Does it Make Sense to Pay Off Your Mortgage Early?

By Thomas Britt

Currently the housing market is booming, thanks to record-low inventory, low interest rates, and high demand, (1) so many of us have houses on the brain. It’s no secret that many joys come along with being a homeowner, but there’s also no denying the hefty price tag. As most of us are unable to purchase a house in full, we are encumbered with a mortgage as soon as we lay down the welcome mat. This debt is unavoidable, so now the question becomes how to handle it moving forward.

The basics regarding debt are common sense: debt reduction is a healthy financial goal (especially when it comes to high-interest debt such as credit cards or student loans), and it’s important to minimize debt for plenty of reasons. But do these principles also apply to mortgages? Is it better to put every extra dollar toward your mortgage or invest that money instead? Like most financial decisions, the answer will depend on your unique situation.

Let’s discuss some pros and cons of each strategy.

The Best Use of Your Funds

If you are considering paying off, or paying extra on your mortgage, we can assume you have extra cash each month, or a lump sum you need to make a decision with. Of course, leaving additional funds sitting in a savings or checking account where you’re earning less than a percent of interest would never make good financial sense. You want your money to work for you, so the question to ask is, “What option will give me the biggest payoff?” Many clients choose the simple comparison between their mortgage rate and the rate of return on their investment or portfolio. However, the decision goes far beyond that. Paying down your mortgage is akin to investing moreinto your home. How will your home’s appreciation compare to that of your portfolio? What role will that appreciation play in your long-term goals?

Like most financial decisions, there are plenty of factors that could affect the outcome. And as we all know, even the best estimates aren’t guaranteed. It is important to run a thorough analysis and consider a variety of factors: the current interest-rate environment, potential taxes on new investments, the loss of mortgage interest deduction (if applicable), your risk tolerance, private mortgage insurance, among the other elements of your financial life. An experienced financial planner can provide the needed guidance and direction when it comes to such a decision.

Weigh Your Options

There are some pros and cons to each choice that go beyond the raw math. Liquidity is a significant pro for investing since you’ll have greater access to the funds in case of an emergency or for your other financial goals. By placing the money toward your mortgage, thereby investing more in your home, your options become more limited. The only way to access those funds would be to sell your house or refinance your mortgage.

The advantages to paying down your mortgage are obvious. The additional cash flow created from the savings can be redirected to your longer-term goals or strengthen your monthly budget once retired. The savings created could also potentially be used to offset your healthcare or long-term care coverage once retired as well.

Is Being Debt-Free Important to You?

Paying off your mortgage can have other non-financial benefits as well. Transitioning into retirement debt-free often provides clients with peace of mind at a time when they are feeling financially vulnerable. Living solely off one’s investments or Social Security can be intimidating, and having one fewer obligation can help with that transition. So while the numbers don’t lie, they often don’t tell the whole story.

It’s Not All or Nothing

So after considering these options, which is the best for you? For some, a combination of these two choices may make the most sense. This could mean adding more money to each mortgage payment to bring down the principal while still putting the bulk of your extra money toward other investments.

Before taking any action, it’s important to take several variables into consideration. And as with any major financial fork in the road, it’s always wise to first consult with a financial planner. So before you pay off your mortgage, we at Benchmark Wealth Management would love to help you evaluate your options. We can provide personalized financial planning advice, and maybe even show you alternative investment strategies you hadn’t considered. After all, our goal is for you to enjoy your home without worry keeping you up at night.

To see if we are the right fit to help you navigate this financial decision—and all the others on the road to your ideal financial future, please call 860.434.6890 or email me at thomas.britt@bwmllc.net to arrange a consultation.

About Thomas

Thomas J. Britt is managing director of Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC, with 20 years of experience in the financial industry. He specializes in executive financial planning, retirement planning, investing, as well as the management of trusts and endowments. Thomas is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) professional and holds the Master Planner Advanced StudiesSM (MPAS®), Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA®), and Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC®) designations. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of New Haven, an MBA in financial technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a Master of Science in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning. He is also a proud veteran of the United States Navy Submarine Force. Learn more about Tom by connecting with him on LinkedIn.

Additional information, including management fees and expenses, is provided on our Form ADV Part 2, available upon request or at the SEC’s Investment Advisor Public Disclosure site, www.adviserinfo.sec.gov/firm/160192

Securities offered by Registered Representatives through Private Client Services, Member FINRA, SIPC in the following states: AZ, CA, CT, FL, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NY, RI, TX. (Securities-related services may not be provided to individuals residing in any state not previously listed) Advisory services offered through Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC a Registered Investment Advisor. Benchmark Wealth Management and Private Client Services are unaffiliated entities.

