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Working After Retirement Is the Newest Trend

Stu Gelbord was 62 years old when he retired from his position as vice president of a food manufacturing company. Five years later, Gelbord was back in the business arena, using his retirement money to become a franchisee of two new locations for the British Swim School. "The thought of starting a new adventure just seemed unbelievably appealing to me," said Gelbord, now 67 and based in Philadelphia. "I don't think I would know what retirement meant." Gelbord is one of many retirees who are continuing to work after their initial retirement. A Merrill Lynch Retirement Study recently found that over seven in ten retirees say that they want to keep working after they retire. Indeed, with life expectancy increasing right along with the cost of living, it is becoming an ever untenable plan to draw out from the workforce completely at the expected retirement age. These days, people are likely to run out of either bucket list items or money before they die. Therefore, it doesn't make sense to dedicate the entirety of one's retirement to leisure. Take Scott Vance, who recently retired after 21 years in the army. "While I am receiving retirement income that could afford me to just relax, I would go out of my mind doing nothing," he said. Therefore, he has started officiating soccer and wrestling matches -- a hobby of his that also serves as a source of income. Indeed, the freedom of retirement does not have to be lost by continuing to work. "Now retirees can go do the things they actually wanted to do," says Andrew Meadows, vice president of brand & culture at Ubiquity Retirement + Savings. "They can take a small job, or volunteer or work in their community." By engaging in such activity, retirees can maintain a healthy social life well into old age. "The social appeal of work is the most attractive to retirees," Meadows said. "Whatever age you are, you're always complaining about not being able to meet people. By continuing to work, you're also continuously forming relationships." Of course, retirement is increasingly becoming a luxury, meaning that not everybody gets the option to choose whether or not to work into old age. Indeed, the Employee Benefit Research Institute recently found that only 21% of workers said they are "very confident" about having enough money for a comfortable retirement, while 19% said they are not at all confident about their ability to retire comfortably. And recently-released research from global advisory firm Willis Towers Watson reports that one in four workers now definitively say that they won't be able to retire at 70. Those who do retire and then opt to work again often take a more modest role in the workforce. 59-year-old Harry Coleman, based in Cincinnati, worked at Proctor & Gamble for nearly 30 years before retiring at 51. Now, he works as an independent consultant, a less demanding role that allows him to have greater agency to make choices in his work life. He only accepts assignments that fit his schedule, which is considerably freer since his initial retirement. "The intention was never to work full-time after retirement," Coleman said. "That was the whole purpose." In the interest of working less hectic days, consulting work is often a popular choice for retirees, as is entrepreneurship. While starting a new business can be a risky venture for retirees, it is becoming increasingly popular among the older crowd. According to data from Babson College, 15% of entrepreneurs are between the ages of 55 and 74. And that's not even accounting for older entrepreneurs like Chicago-based Art Koff, who is 81 and running his own business. Koff founded Retiredbrains in 2003, after retiring from marketing company Omnicom. Fittingly, helps retirees find part-time employment. "I could easily live off of the income from my retirement savings," Koff said. "But I love what I am doing." Across the board, retirees interviewed for this article reported being happy with their choice to work after retirement. Soon-to-be retirees should take note: not all of life's thrills belong on a bucket list accomplished after receiving a gold watch. Many of them are right under your nose during the continued pursuit of interests. "Life should be a growing process, not a winding down process," Gelbord said. "It's all about feeling vital."

3 High-Yield Dividend Stocks for Safe Retirement Income

The utility sector is one of the best sectors for reliable dividend income. Three of the most dependable, highest-yielding dividend stocks for income are found in the sector. Each of these regulated utility companies essentially operates as a monopoly in its service area and generates predictable earnings and dividend growth. These are desirable characteristics when seeking long-term investments for the Conservative Retirees dividend portfolio. Let's take a look at the three high-yield utility stocks that are paying out safe, reliable income. 1. Consolidated Edison Known as ConEd by consumers, this company provides electric and gas services to about 3.7 million and 1.2 million customers, respectively. ConEd is also one of the largest owners and operators of solar PV in North America. The company's customers are primarily located in New York, and almost all ConEd's income is derived from regulated activities. ConEd has little power generation activities and is mainly involved in distribution, resulting in a stable business model. Barriers to entry in its markets are high for a few reasons. First, maintaining transmission infrastructure to move electricity and gas from power plants to customers is extremely capital intensive and demands substantial maintenance and repair costs each year. Equally important, new entrants would need to obtain consent from the state authority, meet numerous safety and service standards, install transmission facilities to provide service, comply with strong state regulations, and more. There aren't enough customers in a region to justify having another competitor. The utility industry also went through a period of major restructuring in the 1990s. All the electric and gas delivery service in New York is now provided by just four investor-owned utility companies or one of two state authorities. Considering the local nature of the utility business and the high amount of regulation, it seems unlikely that another company would be allowed to provide utility delivery service in ConEd's markets. ConEd's growth prospects are limited, but its reliable earnings have made for a very dependable dividend. The company is a member of the dividend aristocrats list and has raised its dividend for 42 consecutive years. It most recently raised its payout by 3% early this year. ConEd's stock offers a dividend yield of 3.7% and trades for 18 times forward earnings estimates. 2. Duke Energy Duke Energy's operating history dates back to the early 1900s, and the company has grown to become the largest electric utility in America, with more than $23 billion in annual sales. The regulated utility company serves about 7.4 million electric customers and 1.5 million gas customers across the Midwest and Southeast. With the exception of Ohio, practically all Duke Energy's electric utilities operate as sole suppliers within their service territories. They are essentially monopolies, which is why their services are priced by state commissions. Duke Energy's geographical mix is generally favorable. During the past three years, base rate cases approved to Duke Energy have granted the company a return on equity ranging from 9.8% to 10.5% across Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina. These are decent returns for a utility and indicate a generally favorable set of regulatory bodies in Duke Energy's core operating states. Overall, regulated utility companies such as Duke Energy can provide safe retirement income with less risk than other types of businesses because of their predictable earnings, government-supported competitive advantages and low stock price volatility. Duke Energy has paid quarterly dividends since the 1920s and appears set to increase its dividend for the ninth consecutive year in 2016. Duke Energy has been the definition of a blue-chip dividend stock. Dividend growth has only averaged 2% per year over the past decade, but management intends to double that rate to better reflect the company's lower-risk business mix and core earnings growth rate of 4% to 6%. Duke Energy offers conservative income investors a high dividend yield of 4.28% and trades for 16.8 times forward earnings estimates. 3. Southern Co.  Southern is a major producer of electricity in the United States and has been in business for more than a century. The company serves about 4.5 million customers across Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi. Importantly, about 90% of Southern's earnings are from regulated operations, which helps the company generate predictable earnings and a stable return on equity. The Southeast has been very friendly to businesses, and Southern operates in four of the top eight most favorable state regulatory environments in the United States. Population growth in the region has also been relatively strong, driving demand for utility services higher over time. Looking at the dividend, Southern raised its payout by 3% last month, marking its 15th consecutive annual increase. Southern has made consecutive quarterly dividend payments for more than 67 years and is one of the most reliable stocks for income. Although the company's dividend payout ratio is near 80%, its stable earnings and impressive track record alleviate any concerns about the dividend's safety. The stock has been great for long-term shareholders as well. Over the past 30 years, shares of Southern's have delivered an annualized total shareholder return of 14%. With a high dividend yield of 4.59%, Southern is an appealing option for safe retirement income.

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How to Handle Your First 401(k) Plan

The job market for the 2016 crop of college graduates is looking promising, as employers say they're planning to hire about 5% more graduates from the class of 2016 than last year, according to data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. That's good on several fronts, including a good, steady paycheck, a way to pay off a student loan and some much-needed experience in the professional working world. But there's another advantage to landing your first professionals job -- it should give college graduates their first chance to fund their retirements through a company-sponsored 401k plan. Trust us, starting early on your retirement savings means something, and here's why: Take, for instance, a 25-year-old career professional who starts investing $2,000 annually into a 401(k) plan, where it grows at an 8% average annual rate. After 40 years, that investor has earned $560,000 toward retirement. If a 35-year-old invests the same amount, with the same average rate of return, over the same 40-year timeframe, that investor only earns $245,000 toward retirement. Given the significant discrepancy in savings from one decade to the next, you'd think younger workers would be aggressively jumping aboard the 401(k) savings bandwagon -- but that's just not so. According to a new study from San Francisco-based Personal Capital, 40% of U.S. millennials don't have a single retirement savings account, and 73% don't know their net worth. "Millennials are oblivious to the $14 trillion retirement crisis facing America," says Bill Harris, CEO of Personal Capital. "They're dangerously assuming that retirement planning can start tomorrow, instead of today. We've found that Millennials are banking on working just 15 years, and many plan to live on inheritances during retirement - it's delusional." "The largest generation currently in the US workforce cannot afford to keep gambling on their retirement," Harris adds. "But there's hope if we meet Millennials where they are now, whether that be battling student loan debt or searching for easier tech-driven solutions." That strategy starts with getting younger career professionals more aware of the size and scope of a good retirement savings campaign, and make sure they get started right away. "Depending on where you work, you may be able to sign up for your 401(k) on day one," says Catherine Golladay, Charles Schwab's senior vice president of 401(k) participant services. "If you can't contribute right away, use that time to get into the habit of saving money from each paycheck." "For example, if you plan to allocate 6% of your salary to your 401(k) plan once you're able, then take that 6% and put it towards an emergency fund, paying down credit card debt or paying down high interest loans in the meantime," Golladay advises. "That way, when it comes time to start putting money towards your retirement, your other financial priorities will be that much more manageable, and you'll have gotten into the discipline of saving regularly." Taking advantage of company matching contributions to 401(k) plans can make a big difference in plan earnings, too. "I strongly encourage my clients that are fortunate enough to be employed by a company that offers a 401(k) with a match to immediately sign up and contribute to the full match," says Wayne Bland, a financial advisor with Metro Retirement Plan Advisors, Charlotte, N.C. "If your employer is offing a 4% match, your contribution should be at least 4%. Anything less is leaving free money on the table. Who doesn't want free money?" Taking your time and being patient with a 401(k) plan is also highly advisable for newbie retirement savers. "Take a long-term approach," says Nicholas Vail, a financial planner with Integrity Wealth Advisors in Indianapolis. "The most important thing is the time you spend in-the market, not timing the market. Make selections that reflect your risk tolerance and keep plugging away." Part of that strategy also involves avoiding locking into your account balance every day. "That will just drive you crazy," Vail adds. "Make investment selections that reflect your risk profile. This way, you aren't worried about short-term fluctuation." Also, avoid at all times using the money before retirement. "Try not to use it, even for a home purchase, if you can avoid it," Vail says. "Earmark that money for retirement and let it continue to grow for your long-term goals." Investment-wise, first-time 401(k) savers should get all the help they can in choosing the best investments, like stocks, bonds and funds. "Unfortunately, 401(k) investment options aren't typically very clear, so if you don't know how to research and learn about the options, talk to a financial professional that is willing to help," says John Booren, a financial advisor with Prosperion Financial Advisors in Greenwood Village, Colo. "Otherwise, put most of the weight in your research toward keeping fees low, using vehicles that have at least a long track record, and look mostly at the three-, five-, and ten-year historical return numbers." "If your company has a Roth 401(k) option, add money to that as well," Booren adds. "That's especially so if you're young and early in your career, because this investment will grow tax-free forever." No question, facing down a 401(k) plan for the first time can be intimidating for a college graduate starting out in his or her first job. But get a few rules of the 401(k) road under your belt, and you'll have a great head start in saving a bundle for your retirement.

