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9 Tips on Purchasing and Financing Your New Home

By Kerry Jackson, Lead Advisor, Fish and Associates
One of the most common goals we are approached with by our millennial clients is buying their first home. The decisions surrounding this milestone purchase can be extensive and overwhelming. Below are 9 quick tips on buying your first house that you should know and be thinking about in advance.

  1. Do you have a down payment? Putting at least 20% down is ideal. It avoids the need to purchase mortgage insurance and communicates to the seller that your finances are strong. If you don’t have 20%, there are programs for first-time buyers that allow you to put down as little as 3-5%, but expect to pay mortgage insurance. If savings is an issue, start today! Bonuses, tax refunds, and automatic drafts can be socked away. And family gifts can go toward your down payment.
  2. Time to budget. If you are a first-time buyer, how much can you reasonably afford each month for your house payment? Many first-time buyers forget to factor in property insurance, homeowners insurance, and private mortgage insurance, if required. If you are living with Mom and Dad, keep in mind the added cost for utilities. Further, you may be paying fees for a homeowners association, so please keep the added costs in mind.
  3. Secure the services of an experienced real estate agent. A good agent is worth his or her weight in gold. Typically, the seller pays the commission, so it behooves you to enlist the help of an experienced professional. An experienced agent knows the ins and outs of the market, how to best handle the many details you are sure to encounter, and how to negotiate with the seller.
  4. Pre-qualified vs. pre-approved. At a minimum, get pre-qualified. It only takes a moment and it tells the seller your credit is solid and your income is adequate to handle the mortgage payments. In some areas, today’s market is extremely hot, and multiple offers aren’t uncommon. If this is the case, your agent may recommend you get pre-approved with a lender before submitting an offer. The process is much more detailed, and will require tax returns, W-2s, recent bank statements, paystubs, and more. But once you are pre-approved, it enhances your position with the seller, as it communicates that you are financially solid, almost eliminating the odds your financials will sink the deal.
  5. Location, location, location. What part of town do you want to live in? Whether you have kids or not, the school district is important and can bolster values down the road, since families buy in desirable school districts. What about your daily commute? Can you handle 45 minutes or an hour in traffic each day? What are the amenities you require in terms of parks, recreation, restaurants, shopping and so on? Much goes into targeting an ideal neighborhood.
  6. Don’t sweat the small stuff. You love the neighborhood, the floorplan looks great, the schools are top-notch, but you don’t like xyz. Remember, paint can be changed, lights can be replaced, and the powder room vanity can be updated. Besides, the personal touches you add will make the home feel like it’s yours.
  7. The myth of the dream house. Be prepared to make compromises. One home will have just the right layout but the kitchen will be too dark. Another will back on to a park or have a beautiful view of the city, but the yard won’t be big enough. What do you want in a home? What’s most important? What projects can you undertake? Prioritize!
  8. Credit reports. This is important, so listen up. You’ve signed a contract but haven’t closed on the house. Don’t quit your job! And stay away from purchases that require new debt, like an auto loan! In either case, you may completely ruin your debt-to-income ratio, and your loan will fall through. Roughly translated: You won’t get the house.
  9. Get a thorough home inspection. In very hot markets, some buyers are willing to waive a home inspection to entice a seller who has received multiple offers. While inspections have limitations, you are rolling the dice if you forgo a comprehensive review. Attend the inspection and ask questions. One more thing: minor cosmetic issues that could surface may or may not be worth bringing to the seller’s attention in a very tight market. Do you really want to lose a house over a small issue? Again, an experienced agent can guide you.

When you are ready to pull the trigger and start planning for your first house, give us a call and we will show you how a partnership with our firm can provide you confidence as you move through this process.

Spend Less, Save More, and Don’t Do Anything Stupid

No matter what generation you are a member of – Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennial, or Gen Z – I have some free, basic financial advice that will serve you well.

