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A Financial Provider with your best interest in mind.

Our primary focus is to help you secure your financial goals. We have the unique ability to listen, educate, and act on your needs. We are proud of our ability to work together and build relationships with our clients and future clients. Our Advisors will hear your ambitions and assist in creating a brighter future for you.

Featured Articles

Artificial Intelligence: Innovation for Today’s World

Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly changing the way businesses build products and even provide customer service. We now have automated virtual assistants and “chatbots” answering customer service calls.1 We even have self-driving cars being tested for pizza delivery.2 These quantum leaps in technological advances present both opportunities and challenges. For example, the way we have adopted online financial transactions over the past 10 to 15 years has made everything from banking and paying bills to applying for a mortgage so much more convenient. However, as the recent Equifax security breach impacting more than 145 million people demonstrates, housing that much data in one central location creates a single-entry point for would-be hackers.3 That’s one reason we believe it’s important to work face to face with financial advisors you know and trust. Regardless of where technology takes us, there’s really no substitute for personal interaction, particularly when it comes to planning for your family’s insurance, higher education and retirement income needs. We appreciate the value of combining human intelligence with empathy and understanding, and we know our clients do as well. In this rapidly advancing world of artificial intelligence, it’s important to offer both convenience and personal service. With that said, we work to keep up with innovations and their applications for today’s world, especially when they may create potential investment opportunities. There are all kinds of innovative things to report. The use of connected devices such as wearables, residential electric and gas meter readers, drones and business self-checkout terminals is expected to grow by 31 percent this year over 2016. Today’s number of 8.4 billion devices in use is projected to grow to 20.4 billion connected devices by 2020.4 AI devices, such as drones, are being adapted for all kinds of creative uses. Researchers in Australia have developed flying drones capable of doing three things:5

  1. Identifying sharks near swimmers and surfers
  2. Amplifying warnings to beachgoers via an on-board loudspeaker
  3. Sending out electrical impulses that irritate sharks and deter them from entering populated areas
One way AI can be more effective than the human brain is its capacity to access and analyze vast more stores of data. As humans, we possess memory and recall, but AI machines can be loaded with an infinite amount of data that can be scanned and identified quickly. Farmers are using this technology via smartphone to take photos of ailing crops, from which AI can pinpoint disease with up to 98 percent accuracy.6 In the construction industry, AI is being used to help project managers track the most egregious potential malfunctions based on plan specifications, phase timing and severity. This helps keep projects on time and on budget with a laser-like focus on safety and quality.7 AI is also having an impact in the retail industry. British fashion icon Burberry requested and uploaded scores of data regarding their clients’ buying habits. This enables frontline retail clerks to make immediate recommendations to complement client selections based on what customers purchased in the past. The intelligence has created a type of personalized shopping service that has proven enormously successful.8 Moreover, the retailer has been able to cut down on counterfeit sales by developing technology that can detect if an item is a Burberry “bootleg” product by analyzing a photo of it.9 Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications. 1 Shep Hyken. Forbes. July 15, 2017. “AI and Chatbots Are Transforming The Customer Experience.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/shephyken/2017/07/15/ai-and-chatbots-are-transforming-the-customer-experience/#31527b2941f7. Accessed Oct. 13, 2017. 2 Amar Toor and Tamara Warren. The Verge. Aug. 29, 2017. “Domino’s and Ford will test self-driving pizza delivery cars.” https://www.theverge.com/2017/8/29/16213544/dominos-ford-pizza-self-driving-car. Accessed Oct. 13, 2017. 3 Bloomberg. Oct. 2, 2017. “Equifax Says 2.5 Million More Americans May Be Affected by Hack.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-02/urgent-equifax-2-5-million-more-americans-may-be-affected-by-hack. Accessed Oct. 2, 2017. 4 Liam Tung. ZDNet. Feb. 7, 2017. “IoT devices will outnumber the world’s population this year for the first time.” http://www.zdnet.com/article/iot-devices-will-outnumber-the-worlds-population-this-year-for-the-first-time/. Accessed Oct.13, 2017. 5 Charlotte Edmond. World Economic Forum. Sept. 4, 2017. “Meet Australia’s beach-protecting, AI-powered shark drones.” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/09/australia-shark-drones-artificial-intelligence/. Accessed Oct. 2, 2017. 6 Jamie Condliffe. MIT Technology Review. Oct. 2, 2017. “OK, Phone: How Are My Crops Looking?” https://www.technologyreview.com/the-download/609028/ok-phone-how-are-my-crops-looking/. Accessed Oct. 2, 2017. 7 Zach Mortice. Redshift. Oct. 2, 2017. “Machine Learning Eases Construction Project Management—and Prevents Catastrophes.” https://www.autodesk.com/redshift/machine-learning-construction-project-management/. Accessed Oct. 2, 2017. 8 Bernard Marr. Forbes. Sept. 25, 2017. “The Amazing Ways Burberry Is Using Artificial Intelligence and Big Data to Drive Success.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2017/09/25/the-amazing-ways-burberry-is-using-artificial-intelligence-and-big-data-to-drive-success/#24388a014f63. Accessed Oct. 2, 2017. 9 Ibid. We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.  The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference. AE10175119C

