Oxford Planning Group's Blog

At Oxford Planning Group we hope you will be amazed by a unique experience. In our Blog we will include periodic information and viewpoints that we hope you will find interesting. We welcome your thoughts and ideas, and if you'd like to learn more about any specific area, please just let us know.

Should You Use Extra Cash to Invest or Pay Down Your Mortgage?

 

 

It seems like such a simple question, but whether to pay off your mortgage or to build up an investment account may not be a simple answer.   

First, all mortgages come with a minimum payment.  Either Principal and interest, or in some cases interest only.  Either way, there is a minimum amount that must be paid each month.  The question of whether to invest or to pay off your mortgage only applies to any amount you have available above your minimum payment. 

We are currently in a rising interest rate environment.  Rates currently remain fairly low, but as they rise further, it’s important to decide at what interest rate investing any extra payments no longer makes sense.  Generally, a mortgage rate of 6% or lower may make sense to invest the extra payments instead of paying down your mortgage.  This is based on the 6% rate netting to an even a lower rate based on an individual's tax bracket, deductions for mortgage interest and an assumption that over a long-term period the equity market has exceeded this lower net rate.  There is in fact no one size fits all answer for everyone. 

Risk tolerance is a big consideration.  Let's say you have a mortgage and you are making minimum payments.  Over time, you build up an investment account of $50,000 that would have otherwise been used to pay down you mortgage.  How would you feel in the event of a market correction?  It's critical that you think of these types of results in deciding whether to invest or not.  Truthfully, most people really don’t know how they would feel in the event of a market correction unless they have experienced it. 

For this strategy to be successful, your portfolio will need to have a net return (after taxes on dividends and capital gains) that is higher than your mortgage interest rate after your mortgage tax deduction. 

Calculating the math related to this transaction is only a part of this decision.  Evaluating how you feel about having a higher mortgage and money at risk or having an ever-decreasing mortgage is just as important. 

Oxford Planning Group, LLC can help you walk through this process.  What's right for you?  We are here to help.  We are Focused on Your Tomorrows.

Continue reading
22 Hits

Paying off Student Loans - What competes for your dollars?

Like many college graduates, you may now have student loans that are becoming due.

Knowing how to prioritize your payments and other savings can make a big difference to future success. 

It’s not unusual that there are many demands for the money you may have available.  Building emergency reserves, disability insurance, savings for future home purchase, saving for a wedding and funding retirement plans are just a few of the items that commonly compete for dollars as graduates consider how to pay down their student loans. 

Hopefully the student loan is the only debt that you have as you graduate.  If that’s not the case, all your debts should be reviewed collectively. 

We generally recommend putting any extra loan payments towards the loan with the highest interest rate.  But there may be reasons for a different plan of action depending on your individual circumstances. 

So, if you’re just getting started (or you have a child who is just getting started), there’s a lot to think about.

First, know your budget and stick to it.  Basically, live within your paycheck so that you can make better progress toward your goals.  Once you have a solid budget, what’s left?  This is the money you can use to build emergency savings, to fund disability insurance, to take advantage of company retirement plans and to pay off loans.

Now you must figure out how to prioritize.  Disability Insurance should be considered to protect your income.  Outside of this everyone should have emergency reserves to cover unexpected expenses or to cover brief periods of lost pay between jobs or if laid off.  Historically it was common to recommend 4 – 6 months of expenses as a good nest egg to cover the unexpected.  I think this is good initially when you are starting from scratch, but in the future, it may be important to increase this amount.  The economic and market events of 2008 put a strain on many people’s cash reserves and in many cases 4-6 months proved inadequate. 

It’s not uncommon for individuals to consider putting off retirement savings in lieu of reducing debt and building cash reserves.  There are several reasons this should be reconsidered.  First, saving something even if a small amount builds momentum and discipline towards retirement savings.  This can be very important to long term success.  Second, if the employer offers a match, this is free money - and can be an incredible immediate return on any money you save.  If possible, try to contribute enough to get your maximum employer match.  If that’s not possible, do your best and or use future raises to increase your contributions to gain that benefit in the future.

