In The News PUBLICATIONSClick on the titles below to learn more! Protect Your Retirement Savings With Insurance ProductsBY STEPHEN NGNEW YORK DAILY NEWSThursday, May 5, 2016, 3:43 PMPeople have homeowners insurance to protect against fires and floods. They buy insurance to replace their car if it gets wrecked and they buy health insurance to protect themselves from medical costs.But for many people, their biggest material asset is their retirement portfolio. When I look at a new client's portfolio and ask, "Where's your insurance?" they look at me like I'm crazy.The way you reduce risk with your retirement savings is to take steps to safeguard at least a portion of it with insurance products. As you get closer to retiring, the amount you safeguard will be what you need to rely on for your retirement income.Your retirement income should be derived from guaranteed sources, such as Social Security benefits and your pension plan, if you have one. It's the amount you need to pay the bills and do the other things you hope to do in retirement, so your retirement income needs to be a guaranteed source of income.Then you look for your "play checks." That's the money you don't absolutely have to have, so you can still try to grow it, and take risks with it, in the market.Let me offer a few tips on how you may be able to insure your retirement income:* Invest a portion of your portfolio in fixed annuities.Fixed annuities are long-term insurance products issued by insurance companies that guarantee you payments over a certain amount of time, which could be the rest of your life or the life of your spouse or other survivor.Note: There are many different types of annuities as well as payment options available. The guarantee is subject to the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. * If you leave your job, consider rolling your employer-sponsored 401(k) into an IRA.While 401(k)s are a great tool for saving, particularly if your employer is providing matching funds, if you were to die, the taxes your survivors would pay on your 401(k) would be much higher than on an IRA.That's because they would have to inherit the money in a lump sum, which could easily take 35% right off the top. The lump-sum rule does not apply to IRAs.While your spouse would have the option to inherit your 401(k) as an IRA, your children would not. So, take advantage of your employer-sponsored 401(k), but if you leave the company, consider converting to an IRA or Roth IRA.You can also begin transferring your 401(k) funds to an IRA at age 59½. However, it's worth noting that IRAs may have higher fees. Individual situations vary, which is why it's important to consult your tax professional.* Consider converting your IRA to a Roth IRA.For protection from future income tax rate increases, you should consider slowly converting your tax-deferred IRA funds into a Roth IRA.Yes, you'll have to pay the taxes now on the money you transfer, but that will guarantee that withdrawals in your retirement are not taxed — even as the money grows.If you plan to leave at least part of your IRA to your children, they'll benefit from a fund that continues to grow tax-free.Stephen Ng, founder and president of Stephen Ng Financial Group, is author of "10 Financial Mistakes You Should Avoid: Strategies Designed to Help Keep Your Money Safe and Growing." Ng is a Chartered Life Underwriter, Chartered Financial Consultant and a Certified Estate Planner. He is also an Investment Advisor Representative with SagePoint Financial, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC.(Securities and investment advisory services offered through SagePoint Financial, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC and a registered investment advisor. Stephen NG Financial Group, LLC is not affiliated with SagePoint Financial, Inc. or registered as a broker-dealer or Investment advisor.[The content provided through this article and www.nydailynews.com should be used for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the advice of a relevant professional with any questions about any financial decision you are seeking to make.]For more DAILY VIEWS, The News' new contributor network, click here Are Robo-Advisors Right For You?May 13, 2016Robo-advisors have made a big name for themselves over the last few years. The name robo-advisor refers to automated systems relying on software and complex computer algorithms to offer investment guidance and portfolio management at low costs. Their portfolios are often comprised largely of exchange-traded funds.The success of “independent” robo-advisors — or those marketed by independent companies — has helped convince industry giants such as Charles Schwab and Vanguard to jump in with their own robo-advisor products.Robo-advisors have found their greatest fans among Millennials, who are often just starting on the investing path. But are they right for older adults, whose financial circumstances and more immediate horizons often call for more tailored solutions?To be sure, not everyone is a fan. Noting that robo-advisors represent a “very small sliver of the overall financial industry,” Jeff Powell, managing partner and chief investment officer with Polaris Greystone in San Rafael, California, says robo-advisors are an approximately $30 billion dot within the $25 trillion financial industry.