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Financial Planning Articles

Avoid the Top 10 Mistakes Made With Beneficiary Designations

November 2014 by John Horn
These 10 mistakes can derail well-intentioned estate plans and result in unintended consequences for your estate and your heirs. Read more »

Misunderstanding Variable Universal Life Can Lead to Adverse Consequences

October 2014 by Peter Katt
Bad market conditions can cause the cash value of these policies to be much lower than forecast. Find out how to best use these policies. Read more »

Retirement Planning: Focus First on Covering Fixed Expenses

September 2014 by Michael Falk
Once all fixed costs have been immunized, withdrawal rates no longer matter as any additional retirement assets can be used for discretionary spending. Read more »

The Right Type of Life Insurance for Your Estate Planning Needs

July 2014 by Peter Katt
Life insurance works well for estate planning because of when benefits are paid and the ability to create wealth for heirs outside of the estate. Read more »

From Saver to Spender: Managing Your Money in Retirement

May 2014 by Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz
Following these nine guidelines can help reduce your financial stress and increase the odds of enjoying a successful retirement. Read more »

A More Dynamic Approach to Retirement Spending

April 2014 by Francis M. Kinniry
Establishing a “ceiling and floor” for portfolio withdrawal rates keeps spending relatively consistent, while remaining responsive to market conditions. Read more »

Social Security Strategies for Couples

December 2013 by William Reichenstein
By understanding the complexities and making smart claiming decisions, couples can add more to their lifetime benefits than singles can. Read more »

Social Security Strategies for Singles

November 2013 by William Reichenstein
The optimal age for a single individual claiming benefits depends on life expectancy and the need to extend a retirement portfolio’s longevity. Read more »

Social Security Basics

October 2013 by William Reichenstein
In this first article of a new three-part series, the impact of a worker’s retirement age on Social Security benefits is explained. Read more »

Five Steps for Gaining Control of Your Investments and Avoiding Mistakes

March 2013 by Carl Richards
Simple actions you can take now to focus on the things you can control and avoid making common investment mistakes. Read more »

Lump Sum or Annuity: Which Should You Choose at Retirement?

December 2012 by Rande Spiegelman
An annuity is attractive if you expect to live beyond normal life expectancy, but a lump sum may be better if you have other sources of income. Read more »

Retirement Withdrawals: Can You Base Them on RMDs?

December 2012 by Wei Sun
The IRS’s required minimum distributions are easy to follow and with a little modification can set the basis for a more optimal withdrawal strategy. Read more »

Behavioral Errors Hurt Your Returns

July 2012 by Daniel Kahneman
Individual investors hurt their performance by buying and selling too often, picking the wrong securities to trade, and being overconfident. Read more »

Finding the Right Withdrawal Rate: One Key to Portfolio Sustainability

July 2012 by Maria Crawford Scott
A proper withdrawal approach ensures your retirement savings last, and allows you to separate your allocation decisions from your income needs. Read more »

Dishonesty, Choices and Investing

June 2012 by Charles Rotblut
The financial industry’s bad incentive structure leads to higher costs, but investors can counteract dishonesty simply by asking direct questions. Read more »

Consumer Financial Protection in the Current Economy

May 2012 by Paula Hogan
Academics and policymakers discuss how to make financial products more effective for consumers and their risks more easily understood. Read more »

Comparing a Bucket Strategy and a Systematic Withdrawal Strategy

April 2012 by Noelle E. Fox
Allocating a portfolio into three buckets for use in specific retirement time periods can help investors feel more confident that their savings will last. Read more »

18 Recommendations for Minimizing Inheritance Conflict

April 2012 by Mark Accettura
Your estate plan can both leave a lasting legacy of love and prevent disputes, if a combination of psychology, good lawyering and common sense are used. Read more »

Magic Numbers: Reduce the Math of Annuities to Simple Arithmetic

October 2011 by Robert Muksian
Magic numbers are used in shortcuts that help you calculate portfolio growth, how long your savings will last and how much you can withdraw. Read more »

Aging and Investing: The Risk of Cognitive Impairment

September 2011 by David Laibson
Cognitive impairment afflicts approximately half of all 80-year-olds. However, there are steps investors can take to protect themselves financially. Read more »

Retirement Spending on Planet Vulcan: Longevity Risk and Withdrawal Rates

September 2011 by Moshe A. Milevsky
The optimal amount to withdraw depends on survival probabilities, pension income, legacy goals and the willingness to risk outliving one’s assets. Read more »

Delaying Retirement, But Not Your Retirement Dreams

July 2011 by Christine S. Fahlund
Investors can practice retirement by continuing to work but diverting dollars meant for new retirement savings to pursuing retirement dreams now. Read more »

Social Security: Delay or Take the Money and Run—Act II

May 2011 by Robert Muksian
For most retirees, it makes economic sense to delay taking Social Security benefits until age 66. Read more »

How to Check Out a Financial Advisor

April 2011 by Chuck Jaffe
Before hiring an advisor, make sure he is the right person for the job. Here are some questions to ask. Read more »

Family and Finances: Start the Dialogue

August 2010 by Gregory Salsbury
Protecting family wealth involves discussing all aspects of financial planning, including long-term plans, with both parents and children. Read more »

Grandparents’ Gifting for College Education

July 2010 by Dawn Brown
Coordination is important, since gifting can impact a grandchild’s ability to get financial aid and have tax consequences. Read more »

