Objective information about retirement, financial planning and investments


Financial Planning Steps for the rest of 2015


Labor Day is here and the college football season started with our local Big 10 team Northwestern scoring an upset win over a ranked Stanford team. Next weekend is the first full weekend of NFL football with my Green Bay Packers visiting Soldier Field where they should continue their winning streak over the hapless Bears.

With a bit less than a third of 2015 left there are a number of financial planning steps you should be taking between now and the end of the year. Frankly I wrote a similar piece at this time last year Eight Financial To Do Items for the Rest of 2014 and I would encourage you to check this piece out as these eight items are just as applicable in 2015. The eight items (for those who prefer the Cliff Notes version) are:

While all eight of these items are critical financial planning steps to be tended to or at least reviewed this year or in any year, the environment in the financial markets has changed from this time a year ago.

August and so far early September has proven to be a rough patch for the stock market with much volatility and pronounced drops from highs reached earlier in 2015. The financial press is filled with stories about what to do and this has become a major event for the cable financial news stations.

In this context here are a few thoughts regarding some financial planning steps for the rest of 2015.

Get a financial plan in place or update your current one 

To me a comprehensive financial plan is the basis of an investment strategy and frankly all else in your financial life. If you have a plan in place, revisit it. If you don’t this is a great time to find a qualified fee-only financial planner and have one done.

Where are you in terms of financial goals like retirement and saving for your children’s college education? Do you have an estate plan in place?

With the markets taking a breather this is a good time to see where you are and what it will take to get you where you want to be financially. An investment strategy is an outgrowth of your financial plan and this plan is something to fall back on in times of market turmoil like the present.

Review your investments and your strategy 

How has the recent market decline impacted your asset allocation? Does your portfolio need to be rebalanced? Is your asset allocation consistent with your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon as outlined in your financial plan?

While I don’t advocate making wholesale changes to your portfolio based on some temporary stock market volatility it is always appropriate to do a periodic review of your overall portfolio, your asset allocation and the individual holdings in your accounts. These include mutual funds, ETFs, individual stocks and bonds and so forth.

The recent weakness in the markets may have created some opportunities for year-end tax loss harvesting in your taxable accounts. This refers to selling shares that show a loss to realize taxable losses. If you want to do this but also want to continue to own these or similar investments be sure to consult with a financial or tax advisor who understands the wash-sale rules.

More likely you have many investments that have appreciated nicely and these represent and excellent vehicle to make charitable contributions. Not only do you receive a tax deduction for the value of the gift, but you eliminate the tax liability for any capital gains on the holdings. 

Review your 401(k) 

The current situation in the stock market is a good time to check your account and rebalance your holdings if needed. Better yet if your plan offers it sign up for automatic rebalancing so you don’t have to worry about this.

Fall open enrollment is often the time when companies roll out any changes to the plan in terms of the investments offered, the company match or other aspects of the plan. Additionally most plans were required to issue annual disclosures by the end of August so be sure to review yours to see where the investments offered are compared to their benchmark indexes and how much they are costing you.

Lastly check to see how much you are contributing to your plan. If you are not tracking toward the maximum salary deferrals of $18,000 or $24,000 (for those who will be 50 or over at any point in 2015), try to increase your contributions for the rest of 2015.


Labor Day is here and summer is unofficially over. Use the remainder of 2015 to tackle these issues and to get your financial situation where it needs to be.

Please contact me with any thoughts or suggestions about anything you’ve read here at The Chicago Financial Planner.

Check out Carl Richards’ (The Behavior Gap) excellent book The One Page Financial Plan. Carl is a financial advisor and NY Times contributor. This is an easy read and offers some good ideas in approaching the financial planning process. 

Are You Ready For Retirement?


To my readers:

The infographic that was originally included in this post was taken down as was the link to the firm that supplied it due to a malware warning on their site.  Please check out the many other posts on this site in the retirement category and other categories that may interest you.  I apologize for any inconvenience but your online safety in viewing my site is of the utmost importance to me.

