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Wealth management in Florida: Money tips and advice from the experts

With a new administration in Washington, Florida investors are watching for changes in policies and laws. Research shows most Americans headed into 2017 with financial concerns about retirement. In 2016, 64% of Americans said they were worried about not having enough money to pay their living expenses in retirement, up from 60% the year before, according to a Gallup poll. Even with uncertainty, there are ways to manage income and accumulate wealth. Financial experts around Florida offer their strategies.

Wendy Liebowitz

Certified financial planner/ MBA/branch manager
Fidelity Investments
Fort Lauderdale

Family Financial Meetings

When it comes to managing wealth for the next generation, Wendy Liebowitz recommends more family meetings. While 90% of parents and their adult children consider it important to have frank conversations about how they are managing and saving their money, they often aren’t having those discussions, a 2017 Fidelity survey found. “Money is a private matter, but when parents are comfortable sharing details, it is much more valuable to have their children become part of the dialog,” Liebowitz says. Fidelity’s study of more than 1,500 parents and adult children found more than two-thirds disagree about the appropriate time to initiate conversations about the parents’ finances. Liebowitz says the right time is when parents are healthy and can discuss their long-term wishes. “Every family should have an annual financial family meeting,” Liebowitz says. By 60, most people should know their financial goal — whether it’s to spend their wealth while they are alive, to leave it behind as a legacy or a combination. “People need to know if they are investing for their risk tolerance or their children’s, and they need to make choices together.”

Tax Implications

When Kevin Kane meets with clients in Jacksonville, he finds they are somewhat more informed than in previous years. “There are so many sources for investors to get other people’s opinions,” he says. For the investor, though, the multitude of information often only raises additional questions, particularly around how possible tax law changes could affect wealth management. While a repeal of the federal gift tax and estate tax is possible, “the how and manner in which a repeal happens is up for speculation,” he says. He advises clients to proceed with their wealth management strategies as if nothing will change — until it does. Elaine Bucher tells her clients to avoid making certain types of gifts that will result in gift tax, since it is possible that the gift tax may be repealed. She also has discussed with clients provisions in their wills and revocable trusts that could cause tax-efficient results if they die in a year when there is no estate tax. With the uncertainty over whether the estate tax will be eliminated, Bucher tells clients not to immediately terminate their life insurance. Other possible tax law changes are affecting financial planning strategies. Some business owners delayed selling their businesses in 2016 with hopes that changes to tax laws will make a sale more beneficial in 2017. “In 2017, business owners have a shot at a reduced tax burden,” Kane says. “However, there is not necessarily anything to capitalize on at the moment.”

Kevin Kane

Shareholder/ Tax attorney
Gunster
Jacksonville

Elaine Bucher

Shareholder
Gunster Private Wealth Services Group
Boca Raton

NOTEWORTHY

401(k) Balances

American workers are adding more to their 401(k)s than ever before, according to Fidelity Investments, which looked at how 14. 5 million people are behaving in retirement plans that it administers. Fidelity says the average 401(k) balance was $92,500 at the end of 2016, up nearly 5% from the previous high a year earlier. At the same time, the number of people with a 401(k) loan dropped to its lowest point since the fourth quarter of 2009. “This shows people are taking the right steps toward reaching their retirement savings goals,” says Kevin Barry, president of workplace investing at Fidelity Investments. Along with 401(k)s, investors opened nearly half a million IRA accounts with Fidelity last year, bringing the total number of IRA accounts at Fidelity to more than 8.5 million. The average IRA balance was $93,700, up $3,600 from the year before.

New Directions

New trends in Baby Boomer investing and spending are factoring into the advice that Faith Read Xenos provides. Market returns are more muted than people projected; more people are living into their 90s; and Baby Boomers are spending money on traveling and fixing up their homes, she says. “Obviously, there is wealth transfer, but it is not as great as once projected,” Xenos says. Instead of passing on their wealth to adult children, Baby Boomers are helping them by providing a down payment for their first homes or cars and contributing to their grandchildren’s college tuition.

Xenos says her Boomer clients want income without risk to principal. She’s steering them in new directions. “I tell them that there are many creative bond strategies that are doing well.” For example, she tells them to consider non-core bonds such as reinsurance and alternative lending that have higher income but little interest rate risk.

Xenos says clients want to know what moves to make with a new president and administration. “Nothing has been clearly revealed to know what to change. I tell clients to look at the fundamentals and stick to that analysis.” As the stock market hits record highs, Xenos says she considers clients’ time frame for a desired return and their tolerance for risk principal. She’s steering them in new directions. “I tell them that there are many creative bond strategies that are doing well.” For example, she tells them to consider non-core bonds such as reinsurance and alternative lending that have higher income but little interest rate risk.

