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The Rise of the Older, Single Female Home Buyer

The Rise of the Older, Single Female Home Buyer

Unmarried women over 55 is one of the largest, and fastest-growing, demographics of home buyers. With longer lifespans and careers, many look for homes with ‘no bad memories’

Ms. Hoffman said her new home is giving her a chance to ‘start from scratch.’ Photo by THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

By Katy McLaughlin

Leah Hoffman was looking for a house to start the next phase of her life. She doesn’t need a lot of space, and being single, she only needs to please herself. She says she found exactly what she was looking for in a $1.7 million home in Paradise Valley, Ariz., which she moved into in January.

The life phase Ms. Hoffman is starting? She is 60 and divorced, with grown children. She sold a wealth-management firm she founded in 2007 and is now ready for something new. “I’m totally starting from scratch,” she says. “I like change.”

Since 1981, single women over 55 have been the fastest-growing demographic of home buyers when compared with a multitude of other categories, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by Ralph McLaughlin, founder and chief economist at Veritas Urbis Economics in Alameda, Calif. Married couples are by far the largest group of home buyers, and single women the next largest group. But last year, single, older women made up 8.2% of all home buyers, roughly double the percentage of 20 years ago, Mr. McLaughlin says. These women also buy homes at nearly twice the rate as their male counterparts.

Three Single Women, Three New Homes

There have long been many more older single women than men, reflecting the fact that men remarry at a higher rate after a divorce, as well as the fact that men generally die at younger ages. But the dramatic increase in home purchasing by older women speaks to something else. Many women in this place in life want to own a home of their own, says Jessica Lautz, director of demographics and behavioral insight for the National Association of Realtors. Ms. Lautz also notes that longer average lifespans—and people working until later in life—are giving older buyers the confidence to take on a 15- or 30-year mortgage.

Ms. Hoffman, echoing the sentiments of others, views her purchase as more than a financial transaction. “There are no bad memories in this house, and I’m going to try hard not to create any,” she says.

In the late 1990s, Ms. Hoffman and her then-husband built a family home in Paradise Valley. Raising two sons, the couple designed a 6,000-square-foot house with a wing of bedrooms and a play area for the boys. Because she spent about 60-hours-a-week running her own company, a location near school, a grocery store and a dry cleaner was paramount. After divorcing in 2005, Ms. Hoffman moved into a 5,000-square-foot Paradise Valley house so her children could remain in the same school district. That house is now on the market for $1.475 million.

She then decided to downsize to a house that was easier to take care of. Finding her new place wasn’t easy, says her agent Joan Levinson of an eponymous brokerage in the area, as most Paradise Valley homes are larger. Eventually, Ms. Hoffman found a 3,200-square-foot, two bedroom with a separate, one-bedroom casita. Near restaurants and shopping, it has a landscaped garden and views of Camelback and Mummy mountains. Ms. Hoffman says she left behind all her old furniture and commissioned custom pieces, aiming to “start from scratch.”

Mary Jo Valentine Blythe and her then-husband raised three children in a 7,000-square-foot home in the upscale Chicago suburb of Hinsdale, Ill. They divorced in 2005, and seven years later Ms. Blythe bought an 8,000-square-foot home in Vail, Colo. that she and her now-grown sons, avid skiers, consider their “family home,” she says. She waited until her youngest son graduated from high school to put the Hinsdale home on the market, she says, selling it in 2016. That same year she also sold the corporate event company she built over 25 years.

Next, Ms. Blythe moved to an $8,000-a-month, two-bedroom rental in Trump International Hotel & Tower in downtown Chicago. The rental introduced her to a “completely different life,” she says, putting her close to restaurants, upscale shopping and bike rides alongside Lake Michigan. Her only qualm was the monthly outlay for a home she didn’t own, she says.

So in June, Ms. Blythe, now 56, put down a deposit on a $3.2 million, four-bedroom condominium in Renelle on the River, an 18-story building currently under construction near the Trump Tower. Her new apartment keeps her in the heart of the city, “where I can walk everywhere,” she says.

A year ago, Ms. Blythe met a man with whom she is in a relationship, she says. As it happens, he lives back in Hinsdale, the suburb she left, where he is raising two teenagers. Ms. Blythe says she has no plans to return to the suburbs. “I’m done with that chapter,” she says. “I want to be part of something that’s more energized.”

“Multigenerational homes,” or places where aging parents, adult children not ready to leave the nest, and children under the age of 18 can co-habitate are in high demand among “buyers in their early 50s,” says Ms. Lautz of the NAR. That is roughly what Laura Ackerman was looking for. After ending a 33-year marriage, she was planning to move out of her Bay Area home of 20 years.
“Over the holidays, my kids sat me down and told me they wanted me to move to the East Coast,” says Ms. Ackerman, 57. At first, she laughed it off, but later started to dwell on it. Two of her children live on the East Coast and a third lives in Spain, she says.

Influencing her decision was the fact that eight years ago, her youngest son fell out of a tree and nearly died of a traumatic brain injury, Ms. Ackerman says. He recovered and is a healthy young man finishing college, she says. But the experience taught her to “never take another day for granted,” she says.

