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Goals Versus Dreams
Do you routinely make New Years Resolutions but fail to stick to them? The idea of resolutions is great, if only they were as easy to meet as make. Now is a good time to reflect on what you did achieve last year. Next, determine what your current ambitions are. Many of us set goals, but few of us meet them consistently. This year look beyond your goals and assign them a priority based on how they align with your dreams. Goals seem like work, but dreams are desirable. The notion that dreams equal motivation may be the missing link.


  • Here's a heads up for those that may be coming to our office. Construction on a multi-use building is beginning catty-corner to our office. Additionally, the school construction across the street has also commenced. There may be road closures periodically.

  • Teri and Tracey will be attending the TD Ameritrade Annual Conference in Orlando, FL next week. We hope to learn more about Charles Schwab acquiring TD Ameritrade.

For clients impacted by the change in our Money Management Program

  • The Orion Portal launch is finally underway. Please watch your email for details and a link to access the portal website. The link is good for only 24 hours so if you are outside of this window, please request a password reset. Thank you for your continued patience. If you receive email outlining the portal details but don't receive the link email, please check your spam/junk email folder.

  • Quarterly reports are being rolled out as they are reviewed. We are in the process of checking for correctness.

  • For those with held-away accounts, there could be an additional delay as these accounts require additional time and review.

  • Due to the Orion transition, some January tasks have been delayed. The 2020 Required Minimum Distribution letters with forms and 2019 Realized Gain Loss Reports for Orion clients with taxable accounts will be forthcoming in early February.

  • TD Ameritrade Consolidated 1099 forms are required to be sent out by February 15. Realized Gain Loss information for non-Orion clients with taxable accounts will be included on your 2019 Form 1099.
+ Teri's World
Teri started the new-year off by spending time with family in Hocking Hills and hiking. It quickly turned into long days in the office and this is pretty typical for this time of year. She has spent some free time seeing some movies, taking her dog for some walks and working out in the gym. This weekend she will help celebrate one of her grandsons turning a big 2! She will be attending the TD Ameritrade conference part of next week. 
+ What about Bob
Bob and Christine have had a good January. Their daughter Brittany celebrated her 31 st birthday and their grandson Logan is quickly approaching his first birthday. They can’t believe how quickly the year has passed!

While they enjoyed all the good food over the holidays, they are glad to commit to eating healthier. The early morning workouts continue for Bob. He is working with a trainer and two other “victims”. He is really enjoying them and starting to feel the results.

The weather prevented them from going to Youngstown to celebrate the 500 th win of Christine’s high school basketball coach. She plans on getting up there for one of his games and spending some time celebrating with him.

Bob has had some wonderful opportunities to play guitar at several church functions this month. These have really stretched his comfort zone, but have been so rewarding. 
+ Tracey's Time
Tracey is heading to Orlando for the TD Ameritrade conference and taking a few extra days to spend with her Mom. Andy will hold down the fort at home, taking care of Cayleigh and Coco (our 5yr old rescue pup).

Cayleigh is immersed in ice hockey season with games and practices running the schedule. She is also attending Junior Dance Club at school and is really enjoying this. Spring sports tryouts are right around the corner.

Tracey and Andy are working to finalize the summer camping trip schedule and reservations. They are planning to visit Rocky Mountain and Grand Teton National Parks this year.
+ Maria's Moments
Maria has been spending a lot time with her family and friends. She spent her time off school bowling and going to Top Golf before starting her next semester at ODU. This semester Maria is looking forward to taking Finance and her MBA Capstone. She is wrapping up her second week back in class and is thankful to be continuing her education. 

This will be Maria’s first spring in 18 years that she has not participated in softball, but she is excited to cheer on her former teammates at Ohio Dominican University. ODU softball was ranked #1 in the preseason coaches’ rankings and their first game will be on February 8th. This has been a year of adapting to new things, but Maria has welcomed the change and cannot wait for what is to come. 
Current Economic and Investment Information
U.S. DEMOGRAPHICS - Between 7/01/18 and 7/01/19, the Census Bureau estimated that the US population grew from 326.688 million to 328.240 million, an increase of just +0.48%, i.e., less than ½ of 1% growth rate between 2018-2019. That’s the lowest year-over-year growth rate in the United States since 1918 or 101 years earlier (source: Census Bureau). 
U.S. LIFE EXPECTANCY - The life expectancy at birth of an American baby in 1970, i.e., 50 years ago, was 70.8 years. The life expectancy at birth of an American baby today is 78.6 years. Thus, life expectancy in the United States has increased 7.8 years over the last half century, i.e., American life expectancy at birth is increasing at the rate of 1 ½ years every decade(source: Center for Disease Control).  
U.S. MORTGAGE RATE - The average interest rate nationwide on a 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 3.74% at the end of 2019. The record low national average was 3.31% as of 11/22/12 or just over 7 years ago(source: Freddie Mac). 
ENERGY - OIL - The price of oil ended 2019 at $61.06 a barrel, up +34% from its 2018 close of $45.41 a barrel. Oil was $26.21 a barrel as of 2/11/16 and was $147.27 a barrel as of 7/11/08 (source: CME Group). 

