Which States Are Best For Retirement?

Retiring In Hawaii

Hawaii, obviously?

America is amazing because we’re free to relocate anywhere in the country that suits our desires. A lot of people scoff at the idea of just moving because of family and job responsibilities. But when you can take a plane anywhere in the continental US in under six hours, telecommute from home, and FaceTime with people you care about, why wouldn’t you at least give moving to a nicer place a shot? There are even plenty of flexible job opportunities by the sharing economy that can help pay the bills during a transition.

The best states to live in have a combination of low taxes and incredible weather. California is awesome, but our taxes are horrendous and we’ve still got a budget deficit! Hawaii is also amazing, but food and housing are also costly. At least Hawaii’s sales tax is only 4-4.5% and pensions are state tax-free.

I’ve been to a large majority of the 50 States and spent 10 years on the East Coast before moving out West in 2001. I’m totally biased for California and Hawaii so I enlisted FS reader, Steve from Green Diet to help me put together an unbiased assessment of our country based on cost of living to see which states are best for retirement. 

Personal Capital Review – New Investment Features And A Meeting With The CEO

Bill Harris, CEO of Personal Capital

Bill Harris, CEO of Personal Capital

After 3.5 years of using Personal Capital’s free financial tools to track my net worth, manage my cash flow, and optimize my investments, it’s finally time I do a unique review of Personal Capital from the perspective of an entrepreneur, an affiliate blogger, an equity shareholder, and a consultant for the past 17 months (Nov 2013 – April 13, 2015).

I’ve highlighted in previous posts how I use Personal Capital to reduce portfolio fees and how to run various growth scenarios to better manage your 401(k) for retirement. Now I’d like to share with you some thoughts about the company after spending over 1,500 hours consulting with Personal Capital. On April 13, 2015 I officially started my new role as a special advisor to the firm.

Ranking The Best Passive Income Investments

Passive Income Streams Allows You To Be Free

In order to relax, you must first work very, very hard!

After about the 30th day in a row of working 12+ hour days and eating rubber chicken dinners at the free cafeteria down at 85 Broad Street, I decided I had enough. There was no way I could last for more than five years working in a pressure cooker environment like Wall Street. I became obsessed with generating passive income starting in 1999.

We’ve discussed how to get started building passive income for financial freedom in a previous post. Now I’d like to rank the various passive income streams based on risk, return, and feasibility. The rankings are somewhat subjective, but they are born from my own real life experiences attempting to generate multiple types of passive income sources over the past 16 years.

The passive income journey is a long one. But thanks to innovation and technology, the ability to generate meaningful passive income is accelerating!

At What Cost Is Net Worth Diversification Worth It?

Net Worth DiversificationThe following is a guest post from Chris, a fella I met while stranded in Frankfurt, en route home from my business trip to Switzerland and Mallorca to do more research on the happiest countries in the world. Chris has a dilemma and could use the community’s help! – Sam

It was early evening when the airplane broke so the airline had to put up all of the passengers in a local hotel – to make matters challenging we were unable to get our checked luggage and had to survive on the contents of our carry-on bags. Upon entering the lobby I quickly noted that the hotel check-in line was 17 passengers deep so I decided to “wait” in the hotel bar (which was oddly empty) while my fellow, disgruntled travelers begged for rooms. Another fellow passenger noted the length of the queue and opted for the bar seat right next to me.

My bar partner and I got to drinking, laughing, and chatting about possibly catching a cab into town to procure clean under-garments – I don’t recall how long we sat at the bar, the check-in line was non-existent by the time we got room keys, my decision-making was “gin and tonic clouded” and I was happy that I chose to spend the time making a new friend instead of wasting time in a check-in line. My bar partner was Sam, he told me about his FS journey and I’ve been a regular visitor to the FS site since.

How To Measure Fiscal Responsibility: Calculate Your FS-FR Score

FS-FR Score For Fiscal Responsibility

FS-FR Score Of 50

We’ve got the Financial Samurai Debt And Investment Ratio (FS-DAIR), which provides a logical framework for deciding how much to invest and how much debt to pay down every time you have some disposable income. The acronym smartly “dares” people to take action with their finances.

