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2nd Quarter Market Update

We hope this 2nd Quarter Market Update finds you well. As we reach the end of the second quarter of 2023, we want to provide you with an update on the markets and key developments that have occurred in the economy. Overall Economic Overview: The second quarter of 2023 has witnessed a mixed economic landscape … Read more

Insights on Recent Market Volatility

Steve Schmidt - Financial Advisor, Arden Hills MN

We know that no matter how calm you are, no matter how long term an investor you are, no matter what your horizons, when the market is jumping around, you feel uncertainty.

Ballast Advisors Wealth Advisor and Partner Steve Schmidt offers some helpful insights for you to better understand how recent events and market volatility may impact your investments. Schmidt is the Chair of the Investment Committee for Ballast Advisors Advice and Wealth Management services.

 

Hang On! Volatility is here for a while

Russia’s invasion into Ukraine has rattled global markets. The S&P 500 Index, which has been under pressure in recent weeks due to rising inflation concerns, reached correction territory last week. Down -11% for the year at one point, the index has recovered slightly as news emerged that Russia and Ukraine may hold talks in Belarus.

As the table below shows, during historically significant geopolitical events, stocks commonly falter for a short period of time before recovering to prior levels.

Trust in diversification

When markets decline, your portfolio results will often vary if you’ve invested money across different baskets of asset classes like stocks and bonds. Diversifying, or distributing your money across investments, is key to reducing investment risk and smoothing the ride through a tumultuous market. Diversifying helps ensure your investments (eggs) aren’t concentrated in one type of asset (basket). So, if one stock or industry has a bad day, your other investments may help offset those losses.
 

Focus on the long term

When the stock market declines, it can be difficult to watch your portfolio’s value go down and do nothing about it. It’s normal to feel pessimistic after reading or watching the latest news, but if you’re investing for the long term, doing nothing is often the best course of inaction. 
It’s important to remember that when you sell investments in a downturn, you lock in your losses.
Take the February 2020 COVID-related market crash. An investment of $10,000 in an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracked the S&P 500 would have lost more than 30% or $3,000 of its value during the spring 2020 crash. If you’d had sold, you would have locked in that $3,000 loss. Those that held through the downturn, would have recovered from the downturn by August, with additional growth by the end of 2020 and beyond.  
Focusing on the long-term is often best. If you have questions about your portfolio or the markets, don’t hesitate to call Ballast Advisors.  

Ballast Advisors is a fee-based financial planning firm.  Our financial advisors serving the Twin Cities and Southwestern Florida can help you reach your retirement and financial goals.  Our offices are located in Woodbury, MN, Arden Hills, MN and Punta Gorda, FL.

What to Do If (When) Your Taxes Start Going Up

        One variable that is hard to plan for in retirement is taxes. There are steps you can take despite the uncertain tax landscape. Not knowing what Congress will do should not stop you from planning. What to Do If (When) Your Taxes Start Going Up Not knowing what Congress will do … Read more

“Have you enjoyed your money?” And other financial planning questions you should ask yourself in 2021

By Paul Parnell

Photo of Paul Parnell

“Have you enjoyed your money?” This is a question I often ask my clients. Too often I see investors who work and save diligently for a lifetime and yet never actually enjoy the fruits of their labor.  

After a year of life in a pandemic, I’m seeing a shift, and more families are taking time to reevaluate their priorities in terms of how they truly want to spend their time and money. Here are some common questions and points of consideration to reflect on for your personal financial plan.

Have you reevaluated any major priorities?

For example, I have clients say they plan to travel more once things open again. Some desire to move closer to family, to downsize, to retire earlier. Sadly, there have been many stark reminders this year that life is short, and our health is never guaranteed.  I see families that are more reflective on leaving a legacy and making significant changes to their trusts to protect their assets.

Any effective financial plan must take these elements into consideration.

Did the pandemic impact your job or career?

Early retirement, a career change, or job loss means impact to employee benefits that are tied to your long-term goals.

Specifically, Cobra was extended again – for at least another 6 months beyond May. This offers the unemployed more time to find new work and maintain their healthcare benefits – an important component of your financial plan. Accordingly, if you’ve lost your job, you may need to evaluate whether or not you can benefit from rolling your 401K over to an individual retirement account.

Volatility in the markets over the last year impacted executive compensation plans. It’s important to reevaluate your stock options, RSUs, or any additional incentives for consequences.

I am also seeing that, for people who have retained their jobs, many have accumulated more cash reserves than normal. If your cash reserve is beyond the recommended 3-6 months of expenses, you should consider shifting some to longer term investments.

Has your risk tolerance changed?

