Financial habits to adopt this year

Monday, January 7, 2013
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It's never too late to change your financial habits for the better. Here are eight things to keep in mind for 2013 and beyond:

1. Meet with your financial adviser each year for a thorough review of your investments. "Though we recommend always investing for the long term, it's important to address mistakes quickly," notes Cheryl Mothes, a financial adviser with Edward Jones in Jackson. "As a part of the review, identify your goals for saving and investing and determine how you can achieve those goals with the help of your adviser."

2. Make sure all of your beneficiaries are in place and up to date.

3. Calculate and plan for your fixed income expenses, then look at ways to generate income from your retirement money. Clay Hahs, managing director for Northwestern Mutual -- The Hahs Group, says annuities are one way to help guarantee income over a long period of time. However, they can be complex and expensive, so it's wise to to consider all the options and seek advice from a professional.

"There may be some hidden fees and features," says Hahs. "I believe it's important to not simply take the first annuity that's presented to you, but look at the expenses of those annuities and make sure you've got a stable company with a good track record and competitive expenses. You don't want the most expensive, and you don't want the cheapest. Make sure the annuity company or insurance company has a strong financial rating. Those ratings are public and can be obtained from consumer reports, on the Internet or from an adviser representing the company."

4. Consider long-term care insurance. Medicare won't pay a majority of the cost for long-term care, says Hahs. If you or your spouse eventually need long-term care, the last thing you want to do is spend all your retirement money on nursing home care.

5. Check that all your investments are secure. Hahs recommends evaluating your risk tolerance to make sure any investments you still have in the market are balanced with your risk tolerance.

In other words, you and your adviser should look to maintain what you have: if you've held some assets for a long time, you may need to review them and make sure they're not in risky stocks.

"If one of your goals is to invest more, stick with quality investments, make sure you're well diversified and understand that quality stocks have historically outperformed quality bonds," adds Mothes. "With all of the uncertainty and 'bad news' that's always abundant, focus on what you can control: how your investments are positioned and how much you can add to them. We can't control the stock market or interest rates, but we can control our behavior as investors."

6. Sort out charitable contributions. "If one of your goals is to leave a legacy in the form of charitable donations, work with your adviser and attorney to update your legal documents," says Mothes.

7. Don't let your guard down. Financial exploitation of seniors is common, says Mothes.

"Due to their wealth, and the fact that many seniors were raised to be polite and trusting (and are less likely to report fraud), they are prone to scam artists," says Mothes. "We also see family members or friends taking advantage of seniors, and senior women who live alone are nearly twice as likely to be victims as men."

8. Save more money. Financial advisers work with clients of all ages and financial situations. Hahs starts by doing a personal planning analysis with new clients to learn what planning they've done so far and identify their financial goals. "It's never too late to start saving if you do it smart," he adds.

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