment returns.

Next we use an historical audit, which takes account balances and withdrawals and shows the client what would have happened if they retired in 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930… the historical audit shows you how well a particular investment approach would have worked for each potential past retirement year from 1927 going forward.

For us to feel confident that a retirement income plan will work, the results of all of this have to fall within a certain pre-defined range of outcomes that we have set.

Because of the thorough analysis work that we do, we feel quite confident in the retirement income plans of the clients who work with us.

If you want to feel that confident in your own plan, we invite you to have a conversation with us. We always offer complimentary introductory meetings (via web meetings for long distance clients, or in person for Arizona clients).

You can learn more about our services in Frequently Asked Questions About Our Services.

If you would like to set an introductory meeting, first we ask that you complete an easy to answer set of online Pre Meeting Questions. To view these, click the link below.

Pre Meeting Questions

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June’s Online Class – The Key to Retirement Success for Women

The Key to Retirement Success  for Women

You can click on photo above to register.

In this free online retirement class we’re going to discuss the retirement risks that women face to a greater degree than men do.

We also find that some women can be intimidated by financial terms, so we will be covering some basics such as what is a stock, what is a bond, and how mutual funds work.

Then we’ll dive into subjects pertaining to how long your money lasts in retirement and how you go about planning for withdrawals as you near that phase of life.

Additional Topics We’ll Cover

  • Social Security for women
  • Facing retirement alone
  • Ways to cover long term care expenses
  • Marriage and divorce near retirement
  • Ways to guarantee your retirement income

This is an ideal class for all women – and for men who want to make sure their female loved ones have a secure retirement.

This class will be live, taught by Dana Anspach and Kathy Mealey. It will run about one hour followed by questions and answers. Once you are registered, you’ll have the opportunity to submit questions ahead of time.

It will be offered on a Tuesday evening. Specifics below.


  • Class is offered early evening on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015


  • 5 pm PDT and Arizona/6 pm MDT/7 pm CDT/8 pm EDT

Registration Required


  • You: Women age 45 – 70 who are ready to learn more about finances, investing and retirement income planning.
  • Your presenter: This is a live one hour presentation followed by Q&A hosted by retirement expert Dana Anspach.

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What is Risk? – Investment Sense April 2015

Index Returns Through 3-31-15

Index Returns Through 3-31-15

In the investment world risk is most often defined in statistical terms as something called “standard deviation”. In laymen’s terms we call this volatility; the measurement of the ups and downs of the market, an entire portfolio, or an individual investment such as a mutual fund or stock.

Most often standard deviation is measured as volatility experienced over a one year time frame.

For the average person saving for retirement, or already retired, this standard deviation measure of risk over one year has little, if anything, to do with their financial goals. That is why we look at risk a bit differently.

We think of risk in terms of the odds that someone will not achieve the lifestyle they desire over their lifetime.

There are numerous factors that go into achieving a specific amount of retirement spending, and most of them have nothing to do with what the market did yesterday, last week, last month, or last year. (The grey bars in the graph above reflect the returns that sector of the market delivered in March 2015. The brighter orange bars reflect the annualized annual returns that sector of the market delivered over the past ten years.)

Nor does the market’s performance tomorrow, next week, next month or next year matter a whole lot.

What matters a bit more is what the market does over the next decade. The challenge we have is that without a copy of 2025’s newspaper, we don’t know exactly what the next decade will look like.

In light of that reality, what we focus on is what we do know.

  • We do know that how much you save and how you manage your expenditures has a big impact on your success.
  • We do know that those who consistently monitor and review their financial plans make more progress than those who don’t.
  • We do know that managing taxes increases the after-tax cash flow available to you. Managing taxes includes advising on what types of accounts to fund (Traditional IRA or Roth IRA for example) as well as what accounts to withdraw from, and how to rebalance your portfolio without causing you a hefty tax bill.
  • We do know that there are numerous ways to construct a portfolio and that there is no free lunch.

If you are going for maximum returns you are increasing the risk that you will not achieve your goals.

If you are going for an approach that brings additional security to the outcome than in strong markets you will be leaving some returns on the table. That is just the way it works.

Or as one famed finance professor puts it, “There aren’t $100 bills lying around for the taking.”

The problem is a lot of finance shows, magazines, and news articles lead you to believe that there are $100 bills lying around for the taking – and that the “right” trading strategy is what it takes to find them.

Every week we are asked questions about other approaches such as, “I read I shouldn’t own bonds; shouldn’t we sell our bonds?” Or, “I read the stock market is overvalued; shouldn’t we get out of stocks?”

We can assure you the advice you read in a magazine, see on TV, or hear on the radio was not constructed around the risk/return framework that applies to your life.  It can’t be—these finance buffs don’t know your financial situation. It doesn’t mean what they say isn’t valid—it simply means most often, it doesn’t apply to you. I expand upon this concept in my MarketWatch article Why One Size Fits All Investing Never Works.

What makes sense is to build a plan based on your financial circumstances. This is what we do. Once we know your goals we choose to use an approach that we believe gives you the highest probability of achieving those goals over your lifetime. It’s not based on some arbitrary measure of risk that has nothing to do with your life circumstances – it is based on your cash flow, life and family circumstances. That’s the way to look at risk.


*Returns data in graph above from Advisor Intelligence. When possible we report index fund returns to show performance net of fund fees. As such in the graph:

Total Bond Market Index is: Vanguard’s Total Bond Market Index Fund(VBMFX)
US Large Cap is: Vanguard’s 500 Index Fund (VFINX)
US Small Cap is: Vanguard’s Small Cap Index Fund (NAESX)
Real Estate is: Vanguards’s REIT Index (VGSIX)
International Large cap is: Vanguard’s Total International Stocks Index (VGTSX)
International Small Cap is: MSCI World Ex USA Small Cap Index (not a fund)
Emerging Markets is: Vanguard’s Emerging Market’s Index Fund (VEIEX)

(Investment Sense is a monthly posting of market commentary with a common sense twist. For all our latest commentary follow us on Facebook.)

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May’s Online Class: The Key to Retirement Success

May's Class: The Key to Retirement Success

The Key to Retirement Success – Click pic above to register.

In this free online retirement class we’re going to discuss the retirement risks that you can’t control such as longevity, market returns, inflation, the economy, and how they affect how much money you will need in retirement.

Then we’re going to show you how you can adjust the items you can control, such as spending, tax management, investment risk, and your retirement date, to maintain a stable life-long standard of living.

This class will be live. It will run about one hour followed by questions and answers. It will be offered on a Tuesday evening. Specifics below.


  • Tuesday, May 19th, 5 p.m. PDT (and AZ time)/6 p.m. MDT/7 p.m. CDT/8 p.m. EDT

Registration Required

What You Will Learn

In addition to learning about retirement risks and what you can do about them you will learn:

  • The 10 worst money mistakes near-retirees make.
  • Why investing the same old way doesn’t work in retirement.
  • Decisions that can help protect your income well into your later years.
  • Why paying attention to taxes is critical between ages 55 and 70.
  • Investment strategies that protect you in a down market.
  • The retirees that will be most affected by inflation.


  • You: Those of you age 50 – 70 who are within 5 years of your desired retirement date will benefit the most from this class.
  • Your presenter: This is a live one hour presentation followed by Q&A hosted by retirement expert Dana Anspach.

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