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(1) https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesrealestatecouncil/2021/03/22/2021-housing-market-trends-what-buyers-need-to-know/?sh=1adaad8c40b3

Do Your Family and Friends Need Our Help? We Now Offer Virtual Meetings!

Helping Freinds and Family With Financial Management

By Richard W. Stout III

Are you tired of hearing the word “unprecedented”? Unfortunately, it’s really the best word to describe what we’ve all lived through this past year. A global pandemic marked by nationwide lockdowns—who could have seen that coming? Political, economic, and social unrest, as well as the stress of adapting to new work schedules and environments…probably not what you expected. Perhaps you or someone you know has experienced a job loss or a change in company structure. After a year of our lives being turned upside down by COVID-19, change and uncertainty have become the norm rather than the exception. To say this is a stressful and confusing time is an understatement.

But the good news is that you have someone on your side who is committed to you, your life, and your finances. No matter what happens, you have us to rely on.

Do your friends and family have this kind of support system?

Guidance in Hard Times

Social distancing and isolation measures have resulted in many of us spending much more time at home with our families. At the same time, we’ve been separated from our extended families and social support systems. This has all served to remind us of the importance of friendship and community and forced us to learn how to be there for each other in new ways. We know that you are not just concerned about yourself, but also your loved ones.

There is a lot of fear in our world right now, and fear can make people do unwise things with their money. Our goal is to see you and those you care about weather this storm with confidence and come out the other side ready to move forward and work toward your goals.

If you have friends or family members who are in need of financial guidance during this stressful time, we’d love to be there for them like we are for you, analyzing and evaluating their financial picture and sharing solutions to help them stay on track to reach their goals despite market turmoil and economic uncertainty.

We Are Here for Your Friends and Family…Virtually

We want to let you know that we at Benchmark Wealth Management are still working and operating our business…just not in the same way as before. Whether you are quarantined, sheltering-in-place, or adhering to social distancing guidelines, you are not alone. If you or your loved ones have any questions or concerns about finances, goals, asset allocation, risk, what the markets are doing, or anything that’s causing financial stress, we are available virtually or in person, if needed. Contact us anytime at 860.434.6890 or email me at richard.stout@bwmllc.net and let your friends and family members know we offer a complimentary introductory meeting!

About Rick

Richard W. Stout III is managing director of Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC, with 25 years of experience in the financial industry. He specializes in financial planning and asset management for individuals, families, and institutions seeking to build and monitor durable and sustainable plans for their financial futures. Rick is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional and holds the Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF®) designation. He has earned a Master of Science degree in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning and holds the Master Planner Advanced StudiesSM (MPAS®). He obtained his MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his BA in economics and anthropology from the University of Connecticut. He also completed the Accredited Wealth Management Advisor (AWM®) program through the Estate and Wealth Strategies Institute at Michigan State University. He has extensive background experience in lending, credit review and analysis, and real estate and partnership management. Learn more about Rick by connecting with him on LinkedIn.

Additional information, including management fees and expenses, is provided on our Form ADV Part 2, available upon request or at the SEC’s Investment Advisor Public Disclosure site, www.iapd.com, searching with our company name or unique identifier, CRD # 160192. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results

Securities offered by Registered Representatives through Private Client Services, Member FINRA, SIPC in the following states: AZ, CA, CT, FL, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NY, RI, TX. (Securities-related services may not be provided to individuals residing in any state not previously listed) Advisory services offered through Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC a Registered Investment Advisor. Benchmark Wealth Management and Private Client Services are unaffiliated entities.

Come See What’s New at Benchmark!

Wealth Managers Discussing What's New at Benchmark Wealth Management

By Richard W. Stout III and Thomas Britt

We are pleased to announce the launch of our updated website, redesigned to offer a fresh focus on who we are and what we do.

Our Why

Our hope is that our redesigned site conveys our commitment to unparalleled service. Providing fiduciary care is the starting point of what we do, and we take this very seriously. But the level of care and attention we give our clients is what we believe truly sets us apart. We love what we stand for and we know from all of you that you do too. We wanted our goal – the delivery of unsurpassed wealth management – front and center on the new site. Did we hit the mark?

We also wanted our mission to come across loud and clear! When you work with a financial planner, you develop a long-term relationship with them that only grows as you weather life’s storms. That means that in addition to highlighting the services we offer, it’s important for visitors to be able to get a sense of who they will be working with and the mission and vision of the firm to ensure that who we are and what we do aligns with their philosophy.

Exciting Features

Our updated site features photography by Kim Tyler of Kim Tyler Photography, who made us look far better than we deserve. We also invite you to check out two featured videos, created by Pat Lore and her team at Headline Productions. The main video provides an overview of our firm, while the second highlights our community involvement, something to which we are firmly committed. Video is a new format for us – let us know what you think!