“It’s being listed as the next best thing for the financial industry, but I don’t see that,” he says, observing that without a human advisor to rein in their emotions, most investors make all the wrong moves. “Human nature is to invest when you feel comfortable, and put money to work when the market is not doing much. Then people lose money, jump out of the market, and only get back in when they feel comfortable again. It’s a vicious circle of buying high and selling low.”Many observers say robo-advisors will be disruptive to the industry. “But they also said that about online investing and that didn’t prove correct,” Powell says.In a sense, robo-advisors have existed ever since there were computers. But instead of being used by individual investors, they were the “back office” software used by financial services professionals to help them make decisions for clients, says Michael Herndon, vice president, financial resilience program with AARP in Washington, D.C.Similar software underpins today’s robo-advisors, but now the interface is far more consumer friendly. It’s not unlike the fact that consumers can book their airline reservations online, using software once the sole province of travel agents.“If you look at board minutes of the large financial planning companies in the 1980s, they were exploring how to grow the availability of sound advice to the masses,” Herndon says. ”People have been thinking about this for a long time. There are dreams of what the technology might do, and then it comes true.”Pros of robo-advisorsAmong the pros of robo-advisors are the following:• Robo-advisors save money by reducing costs. The cost of a financial advisor can be 1 to 3 percent of managed assets, says Stephen Ng, founder and president, Stephen Ng Financial Group in Short Hills, New Jersey. Robo-advisors can cost as little as 15 basis points (.15 of one percent), he says.• Robo-advisors can be ideal for the do-it-yourselfer who doesn‘t want a professional advisor, says Craig Lemoine, professor of financial planning at The American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. These people are somewhat knowledgeable about markets, stocks and bonds, but for instance may want more sophisticated asset allocation assistance, he says. “If I’m a DIYer, I’m drawn to the value proposition of robo-advisors,” he adds.• While many professional financial advisors demand clients invest a certain high minimum amount to get started — some of them $100,000 or more — robo-advisors often require very low minimum balances, Ng says. They can be accessed by those with $5,000 or less to invest, he adds.Cons of robo-advisorsThese are among the downsides of robo-advisors.• Human financial advisors can customize a plan to an individual’s specific circumstances. That’s less possible using a robo-advisor. “You get a template answer,” Herndon says. “A custom-made suit fits beautifully, but they’re very expensive. How willing are you to pay for advice custom tailored to you?”• They don’t allow for conversations, says Donna Skeels Cygan, owner of Sage Future Financial, LLC in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and author of “The Joy of Financial Security.” “Much of the value I provide to my clients is based upon our conversations on many financial topics, not just a model portfolio,” Cygan says. “My clients tend to be older and many are retired. The financial issues are often complex.”• Human professionals can ferret out answers from clients that robo-advisors cannot. “A computer is not going to be able to gauge the answer ‘a lot’ to ‘How much risk tolerance do you have?’” Herndon says. “But a human advisor would be able to read that.”Future of robo-advisorsThe future of robo-advising will likely be built on a hybrid model in which the initial investing steps are handled through a robo-advisor. Waiting to take the investor beyond those steps is a human professional able to oversee the client’s financial situation as it grows more complex, Herndon says.“With the rise of defined contribution plans, and many people’s retirements based heavily on proceeds from defined contribution plans, there will be growth of robo-advisors,” Herndon says. “It’s not just about building your portfolio; it’s about distributing your portfolio. I think it’s in the distribution phase that people 50-plus may start relying more on technology for solutions.”To act in clients’ best interests, robo-advisors will have to be able to learn more about clients, Lemoine says.