"Should I..." Series: Close to Retirement

Welcome to my “Should I…” series!  In this series, I will answer questions that I hear frequently from my clients.  I would love to answer your questions too.  So leave any questions you may have in the comments below and I will answer them in a future “Should I…” post.

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Should I come out of the stock market when it fluctuates if I am 5 years from retirement?

At five years out from retirement, your portfolio should be diversified to provide both safety and growth.  You will be withdrawing money from your retirement fund a little at a time over as many as 20 – 30 years.  So, some of your funds should be in safe investments and readily available and some should remain in growth stocks so the money you won’t need to access for 20 years or more will still be working for you and taking advantage of market upswings.  If your portfolio is well-structured and diversified, there is no need to panic when the market fluctuates – even if you are five years from retirement.

Not sure if you are invested correctly? Click here to find out.

"Should I..." Series: 401k

Welcome to my “Should I…” series!  In this series, I will answer questions that I hear frequently from my clients.  I would love to answer your questions too.  So leave any questions you may have in the comments below and I will answer them in a future “Should I…” post.

Should I invest in my 401k beyond the employer match?

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Yes!  I know that sometimes a financial advisor will suggest that you should just invest in your 401k to the point of the employer match, and use any remaining money you have earmarked for savings in an investment account, Roth IRA or traditional IRA. Unless you are a seriously disciplined investor who will, consistently and without question, invest additional money monthly into an investment account, I say put it in your 401k.  It’s simple, it’s done automatically, you don’t have to think about it and you won’t be tempted to skip a month or two to spend that money on a vacation.  Being a disciplined investor is the only way to set yourself up for a comfortable and worry-free retirement.  

Enlightening Summer Reading

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There are a lot of light summer reads out there for your beach vacation. But if you want to read a book this summer that will inspire you as your run and grow your business, take a look at Mark Cuban's summer reading list, as told to Inc.com

They aren't light, but they are enlightening. 

And, if you are a small business owner who is thinking about selling your business, take a look at the book I wrote specifically on that subject. It is called One Shot, and you can read it here

One Shot is about a process that all successful entrepreneurs can go through to ask the right questions, pursue the appropriate conversations, and ultimately implement the best solutions for you and your business.

Inspiring Podcasts - You Owe It to Yourself to Listen

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Part of what I do at Baer Wealth Management is work with business owners to help them determine the right time to sell their business and maximize their profits from the sale.

I often recommend that they listen to this podcast: Built to Sell

The Built to Sell podcast focuses on business owners who have recently sold their companies and takes an excellent look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of the selling process.  It works so well because those interviewed are honest and open about the challenges they faced and give insightful information about the decisions they made along the way.

If you are thinking about selling your business, I think you will find the information valuable and suggest you first listen to the episode with Sue Hrib, who recently sold her consulting firm.  

And, if you get inspired by listening to podcasts like I do, take a look at this piece from Inc.com, which suggests several other podcasts that business owners and entrepreneurs might find interesting.  I know I will be checking some of them out this summer!

Pay Yourself First

Every time you order chicken breast and roasted vegetables instead of lasagna, you are making a healthy choice that, if you are consistent, will pay dividends to your future self.

Every time you decide to go to the gym, even though you are tired and would prefer to spend the time with Netflix and your couch, you are taking a step toward a healthier future.

But ask yourself this:  Are you taking steps to be sure your financial future is healthy?  

If the answer is no, the most important thing you can do -- consistently -- is very simple.  Pay yourself first.

When you work up your budget, the category at the top of the list should be SAVINGS.  This includes 401k and/or IRA if it is not automatically taken out of your check, an emergency fund savings account, an investment account, and a traditional savings account.

Paying yourself can easily be done by a direct deposit that you set up with your bank.  If the money goes out of your check and into savings automatically, you won't see the money, you will learn to live on the balance of our paycheck and you will be financially able to handle unexpected expenses that happen to all of us.  You will also be setting your future, retired self up for a comfortable life without having to worry about when your next social security check will arrive.