We’re especially excited about what we hope you’ll find is an interesting new feature in our “Resources” section: recommendations from Rick and Tom on books and podcasts that made them think, sparked new ideas, grabbed their attention, and ones they feel will add value to your life (and they aren’t all about finances)!

The vast majority of prospective clients have no idea that what we provide and deliver exists. We hope that after clicking around our site, meeting the team and watching the videos, a visitor’s interest will be piqued and perhaps a new relationship formed.

We invite you to share our website with friends, family, and coworkers. We truly hope you enjoy what we’ve created and welcome any feedback you’d like to share!Take a live tour now!

About Rick

Richard W. Stout III is managing director of Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC, with 25 years of experience in the financial industry. He specializes in financial planning and asset management for individuals, families, and institutions seeking to build and monitor durable and sustainable plans for their financial futures. Rick is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional and holds the Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF®) designation. He has earned a Master of Science degree in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning and holds the Master Planner Advanced StudiesSM (MPAS®). He obtained his MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his BA in economics and anthropology from the University of Connecticut. He also completed the Accredited Wealth Management Advisor (AWM®) program through the Estate and Wealth Strategies Institute at Michigan State University. He has extensive background experience in lending, credit review and analysis, and real estate and partnership management. Learn more about Rick by connecting with him on LinkedIn.

About Thomas

Thomas J. Britt is managing director of Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC, with 20 years of experience in the financial industry. He specializes in executive financial planning, retirement planning, investing, as well as the management of trusts and endowments. Thomas is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) professional and holds the Master Planner Advanced StudiesSM (MPAS®), Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA®), and Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC®) designations. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of New Haven, an MBA in financial technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a Master of Science in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning. He is also a proud veteran of the United States Navy Submarine Force. Learn more about Tom by connecting with him on LinkedIn.

Additional information, including management fees and expenses, is provided on our Form ADV Part 2, available upon request or at the SEC’s Investment Advisor Public Disclosure site, www.adviserinfo.sec.gov/firm/160192

Securities offered by Registered Representatives through Private Client Services, Member FINRA, SIPC in the following states: AZ, CA, CT, FL, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NY, RI, TX. (Securities-related services may not be provided to individuals residing in any state not previously listed) Advisory services offered through Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC a Registered Investment Advisor. Benchmark Wealth Management and Private Client Services are unaffiliated entities.

Are You Maximizing Your Company’s Benefits Package?

Guide On How to Maximize Your Company's Benefits Package

By Thomas Britt

What’s even better than a steady paycheck? Getting a benefits package from your company in addition to your paycheck!

You likely already know how your company’s benefits package helps you on a day-to-day basis (e.g., health insurance), but you may not be aware of all the ways to maximize everything your employer offers. In fact, if you play your cards right, you can get free money and save on taxes.

Allow me to explain.

Maximize 401(k) Matching

If your employer offers a 401(k) retirement plan with employee matching, definitely take advantage of this benefit. Employee matching is when an employer will match up to a certain percentage of the employee’s overall contribution in addition to what the employee has already saved up. In other words, it is free money that is coming directly out of your employer’s pocket.

For example, if you have $15 million in your portfolio and your employer matches 100% of 3%, then your employer will give you an additional $450,000, making the final total $15.45 million if you choose to cash out your portfolio immediately.

Do not leave free money on the table. Make sure your contributions qualify you for the maximum amount of employer matching, and a little extra if you have wiggle room.

Take Advantage of Health or Flexible Spending Accounts

Health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs) save you money in taxes for everyday needs such as doctors’ appointments, medical care, prescriptions, healthcare for dependents, as well as childcare. When you enroll, money is taken out of your paycheck and put into these special accounts. Not only is this money tax-free to use for qualified expenses, but it will make your annual income appear smaller, resulting in paying less income tax.

For example, if you are single and make at least $250,000 and make the maximum contribution to your FSA ($2,750 for 2020), (1) then you stand to save around $1,113 in taxes. (2)

Opt in to the Life Insurance Option

If your employer offers life insurance below market price, you have nothing to lose by enrolling. In fact, it is a win-win for you. While it is hard to think about what would happen to your family if something were to happen to you, it is vital to have a will or living trust and a life insurance policy to cover the loss of income that would result from your death. You want to make sure your family is able to maintain their lifestyle and expenses when you are gone.

How We Can Help

Your company’s benefits package can make a significant difference in your family’s finances and are an important part of your overall financial plan. We would be happy to meet with you to review what your employer offers to ensure you’re making the most of the benefits available to you. An analysis of your options can help you make the best, most advantageous decision based on your specific circumstances.