“The robo-advisors will have to make sure they have a good understanding of your spending, your income, your expenses and your household wealth in order to provide fiduciary advice,” he says. “They will have to become more holistic. Once you take distributions out of your IRA, the robo-advisor will need to have a better understanding of your holistic financial picture. We will have to ensure suggestions for distributions are prudent and integrated with overall financial goals. That’s where we’re headed.”Copyright © 2016, Chicago Tribune .Economic Indicators to Watch the Rest of 2017 July 29th, 2017 | Written by GT StaffAccording to the Washington Post, economic growth was slow in the United States during the first quarter of 2017, moving along at only 0.7 percent.The number is a big drop off from the 2.1 percent growth experienced by the nation in the final quarter of 2016 and a long way from President Donald Trump’s promise of three percent economic growth during his time in office.It hasn’t been all bad news on the economic front thus far in 2017. In the wake of what is turning out to be a volatile and unpredictable presidency, the stock market, which usually swings on every little tick of news – economic or not – has been quiet. In fact it continues the steady growth that it has shown for nearly a decade.Financial adviser Stephen Ng says he doesn’t know how long this strong market performance will continue, but does know it can’t last forever.“When the market is up, you have to be careful,” says Ng, author of the book 10 Financial Mistakes You Should Avoid. “You need to make sure you have strategies in place for when the market drops.”The stock market is one thing Ng will have his eye on as we move into the second half of 2017, along with a couple of other financial related items:Inflation. Prices could be going up in the US and the increase could be pretty high if we limit imports or place tariffs on them, as Trump has talked about doing. Ng says the cheapest watermelon costs about $25 in Japan. Compare that to the US where we might pay $5. But if the country clamps down on imports, we might start seeing $25 watermelons ourselves.Taxes and IRAs. Trump’s proposal to lower corporate and personal income taxes could provide a historic opportunity for people to convert their traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs. When you retire, you pay taxes on the money you withdraw on a traditional IRA, but you don’t pay taxes on money you withdraw from a Roth. So if taxes are lowered, people should consider taking advantage and convert to Roths. You would pay taxes when you convert, but likely at a lower rate than you might have in the distant future when you retire.The stock market. The market has been on an upward swing for the most part of about nine years. What goes up comes down. When the market is up, people need to be careful, but most people become complacent. Do you have a strategy to protect your portfolio when the market has its inevitable drop?“The most stable approach is generally to maintain a well-diversified portfolio using a strategy appropriate for your time frame, personal goals and risk tolerance,” Ng says. Despite Global Upheaval, It’s OK to Keep Your Foreign InvestmentsBy MARTHA C. WHITEMonday, April 18 2017, 7:25 AM ETDespite economic and geopolitical upheaval from Brexit to the Syrian civil war to provocations by North Korea, investing experts say it would be a mistake to bail out of international and emerging markets. In fact, some say these assets are actually a better value right now than the high-flying American stock market."Right now, the international and emerging markets valuation — the price of the stocks — is much lower than the stock prices in America. So it's a buying opportunity," said Stephen Ng, owner of an eponymous financial advisory firm and author of 10 Financial Mistakes You Should Avoid: Strategies Designed to Help Keep Your Money Safe and Growing."Although emerging markets are more volatile in terms of day to day swings, Europe and emerging markets are significantly underperforming the U.S. markets," said David Frisch, owner of Frisch Financial Group, Inc. "Just because of how much they've underperformed, I would not necessarily run away from these," he said."Specifically to emerging markets, the geopolitical risks are always there," said Steven Elwell, partner and vice president at Level Financial Advisors. "Those risks are always there and those risks are, in an efficient stock market, priced into the risk you're taking and the returns you should receive."Diversification Still the Best RulePros say they're not fazed by the prospect of volatility, and neither should average investors."Our feeling is you're going to have something at all times in your portfolio that's just not doing well," said Scott Cole, founder and principal of Cole Financial Planning and Wealth Management."When we get nervous is when everything's going up," he said — because that means it's only a matter of time before something turns negative, and it can be harder to pinpoint that and respond on the fly than to manage expected underperformance."What we always try to educate retail investors on is the power of diversification," Sameer Samana, global quantitative strategist at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute. "It's really hard to predict which region