With a record setting stock market, and the earliest Thanksgiving the calendar allows, most people have more time and money for their holiday shopping than ever. From Black Friday to Christmas Eve, shoppers will have 31 days to buy presents and holiday décor. That’s a fa-la-la-la-long time to resist temptation and over-spending. For inspiration, we say look to the big guy. Everyone knows Santa makes his list and checks it twice. We think you should too. Armed with a list, you’ll be less tempted to pick up frivolous items, or to hit Amazon’s one-click shopping button a few too many times. As the economy rolls along, and retirement accounts grow plump, it’s tempting to let yuletide generosity fill you up like grandma’s homemade egg nog. Black Friday! Small Business Saturday! Cyber Monday! Giving Tuesday! You can hashtag yourself right into some serious debt. If you haven’t made a holiday list yet, start now. Really. Open a spreadsheet and get going. Or, grab a reliable pen and jot. First, take a realistic look at your budget and set an amount you can afford to spend on the holiday season. Next, list the people for whom you plan to buy gifts. Don’t forget to include hostess gifts and the like. If you think you need a new outfit for the office Christmas party, add that to the spreadsheet. Likewise, those icicle lights you’re adding to the front yard display this year. Set a budget for any holiday parties you plan to host this year, and think twice about all the extra restaurant meals you plan to grab while you run around town. We’re not asking you to Ebenezer your way through the season. We’re all for reciprocal joy. We’re just saying don’t get carried away. Make a plan, stick to it and know that February will feel a lot jollier if you ho-ho-hold back a little on your holiday spending.
Last weekend, our friend Tom, an experienced hunter, shot a deer with his cross bow from his stand on our property in northern Wisconsin. With a light snow falling, Tom left his stand, tracked the deer a ways, found and began field dressing the animal. A noise caught his attention and he looked up. Just to his left, a large bobcat stood ready to pounce. Tom stood and made himself large, and the bobcat ran away. But, what turned out to be a cool hunting story could have had more dire consequences. It’s important to consider your surroundings when moving through the woods. Not understanding the full picture can unnecessarily land you in a dangerous position. It’s the same with finances. An advisor has to consider your whole landscape – age, income, budget, life expectancy, marital status, risk tolerance – when addressing each element of a retirement plan. Danger lurks in the woods. Will your money last your life? Will an unexpected health crisis drain your finances? Can you maintain control over your healthcare decisions? Do you understand your policy’s fine print? In order to provide the best answers to these questions, and to solve some of the issues they raise, a registered investment advisor has a fiduciary responsibility to review your financial documents, to clear the woods of any visible threats. Your retirement plan should be tailored to your current and anticipated needs. The good news is resources are available to do this. For instance, there are a lot of options to pay for long-term care – traditional long term care policies, annuity hybrid policies, life insurance with LTC riders, self-funding and more. These opportunities are all available for you, but it’s important to get a clear look at your financial picture to choose the most appropriate one. November marks deer hunting season in Wisconsin, and it is also Long Term Care Awareness month. If you have any concerns… | Read More »