Faith Read Xenos

Founding partner
Singer Xenos Wealth Management
Coral Gables

Dividend-Minded

Eight years into the economic recovery, Scott Pieper still cautions investors to realize the limits of what their advisers can control.

During the first quarter of 2017, markets have been strong with anticipation that policy initiatives will drive economic growth, Pieper says. Regardless of how changes play out, Pieper says volatility likely will continue and discusses the difference between the willingness to take risk and the ability to do so. He manages risk to his investors’ portfolios by considering three factors:

Asset allocation: How much an investor has in stocks, bonds and cash is one of the most important determinants of return over time, he says. He and his clients are carefully adjusting their mix based on how far out someone is from retirement.

Stocks in high-quality companies: With the market at a all-time highs, Pieper wants his client to avoid volatile stocks and buy companies that are predictable and stable.

Cash flow: Pieper says all portfolios should include dividend-oriented companies. Look for companies that have a history of paying a dividend and growing that dividend each year, he says. “Companies that grow their dividend, even in times that are challenging, send a signal that they can manage through market highs and lows.”

Scott L. Pieper

Chief investment officer, CFA
Sabal Trust
St. Petersburg

Taking Stock

Jon Ulin recommends a globally diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds and cautions against having a majority of savings in company stock. Most important, he tells investors to create a disciplined process for tracking financial progress. Check fees, individual positions and overall diversification — and look carefully at automatic contributions to 401(k)s. “I tell my clients to check results quarterly. Open the statement and see if there are any positions that have not performed well. You are not only looking for an indication to sell, but also for buying opportunities.”

In addition, Ulin says more of Florida’s small-business owners should invest in the stock market. Most owners invest heavily in their businesses, real estate and cash. “While the stock market has returned about 9% per year historically, many have little to no money in the market,” he says. “It is important to invest in your business, but it is as important to invest in your own financial future and retirement.”

Jon W. Ulin

Managing principal/certified financial planner/ private wealth adviser
Ulin & Co. Wealth Management
Boca Raton

Think Roth

Adam Bergman is a fan of the Roth IRA, calling it “one of the most powerful retirement savings tools.” In 2017, it’s smarter than ever to start a Roth IRA or convert a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA, he says. Roth IRAs offer tax-free withdrawals. If tax rates are lowered, as promised by President Trump, the amount a traditional IRA holder would pay in taxes on the conversion would be less. “Basically, you would lock in the Roth conversion at a lower tax rate, and now you have a Roth account that grows tax-free,” Bergman says. “A Roth is the best tax shelter you can get, and we don’t know where the tax rate is going to go in 10 or 15 years, so this is a great opportunity.”

For younger investors, Bergman, author of a book aimed at teaching millennials about compounding and tax-deferred savings, says the right move is any move toward savings. “If you start saving in your 20s and you’re consistent, you will have hundreds of thousands of dollars when you retire,” he says, emphasizing that while young, it doesn’t matter if a millennial buys stocks, index funds or gold. “Your money is going to grow for you. What’s important is that money is saved, rather than where it’s invested.”

Lastly, Bergman encourages people who are self-employed to start a 401(k), which allows a plan holder with sufficient income to make a tax-deductible contribution of up to $54,000 this year, or $60,000 if he or she is over 50. “It is the most robust retirement account for the self-employed.”

Adam Bergman

Senior tax partner
IRA Financial Group
Miami

Stay Focused

Richard Stevens spends much of his day urging clients to keep their long-term goals in focus. “With these bouts of volatility, it’s important to keep perspective,” he says. Managing the stockto- bond allocation can have a significant effect on the stability of portfolio performance, which becomes more important as equity markets hit new highs. Stevens cautions that with the stock market runup, it makes sense to keep some cash in case the market pulls back. However, he recommends that his clients make minor adjustments in their bond portfolios, too. “Instead of longer maturity bonds, we are moving in the yield curve a bit so the bond duration isn’t as susceptible to an uptick in rates,” he says.

Richard Stevens

Senior investment advisor
PNC Wealth Management
Naples

Women & Money

Snowe Saxman is guiding Florida women from experience. Saxman, an Orlando financial and business coach, was a millionaire at 25, bankrupt by 35 and has since rebuilt a multiple six-figure business. She coaches women not only on how to create wealth, but how to respond when a risk doesn’t pay off or an unplanned life event requires capital. “An important part of wealth management is having an emergency fund,” she says. Saxman tells the women she coaches to review their financial portfolios weekly. “You need to know your numbers,” she says. “Not every investment will go as on paper, but if you don’t have it in front of you, it makes it much harder to spot a problem.”