When Should You Take Your Social Security?

Ever since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed off on the 1935 Social Security Act, most Americans have ended up pondering this critical question as they approach retirement:

“When should I (or we) start taking my (or our) Social Security?”

And yet, the “right” answer to this common question remains as elusive as ever. It depends on a wide array of personal variables. It depends on how Congress acts. It depends on how the unknowable future plays out.

No wonder many families find themselves in a quandary when it comes to taking their Social Security benefits. Let’s take a closer look at how to find the right balance for you.

Social Security Planning: A Balancing Act

For Social Security planning purposes, you reach full retirement age (FRA) between ages 66–67, depending on the year you were born. However, you can generally begin drawing Social Security benefits as early as age 62 (with the lowest available monthly starting payments) or as...

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Back to the Investment Basics Part 5: Patience and Personal Persistence

So far in our investment basics blog post series, we’ve explored the history of investing; how important it is to save (so you have money to invest); how to invest efficiently in broad markets; and why to avoid chasing or fleeing rising or falling prices

By applying these logistics, you’re much better positioned to let capital markets work their wonders on your investments. But there are two more essentials that can make or break even the most sensible portfolio, and neither of them are about market dynamics. They’re about you.

Once you’ve structured your investments to capture available, risk-adjusted market returns, you’ll need to stay on track as planned.

This calls for channeling your ability to be patient, and for ensuring your personal goals—rather than shifting market conditions—are driving your ongoing decisions. 

  1.     You can’t invest if you haven’t saved. 
  2.      Markets are...
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Back to the Investment Basics Part 4: The Price You Pay Matters

In our last blog post, we described our marvelous markets and how to account for their being both robust and random at the same time. Today, we’ll look at how stock pricing works, and why Nobel laureate William F. Sharpe was correct when he reminded us: “Asset prices are not determined by someone from Mars” (even if it may sometimes feel that arbitrary).

  1.     You can’t invest if you haven’t saved. 
  2.     Markets are inspired by ingenuity, tempered by diversification. 
  3.     The price you pay matters.
  4.     Patience is a virtue.
  5.     Investing is personal.

Random Numbers, Efficiently Arranged

Why is Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Class A stock (BRK-A) priced at more than $400,000 per share as of mid-September 2022? Why do other stocks trade for pennies on the dollar? Why has Meta’s (META) share price dropped by more than half year to date, while Consol Energy Inc.’s (CEIX) has more...

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Back to the Investment Basics Part 3: Our Marvelous Markets

In our last blog post, we introduced the importance of saving, which is the first of five basics that have served investors well over time. Today, we’ll look at where stock market returns really come from, and why that matters to your investing.

  1.   You can’t invest if you haven’t saved.
  2.   Markets are inspired by ingenuity, tempered by diversification. 
  3.   The price you pay matters. 
  4.   Patience is a virtue. 
  5.   Investing is personal.

Markets Are Robust and Random

Before we describe where stock market returns come from, consider these two quotes: 

“Whether the currency a century from now is based on gold, seashells, shark teeth, or a piece of paper (as today), people will be willing to exchange a couple of minutes of their daily labor for a Coca-Cola or some See’s peanut brittle.” 

— Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett

“Whenever you think you’ve found the key to the market,...

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Back to the Investment Basics Part 2: First Save, Then Invest

In our last blog post, we discussed how recency bias can damage your investments by causing current crises to loom large, while rewriting your memories of past challenges. Recency tricks us into overpaying during heady times, and bailing at bargain rates, when our confidence fades.

One of the best ways to combat recency bias is by focusing instead on the basics that have served investors well for centuries. 

In our blog post series, we’ll cover five of our favorites:

  1.     You can’t invest if you haven’t saved.
  2.     Markets are inspired by ingenuity, tempered by diversification.
  3.     The price you pay matters.
  4.     Patience is a virtue.
  5.     Investing is personal.

Today, let’s talk about saving.

Saving Is a Super Power

Before you can invest, it’s important to save. However, knowing this is true doesn’t make it easy to do. Bottom line, saving means giving up something today so you’ll have...

