Objective information about financial planning, investments, and retirement plans

What I’m Reading – Triple Crown Edition


The Belmont Stakes offers the chance for California Chrome to become horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner since 1978.  Win or lose he is destined for nice life after racing as he will surely command enormous stud fees that will enrich his owner’s.  We will certainly be watching and rooting for him.

Kentucky Derby 2014-0186

Here are some financial articles that I’ve read lately that you might find interesting and useful. 

Stan Haithcock offers some great insights for annuity holders in How to evaluate your annuity contract at Market Watch.

There is a new king in terms of 401(k) assets as reported in Vanguard Passes Fidelity to Become Number One in 401(k) Assets at Bloomberg.

Jim Blankenship shares Mechanics of 401(k) Plans – Loans  shedding light on this often misunderstood aspect of 401(k) plans at Getting Your Financial Ducks in a Row.

Scott Holsopple explains What to Do With ‘Orphaned’ 401(k)s at US News.

Russ Thornton discusses The Lifestyle Cost Of High Investment Expenses at Wealthcare for Women.

Michael Zhuang declares Variable Annuity: Bad Investment! at Investment Scientist.

Mike Piper of Oblivious Investor always does an excellent job of explaining complex topics in easy to understand terms, so consider checking out his latest book.

If you are new to The Chicago Financial Planner here are our three most popular posts over the past 30 days:

Financial Advisors to Follow on Social Media

Life Insurance as a Retirement Savings Vehicle – A Good Idea? 

Peyton Manning and Investment Success

I hope you enjoy some of these articles and hope you have a great weekend.

Please check out our Book Store for books on financial planning, retirement, and related topics as well as any Amazon shopping needs you may have (or just click on the link below).  The Chicago Financial Planner is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  If you click on my Amazon.com links and buy anything, even something other than the product advertised, I earn a small fee, yet you don’t pay any extra.


Please contact me at 847-506-9827 for a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss all of your investing and financial planning questions. Check out our Financial Planning and Investment Advice for Individuals page to learn more about our services.

Photo credit:  Flickr

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Friday Finance Links March 15, 2013 – St. Patrick’s Day Edition


It’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend and in Chicago that means that they dye the Chicago River green.  Back in my undergraduate days at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh St. Patrick’s Day was the biggest celebration of the year.  Not sure of the Irish population in that part of the state but Oshkosh had an incredible number of bars relative to the city’s population. Always fun, though I was never a fan of green beer.

Here are a few links to some great weekend financial reading. 

Personal Finance Blogs 

Robert shares 5 Things Your Millionaire Neighbor Isn’t Telling You at The College Investor.

Jon explains Stock Order Types Made Simple at Novel Investor.

Miranda tells us What Are Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) and How Do They Affect Your Retirement? at Free From Broke. 

Posts from Fellow NAPFA Members 

Donna Gordon lists Questions To Ask Before Paying Off A Mortgage at Figuide.com.

Alan Moore discusses Including Social Security As Part Of Your Retirement Plan at Figuide.com.     

Other financial articles from around the web

Russ Kinnell explains why 2012 was A Bad Year for Active and Passive? at morninstar.com.

Robert Powell writes Retirement savers should ladder bonds at marketwatch.com.

Richard Satran shares Sallie Krawcheck: Can Wall Street Manage Wealthy Women? at usnews.com.

In case you missed it here is my latest post for the US News Smarter Investor Blog 5 Investing Mistakes to Avoid.  

Thanks to Robert at the College Investor for including The Chicago Financial Planner as one of the The 19 Best Investment Blogs You Can Learn From.

Here’s wishing everyone a great weekend.

Photo credit:  Wikipedia

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Friday Finance Links – February 22, 2013


A few more inches of snow and some colder temperatures here in the Chicago area today.  Made it to the Chicago Auto Show last weekend, tomorrow my wife, daughter and I are heading to the Chicago Dog Show.  We own two, strictly looking.

Here are a few links to some great weekend financial reading.     

Personal Finance Blogs 

Kay shares Education tax credit form, already pushed into February, now causing filer confusion and more delays in processing at Don’t Mess With Taxes.

Miranda asks Is the YOLO (You Only Live Once) Mentality Dangerous for Your Finances? at Free From Broke.

Beverly links The Recent Die Hard Movie and Rental Car Insurance at Beverly Harzog.com. 

Posts from Fellow NAPFA Members 

Cathy Curtis asks Do You Need A Prenup? at Figuide.com.