“Spend less, save more, and don’t do anything stupid.” The late Dick Wagner coined that phrase, and I use it regularly as my “free advice” when people ask me about where to invest, “what’s hot now,” etc. Implementing that advice is much more difficult. Here are a few ideas on how to build wealth or use your money to get ROL, Return on Life, your life, rather than the often talked about ROI, or return on investment.

No one saves and invests solely to watch their money grow. There is always a “why” behind the effort. The question I like to ask clients and prospective clients is “are you using your money in a way that is improving your life?” A simple question, with a much deeper meaning.

As an example, is your home a place of comfort and security, or are the payments, maintenance, etc. an emotional and physical drain? (Return on Residence)

Do you love the work you do that pays for your lifestyle or is your job causing you stress and time away from your family that makes you feel resentful? (Return on Work)

Are you able to maintain your health and take time for the activities that you love? How can you use your money to improve the health aspects of your life? Let’s face it, having large sums of money invested at the expense of your health is not a trade off most people consciously choose. (Return on Heath)

These are just 3 of the 10 facets we look at as part of our “Return on Life” assessment.

So let’s shift the conversation from ROI to concentrating on how you can achieve the best life possible for YOU, with the resources you have. If you need a partner to help sort through this, contact Fish and Associates for a consultation.

Are You Getting the Best Return on Life You Possibly Can?

 

When it comes to investing, the current standard of return on investment (ROI) can be self-limiting, adding pressure that is counterproductive. So much of ROI is not within our control. We can diversify investments––always a good strategy––but we cannot control how the markets perform or how global events affect the markets. Just as meteorologists can predict the weather but still be wrong, we can try to predict and plan for market upheavals, but we cannot control them.

It’s important to balance return on investments with return on life (ROL). ROL is defined as, ‘How well you are doing in living the life you want, with the money you have.”

Here are some key ROL indicators:

  • Living well within your means
  • Investing time, energy, and resources in people and engagements that energize you
  • Allowing yourself to have experiences and fulfillment whenever possible
  • Not comparing yourself to others who may live with a different set of circumstances
  • Living purposefully
  • Not allowing your identity to be defined by numbers

Since money is a vessel that can help you navigate where you want to go in life, it is important to control your money, instead of letting your money control you. When you focus on ROL, your investments serve you, not vice versa. Too many people feel as if life is little more than “getting ahead” of someone else’s definition of what a successful life ought to be.

The best financial conversation you will ever have is to ask yourself, “Who and what really makes me happy in life?” and then arrange your finances to keep those people and experiences front and center in your life.

Too often, when it comes to our financial lives, we don’t look at the big picture. Instead, we move pieces around by replacing investments, insurance policies, debts, purchases, and the like––all the while paying too little attention to long-term and holistic perspectives.

You may have been told that every money issue should and can be solved through a formula: “Let’s take your age, the amount of money in your portfolio, run some calculations, and presto! Here’s the answer for your life.” With this approach––and if that number is out of your reach––your future can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

How can you balance the books between quantitative and qualitative factors in developing a financial plan? By focusing on ROL––and ensuring you pay as much attention to your non-financial goals as your financial ones.

These calculations are important and necessary, but work only if you understand the qualitative goals your investments are meant to fund. In the traditional financial planning model, the primary components include asset management, risk management, debt management, tax planning, estate planning, and income planning. While each area is essential to your financial well-being, there is an underlying assumption inherent in the solely quantitative approach used to perform these functions: everyone is essentially the same, and the only thing that really needs to change from one person to the next is which numbers get plugged into the formula. This is probably not an assumption you would want someone to make about you.

Your values and principles with money are not the same as everyone else’s, nor should they be. The most important aspect to be derived from the numbers is to achieve the quality of life you desire. The numbers do not exist to drive life but to support it.

Because many people view retirement as purely an economic cliff from which they will jump once they’re in their 60s, they have done little––if any––work on all the life issues accompanying such a transition.

