Fund Your Future Paycheck

Is your financial future safe?

Join us for a FREE investor education and protection community event to help you understand how your financial and lifestyle choices today can affect the quality of your life in the future.

WHEN:  Tuesday, October 16, 2018
5:00 PM – 8:00 PM EDT

WHERE: Georgia State University College of Law  – 85 Park Pl NE, Atlanta, GA 30303 Continue reading

Are you Ready for Retirement? Join us at a Free Event to Learn how.

Most Georgians are not ready for retirement.  The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education released a study today finding that over 40 percent of Georgians believe that they aren’t ready for retirement and aren’t saving enough.  It also found that 25% of the survey participants “have less than $5,000 saved or invested for retirement (not counting home value).”  The full survey results are available here.

While it may seem daunting, there are steps that we can all take to prepare for retirement.  That’s why the Investor Advocacy Clinic is partnering to help put on When I’m 65, an investor education event at Georgia State Law on October 16 from 5-8 pm.  The event is free, so long as you register in advance here.

We hope you’ll join us on October 16.

Military Saves Week: Frequently Asked Questions

By Hector Rojas, Spring 2017 Student Intern

If you have been following us throughout the week, then you know what the Military Saves campaign is all about. You know about a few of the goals Military Saves encourages service members and their families to save for, and you have learned some tips and strategies on how to save. To close out this series, I thought it would be helpful to answer some frequently asked questions that you may have asked yourself throughout this five part series.

  1. I am hesitant to take The Saver Pledge, because I do not want to share my personal financial information.

You do not have to share any financial information in order to take the pledge. Indeed, when you sign up to take the pledge, you will notice that no financial information is requested of you in order to take the pledge. Remember, the idea of the campaign is for you to commit to building wealth over time and encourage others to do the same.

  1. If I take the pledge, will I be bombarded with a lot of junk email?

When you take the pledge, you will notice that there are boxes that will subscribe you to receive additional information and savings advice. Unlike other websites that automatically check off these boxes, however, you will notice that these are not already pre-selected. Therefore, it is completely up to you to receive additional periodical information and advice to help you save.  If you take the Pledge, however, you’ll receive monthly Military Saves E-newsletters that contain helpful savings messages. You can always unsubscribe at the bottom of the newsletter or contact Military Saves to modify your subscription and update your email information.

  1. Who can enroll in Military Saves?

According to Military Saves, Military Saves is a national campaign to persuade, motivate, and encourage military service members, their families & Department of Defense (DoD) associated personnel to save money every month, and to convince leaders and organizations to be aggressive in promoting automatic savings. The enrollment is open for everyone & it is very relevant for retirees and anyone affiliated with the military.

Closing Remarks

I hope that this five part series has been helpful to you and has motivated you to begin saving. Remember, that it is small permanent changes that matter. Also, remember that savings is about your well being for tomorrow and not today and that it will be worth it in the long run whenever there is an emergency, you approach retirement, or just want to treat yourself to a brand new car.

It has been my honor to write about Military Saves Week for our servicemembers. On behalf of the Georgia State Investor Advocacy Clinic and myself, we salute and thank you for your service! Below you will find some additional resources to answer any remaining questions you may have about Military Saves Week.

Additional Resources

For more information about Military Saves, click here.

For more information about taking the pledge, click here.

For more information for savers, click here.

For more information for organizations and how they can get involved, click here.

For more information about the campaign and the team behind it, click here.

Military Saves Week: How to Save

By Hector Rojas, Spring 2017 Student Intern

Now that we have discussed what the Military Saves Pledge is all about and what types of goals Military Saves encourages service members to save for, in part four of this five part series, we will discuss how to save. Here are five saving strategies provided by Military Saves.

  1. Save for Emergencies

Consistent with our last post, this is the campaign’s number one focus. Having an emergency fund of anywhere between $500 to $1,000 dollars can come in handy when life gets hectic and it is the difference between those who manage to stay afloat and those who are sinking financially.

  1. Pay off High Cost Debt

As mentioned in part three of this series, debt is expensive. According to Military Saves, Americans spend well over $75 billion a year just on credit card interest and fees. That means that families who revolve credit card balances pay an average of $1,500 a year in interest and fees. If they saved that $1,500 in an account with a five percent yield, in 40 years they would have nearly $200,000! Therefore, the campaign says that the best investment most borrowers can make is to pay off consumer debt with double-digit interest rates.