How to Cash In on Boomers' Retirement Plans

How can you profit from retiring Baby Boomers? Lately the news has been filled with dire warnings about the mass of Boomers headed toward retirement age and the consequences for Social Security when that happens. These concerns are well founded. At current levels of funding, Social Security benefits will fall to nearly 75% when the first Millennials hit 65, driven in large part by the degree to which Boomers will have to consume the program's trust fund. Yet there's a silver lining to these clouds. Business opportunities are about to explode for the right sectors. You see, with retirement comes free time, and the Baby Boomers are about to have a lot of it. A recent study by Merrill Lynch concluded that over the next 20 years Boomer retirements are going to generate approximately 2.5 trillion hour's worth of leisure time waiting to be filled. In that same analysis, the study's authors found that this will generate approximately $4.6 trillion worth of new spending on that same sector. That's more than the gross domestic product of Japan, aimed exclusively at occupying free time. For budding entrepreneurs and existing businesses alike, this represents an enormous moneymaking opportunity. They should start, according to the report's authors, by offering less "stuff." "One of the more startling quotes was 95% of people want more experiences," said Ken Dychtwald, founder of Age Wave and a partner in the research. "Very few people want more things at this stage in their life, so you're going to see an experiential economy come alive." In particular, the leisure economy will shift toward shared experiences, as many retirees speak of the importance of who they spend time with. Businesses that can accommodate, or even cater to, this market will be well positioned to take advantage of an influx of customers. Group tour travel agencies, outdoors clubs, restaurants and more will start to see customers who need to know how many seats are on the bus. "People are willing to be flexible," said Lorna Sabbia, head of retirement and personal wealth solutions with Merrill Lynch. "If you can't afford to sit in the first ten rows, maybe the back ten rows will be fine. [They] are finding that what's far more important than how much they spend or where they go is who they're with. People are rediscovering the importance of a laugh with friends." For new businesses, the lesson is clear: a market is about to expand in a big way. Current business owners can't sit on their laurels, however. The sheer size of spending about to hit the leisure market isn't just going to blow it open. It's going to transform it, completely. Few of the markets that will be affected by this spending have turned their attention to what's coming, Dychtwald said, and Sabbia agreed. There just aren't enough leisure service providers to accommodate coming demand, and the ones that exist aren't focused on retirees. No, they cater to the coveted under-40 demographic… for now. Right now the free time industry is youth-oriented, but young adults, the ones who have money, are also the ones with the least time. Between work and family, this is a "time-constrained" group. Yet the leisure industry markets to them heavily because of numbers; up until now they've simply outnumbered anyone else with spending power. That's coming to an end. As we noted in a previous piece, Merrill Lynch's study has found that "for the first time in the U.S., more people are in the 'time affluent' stage (age 65+) of their life than the 'time constrained' stage (ages 35-44)." The market, built for so long around the needs and consumption habits of young adults, won't just begin to accommodate the needs of seniors. Given the disproportionate spending power, leisure services will in many ways be shaped by them. For businesses, that can be a good thing. As consumers, senior citizens often have greater needs. This can mean a return to many of the individual-service level products that have long since fallen off of the market, such as travel agents and concierges. It's a change that will impact every level of the marketplace from consultants to conglomerates, and not just in more traditionally "senior" market sectors either. About 1 million Airbnb users and 20% of REI Adventures' business are over 60. Biking as an activity for those aged 60 to 79 grew 320% between 1995 and 2009. There are no pigeonholes anymore. The leisure market is going to grow in virtually every conceivable direction. "In many ways, what you're seeing here is the opportunity that the experiential marketplace has been waiting for," Dychtwald said. "This leisure economy bodes very well for employment opportunities across the spectrum." Businesses will have opportunities to begin reintegrating those services into their product lines; not just the opportunity, considering the numbers it will be an obligation. Entrepreneurs, meanwhile, have an opening. Currently American seniors consumer roughly 126 billion hours of leisure time per year, whether that's time spent on vacation, reading a book or just catching up on some TV. Between 2016 and 2036, that number will increase by 20 times, and 81% of those surveyed told Merrill Lynch they want to fill that time with "peak experiences." This business landscape will look entirely different. For those trying to adjust, it will probably start with a variation on the same service that helped many of us into adulthood: career services. "There's this enormous appetite on the part of today's retirees to give back, to do something purposeful with their retirement time," said Dychtwald. "And they don't want to do just menial tasks. So whether that's a Habitat build, whether that's Doctors Without Borders or a group of accountants going to another country and teaching young people how to manage their money better, I think you're going to see this sort of Elder Corps going abroad." Helping seniors not just to make plans, but to figure out what those plans should be will be big business. For everyone else, the seniors are coming, and they've got a lot of money to spend.

Target Date Funds Offer Convenience -- but Also Pitfalls

While interest in target date and other types of balanced funds continues to grow a especially among younger investors a the convenient funds do offer some snags all investors, young and old, should know about. Target date funds a also called lifecycle funds a are designed to offer a diversified portfolio that automatically rebalances to focus more on income through time. In 2014, 60% of 401(k) participants in their 20s had such funds, according to a new joint study by the Investment Company Institute and the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Just slightly more than 40% of 401(k) participants in their 60s did likewise. "The Pension Protection Act granted plan sponsors permission to use target date funds as default investments, which is a significant factor in their popularity," said Jeff Kletti, head of Investments at Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust. "Prior to target dates, the most common default was a stable value or cash investment, so target date funds were definitely an improvement." Kletti said such funds are an important first step in helping to improve diversification for participants, and are useful in the sense investors don't need to know a lot about investing to use such funds. That said, people should be aware of certain things as they invest. "There is a risk that participants, regardless of age, may not understand how [target date finds] are intended to be used," said Kletti, explaining for example that participants may divide their balance across multiple versions of the funds or mix with other funds, thus fighting against the management/allocation strategy of such funds. Kletti added there's also a risk to participants as they amass more outside assets a which tends to be the natural progression of participants as they near retirement a as target date funds do not factor in outside assets. "The full picture isn't taken into account as an individual's allocation is determined based solely on his or her estimated retirement date and the balance in that particular 401(k) plan," Kletti said. "Managed account-type products, on the other hand, do allow for more customization and some managed account platforms even factor in outside assets among other participant attributes that might influence asset allocation." Robert Johnson, president and CEO of the nonprofit The American College of Financial Services, agreed that by their very nature, target date funds do not consider any other assets that the investor has a which can be a detriment to those who have other holdings. "If, for instance, an investor has significant real estate holdings or has a defined benefit pension plan from a previous employer, that investor would likely want a more aggressive asset allocation than the target date fund provides," Johnson said. An investor also may want aggressive asset allocation based on their earnings streams, another drawback of target date funds since they treat all earnings streams as equal, he added. "For instance, a tenured college professor has a much more stable earnings stream than a commission sales person," Jonson said. "The college professor can afford to adopt a much more aggressive asset allocation, because his future earnings stream is more secure." Nevertheless, target date funds do make a lot of sense for the average investor in that they are one-decision, "set and forget" products, said Simon Hamilton, managing director at The Wise Investor Group. Such funds eliminate the temptation to market time, chase past performance and, in general, succumb to investor emotions such as fear and greed - all of which tend to lead to subpar returns, he adds. "They also provide one-stop diversification, which is often hard to do in plans with limited offerings," Hamilton said. "They are great for employers, because they reduce the fiduciary liability of employees 'blowing themselves up' in overly aggressive investments." Hamilton, however, adds the funds are not perfect, as they assume bonds are less risky than stocks. "If we get a rising rate environment it's quite possible that bond funds become losing investments at least for a short-intermediate period," Hamilton said. "The desire to become more conservative as one approaches retirement may not match the reality of the capital markets." He also adds the funds assume one should be aggressive when young and more conservative over time a something studies have shown that this isn't necessarily the best approach. "Too many young investors lose money early in their careers and then lose the compounding power of that money over time," Hamilton said. "It's often better to be a little more conservative earlier on while you're trying to form a solid foundation and then investing more for income and growth in retirement."

Thereas a Retirement Savings Gap Between Men and Women

If you think the process of saving for retirement is the same for men and women, think again.

Many Investors Think This Yearas Stock Market Volatility Is Here to Stay

The first few months of 2016 saw elevated levels of volatility in global stock markets amid falling oil prices and worries about a slowdown in Chinaas economy.

Donat Misuse Your Target-Date Fund

Investors are misusing their target-date funds and it is not because they donat understand how they work.

T. Rowe Price: Staying the Course Pays Off

Investors who remain invested tend to fare far better in the years after a market downturn than those who sell and then try to jump back into stocks.

Gen Xers Win Title of 'Most Worrieda About Retirement

Generation Xers were slammed by the financial crisis and are now worried about the stability of their jobs.

Relax Retirees! You are Long Term Investors Too Says Jane Bryant Quinn

Retirees and those close to retirement should not make any drastic moves as a result of the current market selloff.

Americans Missing Retirement Savings Goals Says Merrill Edge Chief

Americansa best intentions to save money for retirement are not being matched by their actions, said Aron Levine, Head of Merrill Edge.

Do you Spend More Than the Average Person on Lunch Each Day?

According to a recent survey, American consumers are spending an average of $2,746 a year on lunch.