It is important that your life before and during retirement is both challenging and enjoyable. At some point, almost all of us will require help––meaning we’ll have to make contingency plans. These contingencies include long-term-care insurance, in-home care, and the like. These investments are a natural part of ROL planning because they help you continue to live a full and balanced life as long as possible.

When you achieve balance––and as a result, true financial freedom––you will still be confronted with issues that organically arise with retirement. These manifold issues include the following:

  • How you best spend your time and energy
  • How you address your personal health and well-being
  • How you continue to challenge yourself
  • The role you play in your parents’ and/or children’s futures
  • The kind of legacy you want to leave
  • Your definition of success

It is important to understand the impact of money on every area of your life. By engaging in a financial planning process focusing on what’s happening in your life––adjusted financially to facilitate those happenings––you will reach the ultimate goal of using your money to create a better life.

What you need to know about Estate Planning

 

                                     What you need to know about Estate Planning

 

It is a misconception that estate planning is only for those who have very large estates and extensive assets. The truth is, estate planning is something that everyone should do to protect themselves and their families in order to prepare for the future.

Proper estate planning consists of managing your assets while you are alive in a manner that can help to not only potentially reduce taxes, but also allow a friend or loved one to make financial and healthcare decisions if you are incapacitated. In addition to addressing financial issues while you are living, an estate plan allows for the passing of your assets when you die, to who you want to receive them.

Avoiding Probate And Excessive Taxation:

The main reasons for estate planning are to distribute your assets according to your will or trust, establish beneficiaries, set up specific bequests, give to charities that you want to support and avoid excessive taxation. By creating specific legal documents, such as a Last Will or a Living Trust, an individual or couple can guide how their assets are distributed after they die and/or manage them more easily while they are alive.

Probate costs can be expensive, and the time it takes to process a probate case through the court system can take a year or more, depending on the complexity, and at a minimum 6-9 months. Probating an estate places a burden on your executor (or executrix) and may involve a significant amount of time, travel and money. An estate plan utilizing a living trust can potentially avoid probate altogether, if privacy is a concern to you.

Work With A Professional:

Every year federal and state laws change regarding estate planning. It is very important that you seek professional help when planning your estate to ensure that you are in compliance with the laws, and taking advantage of what you are entitled to by law. Simple mistakes could cost you and your family large amounts of money.

If you are ready to plan your estate, we encourage you to speak with one of the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS™ at Fish and Associates. Our experienced and knowledgeable staff can help you navigate and plan so you make the right decisions to help protect your family now and in the future. Once a plan is created, we can refer you to an estate planning attorney who can draft the proper documents for your family’s situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 
The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by Kestra Investment Services, LLC or Kestra Advisory Services, LLC. This is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual. It is suggested that you consult your financial professional, attorney, or tax advisor with regard to your individual situation. Comments that may include past performance are not intended to be forward looking and should not be viewed as an indication of future results. Trusts should be drafted by an attorney familiar with such matters in order to take into account income, gift and estate tax laws (including generation skipping transfer tax). Failure to do so could result in adverse tax treatment of trust proceeds.

Top 5 Financial Planning Resolutions for 2017

                                  Top 5 Financial Planning Resolutions for 2017

 

 

We are already one month into 2017, but I thought I would share 5 important items to help you create and secure a better financial future this year.

Diversify – The US stock market has outperformed international , emerging markets, and global real estate for the ten years ending 12/31/2016 : 7.1% vs. 2.4%, 1.1%, and 1.5%. This is not unprecedented. Even though the US market has outperformed for the past10 years ending 12-31-16, it is a mistake for an investor to expect this pattern to go on forever. One only needs to look back at the 1990s to see similar performance. The decade of 2000 to 2010 is often called the “lost decade” due to low performance of the US market, and the Great Recession. We believe investors are best served by staying diversified.

(Source: Russell Investments; US Equity Large Cap Russell 1000 Index. Russell Developed Large Cap Index, Russell Emerging Markets Index, Global Real Estate – FTSE EPRA/NAREIT Developed Index.)