of the world will outperform or underperform."Since even overexposure to U.S. equities can be risky, international stocks in a portfolio can provide a counterbalancing force to a domestic dip."Approximately half of the world's stocks available to invest in are outside the United States," Elwell said. "To categorically say, 'I'm not going to invest there' — you're taking an enormous piece of the overall universe off the table."Don't Gamble with Your RetirementAbove all, don't try to time the market. "The average investor is notorious for getting the timing wrong," Elwell told NBC News.Especially if your retirement nest egg is riding on the line, it's just not worth the risk."You might think you have geopolitics figured out — you think the market's going to zig, and then it zags on you," Samana said, pointing to recent events like Britain's voting to leave the European Union and the U.S. presidential election. In both cases, the market priced in an expectation that was the opposite of what actually happened."What usually happens with any major negative event is the market falls very quickly very hard and it tends to recover," Frisch said. "There's frequently significant reactions, and usually overreactions, followed by a recovery over some period of time."This means bailing out when a sector is at a trough is a mistake, since it deprives your portfolio of the opportunity to make back those losses — and perhaps then some — when the pendulum swings the other way."Logically, we know one thing cannot outperform everything else," Elwell said. "You might as well stick around for the somewhat eventuality of their outperforming." Getting Spouses to Retire TogetherBy Matthias RiekerApril 16, 2014 9:21 AM ETFor three years, a retired client of financial adviser Stephen Ng kept himself busy with grandchildren and hobbies while his wife kept working.That arrangement didn't make the retiree happy. He wanted to travel with his wife at his side. But the wife loved her job in the insurance industry."They have the health to climb the Great Wall of China," says Mr. Ng, founder and president of Stephen Ng Financial Group, which specializes in retirees. "They have the wealth, but time was missing."The adviser, however, eventually persuaded the wife to join her husband in retirement, resolving tension that had little to do with the couple's finances but rather their life plan."We did all the financials, and I showed them they were able to both retire. So finally, she decided her last day of work would be May 31," Mr. Ng says.When one spouse retires before the other, advisers can be left with emotional conflicts to work out. The solution can range from the early retirement for the working spouse to divorce--with all the financial strings attached."My advice, before anyone retires, is: Try to retire at the same time," says Mr. Ng, whose firm in Short Hills, N.J., manages about $125 million. Plans for mutual retirement should start early, ideally when the couple is in their mid-50s.Most of Mr. Ng clients are retirees or approaching retirement, and most have their retirement plans well established. "When I see them, for annual or semiannual reviews, it's basically talking about nonfinancial issues in life," he says.One common issue is the frustration of the retired partner who wants to spend more time with the working partner. "I would encourage the working spouse to as quickly as possible retire." Mr. Ng says.To nudge hesitant clients to retire, the adviser puts together a financial plan that may include an investment portfolio, retirement assets, and other income sources--which usually prompts clients to realize they don't have to keep working to fund their lifestyles.If the finances don't allow for full retirement or the working spouse just doesn't want to retire, Mr. Ng recommends that the working spouse at least cut back on the hours or find a part-time job. In some cases, the answer is for the retiring spouse to postpone retirement until both retire together.Sometimes emotional issues result in unfounded financial worries, says Howard Hook, a principal of EKS Associates, with over $300 million in assets, in Princeton, N.J. Most couples are in better financial shape than they think and "will not outlive their money," he says, adding that "couples have very different opinions about whether they think they can retire."Mr. Hook, for example, had to convince his own parents that their concerns about being retired together could be addressed via a financial solution.His father retired first. When his mother retired as well, she worried about spending every minute with her husband. So they decided to move to Florida from Rockland County, N.Y., so Dad would have his own hobby: Golf.But his father fretted over whether they could afford it because they had never expected to move to Florida. Mr. Hook changed the financial plan to make the math work.Mr. Hook told his father they could always sell one of their homes if money got tight. "I said, 'your net worth hasn't changed the day after you buy the house' in Florida," he