Making Safer Investment Decisions in 2009

January 21, 2009

It’s hard to say what 2009 will look like. While there are still several concerns (the housing market, rising unemployment, etc.), there will also be considerable government intervention to help improve the economy this year, both in the U.S. and worldwide.

So what should you do in 2009 to make your portfolio and overall financial picture better? Here are some general ideas to employ as markets and economies hopefully stabilize in the New Year:

Start with a plan (or review an old one): If you’ve worked with a financial planner in the past, now is a good time to review your plan to make sure you are still on track to meet your goals. If you haven’t worked with a financial planner before, or if you haven’t prepared a financial plan before, it might be time to meet with a Certified Financial Planner™ to create a plan. Much of the riskiest investing, overbuying and panic selling during the late 1990s and early 2000s could have been avoided if individual investors had sought advice for achieving long-term specific goals such as retirement or a college education.

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When the Road to Investing Gets Bumpy

September 24, 2008

Investing in the stock market is a lot like driving on a long road trip.  At some point, you’re going to run into pot holes and rough patches.  When that happens, you should definitely drive with more caution, but you have to keep on going if you want to reach your destination.

Similarly, if you’re investing for long-term goals such as retirement, you will encounter some market volatility, probably several times along your journey.  While you may be tempted to pull over and wait out the rough times, it will delay or may even prevent you from reaching your goals.

So what should you do when the road to investing gets bumpy?

Buy Low, Sell High:  The whole premise behind investing is to buy low and sell high.  You can’t do that if you pull out of the market or stop investing when the market goes down.  If you’re investing for the long-term, you should be glad when the market is down, because then stocks are “on sale” and you can pick up more shares at a lower price.  Who doesn’t love a good sale?

Diversify: One of the best ways to defend your portfolio against market losses is to have a portfolio that is properly diversified.  If you review the history of the stock market, you’ll see that the best performing assets vary from year to year and that it’s not easy to predict which asset class will perform well in any given year.  Therefore, by having a mix of asset classes, based on your risk tolerance, your goals and your timeframe, you are more likely to meet your goals.  In addition, having a mix of asset classes reduces your risk of loss, since you won’t have all of your eggs in one basket.

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Smart Money Moves to Make in Tough Times

September 24, 2008

The recent financial news – banks failing, the Treasury taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the stock market dropping several hundred points in one day – may have you feeling a bit helpless when it comes to your finances.

While you may not be able to make the market go back up or keep banks from failing, there are steps you can take to make your finances as strong as possible in these tough times:

1.  Fund your emergency fund.  It’s more important than ever to have an emergency fund, in case you lose your job, have unexpected medical expenses, or have a major house repair, so that you don’t have to sell investments (while they’re down), or rack up credit card debt.  The general rule of thumb is to have three to six months of living expenses set aside for emergencies.

2.  Reduce debt.  If you have high interest credit card debt, the greatest return you can get right now is to pay off that debt.  Start by calling your credit card companies and asking for a lower interest rate (if you have a good credit score, you could get your rates down to 8-12%, which is much better than paying 20+ percent).  Then make the minimum payments on all of your credit cards except the highest interest rate card until paid off.

3.  Review your spending.  I’m always amazed at how many people have no idea where their money is going each month.  How can you reach your goals if you don’t know where your money is going?  If you aren’t already doing so, now is a great time to start tracking your spending using a software program (such as Quicken) or even spreadsheets that you create on your own.

4.  Increase your retirement contributions.  Many people panic and stop investing in their 401Ks or other retirement accounts when the market is down.  When the market is down is actually the best time to invest.  Remember “buy low, sell high”?  Well, the time to buy low is when the market is down!  Make sure that you are investing in a diversified portfolio that meets your risk tolerance, time frame and goals, and that you rebalance once a year.

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Services

Beacon Financial Advisors, LLC, is a fee-only financial planning and Registered Investment Advisory firm headquartered in Lee’s Summit, Missouri and serving the greater Kansas City area.

The firm offers comprehensive financial planning services. Beacon advisors work solely for their clients. Click here to learn more about our services.

About Us

Kristine McKinley, CFP®, CPA, is the founding principal of Beacon Financial Advisors, LLC, an independent, fee-only financial planning firm located in Lee’s Summit, Missouri and serving the greater Kansas City area.

Kristine focuses on providing fee-only financial planning, investment advice, and tax preparation to individuals and families from all income levels.  About Us

In the News

Investment News – Kristine McKinley discusses the 0% Social Security COLA (for 2016) in No Social Security cost-of-living adjustment in 2016.

Kiplinger Magazine/NAPFA – Kristine McKinley answered reader’s tax questions during the 2013 Jump Start Your Retirement Plan Days sponsored by Kiplinger magazine and the NAPFA Consumer Education Foundation.