Let's take a look at each category:

401k/IRA - It is critical to be good to your future self by saving for retirement while you are in your early and peak earning years.  If you start early, the money you put away has decades to compound.  Most employers will match a certain percentage of the money you save.  Don't leave this free money on the table!  

Emergency Fund - Put money aside in an emergency fund for the unexpected -- your roof springs a leak, your hot water heater dies, you need expensive dental work.  Without an emergency fund, many people put these expenses on their credit cards and wind up paying that debt down for years.  In addition, a longer term goal is to save at least 3 months of living expenses in the emergency fund in case you lose your job and your income is interrupted.

Savings Account - This is for expected expenses that may not be included in your monthly budget.  For example, your twice yearly car insurance payment, saving for a vacation or for a new car. 

Investment Account - Watch your money grow when you invest in mutual funds and bonds.  It is simple to set up an investment account with a brokerage house like Vanguard or Fidelity, and if you deposit even a small amount each paycheck, you will see your money grow over time.  The stock market offers a potentially higher return on your money than a savings account and will help you keep up with inflation.

Investing In Gold - What Does Warren Say?

I talk to my clients all the time about the need to grow their wealth by investing in companies designed to generate profits for their shareholders, being consistent with investing and resisting the urge to take money out when the market goes through inevitable downturns.  

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A few weeks ago, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett crystalized this advice with an example that I think is worth sharing.

Buffett talked about the difference between investing in stocks and investing in gold.  Gold is often considered a "safe" investment and one many people turn to when the markets are volatile.  

Here is what he found:

If you invested $10,000 in a S & P Index Fund in 1942 (the year he began investing), your investment would be worth $51 million today.

If you invested the same amount in gold in 1942, your investment would be worth $400,000 today.

"For every dollar you could have made by investing in American business, you would have less than a penny of gain by buying into a store of value which people tell you to run to every time you get scared by the headlines," Buffett said.

This example perfectly illustrates why it is so important to invest as early as possible and remain disciplined about staying in the market for the long haul.

Your future self will thank you.

Five Healthy Money Habits To Teach Your Kids

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Our two children, Sunny who is six, and MJ who is three, don’t understand what their dad does for a living quite yet.  But my wife and I have started to teach them some good habits and instill some simple principles that we hope are sinking in.  Good money habits begin with the basics and, hopefully, lead to a way of thinking about money that will last a lifetime.  Here are some ideas you may want to teach your kids:

1.       Understanding needs vs. wants.  Your child may think they “need” a new toy, but as parents, it is our job to help our children understand it is actually a “want.”  That is a very important first lesson that can be applied throughout a lifetime as a foundation of smart money management.

2.      Nothing in life is given – if you want something, you have to work for it.  Working hard is how you get what you “want.”  Start your kids on an allowance at an early age and help them understand that to be able to do the things they want to do, they need to earn that right by working for it.

3.      As your children get older, teach them that money is earned by providing a value.  The value can be in creating a new product that people like to use or simply by providing a service that people are willing to pay for – washing cars, moving lawns, etc.  Almost all successful entrepreneurs got their start by figuring out how to earn money from their neighbors and friends.

4.      Pay yourself first.  Teach your kids that every paycheck you earn is a way to secure your future.  It is important to contribute 10 – 20% of what you make to yourself in the form of automatic savings.  If you wait to save what is left after you pay your expenses and satisfy your “wants,” you most likely will not save anything at all.

5.      Illustrate the power of investing and compounding interest.  Earning money on your money is the most powerful way to compound wealth and is how the wealthy get wealthier.  It can best be illustrated to a child by asking this question:  If you were given a choice to receive $1 million dollars in one month, or a penny doubled every day for 30 days, which one would you choose?

            I think even most adults would be surprised to learn that a penny doubled every day for 30 days would be worth more than $5 million after 30 days.  That is the power of compounding interest.

