Seidner Announces New Fund to Help Most Vulnerable Residents in Lyme, Old Lyme; All Donations up to $10K to be Matched by Benchmark Wealth Management

Benchmark Wealth Management announces plan to match all donations for New Fund to Help Most Vulnerable Residents in Lyme, Old Lymem Connecticut up to $10k.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new charitable fund has been established to provide financial support to the most vulnerable residents of Lyme and Old Lyme. The Lyme-Old Lyme Coronavirus Relief Fund will be managed by the Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau (LYSB), in partnership with the Social Services Departments of the two towns. Early donations have already been put to good use helping vulnerable citizens in both communities with essential needs such as groceries, fuel, diapers and assistance with rent.

Shortly after the fund was established, Benchmark Wealth Management announced it would match all donations on a one-to-one basis up to a total of $10,000. Asked by email why Benchmark had decided to make such a generous donation, Rick Stout responded, “Tom [Britt] and I live in Old Lyme and have raised our families in the Lyme-Old Lyme community. Doing good is a tenet of our business philosophy.” Stout and Britt are the partners of the company.

Stout continued, “Current events will impact everyone, so where and when we can help, Benchmark is committed to doing so,” noting, “Additionally, we are actively supporting area businesses and nonprofits and their employees personally. Small businesses and their employees, nonprofits, the self-employed and everyone working in the gig or tip-dependent economy is facing great uncertainty.”

He concluded, “Benchmark hopes to spur donations by those who are in a position to do so with our donation and challenge.”

All donations are tax deductible and can be made online at www.lysb.org/covid19.

Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau Director Mary Seidner comments, “Our communities are working together in unprecedented ways, and it is the hope that this fund will support our vulnerable residents on a path toward stability and recovery.”

Donors or residents with questions are encouraged to contact Seidner at mseidner@lysb.org or 860-434-7208.

Editor’s Note: Benchmark Wealth Management is located at 83 Halls Rd., Ste. 201, PO Box 525, Old Lyme CT 06371. For further information, call 860-434-6890.

What You Need to Know About Recessions and Bear Markets

Bear representing bear financial markets

As global markets continue their roller coaster ride due to fears surrounding the coronavirus, our most recent bull market officially turned into a bear market. But what does that mean? And are we on the verge of another recession like the one we had in 2008?

In light of all these concerns, today we’ll share what you need to know about recessions and bear markets. If you are worried about your portfolio, we understand and we’re here to help. Feel free to contact our office to get answers to your specific questions.

What Is A Bear Market?

A bear market happens when an overall market benchmark, such as the S&P 500, dips by 20% or more from its most recent high. (1) This is often accompanied by negative investor sentiment and more selling than buying.

It’s important to highlight that normal stock market volatility isn’t an indicator of a bear market. Normal dips and swings are necessary for long-term growth and shouldn’t be cause for concern.

What Is A Recession?

A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of economic decline (emphasis on the word economic). They’re measured using factors such as the employment rate, gross domestic product, bond yield curves, and other factors independent of the stock market. (2)

Economists declare recessions retroactively. For example, the Great Recession wasn’t confirmed until November 2008—11 months after it started. (3)

Bear Markets Vs. Recessions: How Are They Related?

A bear market relates to the stock market. A recession relates to the economy. Contrary to popular belief, the stock market is not the economy. What drives the stock market is investor emotions—which, as we all know, can be fickle. As humans, we have a tendency to be overly optimistic when there’s no data to support our feelings, and pessimistic when data looks great.

Recessions are the complete opposite. Tangible factors determine the state of our economy. There’s no emotion involved. Which begs the question: Why do people correlate recessions and bear markets?

If you look back on history, recessions and bear markets have usually occurred around the same time. Of the last 11 S&P 500 bear markets we’ve had since 1957, 63.6% came after a recession. (4) The two go hand in hand, but they’re not the same.

Not even highly educated economists can predict a bear market or recession. There’s a lot of speculation that goes on in the news, but it’s just that—speculation.

What Should Investors Do?

The best thing to do as a long-term investor is to find an optimal portfolio that balances your comfortable level of risk and return. The actions you take in the stock market should be independent of whether economists think we’re entering a bear market or recession.

And as many financial experts have advised: Your 401(k) right now is like your face: Don’t touch it. Selling due to fear when the market is down locks in your losses and can do long-term damage to your financial future.

Speak with Your Financial Planner

Whether you’re new to investing or an experienced investor, it’s helpful to consult with an objective third party during times like this. Human nature causes us all to act out of emotion when our accounts go down. As an independent firm, we put your best interests first. We seek to serve as a support system for our clients, helping them make informed financial decisions that are not driven by emotion.

