Archive for month: November, 2015

How To Plan For An Unexpected Early Retirement

Categories: Articles


By Marilyn Timbers, Next Avenue Contributor

Imagine this: you’ve been working hard for decades and are starting to feel comfortable with your financial future. All of sudden, a major life event forces you to retire five to 10 years earlier than planned. Now what?

Perhaps a serious medical issue emerges. Or you lose your job in your late 50s or early 60s and can’t find another. These and other similar involuntary retirement surprises are not uncommon. In fact, according to the recently released Voya Retire Ready IndexTM, 60% of current retirees did not plan to retire when they did.

But just because retirement can be unexpected doesn’t mean that it has to be unplanned. Here’s what to do while you’re working to prepare for the possibility of a retirement happening earlier than you’d like:

Preparing for Early Retirement Due to Health Complications

Most Americans (91%) express concern about their inability to pay for health care expenses in retirement, according to the Voya Retire Ready Index. Start planning to cover those potential retirement health costs now, so they don’t catch you completely off guard.

One strategy is to begin working out a savings plan for the rest of your working years that focuses on monthly retirement income rather than a total nest egg figure. Projecting monthly income helps you determine if you are saving enough to cover living expenses. including health care, in retirement.

To figure this out, consider seeking professional help from a financial adviser or using a web-based retirement planning tool (one may be available through your retirement plan provider). Either can assist you in determining how much money you’ll need to be comfortable on a monthly basis over the course of your retirement. Then, build contributions to an emergency fund into your monthly budget accordingly, so you’ll have flexibility to cover expenses if you must unexpectedly retire due to health complications.

Preparing for Early Retirement Due to a Job Loss

To plan for the possibility of losing a job in your late 50s or early 60s and being unable to obtain a new full-time job, consider the impact this could have on your Social Security benefits.

The Social Security Administration defines Full Retirement Age at between 66 and 67, depending on when you were born. If you claim benefits before then (the earliest you can is age 62), your Social Security benefits may be reduced — by up to 30% at age 62 if you were born in 1960 or later.

So claiming Social Security benefits early due to an unvoluntary retirement might keep you from getting as much money as you expected. To prepare for this possibility, while you’re working, explore all potential savings options available that could supplement Social Security once you retire.

Could you open and fund a retirement account such as an IRA or Roth 401(k)? Are you using the full employer match to your 401(k) contributions? Are you comfortable becoming more aggressive with your investment plan — investing more heavily in stocks?

If you wind up retiring early, you may be happy you took the time to adjust your strategy to maximize your savings during your working years.

Eliminate Debt Now

Another smart strategy: focus on eliminating as much debt as possible now. The last thing you need when your income drops dramatically is being weighed down with credit card debt and loans.

A financial adviser could help you assemble a strategy that effectively tackles any outstanding debts efficiently. It’s easier to do this now, while everything is going well and you have a steady income stream, than to wait until you’re forced to retire unexpectedly.

Dealing with debt sooner rather than later will help you maintain your peace of mind throughout retirement.

If an Involuntary Retirement Comes

If retirement does catch you by surprise, take a deep breath and assess your options. A few suggestions:

  • Evaluate which expenses are absolutely necessary and which are not as critical, then adjust from there.
  • Try not to raid your retirement savings. Consider whether you can cover your essential costs by reallocating your emergency funds before cashing out any pensions or other retirement plans.
  • Look into whether you could do part-time work to generate income.

A Final Word of Advice

While you can’t know what will happen in the future, you can still plan for a potential turn of events. By taking the time to put together a flexible strategy that minimizes debt and maximizes your savings, you could make adjusting to an unexpected retirement much easier.

Voya Retirement Coach Marilyn Timbers is a financial adviser with Voya Financial Advisors and a contributor to Next Avenue. A certified financial planner, she serves on the Women Advisors’ Network Board at Voya Financial.