I now announce the Financial Samurai Fiscal Responsibility Score (FS-FR) for measuring each individual’s fiscal responsibility level in a fun and easy way. I expect some of you who have a low FS-FR Score will probably not be very happy with the concept and bash the crap out of it. But, that’s part of the fun!

Financial concepts are usually quite dull and hard to comprehend. As a result, they are never followed. But if you come up with something simple like the 1/10th Rule For Car Buying, it might just catch on and save thousands of people from spending more than they should on a depreciating asset.

Before publishing this post, I researched the internet and found nothing similar to the FS-FR Score. Therefore, I’m pleased to report that once again, a new concept is born that may revolutionize our finances! 

Median Income By Age And Sex In America

median-salary-by-age-and-sexDo Americans have an earnings problem or a savings problem? Unfortunately, I think we’ve got both. Take a look at the median salary by age and sex compiled by Motley Fool from the Census Bureau.

The obvious points are 1) people make more the older they get and 2) men make more than women at every single age group. Making more as you age is nothing insightful. What is insightful is how the difference between men and women’s salaries really start to grow in their 30s. A 25% pay gap is huge!

So what’s going on here? The answer must be biological (life). For example, I have a female friend who was the most gung-ho worker ever. She was an Electrical Engineer in college (one of the hardest majors) and told me that she planned to work “forever” after Harvard Business School. Two years after HBS, she was pregnant, and when I asked her whether she still planned to go back to work she said, “No way! Raising my children is the most important thing in the world to me.”

It’s been five years since she’s been out of the work force. If she decides to return at age 37, it’s logical to assume that she will have to start at a lower pay and title than colleagues who kept working while she was away. Regarding finding a solution to the gender wage gap for equal pay for equal work, the fix I’ve come up with is to have equal paternity leave rights for men and women. With equal paternity leave rights, employers are more blind to discriminate.

What’s interesting is that women have more money in their 401k on average up to the $150,000 income mark, according to a 2014 report by Fidelity Investments with 13 million tracked accounts. Women earning between $20,000 and $40,000, for example, have saved an average of $17,300 in their 401(k) compared to $15,200 for men in the same income range.

Is A Backdoor Roth IRA A Good Move For Higher Income Earners?

Backdoor Roth IRAThere are three primary types of retirement plans in the U.S. today: Traditional IRAs, 401(k)s, and Roth IRAs. Although there are some other plan options out there such as SIMPLE IRAs, SEP IRAs, for the most part when people are talking about their retirement funds, they are referring to one of the three main types mentioned above.

It is often debated which of the two IRA options is better: the Traditional IRA that is tax deferred, or the Roth IRA that is funded after tax. Hypothetically speaking, if your earnings and tax rates went unchanged for your entire life, both types of IRA plans would net you the same amount of money in the end – it’d just be a matter of either paying the taxes up front or deferring them until later. However, it’s unlikely you’d actually be in a situation where those two variables would stay constant for your entire lifetime, since earnings and income tax rates regularly fluctuate.

I’ve been a staunch opponent of the Roth IRA because it’s never a good idea to pay taxes up front to a government who excels at wasting money. So long as you have your money, you can figure out ways to shelter your money from the government in a myriad of legal ways.

But what if you are a super pessimist who believes taxes have to go up because the budget is so poorly managed? Furthermore, you’re inept at navigating the many legal tax savings rules. In such a scenario, even those of us in the lowly 25% and under federal income tax brackets are probably not safe.

How Investing In A Hedge Fund Saved My Retirement Portfolio

Retirement is lounging in an infinity pool by Jalon Burton

Reducing volatility from investing with hedge funds in order to relax

One of the benefits of working at an investment bank is gaining access to a variety of investment opportunities that retail investors normally wouldn’t have access to. For example, if Goldman Sachs decided to create a special opportunity fund for institutions because they saw opportunity in the Argentinian debt market, employees would have the opportunity to invest alongside some of the world’s largest money managers like Fidelity, Capital, and Franklin Templeton. Random investment opportunities came up all the time.

