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Retirement Planning Blog

on 19 January, 2017

important information dol rule

Photo Credit: The Frances Perkins Building located at 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Built in 1975, the modernist office building serves as headquarters of the United States Department of Labor. U.S. Department of Labor Headquarters, Creative Commons Photo, Author "Agnostic Preacher Kid," May 30, 2010, Property solely of author. Distributed with permission through Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported LicenseAttribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

As a retirement investor, you may have come across the “DOL fiduciary rule.” A new ruling from the Department of Labor, it is scheduled to go into effect on April 10, 2017. But just what this rule means – and more importantly, what it entails for you and other retirement savers – may be less than clear.

In short, the DOL fiduciary rule expands the definition of an “investment advice fiduciary,” as laid out in the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (or ERISA). As we briefly discussed in another post on 401(k) rollover options, this elevates financial professionals to a new status, ethically and legally speaking. Those who are paid to give recommendations about retirement accounts will be treated as “fiduciaries” under the rule.

As a result, they will be obliged to put your interests as a client first. The rule will require they give recommendations in your “best interest” as a retirement investor. They will also need to disclose any potential conflicts of interest which could influence their recommendation when they provide you investment advice for a fee or other compensation.

For a brief rule overview and how it will bring change, read on for some critical, need-to-know facts. In our view, this ruling is generally speaking a positive step for consumer protection. It helps protect you and other hard-working Americans from financial professionals who act unethically, do not act in your best interest when they should be, or do not consider your complete financial position before making a recommendation. However, it’s unfortunate that this sort of advisor conduct should require government-imposed conflict-of-interest standards to be levied – financial professionals should always act in their clients’ best interest, period, without exception.

Some Possible Outcomes for the DOL Rule

There will be wide-sweeping changes to the industry, from capital investments by financial firms to move into compliance, as well as the business operational costs of maintaining compliance. As a result, in some ways retirement planning advice may be more costly to you and other retirement savers.

An important note: The DOL rule was published during the Obama administration; with the Trump administration coming in, there is a possibility of the rule being delayed past the April 10th deadline, being changed, or even being abolished.

Unwrapping the DOL Fiduciary Rule

As mentioned earlier, the definition of a fiduciary has been expanded from just financial professionals who give ongoing advice. Now it covers other professionals, including financial salespersons such as:

on 11 January, 2017

what are my 401k rollover options intro img

Retirement planning involves several decisions. For many retirement savers, an important question is what to do with their 401(k) retirement account. As they near retirement, investors must decide whether to leave the money within their account or choose another option, such as an IRA rollover.

The good news is Americans typically have six options for moving 401(k) assets around or leaving them alone. But not all of these possibilities may be appropriate, depending on the merits and downsides of a particular rollover option for your personal situation. It’s also not unusual for an investor to have the lion’s share, or even a large bulk, of their retirement assets in a 401(k) plan account. So, whatever they do with these retirement savings, it’s a decision that will have tremendous implications for the future.

If you are mulling over 401(k) rollover options, be sure whoever you work with understands all the ins-and-outs of different rollover outcomes. Your financial professional should clearly explain the positives, negatives, and details of each rollover option to you, and go over how it may help or hurt your personal situation. After all, this is your future at stake – one mistake can be costly, and once made, some 401(k) rollover errors are irreversible. Make sure you choose wisely and you are well-informed of each possibility before you decide.

In the meantime, if the question of “what are my 401(k) rollover options?” is a pressing matter for you, here’s a quick post which goes over some important factors to consider. Read on for some 401(k) rollover basics to start with making an informed decision. And as we emphasized before, make sure to work with a qualified professional for any 401(k) rollover considerations.

on 22 December, 2016

stock market slider photo

Following the election of Donald Trump as President-Elect, the market has been on the rise. On Tuesday, December 20, 2016, the Dow Jones Industrial Average nearly hit an all-time high. At session-high for the day, the Dow came within 13 points of hitting the 20,000-point benchmark – which would have been a new, all-time growth benchmark for the index.

In fact, with a strong, days-long market rally, the Dow has notched 17 record closes since the election. Other indices also have been on an upward trajectory, for one the S&P 500 set a new closing record on Wednesday, December 7. Financial pundits such as economist Mohamed El-Erian have pointed to growing investor optimism over anticipated Trump-administration economic policies as a growth driver.

For Americans aged 50 and over, all of this is excellent news for retirement portfolio values. But as historical data shows, market growth doesn’t happen in a vacuum or linger on forever. This is a critical point for people nearing retirement – particularly those within five to ten years of it. With life expectancies on the rise, one question is how they will pay for what may be 20-30 years of a retired lifestyle.

Income certainty is an important retirement concern, and older Americans are considering what steps they can take now for financial security. If retirement is in the near future for your household, here are some quick year-end tips to consider for lifelong income certainty, no matter where the market is.

on 14 December, 2016

10 best places to retire blog image

Retirement is a period of transition. For most Americans, it represents a shift from a career or entrepreneurship to more personal downtime. Apart from more time to do what they want, many people focus on other retirement lifestyle decisions, such as where to live. If you are thinking about relocation, you may want to look at communities with a number of features:

  • Lower costs-of-living
  • Enjoyable climate conditions
  • Personally-enriching cultural and educational opportunities
  • Ways to sustain physical wellness and be socially active


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Association of Realtors, and Forbes, top retirement locations for baby boomers tend to have sunnier weather. But this isn’t the only relocation concern affecting retired and soon-to-be-retired Americans. Other retirement hotspots could feature low unemployment, a healthy economy, favorable tax climate, efficient crime deterrence, and ease-of-access to healthcare.