Day 1:  $.01                                                            
Day 2: $.02
Day 3: $.04
Day 4: $.08
Day 5: $.16
Day 6: $.32
Day 7: $.64
Day 8: $1.28
Day 9: $2.56
Day 10: $5.12
Day 11: $10.24
Day 12: $20.48
Day 13: $40.96
Day 14: $81.92
Day 15: $163.84
Day 16: $327.68
Day 17: $655.36
Day 18: $1,310.72
Day 19: $2,621.44
Day 20: $5,242.88
Day 21: $10,485.76
Day 22: $20,971.52
Day 23: $41,943.04
Day 24: $83,886.08
Day 25: $167,772.16
Day 26: $335,544.32
Day 27: $671,088.64
Day 28: $1,342,177.28
Day 29: $2,684,354.56
Day 30: $5,368,709.12

Get Inspired by Sylvia Bloom

There was a news story a couple weeks ago about Sylvia Bloom, a legal secretary from Brooklyn, NY who died at the age of 96 after working at the same law firm for 67 years.  Her 67-year run is notable, but friends and family were astounded to learn shortly after her death that she had amassed more than $8 million dollars on a secretary’s salary.  Sylvia left some money to relatives and friends, but he bulk of her estate was donated to fund scholarships for needy students.

Reading about Sylvia’s story reminded me of another, similar story from a few years ago.  Ronald Read was a janitor who lived frugally and, seemingly, within his means.  He passed away at the age of 92 with a fortune of more than $6 million dollars, that he donated to a library and a hospital in his home state of Vermont.

What Sylvia and Ronald both had in common was smart spending and investing habits.  Neither one had a crystal ball.  What they did have was discipline.

Let’s break down Ronald’s potential investment timeline to see how his discipline paid off in a big way.

1945 - Lets say Ronald started investing in 1945 with $1,000.

Thereafter, he invested $50 a month, every month, until 2014.

1967 - It took Ronald 22 years to grow his investment account to $100,000.  That was in 1967. 

1965 – 1975 - Between 1965 and 1974, Ronald kept adding $50 per month, but the stock market was fickle and his account had ups and downs.  His account stagnated -- it totaled $93k in 1965 and $98k in 1974. 

Many people would have been afraid of the market fluctuation and gotten out during those years.

1989 - Ronald stayed the course.  By 1989, his investment account was worth $1 million.

1999 - Just ten years later, in 1999, it had grown to $5 million.

2002 - When an economic downturn hit, Ronald’s account shrunk to $3 million in 2002.  Many investors were spooked and got of the market at that point.

2007 -  Not Ronald.  He stayed the course and his account doubled, to $6 million, just five years later in 2007.

2008 - Another downturn followed, and he lost $2.2 million.  In 2008, his account had shrunk to $3.8 million.  Ronald didn’t flinch. 

2014 - He kept investing and in 2014, his account was worth $10 million.

I know most of us don’t have 60+ years to invest at this point, but Ronald’s trajectory illustrates the importance of consistency and of staying the course even in down markets.  After the time periods when his portfolio took the biggest hits, the largest gains followed within five years.

Take a look at Ronald’s chart below for some inspiration! 

1945 - $1,000

1965 – $93,000

1967 - $100,000

1974 - $98,000

1989 - $1 million

1999 - $5 million

2002 - $3 million

2007 - $6 million

2008 - $3.8 million

2014 – $10 million

The best investment advice you can follow is this:  start early and stay consistent.  History has proven that even investing small amounts – consistently – and staying the course in down markets, will pay off in the end. Let the market work for you!

So think of Sylvia and Ronald, and get started.  If you want some investment advice, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

How a former Eckerd’s drugstore cashier became major player in the financial services industry

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Kenny Baer was featured in Atlanta Business Chronicle's "Meet the C-Suite" which features some of the city's most high profile c-level executives.

December 6, 2017

Phil W. Hudson

Staff Writer 

Atlanta Business Chronicle

Welcome to Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Meet the C-Suite,” where each week we will feature one of the city’s most high profile c-level executives.

This week meet Kenny Baer, managing partner of Marietta-based Baer Wealth Management.

