Cornerstone Wins BBB Torch Award for Ethics

Torch Award Winner Logo 2017 (1)

 

Cornerstone is proud to announce that they are the 2017 Large Business recipient of the Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award for Ethics.

“We were absolutely thrilled to learn we had been chosen as the recipient of this prestigious honor,” said CEO Mike Haskett.

According to the BBB, the Torch Award is their most prestigious award which celebrates and recognizes local companies that demonstrate integrity and a strong commitment to ethics in all that they do.

BBB Representative of the Lowcountry Chris Hadley explained that Cornerstone was awarded this honor due to their diligent efforts towards community outreach and in charitable giving.

Cornerstone’s dedication to these efforts has made a huge impact on the local community for the last 10 years.

Cornerstone gives back to the community in truly full-circle way.

For starters, they support the community by the excellent services their team brings to the clients they serve. In a world where senior citizens are frequently scammed and taken advantage of, Cornerstone has a team of advisors who travel to the homes of clients and spend hours meticulously reviewing their financial situation in an effort to
save them money and make sure that the products and services they pay for are
actually in their best interests. They’ve had the honor of helping the elderly, who
they view as valuable pillars of our society, to secure their futures and ensure
stability as they move through their retirement years.

“Cornerstone also feels proud to know that while helping our clients we are able to change lives for our agents as well!” Says CEO Mike Haskett. “Over the years our employees have had the chance to participate in sales contests and incentives through the more than 100 A+ rated insurance and investment companies we are affiliated with. It makes us feel good to know that providing the best services to our clients results in our
staff being able to provide a stable future for themselves and their families. We
all have to make a living somehow, but our hearts swell with pride when we see
how putting client service FIRST results in blessings for our staff.”

Helping people is really what Cornerstone is all about. But they don’t stop there.
Haskett believes strongly in giving back and makes sure that
the organization is always looking for ways to give back to the community.

To highlight a few, for the last 4 years Cornerstone has been the premier sponsor for
Chase After a Cure- a local organization that funds children’s cancer research, donating a total of more than $25,000 and participating in fund-raising efforts which brought in additional donations totaling more than $30,000. Cornerstone also donated office space for Chase After a Cure so that they would have a comfortable place to manage their organization.

In the fall of 2015 Cornerstone reached out to the community and asked what the local
schools needed. The response was huge and they had a tough time choosing, but
in the end were able to donate hundreds of supplies to a classroom at
Knightsville Elementary School. (see video link below for the whole story and
footage of the day they presented the supplies to Ms. Fuller’s Kindergarten
classroom)

They have also provided support to children who need help getting through
school, whether it’s scholarship dollars, helping out with books or even their
lunch fund when times get hard.

Cornerstone has also supported the arts/physical fitness for our youths by
helping raise money for local music, theatre and sports programs.
Overall, Cornerstone Wealth Advisory Group is committed to helping the
community through various forms of community service and outreach in addition
to the financial planning services they offer to their clients.

“We are proud to know that the Cornerstone name is now being recognized for more than just great customer service, or just as a great place to work, but also for all the extra stuff we do for the community,” says Haskett. “Ultimately, I encourage everyone to give back as much or as little as they are able. It takes all of us chipping in when we are able, to make a difference for those who need it most.”

Knightsville Elementary School Supply Surprise

 

Tips to make your retirement savings last

PennylessOutliving your savings. Those are 3 scary words that most retirees do NOT want to hear! Even if you’ve planned carefully and have a sizable nest egg, living longer than your money is still a possibility. What can you do to alleviate these concerns? Read on for Cornerstone’s 5 steps for retirement security!

1) Buy longevity insurance 

With this type of insurance, you give the insurance company a small premium at the age of 65. The insurance company invests it until you’re in your 80’s and then begins paying you in monthly increments for the rest of your life. A policy like this might typically cost around $25,000 and would pay out $3,000 per month when you turn 85.

The timing on policies like these are ideal because the payouts are coming at a time when you are likely to start acquiring some significant medical bills and if you consider the years of inflation on your nest egg, these could really diminish your resources.

Using this approach for your financial planning makes it easier to plan long term because your payout date is determined when you buy the policy. You will know exactly what you have coming in the future, as you move through your initial retirement savings.

2) Delay taking Social Security

The longer you wait to start collecting your Social Security benefits the more your monthly retirement benefit will increase.

For example, 66 is the full retirement age and if you start collecting at that age you will receive 100% of your retirement. However, if you delay until you’re 67 years old to start collecting, that benefit goes up by 8%.

The longest you can wait is until age 70 and if you do this you will get 32% more than you would have gotten at full retirement age.

3) Get a job

If you’re able to take on some part time work you can put some extra cash in your pocket and this will allow you to delay withdrawing your Social Security for as long as possible. There are lots of great companies that are happy to hire retirees!

Here’s a great way to search for companies that are looking to hire those over 65. Senior Job Bank

4) Consider Long-Term Care Insurance

It’s really impossible to know what the future holds and what types of help and medical care you will need as time goes on.

Long Term Care insurance can provide a safety net for you and your family in the event that you have to use In-Home care, or Long-Term care services in a nursing home or assisted living facility. Some of these policies even provide benefits to your care-giver when they need a break!

There are also Life Insurance policies that can have Long-Term Care riders added to them. These are great because if the benefit isn’t used, it passes tax-free to the policy’s beneficiary! That is a win-win for everyone!

5) Find a good Financial Planner

All the information shared above is a great way to get started, but to truly assess all your specific financial needs and to determine which of these things would benefit you and your family the most, what you really want is a thorough financial review, conducted by a professional who has been trained to make sure that you get the most out of your retirement! Cornerstone has dozens of agents ready to work with you whenever you need us, in the comfort of your own home and at NO COST to you EVER. Here is a great article that shows what SHOULD happen at a typical Financial Review appointment and tips for making sure your agent is really doing their job!

The Importance of Fact Finding

Whatever your plans are for your future, we all want the same thing. Security! Cornerstone would like to help you optimize your chances at a safe, happy and secure retirement. Contact us today for more information!

Also see: Financial Tips for Baby Boomers and Facts about Retirement

Two simple steps toward a comfortable retirement…

Don’t make the mistake of counting on high market returns to fund your retirement.

Action Plan to an Anxiety-Free Retirement – Part 1

Senior couple in sports car

STEP 1 | Kiss market risk good-bye with an automatic savings plan


When the stocks take a sudden plummet, many investors panic and start seeking alternate ways to ensure a successful monetary outcome. The good news is that there is a simple solution to help ensure a secure retirement regardless of the market’s ups and downs. The best part? It might even be free to you, through your employer!