We’re Here for Your Friends and Family

If you have friends or family who need help with their investments, we are happy to offer a complimentary portfolio review and recommendations. We can discuss what is appropriate for their immediate needs and long-term objectives. Sometimes simply speaking with a financial advisor may help investors feel more confident and less concerned with the most recent market activity

The views expressed represent the opinions of Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC (“Benchmark”) and are subject to change. These views are not intended as a forecast, a guarantee of future results, investment recommendation, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. The information provided is of a general nature and should not be construed as investment advice or to provide any investment, tax, financial or legal advice or service to any person.

Additional information, including management fees and expenses, is provided on Benchmark’s Form ADV Part 2, which is available at https://adviserinfo.sec.gov/firm/summary/160192.

Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

Securities offered through Private Client Services, Member FINRA, SIPC in the following states: AR, CA, CT, FL, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, RI, TN, WA. (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.

_______________

(1) https://www.investopedia.com/a-history-of-bear-markets-4582652

(2) https://www.bankrate.com/personal-finance/smart-money/watch-these-indicators-know-when-recession-could-be-coming/

(3) https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/08/19/recession-what-does-mean-and-what-like/2030642001/

(4) https://dqydj.com/relationship-bear-markets-recession/

 

Your 2020 Social Security Guide

Couple enjoying social security in their retirement

By Richard W. Stout III

The number of Americans retiring has nearly doubled in the past 20 years with 10,000 people a day reaching age 65. (1) Are you getting close to that milestone too?

If retirement is on the horizon for you, then Social Security is probably on your mind. Over 48 million people received Social Security retirement benefits this January, (2) and no matter how much you have in savings, Social Security is no doubt an important piece of your financial future. That’s why it’s crucial for you to have a solid understanding of how your benefits work, especially because there are a number of decisions you will have to make regarding Social Security that can have a great impact on how much you will receive.

In this guide, we will answer the five biggest questions that everyone has about Social Security and discuss how to maximize your benefits.

How Are Social Security Benefits Calculated?

Your Social Security benefits are calculated based on lifetime earnings. The Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates your benefit based on your 35 highest earning years, with a minimum of 10 years of work required to be eligible for benefits. If you have worked less than 35 years, then your earnings will be calculated with zeros for the remaining years. All past wages are indexed to today’s wages in order to accurately reflect wage growth.

Once your average monthly earnings for your top 35 years are calculated, a special formula is applied and the result is your primary insurance amount (PIA). The PIA is the benefit you are eligible to receive when you reach full retirement age (FRA).

The actual benefit that you receive may not be your PIA. Your PIA will be increased or decreased depending on when you choose to begin receiving benefits. Taking benefits before FRA will reduce your benefit and waiting until after FRA will increase your monthly benefit. Also, starting at age 62, your eligible benefits will receive regular cost-of-living adjustments.

Spousal Benefits

Married people are eligible for benefits based on their spouse’s work history. The spousal benefit is 50% of the working spouse’s earned benefit. In order to receive these benefits, the working spouse must be at least 62 and have already filed for benefits.

If you are divorced, you may also be eligible to receive spousal benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work history. Your marriage needs to have lasted at least 10 years, you must be divorced for at least two years, and you must still be single. In addition, you need to be at least 62 and not eligible for higher benefits based on your own work record. Unlike spousal benefits for married people, your ex-spouse does not need to have filed for benefits in order for you to claim them.

When Can Social Security Benefits Be Claimed?

You can claim your Social Security benefits anytime between age 62 and age 70. However, when you choose to collect benefits will impact the amount of benefit you receive.

Early Retirement

You can start receiving benefits as early as 62 but your monthly benefit will be lower than if you waited longer. Your basic benefit is reduced a fraction of a percent for each month you begin receiving benefits prior to full retirement age. Retiring early can permanently reduce your benefit by up to 30%.

Full Retirement Age

Your full retirement age (FRA) changes based on the year you were born. FRA is 66 for those born between 1943 and 1954 and increases by two months for every year after that you were born until it settles at age 67 for those born in 1960 or later. If you wait until you reach full retirement age to begin collecting your Social Security benefits, you will receive the full PIA that you have earned.

Delayed Benefits

If you’re still working or don’t need the money immediately, you can delay receiving your benefits. Your benefit will increase by 8% for each year that you delay, with a maximum possible increase of 32%. You cannot delay and increase your benefit indefinitely, though. Once you reach age 70, you are required to file for benefits and can no longer increase your benefit by waiting.

When Is the Best Time to Claim Social Security Benefits?

While you are working, you can increase your future Social Security benefits by earning higher wages. Once you stop working, though, the only influence you have over your benefit is when you begin to take it. Your timing has a great impact on the amount of the benefit you will receive and should be carefully considered.

Social Security Statement

An important document that you will reference during the decision-making process is your Social Security statement. The SSA mails these statements out from time to time, but you can also access the same information by setting up an account on their website.

