What is the mind-set of financial independence?

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Establishing the right mindset towards money will eventually show up in your investment portfolio as wealth that can provide a lifetime of income and the eventual achieving of financial independence. This may be impossible, without understanding how attitude affects one’s financial destiny. First, let’s examine a few of the correct attitudes versus erroneous thinking that could block our way.

Agree about money Most people need to consider the input of another person regarding how money is spent, invested, and managed. The problem is, many people never agree to a strategy of investing and stick with it – they’re still broke while arguing or doubting how to invest at age 55. Find a compromise, and stick to an agreed-on plan to invest.

Know the state of your finances Many never reconcile their bank account or organize their financial receipts or statements. They continue to make purchases, but never really know if they can afford them. Financial independence depends on financial management – you will need to establish orderly control. Purchase a filing cabinet, trays for receipts, files for all categories of purchases – a place for everything. Consider using computer software such as Quicken, posting your income and expenses weekly. Reconcile bank accounts and know your balances on a weekly basis, and your financial position, on a quarterly basis.

Buy only essentials on sale Sale signs are everywhere – the consumer can get up to 70% off in some cases. Those who sell goods know that sale signs encourage people to buy. Consumers legitimize the purchase in their minds, on the basis of saving a few dollars on an item. The problem is that over time one may buy many items on sale, despite the fact that he or she is spending above the household’s discretionary income, and may max the credit cards. While overspending this way, unmanageable debt is created. Instead of using discretionary income to invest; it all goes to paying down escalating credit card bills and high interest. In order to break free of this habit, save money first, and buy based on true needs. Stay clear of malls until the habit is broken. Be careful not to go to the other extreme and become a scrooge, ruining life’s enjoyment for others. Save money first, and buy based on true needs.

Limit need-for-prestige spending Many people buy more expensive computers, stereos, cars and gadgetry in order to impress the neighbours – yet these items depreciate in value over time. Add to that, countless upgrades when we become discontented, comparing new arrivals on the market. Such buying behaviour may create a false sense of prestige, negating one’s future retirement security. Income may drop or disappear all too soon, leaving many unpaid liabilities. Invest in assets that appreciate in value, such as a home, equity investment funds, or segregated funds, while not spending more in relation to increased income.

Eliminate procrastination based on fear What occurs in the U.S. or the Euro zone affects us all collectively, only insofar as how the markets that you invest in respond. Over 50 years, we find that the U.S. markets initially declined in a crisis, yet each recovered in a remarkably short period of one week. After the Suez Canal crisis: markets down 1.5%, gained 4%. The arms blockage in Cuba: down 2%, climbing back 4%. President Kennedy’s assassination: a decline of 3%, rising again within one week, 6%. The financial crisis of 2008 ruined many people’s investment retirement portfolio if they sold their funds or stocks. Those who were patient saw most of their funds and stocks climb to much higher values than before the crisis began.

How do individuals or families accumulate wealth?

They save by moving money received as income into a separate account, before they spend it. It doesn’t matter if you have received an inheritance or won a lottery – the rule is the same. Save, and then invest before you spend.

Here are some good reasons for investing.

  • It gives us a sense of financial security, earned by continued discipline and adherence to the principle of saving, which adds to our sense of personal dignity.
  • We are eventually rewarded by seeing money make more money as it works for us, gaining and compounding.
  • Saving paves the way for the actualization of our goals and objectives in life, such as acquiring a home, making major purchases, travelling, putting children through college or university, or going back to school ourselves.
  • Accumulated assets will increase our net worth, and bring us to financial independence. Such control and flexibility is within our reach if we start now.

Stumbling blocks to saving. Don’t defer to only saving what’s left at the end of the month, or waiting until “things get better”. Usually there is nothing left at the end of the month and things rarely improve because the philosophy hasn’t changed – spending above income continues and debts increase. Except for a home mortgage or loans for motor vehicle transportation, and in some cases for investing; debt is a deterrent to financial independence. Commit to a strategy to pay down all household debt and start saving at least 10% of your income every month.

Inflation is a constant battle. Over the years, inflation reduces our buying power. Interest rates when increasing to reduce inflation also increase our debt repayment load as a percentage of income. The following table shows just what inflation can do to your investment income when needed when retired.


 

Planning for your dependants. Make sure you have sufficient life insurance to pay off your total debts such as: credit card balances, car loans, IOUs, and any business-related debt. Incorporate this with sufficient coverage to provide future income for your dependants. This is especially necessary if your debt exceeds your annual income as it does for the average household where debt runs at 150% or more, of income.

How can I assess the expense of leasing or buying a car?

 

The rising cost of driving.