Provided by Stan Sharp, Founder of HealthOne Realty Advisors (770-578-4996 or

Four Simple Financial Habits to Implement Sooner Rather than Later

Categories: Articles

2015_03_02Seth Cohn, Founding Partner of WealthMD

Most of my work as a financial planner is with my physician clients; however, I am also intimately involved in the development of financial education curriculums for physicians at all levels of practice. In my years of working with clients, what I have discovered is this: Typically the difference between people who achieve their goals and those who do not achieve their goals is not the income that they make, but rather the habits that they have or have not formed. During my career, I have discovered four simple financial habits that can make all the difference in accomplishing one’s financial goals.

Write Down Your Goals
The first habit that I see in those who reach their financial aspirations is that they verbalize and write down their goals. People who write down goals are more likely to achieve them than people who do not. Goals can be tracked as quantitative goals or qualitative goals, and both are important. Quantitative goals can be specifically measured, such as a goal to accumulate $2 million in a retirement account by the age of 65.

Qualitative goals cannot be measured in numbers but instead relate to how a person feels, such as aiming to live a comfortable retirement or to feel less stressed by work obligations. Clients who define their goals may sleep better at night. Sometimes simply mapping out a plan for achieving goals can quell financial anxiety. There is no right or wrong way to track your goals, as long as they are clearly defined. As your life changes, your goals will as well. Update them as needed, and be sure to set attainable goals, because as you cross them off your list, you will surely feel a sense of accomplishment.

Pay Yourself First
A very important question to ask yourself is this: Do you pay yourself first? If not, this is an important habit to form. No one wants to have a drastic decrease in standard of living in retirement, and yet so few people are actually saving enough money for their future. The biggest cause of this mistake is that most people do not take the time to create a household budget. If you do not know how much money it takes to run your household or business, how can you plan on what you will need to fund your retirement? There are only three ways you can allocate your income within your budget: you can spend it, you can save it, or you can pay down debt. The problem we typically see is that clients spend too much and save too little. If there is no budget in place, money gets squandered, because people spend first and save last. The key principle of saving is \to pay yourself first. Figure out what you want to save, and spend what is left over, not the other way around. The easiest way to do this is to set up automatic contributions and bank drafts into various savings vehicles each month. There are also extremely useful Smartphone and iPad applications available to help create a budget and keep track of financial goals. It does not matter whether you choose to use your computer, Smartphone, or maintain a written budget, as long as you have an idea of your cash flow. Give up some of the instant gratification that comes from spending your money today, and pay yourself first so that you will have a secure future.

Assemble Your Team
Do you have an advisory team? Do your CPA and your investment advisor chat about your finances while you are at work taking care of patients? Have your life insurance agent and your estate planning attorney worked together to make sure your legal documents are correct? Having an advisory team in place that works on your behalf allows you to be the pilot of your financial future while having a team of expert navigators at your service. Most clients who we meet with have done plenty of piecemeal planning—they usually have a CPA, old estate planning documents, a brokerage account or two, and various insurance products that they have purchased over the years. Unfortunately, most often people have multiple moving parts (or people working for them) but no coordination among all of the pieces of their financial plan. Many people are hesitant to engage a financial planner to help with this coordination, because they do not want to lose control; but having all parts of your team in place and working together is vital to reach your financial goals. The core disciplines within investment, tax, and estate planning overlap with areas of risk management and asset protection. As you progress through life, you should assemble a financial team of experts who communicate on your behalf to ensure that your plan is coordinated and all pieces tie together. Make it a habit to keep your team up to date and to meet with them regularly.

Protect Your Money
The last concept, simply stated, is to protect your money! Whether it is knowing and understanding your credit score, having your assets allocated properly, or having adequate insurance in place, protecting your assets is extremely important to your financial health. It always surprises me how few people actually review their credit report on a regular basis. There are numerous free resources to use for credit scoring and reporting, including and Hold your credit near and dear to your heart, because you never know when you will need it. You should learn what truly affects your credit score—things such as length of credit, credit available, and hard inquiries within the past 24 months can have a big impact. Another concept to consider is asset protection, which simply means protecting your wealth as it grows. Be sure to take advantage of asset-protected vehicles such as retirement plans, asset-protection trusts, segmented business interests, and any other vehicles specific to your state’s asset protection laws. Protecting your money also means that you should be an informed consumer. Are you paying too much for the goods and services you currently pay for?