The statement will tell you your:

  • Estimated benefit if taken at age 62
  • Estimated benefit if taken at FRA
  • Estimated benefit if taken at age 70
  • Estimated disability benefit
  • Estimated family and survivor benefits
  • Medicare information
  • Earnings history

All benefit amounts listed are estimates and subject to change. They are calculated based on your date of birth and future estimated taxable earnings.

It is important for you to review your earnings history and check for accuracy. Your benefit is calculated based on those numbers, so any mistakes can affect your benefits. You should correct any errors as soon as possible.

Deciding When to Claim Benefits

Your Social Security benefits are calculated using complex actuarial equations based on life expectancy and estimated rates of return. They are not designed to encourage early or late retirement. If you live as long as anticipated, the total amount you receive over your lifetime should be about the same whether you claim it at age 62, age 70, or sometime in between. You will either receive the money as a smaller monthly payment over a longer period of time or a larger monthly payment over a shorter period of time.

The best time for you to claim your benefits depends on your personal situation and health. If you expect to live longer than average, your overall lifetime benefit will be greater if you delay claiming your benefits to increase your benefit amount. If the opposite is true and you see little chance of making it into your mid-80s, you would receive a greater lifetime benefit by taking it sooner, even though it would be a smaller monthly payment.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/Aj7uWpk_v1HAJY-mQqj0LFjDbBeXdiEtnTfLknEZ0F7oHkEIKaVDFLAjDn_LGPVRxg5Prw1qRRALM0-m5I0Rv6mKr5BbmnRv237EhCCT7EXwDccPwNJV0nUPQ_vhaPXtlqxZpqhB

Once you decide when you want to start receiving benefits, remember to complete your application three months before the month in which you want your retirement benefits to begin.

How Can Married Couples Maximize Benefits?

Because married people have the ability to receive their own benefit or a spousal benefit, they have more to consider when filing for benefits. With the right strategy, married couples can maximize their benefits.

In the majority of cases, the lower-earning spouse should begin collecting benefits early while the higher-earning spouse waits as long as possible. That way, you can access the lesser benefit while maximizing the higher benefit.

Often, it is the husband with the higher benefit and the wife with the lower one. Women also tend to live longer than men. By following this strategy of waiting as long as possible to claim the higher benefit, you not only maximize the husband’s retirement benefit for use while he is alive, but it also maximizes the wife’s survivor benefit when he passes away.

Restricted Application

While it used to be a popular claiming strategy, the Restricted Application is now only available to those who turned 62 before January 1, 2016. If you were born before 1954, you can receive a spousal benefit at FRA even if your spouse is not collecting benefits. That way, you can begin to receive spousal benefits even while letting your spouse’s regular benefit continue to grow until age 70.

How Does Working Affect Benefits?

Working does not affect your benefits once you reach FRA, but it does before that. Only earned income, such as wages and self-employment earnings, affect your Social Security benefits. Income from investments, pensions, and annuities do not affect Social Security benefits.

When you are under FRA for the whole year, your Social Security benefit is reduced by $1 for every $2 you earn over $18,240. In the year that you reach FRA, your benefit is reduced by $1 for every $3 you earn over $48,600. Once you reach FRA, your benefit is no longer reduced no matter how much you earn.

Work With an Experienced Professional

If you already have a solid nest egg, you may think you can just ignore Social Security benefits or claim them whenever you want because you don’t need the money to live on. But remember, you earned this benefit by paying into the system and you can put it to good use, even if it’s not going toward paying your bills.

Think about it this way: Social Security is a guaranteed income stream that could pay out more than $1 million over your lifetime. Because of the significance and complexity of this decision, it is a good idea to consult with a financial professional before beginning the process.

Strategizing with an experienced financial planner will give you confidence knowing that you are doing everything you can to maximize your benefit. It is also important to take into account how Social Security fits into your overall retirement plan and goals. Our team at Benchmark Wealth Management is here to help. Call 860.434.6890 or send me an email at richard.stout@bwmllc.net to get started on making the most of the resources available to you.

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: AR, CA, CT, FL, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, RI, TN, WA. (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.

_______________

(1) https://finance.yahoo.com/news/americans-retiring-increasing-pace-145837368.html

(2) https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/quickfacts/stat_snapshot/

What Should You Do About the Coronavirus and Stock Market Volatility?

Coronavirus and stock market volatility

The financial markets took a big dip early this week over fears about the spreading coronavirus, erasing gains from earlier this year. After the Dow lost over 800 points on Tuesday, it was down a total of 1,900 points in two days.

Investors are understandably nervous about their money and their health. If you are worried about your portfolio, you’re not alone. But during stock market volatility, it’s important to keep a level head to avoid financial mistakes.

