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Featured Articles

BRED Slices Mortgages Into Affordable Pieces

Baby boomers have long been the movers and shakers of the real estate market, but millennials are expected to be the biggest buyers in 2019. Millennials are projected to account for 45 percent of mortgages, compared to 37 percent for Generation X and 17 percent for boomers in the new year. This trend is expected to continue well into the future, as millennials climb the income ladder and trade up to homes in mid- to upper-tier prices.1 One big problem is people shopping for homes today tend to have more income than savings to contribute to a down payment. To help younger buyers qualify for a home loan, the mortgage market has rolled out a new type of mixed-rate mortgage, called the blended rate equity driver (BRED). This type of loan pairs both fixed and variable mortgage structures into a single first‐lien mortgage using a combination of the 30‐year fixed rate mortgage (FRM), the 15‐year FRM and the 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage (ARM).2 The specific mix can be tailored to the buyer, but in each case, the goal is to have equity grow faster through principal payments. Typically, a homeowner garners home equity via three paths: down payment, price appreciation and principal payments over time. However, the real estate market moves fast and is unpredictable. Homebuyers are more transient these days and want the option to relocate, if necessary, so they don’t get stuck with an unaffordable mortgage. While it’s important to match a home and mortgage to meet your specific needs, it’s also critical to do so with a long-term perspective toward your eventual retirement and financial goals. It’s normally advisable to live within one’s means, but when it comes to buying a home, better advice may be to live below your means. Be sure to consult with a professional mortgage lender or broker to help decide what’s best for your unique situation. Purchasing a more affordable home frees up more discretionary income that can help create a better financial future. Please contact us if you’re looking for ways to add more confidence to your retirement income plans through the use of insurance products. Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications. Aly J. Yale. Forbes. Dec. 6, 2018. “2019 Real Estate Forecast: What Home Buyers, Sellers And Investors Can Expect.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/alyyale/2018/12/06/2019-real-estate-forecast-what-home-buyers-sellers-and-investors-can-expect/. Accessed Dec. 9, 2018. 2 National Association of Realtors. 2018. “BRED Mortgage: More Money in Your Pocket.” https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/migration_files/bred-mortgage-introduction-10-19-2015.pdf. Accessed Dec. 9, 2018. 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.