Create a Spending Plan – Knowing where your money goes each month and monitoring spending can be an eye opening experience. Differentiate between your basic needs, the absolute minimum you need to get by, and evaluating your “want to have” expenditures. You may find some space and money to start saving for the important things in life you want to accomplish. Need help creating a budget? Look at youneedabudget.com.

Get a Second Opinion – If you are not sure what underlying expenses you are paying for on the investments that you own, or if you are not sure if your allocation on your 401k and personal investments are in line with your values and your long-term goals, getting a second opinion can be very beneficial. When was the last time you met with your financial advisor to review these items? If your answer is “I don’t remember,” the time is right to seek another opinion.

Protect What You Have – Do you know for sure that your spouse, partner, child, or parents would not suffer financially if you suddenly died? If you don’t know, or your reaction was “I think they would be okay,” now is the perfect time to get this part of your financial life in order.

Power of Attorney – Everyone should have a legal document called a power of attorney. This document gives another person the ability to act on your behalf, should you become incapacitated. A power of attorney gives another person the authority to access your accounts, pay your bills, sign documents, etc. on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

Everyone over the age of 18 should have this document in place. Wills, trusts, healthcare powers of attorney, and living wills are also important. These documents comprise what we call an “estate plan.” The healthcare and durable powers of attorney are important documents while you are alive. The will instructs how to distribute your estate at your death.

If you have about questions about any of these items, give us a call at 901-767-0668.

 

 

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by Kestra Investment Services, LLC or Kestra Advisory Services, LLC. This is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual. It is suggested that you consult your financial professional, attorney, or tax advisor with regard to your individual situation. Comments that may include past performance are not intended to be forward looking and should not be viewed as an indication of future results. Trusts should be drafted by an attorney familiar with such matters in order to take into account income, gift and estate tax laws (including generation skipping transfer tax). Failure to do so could result in adverse tax treatment of trust proceeds. Using diversification as part of your investment strategy neither assures nor guarantees better performance and cannot protect against loss of principal due to changing market conditions. All investments involve varying levels and types of risks. These risks can be associated with the specific investment, or with the marketplace as a whole. Loss of principal is possible.

 

This Time is Different – or Not?

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“Far more money has been lost by investors preparing for corrections, or trying to anticipate corrections, than has been lost in corrections themselves.”

– Peter Lynch

As stock market volatility increases, investor emotions can start to get in the way of logic and they may feel the need to ” do something” to protect their investments. As Peter Lynch, the iconic money manager of the Fidelity Magellan fund, states in the quote above, far more money is lost in response to anticipated corrections than in corrections themselves for a couple of reasons. The first is that you have to be right twice – once when you try to predict the bottom or the peak and then again when deciding the best time to go back in to the market. While an investor is sitting on the sidelines, he or she loses the opportunity to participate in the recovery because of their fear related to going back into the market after suffering a loss. Remember that losses are inevitable if you are going to be an investor. The market does NOT always go up; “this time ” is not different.

So what can you, the investor, do?
You may not be able to completely avoid losses; but, you can minimize your losses by determining how much downside risk you want to take on and then allocating your assets accordingly between stocks, bonds, real estate, cash etc. There is, however, a caveat. If you choose a lower risk portfolio, you are not going to have the same upside potential that being fully invested in the stock market provides. Investors have short memories when it comes to risk. They want all of the upside potential with maximum downside protection. Those concepts are correlated with what is known as the ” risk/reward” trade off. In order to control losses on the downside you have to reduce your exposure to stocks, and thus your upside potential as well. In other words, you can’t have it both ways.

Other strategies that many people don’t practice or don’t understand are dollar cost averaging and rebalancing. Dollar cost averaging involves investing a set amount of money each month no matter what the market is doing. If the market prices go up, you buy less shares; accordingly, if market prices go down you buy more shares. This practice requires disciplined, consistent investing despite what is going on in the market or economy. This takes self control and keeping your eye focused steadily on your goals rather than listening to the talking heads shouting doom and gloom.