Call 860-434-6890 or email me at thomas.britt@bwmllc.net to schedule a review.

About Thomas

Thomas J. Britt is managing director of Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC, with 20 years of experience in the financial industry. He specializes in executive financial planning, retirement planning, investing, as well as the management of trusts and endowments. Thomas is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) professional and holds the Master Planner Advanced StudiesSM (MPAS®), Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA®), and Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC®) designations. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of New Haven, an MBA in financial technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a Master of Science in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning. He is also a proud veteran of the United States Navy Submarine Force. Learn more about Tom by connecting with him on LinkedIn.

Additional information, including management fees and expenses, is provided on our Form ADV Part 2, available upon request or at the SEC’s Investment Advisor Public Disclosure site, www.adviserinfo.sec.gov/firm/160192

Securities offered by Registered Representatives through Private Client Services, Member FINRA, SIPC in the following states: AZ, CA, CT, FL, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NY, RI, TX. (Securities-related services may not be provided to individuals residing in any state not previously listed) Advisory services offered through Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC a Registered Investment Advisor. Benchmark Wealth Management and Private Client Services are unaffiliated entities.

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(1) https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/benefits/Pages/2021-fsa-contribution-cap-and-other-COLAs.aspx

(2) https://www.cigna.com/personal/health-and-well-being/tools/fsa-calculator/

If I Could Only Teach Two Financial Lessons

Family Enjoying Having Learned Two Important Financial Lessons

By Richard W. Stout III

I’ve been in the financial services industry for over 25 years. During that time, I’ve heard my fair share of sound financial advice: maximize employee benefits, pay off credit card debt, manage risks. Although these are wise words to live by, I believe the best financial advice can be summed up in two key lessons: live within your means and save and invest wisely.

1. Live Within Your Means

Spend less than you earn and save the rest. We’ve all heard this adage before, yet we can all agree that it’s easier said than done. Credit cards, loans, and even your savings can make it easy to spend money you don’t have without even realizing it.

But here’s the cold, hard truth: You can’t know if you’re living within your means if you don’t track your cash flow. How much money do you take home every month? How much are you spending? If these two questions have you scratching your head, it’s time to put a budget in place.

Yes, even millionaires need a budget. It’s a foolproof way to make sure you reach your financial goals and stay in control of your money. So, go ahead. Fire up that spreadsheet or download that budgeting app and get to tracking those expenses. Be ruthless and cut out any extra expenses that aren’t important to you. There’s no need to keep up with the Joneses if you don’t even like how the Joneses live in the first place.

If your budget feels too restrictive, look for ways to increase your income. Go after that raise. Start a side hustle. Look for a new job if you have to. Studies show that an employee can see a 10% to 20% bump in salary when they leave a company versus a 3% raise when they stay in their current position. (1)

2. Save and Invest Wisely

When you save and invest wisely, you eventually build enough wealth to achieve financial independence.

Saving wisely means building a three- to six-month emergency fund and keeping the money in a high-yield savings account where it won’t lose value. If you lose your job, need to pay for an unexpected expense, or simply don’t want to withdraw from investments during a down market, you pull from this account. It’s your safety net for when life takes an unexpected turn.

Investing wisely is a bit different. It’s where you harness the power of compound interest and hopefully build real wealth. At Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC, we believe investing shouldn’t be overly complicated. You don’t need to read the latest financial news or follow the hottest stock trends. We believe you just need to:

  1. Create a broadly diversified portfolio of low-cost mutual funds or ETFs.
  2. Choose a proper asset allocation that aligns with your goals, risk tolerance, and timeline.
  3. Automate your investments so you’re not tempted to make decisions on emotion.

For high-net-worth individuals, investing wisely may also mean working with a financial planner. A recent Vanguard study shows that investors who work with a professional see 3% higher net returns than those who don’t. (2) This is because a financial planner can help you lower investing fees, save on taxes, and avoid making emotionally charged decisions.

How We Help

Living within your means and saving and investing wisely may seem like simple advice, but these nuggets of wisdom have the power to revolutionize your financial life if you follow them closely. At Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC, we’re committed to helping you achieve the freedom and peace of mind that comes with true financial security. Whether you need a full-fledged financial plan or just a go-to person to bounce ideas off of, we’re here to guide you every step of the way. Please call 860.434.6890 or email me at richard.stout@bwmllc.net to schedule a consultation.