Lower Gas Prices Mean No Social Security Increase Next Year

WASHINGTON -- For just the third time in 40 years, millions of Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and federal retirees can expect no increase in benefits next year -- unwelcome news for more than one-fifth of the nation's population. They can blame low gas prices. By law, the annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, is based on a government measure of inflation, which is being dragged down by lower prices at the pump. The government is scheduled to announce the COLA - or lack of one - on Thursday, when it releases the Consumer Price Index for September. Inflation has been so low this year that economists say there is little chance the September numbers will produce a benefit increase for next year. Prices actually have dropped from a year ago, according to the inflation measure used for the COLA. "It's a very high probability that it will be zero," said economist Polina Vlasenko, a research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research. "Other prices - other than energy - would have to jump. It would have to be a very sizable increase that would be visible, and I don't think that's happened." Congress enacted automatic increases for Social Security beneficiaries in 1975, when inflation was high and there was a lot of pressure to regularly raise benefits. Since then, increases have averaged 4 percent a year. Only twice before, in 2010 and 2011, have there been no increases. In all, the COLA affects payments to more than 70 million Americans. Almost 60 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses and children get Social Security benefits. The average monthly payment is $1,224. The COLA also affects benefits for about 4 million disabled veterans, 2.5 million federal retirees and their survivors, and more than 8 million people who get Supplemental Security Income, the disability program for the poor. Many people who get SSI also receive Social Security. Carol Mead of Montrose, Pennsylvania, said she and her husband were counting on Social Security COLA to help them with their finances. "My husband is working just so we can pay our bills," said Mead, a retired land-use administrator. "He's 70 years old, and he's still working in a stone quarry. He's told me a number of times that he thinks he's going to have to work until the day he dies." More bad news: The lack of a COLA means that older people could face higher health care costs. Most have their Medicare Part B premiums for outpatient care deducted directly from their Social Security payments, and the annual cost-of-living increase is usually enough to cover any rise in premiums. When that doesn't happen, a long-standing federal "hold harmless" law protects the majority of beneficiaries from having their Social Security payments reduced. But that leaves about 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries on the hook for a premium increase that otherwise would be spread among all. Those who would pay the higher premiums include 2.8 million new beneficiaries, 1.6 million whose premiums aren't deducted from their Social Security payments and 3.1 million people with higher incomes. Their premiums could jump by about $54 a month, or 50 percent. Those with higher incomes would pay even larger amounts. States also would feel a budget impact because they pay part of the Medicare premium for about 10 million low-income beneficiaries. All beneficiaries would see their Part B annual deductible for outpatient care jump by $76, to an estimated $223. The deductible is the annual amount patients pay before Medicare kicks in. "This would affect all beneficiaries," said Tricia Neuman of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. "This kind of an increase is unprecedented." Senate Democrats have introduced legislation that would freeze Medicare's Part B premium and deductible for 2016, but its prospects are uncertain. White House spokeswoman Katie Hill said, "We share the goal of keeping Medicare's premiums affordable, are exploring all options." By law, the cost-of-living adjustment is based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or CPI-W, a broad measure of consumer prices generated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It measures price changes for food, housing, clothing, transportation, energy, medical care, recreation and education. The COLA is calculated by comparing consumer prices in July, August and September each year with prices in the same three months from the previous year. If prices go up, benefits go up. If prices drop or stay flat, benefits stay the same. The numbers for July and August show that, overall, consumer prices have fallen since last year. Fuel prices are down by 23 percent from a year ago, according to the August inflation report. But prices for some other goods and services, such as health care and housing, are up. Advocates argue that the government's measure of inflation doesn't accurately reflect price increases in the goods and services that older Americans use. "The COLA is determined by the buying power of younger working adults," said Mary Johnson of The Senior Citizens League. Many advocates for seniors want Congress to adopt an experimental price index that seeks to capture the inflation experienced by Americans 62 and older. The Social Security Administration estimates it would increase the annual COLA by an average of 0.2 percentage points - which still might not be enough to generate a COLA for next year. Lee Marshall of Greenville, California, said the current inflation index isn't good enough. "They have a formula that they use that doesn't reflect the actual cost of living," said Marshall, 68, a retired laborer and casino dealer. "Just because the price of gas is going down, that doesn't mean anything."  

The 8 Most Underrated Jobs in America

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Considering a career change? You may want to think outside the box. According to a report from online job search portal CareerCast ranking the most underrated jobs in America, some of the best gigs out there are also those that are most often overlooked. While they have a solid growth outlook, low stress level and stable work environment, they are fields many workers simply don't take into consideration. "The landscape for underrated jobs points to favorable hiring outlook in coming years. While they may not attract much attention, these jobs are often lower stress and can be high-paying," said Kyle Kensing, online content editor at CareerCast. CareerCast examined 200 professions using a methodology based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data and focusing on four main criteria -- environment, income, outlook and stress. It took into account issues like inherent stress, competition, industry volatility and job turnover to determine its final ranking. Read on to see the eight most underrated jobs in America today. 8. Accountant Annual Median Salary: $63,550 Growth Outlook: 13% Apparently, there are cooler things to being an accountant than getting to wear a fun visor. Accountants have a median annual salary of $63,550, or $30.55 per hour. There were 1.3 million accountancy and auditing jobs in the U.S. in 2012, and the sector's 10-year growth outlook is 13%. The job's stress level largely depends on the time of the year, as workloads increase at the end of the budget year or during tax season. California, Texas and New York boast the highest level of accounting occupations, while Washington, D.C., New York and New Jersey are the top payers. 7. Civil Engineer Annual Median Salary: $79,340 Growth Outlook: 20% Civil engineers design, construct, supervise, operate and maintain large construction projects like roads, buildings, airports, bridges and tunnels. There were 272,900 jobs in the arena in the U.S. in 2012, and the field is growing at a fast 20% rate. More positions are expected to become available as infrastructure ages and engineers are required to rebuild, repair and upgrade works. Civil engineers make a median annual pay of $79,340, or $38.14 per hour. Those that are highest paid work in Alaska, Texas and California. 6. Environmental Engineer Annual Median Salary: $80,890 Growth Outlook: 15% As climate change and the environment become an increasingly important part of the economic and political conversation, the role of environmental engineers expands. There were 53,200 jobs in the field in 2012, and by 2022, at least 8,100 are expected to be added. The BLS specifically cites government concerns regarding water and a need for efficiency on that front as the reasoning behind its estimate for growth. Environmental engineers have a median annual salary of $80,890, or $38.89 per hour. California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have the highest employment level, while New Mexico, Alaska and California pay the most. 5. Geologist Annual Median Salary: $90,890 Growth Outlook: 16% Architectural and engineering companies provide the most jobs to geologists, followed by companies in oil and gas extraction. The oil and gas companies are among those that pay the most to geology professionals, too. The median annual pay for geologists is $90,890, or $43.70 per hour, and the job growth outlook is 16%. The BLS anticipates a need for energy, environmental protection, responsible land and resource management to spur demand for professionals in the field. 4. Human Resources Manager Annual Median Salary: $99,720 Growth Outlook: 13% Not only does CareerCast rate human resources manager as one of the most underrated jobs in the United States, but it also says it's one of the safest. HR managers earn a median $99,720 per year, or $47.94 per hour. The field's 10-year growth rate is about 13%, with expansion driven by new and expanding companies that need more human resources staff to oversee and administer programs. The BLS warns that "very strong competition" can be expected for most positions. 3. Multimedia Artist Annual Median Salary: $61,370 Growth Outlook: 6% Multimedia artists and animators create animation and visual effects for television, movies, video games and other formats. They make an annual median salary of $61,370, or $29.50 per hour. It is worth noting that about half of multimedia artists are self-employed, and growth in the field is 6% -- slower than the average for all occupations. The motion picture and video industry provides the most employment for the field's professionals, while the wholesale electronic market pays best. Washington State has the highest concentration of multimedia artists and also ranks in the top three states in terms of the amount of jobs and pay. 2. Physiologist Annual Median Salary: $46,270 Growth Outlook: 19% Physiologists assess, plan and implement fitness and exercise programs and can work in a wide variety of settings, ranging from hospitals, outpatient clinics and university laboratories to physicians' offices, sports teams' facilities or schools. They earn a median annual salary of $46,270, and job growth is an estimated 19%, spurred by an increased awareness of sports-related injuries among the general public. Texas, Florida and Virginia boast the highest level of employment for physiologists, and New York, Massachusetts and California offer the most pay. 1. Veterinarian Annual Median Salary: $84,460 Growth Outlook: 12% Veterinarians can expect some stiff competition for jobs, meaning specializations and prior work experience will be needed to help them stand out from the crowd. Once they do land a job, they can expect to earn $84,460, or $40.71 per hour. There were 70,300 vet jobs in the United States in 2012, and 8,400 more are expected to be added by 2022. Vermont, Idaho and Colorado are the states with the highest concentration of veterinarians; however, vets in Delaware, New Jersey and Connecticut get the best pay.

5 Best Off-the-Radar Foreign Retirement Spots

NEW YORK (MainStreet) a Forget Ecuador. Really forget Costa Rica. As for Italy, sure, if you win the lottery. All these are played out retirement locations - once hot, once affordable but no more. Where to retire if you want outside the U.S. and you also want to live on your Social Security check- which is what something more than one-thirdaof us will do? Read on for a short list of places that deserve a second look, maybe more. They are affordable. The weather is nice. The politics are (reasonably) stable. Americans are welcome (though you may have to learn at least a little of a foreign tongue). Expect the unexpected. Such as? The Philippines Steve Repak, a certified financial planner, particularly pointed to a town called Dumaguete City. aDumaguete City is known as aThe City of Gentle Peoplea because of, you guessed it, its friendly people," he said. "From New Yorkas JFK to Dumaguete, Philippines, you can expect to be on an airplane from 25 to 29 hours with at least two stops, but donat let that long flight scare you, since a couple could retire there on as little as $1,000 a month in U.S. dollars.a Counselor Ethan Gregory elaborated on what he likes about the Philippines. aI vote for the Philippines as my best retirement location," he said. "You can own a new condo in a major City like Manila or Cebu for about $40,000. You have First World entertainment, shopping and world-class beaches nearby. The medical treatment is up and coming in the bigger cities. The country speaks and does business in English.a The United States, incidentally, effectively ruled the Philippines from 1898 until the Japanese invaded in World War II. The U.S. regained control in 1945 and spun out the Philippines as independent in 1946. Uruguay Lain Livingston, who blogs at, strongly urged retirees to check out Uruguay, a small South American country (3.4 million people) that borders Argentina and Brazil, but, said Livingston, it largely lacks the expensive glitz of either neighbor. Even in the capital, Montevideo, a city center apartment can be rented for perhaps $500 monthly. Go outside the capital - Livingston pointed to a favorite town called Piriapolis - and the cost of living tumbles. The lifestyle, suggested Livingston, is a mix of Spanish colonial with Italian and an admixture of indigenous people. Call it Latin laidback. He added that one drawback - though for some a plus - is that Uruguayans eat a lot of steak. A lot. Cyprus Now for something unexpected - except Cyprus, the third biggest island in the Mediterranean, should not be. Thatas because for generations, Brits and some Americans have retired to Greece, where the living is easy and cheap, especially outside Athens, the capital. Now huge uncertainties about Greeceasafuture- will it be booted out of the euro, out of the European Union, due to years of governmental budgetary mischief - have many foreigners shaking their head in worry. Enter Cyprus, which looks exactly like any other Greek island (there are hundreds), except most of it is an independent republic (and a member of the European Union) and the northern part is claimed by Turkey. Westerners, generally, head to the Republic, although both parts are said to be safe. aIt's one of the very beautiful places in the world, with its strong cultural heritage, magnificent beaches, local produce and availability of all the conveniences of a modern European country," said Mariya De Vua, director of DEVUA Consulting Limited, which provides consulting services to foreigners and also locals. "The combination of the warm climate, widely spoken English language (as a second language), very low crime rate, excellent and inexpensive health care, combined with other benefits of a low cost living would be an ideal place for retirement.a Portugal You wanted something actually on the Continent? Hereas your ticket. Planner Repak particularly plugged the Algarve, a region on the Mediterranean. aThere is always something going on in Algarve, Portugal," he said. "Known for clean beaches and their nature trails in the Ria Formosa, Monchique and Caldeirao mountains, Algarve is one of the safest and budget friendly places to retire where a couple can live out their retirement years on about $1,500 a month.a Repak added: aEnglish, French, German, and Spanish are widely spoken.a Others like Lisbon - the sophisticated capital with a lot of big city charm. Its cost of living is usually near or at the bottom of other leading, European Union capitals. Mexico Itas on the rebound, said Livingston. Narcotics wars scared many Americans away - especially retirees - but, said Livingston, aMexico will have a surge again."a The location is unbeatable for Americans. Air links are plentiful. The narco wars seem to have quieted, just as they have in recent years in Colombia, once a warzone, now a tourism hotspot. As for the prices in Mexico, in most towns with expat populations, the cost of living still runs at maybe halfathat of a U.S. or Canadian big city. A few thousand dollars monthly - comfortably within Social Security for many of us - will buy a pleasantalifestyle. And good healthcare - a concern for just about all retirees - is as close as a fast flight to San Diego, Phoenix or Houston where, of course, Medicare is accepted (it is not abroad, in most cases). That may make Mexico the comeback kid on tomorrowas retirement circuit.