We recognize your first priority is to make your minimum required payment on your student loan.  After that, what’s left?  This is where some percent should go to disability insurance, building emergency savings (maybe more initially) and some percent should take advantage of company retirement plans.  The exact amount to each is a personal choice but always try to make sure you have enough or are building emergency reserves.  Know what your back up plan is if an unexpected event occurs.

 

We hope you find this info helpful.  If you or a family member would like further information, please contact us.  We are focused on your success and are “Focused on Your Tomorrows”.

Continue reading
47 Hits

401(k) Plan Investing - are you diversified?

 

When handed 401(k) information from an employer, many participants are overwhelmed with the information they are provided.  Ideally, each participant would allocate across a diversified portfolio that best represents their risk tolerance and timeframe until retirement.  Unfortunately, the information provided is often too complicated to make easy decisions. 

This is where a Certified Financial Planner ® can add value.  Trained in retirement planning (and other areas of financial planning), investments, risk management, estate planning and taxes, CFP® practitioners are best qualified to review your overall situation.

Your investment goals for your 401k should be coordinated with any other investments you may hold outside of your 401(k).  If your employer offers matching dollars in your 401(k), you should strive to ensure that you can maximize this benefit.  After all, this is free money and immediately adds to your investment performance before even entering into your investments. 

Personal finance is just that – personal.  Your specific set of facts will often be unique to you.  You may be saving for a home, providing funds for children’s education, reviewing debt consolidation, have unusual medical expenses or any other set of unique circumstances.    

What Should You Be Considering?

What are your long-term goals?

Do you have shorter term goals that need to be coordinated with long term goals?

Have you reviewed your 401(k) plans’ “Summary Plan Document” to make sure you are maximizing your benefit?

Do you understand your risk tolerance and if you are married, does your spouse have a similar or different risk tolerance? 

Do you understand the investments in your retirement account?

Is someone offering to review these investments with you at least annually?

Too often, retirement plan education is full of industry jargon and difficult to understand.  If you have a great understanding of the above questions, you are ahead of the game and probably have a good start to head in the right direction for your retirement planning.  If not, consider consulting a Certified Financial Planner ® who can best provide you with important information to steer you in the right direction. 

Remember, it’s your future! 

Continue reading
64 Hits

Happy July 4th!

From all of us at Oxford Planning Group, we hope you have a safe and wonderful holiday. 

We are blessed to live in such a wonderful country.

 

Continue reading
44 Hits

Travel Safely and Securely this summer!

     Summer travel!                                                  

     

We all look forward to getting away from it all. Summer means trips and family time – but don’t forget to take precautions at home and while you’re away to secure physical and digital devices.

At home

Back up all devices either to local storage or cloud services protected by strong encryption. Use password security on all devices and specify a number of failed attempts before lockout. 

Don’t post details of your adventure while you’re away – it’s so exciting to share with everyone, but wait until your adventure is over before sharing.

Physical security

Stolen wallets are a traveler’s nightmare.  Minimize potential dangers by carrying only essential items.  Invest in a money belt or pouch that can be concealed under clothing.

Take photos of all important documents like credit cards and passports and store them in an encrypted format such as a cloud service.  This will give you access to basic forms of identity in the event of theft.

Laptops are vulnerable to theft – consider if you really need to bring one. If you do, it’s best not to have information stored on the device that could be stolen (personal financial info, etc.)

Public Wi-Fi – be careful

-          Be sure your firewall is active and up to date

-          Don’t use banking and shopping sights

-          Email is the most important service to secure – criminals can use your email to reset passwords on other sites

-          For an extra layer of security, CNet suggests subscribing to a public VPN service (it sets up a secure channel between you and sites you connect to, protecting data with strong encryption). Most plans are under $15 a month

 

Security shouldn’t stop the fun – consider it part of your vacation plan to really allow you to unwind!

Continue reading
74 Hits

Featured News

Financial Briefs

Company Info

10713 B Birmingham Way
Woodstock, MD  21163
Phone: 410-995-8711
shaun@oxfordplanning.com

Follow Us