  • Name: Kenny Baer    
  • Company: Baer Wealth Management
  • Title: Managing Partner
  • Headquarters: Marietta
  • Background: I started my career in the financial services industry straight out of school. I briefly exited the financial services industry to work on the financial side of professional sports.
  • First Job: I worked at Eckerd’s Drug Store as a cashier in the same office park where our company is located today.
  • Education: Sports Management/Minor Business from Elon University; Certified Financial Planner degree from Oglethorpe University
  • Residence: Roswell/East Cobb 

Business Strategy

How’s business: Business is great. We have had year over year growth of more than 25 percent in the last 5 years. Our client base continues to grow and we are also growing from a hiring standpoint.

Biggest challenge for your business: Sustaining our growth rate regardless of stock market performance. The challenge in our business is educating clients so they have realistic expectations of what to expect from their accounts. We are a firm that refuses to sell people a bill of goods. We pride ourselves on telling our customers the truth about what they can and should expect from us. In our industry, we often combat competition who essentially try to tell clients that they can predict the future. 

What’s going to change at your company in the next year: We are looking to expand through acquisition and I expect to make our first acquisition before the end of next year. 

Company goal yet to be achieved: Creating a sustainable marketing campaign that leads to a consistent and predictable inflow of the right type of prospective clients.

Management philosophy

Guiding principles for good management: I believe that the office should be a fun place to be. You spend as much time at work as most anywhere else so we are always working to create a culture and an environment where people can be effective and happy. That is not only better for the staff but also for our clients. I like to give our staff the opportunity to better themselves via education, or any other ideas they have that can help them further their own careers. Ultimately, I think that is just better for them, their families and also for our firm. I believe that a collaborative environment is a thriving environment. Asking for advice and getting everyone’s thoughts and opinions helps build a strong team.

Best way to keep competitive edge: Staying educated on what is available financially to best serve our clients. Essentially you don’t know what you don’t know. So, we try to stay abreast of the best available options and strategies for our clients. The world is constantly changing and I see it as our duty to best serve our clients by being informed about what they can potentially do to reach their goals. 

Why people like working for you: I try to accentuate my employee’s positive attributes and put them in a position to succeed. 

Most inspiring entrepreneur: I don’t know if I would specifically call this person an “entrepreneur,” but I think Jim Carrey has an incredibly inspirational story. He wrote himself a $10M check years before he had made it as an actor and had enough belief in himself that he was one day going to be able to cash it. He also learned from his father that you can fail doing something you settle for, so you might as well go after your dream. If you fail, fail at doing something you love. 

I also admire John Paul Dejoria, founder of Paul Mitchell. He had found success but then lost it all and even lived in his car for some time. But he bounced back with only $700 to his name and grew his business into the billion-dollar company that it is today. His story reminds me of a favorite line in my favorite poem: “If”, by Rudyard Kipling: “If you can make one heap of all your winnings, risk it on one turn of pitch and toss, and lose and start again at your beginnings, and never breathe a word about your loss.”  

Judgment calls

Best business decision: Purchasing the practice from my father at a time when I did not know whether or not I could really afford to do it. Having the belief in yourself that you can just make it happen. I included many of the lessons I learned as an entrepreneur in the book I recently wrote, “One Shot.” It offers strategic and tactical advice to entrepreneurs and small business owners who are ready to sell the companies they founded.

Hardest lesson learned and how you learned it: Patience, and trust that things will get done. I can expect things quickly but if something is ten deep on a to-do list, then I need patience and trust to accept that eventually it will get done. I’m still learning it!

Toughest business decision: Hiring, when to hire, whether to hire internally or to outsource, etc. It is never clear cut what the right move is.

Biggest missed opportunity: I wouldn’t say it was a missed opportunity, but I wish I would never have left the industry for the brief time I did. It was a learning experience so I can’t say I regret it but that departure just delayed the success that we have today. 

True confessions

Like best about job: From an internal perspective, I enjoy working with our staff. We have really talented and great people. In regards to our clients, I like helping them solve their problems and acting as their personal CFO. It is very rewarding to implement a strategy for a client that puts them on a track to achieve all their financial goals.

Like least about job: Keeping organized and detailing notes from conversations I have.

Pet peeve: People who just ignore you or don’t respond. We often joke that we should just send the spouse flowers and tell them we are sorry for their loss because the only rational reason they have not responded is they are dead. 

