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Colleen's Corner

Asset Allocation

Often financial "experts" make asset allocation difficult to understand. My goal in this series of articles is for you to understand asset allocation thoroughly, in an easy to understand format.
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30 yr fixed mtg 3.40% 3.50%
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Retire on Track

Colleen Mulder-Seward, MBA
Retirement Calculator, Inc.

Retire on Track

In the years since World War II, the United States has seen an incredible growth in affluence as a nation.  But, most Americans are still not investing enough toward their retirement.  From author Ron Blue's book Master Your Money "... In the world's most affluent society in all of history very, very few individuals ever achieve a position of being able to live off the resources they have accumulated.  The vast majority are dependent on government, relatives, charity, or they must continue to work in order to have enough income to meet their needs."

Mr. Blue's statement has been confirmed by a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Commerce - the devastating reality is 75 percent of Americans rely on Social Security, family and friends as their only sources of income. Additionally, the Department of Commerce's study found that, sadly, only 5 percent of Americans have saved and invested enough money to be financially independent at age 65.  All is not lost. You can change your retirement future.

Your secure retirement future starts with a solid financial plan. Always keep in mind that the earlier you start planning the better, but it is never too late to start planning for your retirement. Start with the creation of a complete financial plan, which includes:

  1. Determination of your ideal asset allocation,
  2. Consideration of the impact of management fee has on your portfolio,
  3. Management of tax liability,
  4. The impact of inflation has on your portfolio, and
  5. Calculation of the appropriate withdrawal rate.

(1)    You can help determine your ideal asset allocation by taking a short quiz found at

(2)    Through use of the retirement calculator found at, you can view the impact that management fees have on your plan.  Usually, management fees account for roughly a one percent loss of your portfolio each year. One percent may not sound like an insignificant amount, until you consider that on a $500,000 portfolio, that means you will have to make $5,000 a year to just breakeven.

(3)    You can manage your tax liability by first investing in tax-deferred and tax-free investments.  These include - 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457s, IRAs, municipal bonds, and annuities (use extreme caution here - most are not worth the tax savings benefits they claim).

(4)    Do not underestimate the withering affects of inflation on your purchasing power.  Historically, the inflation rate has been about 3 percent.  Thus, with just the average inflation rate of 3 percent, your costs double every twenty-four years.   You can expect to spend as much time in retirement as you did when you worked.  Therefore, you can expect to see your expenses double during your retirement years.  Ouch.

(5)    Calculation of your appropriate withdrawal rate is extremely important.  You need to make sure you follow the government's minimum distribution requirements for retirement accounts.  This is another item that can easily be projected with the help of a good retirement calculator like the one found at    

You are the best person to manage your money.  But, that does not mean you have to depend solely on your own financial talents.  Even the most seasoned investors need some professional retirement planning help.  To start building a financial plan, try a FREE subscription to Retirement Intelligence Information Services.

How do I keep up-to-date on the latest news impacting my retirement?

To keep informed about retirement topics, try a FREE membership to Retirement Intelligence Information Services. At no cost to join, you will receive a bi-monthly newsletter full of financial information to inform and empower you to have a successful retirement. As an added bonus, will include the Retirement Calculator Software Version 2.0 (a $24.95 value seen live on CBS TV) for FREE.

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Analysis of the Economics of Early Social Security Withdrawal

Robert J. Phillips
Chief Retirement Consultant

Deciding whether or not to take the early withdrawal of social security at age 62 can be difficult. If you need this income at 62 to fund your retirement the decision is fairly straightforward. Take it early! On the other hand, if you have another source of revenue to fund your retirement your decision will be primarily based on lifestyle, health and investment preferences.

Several factors can affect your decision. First is your life expectancy. If you are in good health and have a family history of living beyond 90 then waiting for full benefits may be best. Two other factors impact this decision. First and most important is the value of money or your expected return from your investments. If you are using other investments instead of social security to fund your retirement you should use the rate of return of these investments as your value of money. There is another way to look at the value of money. If you do not require the social security money to live, you can invest the distributions for the future. The rate of return of this investment is your value of money. If your investments will make larger returns such as stocks this would favor taking the early withdrawal.

The last factor impacting your decision is inflation. Social security includes an annual adjustment based on inflation. You cannot control this variable but you should be aware of its impact. If future inflation is significant it will favor a later full distribution

FREE Social Security Calculator:

Find Out Your Breakeven Age

We developed a calculator to assist in analyzing the impact of taking early benefits at age 62 or waiting for full benefits at age 66 to 67 depending on the year you were born...If you were born in 1960 or later your full benefits will begin at age 67 and your reduction for early benefits at age 62 will be 30%. If you were born between 1946 and 1960 your full benefits begin as early as age 66. We have included a chart that summarizes information.

To use the calculator you need to input your year of birth. You also need to input a value of money up to 10% and a projected inflation adjustment. The calculator analyzes income generated over time from both the early and full benefit investments. It calculates the age at which full social security will catch up and breakeven with the early withdrawal. If you were born before 1960 your breakeven age will be impacted by the year you were born. An early breakeven age favors waiting for full benefits.

The social security calculator is not the final answer whether to take an early withdrawal but it does give you additional economic data to assist in that decision. Ultimately you must balance income, investments and lifestyle to optimize your enjoyment during your retirement years.