What’s That You Say?

People are notorious for saying things they don’t actually mean, particularly during an argument. On the flip side, saying things that have a different meaning than what’s intended is human nature and often the cause of an argument in the first place. After all, no one is a mind reader.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Cracking the Code,” from Psychology Today, March 6, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How to Be a Better Mind Reader,” from Psychology Today, Nov. 4, 2014.]

This dichotomy creates an interesting dilemma for market researchers, particularly those who invest in focus groups to get feedback on new products. Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, was famously prolific regarding customer input, having once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs also was a big proponent of not listening to customer words, but rather to their needs. He’s quoted as saying, “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Bridging the Gap Between Actual and Reported Behavior,” from UX Booth, May 19, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why Steve Jobs Didn’t Listen to His Customers,” from The Huffington Post, Sept. 28, 2014.]

It’s also not an uncommon phenomenon that people will say what they think in writing, but not face to face. In recent years, the Internet has provided a popular forum for readers to make comments and get opinions off their chest without rankling anyone they know personally. Experts have observed that the mask of an online identity permits inhibition in a way similar to drinking alcohol. However, because people do change their behavior in different situations, it’s important not to make quick judgements. Rather, true behavior patterns reveal their consistency over time and in various situations.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “What Your Online Comments Say About You,” from The New York Times, Feb. 14, 2015.]

Sometimes when posed a direct question, you can surprise even yourself with the answer. We don’t often get interviewed in the manner of movie stars and famous athletes, but if we did, consider how you might answer pointed questions about life lessons.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Kevin Costner: What I’ve Learned,” from Esquire, April 23, 2012.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Hope Solo: What I’ve Learned,” from Esquire, accessed June 12, 2015.]

At the end of the day, one of the best ways to plan, set goals, compromise and move forward is to communicate better — with ourselves and with each other. In the financial world, we get to know our clients through face-to-face meetings, stay in touch via phone calls and emails and sometimes work with clients through written materials — questionnaires, profiles and individualized plans. Everyone has different communication preferences, but what’s important is that we discover what it is we really want to say, and mean it.

If we can help you better define your plans for the future, please reach out and communicate with us by whatever means suit you the best.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

The information contained in this material is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions.

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

Overthinking Retirement Income Planning

You can’t pick up a newspaper or magazine or scan Internet headlines today without seeing something about the challenges of retirement and new surveys about how unprepared people are. Yes, it’s a concern. But consider for a moment that, really, it’s a personal one.

You can solve your own concerns — you don’t have to tackle them on a national scale. To that end, break down your retirement income planning process into bite-sized steps, engage the help of financial professionals and do what’s necessary to start moving forward with planning for retirement. Then move on to the rest of your life, keeping retirement income planning on the peripheral.

When you’re actually in retirement, it’s important to stay on task but not obsess. Recognize that the first five years you may be working toward some of your long-awaited goals, like travel or starting a new venture. The important thing to bear in mind is that you probably won’t keep spending money at that same pace throughout your golden years. Those first few years you may run through some savings, but bear in mind that will eventually need to let up.

After a while, take a serious look at your retirement assets and review your budget. Is your retirement spending on track? Do you need to cut back or look at other ways to potentially increase your income?

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “5 things to think about on your journey to retirement,” from Vanguard, May 4, 2015.]

One of the keys to a successful retirement is to be realistic. If you never enjoyed golf before, that may not be the best use of your retirement years. Enjoy doing what you enjoy doing — it makes sense to keep it just that simple. If you always wanted to travel, start out by just thinking of one place you would really like to go. Focus on that trip; research it and put together a realistic budget based on how much it would cost for transportation, meals, accommodations, sightseeing, etc. It can be easier to work toward a tangible goal rather than an abstract idea.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “A Travel Planning Guide,” from BudgetYourTrip.com, accessed June 6, 2015.]

You may be familiar with the concept of creating problems that didn’t exist before by overthinking solutions or “helpful suggestions.” This is often combatted by the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” When it comes to retirement, careful and prudent saving and planning is best. The last thing you want is to not enjoy retirement because you’re too busy trying to figure how to enjoy it better.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The impasse created by over thinking,” from PrimeTime Online, Feb. 24, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “8 Ways to Stop Over-Thinking and Find Peace in the Present Moment,” from TheMindUnleashed.com, Sept. 9, 2014.]