Stock Buybacks Explained

When the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduced the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, the hope was companies would spend their influx of money on expansion and increased jobs and wages. Instead, public companies’ most popular way to spend the excess capital has been to buy back their own stock.1 Stock buybacks can be beneficial to both the corporation and its stockholders. Those selling their stock generally do so at a premium, so they’re happy. Shareholders who retain their stock are also pleased because the same amount of earnings is spread between fewer shares, creating higher earnings per share (EPS). Also, company executives generally buy back stock when they feel the current price, which may well be at a record high, is still below its intrinsic value. They benefit because, in many cases, their bonus is linked to EPS growth.2 Even the best-known investor in the world, Warren Buffett, has said, at Berkshire Hathaway’s 2004 annual meeting, “When stock can be bought below a business’s value, it is probably the best use of cash.”3 Buying back stocks is a simple move that can artificially inflate the value of shares without all those complicated expansion plans. However, critics decry the move as masking the true value of a publicly traded business. Stock buybacks were illegal before the Reagan administration. Legislators believed companies diverting money from employee compensation, research and development would create an income and wealth discrepancy leading to stagnation of the working-class economy.4 The reality is common stockholders don’t have much control over the value of shares. If the price is high, they may want to sell. However, if the company is engaged in a buyback, that could be a clue they expect share prices to go higher, so it may make sense to hang on to shares. It may be wise to consider why you’d want to sell anyway. Are the proceeds earmarked to pay for a particular financial goal, such as a wedding or college tuition? It’s important to keep your own financial objectives in mind, rather than selling based solely on a company’s dealings. If you find yourself in this situation, we’d be happy to review your portfolio and offer advice within the context of your goals, risk tolerance and investment timeline. According to Goldman Sachs, U.S. companies were on track to reach $1 trillion in buybacks in 2018 – a pace nearly double that of 2017.5 Federal Reserve data shows buybacks are now equivalent to 4 percent of annual economic output.6 Some of the lowest-paying industries have been the most prolific participants in stock buybacks. From 2015 to 2017, the restaurant industry spent 140 percent of its profits on buybacks (borrowing or dipping into cash allowances to purchase the shares), the retail industry spent nearly 80 percent of its profits on buybacks, and food-manufacturing firms nearly 60 percent.7 Despite concerns that buybacks would reduce long-term investment, some companies have been spending capital at the fastest pace in 25 years. Unfortunately, this is not universally true. Goldman Sachs reports 79 percent of growth in S&P 500 capital spending came from a mere 10 companies.8 Furthermore, S&P 500 firms account for less than 50 percent of business profits and less than 20 percent of employment in the United States. A silver lining of buybacks is what shareholders do with the proceeds after selling. A common route is investing in smaller public and private firms, which does more to support innovation and job growth throughout the economy.9 Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications. Larry Light. Forbes. Aug. 31, 2018. “Stock Buybacks Outstrip Capital Spending For 2018’s 1st Half: Is That Bad?”  https://www.forbes.com/sites/lawrencelight/2018/08/31/stock-buybacks-outstrip-capital-spending-for-2018s-1st-half-is-that-bad/#6a16ea066615. Accessed Dec. 9, 2018. 2 Ibid. 3 Eric Rosenbaum. CNBC. Sept. 1, 2018. “Warren Buffett explains the enduring power of stock buybacks for long-term investors.” https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/31/warren-buffett-explains-the-enduring-power-of-stock-buybacks.html. Accessed Dec. 9, 2018. Annie Lowrey. The Atlantic. July 31, 2018. “Are Stock Buybacks Starving the Economy?” https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/07/are-stock-buybacks-starving-the-economy/566387/. Accessed Dec. 9, 2018. 5 Eric Rosenbaum. CNBC. Sept. 1, 2018. “Warren Buffett explains the enduring power of stock buybacks for long-term investors.” https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/31/warren-buffett-explains-the-enduring-power-of-stock-buybacks.html. Accessed Dec. 9, 2018. Annie Lowrey. The Atlantic. July 31, 2018. “Are Stock Buybacks Starving the Economy?” https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/07/are-stock-buybacks-starving-the-economy/566387/. Accessed Dec. 9, 2018. Ibid. Matt Egan. CNN. Sept. 17, 2018. “Corporate America is spending more on buybacks than anything else.” https://money.cnn.com/2018/09/17/investing/stock-buybacks-tax-cuts/index.html. Accessed Dec. 9, 2018. Jesse M. Fried and Charles C.Y. Wang. Harvard Business Review. March-April 2018. “Are Buybacks Really Shortchanging Investment?” https://hbr.org/2018/03/are-buybacks-really-shortchanging-investment. Accessed Dec. 9, 2018. 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 or investment 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.

Consider Having a Backup Plan

When looking ahead in anticipation of Social Security benefits, many people expect to wait until an average age of 66 to make a claim.1 However, Nationwide Retirement Institute’s fifth annual Social Security survey found many retirees start drawing Social Security at the earliest possible age of 622 — frequently the result of being laid off or health issues. Thirty-six percent of respondents reported health problems got in the way of living the retirement they expected, and of those, 80 percent say health problems occurred as many as five or more years earlier than expected.3 This tells us something we already know but are constantly reminded of: Life does not always go as planned. Many financial professionals tell their clients one of the most effective ways to help ensure enough income throughout retirement is to continue working through their 60s. This may not be preferable, but it’s an option. Others may plan to work longer but end up retiring for reasons beyond their control. It’s good to have a contingency plan. As an independent financial services firm, we help people create retirement income strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. Give us a call if you’re interested in finding out more. It’s important to have a backup plan because there are many challenges for people working longer. For example, as jobs move further into technology, artificial intelligence and automation, new job skills are constantly required. It’s good to challenge the brain, but young college graduates typically have a firmer grasp on today and tomorrow’s technology — it’s a steep learning curve.4 A Washington Post article recently referred to the “gray ceiling.” As women have faced the “glass ceiling” as an obstacle to career advancement, age discrimination is sometimes manifested in the hiring, continued employment, development and advancement of older workers.5 Fortunately, recent workforce trends have made it easier for older workers to continue earning income past traditional retirement age. Many employers have embraced the work model of the “gig economy,” staffing up (and down) as needed with independent contractors. Older workers have proven to be well-suited for this type of employment due to their laser-like experience in certain roles, reliability and stability. A recent study suggests older white-collar professionals are driving the growing demand for gig workers among businesses in certain industries.6 While employers may embrace the gig economy to add and drop staff as needed, remember workers can do the same. Establishing yourself as a freelancer or independent contractor gives you the freedom to work as much or as little as needed.7 You can take off a month to go on vacation, or six months to fly south for the winter. You can also take on work only when you have big bills coming up, like homeowner’s insurance or property taxes. A 2017 survey found one-third of future retirees are planning part-time work to provide at least 25 percent of their household income. Besides income, many gig workers ages 51 to 70 say a primary reason for freelancing is simply to stay active in retirement.8 Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications. 1 Nationwide Retirement Institute. April 2018. “Social Security 5th Annual Consumer Survey.” https://nationwidefinancial.com/media/pdf/NFM-17422AO.pdf. Accessed May 10, 2018. 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid. 4 James Manyika, Susan Lund, Michael Chui, Jacques Bughin, Jonathan Woetzel, Parul Batra, Ryan Ko and Saurabh Sanghvi. McKinsey Global Institute. November 2017. “What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages.” https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-organizations-and-work/what-the-future-of-work-will-mean-for-jobs-skills-and-wages#part%205. Accessed May 1, 2018. 5 Susan Williams. Booming Encore. March 2018. “Older Workers Watch Your Head – Breaking Through the Gray Ceiling.” http://www.boomingencore.com/older-workers-watch-head-breaking-gray-ceiling/. Accessed May 1, 2018. 6 Valerie Bolden-Barrett. HR Dive. Oct. 3, 2017. “Older workers — not millennials — are driving the gig economy.” https://www.hrdive.com/news/older-workers-not-millennials-are-driving-the-gig-economy/506349/. Accessed May 1, 2018. 7 Elaine Pofeldt. Forbes. Aug. 30, 2017. “Why Older Workers Are Embracing the Gig Economy.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/elainepofeldt/2017/08/30/why-older-workers-are-embracing-the-gig-economy/#642f904a42ce. Accessed May 1, 2018. Ibid. 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.