Rebalancing is an investment practice that helps to keep your risk tolerance aligned with your goals over time. It involves periodically moving money from one piece of your portfolio to another, based on performance, in order to keep the overall allocation in line with your appetite for risk and long term objectives. For example, let’s say you have 40% in US stocks and 20% in international. The US portion goes up to 45% based on that class performing well and your international funds drop to 15% based on less competitive performance.  To rebalance, you would sell off 5% of the US portfolio and buy 5% in the international portfolio, at lower prices, to realign the total accounts back to their original 40/20 allocation. Sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but this demonstrates the “buy low, sell high” concept that can be so crucial to your long term account performance. Asset classes will continue to go up and down over time so rather than trying to guess the peak and trough of each asset class, this allows you to own them all and rebalance to maintain alignment between your portfolio and your goals when necessary. This can be done annually or quarterly but that decision should be determined by you and your advisor based on your tax situation.

The main takeaway here is find an allocations that match your sleep at night factor and are in line with achieving your most important life goals and then to stick with your plan!!

Please contact me with any questions!!

Kathy Fish, CFP®, CLU, ChFC

901-767-0668/kathy@nullfishandassociates.com

 

 

 
The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by Kestra Investment Services, LLC or Kestra Advisory Services, LLC. This is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual. It is suggested that you consult your financial professional, attorney, or tax advisor with regard to your individual situation. Comments concerning the past performance are not intended to be forward looking and should not be viewed as an indication of future results.

Rebalancing assets can have tax consequences. If you sell assets in a taxable account you may have to pay tax on any gain resulting from the sale. Please consult your tax advisor.

Using asset allocation as part of your investment strategy neither assures nor guarantees better performance and cannot protect against loss of principal due to changing market conditions.

All investments involve varying levels and types of risks. These risks can be associated with the specific investment, or with the marketplace as a whole. Loss of principal is possible.

 

 

Alphabet Soup, What the Heck is a CCRC?

The type of residence to live in during retirement is one of the major decisions one will have to make in the later years of life. There are many choices to consider – do you stay in the family home, downsize and purchase a condo, move closer to family, move to a warmer climate, or consider a “CCRC,” also known as a continuing care retirement community.
homeBecause real estate for many people is one of their largest assets, and not income producing, the decision on where to live in your retirement is a major financial consideration. I’ll go into some detail on why one might choose a CCRC and next week I’ll address the financial considerations.
CommunityYou may need to make this decision for yourself or, perhaps, help advise a parent on this important issue. There are two main reasons a person or couple will choose a CCRC. The first is social – neighborhoods change over time, and as new people move in, or neighbors die, the social aspect, or lack of social interaction in one’s life can make a person feel lonely or isolated. Second, perhaps due to a medical condition, you are unable to drive or be as mobile as before. Maintaining a home can be expensive, time consuming, and physically difficult. A CCRC lightens that burden. The community keeps people engaged, and there are numerous amenities that can make life more enjoyable.
poolHowever, for all the positive aspects, these facilities are expensive, and you have to qualify from a health standpoint before you will be considered. So if this type of lifestyle is appealing to you, your current health (and your spouse’s, if married) must be taken into consideration. You cannot make the decision to do this when a crisis occurs – then it’s too late.

It is good to familiarize yourself with the options available in your city: compare facilities by visiting, talking to residents, analyzing the differences between contracts to help you choose the best place for you.
cardsMany residents we have talked to say their quality of life has been enhanced by their move to a CCRC. There is a support system in place in a CCRC that is hard to duplicate by staying in your home. For example, if you don’t drive, you don’t have to arrange for someone to take you to the doctor, to the store, or to go to a movie. Most CCRCs have transportation services available on site. If you are married and your spouse requires assisted living or nursing home care, they may just be on another floor rather than another part of the city.
CostBut all of this comes with a price tag and a contract that is expensive and difficult to get out of, so doing your research on the front end is extremely important. I’ll delve into that in my next blog post.