U.S. DEBT - The national debt of the United States was $23.201 trillion as of the close of business on Tuesday 12/31/19, an increase of $10.9 trillion over the last 10 years (source: Treasury Department). 

MARKET STATISTICS - This year (2020) is the 4th year of Donald Trump’s 1st 4-year presidential term. The S&P 500 has been positive on a total return basis during 19 of the last 23 “presidential 4th-years,” i.e., 4th years dating back to 1928, including 17 of the last 19. The average performance for the S&P 500 during the last 23 “presidential 4th-years” has been a gain of +9.9%(total return) (source: BTN Research). 

HEALTH CARE - Administrative costs make up 34% of total US health care expenditures(i.e., expenses not related to direct patient care) including medical billing, the scheduling of appointments, and hiring of an office staff (source: Annals of Internal Medicine).  

RETAIL – More than 9,300 American retail stores closed in 2019, exceeding the all-time record of 8,139 store closures from 2017 (source: Coresight Research). 

STATE ECONOMIES - The economies of 9 of the 50 US states are forecasted to “contract” over the next 6 months, the greatest number of states projected to suffer economically since July 2009. The 9 states are West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Montana, Oklahoma, Vermont, New Jersey, Kentucky and Connecticut (source: Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia).  

COUNTY ECONOMIES - There are 3,142 counties in the United States. Just 31 counties, or 1% of 3,142, produce 32% of the nation’s GDP. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the annual market value of all goods and services produced domestically by the US (source: Bureau of Economic Analysis). 

INFLATION - Inflation, as measured by the “Consumer Price Index” (CPI), was up +2.3%for 2019. For the decade of the 2010s, inflation was up just +1.8% per year, the lowest decade of inflation in the USA since the 1930s. By comparison, the decade of the 1970s suffered +7.4% annual inflation (source: Department of Labor). 

MORE WOMEN THAN MEN- For the 1st time since April 2010, women make up the majority of the US workforce. As of the end of December 2019, there were 76.246 million American women working full-time, vs. 76.137 million American men. In the last 12 months, 1.52 million working women have secured jobs, more than double the 586,000 men that have joined the workforce (source: Department of Labor). 
The Best and Worst Performing Sectors in 2019

By Jeff Desjardins
Visaul Capitalist

If you think back almost 12 months, you’ll remember that the markets opened the year with extreme levels of volatility.

Stocks had just finished the worst year in a decade. Then in early January, Apple cut its earnings guidance after the company had already lost over $400 billion in market capitalization. The S&P 500 and DJIA seesawed, suggesting that the lengthy bull run could come to an end.

Yet, here we are a year later ⁠— we’re wrapping up the decade with a banner year for the S&P 500. As of the market close on December 30, 2019, stocks were up 28.5% to give the index what is expected to be its second-best performance since 1998.

8 Ways the SECURE ACT Changes Financial Planning

By Jeremiah Barlow
Financial Advisor

The SECURE Act went into effect on January 1, 2020 and brings significant changes for retirement and other financial planning. Here are the notable provisions and takeaways from the SECURE Act that you need to know.

Age Limit Removed For IRA Contributions: There is no longer an age cap on contributions to a traditional IRA. Traditional IRAs will now be aligned with Roth IRAs. Before the SECURE Act, there was an age cap for contributing to a traditional IRA of age 70 ½. Individuals who continue to work can continue to save for retirement, regardless of their age.

Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) Age Extended to 72: The SECURE Act delays RMDs from retirement accounts until age 72 (up from 70½). This applies to all those who are not currently in RMD status. Anyone who is over 70½ must continue taking RMDs. For those it applies to, financial advisors will be looking at this benefit as they help clients further grow their nest eggs for retirement. Don Calcagni, Chief Investment Officer for Mercer Advisors, says, “This extension means clients have a longer time horizon potentially for investments held in their IRAs . . . by delaying the requirement to realize income from an IRA at age 70 ½, this could have implications for how clients should optimally invest the rest of their balance sheet to produce income (specifically, their taxable accounts).”

Penalty-Free Withdrawals For New Parents: The SECURE Act now allows new parents to take penalty-free distributions from their retirement plans within a year of the birth of a child or adoption to cover related expenses, up to $5,000. While income taxes will still apply to withdrawals from a traditional retirement account, this allows new parents the ability to pay those expected, or unexpected, first-year child expenses. 

Student Loan Repayment Through 529 Savings Plans: Individuals can also withdraw up to $10,000 from 529 savings plans to make student loan payments. This is another step forward in helping to manage the growing costs of college education and leveraging a 529 plan to facilitate it.

Retirement Plan Conversion To Lifetime Annuity: Retirement accounts could be converted to a lifetime annuity. The SECURE Act creates a safe harbor for employers to offer annuities in their 401(k). The Act makes it easier for plan sponsors to offer annuities inside qualified plans subject to ERISA’s fiduciary requirements. “We think this is a good thing since it will make it easier for investors to hedge longevity risk while still investing in a globally diversified portfolio,” says Don Calcagni.

Lifetime Income Disclosure For Defined Contribution Plans: Employers are required to disclose to employees the amount of sustainable monthly income their balance could support in their 401(k) statements. This may create another helpful educational resource as financial advisors guide their clients through retirement.

Increased Access To Retirement Plans For Small Business Employees: The SECURE Act expands the ability for small businesses to offer multiple employer plans. It also allows small-business employers to join with other employers to set up and offer 401(k) plans with fewer liability concerns and less cost. This is helpful as small businesses typically do not offer retirement savings options, so the hope here is that more small-business employees will be able to take advantage of employer-sponsored plans.

Elimination Of The Stretch IRA: A key change in the Act is the elimination of the “stretch” IRA from inherited retirement accounts. This means that a beneficiary can no longer stretch the distributions over his or her lifetime. Instead, all retirement assets must be distributed out of the account within 10 years of the account owner’s death. There are some exceptions for a surviving spouse, minor children, chronically ill, disabled, and anyone not more than 10 years younger than the account owner. This new rule applies to all retirement accounts inherited on or after January 1, 2020.

The elimination of the stretch presents significant changes, including the need to review current estate plans to avoid unintended consequences. Clients may also want to look at other options for giving retirement accounts to their beneficiaries, such as Roth Conversions for tax-free inheritance, a charitable trust as a way to regain the stretch IRA, and combining charity giving and the use of life insurance to give tax-free assets to their children.

The good news is that the stretch still applies to inherited IRAs that were effective in 2019 or before.

One thing is for sure, advisors should be putting a review of retirement planning, as well as estate planning, on the list to discuss with their clients in the first part of 2020.

Cognitive Decline Shouldn't Derail Retirement Planning. Here Are Some Tips to Prepare Your Finances.

By Cheryl Winokur Munk
When a loved one is experiencing cognitive decline, emotional and medical considerations often overshadow the financial planning that needs to happen. This is a potentially costly mistake.

Stephanie Rohlfs-Young, director of volunteer programs at the Alzheimer’s Association, says that families shouldn’t let a diagnosis derail proper planning; rather, she says, there are a number of proactive and tactical steps people can take to remedy or prepare for issues related to cognitive decline.

Here are some tips on navigating the financial aspects of cognitive decline:

Take inventory

For budgeting and estate-planning purposes, families should take a detailed inventory of the person’s assets and liabilities, and create a list of who has access to each account. Be sure to inquire about and include online checking, savings, credit-card, and investment accounts, which can be overlooked if they aren’t in paper form.

“Trying to work with the person in cognitive decline to get your arms around it when they can still be helpful is important because you don’t want to lose all those assets,” says Jody King, director of financial planning at Fiduciary Trust in Boston.

This process can be challenging when children aren’t privy to their parents’ financials, which can include savings, insurance, retirement benefits, government assistance such as veterans’ benefits, and more.

Families should also pick a point person or people for taking care of financial or legal matters.