Sorting Through Your Portfolio Mail

June 2010 by Bonnie Kirchner
Account statements, annual reports, prospectuses and proxy materials all contain important information that should be looked at. Read more »

How to Calculate Your Portfolio's Return

The question every investor wants to know is: How well am I doing? Although some people are satisfied simply watching the dollars grow, most investors want that translated into a performance figure. A look at two methods. Read more »

How to Value a Stream of Payments

Are you overlooking a large pool of assets? That may occur when it is hard to put a number on an asset--for example, valuing a guaranteed steady payment stream, such as pension plan and Social Security payments, for retirees. Ignoring those assets may cause you to be too over-invested in fixed income. Read more »

Immediate or Income Annuities

Annuities are primarily used as a means of securing a steady cash flow during retirement. Unlike a deferred annuity, an immediate annuity has no accumulation period--an investor simply pays the insurance company a lump sum, and then receives the stream of payments for the set time period. Read more »

Money Matters: Teaching Kids to Be "Trust" Worthy

August 2006 by Alan Goldfarb
The problem of raising financially responsible children is compounded when children receive trust funds. Tips on how to prepare a child or grandchild well in advance for an inheritance. Read more »

Analyzing Your Financial Health Using Personal Financial Ratios

August 2006 by Charles J. Farrell
Many individuals use financial ratios as a concise way to assess the financial health of a company. This article introduces a set of personal financial ratios to analyze your own financial standing. Read more »

8 Steps That Will Make Life Easier for Your Heirs

July 2006 by Deborah H. Levenson
Many people spend time planning their financial legacy, but skip relatively basic steps that can lead to administrative hassles for their heirs. Read more »

Get Organized! How to Maintain Your Personal Financial Files

May 2006 by Paula Hogan
Everyone needs to keep certain personal financial paperwork, but how do you decide which to keep and which to chuck? A guide to organizing your personal financial files. Read more »

Juggling Competing Goals: College vs. Retirement Funding

April 2006 by Christine S. Fahlund
What's more important, your retirement or your child's college education? While financial planners generally suggest retirement should receive priority, most parents also want to plan for their children's higher education. A look at how to balance the two goals. Read more »

529 Plans: Educate Yourself Before You Invest

August 2005 by John Gannon
Eight key lessons that can help you make smarter choices when investing in 529 college savings plans. Read more »

What You Need to Know About Long-Term Care Insurance

Custodial care is expensive and can easily drain financial resources. Because of this, the decision to buy long-term care insurance has become an important financial planning issue. What you need to know. Read more »

Surviving a Loss: Financial Planning for Widows and Widowers

August 2004 by Mark Colgan
Financial Planning: Losing a spouse is a life-changing experience. A widow or widower can easily be overwhelmed by the financial details. How can a surviving spouse regain control of their future? A guide to the financial transition process. Read more »

How to Make Personal Finance "Connect" With Young Adults

The challenge for parents is to develop steps that will make the world of personal finance visible, credible, and appealing to young adults as they work their way through adolescence. Read more »

Reassessing Your Risk Tolerance? Don't Overlook Estate Planning

Important not only for protecting your assets, estate planning also assures that your assets will pass according to your wishes at the least cost and administrative burden. It can be a relatively easy, six-step process. Read more »

A Guide to Dealing With an Estate Planning Attorney

Estate Planning: An up-to-date estate plan maximizes the chance that your wishes with respect to both medical and financial affairs will be carried out in the event of your death or disability. Read more »

Your Company's Stock: A Good or Bad Bet for Your 401(k)?

Many individuals get the opportunity to invest in their company stock - often at a good price. But is it a good idea to put your 401(k) money in company stock? There can be some advantages, but there are also some disadvantages to be aware of - particularly if you go overboard and hold too much. Read more »

Achieving Financial Security by Conquering Personal Debt

Overloading on debt is expensive and removes a cushion of security in the event of a crisis. How to get a handle on your personal debt. Read more »

What to Look for When Selecting a Trustee for Your Estate Plan

The decision to name a trustee is a complex process that includes weighing and balancing the various factors according to personal preferences and circumstances. Read more »

Contingency Plans: Helping a Spouse Cope Financially After Your Death

Asset allocation and contingency plans for the death of a spouse. Read more »

Keeping Your 401(k) on Track

Most 401(k) plans are composed of mutual funds, where daily scrutiny isn't necessary or even desirable. Quarterly check-ups - a review every three months or so - is more in order. How to monitor your retirement portfolio. Read more »

Lifestyle Changes: Myths and Misconceptions About Life in Retirement

Knowing what to expect and what not to expect as you enter retirement can ease this major lifestyle transition. Debunking the myths of retirement. Read more »

How to Decipher Your 401(k) Plan Statement

Most plan participants want to know the answer to a very basic question: How much money do I have in my plan? The answer is in your employer-provided retirement plan statement, but it can be hard to find if you don't understand how to read it. A look at a typical 401(k) plan statement. Read more »

A Worksheet Approach to Selecting a Financial Planner

How should you select a financial planning adviser? Asking each potential adviser questions will provide basic information to help you decide who will best fulfill your needs. Worksheets for the evaluation process. Read more »

The 10 Myths of Retirement Planning

Many individuals view retirement through rose-colored glasses. But retirement planning requires a clear-eyed analysis of future needs. A look at the most common retirement myths and how you can bring reality into focus. Read more »