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6 Responses

  1. Middle Class and the Stock Market?

    Last week came the news that investors were pulling money from global stock funds at the fastest pace since 2011 — $44 billion in five weeks and nearly $90 billion so far this year.




  2. On the Minimum Wage

    The “Fight For $15” is gaining national attention and becoming an issue in the presidential race. Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have expressed strong support for a national minimum wage of $15, more than double the current $7.25.

    Missing in the national debate over the minimum wage is the recognition that taxes and living costs vary enormously from state to state. The dollar amount of the hourly wage in any given state isn’t as important as what workers have left after paying taxes and living expenses. A $15 hourly wage in a state with high taxes and a high cost of living is hardly equal to the same $15 hourly wage in a state with low taxes and a low cost of living.

    To compare the purchasing power of a $15 minimum wage, I adjusted the wage for state and local taxes and for the cost of living, using data from the Council for Community and Economic Research as presented by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. (You can see the complete rankings with and without adjustments at http://kahlerfinancial.com/financial-awakenings.)

    I selected Washington DC as my base location for comparison, as it has the second highest cost of living in the US behind Hawaii. Washington DC is also representative of the cost of living and taxes in many major metropolitan areas, where the drive for a $15 minimum wage seems strongest.

    What I found was that location makes a huge difference. For example, the cost of living (COL) in Washington DC is 147.6% of the national average, with state and local taxes costing 9.6% of income. Mississippi’s COL is 84.3% of the national average, with state and local taxes costing 8.4%. After adjusting for cost of living and taxes, the purchasing power of a worker earning $15.00 an hour in Washington DC equals that of a worker earning $8.46 an hour in Mississippi. In South Dakota, a worker earning $9.67 an hour has the same purchasing power as one earning $15.00 an hour in Washington DC.

    Conversely, a worker earning $15 an hour in Mississippi would have to earn $26.60 an hour in Washington DC to have the same purchasing power. For a South Dakota worker, $15 an hour has the same purchasing power as $22.66 an hour in DC. Mandating that employers in Mississippi pay $15 an hour would be equal to forcing employers in DC to pay $26.60 an hour.

    Clearly, while a $15 minimum wage may be reasonable in Washington DC, a flat $15 national minimum wage is incredibly unfair, as it does not take into consideration local variations in COL and taxes. Currently, 51.1 million workers earn less than $15 an hour. Forcing rural small businesses to raise wages as high as an equivalent wage in DC of $26.60 will cost many employees their jobs and raise costs for everyone.

    The money to double many worker’s wages wouldn’t simply come out of profits, as many businesses don’t have enough profit to absorb the increased costs. Nor would it realistically come from just raising prices. Higher prices would carry a double whammy: both negating the raise many just got and meaning fewer consumers would choose to purchase the product or service.

    Instead, a $15 national minimum wage would make jobs even harder to get, as employers would necessarily need to streamline, outsource, and hire only the most talented workers.

    A federal minimum wage is a floor, not a ceiling. Of necessity, it needs to accommodate the states with the lowest cost of living. States need to remain free to set their own minimum wages according to the needs of their own workers.

    Rick Kahler MSFS CFP®


  3. Young adults and medical professionals

    For many young adults, the 30’s are the decade when real adulthood takes over. It’s the decade of family. It’s typical at this stage to be parenting young children, getting well-established in careers, and managing responsibilities like buying a home.

    Especially for two-income couples, the money coming in may well be at a level that ought to feel like prosperity. Yet with a mortgage, daycare, possibly student loan payments, and the boatload of other obligations that come with a growing family, money might well be flowing out at a rate that feels more like panic instead.

    If you’re at this stage of life, then, the last thing you probably want to hear is that you absolutely need to be saving and investing. Coping with the financial needs of the present may be overwhelming enough without being expected to think about the future as well.

    To help you start considering the financial future, here are a few things to think about.

    1. When you realize the birth of your first child has yanked you into adulthood and there’s no going back, you may think saving for the kid’s education has just become a priority. Not really. Putting your own retirement first is a better investment for your kids as well as yourself. However, do consider how much, if any, of your kids’ education you might pay for, and make them a part of their own college planning.

    2. The saving part of a financial plan includes three separate buckets. Bucket A is a standard savings account for expected but erratic expenses like home repairs and medical bills. Bucket B is a short-term CD or money market account for real emergencies such as losing your job. Both of these serve more as insurance against future needs than as investments. Bucket C is for wealth-building and retirement, a portfolio of diversified investments for your long-term financial security.

    3. The first place to put retirement funds is a 401(k) plan if your employer offers one. The employer match is the best immediate return on an investment you’ll probably ever have. Next, open individual retirement accounts, or IRA’s. It’s important to understand that IRA’s and 401(k)’s are not investments, but buckets to hold investments that you choose from several available options. Look for funds that include the broadest number of asset classes, including stocks, bonds, commodities, real estate, and alternative funds. Spend some time learning the basics of investing, which is a crucial but often overlooked life skill.

    4. This is a time to do your first estate planning, including term life insurance for both parents in amounts higher than you think you need. One of the most crucial estate planning decisions is naming guardians for your children.

    5. Another valuable piece of financial planning in your 30’s is to look at your emotional relationship with money. The beliefs, blocks, and biases you have learned around money have a strong impact on all of your financial behavior. Understanding your money patterns and learning how to change those that don’t serve you well can make a huge difference in your long-term financial well-being.

    6. Start where you are and do what you can. Taking action even in small ways is better than feeling overwhelmed and doing nothing.

    7. This isn’t just about the future. Working toward long-term financial health helps you build financial skills and confidence that will also serve you well now. When you actively manage and choose the financial direction of your life, you are better able to support your aspirations and build a life of financial and emotional well-being.

    Rick Kahler MSFS CFP®


  4. The Averages

    10 Incredible Financial Statistics That Sum Up the Average American




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