The rising cost of fuel is making many consumers change their thinking with regard to driving expenditures. On May 5, 2011,the following was reported:

    “General Motors Co. (GM-N) reported its highest quarterly profit in more than a decade, helped by fuel-efficient cars and smaller SUVs that were in demand as gas prices marched higher. The biggest U.S. automaker said Thursday that it earned $3.2-billion, or $1.77 per share, in the first quarter. It was a great start in a challenging climate that would have sunk the company just a few years ago when it was too reliant on gas-guzzling pickups and SUVs for profit.”

On average you will need to work 30 weeks to pay for your vehicle (not counting fuel or repairs). Because driving a car is one of the largest expenses in an individual’s budget, plan this expenditure carefully. From the graph you can see that expense accumulate given a payment of an average vehicle payment of $500 per month plus gas.

Kilometres are presented as the average busy driving use per vehicle as promoted by vehicle manufacturers of 24,000 km per annum. Both monies spent on a car payment and for fuel are added in the final column. Adviceon does not claim accuracy for the numbers represented as extrapolations in the table, and uses them only for illustration. Errors and Omissions are excluded.

 

 

Reduce your debts and increase your financial security

With a population of over 300 million people, each US citizen’s share of the American government’s debt load is over $46,000. In 2008, escalating mortgage debt caused a financial crash that decimated the retirement income of many. Debt control is becoming a very important issue.

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Credit interest eats away at wealth Every household has a budget and must live within its means, as well as save for the future. We each must be careful to not allow debt interest repayment to reduce our ability to live comfortably, or retire with financial security.

Interest on debt except for investment or business debt, is paid with after-tax income, and reduces our capacity to pay down the principle on our mortgages, or increase our investments for retirement. Both Americans and Canadian’s per household debt service ratio is edging up as the ratio of household credit debt to personal disposable income advances higher towards 200%.

Shift your financial paradigm away from debt The fact that so many people act without discretion while increasing debt shows that consumers need for a more mature view of finance. We need to examine our true need for each purchase and consider the effect on our family’s income-creating ability before giving in to the temptation to buy more of what we cannot afford.

Essentially to avoid debt, we need to govern our response to each desire to have what we cannot afford. How do we do this? Work at not buying what you cannot afford, meaning living by a responsible paradigm of fiscal temperance. Learning to say to yourself “No. I will survive without this item and will be better off debt-free!”

“If worst comes to worst, meet poverty halfway by retrenching expenses.  That is what I am striving to do, that and to reform before poverty forces me to.  Furthermore, I have established enough levels in my soul where I can get along with less than I have; get along contentedly,  I mean, Not by the calculation of our income, but by your manner of living and your culture, is your wealth really to be reckoned”. Montaigne

Reduce debt for societal justice Good financial discernment directs our actions when considering taking on a debt. If a man, for example, has borrowed fifty dollars from a friend to go to a concert with his girlfriend, the goal of fiscal justice is to pay his friend back what is due to him. Justice, in conformity with right reason, demands that the fifty dollars be paid back. But how and when shall it be paid back? An imprudent man might never pay it back, and so he would fail to observe the rule of social justice in relation to finance.

Develop a strategy to pay back debt To pay back debt requires the resolution to set aside a small sum from our income each week or month until we have allocated repayment of our debts. Look at all of your debts and begin to pay down the higher interest-bearing debts first. Another approach would be to pay off the smaller loans and/or credit cards first to achieve victories sooner while creating the habit of debt reduction.

What is your financial viewpoint? In the end we must be determined to be directed by wise discretion, as to how we use credit in order to attain financial goals. This is for the good of all – family and society. Your financial advisor can guide you how to reduce debt and increase your investment portfolio.

How does aging affect Critical Illness and Long Term Care?

The majority of the population of North America is approximately 50 years or older. This demographic truth increases the need for two specialized types of insurance: Critical Illness and Long Term Care.

Critical Illness Insurance Critical Illness Insurance protects your dependent(s) in the event that you suffer a disability due to a major illness such as heart attack, coronary bypass surgery, stroke,terminal cancer, blindness, paralysis, or kidney failure. It pays out a tax-free lump-sum benefit. You could clear outstanding debts such as the mortgage, finance home renovations to meet changed living access needs, or pay for specialized medical treatments not covered under your health insurance such as certain chiropractor or masseur fees. There are no restrictions on how you use the lump sum benefit. It is not based on your ability to work, even if you fully recover. Collecting the benefit will require a doctor’s statement regarding your health, and confirming that you have survived the critical illness, generally for at least 30 days.