recalls. "You are just a little less liquid.""To him, that did it," he says. "They love it. He never played golf before they moved."For couples nearing retirement who fuss and fight and don't really enjoy spending time alone together, an adviser might suggest the opposite--simply keep working.Otherwise, advisers can be left drawing up a financial plan for divorce."I am not a marriage counselor," Mr. Ng says. Is Spending Principal OK in Retirement?By Jeff BrownJune 28, 2017, at 10:13 a.m.An old adage says retirees should "never spend principal," but today you're more likely to hear this from a grandparent than your financial advisor.With dividend payments and fixed-income yields close to record lows, the trickle of income may not be enough. Meanwhile, stock prices hit peak after peak. If gains come through rising asset prices rather than interest and dividends, what's wrong with dipping into principal for the groceries?Nothing, according to most financial advisors. If that's where the money is, that's where you need to go – so long as you understand the trade-offs."The rule of never spending your principal is out of date," says Mike Falco, financial advisor at Falco Wealth Management in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. "You can spend it, but it's a question of how much you can spend before you run out of money. You have to know that number before going into retirement."The biggest consequence to dipping into principal is that you reduce the foundation on which future growth is based.Jamie Hopkins, professor of retirement income at the American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, says it is an issue of "sequence of returns" – even if you average 8 percent a year, you'll run into trouble if you have poor returns due to a market crash at the start. After that, every dip into principal would be a larger portion of your nest egg.Taking $40,000 a year from principal may seem quite safe when you're worth $1 million, but would look like too much if a combination of withdrawals and market declines cut your nest egg to $500,000 and you expected to live another 20 years.Another issue is that spending everything you earn in dividends and interest, and taking principal as well, will likely throw your investment assumptions out the window.Many investors look at history to estimate the returns they'll earn in the future. But the historical returns you find for mutual funds and other holdings show results for investors who not only left principal intact but also reinvested all interest and dividends. So holdings you'd assumed would return 6 percent or 7 percent a year will grow much slower if you're not holding for the long-term and reinvesting.Again, the smaller your returns going forward, the more you'll have to dip into principal to have enough money to live on, with your accounts shrinking faster and faster as the years go by.So although the rule "never spend principal" may be unrealistic today, it still makes sense to spend as little as possible. Taking less will always make your assets last longer.Many experts use a rule of thumb that says retirees can withdraw 4 percent of their nest egg the first year, and increase the dollar amount by the inflation rate each year afterward. That assumes a 7 percent annual return and 3 percent inflation, says Michelle Brownstein, director of private client Services at Personal Capital in San Francisco."One thing that is key is flexibility," she says. "For example, taking a bit more income in a strong portfolio year and taking less in a down year can help with portfolio longevity as you're putting less strain on already depressed asset prices in the down years."Most experts say taking more in the flush years doesn't mean spending more, but putting the excess aside for the lean years.It also makes sense, Brownstein says, to plan to live a few years longer than the standard life-expectancy tables would suggest, especially if you're healthy and have or had parents who lived to be very old. A couple sharing a retirement portfolio has an even greater chance that one, if not both, will live a long time, she says.Jeffrey E. Bush, managing partner at Informed Family Financial Services in Pottstown and Norristown, Pennsylvania, says he urges clients to buy annuities, which provide set income for life in exchange for an upfront payment. That allows the investor to tap other holdings more safely."An annuity allows you to spend your principal, as well as your interest," he says.Financial software and tools you can find online by searching for retirement calculators can help you play with assumptions on investment returns, inflation and your lifespan.And if you're having trouble making the numbers work, think about ways to economize so you can save more before retiring and spend less afterward. Working longer may be a solution, Bush says. That gives investments more time to grow and reduces the number of retirement years to fund."The best strategy is to reduce your expenses before retirement," Falco says. "The more time you have to do this, the better