Travel Tips

Anthony Melchiorri, the host of the Travel Channel show “Hotel Impossible,” says he prefers to stay in a roadside motel over a luxury hotel – as long as it has good online reviews. In his opinion, the mom and pop ownership model often leads to painstaking efforts for cleanliness, fresh flowers and a home-cooked meal – not to mention personal recommendations for uniquely local places to visit in the area.1 After all, the accommodation industry is all about hospitality, and hospitality is about personal service. It doesn’t get more personal than running your own business. We feel the same way about working with our clients. We know you want to talk to familiar people when you call for information. At the end of the day, we’re all looking for that extra touch, the human connection, something that sets service above the rest. Please contact us anytime. We are here to help you with your retirement income strategy questions. This desire for the personal touch remains true whether you’re at home or traveling. In a recent interview, Mr. Melchiorri offered some interesting advice for planning a vacation. For example:2

  • If you’re booking a hotel, check out its most recent reviews online at sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Even large chains get bad reviews, and some of those roadside motels get charming It pays to check before you book.
  • While you may want to use one of those shop-and-compare websites to find a hotel, once you make a selection go to the hotel’s actual website to make your reservation. The hotel website is guaranteed to offer the lowest rate – Melchiorri says a website like Expedia is not allowed to have a lower rate than the hotel. In addition, when you book through a third party, it can be more difficult to get your money back.
  • Remember that hotels and motels are in the hospitality industry, and the good ones want to ensure you are pleased with your stay. Melchiorri encourages travelers to ask for things they want – an upgrade, a poolside room, to be upstairs or downstairs, bottled water or fresh flowers in their room. If hotel staff can accommodate you, they most likely will.
  • If you encounter a problem, he suggests you first make a polite complaint, then escalate to a more direct aggressive complaint, and finally, express your displeasure with a scathing online review.
One way to save money on accommodations is on parking. Many hotels charge for onsite parking or valet service. Consider downloading an app to your smartphone to help you find less expensive parking options. These apps look for parking based on your location and show the least expensive options, which can yield as much as 50 percent in savings. Other apps can find all available transportation options between your current location and your destination, so you can choose the most convenient with the best price.3 If you want to learn about the history of an area you’re visiting, check out local museum deals. Some places offer free entrance either on certain days or all the time. For example, the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. and nearly every museum in London offer free admittance year-round.4 If you’re traveling abroad, before you leave home, make copies of your passport and driver’s license; leave one with a friend and tuck another into your bag. It’s also a good idea to take photos of them on your smartphone and load them up to a password protected cloud storage site. Having copies of important travel documents can alleviate a lot of hassle if the originals are lost or stolen.5 You also may want to spread your cash in a few different places, such as your wallet, in zipper pockets and in your hotel safe. Should you lose your billfold or get robbed, you won’t be left totally without cash.6 Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications. 1 Beth J. Harpaz. Washington Times. Sept. 6, 2017. “Why ‘Hotel Impossible’ star likes a good roadside motel.” http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/sep/6/why-hotel-impossible-star-likes-a-good-roadside-mo/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS. Accessed Oct. 2, 2017. 2 Ibid. 3 Talia Avakian. Travel and Leisure. Sept. 30, 2017. “These 18 Easy Tips Can Save You a Fortune on Your Next Trip.” http://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-tips/save-money-while-traveling. Accessed Oct. 2, 2017. 4 Ibid. 5 Mike Shubic. Travelocity. Oct. 2, 2017. “12 Genius Travel Planning Tips.” https://www.travelocity.com/inspire/12-genius-travel-planning-tips/. Accessed Oct. 2, 2017. 6 Ibid. We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference. AE10175119B