In a recent study, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that the brain operates most efficiently when people trying to learn a basic task use only the most essential functions.

In other words, there are parts of the brain normally engaged with high-level intellectual strategizing — for which there is always a time and place. However, using these particular brain functions can be detrimental when trying to learn or complete less complex tasks.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Why Overthinking Is Holding You Back,” from Huffington Post, May 14, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Don’t Overthink It,” from The Atlantic, May 2015.]

Whatever you do, try not to overthink it.  Planning for retirement is similar to how you’ve approached every other concern throughout your life. The more concerns you’ve had, the better equipped you may be to cope and problem solve. That’s one way to turn lemons into lemonade.

Another way is to rely on financial professionals, and that’s where we can help. Contact us for guidance, and we’ll help you understand the process.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

This content is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided by third parties and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual’s situation. 

If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

Bad Behavior

Five of the world’s biggest banks recently pleaded guilty to colluding to manipulate currency and interest rate markets. Apparently, by agreeing not to buy or sell at certain times, the traders protected each other’s positions and suppressed competition in the foreign exchange market.

Collectively, these banks will pay penalties totaling $5.6 billion to the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Reserve. But according to a Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics, this fine represents one tenth of a percent of the daily volume of the foreign exchange market. Moreover, at least one of the banks is an admitted three-time repeat offender.

Yet in return for the guilty plea, these banks secured exemptions, waivers and settlements from regulators and are allowed to conduct business as usual going forward — and no one goes to jail.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Are Financial Penalties Enough to Deter Banks’ Bad Behavior?” from Knowledge@Wharton, May 21, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Rigging of Foreign Exchange Market Makes Felons of Top Banks,” from The New York Times, May 20, 2015.]

In sports, the most recent scandal was conspired by leaders of FIFA, the governing body of the soccer world. Forty-seven indictments were levied on soccer officials and sports marketers for racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering over a time span of nearly quarter of a century. A total of 14 people — including nine senior officials with FIFA — are accused of perpetuating a corrupt scheme involving more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks.

Just days after news of the scandal broke, FIFA president Sepp Blatter was re-elected as head of the global soccer organization. However, the 79-year-old Switzerland native stepped down four days after his re-election amid outside pressure for his inability to stop corruption in the sport.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “U.S. Indicts 14 in FIFA Corruption Inquiry,” from NPR, May 27, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “FIFA scandal: What comes after Sepp Blatter’s resignation?” from CNN, June 3, 2015.]

Meanwhile, the latest example of bad behavior in politics involves the indictment of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a Republican from Illinois, who is accused of agreeing to pay $3.5 million in hush money to somebody in his hometown for a reported sex scandal. The former congressman made 15 cash withdrawals of $50,000 from bank accounts between 2010 and 2012. Then, in order to avoid the scrutiny that accompanies withdrawals of more than $10,000 at a time, he withdrew $952,000 in increments of less than $10,000 up until late 2014. When questioned why he was making the sizeable withdrawals, he responded that he didn’t trust the banking system.

Sadly, as detailed earlier in this post, that may be true; however, it’s unlikely to be his real reason.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Report: former US House Speaker allegedly paid $3.5 million to cover up a sex scandal,” from Business Insider, May 29, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Public Trust in Government: 1958-2014,” from Pew Research Center, Nov. 13, 2014.]

The thing about bad behavior is that it breeds mistrust. And trust in things like our financial system, elected government officials — and even the leaders of the sports industries where we spend much of our entertainment dollars — truly matter.

We understand that trust must be earned, and can be easily lost. That’s why we work every day to earn yours through diligence, responsiveness, knowledge and integrity. Call on us any time you need a financial professional you can count on.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.

The Road to Global, Sustainable Happiness

In the most recent World Happiness Survey, Nordic countries rule. This year, Switzerland has the distinct honor of playing host to the happiest citizens of the world, followed closely by Iceland, Denmark and Norway. Rounding out the top 10 are Canada, Finland, The Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand and Australia. Over the last three years, Nordic countries have proven themselves dominant across all measures.1

As it turns out, one critical factor that impacts individual happiness is trust in the country’s government. Happier people also tend to have strong social networks and are generous with their time, as volunteerism is a common activity among them. 2