The Psychology of Economics

Countries with a longstanding track record of economic stability and security tend to have the happiest citizens, reports journalist Dan Buettner, who has studied what makes people happy. Education and health care are two primary reasons why, combining to create an upwardly mobile lifecycle.1 Mothers with higher education levels tend to have fewer children, and those children tend to be healthier and more productive adults, Buettner says. In turn, they often become successful parents and make more well-informed voting decisions. This enables the next generation to make even higher social and economic gains.2 With this in mind, it’s worth considering how we can make education and health care more affordable within our own households. College tuition is expected to continue experiencing higher inflation levels than most other household expenses.3 Health insurance and medical inflation is expected to outpace overall economic inflation this year for the first time since 2010.4 If you’re looking for ways to help prepare for future health care and higher education costs for you and your loved ones, please set up a time to visit with us. Another interesting, emerging economic trend is that of human workers versus automation. While we can debate the merits of cost savings versus human judgment, there’s an underlying theory that technology is not necessarily the key to future economic growth. In fact, in a departure from encouraging more students to study the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math), there’s a new movement to better understand the drivers of human behavior and how we might interact with technology in the future.5 If you look at recent trends in consumer-driven technology, there is a discernible shift away from high-tech products and services. For example, independent bookstores and print books are experiencing a revival after years of competing with the rising popularity of online bookstores and eReaders.6 And, remarkably, instant-print cameras have become fashionable again and experienced a 30 percent growth in sales in 2017.7 Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications. 1 Knowledge@Wharton. March 2, 2018. “What Can We Learn from the World’s Happiest People?” http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/blue-zones-happiness/. Accessed May 18, 2018. 2 Ibid. 3 Venessa Wong. CNBC. March 17, 2017. “In 18 years, a college degree could cost about $500,000.” https://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/17/in-18-years-a-college-degree-could-cost-about-500000.html. Accessed June 7, 2018. 4 Fortune. Feb. 15, 2018. “Healthcare Prices to Outpace Inflation for the First Time Since 2010.” http://fortune.com/2018/02/15/healthcare-prices/. Accessed May 18, 2018. 5 Shon Burton. MarketWatch. May 31, 2018. “Opinion: Coding skills won’t save your job – but the humanities will.” https://www.marketwatch.com/story/coding-skills-wont-save-your-job-but-the-humanities-will-2018-05-17. Accessed May 18, 2018. 6 Alex Preston. The Guardian. May 14, 2018. “How real books have trumped ebooks.” https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/may/14/how-real-books-trumped-ebooks-publishing-revival. Accessed June 4, 2018. 7 Chaim Pikarski. Twice. Feb. 20, 2018. “What’s driving the instant photo revival?” https://www.twice.com/blog/whats-driving-instant-print-photo-revival. Accessed May 18, 2018. 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.