Risk tolerance often changes when you go through major life events. I’ve heard clients say, “Life too short and I want to retire early,” and they are willing to buckle down and live on less in retirement.

Meet with your financial planner and evaluate your current risk tolerance. Is it enough to maintain a high probability of your assets lasting? Cash and more conservative investments like CD’s aren’t paying much of anything these days. With interest rates so low, and plans for new economic expansion, historically this is a time to be more aggressive. Ensure that your portfolio is balanced to meet your future goals.

How might taxes impact your financial plan?

There are likely some big tax law changes coming over the next couple years. This is the time to be looking at tax shelters and maximizing your retirement plans, if you can. At Ballast Advisors, we also have an affiliated CPA practice, so this is a comprehensive service we may offer our clients.  We work with our client’s other advisors—including accountants, attorneys, and bankers—to ensure the seamless execution of your plan.

Capital Gains tax are likely to increase to historical levels, and this is something to be planning for earlier than perhaps you had planned. It’s something to be watching very carefully.

Questions and Answers

Any successful investment strategy requires getting to know our clients- to understand their dreams, goals and create a complete picture of their financial situation. 

Anytime you have major life change or shift priorities – be they personal or financial –your financial plan needs to reflect those changes. It is equally important to update your estate plan. It’s important to consult with your financial professionals to ensure that you are on track to meet your goals, no matter what life brings.

Whatever your passion is – from travel to grandkids – make sure you build in a plan to enjoy your money.

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES The opinions expressed herein are those of Ballast Advisors, LLC and are subject to change without notice.  Past performance is not indicative of future results. Nothing contained herein is an offer to purchase or sell any product. This material is for informational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice. Ballast Advisors reserve the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs.

 The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable — we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. Ballast Advisors, LLC is a registered investment advisor under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about the firm, including its services, strategies, and fees can be found in our ADV Part 2, which is available without charge upon request.

Plan Your Finances as You Would Your Exercise

You exercise to benefit from your sweat equity in the future, right?

Waking up early in the dark mornings of winter to exercise comes hard. Once your workout ends, though, you often begin the day with the payoff of a tremendous energy boost. Can the same process apply to your finances?

If you’re like most people, you exercise for many reasons but expect to benefit from your sweat equity in the future, not just in the current moment. We will all encounter health issues at some time and the medical world assures us that we’ll deal better with problems if we get – and stay – physically fit. Preparation matters.

So, what does exercise have in common with financial planning and investing? The answer: Very few individuals prepare to invest, except maybe when selecting from choices in a retirement plan.

Or not: One study shows that in 2020 – in the teeth of the COVID-pandemic and perhaps the most volatile market year since maybe 2008 – most 401(k) retirement plan participants made no changes to their contributions.

planning your finances

Exercise Helps Limit Our Injuries

Getting back to the fitness analogy, exercise’s greatest benefits come from the stress we intentionally place on our muscles so that when a health problem arises, our bodies are in better condition to deal with the situation. Regarding investments, if you choose to go it alone, you need a methodical (and regularly visited) regimen for taking in and processing market data. You also need a strategy to accommodate unforeseen yet inevitable future events, such as market downturns.

Don’t let random financial news clips guide your decisions when determining how to act. For the record, you need not re-allocate asset classes or otherwise change your portfolio just because something in the market changed.

You do need to be prepared to consider adjustments when the information dictates that conditions shifted, such as stocks increasing to a higher portion of your portfolio than you want.

Your Planning Routine

We call this an investment policy statement or some prefer the term “investment playbook.” The playbook outlines your holdings and specifies how you intend to respond to change with a disciplined approach aimed at particular objectives – as opposed to the usually heated emotions most of us feel in a suddenly rough market.

How are your holdings doing against benchmarks such as the S&P 500 Index? At specifically what point will market shifts make you re-allocate percentages of stocks and bonds in your portfolio?

Your playbook also describes what you’re trying to achieve as an investor – pay for retirement or for college tuition, for example – and how you’ll react to market changes. You might plan to sell or buy only if the S&P 500 hits a certain number or invest in oil if the cost per barrel drops to a pre-set price. A well-designed playbook keeps you from panicky decisions or from freezing up during Wall Street roller coasters.

Your playbook needs to clearly document your investment information sources, the technology involved in your investing and why you bought a particular investment. Remember: Great stock or mutual fund opportunities may arise and shimmer, but if they don’t match your playbook, you pass.

At the gym, you can wander among the clanking weights or plan exactly how to invest your energy. You know which method works better.