First choice for a new career: I would probably be an actor, writer, or standup comedian.

Predilections

Most influential book: Unbroken, the Laura Hillenbrand book about Louis Zamperini. A true story about a man who survived the most incredible hardships and was able to rebuild his spirit. A true inspiration and an American hero. 

Favorite cause: Children’s Restoration Network. They help support homeless children throughout the Atlanta area. Over the last couple of years, we have donated more than 500 toys to their organization through multiple initiatives including our annual Holiday Toy Drive. 

Favorite restaurant: Little Alley in Roswell: Great steaks and a great bourbon selection.

Favorite way to spend free time: I enjoy spending time with my wife and children doing something fun. My daughter, Sunny, who is 5, and my son, MJ, who is 3, are up for most anything but my daughter has especially enjoyed indoor rock climbing, and my son loves going to the golf course. I enjoy being with them where they are burning off energy! 

I personally enjoy exercise, college football, and playing golf. It depends on the day in which order I prefer those. It really just depends on how well I am playing golf at the time!

Favorite music: I have extremely eclectic taste, after just glancing at my music list, I see Kid Cudi, Hank Williams Jr., Bill Withers, Taylor Swift, and the Grateful Dead. 

 

 

Cobb experts: Average resident will see lower taxes

Kenny Baer was featured in an article in the Marietta Daily Journal, providing insights about the recently signed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Marietta Daily Journal

www.mdjonline.com

Ricky Leroux

December 21, 2017

Experts around Cobb say most residents will see a reduction in their taxes under the new tax law passed by Congress this week.

The tax law, expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump early next year, reduces the tax rates for most of the seven federal tax brackets and nearly doubles the standard deduction, among other provisions.

“The average taxpayer is most likely going to save a little bit of money because their rate is going to be reduced by whatever bracket they fall into, and raising the standard deduction will probably make it easier for the average Joe to more simply file their tax return,” said Kenneth Baer, owner and managing partner of the east Cobb financial planning firm Baer Wealth Management.

Taxpayers have the option of taking a standard deduction or itemizing individual deductions when they file their tax returns. By increasing the standard deduction and limiting other deductions, such as a deduction for state and local taxes, the number of taxpayers who itemize is likely to decrease, Baer said.

The balance between the reduction in tax rates and elimination or capping deductions will likely result in a lower tax bill for most people, but every case is different, explained Roger Tutterow, economics professor at Kennesaw State University and director of its Econometric Center.

“It’s going to depend on what their household looks like,” Tutterow said. “I think most individuals will see their taxes come down, and clearly, it’s not just the tax rates that changed, it’s, for example, there’s a higher child tax credit, there’s a higher standard deduction. Some exemptions or deductions are going away. For example, the ability to take off for paying state and local taxes has been capped now. … So you may make out better in terms of having a lower marginal tax rates, but some of your deductions may be eliminated or capped. So it’ll be interesting to see.”

The amount of the reduction in taxes for middle-income taxpayers is unlikely to be life-changing, Baer said.

“Your average Joe, in my opinion, and this is just my opinion, it’s not going to make much difference in their lives,” Baer said. “They’re going to pay less, which is good, but it’s not a big difference maker.”

The balance between lower rates and limited deductions may not swing in favor of some higher-income individuals, according to Dan DiLuzio, CPA at Henssler Financial, which has an office in Kennesaw.

“I’ve got a lot of clients in the upper brackets,” DiLuzio said. “They may not see as much as they hoped they would see because their itemized deductions are going to be limited, particularly when they’ve had high real estate taxes or high state income taxes, that’s going to go away. And then their tax brackets haven’t really decreased as much as some of the other brackets have.”

Jean Hawkins, managing partner at Hawking, Moore and Cubbedge, a tax planning and business accounting firm in Marietta, went further, saying most of her high-income clients will see higher taxes as a result of the bill.

“Even though the standard deduction has been doubled, the personal exemption is gone and the state and local tax deduction has been capped,” Hawkins said. “I think those things are not going to make up for the fact that the brackets have been lowered slightly. I think that’s not going to net out for most of our clients.”

