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PIMCO Interviews Somnath Basu PhD MBA on Retirement Planning

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A “Worried Sick” Encore Presentation

By Staff Reporters

Retirement is one of the most important life events many of us will ever experience; for doctor, nurse, FA, consultant or layman alike.

From both a personal and financial perspective, realizing a comfortable retirement is an incredibly extensive process that takes sensible planning and years of persistence. Even once reached, managing your retirement is an ongoing responsibility that carries well into one’s golden years.  While all of us would like to retire comfortably, the complexity and time required in building a successful retirement plan can make the whole process seem nothing short of daunting.

However, it can often be done with fewer headaches (and financial pain) than you might think – all it takes is a little homework, an attainable savings and investment plan, and a long-term commitment.

And so, in this encore presentation, Dr. Basu breaks down the process needed to plan, implement, execute and ultimately enjoy a comfortable retirement.

Assessment

During this DC Dialogue of late 2010, PIMCO talked with Dr. Somnath Basu, professor and Director of the California Institute of Finance at California Lutheran University,  and ME-P “thought leader”, on retirement planning issues of concern to us all

Link: http://www.agebander.com/pdf/DCD048-080310_SomnathBasu_FINAL-1.pdf

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Dr. Somnath Basu on Financial Planning Client Expectations [PodCast]

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On Client Attitudes in the New Economy

In this encore podcast, Somnath Basu PhD examines how the recent economic turmoil has changed financial planning clients’ attitudes and expectations.

Dr. Basu is a popular ME-P contributor and thought-leader.

Assessment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzAkB8h5v3Q

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Why Physicians Need to Deal with Debt

Understanding the Impending Retirement-Planning Crisis

[By Somnath Basu PhD, MBA]

A serious retirement-planning crisis is looming in the US with many Baby Boomer physicians, and others, having already spent a portion of their nest egg and undermining any hope for a comfortable lifestyle unless they continue to work. Notwithstanding medical professionals, look no further than an annual “retirement confidence” survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Mathew Greenwald & Associates in each of the past 17 years. Nearly two in five of working Americans responding to the latest survey indicated that they have taken no action in the face of reductions in their employer-provided retirement benefits.

Consumption Equals Happiness?

The population is constantly told that consumption equals happiness. At the same time they are not being asked to understand about the implications of borrowing to fund for such consumption. Before we can expect to effect a change in the ensuing pattern of a vicious cycle, the population mass must have a clear understanding of the difference between needs (e.g., retiring with peace of mind) and desires (e.g., cruises or living the high life).

Negative Savings Rate

When savings first dipped into negative territory during the Great Depression in 1932 and 1933, people didn’t have enough to eat, whereas there has been no such urgency to raid nest eggs since the repeat of this performance in 2005 when the rate fell to minus 0.5 percent. Our grandparents were shining stars in the way they worked hard to build this country’s infrastructure and manufacturing sector, saved every red cent they could get their hands on and created affluence on a mass scale. Today we’re able to enjoy the fruit of their labor. But, somehow their values were lost on future generations.

Changing American Culture

Many of the nation’s top engineers and scientists now hail from China, India and other Asian countries as American culture has undergone a dramatic change to the point where jocks and cheerleaders are more valued than computer geeks and science nerds in our schools. We inherited so much affluence that it made us lazy as a society. The seeds of our destruction have been sown, but it’s up to our politicians, educators and other leaders, including financial advisors, to help reverse this disturbing pattern before it’s too late.

Many people fall into the trap of rushing through dinner and unwinding in front of the TV where a big part of the problem lies in slick and subtle, and hard to resist, primetime advertising and marketing messages (prime time for subtle messages) that seduce viewers into purchasing luxury cars or flying to far-flung resorts where they can sip umbrella-clad cocktails alongside affluent vacationers.

Americans in Debt

A recent wave of foreclosures has put Americans deeper in debt, with the sub-prime crisis exposing despicable predatory lending practices. But, research has shown the wreckage also could be found strewn across in the mid-prime and prime markets as middle-class borrowers struggled to pay adjustable rate mortgages. High hopes have been pinned on the stock market helping people crawl out from this crisis just like when the real estate market had softened the blow when the tech-bubble burst at the turn of this century. So far, this has happened, to an extent. But, if the stock market starts reeling again, then it will spell even bigger trouble. Add to this the international trade imbalance, which implies foreign governmental funding of our conspicuous consumption, and which comes with high interest rates that need to be paid to the lenders, again to such countries as China, India and other emerging economies, and a bigger, worse picture emerges.

Personal Bankruptcies

Personal bankruptcies have an even more devastating effect on an individual’s ability to plan for the future, particularly since the laws pertaining to this area were toughened to a point where reckless spenders will need to muster fiscal and financial discipline as never before. The doomsday scenario is that children now run the risk of inheriting debt instead of wealth, and it’s unconscionable to think future generations would have a standard of living that’s worse than their parents or grandparents.

Assessment

The true grit associated with being an American is to rise up in the face of adversity – a frontier spirit that drew me this remarkable country. We’ve weathered numerous storms and can do it again. But, it requires a serious commitment to stopping mindless consumption of goods and services, as well as understanding there’s a difference between basic needs and pie-in-the-sky desires.

NOTE: Dr. Somnath Basu is a Professor of Finance at California Lutheran University and the Director of its California Institute of Finance. He is also the creator of the innovative AgeBander technology www.agebander.com for planning retirement needs.

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To Save or To Spend?