Assessing Risk

It is common to have a very traditional interpretation when we think of investment risk, such as the belief that stocks are seen as a risky investment, and bonds less so. But many issues have come to light in the past decade that cause us to think about risk differently. For example, there’s the risk of outliving your retirement savings, which is often cited as one of the primary concerns of today’s retirees.1 And that’s just today’s retirees. If you’re still in saving mode, your retirement could be even longer than today’s average retirement.2 Given this potential reality, it may be time for all of us to re-evaluate how we assess risk. As financial advisors, we spend countless hours helping people develop a financial strategy for the future. That means we continuously research and discuss risk factors, and we understand how to apply them to each individual’s situation. Please contact us if you’d like help assessing what risk factors you need to consider in regard to your long-term financial goals. Some people are naturally risk averse, and others are enthusiastic risk-takers. Most fall somewhere in between, with attitudes toward risk changing, depending on where they are in in their lives. It’s not uncommon for individuals to take more risks in their younger years, when they have more time to rebound from market setbacks, and then take a more conservative approach as they near retirement.3 If we pursue a strict risk/reward investment strategy, we can still come up short in meeting retirement goals. For example, say you are extremely risk-averse, so you invest all of your money in 10-year Treasury notes in order to generate around $56,500, which is the average annual household income. These securities, which are considered low risk because they are backed by the U.S. government, were paying out around 2.25 percent in October, so you would need to have $2.26 million invested to earn that much – even more if you factor in long-term inflation.4 In this particular scenario, we might say that such a level of risk-aversion is a luxury many of us cannot afford. Let’s look at another type of risk. As a general rule of thumb, risk-averse U.S. investors are more comfortable investing in domestic stocks versus those in other countries. This year, that’s working out pretty well, when you consider that the S&P 500 boasted a 14.86 percent year-to-date return as of Nov. 2, 2017.5 However, a lot of countries are doing well these days, so diversifying to include foreign stocks could help improve a portfolio’s overall return while adding the risk-mitigation factor of broader diversification. To put this in perspective, consider that the MSCI World ex USA Index has yielded 15.51 percent and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index is at 25.08 percent for the year as of Sept. 27, 2017.6 It’s also important to evaluate different kinds of risk beyond that associated with individual holdings. There’s the potential risk of not keeping pace with long-term inflation’s impact on the purchasing power of our savings. There’s what’s called “sequence of returns” risk, which means your average annual return over a long timeline may be good, but if you experience declines during the beginning of your retirement years, the risk of loss is much higher.7 There’s also the risk of having significant health problems and needing long-term care. Some people experience this while others don’t, but there’s no way to be sure which camp we’ll fall into – so that’s a potential risk. While many retirees may believe that their greatest risk is not accumulating a certain amount of money by the time they retire, we believe their goal should be to create a financial strategy that reflects their needs and objectives instead of chasing an arbitrary monetary amount. Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications. 1 Catey Hill. MarketWatch. July 21, 2016. “Older People Fear This More Than Death.” http://www.marketwatch.com/story/older-people-fear-this-more-than-death-2016-07-18. Accessed Oct. 24, 2017. 2 Jeff Stimpson. Forbes. Sept. 5, 2017. “How to Balance Investment Risk and Reward in Retirement” https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2017/09/05/how-to-balance-investment-risk-and-reward-in-retirement/#629608b96ec4. Accessed Sept. 28, 2017. 3 Walter Updegrave. CNN Money. June 21, 2017. “How much investing risk should you take in retirement? http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/21/pf/retirement-investing-risk/index.html. Accessed Oct. 24, 2017. 4 Bruce McCain. Forbes. Sept. 20, 2017. “Seeking Financial Security When Life Changes Strike.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucemccain/2017/09/20/seeking-financial-security-when-life-changes-strike/#589a300c2f0a. Accessed Sept. 28, 2017. 5 CNN Money. Oct. 24, 2017. “S&P 500 Index.” http://money.cnn.com/data/markets/sandp/. Accessed Nov. 2, 2017. 6 eTrade. Sept. 28, 2017. “International calling.” https://us.etrade.com/knowledge/markets-news/commentary-and-insights/international-calling?ch_id=S&s_id=Twitter&c_id=ESOC. Accessed Sept. 28, 2017. 7 Dana Anspach. The Balance. Aug. 14, 2017. “Learn How Sequence Risk Impacts Your Retirement Money.” https://www.thebalance.com/how-sequence-risk-affects-your-retirement-money-2388672. Accessed Oct. 24, 2017. We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.  The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference. AE10175118C