Bill Gross's Advice on 'Out of Whack' Economy: Get Cash

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Investors hoping that their portfolios will be able to pay for retirement are about to be sorely disappointed, according to legendary bond king Bill Gross. Recent market volatility, including wild gyrations on the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 as China's economy slows, point to a fundamental problem in the global economy, Gross, who cofounded Pimco and is now lead portfolio manager at Janus Capital Group , said in his monthly investment outlook. Changing course will be a time-consuming endeavor, he says: It requires China, the world's second-largest economy, to shift more quickly to a consumer-based system and necessitates the developed world abandoning its "destructive emphasis on fiscal austerity." In the interim, investors are likely to receive lackluster returns, which makes paying for college educations and funding a comfortable requirement more difficult. The timing and size of the Federal Reserve's interest-rate increase, which may occur as early as this month, will play a role, too. Interest rates have been held to nearly zero since the financial crisis of 2008, and while Gross has long advocated starting to raise them, such a move "now seems to be destined to be labeled 'too little, too late,'" he said. Low rates hurt savers because interest on deposits is limited or nonexistent. And with fewer incentives to save, Gross argues there are fewer incentives to invest, which could hurt long-term productivity. "Finance based capitalism with its zero-bound interest rates has now produced global imbalances that impair productive growth and with it the chances for 'old normal" prosperity,' Gross says. "Major global policy shifts -- all in the same direction -- are required that emphasize government spending as opposed to austerity" and attempt to address the issue of "too little aggregate demand," Gross says, echoing the philosophies of 20th-century economist John Maynard Keynes as well as economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Such recommendations, he concedes, are "politically Pollyannaish." The policies of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor who has championed austerity in the European Union, are unlikely to be abandoned anytime soon, Gross says, "nor will Bernie Sanders be elected U.S. president." Sanders, the Vermont senator seeking the Democratic nomination for 2016 elections, has advocated $1 trillion in infrastructure investments over five years and argued that the U.S. is sliding into "economic oligarchy."   Currently, almost 50% of U.S. tax dollars go to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and only 7% goes to transportation, education, and medical research, according to data collected by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "Global fiscal (and monetary) policy is not now constructive nor growth enhancing, nor is it likely to be," Gross says. If that be the case, then equity market capital gains and future returns are likely to be limited if not downward sloping." What's an investor to do? Hold cash or "near cash" investments such as one- to two-year corporate bonds, despite their likely uninspiring returns, Gross says.  The mindset he proposes is one that actor and comedian Will Rogers voiced during the Great Depression of the 1930s: "I'm not so much concerned about the return on my money as the return of my money." In the long run, though, "the return of your money will likely not pay for college, health care or retirement liabilities," Gross says. "Whether you are tall or short, or your portfolio big or small -- better to be big -- they're not going up as much as you hope they would over the foreseeable future."        

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Here's Why You Should Carefully Read Your Brokerage Statements in Down Markets

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- If a hacker steals money out of your brokerage or mutual fund account, the financial industry would like to reassure you that a reimbursement is in the cards. Charles Schwaba calls it the "Security Guarantee." Must Read: How To Invest In Dividend Stocks Fidelity Investments calls it the "Customer Protection Guarantee." TD Ameritrade goes with the name "Asset Protection Guarantee." And Ameriprise Financiala and Scottradeacall it the "Online Security Guarantee." After you get past the warm-and-fuzzy feeling that your broker has your back, read the policy to the end and click on the links that detail what they expect of you. Because, for the most part, firms that offer a "guarantee" of reimbursement only make good on their promise if you've been vigilant about security. Did you share your password with someone who wound up stealing your money? Your broker will consider that a transaction that you authorized -- a reasonable policy considering that you gave away the keys to your account. Do you regularly check your account for unauthorized transactions? Fidelity, Scottrade, TD Ameritrade, Ameripriseaand Merrill Lynchaexpect you to review all the information they send in the mail or check your online account frequently for activity that doesn't look familiar. (In the recent market volatility,someaadvisersaand journalistsawere urging investors not to look at their statements. Ignore that dangerous advice). Are you savvy about spotting phony "phishing" emails that try to dupe you into thinking you're dealing with your broker or fund company? Ameriprise says you can't respond to, open an attachment in, or click on a link within an email "if you suspect the message is fraudulent." Other firms have a similar requirement that you not fall for phishers, so take time to learn how to spot and avoid these scams if you're counting on reimbursement protection. Many firms also require that you create "safe" and hard-to-guess passwords that you do not use for any other accounts. Figuring out what a company considers "safe" or "strong" can be tricky business, though, and some financial institutions give little guidance as to how they define those terms. Vanguard's Online Fraud Policy - the only policy I reviewed that didn't use the word "guarantee" in its policy title -- gets more specific than most. It links to a documentathat says a password should be different from your passwords on other websites, changed on a regular basis, reasonably complex "and, preferably, at least 8 characters long." Curiously, Vanguard allows customers to create passwords with as few as six characters "to give the client some flexibility in terms of what password they might choose," said Jeffrey Lampinski, who runs Vanguard's information security team. Customers creating a password, though, are not prompted that a six- or seven-character password could undo the reimbursement policy. Must Read: 10 Stocks George Soros Is Buying Vanguard maps out clear requirements and asks a lot of its customers, including that they close their browsers after logging out of the site, avoid phishing come-ons, and make sure they have "up-to-date security and anti-spyware, antivirus, and firewall software." At the other end of the spectrum, Schwab and TD Ameritrade ask little. Both make the common demand that customers not share their account access information with anyone and that suspicious activity be reported promptly. Schwab adds that it doesn't protect the customer who engages in "gross negligence." TD Ameritrade saysait gives protection to the victim who lost money "through no fault of your own." Although Schwab's policy links to extensive "additional steps"acustomers can take to protect their accounts, spokesman Greg Gable said in an email that "there is no requirement they follow those steps for them to be protected" by the guarantee. Ameritrade spokeswoman Kim Hillyer said in an email that it's "a rare occurrence" that the company declines to reimburse a customer. But when they do, it's usually because the client either had given someone else access to an account or because the client waited "an extreme amount of time" - several months to more than a year - to report the activity as fraudulent. A standout for having no policy is T. Rowe Pricea . Spokesman Brian Lewbart would not comment on why the firm has no formal policy on reimbursement, but did say that it investigates reports of unauthorized disbursement of funds and works with parties including law enforcement agents when appropriate in an attempt to get the money back. He said the firm evaluates potential responsibility when money can't be recovered, considering such things as errors on the part of T. Rowe Price or whether a third party had gained access to a client's user name and password by using spyware on the client's computer. For the most part, Wall Street's promises of reimbursement for fraud rely heavily on the customer becoming a student of online safety. The good news in all this: Read all the caveats in your financial firm's guarantee and you'll come away with a very good idea of the work you need to do to keep an account secure. You can't say your firm didn't warn you. Must Read: 10 Stocks Billionaire John Paulson Loves

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The Good and the Bad About Moving to Nicaragua

  NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Over the last several years, Nicaragua has become increasingly popular as a vacation spot, as well as a place for expatriates from North America and other countries to move. Should you consider it as well? The Web site Best Places In The World To Retire has more than 500 answers to the questions most often asked about moving to and living in Nicaragua, provided by more than 100 expats already there. Here's what they told us. Cost of Living In Nicaragua, the cost to hire someone for housekeeping, gardening or even fixing your car will be, by North American standards, extremely cheap. For example, the cost for a gardener is about $15 a day. Anything produced within Nicaragua will also be very cheap. Several bags with a total of 20 to 30 pounds of fresh, organic produce cost less than $10. Quality health care in Nicaragua can be significantly less than half of what you would pay in the U.S. One expat said he paid $300 for a colonoscopy, without insurance. American products that have to be imported will cost about the same as in the U.S. or a bit more. Housing will be somewhere in the middle. Comparing apples to apples, you can dramatically lower your cost of living by moving to Nicaragua. Safety When asked about safety in Nicaragua, about half of the Nicaraguan expats immediately respond that Nicaragua is the second safest country in Latin America, as reported by the UN.  The best comment about safety there came from John-Marc Gallagher, who moved from the U.S. to Granada, Nicaragua 13 years ago. Gallagher said, "The best measure would be how we feel. We feel safe, we feel free to walk around and enjoy the outdoor bars and restaurants, and we feel safe in our homes and businesses." Gallagher said his second measure of safety was how people acted: "Older, single women would not be retiring here, building homes, starting businesses and hanging out at the outdoor establishments if it wasn't safe." Places to Live and Lifestyle Nicaragua offers quite a few different expat lifestyle options: Colonial. Granada is a true colonial city, with 400-year-old buildings, horse-drawn carriages, colonial architecture and a layout that includes a historic center with a cathedral. The more expensive homes tend to be closer to the center, and if you buy an existing home and want to remodel it, you will have to adhere to strict architectural codes that maintain the colonial character of the area. Granada has a lively, fun entertainment area, and plenty of expats live there. Carlos Gutierrez is a developer who is planning to provide even more affordable housing for expats and others in an area about two miles from the historic center of Granada. Gutierrez just broke ground on the first phase of 72 homes and tells us that a 1,400-square foot model will sell for about $85,000. Must Read: 10 Stocks George Soros Is Buying Surf's Up, Dude! Located toward the southern end of Nicaragua on the Pacific coast, San Juan del Sur used to be a sleepy fishing village. Now it's a rapidly growing tourist destination with a 1940s California surf town vibe, a small town center and multiple developments radiating outward that can range in price from what someone living only on Social Security could afford, to multimillion-dollar mansions. If you like surfing and/or the beach lifestyle, you should investigate San Juan del Sur. Gate-Guarded Beachfront/1950s Americana. Along the Pacific Coast from San Juan del Sur and stretching 80 miles or so to the north are several gate guarded, beachfront communities. Some are extremely high end, while others are more budget-conscious. To varying degrees, each strives to reduce or eliminate the inconveniences of living in a Third World Country (such as not having reliable high-speed Internet, electricity, etc.) by providing their own, while still offering the benefits of living in Nicaragua, including beautiful beaches, low cost of living, lots of sunshine, etc. Among the most visionary developments is Gran Pacifica, conceived by a team headed by Mike Cobb. What Cobb says he offers is a complete, self-contained community with a feel akin to 1950s Americana that he says is now lacking in North America, only much cheaper, with all the modern conveniences, and right on the ocean, golf course included. Health Care Nicaragua has one hospital accredited by the Joint Commission International, Hospital Metropolitano Vivian Pellas, located in Managua. Expats tell us that the care in this facility is up to big-city U.S. standards (sometimes better) and that the costs are extremely low. It even has an entire department for medical tourism headed by manager Arlen Perez. Outside of this hospital, there is some good primary care in places such as Granada and scattered about Nicaragua, but not much. Most expat areas, however, are located fairly close to Managua. Granada is 25 away, some of the Pacific beach developments are one hour to 90 minutes away, and even San Juan del Sur is only a bit more than 80 miles away. However, if you have a serious health condition that would require you to be very close to a hospital, you would need to live close to Managua. How Nicaraguans Feel About Americans and Other Expats Given the history of animosity between the U.S. Nicaraguan governments, you might expect that Nicaraguans would resent or otherwise not like Americans. Frank Martinez, a native-born Nicaraguan who lived and worked in the U.S. for many years and is now back in Nicaragua told us that, in the 1980s, many Nicaraguans went to live in the U.S. and had children there, and "that changed the whole perspective of 'Gringo, go home' into 'Welcome home, Gringo.'" Martinez also gave a practical reason why Americans are welcomed: "We welcome all these American businesses because they are investors, so they are helping Nicaragua, and we appreciate that."  Must Read: What's Good, and What's Bad, About Living in Panama?

