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Finances & Capitalism

WITH ALDI ISAACS, WESTSHORE FINANCIAL

The Best Time to Start Planning for Retirement was Yesterday

We feel like we have all the time in the world to consider retirement. As we age, the clock ticks a little faster. Can you actually run out of time to plan for retirement? No, but your options are much more significant, and your money’s growth is much vaster the younger you start. What does retirement look like in twenty or thirty years? Will Social Security still be available? If you have watched the national deficit grow to insurmountable levels, planning a life without Social Security seems safer.

In our school systems through high school, there are no longer classes that teach the basics of life management. We need to know how to balance a checkbook or plan for retirement. For those who go into college, Macroeconomics is a required course where you might learn how to do your taxes, manage your money, etc. But what about those folks who don’t go to college? And, even though economics and personal finance courses are required in college, students don’t retain the information because it just doesn’t feel relevant when they are young.

For Aldi Isaacs with Westshore Financial, you can never start too early.

“Many young people don’t see the need for financial planning until it’s too late. There are so many things that can happen between now and tomorrow. When someone tells me they want to wait a couple of years, I remind them that they could become disabled six months from now,” Aldi says, “I ask them to think about how they would survive if they could no longer work. I ask them, ‘what goals and dreams are you willing to give up?’”

Aldi reminds us, “If you are married and have kids, what if you pass away? Your death could result in at least a 50 percent loss of income for your family. If you are the only worker, your family income would be gone.”

A good financial officer can point out vulnerabilities and help find ways to protect your family.

Your Life as a Balance Sheet

Aldi says to think about your balance sheet, assets, and liabilities. Assets are what you own, and your liabilities are what you owe. You have your net worth when you take away what you owe from what you own. Your net worth is a financial representation of every decision you have ever made. So, every Starbucks trip you make, every dollar you invest, every car you’ve ever bought, and every meal you eat is reflected in your net worth. When you stop working, your net worth has to take over. It’s no longer you at work; it is your net worth at work.

Create good savings habits. For Aldi, helping his clients create good savings habits is a key to his commitment.

“The ideal situation for all my clients is to have them save at least 20 percent of their income before taxes and expenses, which isn’t easy. But we have a strategy that will help you create that savings plan and we will have an avenue to get you there. It will take you time to get there, but if you stay at it long enough, you will eventually get there,” Aldi explained.

“There are two main problems when saving money. The first problem is the idea of perceived wealth. I can tell you I act differently when I have a thousand dollars in my bank account as opposed to only ten dollars. It doesn’t mean I will spend every penny I have, but the amount I have may impact my choices on what to buy, like a round of drinks for my friends.

“The other thing that people do is allow their expenses to increase anytime their income increases. Your income goes up 5 percent, so your expenses go up 5 percent. Unfortunately, sometimes your income goes up 5 percent, but your expenses go up 7percent. Let’s switch it around; with a 5 percent raise, don’t allow your expenses to go up more than 3percent, and capture the remaining 2 percent in your savings. It could completely change your life,” offers Aldi.

How Much Do I Need for Retirement?

“We say goals are not numbers, but how much do you need for retirement? This is a common question that many advisors are trained to ask. And, people will say, I don’t know, three, maybe four, or five million. The advisor responds with six, seven, or eight million. The actual right answer is, ‘I don’t know.’

“Think of this: who would have imagined a dozen eggs would cost $8.75 in 2023? We don’t know the actual cost of anything in twenty or thirty years. The idea is to save as much as possible.”

MORALITY AND CAPITALISM

Everyone (in finance) knows Adam Smith as the father of economics and capitalism, and they all know his book, The Wealth of Nations. To paraphrase the first line of the book, “The wealth of nations is a division of labor.” But what are the roots of this work?

As I mentioned, most people in finance know that book but don’t know the work that came before it: A Theory of Moral Sentiments. The intent of that book is to be a guideline for capitalism. In the book, the author suggests that capitalism can only exist under a moral framework, a moral firmness that we all agree on. It’s not supposed to be about chasing the next dollar. There should be an actual morality behind the system. As a society we have steered away from that morality, and it’s time we readopt it.

WHAT WORKS AND WHAT DOESN’T

A government that isn’t accountable to its people tends to run roughshod over them. We can see this happening in places like Venezuela. I remember seeing a video of the President of Venezuela eating an empanada out of his drawer while talking about his people starving. It’s the impact of the optics of that. You can also look to foreign adversaries like Russia or North Korea, where the government is far too centralized and negatively impacts people.

History has taught us through ideas from the 1700s and the 1800s. We know what works and what doesn’t work. Then the question arises, why do only some governments choose to operate like we do in the United States? Our government is designed to have checks and balances across all three branches of government. Things are designed to take time. Authoritarian governments are very quick. They say, “do it!” and it’s like the word of God. They say, “do it!” and it happens. They are effective in getting policies in place; but the policies tend to be bad. The leaders of those governments don’t particularly care about the people below them because they cannot relate to their lifestyle. It’s an “out of sight, out of mind” kind of situation where if they can’t see it, the problem doesn’t exist.

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