  1. Save automatically using an allotment with myPay

According to Military Saves, saving automatically—through an allotment or automatic transfer of funds—to a short-term or long-term savings account is the best way to save. Why? Because you don’t have to think about it. Set it and forget it because it’s automatic! So, whether it comes to saving for your emergency fund, paying off a debt or investing in your retirement, set your savings on autopilot today and don’t worry about it tomorrow!

  1. Participate in the Thrift Savings Plan

If you are Active-Duty Military or a Department of Defense (DoD) civilian employee you have access to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).  The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a retirement savings and investment plan for Federal employees and members of the uniformed services, including the Ready Reserve. It was established by Congress in the Federal Employees’ Retirement System Act of 1986 and offers the same types of savings and tax benefits that many private corporations offer their employees under 401(k) plans.

  1. Deploying? Take advantage of the Savings Deposit Program

According to Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), the DoD Savings Deposit Program (SDP) was established to provide members of the uniformed services serving in designated combat zones the opportunity to build their financial savings. A total of $10,000 may be deposited during each deployment and will earn up to 10% interest annually. You cannot close your account until you have left the combat zone, although your money will continue to draw interest for 90 days once you’ve returned home or to your permanent duty station.

Next time…

On the final part of this five part series, we will discuss some frequently asked questions about Military Saves and provide additional resources for you to learn more about the Military Saves Campaign so that you can be well equipped to take the pledge shall you choose to do so. Stay tuned.

Additional Resources

To learn more about saving for an emergencies, click here.

To learn more about saving for debt, click here.

To learn more about how to save automatically, click here.

To learn more about Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), click here.

To learn more about the DoD Savings Deposit Program (SDP), click here.

For more savings strategies, click here, here, and here.

Investing on Your Own

By Tosha Dunn, Spring 2016 Student Intern

Should you?  I mean, maybe.  You have read my articles after all.  Personally, I would say “no, no way, man.”  But that’s my personal preference and not advice.

But okay, let’s say that you do want to go it alone and avoid fees and the worry of giving your coffee can of money to anyone else.  What might you consider as a lone-wolf?  First, I would want to really, really research the available products and strategies.  I’ve discussed some, like the index fund and a 401(K).  But there are other things available, like IRAs, and Roth-IRAs, and mutual funds, etc.  Seriously, there are tons of financial products available, and some are even considered exotic, like derivatives.  Then there are various things like stocks versus bonds, over-the-counter markets, and commodities futures markets.

I’ll leave the more exotic sounding items to you, but some of these are somewhat straightforward.  An IRA, or an Individual Retirement Account, isn’t exactly an investment.  It’s an account where you put your investments to benefit from tax breaks.  This means that all of your products, like stocks, are placed in the account and grow in value without you paying taxes over the growth period (you pay when you cash out).  However, you only get this benefit if you cash out before you’re age 59.5–yes, it is that specific.  A Roth-IRA allows you to pay taxes as you go and cash out without a tax payment.

Overall, I would consider and investigate the topics I have mentioned–creating a diversified portfolio is a difficult trick that you may have difficulty managing on your own, but, one last time, it’s all about your risk tolerance.  Not to mention, there are always index funds with low fee rates.  Because fees can be a serious risk as well.  Yes, PBS’ Frontline did an entire story on the issue of fees, and every investor will face fees whether at cash out or for every trade, and fees eat away at the overall value of your investments – even the SEC says there’s an impact. So take a deep breath, research, and make an educated decision.  Investing isn’t easy, and it’s a major life decision because period 2 is closer in time than you think.  You can’t always be in period 1. (If you’re interested in understanding period 1 and period 2 from an economic modeling sense: http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/eugene.fama/research/Theory%20of%20Finance/Chapter%206%20The%20Two%20Period%20Consumption%20Investment%20Model.pdf).

Diversification: The Biggie

By Tosha Dunn, Spring 2016 Student Intern

Now let’s move along to a term that I have been sort of dancing around: diversification.  This is definitely a term that you may, or may not, hear but one that should be in your mind, even if it isn’t in your adviser’s mind.  Simply, diversification is investing in a true portfolio, so your investments aren’t concentrated in a single industry or a single market.  Instead, you have a portfolio that represents industries that balance one another out, meaning that if one goes down, the other goes up.  The goal is mitigating losses.