About Rick

Richard W. Stout III is managing director of Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC, with 25 years of experience in the financial industry. He specializes in financial planning and asset management for individuals, families, and institutions seeking to build and monitor durable and sustainable plans for their financial futures. Rick is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional and holds the Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF®) designation. He has earned a Master of Science degree in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning and holds the Master Planner Advanced StudiesSM (MPAS®). He obtained his MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his BA in economics and anthropology from the University of Connecticut. He also completed the Accredited Wealth Management Advisor (AWM®) program through the Estate and Wealth Strategies Institute at Michigan State University. He has extensive background experience in lending, credit review and analysis, and real estate and partnership management. Learn more about Rick by connecting with him on LinkedIn.

Additional information, including management fees and expenses, is provided on our Form ADV Part 2, available upon request or at the SEC’s Investment Advisor Public Disclosure site, www.iapd.com, searching with our company name or unique identifier, CRD # 160192. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results

Securities offered through Private Client Services, Member FINRA, SIPC in the following states: AZ, CA, CT, FL, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NY, RI, TX. (Securities-related services may not be provided to individuals residing in any state not previously listed) Advisory services offered through Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC a Registered Investment Advisor. Private Client Services is an unaffiliated entity.

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(1) https://www.forbes.com/sites/cameronkeng/2014/06/22/employees-that-stay-in-companies-longer-than-2-years-get-paid-50-less/?sh=671cd434e07f

(2) https://www.vanguard.com/pdf/ISGQVAA.pdf

Happy Holidays From Benchmark Wealth Management

Happy holidays from Benchmark Wealth Management

 

By Thomas Britt

It’s probably safe to say that we will all be happy to wrap up 2020 and embrace 2021 with a renewed sense of positivity and hope. That being said, hardship can also bring opportunities to grow, adapt, and reprioritize what’s most important to you. We believe there are many reasons to be grateful this year, despite the many challenges we have faced.

Look For The Good

Let’s reflect on the good things we’ve experienced in 2020! Our firm had a successful year, welcoming a number of new clients into the Benchmark family. We are grateful to our existing clients who refer friends and family, and we consider this the highest compliment we can receive. We appreciate the opportunity to expand our client base and to share our holistic approach to financial planning and wealth management with those who are new to us.

Market volatility and COVID-19 did cause us a few sleepless nights; however, our emergency preparedness planning and business continuity plan allowed us to provide you with the service you’ve come to rely on without interruption. While we remained in the office, we moved the majority of our client meetings online and will continue to offer this as an option in the coming year. Thank you for your willingness to embrace new technologies. It’s amazing what can be done when we all work together!

We have been working on an updated, refreshed website and look forward to sharing it with everyone at the beginning of the year. We hope that our new site will act as a conduit to financial information and resources you may find helpful and, at the same time, offer you the opportunity to learn more about our philosophy and how we do business.

Thank You For A Wonderful Year!

This year has served to remind us how important human connection is in our daily lives, and we want you to know how much we value our interactions with each and every one of you. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with, and for, you.

We hope that in serving you we have provided your family comfort in knowing that we are here to help whenever you have questions or concerns. We understand that life changes can happen at any moment, and we want you to rest easy knowing that when you need advice, guidance, or simply someone who will listen, we’re here for you.

As we prepare to enter a new year, we look forward to continuing to help you achieve your financial goals in 2021. Here’s wishing you joy and laughter during the holiday season and a happy new year!

Let’s Connect!

If either Rick or I can answer any questions, offer our insight, or if you’d like to review where your finances stand and adjust what to focus on in the coming months, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 860-434-6890 or emailing us directly at thomas.britt@bwmllc.net or richard.stout@bwmllc.net.

We extend our very best wishes to you and yours during the festive season.

About Thomas

Thomas J. Britt is managing director of Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC, with 20 years of experience in the financial industry. He specializes in executive financial planning, retirement planning, investing, as well as the management of trusts and endowments. Thomas is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) professional and holds the Master Planner Advanced StudiesSM (MPAS®), Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA®), and Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC®) designations. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of New Haven, an MBA in financial technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a Master of Science in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning. He is also a proud veteran of the United States Navy Submarine Force. Learn more about Tom by connecting with him on LinkedIn.

Additional information, including management fees and expenses, is provided on our Form ADV Part 2, available upon request or at the SEC’s Investment Advisor Public Disclosure site, www.adviserinfo.sec.gov/firm/160192

Securities offered through Private Client Services, Member FINRA, SIPC in the following states: AZ, CA, CT, FL, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NY, RI, TX. (Securities-related services may not be provided to individuals residing in any state not previously listed) Advisory services offered through Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC a Registered Investment Advisor. Private Client Services is an unaffiliated entity.

Are You Looking for a Fresh Start With Your Financial Plan?

Compass Resting on Financial Planning Document

 

By Richard W. Stout III

If you are looking for a fresh start with your financial plan, you are not alone. 2020 has been a year of reflection, with many investors reconsidering priorities, how well they are prepared for the unexpected, and how they can remove anxiety from their financial lives. What does the loss of a job, an unexpected illness, an unexpected expense, or a historically turbulent stock market mean for your financial plan?