Tips for Aches and Pains

As we grow older, many of us get wiser. We may become more comfortable in our own skin. We may get better at our jobs, have a more reliable income and begin to collect assets. We can gain a better appreciation of what’s important in life. We also can lose things. Some of us lose a degree of innocence and idealism. Some miss their doggedness and fearlessness – while others may find they no longer have the thick hair of their younger years. We also may have gains and experience losses in our finances. We learn that what goes up generally does come down, but then it can go up again. We develop financial strategies designed to help us weather economic ups and downs. If your life learnings summon the need to protect a portion of your retirement assets and help insure yourself against the risk of financial loss, give us a call. As an independent financial services firm, we help people create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products, including annuities, to custom suit their needs and objectives. We also may experience more physical aches and pains as we age. But there are coping mechanisms for these things, too. For example, a lot of people these days are suffering from pain caused by our modern obsession with gadgets. We are hunched over computer keyboards and smartphones, putting strain on the head and neck. Experts say it helps to take lots of breaks, get outdoors, and do hand and neck stretches. Experience tells us that moderation in all things is key; this is also true for gadgetry.1 Some pain may be controlled through alternative methods. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a division of the National Institutes of Health, reports there is growing evidence that acupuncture, hypnosis, massage, spinal manipulation and yoga may help manage some chronic conditions. Be sure to check with your health care provider before trying any of these methods, however, to make sure they won’t put your health or safety at risk.2 And then there are the effects of emotional pain. In recent months, many people have lost their homes, family and friends to hurricane winds, flooding, fire and earthquakes. It’s been a tough time even for those fortunate enough to survive. Some of the tactics recommended to help cope with this type of pain include committing to a routine to help get your life back on track, unplugging from news sources so you can get out of the disaster frame of mind for a while and adjusting expectations going forward.3 We may not always be able to recover the things we lose, but we can find comfort in recognizing and appreciating what we still have. Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications. 1 The Daily Star. Sept. 2, 2017. “Is a modern lifestyle giving you aches and pains? 5 expert tips for healthier pain management.” http://www.thedailystar.net/health/5-expert-tips-healthier-pain-management-backpain-1457293. Accessed Sept. 28, 2017. 2 National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. September 2016. “Chronic Pain: In Depth.” https://nccih.nih.gov/health/pain/chronic.htm. Accessed Oct. 16, 2017. 3 Paige Smith. Huffington Post. Sept. 20, 2017. “7 Tips for How to Cope If You’re Rebuilding After a Natural Disaster.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/cope-rebuilding-natural-disaster_us_59c2a020e4b0186c220775c6. Accessed Sept. 28, 2017. Guarantees and protections provided by insurance products including annuities are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference. AE10175118B