Many companies are offering automatic yearly increases in contribution rates to their employees’ 401(k). Currently close to 1/3 of employers have this option, but even if they don’t, you can make a habit of gradually increasing your savings annually in the same way a “cost of living” raise would usually kick in. Maybe choose to make the increase, each year on your birthday or another anniversary that’s easy to remember.

This step might seem simple, but don’t be deceived, there is a lot of bang for the buck here! More than 70% of employees who automatically increase their retirement are on track to a more comfortable retirement, according to Rob Austin, the director of retirement research at Aon Hewitt.* And if you compare this to the average success rate of only 20% you can see why this concept is a valid consideration!

You can trick your brain…It might seem silly, but there is a psychological aspect to automatic saving that makes it less difficult. Psychologists call this behavioral quirk “loss aversion” and it’s the basic idea that it’s much harder to give up a dollar you already have in hand, than it is to “lose” it before you ever see it. Somehow the sacrifice isn’t felt as intensely when saving is carried out this way.

Risk is reduced… And obviously, saving more helps you to steadily build your wealth. But let’s circle back to the issue we mentioned in the title of this article: Being immune to market highs and lows. If you have a steadily growing savings plan you are less dependent on high returns from the market.

Here’s an example. Imagine Jane, a 30 year old, starts saving 15% of her salary. If she works until age 67 she can reach a preset goal of having enough money to replace 75% of her pre-retirement income, even if her investments only deliver at 6% or less. Now Jane is free to invest however she wishes. Can she take a plunge and dive into something risky? Sure! Or what if she wants to conservatively and carefully invest so as not to lose anything? Play it safe. Either scenario works because she has the guaranteed savings plan to back her up, regardless of what happens with her investments.

STEP 2 | Don’t be scared to ask for help!

 


No matter your age or the stage of retirement planning you are currently in, you will learn and grow by seeking help from those experienced and trained in these areas.

Many financial planning companies are glad to do an annual financial review to help you determine where you currently stand and what you need to do differently.

Whoever you turn to, make sure they gather ALL the data. Don’t let them advise you without a full picture of your financial situation. This includes your life and health insurance and ANY investments you have, plus the simple stuff, like your savings bonds, and rainy day cash in your savings account- and don’t forget all your expenses as well. Which ones will continue into retirement, and what extra liabilities may you take on in the future? It all matters and it’s important that whoever is giving advice has a full understanding and awareness of exactly what you have to work with.

The bottom line: Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be innovative with the way you map out your future! The younger you start the better, but it’s NEVER too late to make changes that can help you in the future.

Cornerstone Wealth Advisory Group has a team of professionals dedicated to retirement and financial planning. Contact us for more information and to schedule your annual review. (always at NO COST to you)

www.cswta.com

866-262-2245

 

*This firm defined success as saving 11 times salary by age 65

The Perfect Gift

Grandparents And Grandchildren Reading Book On Garden Seat

Birthdays, holidays, various childhood milestones… As these come and go for your grandchildren you may spend much time searching for the perfect gift. It can be hard to know what to buy and obviously you want the money you spend, on the person you love, to be put to good use! Toys break and fall apart, clothes are outgrown, cash may be spent frivolously…it can make it a challenging decision!

It might sound a little strange, but many parents and grandparents are giving a new kind of gift to their family members. Life Insurance. Gifting a life insurance policy is a wonderful way to show your love and give a gift that is meaningful that serves a useful purpose.

A life insurance policy is an investment that can last the child’s entire life! It won’t break, wear out or fall apart over the years. These policies can be set up to earn cash value that accumulates over the years. This cash value can be withdrawn by the recipient at a later date and used for a variety of things. Imagine your gift going towards helping them purchase their first car, or even better, their first home! It could pay college tuition, or help them start a business. What a great way to show that you care about your grandchild’s future, when the gift you give them today can give them financial security in the future!

Another great feature of gifting a life insurance policy to a child, is that the premium rate locks in using their current age. Typically life insurance premiums increase with age, but starting young they will have their current rate for life!

In addition, this can help to guarantee their future insurability. Sadly, there’s no way to know what the future may hold or what unexpected illnesses may befall anyone. Sometimes illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung problems etc. can keep a person from qualifying for good insurance at an affordable rate. Thankfully if the child’s policy is set up now, they will have future occasions to increase the benefit, if they desire, regardless of their health.

These are just a few of the reasons that a children’s whole life policy can be a wonderful, lasting gift. Cornerstone has many great options and we’d love to help you put together a memorable gift for your loved one’s next special occasion. Reach out to us today to speak with an agent for a consult at NO COST to you!

Financial Tips for Baby Boomers

in love African American couple in their eighties and seventies,Did you know that the average American spends more time researching the features of their cable television channel offerings, than they do finding a reliable financial advisor?

It sounds … insane … for lack of a better phrase, but it’s true. (see the Forbes Financial article we will reference at the end of this post) Sometimes this even involves making decisions about how pension or social security money will be received. These could be the only funds a person will be receiving, to live on for the rest of their life. Obviously it’s important that they be managed properly, yet so many are just “winging it” and this can have devastating consequences!

It’s also important to make sound financial decisions based not solely on where you are NOW, but where you will be in 20 or 30 years. Will your home be safe and comfortable for you when you are 75, 85? Do you have a plan in place for how you will manage if your spouse passes away before you, or a care plan for them to get along without YOU?

These can be uncomfortable conversations to have, but to secure your future, they are very necessary.

A trained financial planner can assist you in all areas mentioned above, and more! Check out this article from Forbes Financial, and feel free to reach out immediately if you’d like a consultation with one of Cornerstone’s Financial Advisors. Our services are always at no cost to you!

https://www.forbes.com/sites/feeonlyplanner/2015/06/05/five-easy-pieces-of-financial-advice-for-baby-boomers/#1fd30f854ae8

 

Facts About Retirement

Connected puzzle pieces labeled with the words "retirement" and "savings".

What does retirement mean to you? Is it a time to start up your dream business venture? Or maybe travel and spend time with your family?

Regardless of your plans, most individuals want the chance to take it easy after years of hard work.

In many cultures and areas, the standard retirement age is considered to be 65 years old.

It’s interesting to know that every day for the next 20 years another 8,000 individuals will turn 65. That is about 1 person every 10 seconds!