Our clients have living financial plans that permit us to answer these questions, and others, quickly, accurately, and assuredly. Knowing where one stands, both now and well into the future, is a tremendous relief and can assist in dealing with the unknowns we all face. A living financial plan accomplishes this. Here are some important considerations as you review your financial plan and how it is positioned entering 2021.

Is Your Financial Planner a True Fiduciary?

Financial professionals can operate under two sets of standards: the regulation best interest standard and the fiduciary standard. Under the fiduciary standard, financial professionals are required by law to act in their clients’ best interests at all times. The regulation best interest standard, which took effect last June, aimed to elevate the level of transparency between financial professionals, broker-dealers in particular, and their clients. It is a move in the right direction, but the regulation best interest standard is still roomier in terms of its restrictions compared with the fiduciary standard. Do you know if your financial planner is a true fiduciary? You can search the SEC database to find out. If your financial professional’s firm shows up when you search for them using this tool, they are operating as a Registered Investment Advisor and bound by the fiduciary standard.

How Much Are You Paying in Investment Fes?

When was the last time you asked your financial professional about fees? Make sure you understand how much you are paying them to manage your financial plan and your investments supporting your plan. Understand what your investments’ expense ratios are, the existence of any front-end sales loads, and if these expenses include 12-B1 fees. If your financial professional is not operating under the fiduciary standard, are they making recommendations based on your best interest only? Ensure you understand the fees you pay in totality and seek out a second opinion if you are unsure about any of them.

Our Fees and What We Offer

At Benchmark Wealth Management, we believe in transparency. We also believe that a financial planner should only do well when their clients are doing well. That is why we utilize a simple percentage-based fee schedule on assets under management to both create and monitor their financial plan and build an investment portfolio to support it:

Household AssetsAnnual Fee

$1,000,000 and below 1.000%

$1,000,001 – $2,000,000 0.875%

$2,000,001 – $5,000,000 0.750%

$5,000,001 and above Custom pricing

Utilizing this type of approach encourages a transparent and objective partnership with our clients. We are here to help with all your complete planning, investment management, estate, and retirement needs, and we offer compelling value delivered with exceptional service.

Is Your Financial Plan Ready for 2021?

Make sure your financial plan is ready for the unpredictability of 2021 and beyond. With market volatility, election cycle fallout, active global pandemic, unemployment, and business cycle uncertainty, 2021 will likely be another anxious year for investors. Is your financial plan positioned to meet your goals today and throughout your and your loved ones’ lifetime?

Your financial plan’s strength should be built to withstand market corrections, uncertainty, and be based on reasonable assumptions. By addressing those inputs that can be managed, and making conservative, reasonable assumptions for those areas that appear uncontrollable, a living financial plan keeps you on track, reduces the anxiety uncertainty brings, and prevents the reactive decisions that regularly derail proper planning. Good plans do not have a “PANIC” section.

Get Started Now!

Get on track for 2021 with a fresh start to your financial plan by scheduling a meeting with us today. At Benchmark Wealth Management, our goal is to deliver unsurpassed wealth management to our clients. With our commitment to proactive and responsive service, a transparent fee schedule, and a range of service offerings, we’re dedicated to providing the highest levels of service and value our clients deserve. Please call 860.434.6890 or email me at richard.stout@bwmllc.net to schedule a consultation.

About Rick

Richard W. Stout III is managing director of Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC, with 25 years of experience in the financial industry. He specializes in financial planning and asset management for individuals, families, and institutions seeking to build and monitor durable and sustainable plans for their financial futures. Rick is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional and holds the Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF®) designation. He has earned a Master of Science degree in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning and holds the Master Planner Advanced StudiesSM (MPAS®). He obtained his MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his BA in economics and anthropology from the University of Connecticut. He also completed the Accredited Wealth Management Advisor (AWM®) program through the Estate and Wealth Strategies Institute at Michigan State University. He has extensive background experience in lending, credit review and analysis, and real estate and partnership management. Learn more about Rick by connecting with him on LinkedIn.

Additional information, including management fees and expenses, is provided on our Form ADV Part 2, available upon request or at the SEC’s Investment Advisor Public Disclosure site, www.iapd.com, searching with our company name or unique identifier, CRD # 160192. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

Securities offered by Registered Representatives through Private Client Services, Member FINRA, SIPC in the following states: AZ, CA, CT, FL, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NY, RI, TX. (Securities-related services may not be provided to individuals residing in any state not previously listed) Advisory services offered through Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC a Registered Investment Advisor. Benchmark Wealth Management and Private Client Services are unaffiliated entities.