When is the last time you reviewed your monthly bills to see if you could get a better deal? Finally, risk management is an area that constantly gets overlooked. Do you have the correct amounts and types of coverage for life, disability income, and umbrella insurance? Do you own long-term care insurance for yourself or your parents to protect retirement nest eggs from future health care expenses? Be sure to protect your money as you progress through life and your career. They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. I think we can beat that! Get started now and you can have a new financial life today.

Seth Cohn is a financial planner and founding partner of WealthMD. Seth specializes in representing health care professionals and their practices in the design, implementation, and maintenance of their comprehensive financial plans. He is experienced in working with physicians in all stages of their careers and has served as a guest educator at numerous teaching hospitals, IPAs, and medical associations throughout the southeast. Seth currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, Valerie. For more information, please contact Seth at 404-926-1317 or Note: WealthMD is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC, or it’s affiliated companies.

Provided by Joshua C. Harper, CFP®, CLU®, of WealthMD (877-Our-MDPlan or

Google Advises “To Be Uncomfortably Excited” To Be Top SEO Agency Or Business

Categories: Articles

googleSEO is not a hobby.  SEO is not a game.  To succeed at SEO, and with pay-per-click advertising, you need to be uncomfortably excited.

That’s what I took away from a Google presentation at the recent 2015 TAG Social Savvy awards.  The speaker was quoting Google founder Larry Page about what it takes to be successful at Google, and how you and I can easily apply that to our strategic planning.

Consider that your strategic marketing plan drives your SEO tactics, AdWords tactics and social media tactics along with your offline tactics of trade shows, direct mail et al.   Are you able to be Uncomfortably Excited about your marketing plan?

It’s counterintuitive.  It’s not natural.  Being uncomfortable connotes a problem.  Or does it?

Recall a favorite quote, “Whatever made you successful in the past won’t in the future” from Lew Platt when he was CEO of Hewlett Packard.  If you continue doing the same SEO tactics, the same Google AdWords message, and your website looks like it did 3 years ago (and is not mobile friendly), you might think you are comfortable and safe.  As you’re reading this, you know what’s next.   Whatever made you successful in the past won’t in the future.

As much as we humans don’t like change, our competitors are forcing us to do so.  One can easily see how Google’s SEO algorithm is forced to change to stay ahead of Bing, Yahoo and others.  There are huge dollars involved as Google generates 3 billion (yes, 9 zeroes after the 3) searches every day.  SEO is valuable because that’s 35,000 searches every second of every hour of every day.

We’re not saying everything must change all of the time.  We’re saying that parts of your marketing plan, SEO tactics, Google AdWords copy, your content strategy for blogging and social media need to make you uncomfortably excited before you’re evolving it each month or quarter.

Ask us or any marketing agency about A/B testing as an ongoing technique to provide insight to evolve your AdWords or SEO plan. Ask us about call tracking (and recording) as a source of data to track the effectiveness of your tactics.  Ask us about analytics to trend the impact of your tactics.

If you want more customers, clients or patients, make yourself uncomfortably excited.  And if you don’t have the time or expertise to create or implement your marketing plan, find an agency like NicheLabs that will be uncomfortably excited. To speak with a NicheLabs professional, call 888.978.9254, or complete our website contact form.

Provided by Hal Schlenger of NicheLabs, (770-335-0077 or

How to Manage Credit Card Fraud this Holiday Season

Categories: Articles

2015_12_01lrThe holidays are upon us and shopping in stores and online is in full swing.  This means hackers and fraud are prevalent as well.  Merchants and consumers should be wary of where they shop, how they shop, and take time for a few extra steps to protect themselves from fraud.