If you have a properly diversified portfolio, you may have a certain percentage of money that is invested in risky stock, but you may balance that risk against the investment in an index fund (index funds are meant to return whatever the market returns are from an index, like the S&P 500, so the investments are pegged in a way to a stable market; there’s no promise of 100% returns).  And an index fund isn’t the only option, again, the goal is to create a portfolio with industries and risks that counterbalance one another.  You want to have a wave pattern where if one wave peaks, the other is at a trough, that way, you are receiving a steady flow of returns.  Of course, that is assuming you invest in only two financial vehicles, but you get the idea–balance.

Diversification comes from the idea of Modern Portfolio Theory, which you can investigate to your heart’s content at: http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~eelton/papers/97-dec.pdf, http://post.nyssa.org/nyssa-news/2011/12/harry-markowitz-father-of-modern-portfolio-theory-still-diversified.html, and http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/on-retirement/2012/12/13/why-i-am-clinging-to-failed-investment-strategies.

All of these articles delve into different levels of detail regarding the theory and its future, but hey, the guy who came up with it was a Nobel Prize Winning Economist, so there may be something to it.

So you have made some decision about a planner, what’s next?

By Tosha Dunn, Spring 2016 Student Intern

When you meet with a broker/adviser/planner, again, they will ask questions about what your ultimate investment goals are, and these questions may sound like jargon.  Things like “risk tolerance,” “time horizon,” etc. may be a foreign language to you.  However, just nodding along and trusting everything to a person who explains a product and gives you some papers is a terrible, terrible idea.  Terrible.

Risk tolerance is the amount of risk that you are willing to accept when investing.  Do you want to engage in speculation in a particular industry or market, meaning do you want to take the risk by investing in a shaky start-up or a company that is just issuing an IPO (an initial public offering–this is the first time that a company makes an offering of its stock to the public, generally, and the prices associated with the stock may be overvalued, quickly spike, and drop before you have the chance to sell them at a gain in the secondary market)?  Right, all of that sounds scary.  So you not only need to have an idea of what risks you are willing to take, but you also need to be wary of an adviser person who doesn’t fully explain the product to you because, seriously, did you know what an IPO was; do you know that most IPOs are expected to “pop?”  And what is “popping” anyway?  Or a “secondary market”?

What about your time horizon?  Your time horizon is the time between your initial investment and when you plan to cash out the investment, so depending on the financial goal, the time horizon can be very short (you’re saving for a new car and plan to cash out in two years) or it can be long (i.e. your plans for retirement).  Time horizons and risk tolerance are linked–if you have a long time horizon, you may want to pursue a more aggressive investment strategy because if you lose, you have more time to make the money back and vice versa.

You may also hear comments about “volatility,” “business cycles,” and “concentration”…and what are all of these things anyway?  Simply, volatility refers to price shifts in the market; however, those shifts can be severe and seriously affect your investments without some proper attention from your adviser.  This is where the word “concentration” comes into play; if you’re invested in a single stock, then you have 100% concentration in a single financial product.  Stemming from that, concentration is simply the percentage amount of your investment portfolio represented by a specific stock, or within a specific industry, or within a specific market, etc. (so it roughly means what you think it does).

And 100% of your portfolio in one stock may or may not be a problem for you depending on, that’s right, your risk tolerance.  You may think that oil investments in a foreign, war torn country are the ONLY investment you should be involved in, and that’s fine.  Your adviser may warn you otherwise.  However, you may have a portfolio of investments across different industries, and you may be concerned about the concentration of your investments in a particular industry.  But that assumes that you know about concentration in a specific, rather than general, way.

Business cycles are also something akin to what you expect; they are cycles within business where business goes up and down in a somewhat predictable pattern–you know, a cycle.  Right, so generally a business cycle moves in a wave pattern with highs and lows.  You may be investing in a down market but with the expectation that the market is going to go back up.  However, you want to consult with your adviser about your tolerance when the market seems to be really climbing–do you sell because the market cycle may be peaking and about to move downwards fast? Or do you ride the bull?  Again, it’s all about your risk tolerance and your rapport with your adviser.

And if you really want some overly detailed information about business cycles, the National Bureau of Economic Research has you covered.