Long Term Care Insurance Long Term Care Insurance will pay for the cost of long-term care associated with a disability or chronic illness. It covers relocation to a long-term care facility or in-home caregiver assistance. Usually, the available benefit consists of a fixed tax-free amount up to several hundred dollars per day to pay for long-term or other healthcare. As the policy’s issue age for this coverage increases, the premiums for this insurance also increase. Look for policies renewable for life that will include coverage for skilled care, intermediate care, rehabilitation centres and nursing homes. Ask if conditions such as Alzheimer’s are covered and if extended care at home is an option.

How does a Buy-Sell Agreement protect my business?

Many business owners face a common question of how to effectively sell their business to a partner, employee or another interested buyer should something happen to them. A buy-sell agreement might be the solution, but it is important to set up a buy-sell agreement while you are alive and capable of doing so. Here are some important steps to consider:

1. Get legal advice. You’ll need to hire a corporate lawyer who has had experience assisting business owners in establishing  buy-sell agreements. The wording and structure need to meet the IRS’s standards, especially regarding measuring the value of the company. This is because the IRS may stand to receive tax on any capital gains that may be triggered at any future date.

Your lawyer may advise you as to what method of buy-sell agreement will work better in your case, depending whether you are a sole proprietor or corporation.

2. Assess your company’s value. You and perhaps your buyer(s) will need to have your business value professionally appraised. If the value is different (it usually is), your lawyer will need to negotiate the purchase price. This will show the IRS (if necessary) that you have done the evaluation professionally (two valuations are better).

3. Funding a buy-sell agreement. Determine if the company has the cash flow or a large amount of money available to fund the buy-out of the deceased or disabled owner. Permanent life insurance is generally always used to fund a buy-sell agreement as it can pay a large amount of tax-free capital precisely at the right time; at the decease of the business owner.

4. All parties agree on the solution. Many larger insurers have pre-designed, sample buy-sell agreements. Therefore, it is wise to have your insurance representative present with your lawyer and the buyers’ lawyers. After the agreement is drafted, all parties will review it to their satisfaction; then sign it to make it legal.

5. Consider pre-approving your life insurance purchase. It is suggested that the life insurance be purchased first to ensure that one is insurable. Even where there is a medical problem, in most cases, there may be an insurer willing to design a policy to suit the risk, based on the respective health of the individual.

How can life insurance protect key business people?

Every business has one or more key players who lead.  Our economy depends on small family businesses which employ millions of people. If family businesses are to remain successful in our fast-paced economy, they must address the following issues:

Continuing success depends on leadership.  Continued success may depend on the leadership of the founding owner. If the owner desires to retire in 10 or 15 years, succession planning may be necessary today. Have you made plans to sell, or to pass the company on to the children or another successor?

Talk to your CA or tax lawyer to assess possible capital gains tax liabilities. If these liabilities exist, life insurance policies may be able to solve the problem in advance; purchased individually or jointly on the lives of the owner and/or the spouse while in reasonably good health.

If the owner of the company will depend on the company’s resources for retirement income, it may need to be budgeted as an ongoing disbursement during his or her retirement via a salary or dividend payments.

Groom successors to take over the business. An immediate (as well as long-term) successor can be groomed to take over the company, just in case the owner suffers a disability. Owners need to ask, “What would happen if I was laid up and incapable of giving directives? Would that force a quick sale of my company?”

To prepare for the potential event of a disability, owners should make sure that they are covered with both disability and critical illness insurance to replace income or deliver a lump sum emergency benefit.

What could happen if a business owner died unprepared? Life insurance can meet capital needs and cover liabilities such as company debt. Acquiring loans may be harder for unknown successors. Servicing debt could get costly if interest rates go up. Life insurance can wipe out company debt entirely upon an owner’s death, spouse’s death, or after both have died (using a joint-last-to-die policy).

Owners need to make sure that key family members actively working in the company (including active owners), and important employees, are covered with key-person insurance. If a key-person is afflicted with a disability or dies, the business may need money to acquire replacement help.

Agreements direct the insurance benefit’s use. Buy-sell agreements are essential for partnerships and many corporations. Often family members in joint ventures will overlook this planning device as they feel they can solve business issues when one dies or is disabled. Without proper pre-planning, businesses could get bogged down in conflicts, and may not have enough capital to buy out the interest of a partner. Back up the agreement with life insurance, disability insurance, including critical illness insurance coverage to solve these often hidden business risks.

Can you pay your bills if disabled?

Disability insurance (DI) can be purchased from a life insurance company to cover up to 80% of your regular income (or more) in the event you become disabled. This coverage is referred to as “income replacement” insurance.

If you work for a corporation, your employer may offer a group plan with short-term disability (DI) coverage. Examine it to determine the coverage period and to ensure it meets at least 60% of your current income for longer than three months.