Investing is no different

Copyright © 2021 FMeX. All rights reserved. Distributed by Financial Media Exchange. Originally posted March 2, 2021

This material is provided for general information and educational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Nothing contained herein constitutes as an offer or recommendation to buy or sell a particular security or investment product. Ballast Advisors, LLC is a registered investment advisor under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training.

A Retirement Income Roadmap for Women

It’s important for you to be involved in the retirement income planning process even if you’re married. While you may plan to be married forever, many women end up single at some point in their lives due to divorce or death of a spouse. All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there can be no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful.

More women are working and taking charge of their own retirement planning than ever before. What does retirement mean to you? Do you dream of traveling? Pursuing a hobby? Volunteering your time, or starting a new career or business? Simply enjoying more time with your grandchildren? Whatever your goal, you’ll need a retirement income plan that’s designed to support the retirement lifestyle that you envision, and minimize the risk that you’ll outlive your savings.

When will you retire?

Establishing a target age is important, because when you retire will significantly affect how much you need to save. For example, if you retire early at age 55 as opposed to waiting until age 67, you’ll shorten the time you have to accumulate funds by 12 years, and you’ll increase the number of years that you’ll be living off of your retirement savings. Also consider:

• The longer you delay retirement, the longer you can build up tax-deferred funds in your IRAs and employer-sponsored plans such as 401(k)s, or accrue benefits in a traditional pension plan if you’re lucky enough to be covered by one.

• Medicare generally doesn’t start until you’re 65. Does your employer provide post-retirement medical benefits? Are you eligible for the coverage if you retire early? Do you have health insurance coverage through your spouse’s employer? If not, you may have to look into COBRA or a private individual policy — which could be expensive.

• You can begin receiving your Social Security retirement benefit as early as age 62. However, your benefit may be 25% to 30% less than if you waited until full retirement age. Conversely, if you delay retirement past full retirement age, you may be able to increase your Social Security retirement benefit.

• If you work part-time during retirement, you’ll be earning money and relying less on your retirement savings, leaving more of your savings to potentially grow for the future (and you may also have access to affordable health care).

• If you’re married, and you and your spouse are both employed and nearing retirement age, think about staggering your retirements. If one spouse is earning significantly more than the other, then it usually makes sense for that spouse to continue to work in order to maximize current income and ease the financial transition into retirement.

How long will retirement last?

We all hope to live to an old age, but a longer life means that you’ll have even more years of retirement to fund. The problem is particularly acute for women, who generally live longer than men. To guard against the risk of outliving your savings, you’ll need to estimate your life expectancy. You can use government statistics, life insurance tables, or life expectancy calculators to get a reasonable estimate of how long you’ll live. Experts base these estimates on your age, gender, race, health, lifestyle, occupation, and family history. But remember, these are just estimates. There’s no way to predict how long you’ll actually live, but with life expectancies on the rise, it’s probably best to assume you’ll live longer than you expect.

Project your retirement expenses

Once you know when your retirement will likely start, how long it may last, and the type of retirement lifestyle you want, it’s time to estimate the amount of money you’ll need to make it all happen. One of the biggest retirement planning mistakes you can make is to underestimate the amount you’ll need to save by the time you retire. It’s often repeated that you’ll need 70% to 80% of your pre-retirement income after you retire. However, the problem with this approach is that it doesn’t account for your specific situation. Focus on your actual expenses today and think about whether they’ll stay the same, increase, decrease, or even disappear by the time you retire. While some expenses may disappear, like a mortgage or costs for commuting to and from work, other expenses, such as health care and insurance, may increase as you age. If travel or hobby activities are going to be part of your retirement, be sure to factor in these costs as well. And don’t forget to take into account the potential impact of inflation and taxes.

Identify your sources of income

Once you have an idea of your retirement income needs, your next step is to assess how prepared you (or you and your spouse) are to meet those needs. In other words, what sources of retirement income will be available to you? Your employer may offer a traditional pension that will pay you monthly benefits. In addition, you can likely count on Social Security to provide a portion of your retirement income. Other sources of retirement income may include a 401(k) or other retirement plan, IRAs, annuities, and other investments. The amount of income you receive from those sources will depend on the amount you invest, the rate of investment return, and other factors. Finally, if you plan to work during retirement, your earnings will be another source of income.

When you compare your projected expenses to your anticipated sources of retirement income, you may find that you won’t have enough income to meet your needs and goals. Closing this difference, or “gap,” is an important part of your retirement income plan. In general, if you face a shortfall, you’ll have five options: save more now, delay retirement or work during retirement, try to increase the earnings on your retirement assets, find new sources of retirement income, or plan to spend less during retirement.