Understanding the Decision

By Somnath Basu PhD, MBA

Should we save or spend? What’s good for me and my family? Is the time right for us to be buoyant and optimistic about the future? How do we decide what fraction of our income to spend and how much to save? Isn’t spending a good thing for the economy as we are constantly being reminded about? If we do not spend now, how are we going to feel about all these unfulfilled wants and needs that we have especially when we see others around us fulfilling? How much should I spend for gifts during this holiday season – is that not a good idea to bring cheer to my family? It is a very perplexing set of questions that constantly sway our mind as we try to grapple with what we feel should otherwise be moderately simple decisions. In arriving at these seemingly easy decisions, consumers are facing some of the toughest issues in their everyday lives. It may be useful to dig a bit deeper into the issues related to spending and saving decisions so that we may understand a bit of their complexities and make prudent choices whose outcomes will clearly validate our reasons for doing so.

The Save or Spend Decision

If the decision to save or spend is problematic, it is because it is neither simple nor anything new. We have coped with these same decisions through many generations, and more. The understanding we have collectively arrived at is, however, worth visiting. When we spend, we receive immediate gratification. This “feel good” feeling is so good that we are willing to sacrifice a lot in order to attain this feeling. Saving, on the other hand, is bereft of any such immediate good feeling. The only good feeling that can accrue to us is that we have this “felt’ promise to ourselves that a moment in the future will feel better than both the loss of satisfaction from immediate gratification of wants and the hurt of having unsatisfied wants. Alternately, we may want to save because we feel threatened that a future situation may arise that may lead to more misery tomorrow than the joy gained today. Thus, the main question in trying to answer whether to save or not is whether it is a promise or a foreboding about the future.

Attitudinal Sea Change

Over the last 25 years, our attitude towards spending has undergone a sea change. Even until the early 1980s we were saving in double digits as a nation. Since then, we have slowly moved away from this psyche and have adapted our lifestyles towards spending and consumption on a scale we have never experienced before, historically. By 2006, we were actually spending about one percent more than what we were earning. This change was stimulated by many factors including the plentiful inflow of cheap products from China, a steady rise in income, a considerable increase in the promotion of mass consumption through enticing advertisements in practically all media, the access to cheap credit sources, increasing house prices and the accompanying ability to borrow from the increase in its equity value, etc. Above all else, this shift from saving to spending was overwhelmingly reinforced by the feeling of empowerment in being able to command goods and services for consumption and the enjoyment from the increase in our standards of living that came from our new found affluence. Whereas every generation before us (baby boomers) had sought to leave more for their kids than what they themselves inherited, we reasoned with ourselves that educating our children was sufficient for them to look after themselves. This attitude allowed us also to spend and consume more not only without guilt, but also with pleasure. More so than ever, we got addicted to spending. Nothing felt better than spending.

The Flash Crash of 2008-09

Then came the great recession of 2008-09! The economy plunged, companies laid off workers by the thousands, people who had bought homes even if they could not afford it, on the promise that house prices would never go down, lost their homes. Moreover, the cheap Chinese goods we got used to were being produced by our own national companies so that the economic rebound was now being hailed as a jobless recovery. We had outsourced away all we had for some corporate bottom line and had impoverished ourselves in the process. Only now, we had no savings for the rainy day that had befallen us.

Americans Saving Again

Perhaps one of the more pleasant surprises from this recession is that we turned the clock around on saving and in the short span of two or three years we have our savings level back at five percent. Why did it happen this way in spite of our government encouraging us to spend our way out of this recession? Primarily, this change has come about from the possibility of losing our jobs or enduring deep cuts in our incomes. This fear today is more real than ever before and it seems to have taught us a “savings” lesson that we have all learned. When deciding on whether and how much to spend, we should take absolutely no chances in first putting away a small nest egg for a rainy day or “emergency” fund, in more technical terms. It is imperative that we defend our families in the event of losses in job and income so that we can bear out whatever future storms come by our way. It is only after we have done so should we consider spending. A six-month contingency fund [even more for medical professionals, according to ME-P Editor Dr. David E. Marcinko] should be perhaps the most staple item in our household budget. It is heartening to see the resiliency that runs through our nation’s citizens as we collectively undo our habit of reckless spending.

Assessment

Once we have our emergency nest egg in place, we should consider our spending pleasure. Going “cold turkey” on spending is not advisable either; maybe a gradual weaning away from this compelling habit. Ask yourselves before you spend whether it is a “need” or a “want”. Healthy food and holiday cheer for the family, basic transportation expenses and healthcare are needs. Starbucks coffee is a want. As we prudently spend on needs and wean away from wants we also save. And saving is not only for our future “feel good” consumption. It is also for the immensely gratifying feeling that we will leave something for our children, through whom we will live in the future.

NOTE: Dr. Somnath Basu is a Professor of Finance at California Lutheran University and the Director of its California Institute of Finance. He is also the creator of the innovative AgeBander technology www.agebander.com for planning retirement needs.

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Is this portrayal accurate or even applicable to medical professionals?  Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

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Practice Management: http://www.springerpub.com/prod.aspx?prod_id=23759

Physician Financial Planning: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/0763745790

Medical Risk Management: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/9780763733421

Healthcare Organizations: www.HealthcareFinancials.com

Physician Advisors: www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.com

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Congratulations Somnath Basu PhD

ME-P Thought-Leader and 2010 USDLA Award Winner

[Excellence in Distance Learning Teaching Award]

By Ann Miller RN, MHA [Executive-Director]

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The United States Distance Learning Association, the nation’s premier distance learning association since 1987 recently presented its 2010 International Distance Learning Awards, the premier awards for the distance learning industry. And, ME-P thought-leader Somnath Basu PhD, MBA was a category winner. 

