How to Invest in 2019

How to invest in 2019 image for landing pageThe elections are behind us and everybody’s wondering, “What’s next for markets?” The last few months of 2018 have reminded us that market volatility can be scary, yet our economy continues to remain strong. While we’ve seen some slowing, most economic indicators still signal growth and we can’t ignore that fact. My biggest concern, however, is that most Americans allow emotions to dictate their investment strategy, leading to decisions where they buy high and sell low. In fact, studies backup this phenomenon verifying that the bad decisions investors make are often driven by emotions. So how can you invest your money with confidence while leaving nervous emotions on the shelf? Here are four tips:

  1. Look at current market conditions. Right now, our economy seems to be stable so normal investment strategies tend to work in this environment. Consumers and businesses are confident. Job growth remains strong and is likely to stay at a healthy level. The long-term trend in markets has not been broken and other key economic indicators appear to be in healthy territory and may even be improving. These are all strong reasons to avoid abandoning your investment strategy if you’re a long-term investor.
  2. Consider risks in the market today. As I write this article (mid-November), companies are reasonably priced, which is encouraging. However, we need to watch consumer confidence and employment. If confidence is shaken, this could signal that a more defensive strategy might be in order. Consider this in conjunction with potential interest rate hikes, as well as our current geopolitical landscape, and use this information to choose an appropriate risk level.
  3. Think about overweighting sectors that are expected to do well over the next 12-36 months and underweighting areas that may underperform. When you think about all the major places you can allocate money, it’s important to diversify without diversifying to mediocrity. Consider where money is flowing and which sectors have the best prospects for growth.
  4. Don’t underestimate the role an investment advisor can play in keeping you on-track. Whether you are too busy to do it yourself or you just need someone to help you take a more tactical approach, a qualified advisor can help you avoid making mistakes. If all you do is open your monthly statements and look at whether the value went up or down, you probably need to pay a bit more attention. On the contrary, if your current advisor doesn’t proactively communicate with you, you may need to consider someone who will. You work hard for every penny and you need to know that someone is working hard for you.

If you are interested in talking more about an investment strategy for 2019, email me at valerie@grinkmeyerleonard.com to request a complimentary investment and risk assessment. Or, just email me with any questions you may have – I’m always happy to help!

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy ThanksgivingDuring this season of Thanksgiving, it seems more important than ever to count our blessings. I celebrate this Thanksgiving with a grateful heart for all that I have. My family, friends, and clients are so important to me. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life.

May the years ahead bring peace, good health, and much happiness to you and yours.

Happy Thanksgiving!

~Valerie

Buyer Beware: Tips for Safe Online Shopping

Tips for safe online shoppingLooking for power tools? A vintage Chanel purse? A living-room sofa? Millions of shoppers are bypassing brick-and-mortar stores, as well as their respective websites, in favor of purchasing such items from individual online sellers. For many people, sites like Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace sites offer a chance to save on everyday items and luxury products, both new and used—all from the comfort of their own homes.

Yet, while online shopping may be a convenient way to find deals and one-of-a-kind items, it’s important to protect your identity and financial information, particularly when dealing with individual sellers. Before you purchase anything listed on an online classified ad, auction, or marketplace site, keep the following precautions in mind.

Online classifieds
On classified sites run by newspapers and popular venues like Craigslist, sellers tend to offer used items and may be open to negotiation. Since most transactions are done in cash, there’s little buyer protection.

To stay safe:

  • Never wire funds. If a seller asks you to wire payment using Western Union or MoneyGram, you’re likely dealing with a scammer.
  • Safeguard your personal information. Sellers on Craigslist and similar sites don’t need your personal financial information, such as credit card numbers. To keep your information safe, it’s best to pay with cash.
  • Don’t go it alone. Always take someone with you when meeting a seller. Be sure to tell a friend or family member where you’ll be, and take your cell phone with you.
    Pick up in a public place. Choose a busy location to meet the seller. If you’re picking up the item at the seller’s house, it’s particularly important to have a friend or family member join you.

Online auctions
Online auction sites like eBay let you view and bid on products from around the globe. Some sites also allow you to buy items outright instead of bidding.

To stay safe:

  • Read the fine print. Before you enter a bid, be sure to review the entire listing, as well as the sales policies of the auction site. Remember: you win, you pay. Once you’ve won an auction, you’re obligated to complete the transaction.
  • Check out buyer feedback. Auction sites let buyers post feedback on their purchases, which can give you insight into a seller’s business practices. Be sure the seller has a high rating before making a purchase. If lackluster feedback prompts you to hesitate, it’s probably best to look for the item elsewhere.
  • Pay with a credit card or PayPal account. Using a debit card linked to your checking account may not be safe, as most debit cards don’t offer fraud protection. You may also want to consider buyer protection; eBay offers such a plan that covers many items purchased on its site.
  • Beware of fraudulent e-mails. After you’ve made a purchase, be wary of any unusual e-mails you may receive. Avoid opening suspicious messages or clicking on links they contain.

Online marketplaces
Online marketplaces such as Amazon, Etsy, and Overstock are one-stop shops where you can find anything and everything. Searches on these types of sites may pull up products new and used, both from companies and from individual sellers.