Mathew J. Illian is upset about Bailing Out The Boneheads at Figuide.com.    

Other financial articles from around the web

Jen Wieczner shares Why your boss is dumping your wife at marketwatch.com.

Mark Miller tells us Why Boomer Retirement Balance Sheets Are a Mess at morningstar.com.

Laura Pereyra offers 5 Ways to Deal with Financial Aid Uncertainty as the Fiscal Cliff Talks Continue at usnews.com.

In case you missed it here is my latest post for the US News Smarter Investor Blog Financial Services Ads: Look Beyond the Hype. 

Here’s wishing everyone a great weekend.

Photo credit:  Flickr

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Friday Finance Links August 10, 2012

We continue to enjoy all the great Olympic action on TV this week.  Tomorrow we are heading down to one of ourfavorite Chicago neighborhood festivals, Retro on Roscoe.

Here are some articles and blog posts that I suggest for your weekend personal finance reading:

Personal Finance Blogs 

Peter at Bible Money Matters provides some excellent insights in Attributes of An Olympic Athlete That Can Help in Your Financial Life.

How Much Life Insurance Do I Need? – Typical Coverage Amounts offers a solid framework from which to start this critical calculation via Money Crashers.

Ornella Grosz offers 7 Key Ways to Parlay Your Money Toward Your Success on her Moneylicious Blog.

Jim Wang at Bargaineering discusses the rebate checks that some of us may be receiving under the Affordable Care Act in Health Care Insurance Rebate Checks: 80-20 Rule. 

Posts from Fellow NAPFA members 

Jim Blankenship shares his expertise on the timing of Social Security Benefits in Wealth Defense:  When Should You Start Social Security Benefits? 

Micah Porter discusses Healthcare Costs in Retirement: Medicare Part D.  The cost of healthcare during retirement will continue to be a major expense item via Forbes.com. 

Other articles from around the web

Amy Hoak reveals 7 ways to prevent theft on campus at Marketwatch.com, this really hits home for us as the parents of two college students.

JP discusses 5 Insurance Policies that Your Family Doesn’t Need on the US News My Money Blog.

Baby Boomer Poll by AARP Finds Half Don’t Expect to Retire was of particular interest to me both as a financial planner and as a Baby Boomer, via Huffington Post.

Christine Benz of Morningstar followed up her great Long-Term Care article from last week with 40 Must-Know Statistics About Long-Term Care.

In case you missed it here is a link to my latest post for the US News Smarter Investor Blog Should I Care If My Mutual Fund Owns Facebook? 

Thank You

To Josh Brown for featuring one of my posts in his The Good Leads post in the Wall Street Journal yesterday.  Josh also blogs at The Reformed Broker which is a must read financial blog.

Here’s wishing everyone a great weekend.


Photo credit: hops_76

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Friday Links for July 20, 2012


As you might recall a week ago at this time I was preparing to attend the Barry Manilow concert at the Chicago Theater.  Barry put on a great show.  I liken the experience to Woodstock for middle-aged suburban housewives.

It’s Friday again in Chicago, we’ve actually had some significant rainfall and a bit of a break in the extreme heat.   Here are some articles and blog posts that I suggest for your weekend personal finance reading:

Personal Finance Blogs

Zombie Attack!  Giving the Axe to Zombie Accounts, Subscriptions, and Services  is an excellent post that suggests we all go through and eliminate all of those unused or unneeded accounts, services, and subscriptions that we all have as a way to save money and unclutter our lives via Bible Money Matters

Check out Kay Bell’s post Want Your Portfolio to Perform Better?  Put a Democrat in the Oval Office  which offers an interesting look at how the stock market has fared under the watch of both parties at Don’t Mess With Taxes.

Posts from Fellow NAPFA members

The Difference Between IRA Contributions and Rollovers can be confusing.   My friend Jim Blankenship does an excellent job of explaining this important distinction.

In Selling a House – What I Learned Danielle Schultz provides an excellent account of the trials and tribulations of selling her father’s house along with some sound advice for anyone looking to sell their home.

Other articles from around the web

Robert Powell tells us why With rates low, it pays to delay Social Security at MarketWatch.com.

Emily Brandon shares 10 Things You Should Know About Your 401(k) Plan   at US News.com.

In case you missed it, here is a link to my latest How Not to Pick a Mutual Fund for the US News Smarter Investor Blog.

No big plans this weekend, our middle one will be home, she is sub-leasing over in Evanston for the summer.  We may catch a movie.  Enjoy your weekend whatever you have planned.