These prestigious awards are presented annually to organizations and individuals, and recognize four categories of excellence: 1) 21st Century Best Practice Award; 2) Best Practice Awards for Distance Learning Programming; 3) Excellence in Distance Learning Teaching Awards; and 4) Outstanding Leadership by an Individual Award.

United States Distance Learning Association

The USDLA International Distance Learning Awards are created to acknowledge major accomplishments in distance learning and to highlight those distance learning instructors, programs, and professionals who have achieved and demonstrated extraordinary achievements through the use of online, videoconferencing, and satellite/video delivery technologies globally.

The USDLA Awards

USDLA International Distance Learning Awards honors organizations with its 21 Century Best Practice Awards. This award category recognizes outstanding leadership in the field of distance learning for an agency, institution, or company incorporating blended or individual distance learning technologies.

In addition, the Awards for Best Practice in Distance Learning Programming are presented to outstanding organizations, which have designed and delivered outstanding and comprehensive Best Practices for individual programs or a series of programs through online, videoconferencing, and satellite delivery technologies.

www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.com

Award levels include Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze categories. The Excellence in Distance Learning Teaching Awards  honors outstanding instructors whose programs demonstrate extraordinary achievements in a distance learning environment for teachers or trainers. Award levels include Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze categories.

Finally, the Outstanding Leadership by an Individual awards recognize those who have demonstrated strong, innovative skills for the development and/or administration of programs or who are recognized scholars in the field of distance learning globally.

About Dr. Basu

http://www.callutheran.edu/schools/business/graduate/cif/

Somnath Basu PhD is program director of the California Institute of Finance in the School of Business at California Lutheran University where he’s also a professor of finance. He can be reached at (805) 493 3980 or basu@callutheran.edu See his agebander at work at www.agebander.com

 Assessment

The 2010 USDLA International Distance Learning Awards were presented to five major sectors of distance education and training and include the Pre-K – 12, Higher Education, Corporate, Government and Telehealth markets. The 2010 USDLA International Awards were presented at the USDLA International Awards Ceremony, on Tuesday, May 4, 2010 during the USDLA National Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

Conclusion

Feel free to congratulate Somnath directly by sending him an email: basu@callutheran.edu

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Medical Risk Management: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/9780763733421

Healthcare Organizations: www.HealthcareFinancials.com

Health Administration Terms: www.HealthDictionarySeries.com

Physician Advisors: www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.com

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A New Model for Planing Physician Retirement Needs

Understanding Age Banding

By Ann Miller RN, MHA

[Executive Director]

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From time to time, our readers send in e-books, files or e-chapters, pamphlets or other material they have created for client, educational or marketing use. Some of it may be worthwhile; some not so. Nevertheless, these publications are often a good place to start the conversation, or thought-process on related topics.

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  • Age Banding [author]
  • Somnath Basu PhD, MBA  [www.clunet.edu/cif]
  • [Director California Institute of Finance]

Link: AgeBander

 

 

Disclaimer

No advice offered. We make no copyright claim to these works. Veracity and information should be considered time sensitive. Always consult a professional for your situation.

Assessment

Feel free to send in your own material for the benefit of all Medical Executive-Post readers and subscribers.

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Current Retirement Investment Options for Physicians

Understanding Build America Bonds

By Somnath Basu PhD, MBA [www.clunet.edu/cif]

[Director California Institute of Finance]

There is heartening news for those of us in retirement or approaching it. There’s a new type of bond called the Build America Bond or BAB. The BAB, along with an older and often ignored retirement investment, is viewed as positive developments for those saving for retirement. But, before a doctor, or any investor, jumps into these investments, some background information is required.

The Accumulation Phase

When people in their early careers save, their primary objective should be that their money grows healthily. They generally should invest in stocks which provides for longer run growth. This phase of our financial life can be called the “Accumulation Phase.”

The Preservation Phase

However, people in their mid- to end-careers (roughly between the ages of 40 – 65) start switching their objectives towards a more conservative future growth in their current savings, especially those associated with emergencies and retirement. This phase is usually identified as the “Preservation Phase” where individuals should begin switching their investments towards more fixed-income securities, such as bonds and bond funds. This idea of how reasonable people “should” behave is commonly known as the life-cycle hypothesis of investments.

The Decumulation Phase

Finally, people in retirement, those who are in the phase termed as the “Decumulation Phase,” should have a healthy dose of bond-type investments in their retirement portfolios.

Strange as it may be to some, this opinion about the investment life-cycle actually contains a lot of truth. If most people followed this basic rule, we would be better off this way than by any other method and especially in times like the recent financial tsunami that hit us. Those hit especially hard were people between the ages of 55 and older who held unhealthy amounts of stocks in their portfolios. Following this simplified version of retirement investments is both easy and effective.

All we do as we age is reduce our stock investments and increase our bond investments. While such a strategy reduces the growth of our wealth it also protects us from large to calamitous losses.

Unfortunately, the last 10 years or so have not been good for bond investments because bond prices have been at or near all-time highs and their returns near all-time lows. The following picture shows the rates one would earn by investing in the government’s (highest safety) 10-Year Treasury Note. Many bonds and mortgages (and subsequently the respective funds) use the 10-Year rate as the benchmark rate.

Graph: 10 T Year Note

As can easily be seen, these rates have come down steadily. A result has been the difficulty, of late, to find (the safer type) bond funds because they have been so expensive. However, one recent development in this field is worth mentioning: that is the emergence of a class of (stimulus-related) bonds known as the “Build America Bonds” or BABs, which for the first time in many years offers investors a very suitable entry to convert stocks into bonds. BABs, which were introduced in April 2009, are an innovative new tool for municipal financing created by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009. BABs are taxable bonds for which the U.S. Treasury Department pays a maximum of 35 percent direct subsidy to the issuer to offset borrowing costs.