Additional DI can be purchased (and owned privately) to extend the period of income payment, and increment payments to the increasing cost of living. Some policies actually increase your paycheques according to the consumer price index (CPI).

If self-employed If you have dependents it is important to ensure that  you have income replacement insurance to pay your expenses until age 65. This is also wise also to take care of your own needs if you are single.

Consider the following questions as to where the money might come from if you were unable to earn a living for a month, a year or forever.

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How would withdrawing part or all of your retirement savings and/or money on deposit at the bank to use as income when convalescing, affect your retirement?

  • Would living off the equity or your home, allow your net worth to increase in value?
  • Could you borrow money if your banker knew you might never work again?
  • Could you live on your spouse’s income?
  • Could you ask a parent, sibling or friend to loan you money? How would you repay it?
  • Would you rely on the government to pay a disability income that lasts until you retire?
  • Would you want to sell your house or cottage?

Will my life insurance needs change over time?

Life insurance is an important component of your financial security. Your policy should be evaluated at different stages of your life to be certain it meets your current needs. As we journey through life, our circumstances change dramatically. So do our needs for life and/or disability insurance. Review your life insurance at these times:

  • When you get married. Assess your life insurance coverage to ascertain if your current responsibilities will be met if you die. Carry adequate coverage to allow your surviving spouse and/or surviving family to maintain their current lifestyle.
  • It may be best to name your spouse as the policy beneficiary rather than leave bequests via your estate’s will. This will ensure that your spouse receives the monies without having to go through the process of probate.
  • If your group insurance is being reviewed. One spouse may have an employer-sponsored group insurance package that you can review. Establish coverage for the other spouse if offered in the plan; and/or purchase additional insurance directly from a life insurance representative.
  • If one or both spouses are in business, consider putting income replacement insurance in place, in case of an illness or disability.
  • When you have a young family. When you are starting a family, life insurance is purchased to provide new tax-free capital in case one or both of the parents should die.
  • When you have children. If one parent’s income is currently relied on to provide all living expenses, the death of that individual may cause financial insecurity and stress for all family members. Equally important, consider the financial cost of a stay-at-home parent. Alternatively, consider any potential increased daycare and housekeeping expenses if a spouse needs to work. Both parents can carry adequate life insurance to cover any potential expense that could result from their death.
  • As the family grows. Re-evaluate your life insurance in view of your changing goals. Where two parents depend on each other’s combined income, consider if a surviving spouse would want to stay home with the children.

Life insurance can help the family meet its financial obligations and maintain its current lifestyle. Your life insurance needs will be affected by:

  • the number of children and their ages
  • educational expenses of the children
  • the current value of your assets
  • your current income
  • debt accumulation
  • your future employment goals versus stay-at-home parenting
  • your overall financial goals

You can place young children as secondary or contingent beneficiaries; thus allowing them to receive the death benefit if your spouse, as the preliminary beneficiary, predeceases them. A trust can manage funds on behalf of the children. It can direct investing the proceeds of the death benefit to create necessary guardian income.

  • At the time your children go to college or university. When children go to college, many of us tap into our savings to help meet their tuition and housing expenses. We may purchase a child’s first car, or pay him/her an income for one or more years. If you die without providing continuing support, your young adult child may need to quit seeking a higher education due to shortage of funds.
  • When you want to protect your income in case of a disability. Have you thought about how becoming ill or injured could affect your family’s financial security? Would your income be reduced, placing the family under duress? Disability insurance is designed to replace approximately 70% of your pre-disability income; and is especially necessary for the self-employed.
  • When making the decision to protect your lifestyle in case of a critical illness. This insurance pays out a lump sum in case of a critical illness such as heart attack, stroke or cancer.
  • If you have aging parents and are concerned about expenses. You can insure your parent with life insurance to provide enough money to pay for funeral expenses and/or pay off debts. If your parents are dependent upon you for care, you may want to consider insuring yourself, naming a dependent parent as the beneficiary, to provide elder-care income that will still provide for their care in the event that you pass away.
  • When you will face a large tax liability in your estate. As you approach retirement, you may have accumulated assets that will be taxed on capital gains, such as a cottage, a business, or your accumulated savings. Life insurance can provide for final income tax that will come due if the estate is not passed on to a surviving spouse or a dependent. This can include paying taxes that may be due on remaining retirement savings assets.
  • When you’re considering a donation to an organization or charity. Individuals may wish to provide money to a cause or organization that they strongly believe in and life insurance can be a valuable tool in providing such assistance. By naming an organization or charity as a beneficiary you can ensure that your wishes are followed. Additionally, there may be tax benefits associated with donating life insurance policies to recognized foundations, charities or schools.