To be continued…

May Edition: Advisor Views

Advisor Views May 2016 05-26-16_Page_1 Advisor Views May 2016 05-26-16_Page_2

“The Secret of Getting Ahead is Getting Started” Agatha Christie

“The Secret of Getting Ahead is Getting Started”
Agatha Christie, Mystery Writer

The hardest part of financial planning is getting started. As a planner for 25 years, I have heard almost every excuse under the sun. Following is a sample of a few examples. Have you ever made any of these statements?bar-scene20’s – I’m too young to have to worry about it. I’m just getting started. I need to buy a TV, stereo, car, etc. and other “stuff.” There’s plenty of time. I can make it up later. I’ll just save more once I start earning more.family30’s – I’m starting a family. The kid’s school is expensive. We have a house to pay for. When the kids get older it will cost less. (Seasoned parents out there know that’s not true).adventure40’s – We want to have fun. There is plenty of time to save. Our kids will go to college on a scholarship. We deserve to live it up!nest50’s – We’re empty nesters. It’s time to have fun, travel, buy that luxury car. Our parents’ inheritance will take care of our retirement. (Another future shock – your parents may not care about securing your future).

60’s – I should have started saving when I was 20. I’ll never be able to retire. Where were you when I was young?

You can procrastinate throughout your entire life and miss the boat, or you can quit making excuses.

Start right now. There is no time like the present.

What’s your plan for the future?

What Holds You Back?

ImpressionsI have been a long time teacher and practitioner of yoga. In yoga the term Samskara is defined as generalized patterns as well as individual impressions, ideas or actions. Repeating the actions mentally, emotionally and physically reinforces them, creating a “groove” so to speak that is difficult to change. Think of the groove running water creates through a landscape. It can take the power of an earthquake to change its course.

Samskaras, or patterns can be both good and bad. What does this have to do with you and your money?
wisemoney
There are many deeply embedded habits developed around issues with money that can be difficult to change. Believing that you deserve to go out and spend everything you earn without saving for your future, spending money you don’t have, and charging on a credit card to “feel better” are examples of money “Samskaras.” Not spending or hoarding money, chastising a partner or monitoring every penny spent by your partner, “just because,” is another destructive behavior that can put a great strain on a relationship.
10-self-destructive-habits-thumbnail
The first step to changing destructive habits or creating new ones is recognition. Any behavior around money that you’re either ashamed of later or that causes major problems in your relationship is worth exploring and making an effort to change.
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What you believe becomes your reality. This conclusion has been found in multiple psychological studies performed on the topic. If you believe you deserve to spend money you can’t afford to spend or that you don’t have enough money to save for your future, you will continue to create a future that may cause regret. Mahatma Gandhi said “a man is but a product of his thoughts – what he thinks…he becomes.”

If you recognize any negative or destructive behavior, commit to change. Discuss and make a plan with your partner, seek outside advice – do whatever it takes. You can change these patterns and create a new positive future. Start the discussion today.

”The philosophy of the rich and the poor is this: the rich invest their money and spend what is left. The poor spend their money and invest what is left.”

Note: Due to industry regulations on communication, we are unable to allow for public comments on this blog. Please feel free to email me your questions and/or comments to kathy@fishandassociates.com. Thank you. Securities and Investment Advisory Services offered through NFP Securities, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. NFP Securities, Inc. is not affiliated with Fish & Associates.

Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisory Services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS. Kestra IS and Kestra AS are not affiliated with Fish and Associates. Kestra IS and Kestra AS do not provide tax or legal advice.


This site is published for residents of the United States only. Registered representatives of Kestra IS and Investment Advisor Representatives of Kestra AS may only conduct business with residents of the states and jurisdictions in which they are properly registered. Therefore, a response to a request for information may be delayed. Not all of the products and services referenced on this site are available in every state and through every representative or advisor listed. For additional information, please contact the Kestra IS compliance Department at 512-697-6000.


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