The second issue of note is that at this point, it is quite expensive to hold cash in money market type funds because of the dismal rates offered on very short-term products. An alternative that physicians and all investors should contemplate purchasing instead of CDs, and money market deposits, is a class of bonds, issued by the Government and known as Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, or TIPS. These investments sold directly by the government to you (at http://www.TreasuryDirect.gov) are excellent vehicles for holding funds as they guarantee that your money will hold its buying power over time and a bit more. TIPS are a great way to hold the capital you will need in the short term. The following picture shows the stability of the TIPS rate; a much safer and more stable investment opportunity than short term Bank CDs, recent money market funds, etc.

Graph: TIPS Rate

Build America Bonds [BAB]

The Build America Bonds program, created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, allows state and local governments to obtain much-needed financing at lower borrowing costs for new capital projects such as construction of schools and hospitals, development of transportation infrastructure, and water and sewer upgrades, according to a recent U.S. Treasury Department press release. Under the Build America Bonds program, the Treasury Department makes a direct payment to the state or local governmental issuer in an amount equal to 35 percent of the interest payment on the bonds.

Here’s how BABs work according to the Treasury Department:

“The bonds, which allow a new direct federal payment subsidy, are taxable bonds issued by state and local governments that will give them access to the conventional corporate debt markets. At the election of the state and local governments, the Treasury Department will make a direct payment to the state or local governmental issuer in an amount equal to 35 percent of the interest payment on the Build America Bonds. As a result of this federal subsidy payment, state and local governments will have lower net borrowing costs and be able to reach more sources of borrowing than with more traditional tax-exempt or tax credit bonds. For example, if a state or local government were to issue Build America Bonds at a 10 percent taxable interest rate, the Treasury Department would make a payment directly to the government of 3.5 percent of that interest, and the government’s net borrowing cost would thus be only 6.5 percent on a bond that actually pays 10 percent interest.”

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Assessment

According to the Treasury Department, Build America Bonds have had a very strong reception from both issuers and investors.  From the inception of the program in April 2009 to March 31, 2010, there have been 1,066 separate Build America Bonds issuances in 48 states for a total of more than $90 billion. Read more about BABs at this site

http://www.treas.gov/press/releases/docs/BuildAmericaandSchoolConstructionBondsFactsheetFinal.pdf

Now, until the general level of interest rates go back to their normal states, it will be difficult to find another opportunity such as this one. This is especially true of investments that are made to local governments through their taxable investments. Municipal bonds are typically considered less risky. Add to this the partial guarantee of the Govt. and you have the makings of a very safe Bond fund providing an average yield of nearly 6% for medium-term duration. There has been a dearth of such fixed income investments in the Bond markets for quite a while. Thus, for doctors and all of us at or nearing retirement age, an exploration and investigation of BABs is an absolute must.

 

Editor’s Note: Somnath Basu PhD is program director of the California Institute of Finance in the School of Business at California Lutheran University where he’s also a professor of finance. He can be reached at (805) 493 3980 or basu@callutheran.edu. See the agebander at work at www.agebander.com

 

Conclusion

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Domestic Personal Savings Rate Increasing?

By Somnath Basu PhD, MBA [www.clunet.edu/cif]

[Director California Institute of Finance]

There is a heartening change that we are observing today, an event that is truly national in character. At the bottom of the financial abyss we single-handedly turned around our personal savings for the first time in 12 years.  The chart (Department of Commerce publications data) below expresses this turnaround emphatically.

Graph: Personal Savings Rate

It is the timing of this turnaround that is so heartening. The realization that this crisis may truly be worse than any other enabled us as a nation to halt this decline. We have our emergency “nest eggs’ rebuilt again. Amazing still is that this feat was achieved with a determined effort to curtail our consumption levels to ensure that our emergency funds were rebuilt. Again, a similar chart expresses this aspect much better.

Graph: Change in Consumption

What next then?  With our emergency nest eggs rebuilt, we must now ponder the question as to continue to increase our savings or not. For lay and senior physicians, the object would be to ensure they did not outlive their funds. For those medical professionals, and the rest of us, between the ages of 45-65 in general, retirement must loom somewhere, and retirement is sweet. Similarly, for those between ages 25 to 45, thoughts would turn towards families, home purchase and children’s education; all worthwhile savings objectives.

Assessment

Thus, the central question is whether we should increase our current consumption or postpone consumption to attain our future objectives. Only time will tell whether we continue the trend of increasing savings and moderating consumption or whether we go back to drawing down on our savings to increase current consumption.

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. What is your propensity to save or consume? Is it more or less for medical professionals? Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, be sure to subscribe. It is fast, free and secure.

 

Editor’s Note: Somnath Basu PhD is program director of the California Institute of Finance in the School of Business at California Lutheran University where he’s also a professor of finance. He can be reached at (805) 493 3980 or basu@callutheran.edu. See the agebander at work at www.agebander.com

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

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The Economics of Stock Market Fear for Physicians

Panic Control and the Possibility of Severe Financial Degradation 

By Somnath Basu PhD, MBA [www.clunet.edu/cif]

[Director California Institute of Finance]

An experiential learning of mammoth proportions occurred several weeks ago in the financial markets. The absolute 10 minute freefall of the prices of stocks and bonds, without any pre-notification froze the hearts of many physicians and lay others both in, and outside, of the investment community. The possibility of a one trillion dollar loss had suddenly and unexpectedly turned real. It happened in a matter of minutes. This experience of panic, of the possibility of a severe economic degradation of life becoming immediately real, is like none other that most of us can ever remember experiencing. Even the 1987 crash happened over a large part of that Monday. Like then, this time too there is no known reason of why it happened, though attempts are being made to understand the cause(s). Whatever the reasons may be, it will not change the experience we had of the realization of the fear of a sudden and unexpectedly large loss.