5 Things to Consider Before You Even Think About Moving Overseas

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Should you move overseas?  Would you benefit from the potential lower cost of living, an improved lifestyle, and richer, more rewarding life, or will your experience increase your stress and make you unhappy? Must Read: Warren Buffett's Top 10 Dividend Stocks More than 400 expats answered questions related to this issue on Best Places In The World To Retire, and another nearly 400 expats participated in a survey that also addressed this topic.These experts said that you need to consider the following five steps first before you do anything else. 1. Ensure You and Your Spouse Agree... Fully If only one of you wants to go, when stressful situations arise (and they will), they will most likely cause problems in your relationship. Few things are worth that. However, if you have a good relationship, we moving overseas can strengthen bonds. One married, semi-retired American woman in the 45-64 age group described moving abroad as a "leap of faith" that requires "self-confidence and confidence in your partner/spouse." The woman has lived in Nicaragua for more than two years. "You are often each other's sole support in your new home," she said. "The adventure, fun and experiences are all the more wonderful when you can share them with a loved one or significant other." 2. Consider How You Would Cope With Moving To Another Area In Your Own Country If you had to move today from your home to another region within your own country, would it stress you out? Is finding a new dry cleaner or the location of the bank something that fills you with anxiety? If this is the case, you will be even more unhappy moving overseas because every place you'll move will have these issues, plus many more. A number of expats emphasized the need to conduct a brutally honest self-assessment. How well do you deal with a different culture and way of doing things? Are you eager to understand and experience new cultures with an open mind, to find what is good in them and accept the rest (even if you don't agree), or do you tend to judge how good or bad everything is based on the standard of what you're used to? The honest answer to this question will largely determine how well you do overseas. Must Read: 5 Stocks Warren Buffett Is Selling 3. Remember "Wherever You Go, There You Are." It's unclear if the above quote is from Confucius or the movie Buckaroo Banzai. It illustrates that if you are moving overseas because you believe that by doing so the move will cause your life to be different, you're likely to be disappointed. Moving overseas provides a wonderful chance for reinvention, but only if you're pre-disposed to reinvention and will do what it necessary to make it happen. Darrell Bushnell, whom Best Places In The World To Retire considers among the most interesting expat interviewees, moved from Charlotte, N.C. to Granada, Nicaragua in 2006. Bushnell said that he cherished "the ability to reinvent" himself "and pursue what is more important."  The survey and interviews underline that reinvention doesn't happen to you, it happens from you. That is, you have to receptive to change. Moving overseas just provides the platform and opportunity to make reinvention more possible and fulfilling. 4. "Run to Something, Not from Something" Mike Cobb, who is well-known and respected among expats, likes to use this phrase. It reflects his optimistic spirit -- one that any potential expat would be wise to adopt. Cobb started a bank in Belize, and his real estate firm ECI sells and manages properties in Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. He has spoken hundreds of times at expat conferences. Cobb says that people shouldn't move to other countries out of anger or frustration, but rather for the benefits of being an expat. "At many conferences I see that focus on anger at the American system, big government etc., where the folks are looking to run away from Big Brother and Big Government," Cobb said. "Instead, they should run toward a great life overseas. There's just so much that is awesome about living overseas. The ones who do this are the happiest folks and make great neighbors and friends."5. Weigh Your Attitude Towards Disparity Many low-cost locations overseas have lots of poor people. Consider how this would affect you? Best Places In The World To Retire has interviewed people who become annoyed and even depressed about this, and other people who have built beautiful lives helping others. This latter group marvels at how people with so few material possessions can be happy. This stimulates their own personal growth and enhances their perspective. If you're comfortable with your answers to these five checks, you can now do the most fun part of the exercise. Pick your paradise. You're probably ready for it. Must Read: 10 Stocks Billionaire John Paulson Loves