If you are considering new living settings, here are ten, top-ranking destinations which might fit your lifestyle preferences.

on 07 December, 2016

 work with right financial advisor 2017 success img

The holiday festivities are coming around, and many Americans are getting their financial houses in order. For people who are retired or near the end of their working life, that includes assuring their retirement needs and objectives can be met.

If you and your partner are within five to ten years of retirement, or are already retired, now is a crucial point. It makes sense to prepare for this stage of life. Working with a financial professional can help clear a path to a secure future and instill greater confidence in our financial decisions. But the sheer numbers of financial professionals from whom you can obtain retirement planning advice is truly staggering.

Consider this:

To say the least, choosing a well-suited financial professional for retirement planning guidance can be a challenging task. Let’s cover a few basics to keep in mind as you search for a suitable professional for retirement planning advice.

on 30 November, 2016

bolster your financial confidence in 2017 with a year end review

As the holiday festivities roll around, many of us are thinking about 2017. What steps can we take to start off with a clean slate in the new year? One urgent priority should be conducting a year-end financial review and creating a well-balanced plan for the future, preferably with a financial professional. Not only will it help you start off strong, but it also will bring clarity and precision to your financial outlook.

Of course, this proactive approach doesn't bring just short-term benefit. A year-end review and wrap-up of remaining plans can help you prepare well for long-term retirement goals and overall financial security. If you need to have your own financial review done, read on for some quick tips to consider during your annual review and planning process.

on 23 November, 2016

5 ways to boost your financial wellness during the holiday season

The holidays offer a great opportunity for us to reconnect with loved ones, relatives, and friends. From Thanksgiving dinners and seasonal gift shopping to holiday get-togethers and family gatherings, these times are truly special. But apart from the joy, merriment, good cheer, and great company, many Americans find this period financially stressful.

Discretionary spending, in the form of gift buying and other holiday shopping, ups the pressure on household budgets. And for a large proportion of retired and working Americans, the coming year-end may increase the brunt of existing financial pressures and obligations. Having sufficient income and healthy cash-flow is a concern for all households, especially people in their retirement years. The holidays are an ideal time-frame for financial review, but it can be intimidating to get our house in order, as personal finances are tedious, detailed, and, for many, overwhelming.

However, a secure financial life is well within reach, and it involves taking the right steps. If you are retired or approaching your golden years, read on for four quick tips to boost your financial wellness this holiday season.

in Annuity
on 16 November, 2016

using annuities for income or growth blog image

After years of hard work, all of us want a comfortable retirement. But it may be unclear as to what we need to achieve this. What steps are necessary for a worry-free financial life – the ability to spend with confidence?

Part of it means a transition in thinking. In real-world terms, it encompasses a shift in focus from asset values to monthly income. We want to be sure we have sufficient cash-flow for funding a retirement lifestyle. On the other hand, we should also be attentive to the matter of preserving wealth. With all those savings accumulated over many years, our money will now need to last for the rest of our lifetime.

However, this doesn’t mean that savings growth has to be put on the back-burner. For Americans looking for “safe money financial” vehicles, annuities may be attractive. In particular, fixed-type annuities can offer guaranteed lifelong income, tax-deferred accumulation, and growth via guaranteed interest rates or rising index values.

If you are investigating fixed annuities or fixed index annuities for personal growth or income goals, here’s a quick look at a few variables to consider.

on 10 November, 2016

donald trump retirement issues blog photo

Photo credit: Donald Trump as he exits the stage after speaking at CPAC '11. By Mark3tel (2011) https://flickr.com/photos/n3tel/5434963575 Attribution (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/). Photo attribution by PhotosforWork.com.

This presidential election has brought lots of fireworks. Many Americans worry about the future and what it means for their money. Is a comfortable future – a financial life without anxiety and recurring headaches – really within reach?

President-elect Donald Trump isn’t completely clear in all of his policy stances. From an investor standpoint, it injects uncertainty in the future. How financial markets will react to a Trump administration’s policies is anyone’s guess – and for Americans approaching retirement, it is an especially important question.

If you plan to start drawing on your nest egg within the next eight years, do not fret. Here’s a quick look at some of the takeaways from this election – and how you can keep your money safe, spend with confidence, and enjoy the retirement you have worked hard for.

on 03 November, 2016

401k vs iul img

In the last decade, we had two major market crashes. Understandably, many working professionals worry about the long-term safety of their money. They may have retirement saving plans such as 401(k) plans at their disposal. But with its contribution limits, costly tax implications, and investment options’ exposure to market risk, the 401(k) can be unseemly for conservative-minded savers.

One trend we have seen is presentation of “IUL,” or indexed universal life insurance, as an alternative to the 401(k). To be clear, IUL isn’t an investment strategy, it is a type of permanent life insurance. So be wary of discussions in which IUL is treated as an investment vehicle, especially relative to a 401(k) plan.

With that said, IUL may be attractive to retirement savers, including younger professionals, on account of its more tax-efficient advantages over the 401(k), among other benefits. Some advantages include protection against market downfalls, more flexibility with contributions and money access, and better tax treatment for future income. Keep in mind, though – just like with any financial product, suitability will always depend on individual client needs, circumstances, and objectives.

Here’s a quick overview of indexed universal life insurance, and how it can differ from a 401(k) as a wealth-accumulating option.

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