Stay Calm

At times like these, it’s important to put current conditions into perspective. This is not the first time the market has taken a tumble and it won’t be the last. Declines in the Dow Jones Industrial Average are actually fairly regular events. In fact, drops of 10% or more happen about once a year on average.

Keep an Eye on the Situation

We simply do not have enough information yet to know how the coronavirus will impact the economy in the short and long term. It’s possible that the virus will soon be well-contained, and the markets will recover. But it is also possible that the virus will spread and impact global markets, which would lead to a full correction or even a longer-term recession.

It’s important to remember that markets dislike uncertainty. With so much uncertainty over how fast the virus could spread and the potential impacts, volatility right now is extreme. As we get more information, it is likely that day-to-day market fluctuations will decrease.

Play Dead

There’s an old saying that the best thing to do when you meet a bear market is the same as if you were to meet a bear in the woods: play dead. While easier said than done, successful long-term investors know that it’s important to stay calm during a market correction. We don’t know yet whether the coronavirus fears will translate into an official correction, but the risk always exists.

Market volatility has increased in recent years and the media can often make it seem like each episode is worse than the one before. In reality, volatility does not hurt investors, but selling when the market is down will lock in losses.

Remember That Your Portfolio is Diversified

We understand that volatility and market declines are stressful. However, we encourage you to keep in mind that while the stock market may be down significantly, your portfolio is made up of both stocks, bonds, and other assets that are designed to work together to decrease overall losses. It’s important to consider your specific portfolio, investment horizon, and circumstances when reflecting on economic events. If you have questions about your portfolio, get in touch with our office.

Review Your 401(k) and Other Accounts

Now is a good time to take a look at all of your investment accounts, including your 401(k) to make sure it is well-diversified. If you have not reviewed the investment accounts that we do not manage, get in touch with our office and we’ll take a look and offer recommendations to minimize potential losses.

Speak with Your Advisor

Whether you’re new to investing or an experienced investor, it’s helpful to consult with an objective third party. Human nature causes us all to act out of emotion when our accounts go down. As an independent firm, we put your best interests first. We seek to serve as a support system for our clients, helping them make informed financial decisions that aren’t driven solely by emotion.

We’re Here for Your Friends and Family

If you have friends or family who need help with their investments, we are happy to offer a complimentary portfolio review and recommendations. We can discuss what is appropriate for their immediate needs and long-term objectives. Sometimes, simply speaking with a financial advisor may help investors feel more confident and less concerned with the day-to-day market activity.

Disclosures

The views expressed represent the opinions of Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC (“Benchmark”) and are subject to change. These views are not intended as a forecast, a guarantee of future results, investment recommendation, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. The information provided is of a general nature and should not be construed as investment advice or to provide any investment, tax, financial or legal advice or service to any person.Additional information, including management fees and expenses, is provided on Benchmark’s Form ADV Part 2, which is available at https://adviserinfo.sec.gov/firm/summary/160192.

What to Do During Market Volatility

Man pondering what to do while looking at chart of stock market volatility

By Thomas Britt

Remember the good old days of 2017 when market volatility was historically low and you weren’t all that worried about your investments? With all the volatility we’ve experienced since then, the peaceful days of 2017 probably seem like a lifetime ago. If you’ve found yourself gritting your teeth or wringing your hands, it’s not without cause.

Between regular market ups and downs and global and political events like the upcoming election and the quickly spreading coronavirus, volatility has become the norm. But rather than fear ups and downs, do what you can to prepare for them. Here are a few things to keep in mind that will help you prepare for the next market downturn, whenever it comes.

Control Your Emotions

First, let’s talk about what you shouldn’t do. One of the most important rules in investing is to refrain from making emotional decisions. Multiple studies have analyzed how our emotions affect our investing results, especially when we chase above-average returns. A 2018 DALBAR study revealed that investors’ decisions were the biggest reason for underperformance. (1) Simply put, behavioral biases lead to poor investment decision-making.

You also don’t want to start making major changes to your account in anticipation of a downturn. Erring too much on the side of caution too many years ahead of retirement may prevent you from gaining the potential returns you need to retire on your terms. For example, in a panic, some investors may sell stocks and pursue safer investments like annuities, bonds, and cash.

Instead, relying on an experienced professional to help you understand your options and control the risk you take with your retirement money will allow you to react unemotionally to a rising and falling stock market—instead of guessing what to do next.

Diversify Your Investments

In the 1990s, investors placed their money heavily into the early e-commerce sites, and when that bubble burst, it birthed what is now famously known as The Dotcom Crash. (2) When people were losing faith in the stock market, they looked at real estate as well as their own homes as the place to focus their sights (and money) on. However, the constant speculation and unsustainable rise in home values eventually led to the Housing Market Crash of 2008, (3) and eventually bled into the Great Recession. If history teaches us anything, you never want to put all of your eggs in one basket as it’s never a guarantee that the basket will never fall.