Looking Forward While Giving Back

Two hands reaching out to one another.

 

By Richard W. Stout III and Thomas Britt

At Benchmark Wealth Management, we believe that there is more to wealth than just building it. We have a long history of community involvement and we’ve made the habit of doing good for others part of our business philosophy. We’re fortunate to be able to use our resources and our firm’s influence to make a difference in our community and, in so doing, serve as a catalyst to others. From volunteering time and expertise to making financial contributions, the impact of giving can be substantial and truly create a success that is shared.

Help For The Vulnerable

Benchmark has been a proud supporter of the Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau (LYSB) since our firm’s founding. When COVID-19 shutdowns began, we partnered with them to provide financial support for the most vulnerable residents of Lyme and Old Lyme. Funds raised ensured essential needs such as groceries, fuel, and rental assistance were met. We stand arm in arm with our community in both good times and times of need.

Supporting Our Local Therapeutic Riding Organization

Old Lyme is home to an extremely valued resource in our community, High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, providing beneficial services for those with physical, emotional, and developmental disabilities. As a sponsor of the annual High Hopes Holiday Market, one of their major fundraising events, we are grateful for the opportunity to aid them in raising awareness and funding for their vital programs.

Generosity Is Always Worth It

It’s because of your support of Benchmark Wealth Management that we can give back to our community in such impactful ways. We encourage you to think of ways you can pay it forward to those around you, especially during these trying times. If you want more information about our firm, our role in the community, or how we can help you build charitable giving into your financial plan, we’d love to hear from you. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 860-434-6890 or emailing us directly at thomas.britt@bwmllc.net or richard.stout@bwmllc.net.

Additional information, including management fees and expenses, is provided on our Form ADV Part 2, available upon request or at the SEC’s Investment Advisor Public Disclosure site, www.adviserinfo.sec.gov/firm/160192

Securities offered by Registered Representatives through Private Client Services, Member FINRA, SIPC in the following states: AZ, CA, CT, FL, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NY, RI, TX. (Securities-related services may not be provided to individuals residing in any state not previously listed) Advisory services offered through Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC a Registered Investment Advisor. Benchmark Wealth Management and Private Client Services are unaffiliated entities.

What We Are Thankful for in 2020

What Benchmark Wealth Management is thankfull for in 2020.

 

By Richard W. Stout III

It would be an understatement to say that 2020 has had its fair share of challenges. None of us could have predicted the events that have changed our lives and tried our perseverance. As of right now, the future is still unclear and there may be more obstacles ahead, but we encourage you to use this time of year to take a deep breath, shut out the noise, and celebrate, even if it looks different than usual.

Thriving in Hard Times

As a firm, our core purpose has always been to remove anxiety from the financial lives of our clients. The importance of our mission was made abundantly clear this year, as uncertainty in many aspects of our lives became the norm.

As such, we at Benchmark are very thankful that, despite the tests this year has brought, we were able to stay in close contact with our clientele when it mattered most, using a plethora of methods of communication. While we were not able to conduct in-person meetings, our clients rose to the occasion and embraced technology and virtual connection. We know that nothing compares to face-to-face contact, but we have been pleasantly surprised by how connected we remained and how in touch we continue to feel.

Truly, we are overwhelmed by how understanding you have been and also by how resilient our firm and our business partners have proven themselves to be! Tom, Aileen, Heather, and I strive to regularly communicate our gratitude for your trust and confidence, and never in my career have I felt this gratitude more abundantly. Thank you.

We hope that your Thanksgiving leaves you refreshed and recharged and ready to look forward with hope. Through it all, we at Benchmark Wealth Management are here for you and your family, just a phone call away. Reach out to us at 860.434.6890 or richard.stout@bwmllc.net with your questions, concerns, or just to touch base before the end of the year. Happy Thanksgiving.

About Rick

Richard W. Stout III is managing director of Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC, with 25 years of experience in the financial industry. He specializes in financial planning and asset management for individuals, families, and institutions seeking to build and monitor durable and sustainable plans for their financial futures. Rick is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional and holds the Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF®) designation. He has earned a Master of Science degree in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning and holds the Master Planner Advanced StudiesSM (MPAS®). He obtained his MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his BA in economics and anthropology from the University of Connecticut. He also completed the Accredited Wealth Management Advisor (AWM®) program through the Estate and Wealth Strategies Institute at Michigan State University. He has extensive background experience in lending, credit review and analysis, and real estate and partnership management. Learn more about Rick by connecting with him on LinkedIn.