In April, Ms. Ackerman closed on a $1.75 million Colonial on 5 acres in Mendham, N.J., where she had gone to high school. The 7,000-square-foot house has six bedroom and seven bathrooms—ideal for when her three children and her mother come to visit. Someday, when there are spouses and grandchildren, everyone will be able to gather, she says.
Still in the process of unpacking, Ms. Ackerman says she is looking forward to joining a church and book club, strengthening relationships with old friends and taking advantage of proximity to her children.

“I definitely feel that the fresh start has given me a new lease on life.”

Write to Katy McLaughlin at katy.mclaughlin@wsj.com

Appeared in the June 29, 2018, print edition as ‘A New Life, a New House.’

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Do You Know Who Your Beneficiaries Are?

Why you should periodically review beneficiary designations.

Your beneficiary choices may need to change with the times. When did you open your first IRA? When did you buy your life insurance policy? Are you still living in the same home and working at the same job as you did back then? Have your priorities changed a bit – perhaps more than a bit?

While your beneficiary choices may seem obvious and rock solid when you initially make them, time has a way of altering things. In a stretch of five or ten years, some major changes can occur in your life – and they may warrant changes in your beneficiary decisions. In fact, you might want to review them annually.

Beneficiary designations commonly override bequests made in a will or living trust. Many people do not realize this. When assets have designated beneficiaries, they can usually avoid probate and transfer directly to that person.1,2

You may have chosen the “smartest financial mind” in your family as your beneficiary, thinking that he or she has the knowledge to carry out your financial wishes in the event of your death. But what if this person passes away before you do? What if you change your mind about the way you want your assets distributed and are unable to communicate your intentions in time? And what if he or she inherits tax problems as a result of receiving your assets?

Are your beneficiary designations up to date? Don’t assume. Don’t guess. Make sure your assets are set to transfer to the people or institutions you prefer. If you’re not certain you understand all the possible ramifications of your selections, you may want to reach out to a qualified financial professional for guidance.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.


1 – thebalance.com/why-beneficiary-designations-override-your-will-2388824 [8/28/17]
2 – wealthmanagement.com/estate-planning/designating-beneficiary-not-easy-it-looks [4/23/18]

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Choosing a Financial Professional

There’s nothing like doing your homework and being selective.

When we buy a car or a house, consider a school for our children, or plan our next vacation, what kind of approach do we take? For one thing, we take our time. We shop around and consider our choices.

Yet when it comes to selecting a financial consultant, not everyone takes such care. Chuck Jaffe, for many years a MarketWatch columnist, often spoke to audiences on this topic, and when doing so, he liked to conduct an informal poll. He started by asking people to raise their hand if they had ever worked with a financial advisor. Typically, many hands went up. Next, he asked them to keep their hands in the air if they hired the first financial advisor they met with in their search. Seldom did a hand lower. Then he asked them to keep their hands up if they did a background check on that person before agreeing to work together. Jaffe noted that when that third question was asked, “[I] never had a single hand stay in the air.”1

Credibility and compatibility both matter. When it comes to the “alphabet soup” of financial industry designations, some of them carry more clout than others. Some of the most respected professional designations are Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®), Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC), and Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA). These designations are earned only after thorough examinations and a required curriculum of college-level studies in financial planning applications, retirement, insurance and estate planning fundamentals, and other topics. Real-world experience complements this course of study.2

Beyond a financial professional’s credentials and designations, you have the matter of compatibility. You don’t want to work with someone who insists that you fit into a preconceived box, for you are not simply Investor A, Investor B, or Investor C who deserves this or that generic strategy. Better financial professionals really get to know you – and they will not be offended if you make the effort to get to know them.

This is a relationship-based business, and when a financial consultant offers a thoughtfully considered, personalized strategy to a client resulting from one or more discovery meetings, they have taken a step to earn the respect and trust of that client. Finer financial professionals abide by a client’s preferences and risk tolerance and take the client’s values, needs, and priorities into account.

How do you “check out” a financial professional? You can visit www.finra.org (the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) and use FINRA BrokerCheck to see if anything questionable has occurred in their career. If that financial professional is an investment advisor, you can go to the Securities and Exchange Commission website and look at that advisor’s Form ADV at advisorinfo.sec.gov. Part 1 will tell you about any issues with clients or regulatory agencies; Part 2 will tell you about the advisor’s services, fees, and investment strategies.3,4

In addition, AARP offers you a Financial Adviser Questionnaire, and websites like ussearch.com and paladinregistry.com can provide you with further information.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

1 – marketwatch.com/story/7-mistakes-investors-make-in-hiring-advisers-2010-05-20 [5/20/10]
2 – csmonitor.com/Business/Saving-Money/2017/0205/A-simple-guide-to-the-many-financial-advisor-designations [2/5/18]
3 – brokercheck.finra.org/ [6/13/18]
4 – adviserinfo.sec.gov/ [6/13/18]

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Little-Known Homeowners Insurance Facts

You may be surprised to learn what is and is not covered.