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Conference Season in Chicago – Fi360 Conference

Chicago Skyline 2008

Last week I wrote about the start of the financial conference season here in Chicago. This week I wanted to share my thoughts about one of those conferences, the Fi360 Conference.

Fi360 is based in Pittsburgh and offers the Accredited Investment Fiduciary and the Accredited Investment Fiduciary Analyst designations. The training behind both designations enhances the knowledge of advisors working with qualified retirement plans, high net worth individuals, as well as foundations and endowments.

In addition, Fi360 offers their Toolkit software which provides a concise, easy to understand, yet powerful means to screen and evaluate mutual funds, ETFs, and other investment vehicles. I have used the Toolkit for many years and consider it an essential part of the analysis that I do across my client base.

Naturally I was excited when I heard their annual conference would be coming to Chicago. The conference was held Thursday and Friday of last week.

There were many excellent sessions including:

Author Justin Fox discussed The Myth of The Rational Market. Fox provided an excellent historical perspective on rational markets and market thinking over the past century.

Dave Gray of Schwab discussed a Schwab survey highlighting the gaps in perception surrounding retirement plans between plan sponsors and plan participants. The gaps between the two stakeholder groups was in some cases mind boggling. This was a great session for anyone providing advice to a qualified retirement plan.

On Friday morning noted historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin discussed here best-selling book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Her insights were both humorous and at times  very telling in terms of the political divide we see today in Washington. In between the lines are many leadership lessons across business and finance.

There was an excellent session by a panel that included well-known ERISA attorney Jason Roberts that discussed some of the practical aspect of becoming a 3 (38) advisor to retirement plan sponsors. This is certainly one of the hot issues in the ever changing retirement plan advice landscape.

Fred Reish, a preeminent ERISA attorney, discussed the issue of benchmarking in light of the new 408(b)(2) disclosures required of 401(k) sponsors later this year. Fred did a great job of discussing things advisors should consider in this new environment.

Liza Horvath, a Trust Manager from California, provided some great insights into drafting and implementing investment policies for non-profit endowments.

Besides these and other great sessions, the folks who provide phone support to us Toolkit users were on hand to demonstrate tips for using the product and to answer several of my questions in person. It was great to meet these folks in person and place a face with a voice.

Mostly, though, it was great to attend a conference with some 650 other advisors and service providers who share my passion for what the term Fiduciary stands for. A lot of credit for the raised awareness of the role of the fiduciary must go to the folks at Fi360. From their training connected with the two designations mentioned above, to their publications, to their Toolkit software Fi360 provides advisors with the tools to serve our clients in a fiduciary manner. The conference was a great way to see all of this in one place.

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Conference Season in Chicago

Although this year is an exception, we generally have a short non –winter season here in Chicago.  For my money there is no better city for a conference when the weather is nice. 
Sponsors of financial conferences have certainly noticed this and “conference season” is in full swing through early fall.
Yesterday I attended a one-day session sponsored by Pension & Investments Magazine called the 401(k) Investment Line-up Summit.  There were some excellent sessions geared toward retirement plan sponsors and those of us who provide consulting advice to them.
Tomorrow and Friday I will be attending the Fi360 Conference downtown.  I’ve been a user of their Toolkit product for a number of years and have a great deal of respect for the organization.  I am looking forward to many of the sessions.  I will be posting about my experience at the conference here next week.
In May I will be attending the NAPFA (the largest professional organization of fee-only financial advisors in the country) conference here.  It’s always great to see many of my fellow advisors.  As good as the conference sessions might be I always learn more from ad hoc conversations with my fellow advisors.
Finally in June I will be attending the Morningstar Investment Conference.  This conference has really grown over the past decade and always provides insights into the investment process and into specific investment vehicles.
You might be saying to yourself, that’s quite a time commitment.  These conferences are great opportunities to learn from great speakers and to talk shop with other advisors.  My clients pay me for what I know it is my responsibility to stay current within my industry.
Thankfully I really enjoy learning about financial planning, investments, retirement plans, and related areas.  These conferences are hardly all fun and games.  The days are typically long and I generally commute back and forth from home to downtown each day for local events.  There are conference fees and the added cost of travel for out of town events.
Overall the benefits far outweigh the costs in terms of time and money.  Next time you talk with your financial advisor or if you are trying to select one ask them how they keep current and what types of conferences they attend.  There’s no right answer, but listen and judge their response for yourself.
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