To stay safe:

  • Know what you’re purchasing. Though they’re often cheaper, used products may not be in perfect shape. Don’t neglect to read all the product details, as well as individual sellers’ return and refund policies.
  • Look for positive seller feedback. As with online auctions, be sure to read sellers’ ratings and keep your eyes open for red flags.
  • Pay safely. Pay for purchases using a credit card or PayPal, which offer greater buyer protection than other methods.
  • Ensure a secure checkout. Before you purchase an item, look for HTTPS at the beginning of the web address on the transaction page, which indicates a secure connection. Addresses that begin with HTTP only aren’t secure.

Don’t pay with your identity
When shopping online, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of finding a great deal—or what seems to be one. But don’t let the thrill of bargain-hunting override common sense or cause you to jeopardize your sensitive information. Be sure to read the details on items you’d like to buy and to use caution when making purchases online, particularly if you’re dealing with an individual seller.

As we enter the holiday shopping season, it’s particularly important to be careful with your online shopping in order to protect yourself against fraudulent transactions. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at valerie@grinkmeyerleonard.com. I’m always happy to help.

Tips for Curbing Rising Healthcare Costs

Tips for curbing healthcare costs (2)Healthcare expenses are a major concern for people of all ages, from recent college graduates to those nearing retirement. Average annual healthcare costs per person hit $10,345 in 2016. These costs impact families as well. According to the annual Milliman Medical Index report, a typical family of four insured by the most common employer-sponsored health plan will spend more than $28,000 on healthcare in 2018, with $15,788 paid by the employer; $7,674 via employee payroll deduction; and $4,704 in out-of-pocket expenses. That’s an increase of about $100 per month over the past 10 years!

While it’s impossible to predict how much healthcare will cost in the future, there are a number of strategies that may help reduce the financial burden, whether you’re close to retirement or have many years left to work.

SAVING TIPS FOR EVERYONE
No matter where you are in life, the common sense strategies below may help you save money on healthcare costs.

  • Choose the right provider. Should you go to the ER if you break your arm? Most would say yes, but an urgent care facility may offer the same treatment for $1,000 less. Determining when you need to visit your primary care physician, a specialist, an urgent care provider, or a full-service hospital can play a big role in reducing costs.
  • Cut out unnecessary tests. Under the Affordable Care Act, certain preventative tests will be free if you use an in-network provider. Imaging tests such as MRIs, X-rays, and ultrasounds may still put a dent in your wallet, however. Keep in mind that, in many cases, these procedures aren’t necessary to treat simple aches and pains. If you or a family member suspects a more serious condition that may require one of these tests, visit www.healthcarebluebook.com to compare prices.
  • Buy generic drugs. Most insurance plans have different copayment tiers for various brands of the same drug, including generic, preferred, and non-preferred (the most expensive). Buying generic-brand drugs may be one of the easiest and most effective ways to cut back on your healthcare spending. A great resource for researching lower-priced pharmaceuticals is www.goodrx.com, where you can compare drug prices and find the best deals near you.

PLANNING AHEAD FOR RETIREMENT
Unfortunately, retirement has become synonymous with steep healthcare costs. To help minimize your expenses and make things easier on yourself, here are some tips to consider as you approach retirement:

  • Review your current benefits. As you begin looking into health insurance options, it’s important to have all the information regarding your current policy at the ready. Coverage, deductibles, and benefits change regularly, so be sure you’re up to speed on the details of your plan. Knowing where you stand today will give you a head start in planning for retirement and may help you trim costs.
  • Research supplemental insurance. Medicare is the primary source of health care coverage for Americans age 65 and up. Most retirees qualify for basic Medicare hospital insurance (Part A), which is free. It’s important to note that Medicare medical insurance (Part B), which covers doctors’ services, outpatient hospital care, and other day-to-day medical needs, requires a monthly premium. Although it can be time consuming to review all the options, purchasing private insurance to supplement basic Medicare may help offset expensive premiums. To compare coverage in your state and find insurers that offer the best value, visit www.medicare.gov.
  • Assess your employer’s benefits. Some retired employees receive coverage from their employers instead of through Medicare. Employer-provided retirement benefits are becoming less common, however, so be sure to find out whether your company offers such a plan and if you are eligible.

Retiring early? Look into your options. Since Medicare isn’t available until you reach age 65, consider other possibilities, such as:

  • Joining your spouse’s health care plan
  • Paying to continue your current employer coverage for a specified time under COBRA
  • Purchasing your own personal medical insurance policy
  • Using Veterans Administration benefits (if you are a veteran)

Consider other ways to save. Here are a few more ideas for covering health care costs in retirement:

  • Health savings accounts (HSAs), which may be offered by your employer’s health care plan, allow you to set aside pretax funds to pay for medical care. Contributions are tax-deductible and can be withdrawn tax-free for health care costs. HSAs are portable, allowing you to take them with you if you change jobs, and they can be used for current health care or saved for future use; funds don’t need to be used within a year.
  • Voluntary employees’ beneficiary association (VEBA) plans may be available to school employees, state agency workers, and union members. With a VEBA, your employer contributes money to a trust on your behalf, which you can use to pay for current or future medical expenses.
  • Working part-time is also an option. Many retirees continue working a reduced schedule in order to keep their health insurance benefits.

REFINING YOUR HEALTHCARE STRATEGY
It’s never too early (or too late) to review your personal health care plan. There are many ways to create a cost-effective strategy, and, given the ever-changing health care landscape, it’s wise to be aware of what you can do to reduce your risk and protect your savings.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at valerie@grinkmeyerleonard.com. I’m always happy to help.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/23/heres-how-much-the-average-american-spends-on-health-care.html