Original post without reference to the infographic

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and to your families.  We are thankful for having all five of us home together and the time we get to spend as family. For anyone with adult kids you know that doesn’t happen as often as we might like sometimes.

As I write this we are sitting out Black Friday as we always do and looking forward to a weekend filled with family, great leftovers, and football. Especially on Sunday when I am hoping for a Packer victory over the Partriots at Lambeau Field.

Retirement is a journey.  I can’t think of a better time to get started or to gauge your progress than now no matter what your age.  Why not take some time over the last month of year to ensure that you hit the ground running in 2015?

Lessons the Financial Services Industry Could Learn from Visiting Lambeau Field


My son and I attended the Green Bay Packers game against division rival the Detroit Lions this past Sunday at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field.  I’m glad his first NFL game was at Lambeau and that I was able to experience this with him.  If you are a football fan and have never been, a trip to Lambeau on game day is a must for your bucket list.  Here are some lessons that the financial services industry could learn from a trip to Lambeau Field.

The folks are friendly 

As you enter Green Bay you will be struck by the fact that the whole city is pretty much all about the game.  Many houses near the stadium turn their front lawns into parking lots, as did at least one gas station and local motel.  Some will let you tailgate right on their lawn and even use the restroom in their home.  We parked on the lawn of an elderly couple for $20.  The husband who was in a wheel chair directed us as to where to park even before taking our money.  In fact I had to find him to make sure that we paid him.  He didn’t seem the least bit worried about me stiffing him.

I can’t tell you how often a prospective client has told me that the reason they were leaving their financial advisor was that the advisor talked down to them.  I’ve never understood this and the only reasons that I can come up with here is either true hubris or that the advisor really doesn’t want the client to understand where they are putting their money.  In the latter case this could be because the investments are sub-par or there is some sort of fraud ocurring.

There are many good choices 

Wisconsin (I’m an ex-patriot Cheesehead) is all about good food and drink.  Like to tailgate, these folks are pros.  Want to buy your food, no problem.  Before you even get into the stadium there is a permanent bar in the parking lot, plus other choices like a McDonald’s food truck.  Once inside, the atrium is much like a shopping mall including a food court with a great selection of reasonably priced “game food.”

Sadly all too often employees have a menu of lousy 401(k) investment choices.  Clients of commissioned registered reps also are frequently offered financial advice that may be suitable for them but not totally focused on their best interests.  This may include being sold products such as high cost annuities.

The game day experience is fantastic

I’ve been a Packer fan since 1966 when they won the first Super Bowl.  A couple of weeks ago I was so fanatical during the debacle against the Bengals that my wife and dog left our family room.  I care who wins.

Being there with my son on Sunday transcended who won or lost.  The fact that we were able to get down to the bottom row of the stands and watch pre-game warm-ups was as much fun as the game.  Mike is a Communications major at Northern Illinois University where he also works for the Athletics department.  He was very interested in watching the media setting up for the game  as well as seeing the likes of Clay Matthews up close.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, stadium and outdoor

Sadly the financial services industry doesn’t always offer the investing public a great game-day experience when they are seeking financial advice.  A recent study by TIAA-CREF noted:

  • Forty-eight percent of Americans say it is hard to know which sources of financial advice can be trusted.
  • Thirty-seven percent of Americans say they don’t like talking to anyone about their finances.
  • Forty-six percent of Americans say that more than ever, they need a trusted place to go for financial advice.
  • Two-fifths of Americans think good financial advice costs more than they can afford.
  • One-third of Americans say they lack the time to get proper financial advice.
  • More than half (58 percent) of Americans say they would prefer to get financial advice from a single point of contact or location.

The financial services industry could learn a lot about service, the quality of the financial products and advice offered, and the need to serve clients for a reasonable fee by visiting Lambeau Field on game day.  It’s an experience like no other.

Please contact me with any thoughts or suggestions about anything you’ve read here at The Chicago Financial Planner. Don’t miss any future posts, please subscribe via email. Please check out the Hire Me tab to learn more about my freelance financial writing and financial consulting services.