Estimate future costs

A diagnosis is also the time to get a handle on, and plan for, care costs that may include adult day care, in-home care, and full-time medical care. The costs vary widely, and many times families underestimate how much they’ll spend on care, Rohlfs-Young says. Often, they don’t factor in certain out-of-pocket expenses that can add up, such as medications that aren’t covered by insurance or incontinence products, she says.

When budgeting, families should be sure to consider what insurance may be available, and whether options may exist to add or amend coverage.

Consider hiring expert help

It can be a good idea to work with an elder-law attorney, financial planner, or both, to help get the family’s financial and legal affairs in order, Rohlfs-Young says. And there are many considerations: titling of assets, trusts, financial powers of attorney, advance health care directives (which name a health-care representative and may include a living will), and more.

For some families, there’s also Medicaid planning, which has many rules and can be complicated to navigate.

Families can visit the website of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys to search for an attorney by practice area or location. The Alzheimer’s Association and AARP also offer an online community resource finder.

For help in finding fee-only financial advisors, families can ask friends for referrals or visit these professional databases: Certified Financial Planners, Financial Planning Association, and National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

Automate the finances

Families need to develop a plan for handling routine financial tasks such as bill paying that will eventually become too hard for the loved one. It may be helpful to sign up for online banking, so a trusted third party such as an adult child, has easy access to monitor the parent’s account.

Monthly bills, including insurance premiums, can be set up for automatic payment to help minimize the possibility of mistakes, says Patrick Simasko, financial advisor and elder law attorney at Simasko Law in Mount Clemens, Mich.

Most recipients of Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits are now required to receive their benefits through direct deposit or prepaid debit card, but if a family member is still receiving a paper check, it’s advisable to sign up for direct deposit so there’s no chance the money will be misplaced or lost. In addition, it can be a good idea to have pension checks, if applicable, directly deposited instead of having to worry about the location of a physical check, Simasko says.

Get the right documents in place

It’s important after a diagnosis to name a health-care representative to allow for health-care decisions to be made by someone of the person’s choosing.

Another crucial document to obtain is a general durable power of attorney for finances, if it’s not already in place. The document generally allows the appointed agent or agents to make financial and legal decisions on the person’s behalf. Families shouldn’t confuse a durable power of attorney with a springing power of attorney, which doesn’t take effect until incapacity sets in, and can make handling the loved one’s affairs more complicated.

Families should make sure this durable power of attorney includes the ability to act in “what-if-scenarios” such as the need to enroll in Medicaid, access digital assets, and set up trusts, says Rekha Rao, founder of Rao Legal Group in Princeton, N.J. Simply naming a child on a parent’s bank account is a poor substitute for a durable power of attorney and can create complications, she says.

In most states, a durable power of attorney can become effective as soon as it is properly signed, but be aware: Time is of the essence because once the family member loses cognitive capacity, then he or she can’t name the appropriate fiduciaries, and the only resort that loved ones have at that time is to go through an expensive and time consuming guardianship process to become the guardian of that family member, Rao says. 

An attorney drafting the document usually determines competency, but generally the person signing must be lucid and understand his or her actions at the time the document is signed. It’s also important to ensure that the person’s will, living will, beneficiary designations on IRAs, life insurance, annuities and other accounts are up-to-date as well, experts say.

Parenting Isn't Over When Kids Grow Up
  With so many young adults still relying on parents for support, the challenge is how to help them without undermining their independence

By Mark McConville
The Wall Street Journal
Let’s say that you have recently launched your son or daughter toward college—or a job, or the armed services or perhaps graduate school. In any case, you are done with parenting, ready to collapse into an easy chair, pour yourself a drink and reflect on a job well done.

Then the phone call comes about an intolerable roommate or unfair professor, or hours cut back at work, or a request for a small loan for recording equipment or perhaps a donation for a three month trek through Europe. And it suddenly dawns on you: You’re parenting in overtime.

How does this happen? Forget the myth that adulthood begins at age 18 or 21. Psychologist Jeffrey Arnett has famously charted the developmental stage that he calls emerging adulthood —“a gradual transition from adolescence to full adulthood that stretches from age 18 to roughly age 30.” His research shows that only in their late 20s do most people feel like an adult “most of the time.” Young people must accomplish a host of big and small developmental tasks to help make the transition, from getting their own living quarters to changing the oil in their car. And one of the paradoxes of growing up is that true independence involves learning when and how to ask for help.