Instead, diversify your portfolio with a combination of different investment sources. Modify your portfolio to include stocks of varying risk levels (safe, moderate, and high risk), and spread your money out between stocks, bonds, funds, and investments in different sectors. This way, you can minimize the impact that any one losing investment can have on your overall portfolio performance.

Diversify Your Income

Economic downturns often go hand in hand with job instability. So, in addition to diversifying your investments, consider diversifying your income sources as well. Besides your salary, consider where other sources of income can and will be coming from. This might mean investing in rental real estate or other income-producing investments such as higher-yielding stocks and bonds, picking up a side job, starting your own small business, or making money online. The more diversified your income, the safer you’ll be.

Prioritize Your Emergency Fund

This strategy is all about preserving the wealth you’ve accumulated to this point. While cash investments may not provide a lot of growth, having a cash contingency fund with at least 6 months of living expenses will protect you against having to sell investments at low values to free up cash. Examine spending patterns and find ways to tuck away even more into cash or cash equivalents, such as short-term bonds, certificates of deposit, or Treasury bills.

Don’t Go it Alone

The only long-term guarantee in investing is that there will be short-term fluctuations. We’ll experience bear and bull markets in the decades ahead just as we have in the past decades. Rather than fear change, focus on preparing for it.

Are you ready to see all your options for protecting your money and setting it up to succeed in any market environment? At Benchmark Wealth Management, we would love to start that conversation and answer any questions you may have. Please call 860.434.6890 or email me at thomas.britt@bwmllc.net to schedule 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: AR, CA, CT, FL, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, RI, TN, WA. (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.

____________

(1) https://www.gurufocus.com/news/666966/the-average-investor-underperforms-what-you-can-do-to-avoid-this

(2) https://www.investopedia.com/features/crashes/crashes8.asp

(3) https://www.investopedia.com/features/crashes/crashes9.asp

Jump-Start Your Financial Plan For 2020!

Jump starting a financial plan

By Thomas Britt

It’s not only the start of a new year, but also a new decade! That probably means you’re feeling more motivated than ever to make some positive changes and set healthy habits for your life. But whether you want to decrease your screen time, invest in your family, or start a new exercise routine, it’s not going to happen unless you make a plan. Your good intentions need to be coupled with practical steps in a realistic time frame or you’ll give up just as you get started.

And since finance-related resolutions consistently fall in the top five most popular New Year’s resolutions, (1) we wanted to make it easy for you to take action on your financial goals by giving you 5 ways to jump-start your finances in 2020!

1. Learn From the Past

Before diving deep into the details, take a moment to get a big picture of your finances. Have you picked up some less-than-stellar spending habits? Do you feel regret at how you’ve spent your money or neglected to save? Are there certain areas you excel in? Whatever your financial life has looked like in the past, don’t let your mistakes keep you from moving forward. Instead of dwelling on what you wish you could have done differently, learn from your mistakes, reflecting on what worked and what didn’t. Then take your newfound insight and wisdom and move forward. Take stock of your current financial situation, including income, savings, debt, and expenses, and decide what you want them to look like in both the short term and long term.

2. Banish Debt

If you are ready to start conquering your goals, one of the first steps you need to take is to eliminate debt. When you pay 10-30% interest on any number of credit cards or loans, you limit the amount of money you have available to put toward your goals, whether that’s maximizing your retirement account or going on a dream vacation. Become relentless about reducing your debt and interest costs, and consolidate accounts where you can.

If you have a loan with a significantly higher interest rate than the others, you may want to work on paying off that one first. Or, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by debt, try paying off the loan with the smallest balance first, no matter the interest rate, to gain some momentum. Use a debt calculator to calculate out how long it will take to pay off your debt, then build extra payments into your monthly budget so you aren’t tempted to spend that money elsewhere.

Creating an emergency fund can help you avoid accumulating more debt. By setting up a liquid, easily accessible savings account, you won’t have to rely on debt to cover those inevitable life expenses, such as home repairs or medical bills. Create this cash cushion by putting aside money from each paycheck until you have enough to cover approximately three to six months’ worth of living expenses. You will never regret having an emergency fund at the ready.

3. Make a Savings Plan

If you aren’t already saving for your future, the sooner you start, the better. And if you’re already saving, find ways to save more by cutting back on expenses, channeling a healthy percentage of any raises and bonuses directly to savings, and automating savings increases of 1% of your paycheck every few months. It may not seem like you are making much of an impact, but every dollar helps. Your increased savings can be invested into your company 401(k) or 403(b) plan or your personal IRA.

Then watch the magic of compound interest grow your money over time as you earn interest not just on your principal but your interest as well, making your money work smarter rather than harder as you pursue your goals.