An analysis by The Tax Policy Center estimates that all income groups will see a reduction in taxes in the short term, however.

“Compared to current law, taxes would fall for all income groups on average in 2018, increasing overall average after-tax income by 2.2 percent,” the analysis reads. “In general, tax cuts as a percentage of after-tax income would be larger for higher-income groups, with the largest cuts as a share of income going to taxpayers in the 95th to 99th percentiles of the income distribution.”

Many of the benefits in the tax bill for individuals will expire by 2027. Republicans in Congress had those provisions sunset in order to pass the bill with only 51 votes in the Senate through a process called reconciliation, Tutterow explained.

“One of the dynamics that’s playing out though is that a lot of the rhetoric is saying, ‘Well, individual income taxes may come down, but there’s a window on how long those lower rates apply. And in the future those rates will go back up.’ And of course, that was done as a way to get the bill through the Senate,” Tutterow said. “By sunsetting the lower individual rates, it allowed them to pass the bill and still come in under the rules of reconciliation.”

Tutterow said the decision to put an end date on the individual portions of the tax bill while making the corporate tax benefits permanent was a calculated move by Congressional Republicans.

“I think there’s a calculated bet being made that Congress will extend lower tax rates for individuals in the future,” he said. “I think the sense was if they’re going to cut the corporate rate, now’s the time to do it permanently because they have the votes. Several years down the road, Republicans may not be in the majority, and then a lower corporate rate might not survive if it were sunset. So I think that’s why the corporate rate was made permanent, while the individual tax rates remained with a sunset provision.”

BUSINESSES

The largest cuts in the tax bill are for corporations, and Congressional Republicans are betting that putting more money in the pockets of business owners will lead to higher wages, more jobs and increased investment. Whether or not that will happen remains to be seen, Tutterow said.

“One thing we have to remember: it’s easy to say the business owner is better off,” Tutterow said. “We need to remember that for large businesses, we’re talking about stockholders. We’re talking about people who own stock in the company. They’re the beneficiaries. Now, whether the additional after tax income will be used to hire more people or be used to invest in capital equipment to grow the enterprise or whether it will be returned to shareholders is somewhat an open question. Therein lies the real question mark about how stimulative the plan is for employment and investment.”

Wage growth depends on several factors, including the availability of labor and productivity, he said.

“It may be unpopular to say this, but businesses hire people and businesses give people raises because they need to,” Tutterow said. “The reason we see wages rising is it’s necessary to attract and retain the workers you need. So I think that’s an important consideration. I don’t think that just because businesses find themselves with additional after-tax profit, they necessarily go hire more individuals. They’re going to find themselves with more after-tax profit and they’re going to decide to move into new markets or launch new products to grow the enterprise, and that’s why they hire new people.”

Baer agreed, saying business owners will do well under the new tax regulations, and more money in their pockets could lead to hiring more people, new technology being developed and higher wages.

“I think that’s the idea behind it. Whether that turns into reality or not, we don’t really know. … The overall theme is if you’re a business owner, you have the potential to seriously negate your tax liability. It depends on the kind of business, it depends on how you receive your income, but there is a lot of potential there to lower your taxable income or what you’re paying in taxes as a wealthy — a business owner who’s doing very well.”

Manufacturing is one industry that could see growth as a result of the tax changes, Tutterow said.

“That is one of the sectors that there’s some hope that the lower tax rates will improve profitability for domestic production. We have seen an outward migration of production moving to Mexico, Central America and to Asia. And there’s a lot of trends now that are allowing us to be more competitive at bringing production home. And certainly lower tax rates on profits could contribute to that,” Tutterow said.

BWM and Children's Restoration Network Toy Drive 2016

For the last several years, Baer Wealth Management has supported Children's Restoration Network (CRN) through a number of initiatives. Through various programs, CRN helps homeless children receive basic necessities from food and school supplies to adult guidance and scholarships. Through this toy drive, Baer Wealth Management was able to aid them with this mission. Over 200 toys were donated to homeless children in Atlanta! 

Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible!