Five New Year’s Resolutions For Your Finances

Picture of empty New Year's Resolution List

Instead of hauling out those familiar New Year’s resolutions about eating less and exercising more, how about focusing on something that’s also very good for you in the long run – and even sooner? We’re talking about your financial plan – your fiscal health, if you will. The approach of 2018 is a great time to review your plan and make whatever revisions might be indicated. With that in mind, here are five suggested resolutions that, if followed, will go a long ways toward helping to ensure that your later years will be financially secure.

1. Get your balance sheet in order

You can’t realistically expect to reach a goal without knowing where you’re starting from. Using 12/31/17 as the effective date, update your personal balance sheet (assets versus liabilities, broadly speaking). Everything else really proceeds from this, so take the time to bring all the numbers up to date.

2. Review your budget and spending habits

How close did you come to what you had planned to spend last year? Where did you go off-track and what can you do about that? Has something fundamental changed in your life that affected your expenses, and is that a one-time item or an ongoing cost? Where can you trim expenses? Although some budget items are fixed, a sharp pencil can produce significant savings on other costs.

3. Designate and update your beneficiaries

If you don’t correctly document and update your beneficiary designations, who gets what may be determined not according to your wishes, but by federal or state law, or by the default plan document used in your retirement accounts. This is especially important if something has changed in your life that could affect your beneficiaries or heirs, such as divorce, remarriage, births, deaths or your state of residence.

4. Revisit your portfolio’s asset allocation

The ups and downs of the markets will affect your asset allocation over time. Appreciation in one asset class or underperformance in another can leave your portfolio with an asset allocation and risk profile that differs from what you originally intended. It’s important to revisit both your current and ideal asset allocation at least annually and rebalance as needed.
Asset allocation does not guarantee a profit nor protect against loss. The process of rebalancing may result in tax consequences.

5. Check to see if your retirement plan is on track

Many investors have delayed their retirement plans for various reasons. The important thing is to respond and determine – promptly and realistically – what changes might be needed given your current lifestyle and market environment. In evaluating the current state of your plan, don’t fixate solely on a number – “We’ll be fine when our retirement portfolio is worth $X” – that just isn’t the way retirement works anymore, if it ever did. The truth is that retirement has a lot of moving parts that must be monitored and managed on an ongoing basis.

Since we all know that many New Year’s resolutions don’t survive that long, resolve to really follow through on these – and give yourself permission to spend a day lazing around watching movies and eating ice cream when you’re done! Just one day, though.

Don’t Fall for These 6 Holiday Phishing Scams

The holiday season is here which means a rise in online shopping and as a result, an influx in holiday-related scams. Cybercriminals take advantage of this busy time of year to try to steal your money or your identity.

It’s important that you review these best practices to remain safe and secure during the holiday season.

Holiday Phishing Scams

Keep an eye out for these six holiday threats:

1. Fake purchase invoices: Be aware of unexpected receipts received via email from retailers where you do not shop. If you receive these emails, do not click on them as they may be malicious and could contain malware.
2. Shipping status notifications: Watch out for fake shipping notifications received via email. Confirm you’ve actually placed an online order before clicking on a shipping alert.
◦Do not click on links in shipping emails; instead go directly to the shipping provider’s website (e.g. UPS, USPS, FedEx) and type in your tracking number to access tracking information.
3. Email deals: Not all discounts and sales received via email and social advertisements are legitimate. Look for unexpected deals or product promotions from retailers you’ve never shopped.
4. Holiday e-cards: Make sure you recognize the sender before clicking on a link inside an e-card.
5. Holiday party invitations: Look out for email invites that ask you to download attachments or plug-ins as these may contain malicious software like ransomware or spyware.
6. Pay more attention to email links and URLs: Do not let the hectic holiday season bring your guard down. Always hover over links on webpages and emails to verify the sender and the website before clicking on any links.

Online Shopping Tips

•Look for signs that your information is secure when making an online purchase.
•Shop well-known, large retailers or stores you know are generally the safest (i.e. Amazon and Best Buy).
•Use a credit card, rather than your debit card, as it’s easier to deal with fraudulent purchases.
•Create strong passwords by including a combination of numbers, symbols, and upper and lower case letters.

Safe Shopping Awareness

Whether on campus, at home or at the mall, it’s important to keep these tips top-of-mind when shopping for holiday treasures:

•If you’re using an ATM, whether on campus or other public areas, ensure your password and account information are out-of-sight.
•Be alert and attentive to your surroundings at all times.
•Keep valuables out of sight (i.e. packages, shopping bags, etc.).
•Always lock your purse or wallet in a secure area of your desk (or home).
•Avoid carrying large sums of cash.
•Always lock your car doors.

Additional Reminders

•Fake surveys: Surveys received via email promising money or gift cards in exchange for completing the survey can be a scam. These surveys will often ask for personal information which is what the attackers are seeking.
•Keep an eye on your bank accounts: Closely monitor your bank accounts for purchases you may not have made. It only takes one store, gas station or an ATM with a card scanner in place for your credentials to be compromised.

Financial Insights : Q3 Newsletter

The end of August is here, which means summer is officially coming to an end. As we reflect back on the last few months here at Financial Insights, we smile, remembering the events and experiences that took place this summer as a team. Our summer started off with a bang as we celebrated Girls & Women in Golf with the First Tee of Puget Sound in June. Later that month, we all had a blast gambling with "fun money" at Emergency Food Network's Casino Royale Event! We definitely won't forget how nice it felt to sit in the sunshine while supporting the Tacoma Lawn & Tennis Club's PNW Open Tennis Championships in July. I think we can all agree that ending the summer with an incredible solar eclipse was an experience that will be with us for a lifetime. From all of us here at Financial Insights, we hope you had a wonderful summer as well. Please enjoy our latest newsletter, which includes articles on the economy, retirement, military changes, social security, and more.

CLICK HERE TO READ FINANCIAL INSIGHTS' Q3 NEWSLETTER

Have You Signed Up For Investor Access?

Have you enrolled in Investor Access? Connect to your accounts anytime, anywhere for a clearer, more complete view of your finances. Investor Access is a free, secure, online portal designed to help you get the most out of your Raymond James accounts. It brings your day-to-day finances and long-term investments together in one place - from your computer or mobile device. It puts instant insight and control at your fingertips. To set up your free account, click the link below and then click "Enroll in Investor Access" directly under the login ID in the top left corner - see picture -->

Once you're registered, simply log on to review activity and balances in all your accounts - individually or combined. You can opt for a high-level summary or a more detailed view. You can view current and historical statements, account balances, account activity, key data including gains and losses, and tax-reporting documents. Is it safe, you're wondering? Protecting your financial information is a top priority. That's why Investor Access employs authentication procedures, several layers of firewall protection and encryption technology to keep your critical data safe and private.

Investor Access also allows you access to the Vault, which gives you a place to store and share digital copies of your important documents, from financial statements and legal agreements to passports and photos of valuable assets. The Vault enables you to quickly, conveniently and securely share files for purposes of collaboration with your financial advisor, their support staff, and authorized representatives. Authorized representatives are those parties that have previously been granted view-only access to your accounts).

Need assistance? Give Kelsey a call in our office. She is happy to walk you through the process or answer any questions you may have.

Dow Sails past Notable Milestone: 20,000

DOW
The Dow Jones Industrial Average peaked over 20,000 in the early morning of Wednesday, January 25. This is the first time that the average has topped this historic level.

The Dow is a stock market index that tracks 30 of the largest publicly-owned companies in the United States. Almost every investor in the United States has exposure to these companies through their 401k or other investment accounts. This rings in an important moment for market watchers and economists alike that have long waited and some predicted this historic day.

What does this signal?
Some are saying that many of Trump's executive orders are driving the increase in our domestic equities; coupled with the fact that consumer confidence is at an all time high. The global economy is also posed to rally as well. The number "20,000" is more of an investor psychology number then a tangible data point. Some claim this signals that the market is wildly overvalued. Either way, it tells us that a lot of people are buying US equities right now.

What should we do?
Be thankful that your accounts are more than likely performing very well. Stay focused and do not make any rash decisions to sell. 21,000 could be hiding behind the next corner.

-Ali A. Criss, CFP

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