Although everyone defines financial security differently, Jan walks through steps that many of us can take, and talks about some that might require the guidance of a financial advisor.
#NowMe Episode 7: Steps to Help Achieve Financial Security
Ms. Walker: This is #NowMe, a podcast for financial advisers who advise women. Hello, this is Hollis Walker with Jan Blakeley Holman, director of advisor education at Thornburg Investment Management. Thanks for joining us for another episode of #NowMe. So, Jan, since the coronavirus exploded in our lives, I’ve been thinking a lot about my financial security and wondering whether I’ve done enough to take responsibility for my future, financially speaking. Now, I know better than to cash out investments. You’ve warned us a lot about that on this podcast. But what are some of the other steps I might take?
Ms. Holman: Well, Hollis, the answers to those questions are usually best answered with the help of a financial advisor. But I can give you some rules of thumb. One of the things that the virus has called attention to, and actually, the virus didn’t need to call attention to this, because we all knew it already, is that Americans don’t have a cash reserve that helps them cover expenses for emergencies like a plumbing problem or having to pay for new tires or something like that. So that’s the first thing.
Ms. Walker: So, say some more about that cash savings. How much do I need to have?
Ms. Holman: Well, you know, when you get into rules of thumb or guidelines like this, different people were taught differently. So what I learned was six to nine months of your expenses in a liquid vehicle like a savings account. I mean, you’re not gonna earn any interest, but it’s money that you might need at the drop of a hat. Many people, if they’re retired, what they wind up doing is collecting a year’s worth of expenses and maybe a little more, plus X percent and having that available in a cash reserve, and actually, that’s what they’ll take as their “paycheck”; I put that in quotes, on a monthly basis.
Ms. Walker: And they do that so they don’t have to liquidate other investments?
Ms. Holman: Yes. You don’t wanna be caught in a position where something comes up and you have to sell some stock or sell a fund into a market that’s declining.
Ms. Walker: Like that plumbing disaster at my house in December. But we won’t go there.
Ms. Holman: Right.
Ms. Walker: Okay, so assuming I have enough money in an emergency fund, what would be the logical step number two? Should I start paying off my mortgage faster? I’ve thought about doing that. Or would it be better, if I had some extra money to put into the market? Especially since the market’s been up and down. Or should I put more money in my IRA?
Ms. Holman: Boy, has the market been up and down. Again, a financial advisor helps with these decisions, but generally, here’s what I’d say when you ask those questions. First of all, there are always tradeoffs. When you make a decision to do something, you’re not going to do another thing, right? So, let’s talk about each of your questions. First of all, should you pay off your mortgage faster? Many people have a dream of living without a mortgage. Not having to pay a mortgage, not having to pay rent. Unfortunately, as many of us age, we move into areas or homes or townhouses, condominiums, where there are association fees, so you wind up having a monthly payment for something. But as for the extra money that you’re talking about, it depends on how much it is. If it’s just enough for an additional mortgage payment and you have a lot left on the mortgage, that may not work so well. It may not be the best decision. I’d look at other options, if that were the case. If you’re close to paying the mortgage off, and that’s a goal of yours, go for it. How about putting extra money into investments? If that route makes sense, then it’s wise to move into the investment systematically. Some people call it dollar cost averaging. Some people call it systematic exchanges. What you’re doing is moving from an investment or a savings that is virtually static in terms of volatility, into something that is more volatile. And you would do that on a regular basis, whether it’s monthly or quarterly, or weekly, depending on how much money you have. Then you asked about an IRA. Well, related to the IRA, again, a tradeoff is here. If you’re going to have to pay taxes and putting money into an IRA would eliminate the need to pay taxes, it probably makes sense. Financial advisors are not tax accountants, but they know a lot about taxes, so this is a thing that your advisor could help you with.
Ms. Walker: So, you’ve been hypothetically answering my questions, as a single older woman, and I know it would be different if we were talking to somebody who had a spouse or a partner or dependents and other circumstances. But the thing I wonder about the most is to what degree does age make a difference in how we should make these decisions?
Ms. Holman: It makes a lot of difference in how you look at any one of these opportunities, let me put it that way. As I said, many people wanna pay off their mortgage. That’s especially true when they’re getting close to retirement. The thought of not having that money that they have to pay on a monthly basis is wonderful. I have a friend of mine who lives in Washington State and she is, like, rabid about paying off her mortgage, and every time she gets extra money, she throws it at her mortgage and she tells me how much she has left and what day in 2020 she’ll have it paid off. And it’s great. I mean, it’s great that she’s that passionate about it. She sees it as freedom. She sees it as having a home and not being tied down financially. So that gives her so many more life choices. With the decision about whether or not a person should put money into their investments or retirement account, again, there are tradeoffs. It’s really important for a person who’s close to retirement to work with an advisor to go through the numbers on that. If they put the money in a retirement account, and they’re taking it out, and it’s being taxed, you know, what’s the benefit? How long’s the money going to be invested? I mean, people who are younger, in their 30s or 40s, they’re going to be invested for years and years and years. They could be invested for 40 to 60 years, depending on how long they live. And they might wanna put the money into something that’s tax deductible, or a Roth IRA. The thing about an advisor is your advisor can run what ifs. Crunching the numbers. What would it look like if you put it in an investment vehicle that was not tax deductible, that was not qualified relative to taxes, vis-à-vis a vehicle that is tax qualified?
Ms. Walker: You’re doing a really good job, thanks, of answering all my questions. I feel like I learned something. But how do you get to the point where you really feel financially secure? Because I’m not sure that a sense of financial security has so much to do with how much money I have invested, as it does with something else.
Ms. Holman: You probably define financial security in one way. I define it in another way. The people listening define it in their own ways. It’s kind of like love. We each define it differently, but we know it when we’ve found it, right? I don’t think having financial security is an impossible dream. I mean, it’s very possible, and I think for each of us, that is a goal. I mean, that is very American, I think. Financial security and financial freedom, to be able to make choices. I remember in the 1990s, when I was giving a lot of talks and there were many situations that weren’t necessarily wonderful for women in the workforce, I used to say when I talked to women’s groups, that financial security gives you choices. It gives you choices to leave an employer where you don’t feel comfortable. An employer who may be doing things a little illegally or something like that. It gives you choices and the ability to leave a marriage that may not be what you want it to be. But this is a possible dream and it’s especially possible if you work with a financial advisor.
Ms. Walker: Okay. I got it. As soon as I leave here today, I’m gonna call my financial advisor.
Ms. Holman: Perfect.
Ms. Walker: We’ll have a talk about my financial security. Thanks so much, Jan. That’s all the time we have today. You’ve been listening to #NowMe, with me, your host, Hollis Walker, and Jan Blakeley Holman, director of advisor education at Thornburg Investment Management. If you want to suggest a topic for us, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to hear more episodes of #NowMe, you can find us on Apple, Spotify, Google Podcast, or your favorite audio provider. Or by visiting us at thornburg.com/podcast. Jan can also be found on LinkedIn. If you like us, subscribe, share us on social media, and leave us a review. Until next time, thanks for listening.
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