Look through this ‘LENS’ when making social security decisions

Your Social Security benefits can be an important part of your retirement income strategy. But when should you start taking these payments?
You can begin accepting Social Security as early as 62, but your monthly checks will be much smaller than if you wait until your “full retirement age,” which will likely be between 66 or 67.
And these monthly payments will get even bigger if you wait until age 70, at which point they “max out.” So, should you take your Social Security as early as possible and hope that the smaller monthly payments will be justified by the extra years of receiving them? Or should you wait until you are older and hope the bigger checks will be worth the delay?
In weighing this decision, consider the acronym LENS, which stands for Life expectancy, Employment, Need and Spouse. Let’s look at each component:

Financial preparations for spouse can brighten every Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is almost here. And while it’s certainly fun to give and receive chocolates and roses, why not go a little deeper this year? Specifically, if you are married, consider using this commemoration of love as a starting point for taking care of your spouse in the future — even if you’re not part of it.
Actually, both you and your spouse could designate Valentine’s Day as the beginning of your joint efforts to provide financial security for the surviving spouse when one of you is gone. Your strategy should involve at least these three key elements:

Use the ‘power of 3’ when investing

Many factors will affect your results as an investor — and some of these factors are beyond your control, such as interest-rate movements or the eurozone debt crisis or the sales results of the companies in which you invest. However, as you work toward your financial goals, you will find that you actually have control over three of the most important drivers of investment success: time, money and return.
Let’s look at these three elements:

What do low oil prices mean for investors?

As you’ve no doubt noticed, your trips to the gas station have been a lot more pleasant these past several months. There’s not much doubt that low oil prices have been welcome to you as a driver. But when oil is cheap, is that good for you as an investor?
There’s no clear-cut answer. But consider the following effects of low oil prices:

Kids in college? Fill out that FAFSA

We’ve just begun the new year, and the next academic year is still months away. Nonetheless, if you have a child who will attend college in the fall, it’s not too soon to start thinking about what might be a vital component of paying for his or her higher education: financial aid.
Specifically, to help ensure that your child doesn’t miss out on federal and state student grants, work-study and loans for the 2015-2016 school year, you’ll want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible. (You can start the process by visiting www.fafsa.ed.gov.)

What does 2015 hold in store for investors?

If you’re an investor, you probably had a pretty good year in 2014. But what’s in store for 2015?
It’s essentially impossible to make precise predictions about the performance of the financial markets — but it is possible to identify those economic conditions and market forces that may help shape outcomes in the investment world for 2015. By paying close attention to these conditions and forces, you can gain some valuable insights as to what investment moves might make sense for you.
Here are a few of these moves:

New contribution limits make 401(k) plans even more attractive

If you are interested in saving for retirement, here’s some good news: For 2015, the IRS has raised the maximum contribution limits for 401(k) plans from $17,500 to $18,000. And if you’re 50 or older, you can put in an extra $6,000, up from $5,500 in 2014.
These same limits also apply to 403(b) plans, for employees of public schools and nonprofit organizations, and to 457(b) plans, for employees of state and local governments and other governmental agencies, such as park boards and water districts. So, in other words, a lot of workers have gotten a “raise” in their ability to contribute to tax-advantaged retirement plans.

Consider these New Year’s financial resolutions

Now that 2015 is upon us, you may be thinking about making some New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps you’ll decide to take up a musical instrument, or hit the gym more often, or even learn a new language. All these are worthy goals, of course — but you could also gain some key benefits by working to achieve some financial resolutions.
Here are a few to consider:

Time for a family meeting to discuss financial preparations?

During the holiday season, you no doubt have a lot going on in your life — work functions, gatherings with friends and neighbors, tracking down the elusive “perfect gift,” etc. But you may find it valuable to add one more event to your calendar: a family meeting to discuss those financial preparations that affect you and your loved ones.
Of course, the scope of your meeting will depend on your age and the age of your children, and on whether you have elderly parents. So, let’s look at one family meeting scenario that would work under two different sets of circumstances: you are meeting with your own grown children or you are meeting with your elderly parents.
In either case, you’ll want to review the following areas:

Seek to balance ‘risk tolerance’ and ‘required risk’

by Edward Jones Matthew North Financial Advisor Like everyone else, you have financial goals. To help achieve these goals, you may need to invest — and when you invest, you’ll need to take on some risk. But the more you understand this risk, and the better you are at managing it, the greater your potential […]

Like us on Facebook