When Choosing a Financial Advisor, Make Sure You Know Their Standard of Care

Thinking of hiring a financial advisor to help with your retirement planning? Before you do, make certain you’re choosing the professional who will always put your interests first. The surprising truth is, not all financial advisors are held to the same standard of care. Some are able to blur the lines between advising and selling, while others follow strict ethical guidelines and specific laws to ensure objectivity and transparency. In this blog post, we’ll review standards of care for financial advising and explain how they determine the manner in which advisors make their investment recommendations. We’ll also share tips on how to select a financial advisor who follows the highest standard of care. Let’s start with a summary of the two standards: suitability and fiduciary.   The Suitability Standard A financial advisor who adheres to the suitability standard can more accurately be described as an investment broker. The broker recommends financial products that are suitable...

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Fee-Based vs. Fee-Only: How Your Advisor Gets Paid Can Impact Your Retirement

For decades, you planned ahead and saved. You dutifully contributed to your 401(k) and meticulously researched financial strategies that paid off. Your savvy investments helped you build the financial security you enjoy today. And now that retirement is a reality, you want to make sure your hard-earned nest egg will last. You need a financial advisor who will help you turn your retirement savings into a steady stream of ample income for decades to come. But what makes one financial advisor better than the next? Is there a specific type to look for? In fact, there are several things to be aware of before hiring a professional. One key consideration is compensation, or the manner in which an advisor gets paid for their services. In this post, we’ll look at how financial advisors are typically compensated and the impact this can have on how they serve their clients.   Two Types of Fee Structures In...

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Is Your Advisor Doing These Four Things to Help You Plan for a Comfortable Retirement?

All too often, people assume that once they start saving for retirement, the rest will fall into place. But the truth is, to ensure a comfortable retirement, you need to plan ahead. And that means finding the right financial advisor to help you navigate the many decisions about how to save, invest, and spend your money. Maybe you already have an advisor. Or maybe you’re just beginning to search for one. In either case, here are four things a financial advisor should be doing for you:   1. Encouraging you to focus on your life goals, not just your financial assets Thoughtful planning begins with gathering personal information that connects your financial resources with your goals. To elicit details about your priorities and lifestyle choices, an advisor should ask you questions like these: What does having enough money mean to you? What kind of life do you want to have in retirement? How often...

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VIDEO: Trust Planning Webinar Replay

Level Financial Advisors hosts 1 hour trust planning webinar

Level Financial Advisors and Judy N. Cuzzacrea Wagner, partner at Harris Beach Attorneys At Law, LLC, host this free, on-line educational session discussing the in’s and out’s of trusts and how they can be a valuable tool in your retirement estate planning. We discuss what a trust is, how it can be created and funded and how trusts are managed and administered. Originally recorded August 4th, 2022.

How the Medicare Premium Surcharge Can Impact Your Retirement

Higher-income individuals often must juggle a complex and unique set of financial variables in retirement if they hope to be as efficient as possible with their accumulated wealth. Many of the variables are tax-related and interrelated, and a change to one may affect the others. Being proactive and forward-looking can help you uncover potential financial opportunities. Adopting a holistic view of your entire retirement will pay big dividends in tax efficiencies that can stretch your retirement nest egg. Let’s focus on one specific variable: the Medicare premium surcharge, also known as the income-related monthly adjustment amount (IRMAA).   IRMAA and Your Taxes Now, you might be thinking: Wait, what do Medicare premiums have to do with retirement tax planning? At the risk of oversimplifying, here’s a quick summary. (More information can be found on Medicare.gov.) Medicare is our system of retiree health coverage. It charges each beneficiary a base premium for Part B (doctor visits) and...

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Is Your Financial Advisor Preparing You for the Impact of Investment Costs and Taxes in Retirement?

There’s probably nothing more frustrating than paying too much for an item that you could have found for less somewhere else. Actually, here’s one: finding out that you’ve been paying more in taxes than you needed to, all because you didn’t plan properly. Or rather, your financial advisor didn’t. A good advisor will design your investment portfolio to be as cost- and tax-effective as possible, while still maintaining the appropriate risk level and achieving your financial goals. Unfortunately, not all advisors realize just how much the cost of a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) can impact long-term performance. This is partly because advisors are often too focused on short-term results. On top of that, the vast majority don’t pay any attention to taxes. Let’s review two key factors that can affect your long-term costs and taxes during retirement: expense ratios and taxes.   Understanding the Expense Ratio The expense ratio is how mutual funds and ETFs...

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Why It May Be Better to Delay Your Social Security Benefits

Some people, including one of our founding fathers, have mused that nothing in life is certain, except for death and taxes. But the government benefit that you’ve been saving for your whole adult life is designed to be there for you when you need it most—after you’ve stopped working. Established in 1935, the Social Security program provides a reliable source of income for people when they retire, in addition to any individual retirement accounts they might have. And while it’s tempting to begin collecting Social Security as soon as you become eligible at age 62, it might be better to delay. Here are four reasons why you should consider holding off:   1. A Higher Annual Payout If you wait to claim Social Security, you can reward yourself later with a higher annual benefit. That’s because delayed retirement credits will kick in at age 62. For every year you postpone filing for Social Security,...

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