If you have a homeowners insurance policy, you should be aware of what the insurance does and does not cover. These policies have their limitations as well as their underrecognized perks.

Some policies insure actual cash value (ACV). ACV factors depreciation into an item’s worth. If someone makes off with your expensive camera that you bought five years ago, a homeowners policy that reimburses you for ACV would only pay for part of the cost of an equivalent camera bought new today.1

Other policies insure replacement cash value (RCV). That means 100% of the cost of an equivalent item today, at least in the insurer’s view.1

Insurers cap losses on certain types of items. If you lose an insured 42” flat-screen TV to a burglar, the insurer could reimburse you for the RCV, which is probably around $300. An insurance carrier can handle a loss like that. If a thief takes an official American League baseball from the 1930s signed by Babe Ruth out of your home, the insurer would probably not reimburse you for 100% of its ACV. It might only pay out $2,000 or so, nowhere near what such a piece of sports memorabilia would be worth. Because of these coverage caps, some homeowners opt for personal floaters – additional riders on their policies to appropriately insure collectibles and other big-ticket items.1

Did you know that losses away from home may be covered? Say you have your PC with you on a business trip. Your rental car is broken into and your PC is taken. In such an instance, a homeowners policy frequently will cover a percentage of the loss above the deductible – perhaps closer to 10% or 20% of the value above the deductible rather than 100%, but still something. An insurance company might put a $200 or $250 limit on cash stolen away from home.1

Where you live can affect coverage as well as rates. If you reside in a community with rampant property crime, your insurance carrier might cap its reimbursements on some forms of personal property losses lower than you would like. (The insurer might even refrain from covering certain types of losses in your geographic area.)1

Now, do you have a home-based business? If you do, you should know that homeowners insurance will not cover damage and losses to your residence resulting from or linked to business activity. (The same holds true for a personal umbrella liability policy.)2

Having a separate, discrete business insurance policy to protect your home-based company is important. Without such a policy, you have inadequate coverage for your business – and could you imagine losing your home from being uninsured against a visiting client’s bodily injury claim or a workers’ comp claim if employees work at your residence and hurt themselves?2

Reading the fine print on your homeowners insurance policy can be worthwhile. Recognizing the basic limitations of homeowners insurance coverage is critical. You should know what is and is not covered – and if you see any weak spots, you should address them.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

1 – nasdaq.com/article/3-caveats-about-your-homeowners-insurance-cm771517 [4/10/17]
2 – washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/if-you-work-from-home-and-dont-have-this-insurance-you-could-be-at-risk/2018/02/23/23a4a42a-1754-11e8-92c9-376b4fe57ff7_story.html [2/23/18]

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Long-Term-Care Insurance Isn’t Dead. It’s Now an Estate-Planning Tool

Last year, after finishing with college tuition for their three children, Jessica Galligan Goldsmith and her husband, James, treated themselves to something she had long wanted: long-term-care insurance.

It hasn’t been cheap. The couple, both lawyers in their mid-50s, will shell out more than $320,000 between them over a decade. For that, they will be able to tap into benefits topping $1 million apiece by the time they are in their 80s, the age when many Americans suffer from dementia or other illnesses that require full-time care.

Plus, the policies pay out death benefits if long-term care isn’t ultimately needed, and most provide 10% to 20% of the original death benefit even if the long-term-care proceeds are fully tapped.

Such policies that combine long-term-care coverage with a potential life-insurance benefit are called “hybrids,” and they are reshaping the long-term-care niche of the U.S. insurance industry just as it had appeared headed for obsolescence, financial advisers say. The Goldsmiths were among 260,000 purchasers last year nationwide of these hybrids, according to industry-funded research firm LIMRA, far outpacing the 66,000 traditional long-term-care policies sold in 2017.

When long-term-care insurance took off in the 1990s, insurers aimed for the broad middle class of America. The pitch was that policies would save ordinary families from entirely draining their savings, leaning on children or enrolling in the federal-state Medicaid program for the poor. (Medicare pays for nursing-home stays only in limited circumstances.)

Now, many insurers are finding their best sales opportunity with wealthy Americans. Many of these people may be able to afford costly care later in their lives, but they are buying the contracts to protect large estates, advisers say. ​​

Ms. Goldsmith wanted long-term-care coverage partly because her legal specialty is trusts and estates and she has seen families whose seven-figure investment portfolios were devastated by years of care for spouses.

“What felt like a good nest egg” can be hit by “astronomical expenses,” says Ms. Goldsmith, of Westchester County outside New York City. Their policies are from a unit of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.

According to federal-government projections, about a quarter of Americans turning 65 between 2015 and 2019 will need up to two years of long-term care. Twelve percent will need two to five years, and 14% will need more than five years. At $15 an hour, around-the-clock aides run $131,400 a year, while private rooms in nursing homes top $100,000 in many places.

Hybrids can cost even more than traditional standalone products because they typically include extra features. There is wide variation across the hybrid category and the type the Goldsmiths bought (known as “asset-based long-term-care”) includes a particularly valuable feature: a guarantee that premium rates won’t increase.