A 65-year-old woman is expected to live another 20.8 years, compared with 19.6 years for a man. (Source: NCHS Data Brief, Number 395, December 2020) *Generally, annuity contracts have fees and expenses, limitations, exclusions, holding periods, termination provisions, and terms for keeping the annuity in force. Most annuities have surrender charges that are assessed if the contract owner surrenders the annuity

Transitioning into retirement

Even after that special day comes, you’ll still have work to do. You’ll need to carefully manage your assets so that your retirement savings will last as long as you need them to.

• Review your portfolio regularly. Traditional wisdom holds that retirees should value the safety of their principal above all else. For this reason, some people shift their investment portfolio to fixed income investments, such as bonds and money market accounts, as they enter retirement. The problem with this approach is that you’ll effectively lose purchasing power if the return on your investments doesn’t keep up with inflation. While it generally makes sense for your portfolio to become progressively more conservative as you grow older, it may be wise to consider maintaining at least a portion in growth investments.

• Spend wisely. You want to be careful not to spend too much too soon. This can be a great temptation, particularly early in retirement. A good guideline is to make sure your annual withdrawal rate isn’t greater than 4% to 6% of your portfolio. (The appropriate percentage for you will depend on a number of factors, including the length of your payout period and your portfolio’s asset allocation.) Remember that if you whittle away your principal too quickly, you may not be able to earn enough on the remaining principal to carry you through the later years.

Understand your retirement plan distribution options. Most pension plans pay benefits in the form of an annuity. If you’re married, you generally must choose between a higher retirement benefit that ends when your spouse dies, or a smaller benefit that continues in whole or in part to the surviving spouse. A financial professional can help you with this difficult, but important, decision.

• Consider which assets to use first. For many retirees, the answer is simple in theory: withdraw money from taxable accounts first, then tax-deferred accounts, and lastly, tax-free accounts. By using your tax-favored accounts last and avoiding taxes as long as possible, you’ll keep more of your retirement dollars working for you. However, this approach isn’t right for everyone. And don’t forget to plan for required distributions. You must generally begin taking minimum distributions from employer retirement plans and traditional IRAs when you reach age 72, whether you need them or not. Plan to spend these dollars first in retirement.

Consider purchasing an immediate annuity. Annuities are able to offer something unique — a guaranteed income stream for the rest of your life or for the combined lives of you and your spouse (although that guarantee is subject to the claims-paying ability and financial strength of the issuer). The obvious advantage in the context of retirement income planning is that you can use an annuity to lock in a predictable annual income stream, not subject to investment risk, that you can’t outlive.*

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to retirement income planning. A financial professional can review your circumstances, help you sort through your options, and help develop a plan that’s right for you.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2021

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES The opinions expressed herein are those of Ballast Advisors, LLC and are subject to change without notice. The third-party material presented is derived from sources Ballast Advisors consider to be reliable, but the accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Nothing contained herein is an offer to purchase or sell any product. This material is for informational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice. Ballast Advisors reserve the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs. Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, legal, or retirement advice or recommendations. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable — we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. Ballast Advisors, LLC is a registered investment advisor under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about the firm, including its services, strategies, and fees can be found in our ADV Part 2, which is available without charge upon request.

5 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Personal Finances

Just like caring for and cleaning your house, regular maintenance on your personal finances will save you loads of time and effort and possible potential issues in the long run. Now that the height of tax season is over, it is a great time to do a little Spring cleaning in a few important areas of your financial life.

Here are 5 tips from financial planning expert Paul Parnell, that everyone should consider this season.

Man Shredding Documents

Tip #1 – Shred Your Old Documents

“It’s important to take the time to shred any tax documents older than seven years, as well as take the time to purge unneeded digital documents,” says financial advisor Paul Parnell, managing partner at Ballast Advisors.

The IRS recommends keeping copies of tax returns and supporting documents for at least three years, and employment tax records documents for the last four years.

“If you are unsure about shredding a document, you can always scan and store a digital copy that can be stored securely,” adds Parnell.

Not only is this good financial practice, but it will keep your office tidy as well.

Tip #2 – Review Your Social Security Withholdings

“Post tax season is a good reminder to verify your wages reported to Social Security on the federal website for Social Security to ensure there aren’t any errors,” recommends Parnell. “This is the key to calculating your future social security benefits.”

If you’ve never logged in, go to the following website: ssa.gov/myaccount/. Here you can register your account, and receive personalized estimates of future benefits based on your real earnings, see your latest statement and review your earnings history.

“I’ve seen it wrong several times throughout my career,” says Parnell. “For example, it’s possible if a client had an amended tax return, the withholding has not been updated.”

