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Four Numbers You Need to Know Now

When it comes to your finances, you might easily overlook some of the numbers that really count. Here are four to pay attention to now that might really matter in the future.

1. Retirement plan contribution rate

What percentage of your salary are you contributing to a retirement plan? Making automatic contributions through an employer-sponsored plan such as a 401(k) or 403(b) plan is an easy way to save for retirement, but this out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach may result in a disparity between what you need to save and what you actually are saving for retirement. Checking your contribution rate and increasing it periodically can help you stay on track toward your retirement savings goal. .

What is an ERISA fiduciary?

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was enacted in 1974 to protect employees who participate in retirement plans and certain other employee benefit plans. At the time, there were concerns that pension plan funds were being mismanaged, causing participants to lose benefits they had worked so hard to earn. ERISA protects the interests of plan participants and their beneficiaries by:

·         Requiring the disclosure of financial and other plan information

·         Establishing standards of conduct for plan fiduciaries

·         Providing for appropriate remedies, sanctions, and access to the federal courts

Are you ready to retire?

Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding whether or not you are ready to retire.

Is your nest egg adequate?

It may be obvious, but the earlier you retire, the less time you'll have to save, and the more years you'll be living off your retirement savings. The average American can expect to live past age 78.* With future medical advances likely, it's not unreasonable to assume that life expectancy will continue to increase. Is your nest egg large enough to fund 20 or more years of retirement?

When will you begin receiving Social Security benefits?

You can receive Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62. However, your benefit may be 25% to 30% less than if you waited until full retirement age (66 to 67, depending on the year you were born).

How will retirement affect your IRAs and employer retirement plans?

Is It Wise to Trade Your Pension for a Lump Sum?

Most private employers have already replaced traditional pensions, which promise lifetime income payments in retirement, with defined contribution plans such as 401(k)s. But 15% of private-sector workers and 75% of state and local government workers still participate in traditional pensions.1 Altogether, 35% of workers say they (and/or their spouse) have pension benefits with a current or former employer.2

Many pension plan participants have the option to take their money in a lump sum when they retire. And since 2012, an increasing number of large corporate pensions have been implementing "lump-sum windows" during which vested former employees have a limited amount of time (typically 30 to 90 days) to accept or decline buyout offers.3 (Lump-sum offers to retirees already receiving pension benefits are no longer allowed.)

Tax Benefits of Homeownership

Buying a home can be a major expenditure. Fortunately, federal tax benefits are available to make homeownership more affordable and less expensive. There may also be tax benefits under state law.

Mortgage interest deduction

One of the most important tax benefits of owning a home is that you may be able to deduct any mortgage interest you pay. If you itemize deductions on your federal income tax return, you can deduct the interest you pay on a loan used to buy, build, or improve your home, provided that the loan is secured by your home. Up to $1 million of such "home acquisition debt" ($500,000 if you're married and file separately) qualifies for the interest deduction.

Is Smart Beta a Smart Strategy for You?

Traditional investment indexes such as the S&P 500 are weighted based on market capitalization, the value of a company's total outstanding stock. This means the largest companies in the index may have much greater influence on index performance than smaller companies. For example, the 10 largest companies in the S&P 500 account for more than 18% of the index's performance, as opposed to about 2% for the 10 largest if every company were weighted equally.1

Funds that track market-weighted indexes may be the most direct way to participate in broad market performance, but there has been increasing interest in an alternative indexing strategy called smart beta (also known as strategic beta or factor-based investing). More than 100 smart-beta exchange-traded funds (ETFs) were launched in 2016.2

Shifting the weight

THE CIVIC HEART Powered by AT&T, BCAT, and Squeaky Wheel Student Film Project

THE CIVIC HEART Powered by AT&T, BCAT, and Squeaky Wheel Student Film Project

THE CIVIC HEART powered by AT&T, Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology (BCAT), and Squeaky Wheel documentary project is a powerful short film diving into the motivation of “public servants” and outlining the ways in which all residents can have a voice in the future of our beloved Buffalo and Western New York region.  Thirty high school students from all over the City of Buffalo worked as a team for six weeks to create a documentary to capture the spirit of the people who serve the people of Buffalo and all of Western New York during the free 2017 Summer Youth Arts Program.  Instructor Kevin Kline worked with teens program to develop this unique Buffalo specific documentary supported by AT&T.