Tips for shoppers:

  • Keep track of your purse, wallet, and credit cards while you shop.  Be sure to get your card immediately after the transaction is complete and take time to put it back securely in your possession.
  • Avoid online shopping on public, unsecured Wi-Fi locations.  It may seem like a time saver to shop on your tablet while enjoying a cup of coffee, but thieves may be on the same network and can access your information.  Save online shopping for home and be sure your Wi-Fi is password protected to prevent others from accessing your home network.
  • If available, use chip-enabled credit cards and EMV-capable terminals.  Chip-enabled cards and terminals have started to appear but may not be in all locations. When possible use this new technology for better protection from fraudulent activity.
  • Keep track of your purchases and match them frequently online to your credit card transaction history.  Monthly review of your statement may not be sufficient during holiday shopping times.  If you identify a fraudulent charge, call your card issuer immediately.

Tips for Retail/Physical location merchants:

  • Use chip readers first if available or swipe the card if the terminal or the card does not have smart chip functionality.  If the card will not swipe, key enter the transaction, be sure to obtain authorization, and keep an imprint of the credit card with the sales receipt.
  • Take the extra step when processing a credit card transaction to look at the back of the card for the owner’s signature and ask for their state issued ID to match name and signature.  If you feel this will slow down your checkout line, make it a policy for a transaction over a particular dollar amount.
  • If shipping the item to the card holder, obtain the address information from the state issued ID.


Tips for eCommerce/Mail/Telephone order merchants:

  • If accepting fax orders, add the requirement for the customer to also fax copies of both sides of the credit card and a state-issued ID.  This allows the merchant to know the customer is in possession of the card and confirm the card holder also has a valid ID with the same name.
  • Take the extra step to call the customer.  It’s a great way to extend your relationship by thanking them in person, and it also adds another verification of the purchase and charge.
    • Set an expectation of time between confirmation of the order and shipping of the order.  Look for transactions that have different billing/shipping addresses, larger than normal orders, and multiple orders of the same product.  Anything unusual is worth a follow even as simple as a follow-up email.

Holiday shopping is big business for consumers, merchants and thieves.  Be prepared to recognize fraudulent situations or suspicious transactions.  Consumers will appreciate the additional effort to maintain a safe, secure transaction.

Jennifer Autian is the founder of TCA Business Solutions and an independent representative of merchant services.  To learn more about EMV technology or explore other payment processing options, connect with her at 678-523-8760 or by email at

Provided by Jennifer Autian, Founder of TCA Business Solutions 678-523-8760 or

Practice Manager of the Month

Categories: Practice Manager of the Month

Angela Anderson, Practice Manager
Southern Gastroenterology Associates

Angela Anderson joined the Southern Gastroenterology Associates team in March 2013. She has lived in Georgia for 14 years and worked as a practice administrator in other locations and specialties including North Fulton Eye Center, Heritage OBGYN in Gainesville, and DeKalb Gastroenterology. Before coming to Georgia, she was in Kansas City, MO but decided to move when her daughter was looking at colleges in Georgia.

The biggest influence on Angela and her passion for medicine was when she was five years old and her grandfather was ill. She remembers wanting to be the nurse and take care of him. She had tremendous support from her mom and dad to do anything she set her mind to. Her parents wanted her to go to college, and Angela also knew that education was important. She got her undergraduate degree and continued on for a two year program in hospital and health administration. Some told her that hospital administration is a man’s field, but she knew she could do it and encourages others to stay steady on course and they can accomplish anything. She passes this same strong will to her kids.

Angela has a general interest in medicine, but has really enjoyed working for the specialties and focusing in on a particular patient issue. With Gastroenterology, she appreciates the knowledge she has accumulated through the years in gastrointestinal disease. She finds it straight forward to identify patients who have issues, help them avoid issues, and get them on the right path in the disease process to get better.

Two tips that Angela has for her peers are communication and honesty. The first step in communication is to listen. She listens to her patients, staff, and doctors. She works collaboratively with the doctors and owners of the practice to understand the direction they want to see the practice go. Then she can offer her knowledge of the craft to present ideas on how they can achieve those goals. With honesty, Angela finds it important that each individual is honest with themselves and their skill sets. They need to be truthful in what they know and don’t know and be open to learn. Most importantly, people should trust you.

In her spare time, Angela has become a walker. She enjoys being outdoors and active. She used to be a tennis player and is thinking about dusting off her racquet and playing again.

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