Tip #3 – Check Your Credit Report

Hopefully this is a practice you are doing with some regularity. The risks of consumer identity theft require you to be proactive about your credit profile and review your report for any red flags or inaccuracies.

“Go to annualcreditreport.com and you can see a free report from all three credit bureaus,” says Parnell.

If you do see any red flags, it’s important to follow up. This site on the  Fight Identity Theft Project has some good resources.

See Related Post: How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft. 

Tip #4 – Compare Insurance Rates

When was the last time you evaluated your insurance rates?

“If you don’t have an independence insurance agent who does this for you, it’s important to do some comparison for your home and auto insurance premiums every year,” says Parnell. “I see it all the time. People who have been loyal to one provider for a long time and have had their rates gradually increased year over year. Ultimately they end up way overpaying.”

In addition to checking rates on things like home and auto, you should also take inventory of any other protection planning you may need.

“It’s important every 24 months or so to review aspects of your financial plan that involve protection planning, such as premature death, long term care and disability,” says Parnell. “It’s important that the plan you put together is kept up to date and accurate.”

Tip #5 – Dust off that Retirement Plan

Along the same line, take some time this spring to reconsider your retirement plan.

Have your goals changed?

Has your family experienced significant life events, such as birth, death, marriage or divorce, or a job change that could impact your plan?

“It might be time to consider consolidation of retirement accounts,” Parnell suggests. “If you have any old 401Ks and or IRAs in multiple places, consolidation can make your portfolio more manageable and likely reduce fees.”

Paul also suggests evaluating your retirement goals vs. your risk tolerance as needed.

“Re-balancing the portfolio from time to time is really a necessity,” he adds.

These helpful tips will help you ensure that your records are maintained, accurate, safe, and that your comprehensive financial plan is up to date.

Not only are these will these tips help you save money, but the peace of mind having confidence in your financial picture is priceless.


If you’re interested in receiving additional financial advice, contact Ballast Advisors for a complimentary consultation at a location near you:

Ballast Advisors – Woodbury

683 Bielenberg Dr., Suite 208
Woodbury, MN  55125-1705
Tel: 651.478.4644

Ballast Advisors – Arden Hills

3820 Cleveland Ave. N, Ste. 500
Arden Hills, MN  55112-3298
Tel: 651.200.3100

Ballast Advisors – Punta Gorda 

223 Taylor St., Suite 1214
Punta Gorda, FL  33950-3901
Tel: 941.621.4015

How Much Do I Need to Save for College?

The U.S. Department of Education has named February Financial Aid Awareness Month. For many families, saving for college is a primary financial goal. 

This calculator projects the future cost of college and illustrates how your savings, if any, match up for each year of college. If there is a funding shortfall, the calculator shows that amount each year, and calculates both the monthly savings amount and the lump-sum amount needed to eliminate the shortfall. 

 This tool can help you take a step toward understanding your goals as you consider the best investment plan for your child’s future. Including financial aid, there are many options in saving for college. College savings plans, like 529 plans are popular. 

If you’re interested in receiving additional financial advice on saving for college or an analysis of your financial goals, contact Ballast Advisors for a complimentary consultation at a location near you:

Ballast Advisors – Woodbury Area
683 Bielenberg Dr., Suite 208
Woodbury, MN  55125-1705
Tel: 651.478.4644
Ballast Advisors – Arden Hills Area
3820 Cleveland Ave. N, Ste. 500
Arden Hills, MN  55112-3298
Tel: 651.200.3100
Ballast Advisors – Punta Gorda & Port Charlotte County Area
6210 Scott St., Suite 117
Punta Gorda, FL  33950-3901
Tel: 941.621.4015 

Why Do I Need a Financial Planner?

Why do I need a Financial Planner? Financial planning is about more than just managing money. It’s about setting goals for your future and taking steps to achieve those goals. A trusted advisor can help set you on the right path and ensure you stay the course.

 

We know your life is about more than the size of your bank account. It’s about the journey. If you’re interested in receiving additional financial advice, contact Ballast Advisors for a complimentary consultation at a location near you:

Ballast Advisors – Woodbury Area
683 Bielenberg Dr., Suite 208
Woodbury, MN  55125-1705
Tel: 651.478.4644
Ballast Advisors – Arden Hills Area
3820 Cleveland Ave. N, Ste. 500
Arden Hills, MN  55112-3298
Tel: 651.200.3100
Ballast Advisors – Punta Gorda & Port Charlotte County Area
6210 Scott St., Suite 117
Punta Gorda, FL  33950-3901
Tel: 941.621.4015