4. Invest With Purpose

On the savings note, make sure you’re investing your hard-earned money properly. Anyone can close their eyes and pick a random mix of mutual funds to invest in, but having a customized retirement plan based on your circumstances, goals, and risk level is what will get you from point A to point B. Asset allocation is the most critical investment decision you can make, especially in our current volatile market.

Work with a financial professional to determine your risk tolerance level and create an investment strategy that will give your portfolio a clear sense of purpose. It’s also critical to rebalance on occasion to ensure your portfolio is still aligned with your goals and time horizon.

5. Join Forces With a Financial Professional

Whatever your situation, whatever your goals, a financial professional can walk you through each of these steps to get your financial plan in shape. You’re much more likely to make your New Year’s resolution a reality if you have a concrete plan in place. At Benchmark Wealth Management, we believe that a strong planning process is the best way to create a more financially secure plan. If you want our help to create a customized, detailed blueprint of what you need to do to meet your goals, 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: AR, CA, CT, FL, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, RI, TN, WA. (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.

________________

(1) https://vitagene.com/blog/most-popular-2019-new-years-resolution/

Are You Ready for a New Year? 5 Steps to Take Before You Say Hello to 2020

Clock running out of time on taking advantage of financial moves before year end

By Richard W. Stout III

A new year is almost upon us and it’s all too easy to mentally jump ahead to 2020 and start making plans for the coming months. But how you finish something is just as important as how you start it. So, amid holiday events, travel, and the busyness of the season, give yourself a leg up on next year’s financial goals by crossing these 5 things off your year-end checklist.

1. Celebrate Victories and Set New Goals

Chances are, you set some financial goals for the year when you rung in 2019. Have you checked in on those goals throughout the year or did they get swept under the rug? Take a look at the past year to mark how far you’ve come and celebrate your progress, no matter how small! Then evaluate your saving and spending from the past year, set some new goals, and adjust your financial plan, taking into account any life changes such as marriage, relocation, or a job change.

2. Invest in Your Future

If possible, max out your contributions to your 401(k) by the end of the year to make the most of your retirement savings. For 2019, you can contribute as much as $19,000 (or $25,000 if you are age 50 or older). Remember, these are your contribution limits and any employer match would be in addition to this. You might also consider contributing to a Roth IRA. For 2019, you can contribute as much as $6,000 (or $7,000 if you are age 50 or older). Finish the year strong by investing in your future!

3. Take Advantage of Your Employer Benefits

While every employer has different rules that apply to the benefits they offer their employees, many benefits expire or reset at the end of the year. You work hard for these perks, so be sure to use them!

Medical and Dental Benefits

At the beginning of 2019, did you have good intentions of taking care of some dental work, blood tests, or other medical procedures lingering on your to-do list? Now’s the time to take advantage of all your healthcare needs before your deductible resets. Dental plans in particular often have a maximum coverage amount. If you haven’t used up the full amount and anticipate any treatments, make it a priority to set an appointment before December 31st.

Flexible Spending Account

Like your health insurance benefits, you’ll want to use up as much of your FSA (Flexible Spending Account) dollars by the end of the year as possible. You are only allowed to carry over $500 to the next plan year. Check the restrictions on your account to see what the money can and cannot be used for and take care of any needs you may have as allowed by your plan

Sick and Vacation Time

Depending on your company, your sick or vacation time might expire at the end of the year. Check with your HR department to learn about any expiration dates. If it does expire, fit in a last-minute vacation or even a staycation. If you need to make any trips to the doctor in the near future, schedule those appointments now to make use of these benefits before you lose them.

4. Make Some Updates

To your estate plan and insurance coverage, that is. If you have taken the time and energy to create an estate plan, you’ll want to check in periodically to ensure all the documents are up to date and no major details have changed. Any significant life event is a good time to think about updating your estate plan documents. If you change any of the beneficiaries in one place, such as a life insurance policy, make sure that they are consistent with the other documents so that there is no confusion.

Your insurance needs may have changed as the year has gone on, which is why it’s important to regularly review your insurance coverages and your designated beneficiaries to make sure they are up to date and reflect your current financial situation. For example, if you’ve paid off debt and your youngest child has just graduated from college, you may not need as much life insurance coverage since your family’s needs and liabilities have decreased. You might also want to evaluate your need for other types of insurance you may not currently have, such as long-term care insurance.

5. End the Year on a Generous Note

If gifting is one of your long-term financial goals, it’s never too early to start planning for the legacy you want to leave your loved ones without sharing a good portion of it with Uncle Sam.

Each year you can gift up to $15,000 to as many people as you wish without those gifts counting against your lifetime exemption of $11.4 million. If you’ve yet to gift this year or haven’t reached the $15,000 limit for a particular recipient, make sure you do this by December 31st.

If you’re planning to itemize deductions on your 2019 tax return, be sure to make your charitable contributions before the end of the year. This includes donating appreciated securities, which may help you avoid paying taxes on the gains. Along with your other tax documents, find and organize any receipts you have from donations to charities, whether made in cash, as a securities contribution, or other type of gift.