off you'll be."Brownstein says the most impactful change is to downsize to a less expensive home or move to a less expensive city or state."In many cases, having a smaller home is beneficial from both a financial and lifestyle standpoint as you age," she says. "A smaller house can mean less upkeep and maintenance. Additionally, in some cases renting makes more sense than owning, and selling a home can be a way to access additional liquidity."Bush says finding ways to cut taxes pays."Are you claiming Social Security and utilizing Roth IRAs? "Many times, our clients can cut taxes to save more money," he says. "And other times, it is a matter of altering lifestyle habits. It is important for retiring parents to look at how they are helping their children. We have a lot of clients who help their children out financially with college education."Most experts urge careful budgeting before and during retirement, as that can often identify costs that can be cut. Incidentals can add up, and there may be some big expenses that can go, too."Cut out the non-fixed, non-essential expenses," says Stephen Ng, author of "10 Financial Mistakes You Should Avoid: Strategies Designed to Help Keep Your Money Safe and Growing" and founder of Stephen Ng Financial Group in Short Hills, New Jersey."For example, traveling, eating out, or overly supporting your children and grandchildren," he says. Our Book ReviewsClick on the titles below to learn more! 10 Financial Mistakes You Should Avoid – A SavvyReviewBy Brian TramuelAugust 2, 201710 Financial Mistakes You Should Avoid: Strategies Designed to Help Keep Your Money Safe and GrowingPaperback: 134 pagesPublisher: Stephen S.K. Ng Financial Group, LLC (2015)Stephen Ng Financial Group, LLC,OUR MISSIONNo matter where you are in your financial or retirement planning journey, our mission statement remains the same: to help you grow and preserve your wealth by caring more, doing more, and knowing more.10 Financial Mistakes You Should Avoid: Strategies Designed to Help Keep Your Money Safe and Growing shares the same approach as the mission statement for Stephen Ng Financial Group, LLC. The author, Stephen S. K. Ng is the founder and President.The read opens with an introduction that paints a very broad overview of the ten mistakes as actual strategies to help prevent you outliving your money. The focus is on learning and applying the ten strategies, a plan for financial freedom and success, now and later.The 10 StrategiesHave a Plan!Understand Time HorizonsPreserve Your InvestmentsUnderstand TaxationEducate YourselfDiversifySeek AdviceRisk Management StrategiesUnderstand Longevity RiskUnderstand the Sequence-of-Return RiskStephen’s enthusiasm for helping others feel confident about their future is present throughout each chapter. He shares real life experiences that not only explains the reasons why financial mistakes are often made but also how to avoid making them.For me the most underrated strategy is Seek Advice. As Stephen explains in his introduction we are well educated when it comes to our professional lives and careers however we do not educate ourselves with the same vigor with regards to our finances.In my reading, I discovered new ways to look at some of the basics of financial planning. One example is Stephen’s use of a football analogy to discuss risk management strategies and the power of life insurance. Put your linebacker, tackler, and cornerback in place so that no single event or tragic mishap can tackle your financial health.& I quote, “The best defense is a strong offense, which is why you should take action today. Insure your assets against death. Insure your income against disability. Insure your future against unforeseen costs associated with long-term care. Be on the offensive so that you won’t be on the defensive when tragedy strikes.”Final ThoughtsThis is an easy read, in the sense that it will keep you engaged with its conversational style and important insights. I found the Epilogue most enjoyable as Stephen shares another new way to look at a theme we know well; physical and fiscal fitness. Stephen’s take on having a fulfilling retirement, The Three Stars, “You need to have health, you need to have wealth, and you need to have time.”10 Financial Mistakes You Should Avoid: Strategies Designed to Help Keep Your Money Safe and Growing is available at Amazon in Paperback and Hardcover editions. TV Interviews PLEASE NOTE: The information being provided is strictly as a courtesy. When you link to any of the websites provided here, you are leaving this website. We make no representation as to the completeness or accuracy of information provided at these websites. Nor is the company liable for any direct or indirect technical or system issues or any consequences arising out of your access to or your use of third-party technologies, websites, information and programs made available through this website. When you access one of these websites, you are leaving our website and assume total responsibility and risk for your use of the websites you are linking to.