Event Analogies

Before going deeper into the experienced fear, it is useful to provide some analogies to the event. If the meltdown in the financial markets of 2008 was like an earthquake, then this was like a severe aftershock. It is also similar to going down one of those severe roller coaster freefalls that some may consider very undesirable. Alternately, what makes a 30 year old physician be mostly unconcerned about his/her lack of retirement savings while a 60 year old doctor in the same poor condition is much more concerned. Obviously, the possibility of a lower quality of economic life is much more real for the elder than the younger. In such cases we would expect the fear of an economically degraded life to spur people to take preventive or remedial action.

Understanding Fear

To truly understand our responses to fear, we need to go deeper into our minds. According to behavioral psychologists and neurologists both, there are various segments within our mind. For example, one segments of our mind (the frontal lobe) is understood to process analytical tasks. Similarly, other parts of our brain (the older limbic system composed of mammalian and reptilian brains) react to and affect/control our emotions and fear. When we are faced with an immediate threat, this older system takes over control of our reactions and often drives us towards instinctive responses and will not, in general, make the analytically reasoned response. It is similar to learning about all the different ways we need to behave in the wild if we came across a bear. When people actually are faced by such a situation, they rarely remember all their learning and respond with their instincts. Those are the limbic responses. In other words, when threats are real, our emotional mechanisms will dominate our rational mind and we will react according to our older and longer existing nature.

Shocked Limbic System

Such was the effect of the financial freeform. In those 10 minutes the economic shock to our limbic system was the first of its kind, in terms of magnitude. While discussions are held about sudden unexpected losses, typically the impact of sudden huge losses in a very very short period of time is rarely thought of in very meaningful ways because the probability is so very low. This time, it did actually happen! We will bear some consequences which will begin playing themselves out slowly over this summer. For one, the investing nation will be much more circumspect about stocks and other volatile financial instruments. In a more technical way, our risk aversion as a nation will have suddenly increased. This will have an impact on both trading volume and security market prices and eventually on portfolio values. How younger physicians and other investors will react is less known.

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Assessment

Finally, there is one important lesson in behavioral finance for us all – and that is for medical professionals to find competent financial advisors and planners who can safely herald all people in these times. It also is probably an important point to understand why the portfolios of older physicians should consider safety of principal first whilst the younger ones focus on growing their wealth.

Editor’s Note: Somnath Basu PhD is program director of the California Institute of Finance in the School of Business at California Lutheran University where he’s also a professor of finance. He can be reached at (805) 493 3980 or basu@callutheran.edu. See the agebander at work at www.agebander.com

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Would anyone like to discuss neurotransmitters or chime in on the flight or fight response? Are these very human reactions any different for doctors? How about feelings of “fear” or stock-market “panic attacks?”

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Of Wants, Needs, Economic Sustainability and Even Healthcare Reform

A Social Domestic Healthcare Initiative?

By Somnath Basu PhD, MBA [www.clunet.edu/cif]

[Director California Institute of Finance]

Necessities, conveniences and luxuries are an articulation of the hierarchy within wants and needs. The scale and scope of this hierarchy seems quite seamless at the surface. Food, micro waved dinners to gourmet meals. Transportation needs become personal transportation needs and then into Ferraris. Family picnics are replaced by TVs and then by exotic vacations. Home rentals needs change to the wanting of mansions.

As we move up each of the needs totem poles, our monetary requirements stretch endlessly; otherwise if we were all able to bask in everlasting luxury, the end of capitalism and free markets would be in sight. The ideal of everlasting luxury forever too is therefore necessarily unachievable but something that is pursuable, forever. In this vein of reasoning, all of society’s resources and endeavors must go towards attaining this ideal. What then are the limitations of such pursuits?

The above concept of needs and wants also defines layers of society by their consumption abilities. It also defines the pressures imposed upon the growth of GDP from large sections of society to increase their consumption. It is a single-minded pursuit by the upper middle-class of society to strive towards the entering the class of the wealthy, followed by the middle class seeking upper-middle class status, etc. The wealthy comprise a group who are small in number (10% or less) but who account for more than 67% of the ownership and consumption of resources and production, respectively. As large numbers of people start striving to break into the next higher classes of citizenry, pressures increase for GDP to grow. Over time, the wealthy get wealthier, some new entrants appear in each socio-economic group while the general population at large become poorer and more frustrated from this sum-zero game. At some point, the sustainability of the economic system is tested and then broken; societies develop, peak and then wither through strife.

GDP Pressures

For the event of the entire upper-middle class citizenry of joining the class of the wealthy to happen, the GDP would probably need to grow at about a rate of 10 – 12% per year, for each of the next 10 to 20 years! We can easily deduce that for the remaining 80% of the population, the ideal is mostly unachievable. Thus, it may be useful to ask ourselves what is a desirable benchmark for our way of life? “How much money do we need to be happy?” may be another variable approach. Clearly, there are social costs arising from our relentless pursuits of wealth.

To properly assess the cost-benefits of our economic system we need to explore two issues at the heart of the situation. One is the production of wealth. The second is its distribution. Clearly, distributing some wealth inequally is preferred to distributing nothing equally. The question then becomes one of society’s tolerances of inequality. Thought another way, how is enough provided at each level of society such that there is strive and not strife, such that the entire society is better off.

The Elderly

One victim to the current economic system is the elderly. In relentlessly pursuing growth and consumption of luxuries over anything else, we often forget to save for the years where we are no more productive, in a GDP sense.  The retirement woes of the generation of unprepared baby boomers can be seen in articles and papers in many depressing data forms. The main reason we fall victim to being unprepared for retirement is the need to spend every penny we earn on consumption so as not to forget that we are striving to attain the ranks of the upper echelons of society and which demands that our consumption and lifestyles mimic those we aspire to emulate. Using this example, we can take a closer look at some of our spending patterns and understand the pressures we impose upon our savings, GDP growth and the limitations inherent in such growth.

 

What is Enough?

We spend about 17% on transportation, another 15% on food, and about 35% on housing. This is the national average. If collectively we wished to move into the class of the wealthy, we would impose immense pressure on GDP, one that would clearly not be sustainable. That begs the question as to what’s enough. There is somewhere along these lines of reasoning a place of social well being, where the pressures of producing wealth do not dominate our lifestyles.

Global Considerations

On another plane an argument can be made for the prolongation of our imperial life cycle. As with any cycle, micro or macro, our rein at the top of the global economic cycle is waning; the question then becomes as to what course of action can slow down our descent. It is the respite we need where we can also plan for our grandchildren and beyond, rather than be engrossed in current mindless consumption and the bequest of their repercussions for generations to come. Slowing down consumption is one way of prolonging our place near the top; our “apparent” successor, China, depends mostly on us to buy the goods that they produce on our behalf. Developing fully China’s own middle markets for consumption and reducing its dependency on our consumption will take more than one lifetime for the Chinese. On the same note, let us not give away our technological supremacy to India either. In pursuit of the bottom line and exporting many technical and business jobs to India in the name of bottom line economics will also eventually impoverish our own citizens.

American Economics Nobel laureates

A recent study conducted by two American Economics Nobel laureates (Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Kumar Sen) examined the very issue of GDP focus on behalf of the Government of France. Their findings were of a similar vein where they questioned the government’s fixation with GDP and society’s need for a balanced, sustainable and comfortable lifestyle. They found that using only GDP as the benchmark lead to myopia of sorts amongst government officials that people are happy and satisfied or that their relentless pursuit of GDP growth does not matter to them. The scientists also found that a need exists among people to also have an achievable benchmark of happiness and satisfaction with life without the mires of just GDP alone.

In a sense, if people can be liberated from the necessary requirements of basic living (food, shelter, basic healthcare and retirement), the self-induced pressures to outperform economically, along with the accompanying social malaises, would not be necessary; our lifestyles would also possibly change in very meaningful and simplifying ways as we seek more sustainable allocations of our land, labor and capital.

While the idea above may sound utopian at first, it may be useful to note that there are some societies in the world (primarily Scandinavia) where a much smaller version of such a system exists. First, a visit to any of those countries will persuade any American that their style of life is no less than ours. This is in spite of lesser wages and a staggering (income and sales) tax burden. However, ironically, it is the latter reason (high tax rate) that allows the citizens in Scandinavia to enjoy free education (up to any academic level and including boarding, lodging and international studies!), adequate and free healthcare, subsidized and efficient transportation and a basic pension for all upon retirement. However, this magic is mainly because of a small and highly efficient government giving back probably 90 cents for every dollar worth of taxes collected. Now, that is public good.

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The First Issue

What are the issues for us to scale to such a system? Obviously, the first is not having such a big and unwieldy government. Unfortunately, a lean, mean and highly efficient government is not foreseeable for us either in the near future and neither are higher tax rates. Higher tax rates just drives high income individuals and businesses underground and is not a market solution. Can our society at large demanding such a welfare state, be willing participants in such a system and demand such a government? If it did, we certainly could sail smoother through our busy impersonal lives. Having the GDP monkey off our backs will certainly calm us; consider the intense polarization in political thought around the globe arising from inequities of both consumption and thought. A sustainable solution that creates a safety net for all citizens would indeed be desirable for any society.

The Second Issue

This brings back the second issue, the issue of wealth distribution among society. Even when a non-market system (such as taxes) does not work in making society more egalitarian, a reallocation of wealth is somewhat desirable but no tools exist to make this happen. Possibly, the only market solution is philanthropy where suppliers provide capital for fulfilling social needs.

In the true sense of a long run, the ethical decision of philanthropy is also utilitarian; the value of the family name pays back handsomely to the family over the years. It is well known that where moderately large inheritances are left purely to the children and family inheritors, the family descends into decadence and the wealth is squandered in about three generations.

Of Relentless Pursuits

In a society where economic demarcation lines cannot be drawn but exist, the population at large will go towards a state of constant strife for higher status and eventually self-destruct. In other words, a mass population fed on this idea of relentless pursuit of income or wealth will eventually not be able to sustain itself and disintegrate and decay in its social fabric. In the long run, keeping people distracted by wars, economic woes or other narrow global or domestic events will not keep people placated forever; people have a way of collectively being heard.

Our Global Role

While the above may seem like a commentary on our own social system, it is not. The recent financial disasters have taught us that going into the future, no solution can remain purely domestic in nature. This world, through the unifying effect of the financial disaster, has learnt like never before, that any sustainable solution has to be global in nature. Now, more than at any time before, we must shed any feeling of ethnocentrism and nationalism and prepare to enter and lead the world through global solutions. After all, in relation to the about 5.5 other billion people, our way of life is still grand and we remain the Mecca of all aspiring global citizens.

