As a retiree, how do I avoid scams and fraud?

lkDo not panic, but be aware. You could lose some or all your hard-earned and saved money to scammers. Retired Americans are targeted by scammers more than any other group. One of the reasons is, they are more likely to have assets and, they can be more trusting. There is also the issue of brain cognition, the older we get. You MUST be on guard, always. Fraud can be and often is committed by people the victims know, like friends, neighbors, members of social and religious institutions, and even people they’ve done business with before. In addition to these 7 typical ways retirees are scammed, it is maybe even more important to know that many unfortunate retirees have had their retirement accounts wiped out via wire fraud, email scams and sundry other fraudulent actions.

fghIt seems there are more and more ways scammers come up with to scam us too. NEVER, ever give anyone account ‘type’ information without first verifying who they are via another method. A phone call for example, utilizing a phone number you get on your own, not one given by the potential scammer. These devious people are getting better and better at covering the ways they are found out. Anyone’s email could be hacked, hijacked or mimicked. It is called email phishing. There are two types, ‘spear phishing’ and whale phishing’. Oh… and you are the bait! You may think you are communicating with me, or your financial institution, including retirement account managers, mortgage lenders etc. Even the government’s computers have been hacked, as you well know. Be careful of email and USPS mail requests from IRS and other government agencies asking for information. Verify, verify and verify. Scary, I know. If you suspect you may be, or have been targeted for fraud, immediately contact authorities.

Avoiding Phishing Scams
To guard against phishing scams, consider the following:

  • Greenline Associates and other reputable organizations will never use email to request that you reply with your password, full Social Security number, or confidential personal information. Be suspicious of any email message that asks you to enter or verify personal information, through a website or by replying to the message itself. Never reply to or click the links in such a message. If you think the message may be legitimate, go directly to the company’s website (i.e., type the real URL into your browser) or contact the company to see if you really do need to take the action described in the email message.
  • The safest practice is to read your email as plain text.
    Phishing messages often contain clickable images that look legitimate; by reading messages in plain text, you can see the URLs that any images point to. Additionally, when you allow your mail client to read HTML or other non-text-only formatting, attackers can take advantage of your mail client’s ability to execute code, which leaves your computer vulnerable to viruses, worms, and Trojans.
  • If you choose to read your email in HTML format:
    •  Hover your mouse over the links in each email message to display the actual URL. Check whether the hover-text link matches what’s in the text, and whether the link looks like a site with which you would normally do business.
    On an iOS device, tap and hold your finger over a link to display the URL. Unfortunately, Android does not currently support this.
    •  Before you click a link, check to see if the message sender used a digital signature when sending the message. A digital signature helps ensure that the message actually came from the sender.
    When you recognize a phishing message, first report it, and then delete the email message from your Inbox, and then empty it from the deleted items folder to avoid accidentally accessing the websites it points to.

Fourth of July- Retired Veterans Burn the Flag… and you should too!

asdaOn of this 4th of July 2017, I want to say THANK YOU to all our retired military veterans, for their part in maintaining the (remaining) freedoms we still enjoy. Thank you for your respect of America, for what America is about. Thank you for your respect of our flag. Many people do not dispose of flags in an honorable way.

When an American flag becomes worn, faded, torn or soiled, it should be retired and replaced with a new flag. There are several ways to respectfully dispose of the American flag without showing disgrace. The most common method is burning the torn or tattered flag in a special ceremony. Here are the steps you should follow.

123123The Veterans Department of Affairs suggests starting by folding the flag in a customary triangle manner. Then prepare a large enough fire space to sufficiently burn the flag completely. Next place the flag in the fire and while it burns, individuals at the ceremony should salute or recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Finally, end the ceremony with a moment of silence and bury the ashes once the flag is completely consumed.

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I am the proud father of a US Airman. Thank you, son. Further, I want to thank all our military forces and families for all they do and all they give. Thank you, Mr. President for your patriotism, for your hope for America. Thank you for honoring our veterans in a way that has not been done for a while at the Celebrate Freedom Rally.

The Retirement Choices We Make Are Often Irrational…

It is no shocker that research proves we are not very rational about the way we make key decisions on when and how to retire. And a few new, fascinating studies just presented at the annual Retirement Research Consortium meeting in Washington, D.C., prove it.
By “not very rational,” I don’t mean that our choices are nutty. We’re just not doing what economists say we should be doing. The economists typically say retirees should convert their savings into these monthly-income-for-life products — but most people don’t. Another is taking social security too early. Problem is these choices are made psychological as they are financial. “Is a good decision one that gives you the best economic outcome or what makes you the happiest or most comfortable? Hmmm?