Traditional long-term care policies fell from favor in the mid-2000s after many insurers obtained approval from state regulators for steep rate increases—some totaling more than 100%—due to serious pricing errors. In May, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. began applying for average increases of about 77% that would apply to about 54,000 of its 72,000 LTC policyholders. Until this move, MassMutual hadn’t previously asked longtime policyholders to kick in more to better cover expected payouts.

Affluent buyers also can afford to pay for their hybrid policies within 10 years, as many insurers require. However at least one big carrier, Lincoln National Corp. , has begun allowing people in their 40s and early 50s to spread payments over more years, provided they fully pay by age 65.

Besides the death benefit—which is as much as $432,000 on a combined basis for the Goldsmiths—hybrids also include a “return of premium” feature. This allows buyers to recoup much of their money if they want out of the transaction, albeit without interest.

“We call these ‘live, die, change your mind’ policies,” says Natalie Karp, the Goldsmiths’ agent and co-founder of Karp Loshak LTC Insurance Solutions, a brokerage in Roslyn, N.Y.

About a dozen insurers still offer traditional long-term-care policies that typically lack those features. They charge more and provide shorter benefit periods than they did in the past. But Tim Cope, a financial adviser in South Burlington, Vt., for insurance brokerage NFP, says the good news is that “policies continue to pay for much-needed care, and changes in their policy design, pricing and underwriting are an effort to minimize premium increases on recently issued and new policies.”

Many advisers favor standalone and hybrid offerings of three of the nation’s largest and financially strongest insurers: MassMutual, New York Life Insurance Co. and Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.

Ms. Goldsmith says she was attracted to the Nationwide hybrid because it doesn’t require submission of receipts to obtain the long-term-care proceeds. Benefits are payable in cash when a physician certifies a severe cognitive impairment or inability to perform basic activities, such as bathing, eating and dressing. Payments are capped at specified monthly amounts. For the Goldsmiths, the monthly benefit starts at $9,000 per spouse and grows with an inflation adjustment to more than $15,000 in their 80s.

“Receipts are very hard for older people to deal with, especially when stressed by caring for a disabled spouse or being disabled themselves,” Ms. Goldsmith says.

This article was prepared by a third party for information purposes only. It is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. It contains references to individuals or entities that are not affiliated with Cornerstone Wealth Management, Inc. or LPL Financial.
All illustrations are hypothetical and are not representative of any specific investment.

Riders are additional guarantee options that are available to an annuity or life insurance contract holder. While some riders are part of an existing contract, many others may carry additional fees, charges and restrictions and the policy holder should review their contract carefully before purchasing. Guarantees are based on the claims paying ability of the issuing insurance company.
If you need more information or would like personal advice you should consult an insurance professional.

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The Stock-Market Price Can Be Wrong. Very Wrong.

Researchers have caught investors in the act of wildly—and unnecessarily–overpaying for a stock

If you could buy the same stock in two different ways, one of which cost up to nine times as much as the other, you would pick the cheaper way.

Wouldn’t you?

Perhaps you shouldn’t be too sure.

In a new study, finance researchers have caught investors in the act of wildly — and unnecessarily — overpaying for a stock. In effect, investors paid as much as $9.07 for shares that they could have bought at the exact same time for $1 instead. That casts some doubt on the idea that financial markets are efficient. It should cast more doubt on whether all investors, including you and me, are as shrewd as we think.

The study is based on a peculiar transaction that occurred on the Euronext stock exchange in Amsterdam in 2014. That October, Dutch engineering-services firm Royal Imtech NV was struggling to survive. To raise capital, Royal Imtech announced a rights offering, enabling investors to buy new shares at a discount to the market price.

The rights offering worked like this: For each share they owned, stockholders who subscribed to the offering got the right to buy another 131 shares at only 0.01 euro apiece.

Yet, during the offering period, Royal Imtech stock closed as high as 0.1 euro per share. By purchasing shares on the market instead of buying them through the rights offering, investors were paying up to nine times more than they needed to. (Even if you didn’t already own the stock, you could obtain rights by buying them on the exchange from a Royal Imtech investor.)

Rights offerings are rare among operating companies in the U.S., with none since the beginning of 2017 and a total of only 11 since 2009, according to Dealogic. They are less unusual among closed-end funds in the U.S. and more common in Europe.

Shareholders often fail to participate in rights offerings, presumably because stocks are much more familiar and it takes a little effort to figure out what rights are worth.

As a result, many investors seem to have overlooked the Royal Imtech deal entirely; 48% of the rights offering went unsold, according to Martijn van den Assem, a finance professor at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and co-author of the study. Investors kept buying the stock the same way they always had, oblivious to the opportunity the rights gave them to buy it at a fraction of the market price.

That turned out to be costly; by late October 2014, investors who had paid up to 0.1 euro per share were left with stock trading at only 0.017 euro. Royal Imtech declared bankruptcy in 2015.

“If people avoid the unfamiliar and the uncommon and they aren’t perfectly attentive,” says Prof. van den Assem, then what happened with the Royal Imtech offering “isn’t super-puzzling.”

So are investors stupid or irrational? Neither: We are human. We have many demands on our time and attention, we hate thinking harder than we need to, and we chronically take mental shortcuts and leap to conclusions. A slightly more complicated way to buy a stock feels like a worse way. So we don’t bother with it.

Royal Imtech is only the latest violation of what economists call “the law of one price,” which holds that identical assets shouldn’t trade simultaneously at different prices, regardless of where they change hands.

In 1999, for example, 3Com Corp. spun off Palm Inc. You could buy Palm shares directly in the open market, or you could buy them indirectly by purchasing 3Com stock. For each share of 3Com, you would get 1.5 shares of Palm.

Yet on the offering date, you could get one share of 3Com for $82, with 1.5 shares of Palm thrown in for free — at the very same time as other investors were willing to pay $95 for a single share of Palm. (The risk that the deal might not have gone through, and the costs of betting against it, might explain part of the oddity.)

Likewise, in the roaring stock market that preceded the great crash of 1929, it was common for closed-end funds to trade for double or even triple the per-share value of the stocks and bonds they held. Investors acted as if such leading stocks as Radio Corp. of America, Studebaker Corp. and Wright Aeronautical Corp. were worth two or three times as much inside a fund than outside it — on the illusory belief that skilled stock pickers could make diversification and high returns easier to achieve than investors could on their own.

All this is a reminder that market prices are shaped by the tension between sophisticated, informed and attentive investors, on the one hand, and naive, unknowing and uninterested investors on the other.

The same mechanism that overpriced Royal Imtech by nine-fold also fostered the internet-stock bubble that burst in 2000 and the crisis that nearly destroyed the global financial system a decade ago.

Markets are mostly efficient most of the time. They aren’t perfectly efficient all the time.

This article was prepared by a third party for information purposes only. It is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. It contains references to individuals or entities that are not affiliated with Cornerstone Wealth Management, Inc. or LPL Financial.

Past Performance is no guarantee of future results.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

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Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage? The New Tax Law Changes the Math.

The Wall Street Journal published the article below which prompts further thought: In a lower interest rate environment, a mortgage can actually have a positive effect on personal finances for many. But with the new tax law and cap on deductions, this is new territory to explore.

The further point I would add is: While this does change the math, more importantly, the math should be done via a comprehensive financial plan.  This is where the details like deductions and opportunity costs and long term use of family resources can help in making good financial decisions.

Courtesy of the Wall Street Journal

Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage? The New Tax Law Changes the Math.

Tax-law changes will shut millions out of mortgage-interest deductions, especially if they are married couples

Now is the time to find out if you are one of the millions of Americans who won’t be able to deduct their monthly mortgage-interest payments.

For 2017, 32 million tax filers got a mortgage-interest deduction. For 2018, that number will drop to 14 million. Americans’ total savings from this break are also expected to fall sharply this year, from nearly $60 billion for 2017 to $25 billion for 2018, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation.

These landmark shifts are the result of the tax overhaul’s direct and indirect changes to the longstanding provision allowing filers to deduct home-mortgage interest on Schedule A. These changes are set to expire at the end of 2025.

As a result, current and future mortgage holders need to consider their options, which range from paying part or all of their debt to sitting tight.

“The changes to the mortgage deduction strengthen the arguments for paying down or off a mortgage,” says Allan Roth, a financial planner with Wealth Logic.

Some homeowners are already reducing their debt. Ken Walsh, an engineer who lives outside Baltimore with his family, says he used a windfall to pay off the remaining $500,000 mortgage on his home in January.

When the tax overhaul passed, Mr. Walsh knew that he and his wife would no longer get an interest deduction, even after their 2.6% adjustable-rate loan reset higher this year.

“It was a perfect storm, so we decided to pay off the loan,” he says.

Mr. Walsh’s move may not make sense for everyone. Here’s what to consider for your analysis.

The key changes. For many people, two revisions to non-mortgage provisions will have the biggest effects on their mortgage-interest deductions.

One is the near-doubling of the “standard deduction” to $12,000 for most single filers and $24,000 for most married couples. As a result, millions of filers will no longer benefit from breaking out mortgage interest and other deductions on Schedule A.

The other key change is the cap on deducting more than $10,000 of state and local income or sales and property taxes, known as SALT. This limit is per tax return, not per person.

These changes will hit many married couples with mortgages harder than singles. Here’s why: For 2017, a couple needed write-offs greater than $12,700 to benefit from listing deductions on Schedule A. Now these write-offs have to exceed $24,000.

Assuming a couple has maximum SALT deductions of $10,000, they’ll need more than $14,000 in other write-offs of mortgage interest, charity donations, and the like to benefit from using Schedule A.

Many couples won’t make it over this new hurdle on mortgage interest and SALT alone. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the first-year interest on a 30-year mortgage of $320,000 (the average) at the current rate of 4.8% is about $15,250. Interest payments are smaller if the loan is older or the interest rate is lower.

The new threshold is lower for single filers, as each can also deduct SALT up to $10,000. Their standard deduction is now $12,000, so many will only need more than $2,000 of mortgage interest, charity donations and the like to benefit from listing them on Schedule A.

Even for taxpayers who can still deduct mortgage interest, the expansion of the standard deduction means the value of this write-off will typically be lower than in the past.

Other limits. Following the tax overhaul, most home buyers can deduct only the interest on total mortgage debt up to $750,000 for up to two homes. This limit won’t be an issue for most buyers, but some will be affected.

There’s a “grandfather” exception: Most homeowners with existing debt up to $1 million on up to two homes before the tax overhaul can continue to deduct their interest.

The rules also changed for home-equity loans. To get an interest deduction, the taxpayer must use the debt to buy, build or improve a home. There’s no write-off if it’s used for another purpose, such as paying tuition.

Doing the math. For homeowners with a shrinking or vanishing interest deduction, here’s the key question: Is the after-tax return on an ultra-low-risk investment lower than your after-tax mortgage rate? If it is, consider paying down the mortgage if you can.

Mr. Roth offers this example. Say Bob has a mortgage rate of 3.7%, and he’ll no longer get an interest deduction. He’ll need to earn about 3.7% after-tax on an investment such as a five-year CD to come out ahead by keeping his mortgage. Recently some of these CDs had pretax yields of about 2.8%.

Preserving liquidity. Even if paying down a mortgage makes financial sense, it means restricting access to funds. So consider whether they’ll be needed in an emergency, and what the rate on a (non-deductible) personal loan would be. You need to be able to sleep at night.

Saving the difference. If you pay off a mortgage, Mr. Roth advises setting up an automatic payment of the savings to an investment account to rebuild your liquidity.

This article was prepared by a third party for information purposes only. It is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. It contains references to individuals or entities that are not affiliated with Cornerstone Wealth Management, Inc. or LPL Financial.

Tax services are not offered by Cornerstone Wealth Management, Inc., LPL Financial or affiliated advisors. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax advisor.

LPL Tracking # 1-737346

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Losing Your financial nest egg is linked to shorter life expectancy

One benefit of creating a financial plan is that the process puts into perspective the importance of collecting singles and doubles in a portfolio rather than swinging for the fences.

The following article is courtesy of the Wall Street Journal. Please forward to anyone you know who is going through a life or financial transition.

Many people lost their life savings in the last recession.

New research on the health damage done.

Is it worse to suddenly lose your financial nest egg or never to have saved any money at all? This question concerns many of us: A quarter of Americans watched much or all of their life savings evaporate during the last recession, while nearly half of U.S. families have nothing put aside for retirement, according to the Economic Policy Institute and federal data.

Either way, there’s no happy answer. Both scenarios can increase our risk of dying within the next 20 years by more than 50%, a recent study shows.

We’ve long known that a financial shock causes immediate distress. Suit-clad men leaping from buildings were dismal hallmarks of the Great Depression, and soon after a major recession began in 2007, there were notable spikes in clinical depression, substance abuse and suicides.

But what about the effects of such a shock over a more extended period? “Does the stress of losing one’s wealth also create a long-term risk?” asked Lindsay Pool, a Northwestern University epidemiologist and the lead author of the new study. Published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, her research investigated how losing one’s life savings in the short term might curtail one’s lifespan in the long term.

​To find out, the researchers analyzed how participants in the federally funded Health and Retirement Study fared over a 20-year period. When the study began, researchers selected a nationally representative group of people in their 50s and asked these roughly 8,700 men and women detailed questions about their daily habits, health and financial situation.

Every two years, from 1994 until 2014, the federal study’s investigators called each subject looking for any change in their status and especially for a signal event: the disappearance of 75% or more of a person’s assets during the previous two years. “The reason we look at 75% or more is that we’re looking for a sudden loss, one that’s high enough to be shocking. People are nearing retirement, and all of a sudden their wealth is gone,” said Dr. Pool.

The results showed how profoundly financial loss can damage us. Exactly how this happens at the physiological level is still being worked out, but we already know that stress unleashes hormones that constrict our blood vessels and make our hearts beat faster—thus increasing blood pressure and possibly spurring a future cardiovascular event. Coping with ongoing pressures we cannot control has also been linked to a shorter lifespan.

Loss of control was front and center for the 26% of those in the survey who had endured a wealth shock. They were 50% more likely to have died during the period of the study, compared with participants whose savings remained intact. The researchers statistically controlled for other causes of mortality, such as ill health, job loss, insurance loss and marital breakdown.

Interestingly, women were more likely to have experienced a wealth shock than men, but they were not more likely to die as a result. They were, in short, more financially vulnerable but more resilient physiologically.

The study can’t explain why losing your life savings can kill you, only that it does. But one of the researchers’ findings is clear: At 50%, the mortality risk of those who had lost their nest eggs was lower than for those who never accumulated much for retirement at all; those people were 67% more likely to die than savers. It may be cold comfort, but it seems that it’s better to have saved and lost than never to have saved at all.

This article was prepared by a third party for information purposes only. It is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. LPL tracking # 1-736613

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Why Medicare Should Be Part of Your Retirement Planning

The premiums and coverages vary, and you must realize the differences.

Medicare takes a little time to understand. As you approach age 65, familiarize yourself with its coverage options and their costs and limitations.

Certain features of Medicare can affect health care costs and coverage. Some retirees may do okay with original Medicare (Parts A and B), others might find it lacking and decide to supplement original Medicare with Part C, Part D, or Medigap coverage. In some cases, that may mean paying more for senior health care per month than you initially figured.

How much do Medicare Part A and Part B cost, and what do they cover? Part A is usually free; Part B is not. Part A is hospital insurance and covers up to 100 days of hospital care, home health care, nursing home care, and hospice care. Part B covers doctor visits, outpatient procedures, and lab work. You pay for Part B with monthly premiums, and your Part B premium is based on your income. In 2018, the basic monthly Part B premium is $134; higher-earning Medicare recipients pay more per month. You also typically shoulder 20% of Part B costs after paying the yearly deductible, which is $183 in 2018.1

The copays and deductibles linked to original Medicare can take a bite out of retirement income. In addition, original Medicare does not cover dental, vision, or hearing care, or prescription medicines, or health care services outside the U.S. It pays for no more than 100 consecutive days of skilled nursing home care. These out-of-pocket costs may lead you to look for supplemental Medicare coverage and to plan other ways of paying for long-term care.1,2

Medigap policies help Medicare recipients with some of these copays and deductibles. Sold by private companies, these health care policies will pay a share of certain out-of-pocket medical costs (i.e., costs greater than what original Medicare covers for you). You must have original Medicare coverage in place to purchase one. The Medigap policies being sold today do not offer prescription drug coverage. A monthly premium on a Medigap policy for a 65-year-old man may run from $150-250, so keep that cost range in mind if you are considering Medigap coverage.2,3

In 2020, the two most popular kinds of Medigap plans – Medigap C and Medigap F – will vanish. These plans pay the Medicare Part B deductible, and Medigap policies of that type are being phased out due to the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act. Come 2019, you will no longer be able to enroll in them.4

Part D plans cover some (certainly not all) prescription drug expenses. Monthly premiums are averaging $33.50 this year for these standalone plans, which are offered by private insurers. Part D plans currently have yearly deductibles of less than $500.2,5

Some people choose a Part C (Medicare Advantage) plan over original Medicare. These plans, offered by private insurers and approved by Medicare, combine Part A, Part B, and usually Part D coverage and often some vision, dental, and hearing benefits. You pay an additional, minor monthly premium besides your standard Medicare premium for Part C coverage. Some Medicare Advantage plans are health maintenance organizations (HMOs); others, preferred provider organizations (PPOs).6

If you want a Part C plan, should you select an HMO or PPO? About two-thirds of Part C plan enrollees choose HMOs. There is a cost difference. In 2017, the average HMO monthly premium was $29. The average regional PPO monthly premium was $35, while the mean premium for a local PPO was $62.6

HMO plans usually restrict you to doctors within the plan network. If you are a snowbird who travels frequently, you may be out of the Part C plan’s network area for weeks or months and risk paying out-of-network medical expenses from your savings. With PPO plans, you can see out-of-network providers and see specialists without referrals from primary care physicians.6

Now, what if you retire before age 65? COBRA aside, you are looking at either arranging private health insurance coverage or going uninsured until you become eligible for Medicare. You must also factor this possible cost into your retirement planning. The earliest possible date you can arrange Medicare coverage is the first day of the month in which your birthday occurs.5

Medicare planning is integral to your retirement planning. Should you try original Medicare for a while? Should you enroll in a Part C HMO with the goal of keeping your overall out-of-pocket health care expenses lower? There is also the matter of eldercare and the potential need for interim coverage (which will not be cheap) if you retire prior to 65. Discuss these matters with the financial professional you know and trust in your next conversation.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.


1 – medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/costs-at-a-glance/costs-at-glance.html [5/21/18]
2 – cnbc.com/2018/05/03/medicare-doesnt-cover-everything-heres-how-to-avoid-surprises.html [5/3/18]
3 – medicare.gov/supplement-other-insurance/medigap/whats-medigap.html [5/21/18]
4 – fool.com/retirement/2018/02/05/heads-up-the-most-popular-medigap-plans-are-disapp.aspx [2/5/18]
5 – money.usnews.com/money/retirement/medicare/articles/your-guide-to-medicare-coverage [5/2/18]
6 – cnbc.com/2017/10/18/heres-how-to-snag-the-best-medicare-advantage-plan.html [10/18/17]

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Get Financial Advice First, Investment Advice Later

A friend’s son, in his mid-20s and working in his first “real” job, emailed me a few weeks ago looking for recommendations for a financial advisor.

I replied to ask what type of guidance he’s looking for. I remembered that he started investing in stocks when he was in high school, so my guess was that he wanted help with something investment-related.

His response surprised me, in a good way. Rather than seeking investment guidance, he was thinking big-picture. He said he’d like to go to graduate school, but he was also contemplating buying a rental property as an investment and living in one of the units. He wanted some advice on his portfolio, but that was secondary to wanting to talk through the financial implications of the other, broader decisions on his mind. I gave him the names of two of my favorite hourly, fee-only financial-planning firms in the Chicago area, and he was off and running.

Many people, in contrast to my friend’s son, think financial advice automatically equates to investment advice. And for people who are older, wealthier, and more settled in their lives, guidance on investments is probably going to be the main thing a financial advisor assists them with. But for most people in early accumulation mode, investment decision-making should be secondary to big-picture decision-making. And people could use help with big-picture decision-making, and putting some math around those decisions, more than they might think.

That exchange got me thinking about how your life stage–and specifically your human capital/financial capital ratio–should influence your financial priorities and the type of advice you seek. While Morningstar has long asserted that human capital should play a role in how you position your financial capital, assessing your personal ratio of human to financial capital can help you figure out where to concentrate your precious resources. By precious resources, I mean the time you spend thinking about your financial affairs and any money you spend on financial guidance.

What’s Your Human Capital/Financial Capital Ratio? 
Morningstar has written extensively about the human capital/financial capital relationship, mainly as it relates to the asset allocation of your investment portfolio.

If you’ve just emerged from school with an advanced degree in a lucrative field, for example, you’re long on human capital. Your financial capital is probably scarce or even negative if you racked up debt to pursue that degree. Because you’re looking forward to a long and mostly uninterrupted string of great earnings, you can afford to take more risk in your investment portfolio that you’ve earmarked for retirement; you’re a long way away from tapping it.

At the opposite extreme, let’s say you’re 64. You still like your job, and you’d like to keep going for as long as you can, maybe all the way to age 70 or beyond. But your spouse has had some health setbacks, and you know that you may have to pull back from work in order to help care for him. In that instance, your human capital–your ability to garner earnings from your job–has declined and isn’t fully within your control. Because you may not be able to earn a paycheck much longer, you’ll need to make sure your portfolio, and income from other sources like Social Security, can pick up where your salary leaves off. You’ll also want to make sure you own enough safe securities that you can tap in the near term, if and when your earnings stream is interrupted.

It’s Not Just for Investments
Just as it can help influence your portfolio positioning, an assessment of your personal human capital/financial capital ratio can help determine where to concentrate your financial priorities and where to get financial help.

When you’re young and just starting out in your career path, your human capital is extensive and your financial capital is likely small. It’s a given that once you start earning a paycheck, you should invest in the highest-returning portfolio you can stomach. But your contributions to your investments–not the gains on them–are going to be the biggest share of your portfolio’s growth at that life stage. The best way to bump up your contributions is by enlarging your earnings and/or making sure that you’re living within your means and not overspending. At this life stage it’s also crucial to think through what I call “primordial asset allocation” decisions, such as your savings/spending rate and whether you decide to pay down debt, such as student loans, or invest in the market. If you get those big-picture decisions right, your investments and your financial capital will take care of themselves.

By extension, if you’re going to spend on advice at this life stage, it stands to reason that you could go the cheap and efficient route: Buy an inexpensive target-date fund or use an inexpensive robo-advisor and call it a day. After all, it’s a rare young accumulator whose goals and risk tolerance would be radically different from another young accumulator’s: Enlarging the portfolio is the name of the game, and the best way to do that is to contribute regularly, go heavy on stocks, and not get rattled by periodic market downturns.

Because other decisions, such as whether you invest in additional education or buy a home or continue to rent, will be more impactful, it’s wise to concentrate your advice “buy” on someone who will make such issues their central concern–a financial planner. That’s not to say most investment advisors won’t be holistic in their assessment of your situation; the good ones most certainly will. But consulting on other aspects of your financial life may not be central to what they do. There’s also a logistical issue: With a very small portfolio, it may be difficult to find an investment advisor who’s willing to work with you, whereas hourly or per-engagement financial planners are much more readily accessible to people at all portfolio levels.

As you move through your life, and your human capital declines and your financial capital rises, you may have already plowed through most of your make-or-break primordial asset allocation decisions. You may have purchased your home and paid it off, paid for college for your kids, and advanced as far in your career as you’re going to go. You might still need financial-planning guidance, to be sure. But with an enlarged portfolio, it also makes more sense to focus more of your energies–and more of your advice “buy”–on it. Your tax rate may have gone up, and you will have likely accumulated assets in multiple accounts. You may be getting close to retirement and wondering whether your portfolio is sustainable and how to draw from it. In other words, getting some investment advice that’s specific to you and your situation is more appropriate than it was when you were a young accumulator.

This article lays out some of the key questions to ask yourself when seeking a financial advisor. At the top of list is “Are you seeking help with your whole financial life or your investment portfolio?” Thinking through your human capital/financial capital ratio can help you make the right call, and figure out where to concentrate your own energies, too.

Published June 7, 2018. But a message never out of date.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

No investment strategy, including asset allocation, assures success or protects against loss.

The target date is the approximate date when investors plan to start withdrawing their money. The principal value of a target fund is not guaranteed at any time including at the target date.

Morningstar is a separate entity from Cornerstone Wealth Management and LPL Financial.

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