25 Best Cities Where Retirees Can Make the Most of Their Golden Years

NEW YORK (MainStreet) a Compared to past generations, Americans today are delaying their retirement plans more and more. This is often due to inadequate finances, as 51% of workers and 31% of retirees are still working to repay their debts, according to the most recent Retirement Confidence Survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Half of the employed participants in the EBRI survey named cost of living and daily expenses as major factors hurting their retirement savings. Workers who have financial troubles even before entering retirement should consider relocating to an area that is more retiree-friendly. This year, WalletHub has compared 150 of the largest cities in the United States to find the places where retirees can make the most of their golden years. Retirees were assumed to rely on a fixed income, and cities were ranked across four key topics: affordability, activities, quality of life and health care. Various metrics were considered for each topic, such as adjusted cost of living (affordability), number of recreation and senior centers per 100,000 residents (activities), percentage of the population aged 65 and older (quality of life), and emotional health and number of home-care facilities per 100,000 residents (health care). So, where should retirees look to retire? Click through to find out: 25. Nashville, Tenn. Affordability Rank: 2 Activities Rank: 42 Quality of Life Rank: 134 Health Care Rank: 116 With hot summers and mild winters, the country music capital of the world is a great city for retirees. There is no income tax in Tennessee, and anyone over the age of 65 whose total income is less than $16,200 (single) or $27,000 (married) are exempt from the stateas 6% tax on interest and dividends. Those looking for beautiful scenery have the Great Smoky and Cumberland Mountains and many rivers to explore. 24. Omaha, Neb. Affordability Rank: 86 Activities Rank: 36 Quality of Life Rank: 84 Health Care Rank: 5 Outdoorsy retirees will love traveling through the Great Plains all around Omaha. Retirees have hunting, fishing, hiking opportunities throughout the state, as well as Broadway shows at the 2,600-seat Orpheum Theater and art exhibitions at the Joslyn Art Museum. Retirees can also rely on a great health care system, as it is the largest employer in the city with two teaching hospitals and three medical centers. 23. Winston Salem, N.C. Affordability Rank: 24 Activities Rank: 44 Quality of Life Rank: 48 Health Care Rank: 108 Retirees looking for a place to spend days on the golf course and nights in an active downtown area will have luck in Winston Salem. American history buffs will love walking through Old Salem and Historic Bethabara Park, and the arts district is home to many different attractions. Houses, condos, and apartments are affordable throughout the city. 22. Tulsa, Okla. Affordability Rank: 23 Activities Rank: 69Quality of Life Rank: 54 Health Care Rank: 75 For a cosmopolitan city with a smaller population and more relaxed atmosphere than places like New York or Miami, Tulsa is a great option for retirees. The city offers an opera company, a ballet and a symphony orchestra in addition to 6,000 acres of parks. Additionally, the Philbrook Museum of Art and the Gilcrease Museum both hold diverse collections of art and artifacts. 21. Mesa, Ariz. Affordability Rank: 50 Activities Rank: 68 Quality of Life Rank: 16 Health Care Rank: 64 Retirees who are looking for a suburban atmosphere in a desert climate can choose to move to Mesa. The Mesa Art Center, the Mesa Amphitheatre, and museums including Arizona Museum of Natural History are all notable sights in the area. For baseball fans, the Chicago Cubs conduct their spring training at the cityas Sloan Park, which is also the home of the Arizona League Cubs and the Mesa Solar Sox. 20. Colorado Springs, Colo. Affordability Rank: 91 Activities Rank: 26 Quality of Life Rank: 39 Health Care Rank: 29 Some retirees may not want to choose between metropolitan areas and small towns when looking to relocate. Luckily, Colorado Springs makes this decision easy, as it has many of the perks of a big city, such as an entertaining cultural scene and activities for adults, and a small town, including a number of outdoor activities. Colorado Springs is also home to the U.S. Olympic Training Center, where athletes and coaches live as they train for the upcoming Olympic Games. 19. Augusta, Ga. Affordability Rank: 13 Activities Rank: 88 Quality of Life Rank: 31 Health Care Rank: 107 Affordable homes of all kinds, from historic homes to condominiums and single family homes, can be found in the Garden City. This diverse city is full of history, and is home of The Masters, one of the most prestigious golf tournament in the world. The second largest city in Georgia, Augusta has numerous attractions that retirees can appreciate, such as the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History, Morris Museum of Art, Georgia Golf Hall of Fame's Botanical Gardens and multiple performing arts organizations. 18. Birmingham, Ala. Affordability Rank: 4 Activities Rank: 18 Quality of Life Rank: 126 Health Care Rank: 104 The largest city in Alabama, Birmingham is the entertainment capital of Alabama. Retirees can enjoy everything that organizations like the Birmingham Museum of Art and Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame have to offer in addition to the opportunities throughout the constantly evolving downtown area. Outside the city, the Appalachian foothills and the Ruffner Mountain Nature Center are great places to explore. 17. Salt Lake City, Utah Affordability Rank: 49 Activities Rank: 1 Quality of Life Rank: 129Health Care Rank: 16 Active, outdoorsy retirees should consider taking advantage of the diverse weather of Salt Lake City. Even on a sunny day perfect for golfing in Salt Lake City, residents only need to take a short drive up the Wasatch Mountains to find snow suited for skiing and snowboarding. Additionally, the city has enough professional sports teams and cultural organizations to keep retirees busy throughout the year. 16. Shreveport, La. Affordability Rank: 6 Activities Rank: 110 Quality of Life Rank: 53 Health Care Rank: 85 The cost of living in Shreveport is well below the national average, making it an appealing destination for retirees. Taxes are also low in the city, as are health care, food, and transportation. The city has annual festivals of varying themes each month, from Mardi Gras to crafts, and the Strand Theater hosts many different concerts and performances throughout the year. 15. Pembroke Pines, Fla. Affordability Rank: 62 Activities Rank: 52 Quality of Life Rank: 10 Health Care Rank: 72 Situated by the white sand beaches along the Atlantic coastline, Pembroke Pines has a large number of activities available for retirees. The city is a short distance away from the Everglades National Park, where visitors can go camping, fishing, and hiking. There is also a large number of senior housing options in the area for retirees interested in a close community of people ages 55 and older. 14. Amarillo, Texas Affordability Rank: 10 Activities Rank: 91 Quality of Life Rank: 44Health Care Rank: 100 Amarillo, which was named as one of the top cities for a working retirement by Forbes in 2013, boasts affordable homes and a low cost of living. With no state income tax, retirees can spend more of their hard-earned money on themselves. Home of the Big Texan Steak Ranch and the Cadillac Ranch, the city is also a short distance away from Palo Duro Canyon State Park, often referred to as aThe Grand Canyon of Texas.a 13. Springfield, Mo. Affordability Rank: 27 Activities Rank: 30 Quality of Life Rank: 101 Health Care Rank: 28 Springfield is an ideal location for retirees who want to enjoy freshwater lakes for fishing and river float trips along the miles of river and lake shoreline. The city, which is the third largest in Missouri, has 92 parks in addition to trails located in and around the Ozarks. Residents can also attend a variety of sporting events, from Missouri State University football games to Springfield Demize soccer games. 12. Lincoln, Neb. Affordability Rank: 88 Activities Rank: 39 Quality of Life Rank: 26 Health Care Rank: 24 Retirees can enjoy the large amount of parkland, of which there is more per capita within the city limits than in any other U.S. city, in Nebraskaas capital in addition to 128 miles of hiking trails. The Douglas Theatre holds many performances throughout the year, and the Great Plains Art Museum has interesting exhibits to discover. Since the city is so large geographically, there is a variety of different neighborhoods for residents to live in. 11. St. Petersburg, Fla. Affordability Rank: 11 Activities Rank: 71 Quality of Life Rank: 56 Health Care Rank: 74 Located on Floridaas Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg has been a classic retirement destination for decades. The city atmosphere is somewhere between urban and suburban, and its beautiful beaches and warm weather give aThe Sunshine Citya a relaxed feel. There are also many cultural attractions to choose from, such as the Salvador Dali Museum, the Holocaust Museum, Museum of Fine Arts and the Florida International Museum. 10. Peoria, Ariz. Affordability Rank: 50 Activities Rank: 53 Quality of Life Rank: 6 Health Care Rank: 71 While far from Phoenix, Peoria is the perfect retirement location for people who are looking for a home with a lot of land in a desert climate. Residents can hike the many mountains in the northern region of the city, including Sunrise Mountain, Hieroglyphic Mountains, and Twin Buttes. In the spring, both the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners utilize the Peoria Sports Complex for spring training. 9. Overland Park, Kan. Affordability Rank: 103 Activities Rank: 62 Quality of Life Rank: 9 Health Care Rank: 1 Overland Park, the second most populous city in Kansas, has 72 parks for retirees who want a mix of city and greenery. Residents can find public golf, sand volleyball, hiking and biking trails, playgrounds, tennis courts, and basketball courts throughout these parks. Historic Overland Park and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art are also popular destinations in the city. 8. Port St. Lucie, Fla. Affordability Rank: 45 Activities Rank: 25Quality of Life Rank: 11 Health Care Rank: 57 Golf, beaches and an active Recreation Department make Port St. Lucie a popular retirement city. The cityas Tradition Field is home of the New York Mets during spring training, and retirees can find affordable real estate ranging from high rise apartments near the beach to gated retirement communities. Since it is located halfway along Floridaas east coast than other cities, Port St. Lucie is a less crowded retirement destination than other Florida cities. 7. Baton Rouge, La. Affordability Rank: 28 Activities Rank: 10 Quality of Life Rank: 119 Health Care Rank: 21 The downtown area of Louisianaas capital is constantly expanding due to the cityas lively arts scene. Retirees will have no trouble finding activities throughout the city, including festivals and sporting events at Louisiana State University. There is also a rich culture, with people of a mix of various different backgrounds coming together in the city. 6. Sioux Falls, S.D. Affordability Rank: 69 Activities Rank: 8 Quality of Life Rank: 47 Health Care Rank: 3 Sioux Falls is a great place for active retirees to spend their golden years. Whether their time is spent exploring the falls of the Big Sioux River or shopping and dining in the bustling downtown district, retirees will always find something to do in the city. While it is the largest city in South Dakota, Sioux Falls still has the quiet, small-town feel that many retirees look for. 5. Orlando, Fla. Affordability Rank: 34 Activities Rank: 2 Quality of Life Rank: 104 Health Care Rank: 15 One of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, Orlando is also one of the most popular retirement destinations in the country. The warm weather is ideal for fishing, golf and other outdoor activities, and trips to the area's famous parks, like Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort, can be simple. Retirees can find neighborhoods that fit any budget, from mobile home developments to luxury retirement communities. 4. Cape Coral, Fla. Affordability Rank: 83 Activities Rank: 3 Quality of Life Rank: 3 Health Care Rank: 17 Often referred to as the "Waterfront Wonderland," Cape Coral is the perfect destination for retirees who want to spend their days by the water. The 400 miles of canals, many of which connect to Gulf of Mexico or the Caloosahatchee River, are perfect for boating and fishing, and the city is only a short drive or boat to the beach. For sports fans, the Boston Red Sox attend their spring training at JetBlue Park. 3. Boise, Idaho Affordability Rank: 21 Activities Rank: 27 Quality of Life Rank: 7 Health Care Rank: 39 Retirees interested in a robust art scene should consider living in Boise, the political and cultural capital of Idaho. The city boasts a philharmonic orchestra, ballet and opera company in addition to the famous Boise Art Museum. Additionally, retirees can enjoy hiking and fishing on the 25-mile path along the Boise River, skiing at Bogus Basin Ski Resort, and golfing at one of the 19 golf courses in the area. 2. Scottsdale, Ariz. Affordability Rank: 50 Activities Rank: 5 Quality of Life Rank: 2 Health Care Rank: 33 Beyond the summer heat, Scottsdale is the most popular retirement destination in the West. With world class art, shopping, golf, and tennis at their fingertips, residents will not have any problems finding ways to fill their time. Fans of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright will also enjoy visiting his former winter home, studio, and school located right in the city. 1. Tampa, Fla. Affordability Rank: 11 Activities Rank: 4 Quality of Life Rank: 21 Health Care Rank: 26 Located on Tampa Bay and Hillsborough Bay, Tampa is a large city that has something for everyone. The real estate ranges from downtown urban to expensive waterfront, with a variety of active adult communities dispersed throughout. Residents can buy tickets to any of the city's professional sports teams, spend time in one of the many parks, or enjoy a day at the beach with countless other activities to choose from.

Here Are the 3 Most Effective Retirement Strategies

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- The whiplash seen in stocks over the last week means your retirement savings strategy needs a little extra care. If you're still searching for a strategy or the markets meltdown makes you a wary of your current plan, here are three ways to bulletproof your retirement savings: 1. Dollar Cost Averaging Dollar cost averaging is a classic technique. It simply involves contributing a fixed amount of money into a retirement account. When stocks rise, so does your wealth. But when stocks drop, your money is able to scoop up more shares for less. "You get different bites at the market at different prices," said Tom Mingone of New York-based Capital Management Group. You may not have a lump sum of money to throw into the markets, but you may have a few hundred dollars each month to invest. "Plus, most people suffer from inertia, and with dollar cost averaging, your investments are on autopilot and before you know it, the money you're investing becomes another bill that you're used to paying," Mingone added. If you have a 401(k) account, chances are you're already employing dollar cost averaging. "Most have a 401(k) plan through an employer that invests on a consistent basis," said Grant Engelbart, portfolio manager at CLS Investments based in Omaha, Neb. But Engelbart said fixed monthly amounts of money can also be contributed each month to a Roth or Traditional IRA, which you may also have in addition to a 401(k). "Sticking with that investment plan will ensure that you are both taking advantage of market selloffs and participating in strong, trending markets," he added. 2. Target-Date Funds Albeit generic, target-date funds account for one key part of any retirement investing plan: time. Target-date funds start out heavily exposed to stocks and as you near retirement, the balance shifts to bonds, which are considered safer and less volatile than equities. The thinking is, as you near retirement, you have less time to recoup potential losses in the stock market. But not all target-date funds are created equal. If you're buying target-date funds on your own, make sure you know what the balance between stocks and bonds is, especially as you get older. "Some target date funds have more exposure to equities than others - to hedge against inflation," Mingone said. "So you could be in your 60s and have a pretty significant exposure to stocks, which might be concerning to some people." He said it wouldn't be out of the ordinary to have a 50% to 60% exposure to stocks while you're in retirement. This is because people are living longer and calibrating your investments until age 65 (or whenever you stop working and enter retirement) may not be plausible if you live until 85 or 90. "We like when people invest during their retirement, so they ensure they don't outlive their money," Mingone added. A caveat with target date funds: interest rates. Interest rates have been at record low levels since the recession but are bound to rise again. Higher rates threaten bond values, as rates and prices move in opposite directions.  3. Keeping Up With Costs A guarantee is a good thing - especially in retirement. Instead of relying on the interest generated from the principal of your investment portfolio, try to fund your monthly expenses from as much guaranteed income as possible. This could be from Social Security or a pension - sources that don't drop in value should the stock market crash. But with fears Social Security is running on empty and pensions hard to come by these days, there is a way to keep your income afloat, even if stocks drop. "If you own bonds that don't default and dividend stocks that pay income, even if a stock loses 30% of its value, you're still upset, but it won't change how you're living in that moment in time," said Rick Salus, senior vice president and investment officer at St. Louis-based Wells Fargo Advisors. Companies like utility Southern Company and Kimberly-Clark actually raised its dividends during the 2008 recession, a time of unprecedented volatility and uncertainty.