Let’s Finish 2019 Strong!

Which of these steps do you need to take before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve? The team at Benchmark Wealth Management would love to help you finish the year off strong and set you up for a successful 2020. If we are currently working together, know that I appreciate your trust. If you are interested in learning more about how I work, who I serve, and how I may be able to assist you, I encourage you to reach out. Please call 860.434.6890 or email me at richard.stout@bwmllc.net and let’s discuss ways we can work together to make 2020 your best year yet!

About Rick

Richard W. Stout III is managing director of Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC, with 23 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™ (CFP®) professional. He has earned a Master of Science degree in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning. 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 (AIF®) 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: AR, CA, CT, FL, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, RI, TN, WA. (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

What We Do And How We Can Help

Financial player strategizing their financial plan

By Richard W. Stout III and Thomas Britt

You don’t have to look far to find financial advice or so-called proven formulas that promise to bring you financial success. And while there’s plenty of general advice you would be wise to take, your finances don’t exist in a bubble. They are an extension of you, your values, your dreams, and your life circumstances; as such, they deserve a personal touch.

That’s where we come in. At Benchmark Wealth Management, the driving force behind all we do is to offer financial planning and investment advice that is independent, highly personalized, and specifically tailored to your needs.

What We Do

In a nutshell, we work with our clients and their families to address all aspects of wealth management. If you need help reducing taxes, we’ve got you covered. If you are worried about how volatile markets could affect your retirement, we can help. And if you want to create a secure estate plan, we’ll get you started.

In other words, we act as your family’s Chief Financial Officer, your go-to resource when questions, issues, or worries arise. We don’t just invest your money and call it a day. We take a holistic approach that extends far beyond planning and investment advice.

Like a family office, we offer highly personalized, almost limitless services to our clients. While we do not provide tax or legal advice, we strive to deliver the same high-touch service by working with your other professional advisors; providing timely, courteous service for all your financial needs.

How We Work

At Benchmark Wealth Management, our greatest investment is our relationship with you. That’s why we use a personalized approach to financial management as the foundation of our services, taking into account both your individual goals and your entire financial situation. Before we look at any numbers or dive into strategizing, we get to know you and what you want out of life. We ask deep questions and seek to understand the nuances of your financial situation. As time goes on, we compound our understanding of you and your needs, allowing us to deliver independent, objective, and tailored strategies that help you rest easy today and in the long term.

Who We Serve

Our clients have investable assets of $1 million or greater and come to us for help because they desire a customized, disciplined strategy and a holistic approach to managing their assets and reaching their realistic long-range goals. Because we prioritize personal relationships with our clients, relationships that often extend for generations, many of our clients find their way to us through referrals from existing clients! While we serve clients of different ages and from a variety of professions, the majority are business owners, professionals, entrepreneurs, executives, and retirees. Despite their differences, they have all worked hard for their wealth and created their own path to success.

The Benchmark Difference

In case you haven’t noticed already, we do things differently than the average financial firm. We believe our clients choose us because of our unparalleled level of care for them as individuals. We are proud of our personalized approach and work hard to make each client feel important. This may be a bold statement, but outside of your family, no one cares more about you than we do.

Our clients also know that we are a true partner, delivering what is expected, as it is expected, and when it is expected, and working diligently to preserve and build your assets as you move through life’s transitions.

Our integrity also sets us apart. Our fee-based compensation structure allows us to offer objectivity and advice that is free from conflicts of interest. Our commitment to your success and our dedication to proactive and responsive service allows you to feel confident that your money is in good hands.

Ready to Partner Up?

We hope so, because you are at the center of all we do. Our goal is to provide you with honest, thoughtful guidance to help you visualize and realize your goals. If you’re ready for a personalized approach to wealth management and a partner who is your biggest supporter, we’d love to meet with you. Please call 860.434.6890 or email us at richard.stout@bwmllc.net or thomas.britt@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.

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: AR, CA, CT, FL, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, RI, TN, WA. (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.

Why I Became a Financial Planner

Financial planner looking at financial plans

By Thomas Britt

Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. While we may start off in one career, our experiences might show us other areas we want to pursue or open doors to new opportunities. That’s exactly how I found my way into my career as a financial advisor.

Career Beginnings

I started my first career about as far from the financial industry as possible—as a submariner and diver for the United States Navy Submarine Force. This incredible experience lasted 6 years, after which I took the hands-on experience gleaned in the Navy and began a decade-long career in engineering as an operations supervisor for a Fortune 500 subsidiary. During this time, I also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from the University of New Haven and an MBA in financial technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

In 2000, I decided to use the start of a new millennia to begin a new career as a financial planner. I joined the Merrill Lynch team as a wealth management advisor, gaining a solid investment foundation and building confidence in navigating market ups and downs. As time went on, I realized that my focus and passion were not necessarily conquering market challenges, but that instead my greatest satisfaction came from guiding others through life’s financial twists and turns, freeing them to worry less and enjoy more success and peace of mind. In 2007 my partner and I formed Benchmark Wealth Management, where I have spent the last 12 years helping individuals and families achieve their financial and life goals.