After two years as a financial analyst at GS in NYC, I knew my days were numbered as the NASDAQ dotcom bubble burst in March 2000. I remember optimistically telling my VP in May 2000 how I was still bullish on the markets and he sternly told me, “We’re in a bear market. Stop kidding yourself.” Three years later, more than half of my analyst class was let go.

By June 2000, it was clear the NASDAQ was not getting better. I can’t remember exactly how things played out, but I think management sent out an internal e-mail to all employees about how we should keep focusing on our clients – that now was the best time to give them a call or take them out because nobody else was. In the employee memo, management also indicated they had added some new options to our 401k retirement plan, namely several hedge funds that looked to profit from the downturn.

Given some of our smartest and most profitable clients were hedge funds, I decided to do some research and invest half of my 401k into a technology hedge fund, Andor Capital Management, founded by Daniel Benton. Andor was one of Goldman’s largest clients, and they formed some type of partnership where they would let employees invest without needing the $1 million+ minimums. The flagship Andor technology fund ended up returning 35 percent in 2000, net of fees, and my 401k actually inched up in 2000 and 2001 as a result of the hedge fund investment instead of getting slaughtered.

I kept my GS 401k until 2003, despite moving to a new firm in June 2001, due to the investment selection. But after it felt like the markets were out of the woods, and since I could no longer contribute to my GS 401k hedge fund as an ex-employee, I consolidated my 401k balance at my new firm to keep things streamlined. 

The Top One Percent Income Levels By State

A top 0.01% income earner's yacht

A top 0.01% income earner’s yacht

The Economic Policy Institute came out with a interesting report that chronicles the top one percent income levels by State. To save you the hassle of reading the whole report, let me share with you some of their charts, and my own thoughts on the subject for your review.

The EPI is a liberal, non-profit think tank based in Washington DC, which has been around since 1986. The entire goal of their report is to highlight the rising income inequality between the rich and poor over the decades. I think they’ve succeeded in making a point that the government should do more to redistribute wealth to make society more equal. We all know the wealthy have gotten really wealthy during this bull market given they hold the majority of stocks and real estate in our country. The middle class and poor have fallen behind because income growth has gone nowhere over the past 45 years.

Let’s have a look at the top one percent income levels by state and discuss five key takeaways.

Managing A Complicated Net Worth: How Messy Is Your Money?

Antique Chinese Coin Collection Part Of Net Worth

Started collecting Chinese coins in 1997

A blogging buddy of mine named J from Budgets Are Sexy publishes his net worth figures every month. Although I generally advise against sharing all of one’s financial details, if the figures are reasonable, then that’s probably fine. Otherwise, the pitchforks will be focused on those who brazenly display obnoxious amounts of wealth with no regard for others. May Stealth Wealth live on in us all.

Remember, it’s more about what you have to show for your income, not so much about how much you make. Your net worth figure should be carefully protected as it grows.

J is in his early-to-mid 30s and has a family of four with a very respectable net worth of ~$470,000. Given he has around $37,000 in cash, the next time I see him at a conference boondoggle, of course I’m going to let him buy me a steak dinner! Instead of letting his cash earn nothing in a money market account, he might as well take care of his friends right?

What I noticed about his net worth picture is how pleasantly streamlined it is. He has no more than 10 financial accounts to track. Have a look.

Net Worth Chart

After seeing J’s net worth chart, I got to thinking about how complicated my own net worth picture is. I used to track my net worth with an Excel spreadsheet every single month since 2000. It was pretty fun for a personal finance enthusiast like me, but it started getting a little cumbersome after my account total grew. By the time I aggregated my accounts online in 2012, I had 25 accounts to track. I felt relieved when I no longer had to write everything down and update figures every month. Now everything just gets updated automatically thanks to technology.

But something funny happens when you just leverage technology to track your net worth. You stop being as analytical with your finances as you used to because you just rely on technology to do everything for you. In other words, you start getting a little lazy. Laziness is a net worth killer because it prevents you from taking action when opportunities arise, e.g. refinancing a mortgage.

My net worth has grown since 2012, like I’m sure most of your net worths have. What I’m curious to know is how many financial accounts I have now, because I haven’t checked in over a year! Perhaps you’ll share your count as well.