Politics

As a political nation, we have shown that we are more enlightened than any other nation when we elected the Mr. Barack H. Obama as the President of the country. Ask this simple question: which Caucasian majority country will next vote a non-Caucasian to its highest seat? Nowhere, not in our lifetimes, I think.

Yet by electing President Obama, we sent a clear signal to the rest of the world about our system of meritocracy which very few societies can show and also not brag about.  Through this action we have also shown that we have the political will and dedication to bring around changes in shape to global economic systems as well.

A social domestic healthcare initiative, even if it be a non-market solution, is one in the right vein, though only time will tell if we executed the policy correctly or not.

 

 

Editor’s Note: Somnath Basu PhD is program director of the California Institute of Finance in the School of Business at California Lutheran University where he’s also a professor of finance. He can be reached at (805) 493 3980 or basu@callutheran.edu. See the agebander at work at www.agebander.com

Assessment

As for myself, I would be willing to pay the costs for a social safety net. If I was assured of some basic amenities by way of food, lodging, healthcare and retirement, I would be quite willing to do the requisite work to pay the appropriate cost and spend the rest of my time in a warm sunny beach and eventually experience the liberating feeling of retirement and enjoy each day as the holiday it is.

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

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Modern Retirement Planning and “Banding” for Physicians

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The “AgeBander” Approach Presents a More Accurate Portrayal

[By Somnath Basu, PhD, MBA]

A convergence of mega-trends will forever change the face of retirement planning and raise its importance in the pantheon of physician retirement planning and most all employee benefits. Chief among them: longer life expectancy, advances in medicine, healthier lifestyles and mounting concern about years of abysmally low savings rates.

What it all Means in Practical Terms

What this means in practical terms for future retired physicians and most all retirees is the need for employers, service providers and financial advisers [FAs] to plot a more accurate and thoughtful course to planning for retirement that acknowledges the necessity of pursuing an “age-banded” approach. The idea behind this new approach is that individuals undergo various changes in lifestyles during retirement that last for finite or “age-banded”, periods.

Example:

For example, doctors like most people spend more time and money on leisurely activities early on in retirement, while health care needs dominate the latter years. Further, the costs associated with these lifestyles also change at differential inflation rates than from the basic inflation rate. While the basic inflation rate is about 3%, the U.S. Census Bureau noted that annual recreation costs increased at 7.14% though most of the 1990s. Health care costs also increased by much higher rates than the basic rate. Since the traditional model bundles all costs (including leisure, health care, basic living, etc) and extrapolates at the basic rate, it tends to underestimate retirement expenses. The traditional model’s “static” approach to retirement can have dangerous implications since it may lead to under-funded retirement plans, especially those earmarked for the critical years.

A Flawed Model?

In a research paper published by the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education, I detailed the reasons why an age-banded approach is superior to the traditional view of retirement planning. This new model provides for a more accurate portrayal of retirement expenses and an algorithm to calculate the income-replacement ratio, as well as smaller resource requirements and greater flexibility in managing risk. It also allows easier incorporation of long-term care insurance (LTCI) and significantly reduces funding needs. Indeed, the funding needs of a husband and wife who are both age 60 and presumably five years away from retirement are reduced by more than 16% and contributions for a 35-year-old single woman are reduced by 42% compared with previous approaches.

Traditional Retirement Planning Weaknesses

There are five inherent weaknesses to the traditional approach to retirement planning. They include the assumption that all living expenses will increase at the overall rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), bundling all expenses together and not allowing them to change based on the life-cycle, estimating those expenses as a fixed percentage (replacement ratio) of pre-retirement costs, investing in low-return assets and failing to consider contingencies such as LTCI benefits, which can have a significant impact on the amount of funding required for retirement.

Financial Advisory Estimates

When financial planners estimate how much income a client needs in retirement, the calculation hinges on their income just prior to retirement. The pre-retirement income is adjusted downward by 10% to 35%. This adjustment reflects the income necessary to maintain one’s standard of living and incorporates reductions in taxes and other work-related expenses that cease upon retirement. Unfortunately, there’s no objective way to estimate the replacement ratio. Aggressive financial planners typically use large ratios and conservative planners use smaller ones.

30-year Retirement Window

Under the age-banded model, an individual typically lives about 30 years in retirement (e.g., age 65 to 95) and experiences a lifestyle change every 10 years at 65, 75 and 85. Of course, both the retirement period and the width of the age bands are arbitrary but can be subjectively changed to fit each retiree as closely as possible. In addition, a number of steps are taken to produce a clearer picture of retirement costs by categorizing them based on taxes, living expenses, health care and leisure, as well as calculating anticipated expenses using the appropriate rate of inflation for each category, which is adjusted to reflect post-retirement lifestyle changes.

Those expenses are extrapolated through 30 years of retirement and the present value of post-retirement expenses are calculated at an amount deemed sufficient to finance the three following decade (each age band). Instead of discounting these values to the year of retirement (the traditional model), the age banding considers them to be three retirement portfolios that require funding.

Since the portfolio required to fund the expenses during the years 86 to 95 is 20 years behind the first band (66 to 75), investors can seek marginally higher rates of return to reflect the longer terms. Contributions toward these amounts can now be calculated.

Example:

For example, the couple mentioned earlier is able to seek higher rates of return for longer-term investment portfolios which more than mitigate the effects of escalating health care costs. In the case  of the 35-year-old single woman, since the funds required for these three portfolios are 30, 40 and 50 years away she should be willing to take on more risk since she has ample time to manage the portfolio risk.

The expenses for the age-banded method become considerably higher at the latter stages of retirement as compared to the traditional model. This is desirable since the over-funding is associated with an age at which one cannot afford to be out of funds. The higher estimate of the age band comes from higher inflation rates for health care and the incorporation of lifestyle changes that imply accelerated costs such as increased leisure spending upon retirement and higher health care costs in the latter years.

Thus, these higher costs are not only more realistic but they incorporate the dynamics of a retired life, unlike the traditional model. Incredible as it might seem, the ability to assume a marginally higher risk leads to an actual decrease in the funding requirements versus the traditional plan.

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Assessment

One caveat that doctors need to know, and that financial planners will need to keep in mind, is that their clients may be reticent to buy equities when markets are underperforming. Clear explanations are required regarding why it may still be beneficial for the long run and that the risk will be managed on an ongoing basis. But, the results will be well worth the effort for the multiple stakeholders involved in assuring that tomorrow’s retirees are able to live more comfortable after their working years. It’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind associated with knowing retirement expenses will be portrayed more accurately and plan participants will be afforded greater flexibility in managing their risk.

Table [Comparison of growth in retirement expenses]

Link: Age-Banded Retirement Planning FINAL[1]

Editor’s Note: Somnath Basu PhD is program director of the California Institute of Finance in the School of Business at California Lutheran University where he’s also a professor of finance. He can be reached at (805) 493 3980 or basu@callutheran.edu. See the agebander at work at www.agebander.com

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Financial advisors please chime in on the debate? Is Basu correct; why or why not? Review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, be sure to subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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Dr. Somnath Basu on Investing

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He Writes for the Medical Executive-Post

By Ann Miller; RN, MHA

[Executive-Director]

Dr. Somnath Basu is no stranger to the ME-P, or the financial planning community. He is a Professor of Finance at California Lutheran University and the Director of its California Institute of Finance.

Academic Background

Dr Basu earned his BA in Economics, University of Delhi, MBA (Finance), Marquette University and a PhD (Finance), University of Arizona. He is well published and is an award winning teacher. He has significant consulting experience with US Fortune 100 companies, advising institutional money managers and in developing proprietary finance and planning software. He serves on various Boards and committees including the CFP (chaired the Model Curriculum Revision Committee) Board of Standards and the Financial Planning Association.

Basu’s New Book

His new book, co-authored with Professors’ Block and Hirt, Investment Planning for Financial Professionals is available now, published by McGraw Hill, in May 2006.

Link: http://www.amazon.com/Investment-Planning-Geoffrey-Hirt/dp/0071437215/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1265918999&sr=1-1

Additional essays by Dr. Basu can be viewed at: http://blog.fpaforfinancialplanning.org/author/somnathbasufpa/

He also writers a column for the Journal of Financial Services Professionals. He can be reached at:

Contact Dr. Somnath Basu
Director – California Institute of Finance
Cell: 805 405 4448
Work: 805 493 3980
http://www.clunet.edu/cif

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

OUR OTHER PRINT BOOKS AND RELATED INFORMATION SOURCES:

Comprehensive Financial Planning Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners(TM)

Understanding the New “Mixed” Economy

Musings of an Informed Thought-Leader

By Somnath Basu PhD, MBA

Brief Excerpt

The recent debacle in the financial markets has opened up a plethora of issues that require serious attention from all market participants. Perhaps the most serious concern is the emergence of a “mixed” economy where both “public” and government-owned enterprises will coexist with “private” enterprises.

Review of Past Performance

Unfortunately, the historical performances of such economies have been fairly dismal. The debacle is also bound to usher in additional regulation of financial markets. The new regulations are likely to focus on ways to control the possibilities of similar failures in the future.

Assessment

However, the structure of regulation should not be constructed on the basis of how the markets failed the people but instead on how people failed the market. The ramifications of the debacle require our attention and understanding, especially the possibilities of the existence of a regime of both high inflation and high market volatility. 

White Paper Link Here:  The New Economy

Conclusion

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Introducing Somnath Basu; PhD MBA

Our Newest ME-P Thought-Leader in Finance and Economics

By Ann Miller; RN, MHA

[Executive Director]Dr. Basu

Dr. Somnath Basu is a Professor of Finance at California Lutheran University and the Director of its California Institute of Finance. Dr. Basu is also a Professor of the Helsinki School of Economics Executive MBA Program. He earned his BA in Economics, University of Delhi, MBA (Finance), Marquette University and a PhD (Finance), University of Arizona.

Publications and Experience

Dr. Basu is extensively published in the field of investments and financial planning and is an award winning teacher. He has significant consulting experience with US Fortune 100 companies, advising institutional money managers and in developing proprietary personal investment software. Dr. Basu is actively involved with financial planning organizations including the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), the CFP Board of Standards, International CFP Board and the Financial Planning Association. He coauthored the book (with Block and Hirt), “Investment Planning for Financial Professionals” McGraw Hill, May 2006 which is widely used by financial planning programs nationwide. 

AssessmentCLU

To regular our ME-P readers, Dr. Basu’s opinions are well known and not without controversy. But, whether you agree with him or not, his commitment to the industry and his economics and financial planning students is solid. And, always adhering to the Socratic dialog tradition of candor intelligence and goodwill.

Link: https://healthcarefinancials.wordpress.com/2009/04/09/i-jealously-shake-my-fist-at-somnath-basu/

Link: https://healthcarefinancials.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/dr-somnath-basu-replies-to-the-cfp%c2%ae-mis-trust-controversy/ 

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this Medical Executive-Post are appreciated. Pleas give Somnath a warm ME-P welcome and electronic “shout-out”. Then, be sure to subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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Healthcare Organizations: www.HealthcareFinancials.com

Health Administration Terms: www.HealthDictionarySeries.com

Physician Advisors: www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.com

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