How to Master a Market Dominated by 'Reflex Investing'

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Wall Street thrives on churn. The institutional money runners, high-frequency trading algorithms -- and to a much lesser degree, misguided retail investors -- indulge in the feverish practice of areflex investing.a Last year, the Securities Exchange Commission estimated that trading triggered by algorithms accounted for more than half of all market volume for U.S.-listed equities. No wonder the market burns to the ground one day and resurrects the next. Itas important to remember that in a world of lightning-fast trading, there is always an aexperta on both sides of each buy and sell. So the wise guys who sold in fear yesterday are desperately trying to get some of their money back today. For an individual investor, treading water in a market pool managed by machines, the challenge is to swim among the sharks when thereas blood in the water. What is the right investment mix for such a volatile market? Go with the flow and avoid a crash Think of it this way. Itas a bit like driving in a traffic jam. No doubt, youave seen the impatient drivers in the loud and low-to-the-ground cars who punch the accelerator into narrow openings ahead -- and then slam on the brakes to avoid a collision with another high-speed traffic gamer jockeying for the same position. Meanwhile, you just go with the flow a making just as good time, without running the high risk of a wreck. For those of us who are merely carbon-based investors, the principal is the same. Ride with, not against, the market and take what it gives you. An investment portfolio built to last That means the best investment mix in a down market is the same as the one built for a rising market. Because from one day to the next, no investor a not one with a pulse or merely plugged in -- knows which way the market will swing next. An investment portfolio built to last extracts a fair profit in good times and offers sufficient protection from loss in bad times. You canat have all of the upside and none of the downside. Nobody can. If your investment strategy considers your needs, comfort with risk and reward, and balances expectations with intentions, then itas the right portfolio for today. And, when adjusted only for tangible changes in your sensibility or situation, it will be the right one for tomorrow. Reality-based, not reflex, investing means you had the right portfolio for the last six years of the bull market -- and have the right one for the next six years, whatever comes.

Why Millennials and Boomers Are Adrift In the Same Debt-Filled Boat

NEW YORK (MainStreet) a If Parade Magazine fell out of your Sunday paperayou know Parade, that 16-page shell-of-its-former-glory that makes grocery store circulars look like War and Peaceayou would have seen aMillennials vs. Boomers,a a cover story featuring actress Abby Elliott and her father, the actor and comedian Chris aWoogiea Elliott. You would have read about all the quirky things that make old people charming (they pine for the days when there were only three channels on TV) and the things that make Millennials endearing (they call rosé aFrench Gatoradea). Thereas Chris holding a hardbound world history book standing next to Abby, who holds a MacBook Pro. Thereas also the inevitable paragraph about social media. Can you guess whatas not mentioned? How the student debt crisis is a plague on retirement for both Millennials and Boomers. They have more in common than they think, it turns out. Recent graduates arenat the only ones who hold student debt. Their parents, who kindly took out loans on their childas behalf or childrenas behalf, are repaying them, tooaand a lot closer to their target retirement age than their offspring. Thereas a number thatas been floating around for a couple of years, reported by a number of outlets: $8,000athe average education loan debt held by pre-retirees (i.e. parents), up from $600 two decades ago. That pales in comparison to the $28,400 in student loan debt the average recent graduate holds, right? As numbers go, yes. But, relatively speaking, no. You have to see that $8,000 in the context of the mortgage (or second mortgage) pre-retirees hold, maybe a new roof or a new furnace for the house, maybe one or two car loans, maybe some health related expenses, probably a significant amount of credit card debt, andasorry to sayaa much more vexing job outlook than their children. In other words, that $8,000 may as well be $28,400 (or more) in the relative burden it represents. On the other hand, pre-retirees are buoyed by current investments and a track record of investingathrough a 401(k) or otherwiseathat represents a kind of silver lining, even in spite of the recessionas deleterious effects. They have more faith in investing than their offspring, again, even in spite of the recession. aThe recession was transformative, and I see a dividing line between people who came of age before and after that period," says David Weliver, an observer of trends for young investors who launched in 2006 after graduating from Bates College in 2003 with $80,000 in student loan debt. "It affects everythingapersonal values, attitudes towards work, decline in credit card use among Millennials.a   aThe less good thing that came out of it is that Millennials are averse to investing," Weliver added. "They are more cautious than other generations, because they saw how the market affected their parents and grandparents.a A UBS Investor Watch report from 2014 on the so-called anext-gena even went so far as to say that Millennials ahave similar conservative risk tolerance tendencies as [the] WWII generation.a That doesnat exactly point to a brave new world of gung-ho pro-marketeerism, does it? So, how can Millennials begin investing to offset their student debt? The immediate answer is: not easily. Itas hard to justify buying stocks or taking full advantage of employer-matches when youare paying $300 or $600 a month on the vig and principal of a bunch of consolidated loans. But, if youare a little frugal and smart about dialing back your lifestylealeaving a little extra scratch in your pocket each monthainvesting is still a decent long-term strategy. aItas all about austerity in spending, because itas more difficult to change your earnings than to change your spending,a says Patrick OaShaughnessy, author of Millennial Money (St. Martin's Press, 2014). aI recommend people pay down outstanding debt on a normal schedule and at the same time carve out a percentage to make steady investments in the global stock market.a Even in a down market, says OaShaughnessy, investing is still a commitment worth keeping. aThe market will constantly give us reasons to deviate from a long-term strategyaand to do stupid thingsabut if you commit to a percentage and look at the long term, youall be in good shape,a he says. Austerity is a bleak term, for sure, but Weliver notes that itas something to take in stride along with the Millennial hankering for singular experiences and quality of life today (rather than post-retirement). aListen, get the good beer if you go outadonat get the bad beer,a he says. aFrugality is one path forward, but donat forget to enjoy yourself, because quality of life is just as important as achieving an aggressive financial goal.a Another thing recent graduates can do is take advantage of whatas popularly known as the Obama Student Loan Forgiveness program, part of the Healthcare and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. At the very leastafor qualifying individualsatheir horizon for repayment may be a little more palatable, their repayment schedule may be more manageable, and their public service record may offset a huge portion of the loan burden. And, if youare a Boomer pre-retiree? How can you couch that average $8,000 in education loans in light of your other financial obligations? OaShaughnessy says itas about time horizonsaand if you know retirement is just around the corner, being assertive about loan repayment in that period of time is preferable. aIf I was a Boomer close to retirement and I know Iall need capital in five years, money that is being put to work is best served reducing debts because of what we know of variability of the stock market in the shorter term,a he says. aReducing your debts as aggressively as you can is the best thing you can do.a

Investment Experts Preach Calm During Plunging Markets

NEW YORK (MainStreet) a The turbulence of the worldas major markets through the last few days a including the Dow's worst three-day point drop in history a likely has caused at least one or two panic attacks among retirement investors. aI am currently spending a large part of my day reassuring and working with retirees or soon-to-be retirees on their investment portfolios,a said Eric Schaefer, a certified financial planner with Evermay Wealth Management in Virginia. aFor the past few years the global equity markets have been abnormally calm.a The shattering of that calm a which included the Dow diving almost 1,100 points in the first six minutes of trading this week and all three major U.S. averages falling into correction territory a may make some want to break from their retirement strategy and lock up what they have left. Donat do it, say the experts. aThe number one thing someone in retirement shouldnat do is sell,a said Layton Cox, director of retirement plan consulting for Pathways Financial Partners in Tucson, Ariz. aSoon-to-be retirees should continue to save at their current rates. If the market drops further, soon-to-be-retirees should actually try to save more money.a Cox said history shows that if one continues to save during a market crash, it does not take long to make their money back. He added if someone has more than ten years until retirement, they should do nothing different during the current correction. If a person has between ten and two years until retirement, they should make sure they have a diversified portfolio of global stocks and bonds a with a target-date or risk-based fund being good in that regard. aBe sure to limit the amount of risk you are taking as you near retirement,a Cox said. aIf you have less than two years until retirement, limit the amount of risk in your portfolio as much as possible. Continue to save and invest, but do so prudently into a diversified portfolio.a Acting prudently while the market fluctuates violently can be difficult, but Lena Haas, senior vice president of retirement, investing and savings at E*TRADE, said amid current market volatility, it is critically important for investors to remain calm and stay the course. aInvestors who make emotional decisions or try to time the market inevitability end up buying high and selling low,a Haas said. She said investors instead should use this as an opportunity to check in on their holdings to ensure they have a well-balanced, well-diversified portfolio that aligns with their risk tolerance and time horizon. aBy remaining focused on long-term goals, investors may be able to ride out the short-term volatility, or even a correction, and come out O.K.,a Haas added. Robert Johnson, president and CEO of The American College of Financial Services, said common wisdom has been to have a greater allocation of assets in bonds and a lesser allocation in stocks as one approaches retirement. However, given the historically low levels of interest rates, Johnson said he believes currently there is actually more risk in the bond market than in the stock market. aInterest rates can go nowhere but up from current levels,a Johnson said. aThus, investors in long-term government bonds are subject to significant price risk, even if they bear no credit risk.a He added contrary to conventional wisdom, investors often become too conservative as they approach retirement and run the risk of outliving their retirement assets. Johnson said one way to mitigate that risk is to purchase a longevity annuity a a contract that pays a fixed amount annually once the investor reaches a certain age, such as 80 or 85. Another strategy, he added, is to invest in a diversified portfolio of high-yielding dividend stocks a stocks that could be considered pseudo bonds, with upside potential with respect to both stock price and a growing dividend. Regardless of how nervous the current market climate makes investors feel about their retirement investments, Schaefer said any volatility can be managed by having a structured plan and asset allocation in place. aAs different areas of the portfolio ebb and flow, disciplined rebalancing will add value over time,a Schaefer said. aHaving a buffer of high quality, short-duration bonds or cash allows retirees to weather short term volatility without affecting their ability to fund the lifestyle they worked so hard to achieve. A formal financial plan provides the guidance in determining an appropriate amount of risk, size of safety net and reassurance over time.