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Back to the Investment Basics Part 1: Remembering the Past

After many years of low inflation, the headlines about inflation in 2022 have been startling. While we always discuss inflation when working through retirement planning assumptions, it’s easy to forget how high levels of inflation can impact our day-to-day lives.  

While inflation is real, and needs to be managed, we also can’t rule out the possibility that we’ll still see stagflation and/or a recession (although neither has happened yet). Heightened levels of market volatility across stock and bond markets alike may have left you once again wondering whether this time is different. 

It’s important to remember that we’re inherently biased to pay more attention to recent alarms than long-ago news. In the right context, this form of recency bias makes perfect sense. As we go about our lives, it’s often best to prioritize our most immediate concerns—or else. No wonder we’ve gotten so good at it.

However, as an investor, if...

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Six Financial Best Practices for Year-End 2022

There’s been a lot going on this year - politically, financially and economically - from rising interest rates, to elevated inflation, to ongoing market turmoil.

So how will all this activity translate into annual performance in our investment portfolios? Markets often deliver their best returns just when we’re most discouraged. While we wait to find out the results, here are six financial action items that you can tackle before the year ends. 

1. Revisit Your Cash Reserves

Where is your cash stashed these days? After years of offering essentially zero interest in money markets, savings accounts, and similar platforms, some banks are now offering higher interest rates to savers. Others are not. Plus, some money market funds may have quietly resumed charging underlying management fees they had waived during low-rate times. 

It might be a good time to shop around. If you have significant cash reserves, now may be a good time to compare rates and fees among local...

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Interest Rates, Inflation, and Investment Strategy - Part Three: Investing in Uncertain Times

After taking a closer look at interest rates in part 1 and inflation in part 2, we come to the heart of the matter: When interest rates, inflation, or both are on the rise, what should an investor do?

The big picture overview is that the team at Great Lakes Investment Management is continuing to deploy the same core principles and values we use to help people invest across time and through various market conditions. 

These include:

  • Building and maintaining personalized investment portfolios of stocks, bonds, select alternative investments, and cash reserves
  • Minimizing exposure to concentrated investment risks through global diversification
  • Reducing the impulse to act on fear, excitement, and similar reactions to unfolding news
  • Keeping an eye on tax ramifications and other costs

These core principles become even more important during increased geopolitical uncertainty and economic stress as they serve to guide you past any periods of doubt.

Future Uncertainty

With so much...

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Interest Rates, Inflation, and Investment Strategy - Part Two: Understanding Inflation

In our last blog post, Understanding Interest Rates, we discussed how rising and falling interest rates can impact a healthy economy. In this post, we’re going to talk about inflation - what it is and how it’s affecting our financial plans.  This is a question that many investors are asking themselves these days and it’s important to understand if and how inflation has been contemplated as part of your financial plan.

How Is Inflation Measured?

Inflation is the rate at which money loses its purchasing power over time. As you might guess, there are many ways to measure this. There are various economic sectors, such as energy, food, housing, and healthcare, which can complicate the equation by exhibiting wildly different inflation rates at different times. There is ongoing debate over which figures are most relevant under what conditions.

There’s also today’s inflation rate, versus the rate at which inflation has changed or is expected to change over...

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Interest Rates, Inflation, & Investment Strategy - Part One: Understanding Interest Rates

Part One: Understanding Interest Rates

If you’ve been concerned about rising interest rates, you’re not alone. With rates at historically low levels for so long, it’s something we’ve been preparing for for a while now. Still, it’s something we will continue to keep a close eye on and we want you to have a solid understanding of what this means to you. 

In March, The Federal Reserve raised its federal target funds rate by a quarter point. It was the first increase since December 2018, but it wasn’t a huge surprise. Fed Chair Jerome Powell had already said we should expect as much, with the potential for additional increases before the year-end.

Along with interest rates, inflation remains a related topic of conversation, not to mention the economic toll and humanitarian tragedy being wrought by Russia’s actions. Unfortunately, there is only so much we can do to alleviate the heartbreaking news coming out of Ukraine. 

But as a...

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