Teacher and Guide

I specialize in executive financial planning, retirement planning, and investing, as well as the management of trusts and endowments. I enjoy getting to know each client on a personal level, understanding what makes them tick, what they want to accomplish in life, and what matters most to them. I ask the questions many people haven’t considered and spend a lot of time listening. Developing and maintaining such close relationships with my clients is very fulfilling to me personally, but more importantly, I take great pride in knowing that our work together brings them clarity and confidence so that they can focus on what matters most in their life.

To ensure I’m delivering the highest level of service to my clients, and given the ever-changing state of the economy, markets, laws, and technology, I prioritized continuing my education and training. I earned my second Master’s degree, a Master of Science in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning. I hold the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® (CFP®), Master Planner Advanced StudiesSM (MPAS®), and Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC®) designations. I have also earned the Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA®) designation through coursework at the Wharton School of Business,

Hurdles and Triumphs

Every job has its challenges, and mine is no exception! When you’re dealing with money, things can be stressful. The unpredictability of our markets can cause anxiety and strain. I work to ensure that all my clients are educated and aware about how to stay focused on the long term, assuage any fears they have when the markets get dicey, and help them remain confident no matter what’s going on. Assisting clients in developing this heightened awareness and confidence brings me great personal and professional satisfaction

What About You?

Navigating the maze of life’s financial ups and downs can be less stressful if you have a knowledgeable partner by your side. If you have questions about your current financial situation, or if you are interested in learning more about how I work, who I serve, and how I may be able to help you, I encourage you to reach out. 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 19 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. Tom has been named as a Five Star Wealth Manager for the years 2012 & 2013 by Connecticut Magazine. 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.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: AR, CA, CT, FL, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, RI, TN, WA. (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.

Why I Became a Financial Planner

Financial planner working with client on financial plan

By Richard W. Stout III

There’s not much in life that induces more feelings of anxiety or vulnerability than finances. Whether you experience it or not, financial security can significantly affect your quality of life. Your financial situation determines what options are available to you, drives your decision-making, and can either bestow freedom or cause stress.

I became a financial planner so I could make a difference in people’s lives. With my knowledge, expertise, and commitment to my clients, I am able to help them feel confident not just about their financial future, but about the rest of their lives, too. My goal is to relieve the burden of wealth management so that they have the freedom to do those things they really enjoy.

Starting My Career

After high school, I attended the University of Connecticut and earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Anthropology. In the years following, I earned a Master of Science degree in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning and an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and obtained the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) and Accredited Investment Fiduciary® (AIF®) designations.

After working for several financial firms in a variety of roles, I wanted something more. While much of the financial services industry follows the “production mode,” where personal compensation is driven by selling, I was drawn to the idea of providing a higher standard of care to clients, with a focus on service. In 2007, my partner Tom Britt and I formed Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC, bringing to fruition a long-held desire to provide financial planning and investment advice that is independent, highly personalized and specifically tailored to our clients’ needs.

Branching Out/My Career Today

As an advisor, I work with my clients and their families to address all aspects of wealth management, including wealth protection and enhancement, reducing taxes and volatility in retirement, and tax-efficient estate planning. Typical clients are successful small business owners, professionals or retirees who have been referred to our firm by existing clients and fit our client profile. My clients have worked hard to create their wealth and I strive to make sure their wealth works for them.

Hurdles and Triumphs

While there are stresses, such as having a difficult conversation with a client, I can’t imagine having another career; it’s incredibly fulfilling. I am relentless in my commitment to providing clients with a genuine understanding of their unique needs. I work hard every single day because of the enduring relationships I’ve developed with my clients and my dedication to strengthening their financial life. In all that I do, I live by this motto: “Why be mediocre when you can strive to be great?” I aspire to do all things with excellence so that my clients can live their ideal lives. It’s deeply satisfying to me when someone tells me that I’ve helped them live a life that is meaningful and impactful to them.

Taking the Next Step

Working towards a secure future can be less strenuous if you have a knowledgeable partner by your side. If we are currently working together, know that I am grateful for your trust. If you are someone interested in learning more about how I work, who I serve, and how I may be able to help you, I encourage you to reach out. 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 23 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™ (CFP®) professional. He has earned a Master of Science degree in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning. 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 (AIF®) 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: AR, CA, CT, FL, KY, MA, ME, MI, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, RI, TN, WA. (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