One irrational decision made by too many retirees is Taking Social Security Too Early. Fifty percent of Americans start collecting Social Security at 62 or within two months of leaving the labor force; 80 percent or more claim benefits before their full retirement age based on “Hey, it’s my money, I better get it before I die” mentality, even though they could double their Social Security payments by waiting until age 70.

Why Retirees Snub Annuities

After surveying 5,000 Americans age 50 to 75, John Beshears, an assistant professor of the Harvard Business School, and four co-authors discovered that although older Americans like the idea of a steady income stream in retirement, they hated annuities’ lack of flexibility. This is based on a significant lack of understanding. You cannot assure your money last forever and simultaneously expect keep it all liquid to spend.

dsfAlso, many baby boomers do not understand they can take their lump sum, create lifetime income and NOT GIVE UP THEIR MONEY. Putting all your money in an annuity can feel scary. The solution is simple, DON’T PUT ALL YOUR MONEY INTO ANNUITIES. More and more retirees are finding out that their need for guaranteed income, as well as flexibility and control can easily be met by an allocation that puts some in annuities and some at risk. Economists think more people should sign up for annuities, as research has proven that retirees with some level of guaranteed income for basics at least, are more satisfied and less stressed.

When it comes to retiring, your psychological assets need as much consideration as your financial assets

Webp.net-resizeimageWe all ask “How much money will I need?” and “Do I have enough saved?” But while financial security is certainly critical, people need to amass more than money for a successful retirement. They need to stockpile their emotional reserves, as well; courage, flexibility, acceptance, motivation, curiosity, etc. Too few people consider the psychological adjustments that accompany this life stage, which can include coping with the loss of your career identity, replacing support and friendship networks you had through work, spending more time than ever before with your spouse and finding new and engaging ways to stay active.

Webp.net-resizeimage (1)Some retirees ease smoothly into retirement, spending more time with hobbies or family and friends. But others, research finds, experience anxiety, depression and debilitating feelings of loss, says Robert Delamontagne, PhD, author of the 2011 book “The Retiring Mind: How to Make the Psychological Transition to Retirement.”   “People can go through hell when they retire and they will never say a word about it, often because they are embarrassed,” Delamontagne says. “The cultural norm for retirement is that you are living the good life.”

Psychological research has found that working or volunteering during retirement can help stave off depression, as well as dementia and hypertension. But activities aren’t always the answer, or the key to everyone’s well-being. Psychologist Jacquelyn B. James, PhD, of the Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College, has found that only those people who are truly engaged in their post-retirement activities reap the psychological benefits.

That’s why people need to be doing social or psychological portfolio planning as much, if not more than financial planning. This needs to be done before they retire, to figure out what makes them happy. Jumping off a diving board into retirement is not advised. It’s a process and it takes time. Learn to swim first. Test the waters early and often.

Be on the lookout for the next installation of Psychological Asset Planning.

Buying high and selling low is a retirement killer! Why do we do it!

The reasons are numerous but here are two of the psychological reasons. ‘Scarcity’ and ‘social proof’ are steering us to buy high, and sell low. In this case, we are our own worst enemies. Buying low and sell high seems easy understand and follow. Yet most of us are unable to keep this simple rule straight in our heads when it comes to the stock market, including the people managing your money. Our instinct tells us to buy stocks when prices are high and to sell stocks when prices are low. Why?!! There are two key reasons for this –social proof and scarcity.

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It is human nature to look to others to determine the best course of action for ourselves. If we look outside and see people wearing shorts, we assume that the weather is warm and will switch to wearing shorts. If we see cars ahead start to change lanes, we will try to change lanes as well, in anticipation of an upcoming road block or accident.

If we are led to ‘believe’ others are getting rich by risking their money, then it must be the thing to do. Key word, “believe”. The same goes for when everyone else is selling. We think we should sell too. Social proof alone however, does not create such a strong effect that we always contrary to our own interests. There other key force at play is scarcity. In his book INFLUENCE, scarcity is the last of six weapons of influence described by Robert Cialdini. It was probably saved for last because of the strength of its effects.

We all have a natural tendency to want things that are in short supply. We think that cookies taste better when we are only given two, compared to ten. Similarly, we (your advisor too) will rush in and buy stocks at $10 because we are afraid that in a short time they will only be available for $12, $15, or much more. We must buy it now, because this price may not be available for much longer. That is why when the stock market is rising, we (and your advisor) feels a great need to jump in and buy, buy, buy.

As the market rises, stocks at lower prices become more and more scarce, which creates more buying, which makes them more scarce, and on and on it goes until the music stops. Alan Greenspan calls it, “Irrational exuberance.”

I think we have all experienced this, many times; in all areas of our life. We appreciate something most after losing it. Lovers, our freedoms, a chocolate chip cookie, and yes definitely, also money. We like making money, but we hate losing money a lot more. That is why when there is a large drop in the stock market and we have lost a lot of money, we are shy about buying more. Once we have lost, we want to hold on to what we have for fear of losing more.

This makes us most likely to buy when prices are high, because we have lost nothing and have gained much (at least on paper). Similarly, we are likely to sell or at the very least, not buy, when prices are low.

The other aspect of scarcity has to do with competition. And as we all know, competition is the cornerstone of the stock market. When prices are high, we are most compelled to buy because that is the time when there is most competition for a stock. We must get it now before someone else gets it and makes money that should be ours. When prices are low, we are compelled to sell because we do not want to lose the opportunity of getting rid of our crap to someone else. Buying high and selling low will devastate a retirement strategy that depends upon assets tied to market volatility.

Is the stock market a Ponzi scheme?

A Ponzi, or pyramid scheme is a scam in which people are persuaded to invest through promises of unrealistic high returns, with the early investors being paid their returns out of money put in by later investors. Investors that get out early during bull markets usually profit handsomely, while the herd of investors that enter the market late lose badly. If you’re investing in a qualified retirement plan, your contributions are automatically allocated to certain mutual funds. People in these funds are usually the ones losing the most money in market corrections and crashes, while professional investors not in the same funds can move into more unrestricted and flexibly, out of the market with their profits intact.

Also, worth considering; with required minimum distributions from your retirement plans at age 70 and a half, you are forced to sell your mutual funds and withdraw money, even if you don’t want to. You will need new money flowing into the market when you have to sell your mutual funds. If there aren’t many, or worse yet, any new buyers and only sellers, the market sinks or even collapses like it potentially could with 78 million baby boomers taking required minimum distributions over the next 18 years.

There are other reasons that also contribute to the ‘ponzi’ nature of the stock market. One is the ‘artificial injections’ into the stock market at the expense of future retirees who will be left holding the bag on depreciating assets once the Fed stops the artificial injections, and asset prices go down.

Outliving your retirement?

F Blog 1 with borderThe findings of the original Retirement Vulnerability Report revealed that a majority of middle-class Americans are likely to outlive their financial resources in retirement. A significant, guaranteed, lifetime income outside of Social Security, as provided by such retirement vehicles as a lifetime annuity, was a way to help secure one’s retirement future. The updated study reveals that the financial market downturn which began in the middle of 2008 makes this conclusion even truer today. An open mind just may be you’re the answer to a successful retirement.

An open mind and an informed perspective on the value of annuities in retirement just may be the best way to get some badly need security and peace of mind. We are living in remarkable times and uncharted territory. People are retiring earlier and earlier, and living longer. With living longer, we can dream bigger, see more, do more and to invest more time in the lives of those we love. I say, “It’s not about growing older, it’s about growing bolder.” With longevity, comes challenge. We must find a way for our money to live as long as we do. One study (conducted by Allianz Life) surveyed 3257 adults ages 44-75, asking them whether their greatest fear was of dying or of running out of money while they were alive. Sixty-one percent said their greatest fear was of running out of money.

So, what to do? Though there is a lot of confusion, intentional deception (by those who want you to continue to keep all your money at risk in the ‘market’), subterfuge and lack of real knowledge and understanding about how they work, I believe that annuities, when properly integrated into a diversified retirement plan, can be powerful tools in helping a retiree to be confident their money will last as long as they do. Life insurance is purchased in case we die too and to provide for other life uncertainties. Annuities, once understood are purchased in case we live a long life, helping make sure that we will be able to enjoy our retirement years, and to allow us to maintain our independence and dignity.