In the year 2013 14% of the population in the United States was made up of those who are 65 and older, and it’s estimated that by the year 2030, they are expected to make up more than 20% of the population!

Interestingly this group owned 31% of the US’s financial assets in 2001 and they are expected to hold 44% of the country’s financial assets by 2040.

If you are part of this group, or will be soon, you can see that you’re part of a large and influential group of people!

What will you do for your retirement when that time comes? Have you made arrangements for the future, for your healthcare, housing and income? Do you feel comfortable with the plans you have in place?

As a member of this influential part of our society, the choices you make now to plan for your retirement can make a difference in the abilities you will have to utilize these years when the time comes!

If you have an uncertainty about your decisions, contact us today so that we can help you develop a solid strategy for the future!

Healthy Body = Heavy Wallet

Calculator and stethoscope on financial statement concept for finance health check or cost of healthcare

Did you know that out of all the things people save for during retirement, that healthcare can potentially be the most expensive?

One study found that a 65 year old couple with average prescription drug expenses will need to save $207,000 for health care in retirement if they want a 75% chance of being able to pay all their future medical bills!*

Although your health isn’t something you can fully control during your retirement, there are some things you can do to stay healthier, plan ahead and possibly reduce the amount you will spend in the future!

First of all, Stay Informed! Keep yourself up- to-date on healthcare news, since we know medical expertise and advice are constantly changing. Especially if there are issues that have affected you or those related to you, and be sure to ask your doctor for help identifying areas that might be of particular concern.

Next, you want to do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy and exercising regularly can be key to staying healthy. Limiting fats and sugars and increasing whole grains, fruits and vegetables is a great way to start, as well as embarking on an exercise program that you feel comfortable continuing into the long term. Of course, always consult with your doctor before starting any new routine, to make sure it’s safe for you!

Relaxation can also be a great way to stay in good health. Maintaining friendships, focusing on hobbies and making time for relaxation each day can help ward off stress, which can be detrimental to your health. Some research even shows that staying socially active in retirement can reduce the risk of depression and might even aid in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease!

Monitoring your blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index and blood sugar levels are also important. Doing so can help you stay ahead of the game and make any changes if necessary, in the event that your health does begin to decline.

Finally, preventative care can be much less expensive than treating a disease or disorder. Make sure to always get your annual physical as this can help to screen you for potential health risks!

Overall, staying healthy is the best way to keep your healthcare costs low, but having a good healthcare plan in place for big and unexpected events is very important!

If you’d like a free consultation with a retirement specialist who can help you find the most fitting and affordable healthcare plan, contact us today!

*Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2013

Procrastination- What it can cost you

Concept for procrastination and urgency with torn newspaper headlines excuses reading later, one day, tomorrow, someday, whenever etc

Have you ever waited too long to do something and suffered the consequences? Maybe you put off renewing your car taxes, only to get a ticket for an expired registration…or what about waiting just a little too long to fill that gas tank, only to run out of gas before you can make it to a fill-up station?

Procrastination can cause many missed opportunities! And this can cost us!

Procrastinators can sabotage themselves. The paths they choose can hurt their performance and put obstacles into their paths.

But what does this have to do with financial planning?

Problems with procrastination can be particularly painful, and costly, when it comes to investments and financial decisions.

Here is an illustration:

Let’s look at two individuals we will call Sam and Patty. Let’s say they each have $100,000 to invest. Sam is ready to go RIGHT NOW! He immediately beings depositing $10,000 a year into an account that earns a 6% rate of return. After 10 years he stops making deposits. Patty on the other hand, procrastinates. She meant to meet with her financial advisor but other things kept getting in the way. Years go by… Finally 10 years after Sam started investing, Patty finally starts to invest that $10,000 per year into an account that also earns a 6% rate of return.

Both Sam and Patty have invested $100,000, but at the end of 20 years Sam has more than $280,000, while Patty only has a little more than $150,000. Sam is significantly wealthier because his account has had more time for the investment returns to compound.

Regardless of the amount of money you may have to invest, the point is to take action NOW! Don’t wait! Every day that you wait, you are potentially losing money that could be used for your retirement, or money that could be left as a legacy to your children and grandchildren.

The first step towards getting started with your investment is to contact a financial advisor and set up a financial review.

At Cornerstone we have dozens of agents who will do a free financial review in the comfort of your home! After fully analyzing your situation, they will be able to point you in the best direction to start investing, or even help you modify your current investments to better meet your needs.

Don’t procrastinate! Contact us today!