Meanwhile, for economic reasons, more emerging adults remain intimately connected to their parents than ever before. A recent U.S. Census Bureau study shows that over 30% of young adults ages 18-34 still live with their parents. A 2019 Pew Research survey found that the majority of these parents provided financial (60%) and emotional (77%) support within the past year.

Whatever is required for your young-adult offspring to accomplish a task, limit your contribution to 49%. Once you dri over 50%, you own it

So, like it or not, your job isn’t finished. But what should overtime parenting look like? Fortunately, there are some principles that can minimize your sense of powerlessness and frustration while maximizing your ability to support your transitioner’s growth.

Avoid the enabling trap. Many parents provide financial support as their college graduates enter the adult work world, but it is imperative that parents closely attend to the difference between support and enabling. One client of mine was still providing a monthly stipend to her 27-year-old daughter. The daughter was a gifted artist but since college had worked in a lowpaying job in an art-supplies store. Her financial dependence on her parents became dramatically complicated when she became pregnant and had a child. Her mother felt trapped, knowing that the financial safety net undermined her daughter’s motivation to seek a betterpaying position, but at the same time she felt she couldn’t financially “abandon” her grandchild.

She had to rethink the terms of her financial support. Rather than issuing a monthly check, she offered to pay directly for child care—but on the condition that her daughter would begin a serious job search for a more professionally suitable and financially viable position.

When you’re parenting in overtime, financial and material support should be contingent on the readiness of your transitioner to pull their own weight—going to class, working more hours, paying a fair portion of living expenses, etc. If they aren’t meeting you halfway, then you’re not supporting—you’re enabling.

Allow your transitioner to learn from mistakes. Many parents imagine that difficult situations will lead to disaster. “If he drops out of college for a semester, he’ll never complete his education,” or “If she continues to get up late for work, she’ll get fired.” But when parents catastrophize—imagining the worst possible outcome in a situation—they often short-circuit potentially valuable life lessons.

One parent called me in a panic when her 20 year-old son refused to answer a summons to a local traffic court, resulting from three unpaid speeding tickets. Against my advice, she interceded with the court and paid his fines, depriving him of a valuable lesson—don’t mess with the legal system! Her rationale? “If I don’t pay his fines, he’ll lose his license, drop out of college and ruin his future.”

The role of parents in the emerging adult stage is not to protect and prevent but to allow poor (but not life-threatening) choices to play out to their inevitable negative consequences. And when this happens, a parent’s task is to be available—not with “I told you so…” but with “How can I help?”

Follow the 49% rule. Most 20-somethings need emotional support and practical coaching as they face unfamiliar hurdles—filling out applications, opening bank accounts, interviewing for jobs. But however much initiative, energy, or emotional investment is required to accomplish a task, limit your contribution to 49%. Once you drift over 50%, you own it, and you’re likely to see your transitioner’s motivational investment diminish.

That is what happened with a 19-year-old client of mine the summer before beginning college. He was highly anxious about the transition, and this manifested as foot-dragging on a variety of mundane but necessary tasks: submitting medical forms, selecting courses, confirming dormitory placement and so on. His father, anxious about his son’s stalled initiative, stepped in to “help” by tracking due dates, completing forms and generally nagging his son to take care of business.

Unwittingly, his father had crossed the 49% line and taken ownership of the transition process. I said to the dad: “Think of yourself more as a consultant than a supervisor—ready with your wisdom and guidance but allowing your son space to wrestle with the key challenges of initiative and ownership.” He did, and in a few short weeks, the young man got his act together and headed off to a successful college experience.

Parenting is, after all, a job with built-in obsolescence. If you’re doing it right, your kids will eventually head into the world with the skills to succeed and thrive on their own terms, in their own way.
"The quality, not the longevity of one's life
is what is important. "

- Martin Luther King Jr.

Alexander Financial Planning
1621 W. First Avenue
Grandview Heights, OH 43212

Registered Investment Advisor
This material is distributed by Alexander Financial Planning, Inc., (AFPI) and is for information purposes only. Although information has been obtained from sources to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy. It is provided with the understanding that no fiduciary relationship exists because of this report. Opinions expressed in this report are not necessarily the opinions of AFPI and are subject to change without notice. AFPI assumes no liability for the interpretation or use of this report. Financial planning, investment conclusions and strategies suggested in this report may not be suitable for all investors and consultation with a qualified advisor is recommended prior to executing any investment strategy. All rights reserved.