As a Retirement Income Certified Professional, I know annuities are not the answer for everyone. They are simply a tool. Often times I find they are the best tool to do the job many 55 and uppers have, which is to provide some additional guaranteed income that will last as long as they last.

I do not sell annuities any more than an architect sells hammers, doors or windows. Together with the client, an architect designs the best possible home for someone to live in and then brings it to fruition. The hammer, windows, doors, etc. are merely components and tools of the design. A Retirement Income Certified Professional, together with the client, is designing the best possible retirement, including asset protection and maximizing income for life. An annuity is simply a tool, one tool often utilized to accomplish that task. This brief compendium will help you to see the high view held of annuities as effective tools for the protection and growth of your retirement nest egg. This view is increasingly shared in the media and in the academic community.

The poet Goethe once said that we should never let the things that matter least get in the way of the things that matter most. When it comes to retirement, nothing matters more than having a plan for our money to live as long as we do. Retirement is not a dress rehearsal. It is a one-act play, with one chance to get it right.

Age is but a number!

L blog 1Don’t let yourself be brainwashed about aging. Old ideas, Hollywood movies, media’s portrayal, flawed research studies geared to selling medications, mandatory retirement ages, doctors over-prescribing unnecessary medicines, over the hill jokes, advertisers, commercials and more have all negatively affected the way we age. DON’T BELIEVE IT!

The truth about what’s possible is mind-blowing. There are many things we can do when we retire that we have always wanted to do. Once retired, you can do them! We are being brainwashed by our friends, co-workers, families, and more importantly… even ourselves.

There is a reason they say, “aging is not for the weak of heart”. Not one of us looks forward to the diminishing of any of our capacities but we can be brave, be bold. No, we cannot hold back the clock, of course not. But what we choose to do with the minutes are up to us. I subscribe to aging actively. Active ageing allows people to stay in control of their lives, to maintain their independence and dignity. It allows us to realize our full potential for physical, social, and mental well-being throughout the life course.

L Blog 1.2The word “active” refers to continuing participation in life at levels that motivate and sustain us. It is about not just ‘staying’ healthy or ‘staying’ active, it is about improving on those things. We have all heard, “use it or lose it,” well that is never more true than in retirement. It encompasses not just the ability to be physically, mentally active, and/or to participate in the labor force, in includes staying involved in social, economic, cultural, spiritual, and civic affairs. Even with the inevitable ills and disabilities, with the right attitude, we can remain active contributors to our families, peers, communities and even our country. Active ageing aims to extend healthy life expectancy and maximize the quality of life for all people as they age, with and without infirmaries.

“Health” refers to physical, mental and social well being as expressed in the World Health Organization definition of health. Maintaining autonomy and independence for older people is a key goal in the policy framework for active ageing.

Ageing takes place within the context of friends, work associates, neighbors and family members. Therefore, interdependence as well as inter-generational solidarity are important tenets of active ageing.

401(k)… Hoax or not? You better find out before it is too late.

MM pic 1The 401(k) will turn out to be the greatest systemic financial hoax ever perpetrated on an unsuspecting public. On paper, it ‘looks’ good but the reality is quite different. Is Your 401(k) A Total Scam?

Where did the pension of our parent’s generation go? What did the 401(k) help? Well, let’s see. Firstly, it allows the federal and state governments to own a part of your retirement nest egg and the growth, a huge part! About 30% for most people. You have a 401(k) worth $500,000, only about $350,000 of it is yours. Secondly, 401(k)s convinced, otherwise very bright people, to put all their retirement eggs into the Wall Street poker game that they know nothing about. Again, huge amount. Baby boomers have anted up about $16 Trillion and they have no idea how to play the ‘game’. Ahhh, who does that benefit? Well ask yourself, who would it benefit if you sat down at a table with a group of professional poker players, and you do not know how to play. Just sayin’.

The American public has been deceived: MM pic 2401(k)s were established to satisfy the interests of government and corporations, not the interests of working Americans. The 401(k) represents an implicit promise to middle-class Americans that they can live off the income that they receive from taking risk in the stock market. It is a promise that is impossible to fulfill.

“It appeared as a device that made it easy for the average worker to participate in the biggest boom in history. It seemed the 401(k) would be a perpetual wealth machine for each and every member of the great American middle class.” Unfortunately, it has not only put your nest egg at risk, it has put your family’s financial security at risk. I hope it is not too late for you to do something about it.