How to Catch Up on Retirement Savings

NEW YORK (MainStreet) aAmericans are still woefully lacking in their retirement savings with only 19% who are saving more this year compared to last year. One in ten working Americans did not contribute to their retirement this year or even last year, putting them at risk of not having enough money once they stop working, according to an August survey conducted by, the North Palm Beach, Fla.-based financial content company. The report found that 14% of consumers are saving less while 55% are saving about the same amount. aWith millions of Americans behind in their retirement savings, it is important not only to save, but to save more each year,a said Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate.comas chief financial analyst. aEven for those saving the maximum, 401(k) contribution limits increased for 2015, affording the opportunity to put more away for retirement. The keys to successful savings are paying yourself first and automating the process as much as possible.a The report found that while 14% of Americans are currently saving less for retirement, this is a massive improvement from 2011 when 29% of Americans were saving less for their golden years. The Financial Security Index by Bankrate slipped for a third consecutive month to 101.2 and demonstrates the lowest reading since October 2014. Any number above 100 indicates improved financial security compared to one year ago. The Financial Security Index has been above 100 every month since June 2014, a long streak of 15 consecutive months. While feelings of job security rebounded from last monthas decline, the readings for each of the other components -- savings, debt, net worth and overall financial situation -- have all declined. Womenas feelings of financial security turned negative for the first time this year, the report said. While menas feelings remain positive, they tied the lowest reading of the year. Both men and women continue to say they feel less comfortable with their savings now as compared to one year ago. Womenas comfort level with the amount of debt also turned negative this month for the first time since December 2014. Catching Up on Savings Amid the negative sentiment consumers have about their savings, increasing their allocation for their retirement portfolio can be an easy feat. The easiest way for the majority of employees to save each month is to sign up for their companyas 401(k) plan, which takes the money aautomatically from your paycheck and getting it to work for you without having to think about it,a said McBride. Many plans now automatically enroll employees into the 401(k) plan and other companies have opted to increase the amount employees save by increasing it each year. aThe increasing use of auto enrollment and auto escalation in 401(k) plans has helped increase plan participation and increase the amount participants are saving each year,a he said. aAuto enrollment defaults new employees into the 401(k) plan without them having to take action and auto escalation increases their deferral percentage by one percentage point each year.a While many people rely on their company 401(k) to amass a retirement portfolio, consumers whose employers do not offer one should still contribute to an IRA. aEven if your employer lacks a 401(k) or similar plan, if you or your spouse have earned income, you are eligible to contribute to an IRA,a McBride said. aParticularly if you donat have a workplace plan, grab the bull by the horns and open an IRA. Many mutual fund companies will permit you to open an IRA with regular monthly contributions in lieu of an initial opening investment.a Investors who are just starting out in their career might not be able to max out their 401(k) or fully fund a Roth IRA, but that should not prevent them from getting started, said J.J. Montanaro, a certified financial planner at USAA, a San Antonio, Texas-based financial institution. Even contributing as little as 1% into the plan at work or $50 per month into an IRA can aprovide a retirement beachhead that you can expand in time,a he said. A Roth IRA also gives investors some flexibility because you have the option to withdraw your contributions without having to pay taxes or penalties anytime. Instead of spending your annual tax refund, turn it into retirement savings during the year, Montanaro said. aAdjust your withholding and bump up your contribution to your retirement instead of waiting for the big refund thatas usually a reality each year for many people,a he said. aBefore you can save, youave got to know where your money is going, so tracking your spending can actually yield some low hanging fruit and opportunities to cut back or cut out to free up money for retirement.a Consumers who have improved their credit scores should look into refinancing their mortgages or even car loans. The money saved from paying less interest and lower payments could be allocated toward a retirement portfolio, Montanaro said. A recent survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) found similar results with nearly three out of ten people who do not save any money for retirement. Out of the people who are saving money, 65% are stashing it in a savings account and only 30% have investments or mutual funds, 29% have a 401(k) plan and 25% save their money in IRAs. A surprising 9% are keeping their savings in their home. Learning to cut back on expenses can yield extra money each month that can go towards retirement, said Bruce McClary, spokesman for the NFCC.aLiving lean is the key to maximizing every opportunity for retirement savings,a he said. aPlace reasonable limits on discretionary items like eating meals out, trips to the grocery store and use of electricity in the home.a Also, watch out for unintended fees that you incur from making late payments on utilities or credit cards which add up quickly and leave you with less money for retirement contributions. aIt is also a good idea to steer clear of unnecessary fees by keeping scheduled medical appointments and practicing safe driving,a McClary said. aLimit the use of high interest credit cards by consolidating accounts into the lowest available rate and paying the balances before interest starts to accrue.a

Stock Market Selloff Paves Way for Hesitant Millennials to Invest in Apple, Facebook

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Millennials are wary of the stock market, but the latest spate of volatility across the markets opens up a slew of opportunities for young people to face their fears and invest in stocks. Back in May, TheStreet reported on Millennials' distrust for Wall Street, which helps explain why just one-quarter of millennials invest in stocks.   "Millennials aren't investing right now, and we shouldn't be surprised," said David Nelson, chief strategist at Belpointe Asset Management, based in Greenwich, Conn. "Think about it: All they've known is market turmoil and the bursting of at least two bubbles." But for Millennials, those in their 20s and early 30s, it's not too late to start investing, which analysts stress is for the long haul - decades, not years. "It's somewhat ironic [Millennials are wary of stocks], because they have the huge benefit of time on their side and ought to be putting away a little bit in the markets regularly," said Bill Peattie, founder of Stamford, Conn.-based Peattie Capital Management. With the Dow Jones Industrial Average's dropping nearly 1,100 point at one point on Monday and up more than 200 points on Tuesday, it's a coin toss to know when one should pull the trigger and buy stocks. "While there's no definitive way to know when the market has bottomed out, Millennials have plenty of time to recover from any short-term declines," said Adam Freedman, chief investment officer of CircleBlack, based in Jersey City, N.J. Though with the S&P 500 down 8% over the past five days, analysts say Millennials, just like every day investors, can scoop up shares of companies they know and like at a discount. "Millennials should do what their parents did," Nelson added. "Buy stocks you do business with, like Apple and Facebook . I'm sure if they look in their apartment they will find at least one Apple product." These Wall Street darlings are much cheaper thanks to the global selloff seen in recent days. Apple is down 19% since its high on April 27. Facebook is down 14% since its peak on July 21. In keeping with the tech theme, Peattie likes Google . "Google will be around for a long time and they have a new CFO [Ruth Porat, previously from Morgan Stanley ] who will supposedly be shareholder-friendly," Peattie said. "Plus [given] the company's recent announcement that they are separating out the day to day stuff from long term projects, I think it is a reasonable risk reward from these levels," he added, referring to the tech giant's price-to-earnings ratio of roughly 28. Google shares are down 9.5% since the high on July 21. Meanwhile, aside from individual names, Millennials can also gain exposure to stocks via exchange traded funds, which typically include a basket of different stocks. ETFs are a key way to ensure your investments are diversified -- that is, not too reliant on one particular stock. "We feel that investors need to broaden out their approach and look at the global markets for opportunity," said Grant Engelbart, portfolio manager at CLS Investments based in Omaha, Neb. "Simply owning a broad-based global ETF such as iShares MSCI can be lucrative over time." He said these ETFs can be purchased with no commissions at various brokerage houses.

How to Invest Like a Lady: 3 Ways Women Can Get More Out of Their Retirement Portfolios

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Women may earn less than men, but they are the winning gender when it comes to retirement savings rates. All else being equal, female employees contribute 8.3% of their income to their 401(k) accounts, compared with contributions of 7.9% from male employees, according to an analysis of over 20,000 corporate retirement plans by Fidelity Investments. Despite saving for retirement, 60% of women still fear they will outlive their savings. Creating and maintaining an investment strategy is essential to retirement readiness, but many women shy away from the task. "Women are more capable than they often give themselves credit for, and the same discipline that makes them dedicated savers can also be applied to investing," says Kathy Murphy, president of Fidelity's Personal Investing. Working with a financial advisor can help bolster confidence and knowledge. "Investing involves a high degree of understanding of markets, economics and financial concepts," says Avani Ramnani, director of financial planning and wealth management for Francis Financial. Women tend to be uncomfortable making investment decisions if they don't have a firm understanding of these concepts, she explains. Ramnani, a certified financial planner, educates her female clients on which investments make up their portfolios, and why. "This process is very similar to how one might work with their doctor," she says. "You don't need to be a doctor yourself, but you need to gain a good understanding of your condition, how to handle it and how to make sound decisions every day to stay healthy." Advisors face challenges, however, since many women are reluctant to talk about financial issues. Some 77% of women feel comfortable discussing health problems with a doctor, but only 47% feel confident talking about money and investing with a financial professional. "This lack of confidence is really self-imposed. Our analysis of more than 12 million investors shows that women actually demonstrated stronger saving rates than their male counterparts and enjoyed better long-term investment performance when they did engage," says Murphy. "Unfortunately, too many women still hesitate to take control of their finances." Target Date Funds Understanding and evaluating individual stocks is time consuming, and wading through various mutual funds is rarely any better. It's no surprise that only 28% of women know how to select the right financial investments. An age-based investing approach is simple and a good place to start. "If you have a small amount to invest, and you are not very confident about making investment choices, a target date fund might work for you," Ramnani says. Target date retirement funds have become a staple in retirement accounts, especially among young investors. These funds allow investors to choose one mutual fund based on their age and expected retirement date. As the time until retirement narrows, the target date fund rebalances from aggressive investments to more conservative options. Investing Made Simple If an appropriate target date fund is not available, creating an investment strategy that mimics the age-based approach is relatively simple. The key to target date investing is adjusting risk based on time horizon. Generally speaking, stocks are riskier investments and bonds are less risky investments. Younger employees have more time before they plan to retire, which means they can take bigger risks now. As employees get closer to their retirement age, risk should gradually be reduced. To determine the right percentage of stocks to own in a retirement portfolio, subtract one's current age from 120. Invest that amount in a stock mutual fund, and the remainder of the portfolio in a bond fund. Using this formula, someone who is 25 years old would invest 95% of his retirement portfolio in stocks and 5% in bonds. Someone who is 50 years old would invest 70% in stocks and 30% in bonds. This approach works to a certain extent. "As your investment account grows, it is worthwhile to look at other investment options and to create a well-diversified portfolio that takes into account your particular needs," Ramnani advises.  Enduring Market Dips One of the biggest challenges with investing is overcoming the fear of financial loss when the market dips. During economic turmoil, the natural instinct is to sell investments to prevent further losses. Taking this approach can cripple retirement savings growth over time, especially if investors miss out on market gains because of excess cash in their portfolio. Establishing a long-term investment strategy means sticking to it, regardless of the day-to-day moves of the market. "Making investment choices can be a daunting task," Ramnani says, but she encourages women to begin learning about money sooner rather than later. "They can always begin with the basics and move on to higher level concepts as their understanding grows," she says. Investing in financial education could be a good move for employers. Women are interested in learning about investing, and 70% of women who are not currently working with an advisor would like to do so in the near future. The number one financial wellness benefit requested by employees is on-site educational courses offered during the workday. This presents a unique opportunity for employers to reduce employee stress, which is likely to lead to increased productivity. "The key is to take action now to ensure that your money is working just as hard as you do, so you can achieve the goals and live the life you deserve," says Murphy.

Americans Taking Social Security Early for All the Wrong Reasons

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A surprising number of American workers are taking Social Security benefits earlier than planned because they got caught off guard by the realities of their work and financial situations, said David Giertz, president of distribution and sales for Nationwide Financial. "Some had health care issues or they were forced out of a job, or forced into retirement so some didn't have a choice," said Giertz. "But many had a choice and they just didn't plan." According to a Nationwide survey of 902 adults aged 50 or older who were retired or plan to be in the next 10 years, 83% of the retirees said they'd started collecting Social Security benefits early, and for more than half, this wasn't a choice.  More than one in three retirees said they filed early due to health problems; one in four cited health care costs; one in four said they lost their jobs; and one in five said were forced to retire. The survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Interactive in June. Adding insult to injury, the sooner retirees tap into their benefits stream, the less money they will take home over time. Those who start taking Social Security payments early receive 49% less than those who claim late, according to the survey.  "A lot of money is being left on the table," said Giertz. "As people have increased health care costs and increased inflation in retirement, that lost money makes a big difference." As for those respondents not yet retired, one in four say they're taking their benefits early because they worry that Social Security's funding will run out. Meanwhile, nearly one in four plan to draw early because they don't think they will live long enough to make it worth optimizing. "We believe that the fund is fully funded through 2033 and then it would ratchet down to about 75% funded, if Congress does nothing, but you and I both know that Congress usually steps in and will do something in that case," said Giertz. Must Read: Are You Really Ready to Retire?

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