Income Certainty in an Uncertain Economy

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I have been working with retirees for a number of years now and I am always interested in what concerns people have when it comes to their finances. There are several consistent answers that continually arise but none more common than income. There are people from all walks of life that are concerned about outliving their money. How do we get through this difficult economic condition, with a volatile market and consistent inflation knowing that at the end of the day there will be enough money to sustain a favorable lifestyle? It is a valid question and a real concern and without appropriate planning, there could certainly be some very real consequences. There is good news in this story however. There are programs available in the investment world designed specifically for the purpose of income generation. Not just income until you run out of money, but income that CAN NOT BE OUTLIVED. They are called annuities. Many of you reading this may have experience with annuities and many of you may have heard terrible reviews about annuities as well. Some of the information is true and some should be left by the curb with the trash. What I can tell you, is that annuities present an opportunity to generate a lifetime income stream that can’t be outlived as opposed to the alternative methods of income generation typically used such as a bond portfolio and other market driven investment options. I am a registered investment advisor representative and will maintain that there are effective ways to generate income in the securities world that have been used effectively for years. However, none of these methods has the protection of principal that the equity indexed annuity does. These programs allow for growth when the market does well and protection from loss when the market fails. These programs also offer clients opportunities to use certain riders to guarantee income for life while still having the ability to grow the underlying cash value of the account. This enables the investors to have a consistent income stream whether or not the investment performs well. On top of the income, it also protects and grows the cash value that supports the income with no market downside so that there can be dollars leftover to pass to the investors loved ones if so desired. These riders are so effective that the income stream can persist even past the distribution of all of the original principal and any growth that would have been earned. This is a security that many investors are moving towards with today’s current market conditions. As with any investment vehicle, these products are not right for everyone and certainly not right for all of someone’s assets. However, the equity indexed annuity provides for the opportunity to grow with market potential overcoming the lackluster fixed rates available today and brings protection that almost no other market driven program can offer. It is a nice marriage of features. Being able to add to that, the option for lifetime income with growth opportunity of the base value simultaneously taking place, makes for an attractive offer. For many retirees, the worry of a foregone income stream is now a thing of the past due to the implementation of programs such as these. David Armbruster is President of the Financial Division of Cornerstone Wealth and Tax Advisory Group, Inc. in Charleston South Carolina as well as a Investment Advisor Representative through the Investment Advisor Alliance, LLC. This column is for informational purposes only. Please consult an investment advisor prior to any financial decisions. One of the greatest challenges facing retirees is finding a way to maintain their lifestyle when there is no longer a company paycheck coming in each week. Each family now needs to create an income stream from their own resources that has, hopefully, been saved through the years. They also must determine their income needs for this lifestyle. There are several ways to generate a stream of income from these funds including the drawing from a diversified portfolio, using the dividends and income from a portfolio, earning interest in a fixed income portfolio that coincides with your needs, and the use of annuities. Annuities can be an important way to ensure a specific amount of income each month, but since they are an insurance product I will discuss the first three. Drawing funds from a diversified portfolio means you will be taking money from the investment accounts. You are effectively counting on the growth and steadiness of the portfolio’s returns to fund your retirement. During periods of negative returns retirees will need to decide if they really need the full draw; if the percentage chosen as a withdrawal rate is reasonable, this should not be a problem. Designing an investment portfolio of high yielding equities and income producing instruments often leads to investment in financial and utility stocks, as well as, preferred issues. These will often be value stocks, or stocks that trade at a ‘cheap’ price compared to what the company is worth; however, investment in individual equities leads to other risks of which to be wary. Also, companies in this category may be companies in dire straits and as such may not continue a lofty payout rate. This method is often used when the investor wishes to leave the principal untouched and live solely off the dividends. Building a portfolio of bonds that approximates the cash flow needs of an investor seems like a sure bet. A portfolio of bonds paying interest at roughly monthly periods to create income fulfills the need for steady pay. The drawback, though, is the lack of appreciation potential and that the principal is only attained at maturity with reasonable surety. If there comes a need to sell the instrument, the market price may be substantially lower than the price paid. The thought of a fixed income product often gives an investor a false sense of security regarding the valuations. Upon maturity and the need for reinvestment, this method leaves your income to the coupon rate available in the market. While annuities, equities, bonds, and all investments inherently carry risk; there are ways to mitigate a prospective catastrophe, one of which is to diversify in as many ways as possible. The best portfolio for the investor is one that achieves reasonable goals, has a high likelihood of lasting through the investor’s lifetime, and does not keep them constantly worried. A balance of the three methods above may be the answer. A portfolio diversified across asset classes with a supplement of high yielding sectors in the equities and a well planned fixed income allocation will provide the flexibility, potential for growth, and income needed to help a retiree comfortably live in retirement – assuming the starting value is sufficient. Robert Keeler is CEO and portfolio manager at The Investment Advisor Alliance LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor. IAA can be reached at 800-607-3340. This column is for informational purposes only. Please consult an investment advisor prior to any financial decisions.

The best jobs for Ambitious People

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If you’re confident in your abilities and ready to accept the challenge of a career with a fluctuating salary, a recent Yahoo Education article recommends becoming a Personal Financial Advisor or Insurance Agent! (Full article may be seen here for reference http://education.yahoo.net/articles/jobs_that_pay_commissions.htm?kid=1O12Y )

Many job seekers initially shy away from the idea of a commission based career, due to that fluctuation in income which can seem frightening to some. But who doesn’t like the idea of a job that pays you based on your successes?

Laura M. Labovich, the president of the Career Strategy Group and co-author of “100 Conversations for Career Success” says that often, those who are paid on commission can make more than those on salary if they are really good and motivated.

Labovich also offers a warning about exactly which types of personalities find success in commission based jobs.

“The people who do best in commission jobs tend to have a high sense of urgency, but also a low stress threshold. These are aggressive go-getters who are self-motivating and definitely not clock-watchers,” she says.” She counters this by saying that the wrong personality type will have a rough time with the lack of security created by not receiving a steady paycheck.  

All in all, the independence and high earning potential that can be found with a commission based job is very appealing to many in the work-force today.

The top 5 High-Commission Careers are: Personal Financial Advisor, Advertising Sales Agent, Insurance Agent, Real Estate Sales Agent, and a Sales Engineer.

At Cornerstone, we are regularly looking for the type of self-motivated people mentioned in Yahoo’s article. If Personal Finance or Insurance Sales are something you’d be interested in, be sure to check out the “Careers” Page of our website for more information! http://www.cornerstonewealthsc.com/careers.php

We’d love to meet with you! 

Cornerstone’s Columbia, SC office Rebuild America Beautification Campaign

 ImageCornerstone Wealth and Tax Advisory Group is proud to be partnering with the city of Columbia, SC to help in restoration and beautification efforts of the downtown area.

In early 2013, Edward Marion, branch manager of the Columbia, SC office of Cornerstone Wealth and Tax Advisory Group, was informed that his recent request had been approved. This request was for a $10,000 grant through the Rebuild American Campaign (rebuild-america.com), that would be used toward construction of his office building.

“Our office is located in a wonderful part of downtown Columbia,” Marion says “And we chose that location because we knew that it had great potential.”

When Marion heard about the option to apply for the grant he knew he had to
give it a try. Being accepted for the grant means that funds have been made

available to him to renovate the front of his building and thus add to the overall appearance of the area.

Cornerstone’s CEO Michael Haskett feels that participating in these types of efforts is very important.

“Any time Cornerstone can help out the local communities in which our offices are located, we embrace that opportunity,” He says. “We are all about giving back and sometimes that means more than just donating to charity. It’s about doing your research, finding out what tools are available and then taking advantage of them in a way that will better the community. I’m excited about this opportunity and proud that one of my Branch Managers worked to make this happen. We are eager to see the work that will be done!”

 

Cornerstone, with the City of Columbia, will be having a press release party at their office on May30, 2013 at 1 pm where the Mayor of Columbia and other city officials will be present. Light refreshments will be served. We invite any members of the community to join us in this celebration. The Columbia office address is: 3612 Main Street , Columbia, SC 29203. Contact Edward Marion at (803) 691-6765 for more information.

For more information about Cornerstone Wealth and Tax Advisory Group please visit www.cswta.com or www.facebook.com/cswta or check out our recent feature in Forbes Magazine! (Link available on Facebook page)

 

Making a Retirement Budget

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Believe it or not, a retirement budget leads to more fun in retirement! In addition, making a retirement budget helps you avoid one of the biggest retirement mistakes people make – which is spending too much too soon.”

Quoted above is an except from a recent about.com, Money over 55, article. (View full article here- http://moneyover55.about.com/od/budgetingsaving/a/How-To-Make-A-Retirement-Budget.htm)

Why is making a retirement budget so important? There are many factors that you may end up having no control over when it comes to retirement income, such as when you retire, your Social Security, and the rate of inflation. The one thing you CAN control is your personal spending.

It seems as though many retirees throw the budget out the window when they finally have that retirement check coming in, and unwise or excessive spending can end up being a huge detriment if the retirement funds are not covering what is leaving your bank account.

Others haven’t had to budget in many years and are used to living comfortably without much worry for the balance on their credit card. This can all change when you are suddenly on a fixed income.

The wise course of action is to look at your spending habits now and see where you can start adjusting and adapting to make a smooth transition into retired life.

This type of planning is not difficult and can be started with only a few hours of time, but it’s easy to put off. Why not start working on it today?

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Your last 6 to 12 months worth of bank account statements
  • Your last 6 to 12 months worth of credit card statements
  • Last two paystubs for you (and your spouse if you are married)
  • 10-12 colored highlighters
  • Last year’s tax return

Use the information on the items above to see where your money has been going and use the highlighters to group expenses into categories.

Above referenced article gives 5 steps to using this information to create your retirement budget.

STEP 1 – Make a list of all your fixed or required monthly obligations.

To make a super effective retirement budget, break this list down into three parts:

  • Essentials: This includes expenses that cover food, clothing, housing, transportation and health care.
  • Non-essential monthly obligations: Although we all may think of cable TV as an essential, it is not. Non-essentials are things like cable, cell phone, gym memberships, subscriptions and other items you receive bills for.
  • Required non-monthly expenses: Items like property taxes, insurance premiums, auto registration and home warranties may come up once a year. Be sure to take these periodic expenses and calculate their cost on a monthly basis and include it in your retirement budget.

STEP 2 – Research your costs for health care before and after retirement.

  • Get estimates from your employer, from AARP sponsored health plans, for from an independent health insurance agent (Cornerstone has over 75 Licensed Representatives across the Nation) so you have accurate idea of these costs by expected retirement age. Account for these costs on your after-retirement budget.

STEP 3 – List all your flexible or optional expenses.

  • This all the fun stuff, like travel, hobbies, sports and entertainment.

STEP 4 – Write down some thoughts on how you want to spend your time in retirement.

  • Ask your spouse to do this also. Think about the things you want to be able to spend money on in retirement. Begin to think about changes you may be willing to make that would reallocate money from items that are less important to items that are more important.

STEP 5 – Calculate Fixed verses Flex

  • Total all your expenses.
  • Total all your fixed expenses separately.
  • Divide your fixed expenses into your total expenses.

How much of your retirement income will go toward fixed expenses? Does this align with your thoughts in Step 4 on how you want to spend your time in retirement?

The About.com article concludes with the following thought: “As a general rule of thumb, if you want more fun in retirement, find ways to lower fixed expenses so you can have more flex to spend on the hobbies and interests you most enjoy!”

Cornerstone Representatives are trained to help you make the most of your retirement in a number of different ways. Are you possibly paying too much for your health or life insurance as mentioned in step 2? Are your investments giving you all the earnings they could? Our agents are available, free of charge to answer these types of questions for you. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like help in planning your retirement budget!

Top 10 Life Insurance Myths

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Life insurance is complex, and there is no one-size-fits-all advice. Don’t let misunderstandings stop you from choosing the right coverage.”

Life Insurance. Those two words bring up a number of questions to the average person. We are pretty sure we need it, but we aren’t always sure exactly how much we need, what type we need, how it affects our taxes, and which companies are the best to choose from.

A recent MSN Money news article explains why having a good handle on this information is so important.

“Life insurance is not a simple product. Even term life policies have many elements that must be considered carefully in order to arrive at the proper type and amount of coverage. But the technical aspects of life insurance are far less difficult for most people to deal with than trying to get a handle on how much coverage they need and why.”

The article breaks down some of the more common life insurance questions and gives simple and concise answers to 10 Life Insurance Myths. (Click here for the full article  http://money.msn.com/health-and-life-insurance/top-10-life-insurance-myths)

We have chosen five of these Myths to discuss on our Blog today.

Myth: If I’m single and don’t have dependents, I don’t need coverage.

Even single people should have at least enough life insurance to cover the costs of personal debts, medical and funeral bills. If you are uninsured, you may leave a legacy of unpaid expenses for your family or executor to deal with. Plus, this can be a good way for low-income singles to leave a legacy to a favorite charity or other cause.

Myth: My life insurance coverage needs to be twice my annual salary.

The amount of life insurance you need depends on your specific situation. There are many factors to consider. In addition to paying medical and funeral bills, you may need to pay off your mortgage and provide for your family for several years. A cash-flow analysis can help determine the amount of insurance you need.

Myth: My term life insurance coverage at work is sufficient.

Maybe, maybe not. For a single person of modest means, employer-paid or -provided term coverage may actually be enough. But if you have a spouse or dependents, or know that you will need coverage upon your death to pay estate taxes, then additional coverage may be necessary.

Myth: Only breadwinners need life insurance coverage.

Nonsense. The cost of replacing the services formerly provided by a deceased homemaker can be higher than you think, and insuring against the loss of a homemaker may make sense, to compensate for cleaning and child-care costs.

Myth: I’m better off investing my money than buying life insurance.

Not True. Until the value of your assets exceeds your debt, you need life coverage of some sort. Once you amass $1 million of liquid assets, you can consider discontinuing (or at least reducing) your million-dollar policy. But you take a big chance when you depend solely on your investments in the early years of your adult life, especially if you have dependents. If you die without coverage, there may be no means to provide for them after your current assets are depleted.

The Bottom line is that there are many, many misconceptions about Life Insurance. Considering how vitally important it is to understand such a critical part of financial planning, the best option is to seek advice from a Licensed Advisor.

As one of our previous articles has explained, (http://cswta.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/working-with-your-best-interests-in-mind/) the right Financial Advisor can guide you in your decision making process, completely free of charge!

Cornerstone has these such representatives at branches across the Nation, who will visit you in your home for a financial analysis at your convenience.

Another article on MSN Money gave a great comparison of the best A-rated insurance companies around. (http://money.msn.com/life-insurance/best-life-insurance-companies.aspx) Cornerstone is proud to work in affiliation with seven of the companies featured in the article, plus more than 50 other top-rated Insurance providers.

Contact us today, set up a free Financial consultation, and make sure that you are on top of your responsibility to stay educated about your options in this ever-changing industry.

Protect Yourself From Credit Fraud!

Throughout history, those looking to do harm to others tend to prey on the weak and naïve, or those who lack a strong support system. Sadly, in our day, this often ends up being our Senior Citizens. Because of this, we live in a world where Senior Citizens are often the target of financial fraud.

As a mature American, or the child of one, what can be done to make sure you or your relative does not become the subject of such abuse?

A recent article on MSN Money * focuses on steps that individuals and their families can take and emphasizes the importance the individual participating in the policing of his or her own finances if possible.

One important step is to consider WHY many Senior Citizens are targeted. “According to the FBI,” the article states, “seniors are targeted because they often have nest eggs, they come from a generation that was more trusting, and they’re often too proud to report the fraud. Another reason the elderly sometime hesitate to report they’ve been ripped off? They’re concerned their relatives might see this as a sign of declining mental capacity and they don’t want to lose their independence. Smart and unscrupulous thieves know all this and try to exploit it.”

When fraud is detected, it can be frightening and confusing for the parties involved. For this reason, the FBI has come out with a comprehensive, yet easy-to-read, list detailing the different types of fraud and how to prevent them. Click here to view the information on the FBI’s Website. http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors.

With all this in mind, it can be daunting to bring someone new into your financial life. At Cornerstone, we understand those fears and do our best to make your experience in dealing with us as reassuring as possible.

Feel free to take a look at this article to see more steps YOU can take to protect yourself from fraud and scams when working with a retirement planner. http://cswta.wordpress.com/2012/07/

Information for Those Concerned With Protecting Elderly Relatives

As brought out in the article, Credit Card Fraud is one of the most common types that seniors face today. Here are a few steps that can be taken to help elderly relatives avoid becoming a victim!

Talk to your relative about email scams. You can’t be around your relative constantly, so take the time to explain why he or she should never give a credit card number by email to buy a product. These scams often promise a great product — anti-aging products, for example — but scammers need your credit card information. This type of scam also happens over the phone. Seniors get a call and are offered a new product that promises, say, youthful energy. Once scammers get your loved one interested, they ask for a credit card number to seal the deal.

Keep an eye on caregivers. Maybe your mom is still at home and has home health care a few days a week. Or maybe she’s in a nursing facility with nurses and various medical assistants always present. Hopefully, your parent is dealing with professionals who are trustworthy. Just keep in mind that there are many reports of caregivers using a credit card belonging to people they’re taking care of. It’s awful that someone could stoop so low. But it happens all the time.

If you can, it’s best to visit your elderly relative frequently and shred any mail with personal information on it. If your mom has credit card accounts, you can view account activity online with her. You can even opt out of paper statements altogether. That way, credit card account numbers won’t be within easy reach of whoever is in the room. Credit card fraud can still occur, of course, but by frequently checking your mom’s accounts online, you’ll notice if something suspicious pops up on her statement.

Even if you can’t visit often, you can still check her credit card accounts online every week from your home. But ask for her permission so she doesn’t feel as if you’re invading her privacy.

Keep an eye on other family members. Unfortunately, family members are often the ones who rob their parents or grandparents. If you have a family member with a problem such as drug addiction or gambling debt, that’s a red flag and warrants additional caution. When people are desperate for money, they can justify taking it from anyone. They’re counting on the fact that no one will notice. You can prove them wrong by keeping on top of your relative’s credit card account activity.

Check the mail. You can learn a lot from the mail. Is your loved one getting letters from “charities” asking for a donation via her credit card? If she’s getting letters from organizations, she may have sent money to them previously. Looking at credit card accounts online is a good way to make sure she isn’t authorizing payments to fraudulent entities.

Pay attention to new friends. The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse recommends keeping track of any new “best friends.” The relationship may be innocent, but if it’s sudden and there’s an age difference, this may be a red flag that someone is planning to commit fraud.

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* http://money.msn.com/credit-cards/protect-grandma-from-credit-fraud

How Staying Educated Can Save You Money

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According to a recent Yahoo News article* millions of seniors enrolled in some of the most popular Medicare prescription drug plans face double-digit premium hikes next year if they don’t shop for a better deal, says a private firm that analyzes the highly competitive market.

“Seven of the top 10 prescription plans are raising their premiums by 11% to 23%,” says a report by Avalere Health.

This situation creates a real need for seniors to do their research and really make sure that they aren’t paying more than necessary.

“The average senior is going to benefit by carefully scrutinizing their situation, because every year the market changes,” Avalere President Dan Mendelson said.

The 7 plans with the double-digit premium increases were: the Humana Walmart-Preferred RX Plan (23%), First Health Part D Premier (18%), First Health Part D Value Plus (17%), Cigna Medicare RX Plan One (15%) Express Scripts Medicare-Value (13%) the HealthSpring Prescription Drug Plan (12%) and Humana Enhanced (11%). Another 2 plans in the top 10 also had single-digit increases. They were the SilverScript Basic (8%) and WellCare Classic (3%)

The good news is that there are new Plans out there right now that can save an average of $15/month nationally.

However, virtually all seniors pay a Part B premium for outpatient care, including those with traditional Medicare as well as those in private plans, and the part B premium is expected to rise by about $7 for 2013, according to the government’s own projections.

With changes in Medicare every year and uncertainty due to the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) and the economy, living on a fixed income- as most seniors do, creates a big challenge in making sure they have the best plan at the best price.

That is why it’s so important to do regular research on all the options available and seek out advice from trained professionals. Cornerstone representatives are always happy to do a free in-home consultation to fully explain the Medicare program, its changes for the current year and how they will affect YOU!

To remain educated through yet another year of changes, contact us today for a free consult!

 

 

*http://news.yahoo.com/report-premium-hikes-top-medicare-drug-plans-063601073–finance.html

Working With Your Best Interests In Mind

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“Its business,” is the excuse many professionals use when they are doing something they know is less than ethical. They aren’t doing anything illegal, they’re just maneuvering a situation to benefit the company they work for, or their own bank account, OVER the benefit of their client.

We see this frequently in the financial services industry, and it’s the reason so many individuals are leery to trust someone else to manage their money. And it’s logical to be cautious when you know that someone will make their living off of the decisions they lead you to make with your wealth.

Camouflaged under the concept of “Business is Business” many stock brokers make recommendations to their clients that are not really in their best interests. An article found in Yahoo Finance Online* says,

“Many of those who work on Wall Street go through a process in which they gradually learn that what is perceived as “smart investing” is often unbelievable dumb. Specifically, they learn that many of the recommendations that Wall Street makes, and the transactions that Wall Street gets paid to facilitate, are not in their clients’ best interests.” The article goes on to talk about a former stockbroker named Josh Brown who left the business when he was forced to do things that weren’t really in the best interest of his clients.  He is now a Financial Advisor and says that in this position his interests and his client’s interests are more closely aligned.

“Most people don’t recognize that there’s even a difference between a “Stock Broker” and a “Financial Advisor,” but there is, the article says. “Stock brokers generally work for brokerage firms and do not have to recommend trades that they think are in their clients’ best interests. Rather, they just have to recommend securities that are “suitable” (a much lower standard). Financial advisers, meanwhile, have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of their clients.”

The article concludes by saying that someone looking for “sound financial advice” would be wise to choose a Financial Advisor over a Stockbroker.

Articles like these make Cornerstone proud to have a group of Financial Advisors who have a DUTY to provide their clients with more than just “suitable options”. Cornerstone advisors are required by law to make sure that they offer the very best options to anyone who comes to them for advice.

In addition to the state specific laws and regulations they follow, Cornerstone itself has set very strict procedures that must be followed when their Advisors are meeting with clients. As mentioned in our previous article, “The Importance of Fact Finding,” (http://cswta.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/the-importance-of-fact-finding/) we take collecting information about our clients VERY seriously. Why? Because to make the best suggestions, we must have all the information!

Giving Cornerstone an even stronger ability to do the best for their clients, is the huge number of Investment Relationships they have. Cornerstone works with more than 30 different A+ rated companies (You’ve surely heard of some of them, like John Hancock, ING, MetLife, Lincoln Financial and Humana) and so their agents have the ability to compare the rates of a number of companies and find the best option for you!

Even dealing with a Financial Advisor who represents a specific Insurance Company or bank can bring on a challenge, because they may recommend the best option that THEIR COMPANY has to offer, but it may not be the best option for you overall. Cornerstone itself is not an insurance company and does not have any of its own products, so when meeting with a Cornerstone representative, clients can be assured that their Advisor has no ulterior motive in suggesting a certain product or service.

Their job is to pick the product that will save you the most money, make you the most money, or best meet any of your specific needs. When seeking good financial advice, as the Yahoo article mentioned above, contacting a Financial Advisor, such as the 50+ representatives Cornerstone has employed is the smart way to go!

Feel free to contact any one of our representatives for financial advice completely free of charge! http://www.cornerstonewealthsc.com/agents.php      

Hurricane Preparedness

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This week we’re stepping outside of our normal topics of discussion and moving to something pretty relevant for this time of year. Hurricane preparedness.

All along the East Coast and Gulf Coast over the last week, families have been preparing for the latest tropical disturbance, Isaac.

Isaac reached Hurricane strength this afternoon and should reach the coast of Louisiana this evening. Although many times, hurricane preparations turn out to be needless as a storm takes an unexpected turn, most people remember storms like Katrina (2005) and Hugo (1989) and know just how important that preparation can be.

One family from the panhandle of Florida has to board up their windows, build sandbag walls around their home, pack most of their belongings and evacuate multiple times a year. Most of the time they come back home to everything exactly as they left it, unpack and carry on with their lives, but they’ve seen enough destruction over the years to know how important it is to be prepared.

“I’ve lived here on the Florida coast all my life,” says 62 year old Johnny Rivers, “And we have lots of false alarms, but when you come back after a big one, and your refrigerator has been smashed through your ceiling into the upstairs, you are glad you left. We have friends and neighbors that we will try to warn, and some think they want to stay and stick it out. We’ve heard horror stories when we returned.”

“They always say they should have listened to Johnny,” His wife Nan adds. “And now every time there’s a storm they come back to him to see what they should do. They say, ‘We’re going to do whatever Johnny does!’ Because they know that he leaves when he should.”

Like the Rivers family, all families should take the time to think ahead during hurricane season to be as safe as possible. According to the ready.gov Website there are a lot of things we can do to be safe, before during and after a storm. Here’s the breakdown:

BEFORE

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Know your surroundings.
  • Learn the elevation level of your property and whether the land is flood-prone. This will help you know how your property will be affected when storm surge or tidal flooding are forecasted.
  • Identify levees and dams in your area and determine whether they pose a hazard to you.
  • Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate.
  • Make plans to secure your property:
    • Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
    • Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
    • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
    • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
    • Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
    • Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
    • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
    • Install a generator for emergencies.
    • If in a high-rise building, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor.
    • Consider building a safe room.

DURING

If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:

  • Listen to the radio or TV for information.
  • Secure your home, close storm shutters and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
  • Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Turn off propane tanks
  • Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  • Moor your boat if time permits.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purpose such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water.
  • Find out how to keep food safe during and after and emergency.
  • You should evacuate under the following conditions:
    • If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions.
    • If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure – such shelter are particularly hazardous during hurricane no matter how well fastened to the ground.
    • If you live in a high-rise building – hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
    • If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river, or on an island waterway.
    • If you are unable to evacuate, go to your wind-safe room. If you do not have one, follow these guidelines:
      • Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and glass doors.
      • Close all interior doors – secure and brace external doors.
      • Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm – winds will pick up again.
      • Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level.
      • Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.
      • Avoid elevators.

AFTER

  • Continue listening to a NOAA Weather Radio or the local news for the latest updates.
  • Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended.
  • If you have become separated from your family, use your family communications plan or contact FEMA or the American Red Cross.
  • FEMA has established the National Emergency Family Registry and Locator System (NEFRLS), which has been developed to help reunite families who are separated during a disaster. The NEFRLS system will enable displaced individuals the ability to enter personal information into a website database so that they can be located by others during a disaster.
  • The American Red Cross also maintains a database to help you find family. Contact the local American Red Cross chapter where you are staying for information. Do not contact the chapter in the disaster area.
  • If you evacuated, return home only when officials say it is safe.
  • If you cannot return home and have immediate housing needs. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  • For those who have longer-term housing needs, FEMA offers several types of assistance, including services and grants to help people repair their homes and find replacement housing. Apply for assistance or search for information about housing rental resources
  • Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed¬ out bridges. Stay off the streets. If you must go out watch for fallen objects; downed electrical wires; and weakened walls, bridges, roads, and sidewalks.
  • Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company.
  • Walk carefully around the outside your home and check for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage before entering.
  • Stay out of any building if you smell gas, floodwaters remain around the building or your home was damaged by fire and the authorities have not declared it safe.
  • Inspect your home for damage. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes. If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.
  • Use battery-powered flashlights in the dark. Do NOT use candles. Note: The flashlight should be turned on outside before entering – the battery may produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present.
  • Watch your pets closely and keep them under your direct control. Watch out for wild animals, especially poisonous snakes. Use a stick to poke through debris.
  • Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are sure it’s not contaminated.
  • Check refrigerated food for spoilage. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up to avoid injury.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • NEVER use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.

For additional information you may visit http://www.ready.gov/hurricanes

Cornerstone wishes Everyone a safe and successful week! 

The Future of Social Security

 

Social Security taxes- They’re taken out of every paycheck. We all see the figures every few weeks on our stub and although a small part of us wishes we could hold onto that money, we know that it’s going towards a good cause, so we let it slide. We are appreciative of a system that is supposed to take care of us after we retire. At least, that’s how it used to be.

When Social Security was enacted in the 1930’s it was a great bargain for its recipients because payroll taxes were very low.

“For the early generations, it was an incredibly good deal,” said Andrew Biggs, a former deputy Social Security commissioner as quoted in a recent Fox News article.* “The government gave you free money and getting free money is popular.”

The article says that if you retired in 1960, you could expect to get back seven times more in benefits than you paid in Social Security taxes and more if you were a low-income worker, as long as you made it to age 78 for men and 81 for women.

However, in recent years those numbers have changed drastically. According to a 2011 study by the Urban Institute, the average married couple retiring last year paid $598,000 in Social Security taxes during their careers and can only expect to collect about $556,000 in benefits if they live into their 80’s.

Fox’s article explains why the decrease is happening.

“The shift among middle-income workers is happening just as millions of baby boomers are reaching retirement, leaving relatively fewer workers behind to pay into the system. It’s coming at a critical time for Social Security, the federal government’s largest program.

“The trustees who oversee Social security say its funds, which have been built up over the past 30 years with surplus payroll taxes, will run dry in 2033 unless Congress acts. At that point, payroll taxes would provide enough revenue each year to pay about 75 percent of benefits.”

This leaves future generations either getting fewer benefits or paying higher taxes, and individuals who fall into this bracket are less than pleased. One recent college graduate states that she recognizes the money she pays in now, isn’t going to be waiting for her when she retires. “If I wanted Social Security 50 years from now I would have to hope that someone else is still working and putting money aside in their paychecks to pay for my Social Security at that point,” she says.

Some have taken a more aggressive approach and opened their own private retirement accounts to ease their worry that Social Security won’t provide adequate benefits in the future.

David Armbruster, Investment Advisor Representative in South Carolina, sees more and more clients of the younger generation, who are interested in finding the best place to invest their funds.

“They know that although their parents and grandparents have been able to rely on Social Security, it may not be there, or be sufficient when their turn rolls around, and they don’t want to take any chances,” he says.  “The biggest problem that we see overall when it comes to retirement funding is that costs are going up and benefits are going down. For our younger generations, it is imperative, more so now than ever before, that they be involved in their own retirement planning. IRA, 401K, Roth IRA and other retirement vehicles are becoming more and more important. These younger generations will be responsible for their own retirements. Gone are the days of waiting for Uncle Sam to pass out a paycheck. Self sufficiency is a must.

“There are a lot of wonderful investment vehicles out there. Some of the best programs around right now are annuities. Inside annuities we can find protection from market risk, guaranteed growth moving towards retirement, and guaranteed income once we get to retirement. For many folks, annuities will be the tool that can be used to create their own “social security” checks. Pensions are a thing of the past. Social security is moving that direction quickly. People are going to have to get smarter about their planning or plan on working for a lot longer.”

For more information on the types of products discussed above visit www.cswta.com.

* http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/08/07/new-retirees-receiving-less-in-social-security-than-paid-in-marking-historic/

Lost Life Insurance Policies

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Last week’s blog focused on a program that can help the person managing your affairs after you pass away. http://cswta.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/silent-partner/. In a follow-up to that post, we’d like to reference a recent article found on Yahoo Finance entitled “Life Insurers Pressed on Lost Policies.”*

The article begins by mentioning a woman, named Mary Lou, who was surprised to receive a check for $7,000 more than a decade after the death of her father. The check was from unclaimed life insurance policies her father had taken out previously, that his family had no knowledge of.

At the time of her father’s death, Mary Lou inquired with the insurance company with whom she knew he had policies, to see if there were any other accounts. She was told at the time that they didn’t owe her anything else. As it turns out, that $7,000 check was for three policies that she didn’t have a policy number for.

Mary Lou voices her concern for the situation as it may affect others, “Can you imagine all the millions or billions of dollars that belong to other people and they don’t know to claim it,” she says, in Yahoo’s article?

Backing up Mary Lou’s statement, state regulators estimate that over the decades life insurance companies have failed to pay well over $1 Billion in death benefits. The reason? Because it’s up to the beneficiaries to file a claim following death.  One industry official says that whatever the amount is, it’s a “very small percentage” of total claims paid. “We know the percentages represent real people and we’ve been working with policy makers on ways to ensure all policyholders get the benefits they deserve,” said the official, Bruce Ferguson of the American Council of Life Insurers.

Recognizing that new technology can help alleviate this problem, insurance companies in many states are being required to check old unclaimed policies against death databases, and to make payouts to those they owe.

Most insurance companies will probably not fight these regulations. Yahoo’s article went on to state that opposing a requirement to check the databases would be particularly difficult given that many insurance companies already check them when it’s in their interest- for example, to learn about the deaths of annuity customers because such deaths usually end the insurers duty to make payments under retirement-income contracts.

As many such modern systems are slowly being implemented into this industry, the process of handling insurance claims is no doubt going to undergo some changes. The article mentioned above referenced a number of such changes that are already taking place.

Of course we all look forward to a time when this process has been completely ironed out and programs such as “Silent Partner Executor Planning” will no longer be necessary. But in the mean time, the monetary figures mentioned most likely only strengthen your resolve not to be one of the many whose unclaimed benefits make up that staggering $1 Billion.

Taking advantage of a free program to keep you out of that statistic is definitely a wise course.

For more information about this program as offered through Cornerstone please visit us here: http://www.cornerstonewealthsc.com/silent_partner.php

*http://finance.yahoo.com/news/life-insurers-pressed-lost-policies-030100774.html