Additional information, including management fees and expenses, is provided on our Form ADV Part 2, available upon request or at the SEC’s Investment Advisor Public Disclosure site, www.iapd.com, searching with our company name or unique identifier, CRD # 160192. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

Securities offered through Private Client Services, Member FINRA, SIPC in the following states: AZ, CA, CT, FL, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NY, RI, TX. (Securities-related services may not be provided to individuals residing in any state not previously listed) Advisory services offered through Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC a Registered Investment Advisor. Private Client Services is an unaffiliated entity.

Don’t Outlive Your Money: 3 Retirement Budget Tips

Retiree Breaking Piggy Bank to get to make budget.

 

By Thomas Britt

You work day in and day out. Often what keeps you going is the knowledge that one day you’ll finally clock out for good. But rather than eagerly anticipating the golden years of retirement, almost half of all Americans worry about running out of the money they’ve worked so hard to build over the decades. (1) Are you one of them? Even if you’re not, you likely feel the need to be fiscally responsible in retirement in order to avoid problems down the road.

If you want to stay on top of your finances in retirement, a budget is essential—in fact, it’s the foundation of personal financial management. Today let’s discuss three budgeting tips to help boost your confidence and peace of mind as you enter and enjoy retirement.

1. Identify Flexible Spending Categories

As you build your budget, organize it based on needs. Every single expense should be identified as either fixed or variable and essential or non-essential. For example, your housing expenses are likely fixed and essential. Food is essential, but it is a variable expense. A gym or country club membership may be fixed, but it is non-essential. Other forms of leisure or travel are likely variable and non-essential.

Knowing which expenses are necessary and which are flexible can give you incredible peace of mind. If you’re used to spending $8,000 a month, once you sort your expenses and discover that only $4,500 of them are truly necessary, it relieves a lot of pressure.

It also allows you to make wiser financial decisions and adjust better to market conditions. If we enter a bear market and your portfolio is down, you can cut spending back to cover the necessary expenses you identified. Maybe you put off that big trip or eat out less. This can potentially keep more of your money invested so you can be better positioned if and when the market bounces back.

2. Plan For Taxes

Unless all of your money is in an after-tax account or Roth IRA, you will have to deal with taxes in retirement. Having your mortgage paid off before retirement is a common—and excellent—goal. However, don’t make the false assumption that no mortgage equals no payments.

Part of your monthly mortgage payment may be going toward property taxes and homeowners insurance if you escrow. Don’t forget that you still have to pay these bills when your home is fully paid off, and it’s important that these figures be included in your budget. Keep in mind, these numbers will be inflating over time as well. One way to handle property taxes and homeowners insurance in retirement is to set aside money on a monthly basis, just like you did with your mortgage, so that you have the funds when those bills are due.

Property taxes won’t be the only taxes you will owe in retirement. Distributions from 401(k)s and IRA accounts will most likely be considered taxable income. Even your Social Security benefits may be taxable, depending on your overall income. It’s critical that you are withholding and paying the proper taxes so that you don’t get into a large tax bill situation. A competent tax preparer can help you with this.

3. Work With A Professional

I’m not talking about just tax preparers. During retirement, you’ll also want to work with a competent financial planner—it can make the difference between a retirement marked by fear and stress (like the 49% of Americans mentioned previously) and one of confidence.

It isn’t enough to just have a professional help you with your investments during this next stage of life. Yes, it’s wise; but you need a financial professional to not only manage your money but also to help you manage your entire financial life.

We at Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC will help you develop a comprehensive financial plan that includes your short-term and long-term goals, a sustainable budget, and a general road map to help you navigate retirement. To learn more about what it’s like to work with a professional who cares more about your life than your investments, please call 860.434.6890 or email me at thomas.britt@bwmllc.net to arrange a consultation.

About Thomas

Thomas J. Britt is managing director of Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC, with 20 years of experience in the financial industry. He specializes in executive financial planning, retirement planning, investing, as well as the management of trusts and endowments. Thomas is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) professional and holds the Master Planner Advanced StudiesSM (MPAS®), Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA®), and Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC®) designations. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of New Haven, an MBA in financial technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a Master of Science in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning. He is also a proud veteran of the United States Navy Submarine Force. Learn more about Tom by connecting with him on LinkedIn.

Additional information, including management fees and expenses, is provided on our Form ADV Part 2, available upon request or at the SEC’s Investment Advisor Public Disclosure site, www.adviserinfo.sec.gov/firm/160192

Securities offered through Private Client Services, Member FINRA, SIPC in the following states: AZ, CA, CT, FL, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NY, RI, TX. (Securities-related services may not be provided to individuals residing in any state not previously listed) Advisory services offered through Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC a Registered Investment Advisor. Private Client Services is an unaffiliated entity.

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(1) https://www.aarp.org/retirement/planning-for-retirement/info-2019/retirees-fear-losing-money.html