Does money buy happiness? Perhaps not, but it does rank as one of the three most important factors along with social support and a healthy life expectancy. On a global scale, women rate slightly happier than men, but men tend to become happier after age 50, and both genders worry more as they get older (women more so). Another advantage men report over women: They are more likely to claim to have “learned or done something interesting yesterday.”3

Younger people report being happier than older people. They start out adulthood happiest, yet those sentiments tend to curb by middle age and remain flat thereafter.4

The annual World Happiness Survey is one of the tools that may help guide global development moving forward. This September, the member states of the United Nations are expected to adopt a set of defined Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designed to provide global-wide guidelines for more inclusive and sustainable patterns of development by balancing economic, social and environmental objectives. Research has shown that when countries single-mindedly pursue GDP without taking into consideration social and environmental objectives, the results frequently have a negative impact on citizens.5

1 Katia Hetter. CNN. April 23, 2015. “Get happy in the world’s happiest countries.” http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/23/travel/feat-world-happiest-countries-2015. Accessed May 27, 2015.
2 Ibid.
3 Peter Economy. Inc. May 5, 2015. “7 Powerful Lessons From the 2015 World Happiness Report.” http://www.inc.com/peter-economy/7-powerful-lessons-from-the-2015-world-happiness-report.html. Accessed May 27, 2015.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.

The Business of Risk

Cyber threats have created an interesting conundrum in which the criminal perpetrators are frequently more tech savvy than those responsible for preventing their crimes or apprehending them. And the situation, at the moment, doesn’t really show signs of improving.

Several national security experts recently issued recommendations to help address the problem. They referred to the issue as a “black elephant — a dangerous crossbreed between the ‘black swan’ risk (capable of producing unexpected outcomes with enormous consequences) and the ‘elephant in the room’ (a large problem that is in plain sight).”

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “We Don’t Need a Crisis to Act Unitedly Against Cyber Threats,” from Knowledge@Wharton, June 1, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “RSA Conference: Is Hiring Hackers a New Thing?” from Adeptis Group, May 6, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Security Companies Hire Hackers, Ex-Spies to Fight Cyber Attacks,” from Bloomberg, April 14, 2015.]

While hackers certainly present a grave risk at the national level, frequently the outcomes are more personal. Sure, it’s a real blow to companies like Target and Home Depot for their data to be hacked, but ultimately it’s their customers who may suffer more relative damage.

And as great as technology is, the more we integrate it into our lives, the more risk we face of being personally “hacked.” For example, what a wonderful convenience to be able to lock and unlock our homes and cars using our cellphones, even when we’re out of town. But consider the benefit to a criminal who hacks into a person’s phone and unlocks the house and car, making for easy theft while knowing the owner isn’t home. It kind of makes the old-school, trusty German shepherd seem a bit more attractive for warding off potential burglars.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Data breaches may cost less than the security to prevent them,” from TechRepublic, April 9, 2015.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Black Hat 2014: Security experts hack home alarms, smart cars and more,” from CBS News, Aug. 6, 2014.]

Then there are the security breaches that don’t make the headlines. For example, a data breach at a local vendor that results in unauthorized charges to your bank debit card, PayPal account or other online vendor. These sporadic incidents can range in damages from a minor inconvenience to lost hours trying to identify the issue, resolve it and get your money reimbursed.

Naturally, it makes sense to protect your own data as much as possible instead of relying solely on vendor and government solutions. For example, experts recommend using a credit card instead of a debit card. Relevant to this advice, it’s a good idea to revisit any of your accounts where you may have entered your bank account or debit card information, even if you only use your credit card with those accounts. Consider what card information is stored at accounts such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy, PayPal, Netflix and other online merchants you might frequent.

And with another nod to the old-school approach, consider using cash instead of credit at places where they habitually take your credit card out of sight for a few moments (long enough to record its information) — such as at restaurants and fast-food joints.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “7 Reasons Your Debit Card Makes You a Target for Fraud,” from MagnifyMoney.com, Oct. 22, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “New ways to prevent credit-card fraud,” from Consumer Reports, May 28, 2015.]

One thing we’ve learned throughout history, no matter the threat, is that the best time to prepare for a disaster is before it occurs. This applies not only to cyber threats, but to health care screenings and creating a plan for retirement security. The more we educate ourselves and the more we plan, the more prepared we are when something unexpected occurs.

We are here to help you feel more confident in your financial strategy — now and in the future. Please give us a call.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives.