There are so many unknown variables when picking individual stocks (literally trillions), that is why it is impossible to consistently guess which ones are going to go up or when they are going to go down.

The lure for stock speculators is similar to the gambler… the excitement that is felt and experienced when they hit the big winner. When we watch the markets we see big winners every day. Similar to walking through a busy casino, we see winners all of the time. This preys on wish fulfillment…why not me?

Just one big winner keeps them coming back until they can break their addiction. Just like the gambler, this usually does not happen until they hit bottom, after the inevitable several big losers in a row.

When picking individual stocks, it becomes an obsession. They check the news and the price almost every day. They think about the stock almost every day, if not every day. I have seen it happen over and over again.

Apple is the latest hot stock to cool off. Will the next big move be up or down? It’s anyone’s guess.

Tips to Maximize your Social Security Benefits

Maximize Your Social Security Benefits
You have worked hard all of your life. You have raised a beautiful family that you are proud of, and you and your spouse are finally ready to enjoy your golden years together. And yes, you have also planned and saved for these future retirement years. Maybe you planned many years ago or maybe you planned just recently; but either way, you probably factored in the boost offered from your future Social Security benefits. Whatever the boost might be, wouldn’t you rather maximize those benefits if possible? If the answer is a resounding “YES”, then you want to learn about the various claiming strategies, and fully discuss them with your financial adviser/financial planner. The proper strategy can amplify your lifetime Social Security benefits significantly.

An example of one strategy is waiting as long as possible to start claiming your Social Security benefits. The earliest age that a retiree can start claiming these benefits is 62 years old. However, did you know that once you reach your full retirement age (between 65 -67), your social security benefits increase by 8% each year plus inflation adjustments? Wow, the money claimed increase considerably just by waiting a little longer.

Are there claiming strategies that can optimize your Social Security benefits even if you need to start collecting at an earlier age? The answer is “Yes”. Advantageous strategies can be applied to this situation as well when you know how to maneuver through the claiming process… you just need the proper expertise to guide you through the rules. Once you know these rules and know how to navigate confidently through the claiming process, you can apply a strategy that works in your favor, and maximizes this money.

Some of these claiming strategies involve the idea of spousal benefits. Here, spousal benefits can be applied to a “Restricted Spousal” strategy as well as a “File and Suspend” strategy. According to Jim Blankenship, CFP, EA of Forbes Advisor Network, “File and Suspend allows for the lower wage earner to increase his or her benefits by adding the Spousal Benefit, while the higher wage earner continues to delay his or her benefit, adding the delay credits.” On the other hand, the Restricted Application for Spousal Benefits “provides one spouse or the other with the option of collecting a Spousal Benefit, while at the same time delaying his or her own retirement benefit.” All and all, any couple must carefully consider the particular rules pertaining to these strategies in order to determine the appropriate strategy that applies to their specific situation.

Overall, these claiming strategies can cushion your retirement years with thousands of dollars. If you are thinking about navigating through your Social Security claiming process alone, it might be very unrealistic because the rules behind these strategies can be complex and meticulous. Even the employees at the national and local Social Security offices cannot give any advice; therefore, it’s best to seek the help of a financial advisor who has an in-depth knowledge of the best Social Security strategies for retirees. The world today is very different… life expectancy has increased, pensions have dwindled, medical costs have increased, and the economy remains
uncertain. Especially now, maximizing your Social Security benefits is necessary because these are unfavorable conditions. So, make certain that you fully learn and understand the rules of each strategy before you chose. You can add thousands of dollars to your retirement funds just by applying the right Social Security claiming strategy for you.

Blankenship, Jim. “Are You Leaving Social Security Money on the Table.” Forbes. 26 November 2012.
Roberts, Damon. “The Retirement Planning Edge: Maximizing Social Security.” Fox Business. 27 November 2012.

Wednesday Wisdom from Mark Matson

Should investors try to predict the future?
“I always have to remind investors to stop playing God. Specifically that means stop trying to predict the market, and stop trying to forecast the market. Above all, it means stop trying to find anyone else who says they can do these things, because anyone who tells you that he can do it is either seriously delusional, uneducated, misinformed, or lying. So don’t ask anyone else to play God when building your portfolio and advising you, because no one can.” Mark Matson

Mark Matson on Prudent Investing

The complexity of investing and the overwhelming tendency to perpetuate self-destructive investing behavior make it seem only natural to seek professional help. Many Americans turn to financial planners, brokers, or fee-based money managers. But are these professionals as a whole any better than Main Street investors when it comes to following the simple rules of investing and applying academically sound investment principles, or are they part of the problem? Are they true defenders and protectors of disciplined investing, or is it a classic case of the fox guarding the chicken coop? The average financial professional is not any more seasoned and prudent than the average investor.

That is why I have dedicated my life to only one part of the planning process —prudent investing.

Matson on Investor Courage

Trying to play God with the financial markets is highly destructive. So don’t try it. In the end, you will guess wrong. Instead, have the long-term courage to take the long view and stick to your plan. Know that courage doesn’t meant the absence of fear. Courage means feeling the fear and doing the right thing anyway.

Matson on Investor Emotions

You will often hear so-called investment experts say things like, “You have to eliminate feelings from the investment process.” There is only one problem with that: It is impossible. No one can completely eliminate feelings and emotions from the investing process, because everyone is human. Pretending otherwise and believing your emotions won’t come into play is a recipe for disaster.

Matson On Dysfunction Loves Secrecy

Most of us have been taught that investing is a solitary experience; that what we do is we go and meet with our financial planner or our financial advisor, and don’t talk about money with others, don’t share what is going on, and certainly don’t share your fear, or your apprehension, or your goals, or your feelings. We are led to believe that we should do this in isolation.

Instincts plus emotions plus perceptions are twisted and take over in isolation. But human beings are meant to live in community, in support of each other. It’s the fear of sharing our own emotions and failed behavior that keep us stuck. However, we gain strength by sharing our experiences, fears, and hopes. And we do that best in groups. To be successful as an investor is to take strength and hope from others, to share our experience, to know we are not alone when the market goes down 30 percent or when we see an advertisement for gold up 80 percent. It helps us to know that there are other people struggling with the same things that we’re struggling with and the same fears that we struggle with, where it’s the economy, struggles at home, the loss of a job, or health issues. All of these things can exacerbate the situation. When the market crashes or there are bad periods, and you combine that with health problems, or problems with children or problems with jobs, it magnifies the fear. It makes things worse. To be a successful investor, requires the support of a group. When we’re in a group, we understand ourselves when we share. You learn from other people’s experience, and then learn that you’re really not so different after all.

Wednesday Wisdom from Main Street Money

Matson On The Financial Media

They need readers and viewers to sell advertising. It is all about profits and the way to keep you watching and reading is to tap in your emotions, instincts, and perception biases. They magnify the urge to speculate and gamble. Many of them believe it is their job to help you forecast the future, a futile exercise. They believe the lies and perpetuate the myths. If it bleeds it leads, and if it is up 100 percent in the last year, everybody will be talking about it, no matter how imprudent it is. Think of this as financial pornography. Its job is to seduce and titillate.

Wednesday Wisdom from Main Street Money

Matson On Necessary Lie Syndrome

A necessary lie is a lie we tell ourselves just before we engage in unhealthy or dysfunctional behavior. For speculation masquerading as investing, it is, “This time is different. I really do know what is going to happen this time.” You can probably think of a time in your life when you have told yourself a lie just before you acted in a way that was self-destructive, and you may be able to identify times when you have done it while investing. This is the brutal type of self-assessment that is required to be a successful investor.

Wednesday Wisdom from Main Street Money

Matson On Market Bubbles

Losing money in bubbles is not just something that happens to “dumb” people or “other people.”  It can happen to the most brilliant of people, it can happen to you, and maybe it has in the past, and it can literally destroy your life savings. No one knows where the next bubble is going to be in advance, but you can protect yourself from them by following the three simple rules of investing. If it is highly popular and on the cover of every magazine, chances are it is not a prudent investment, but rather a bubble waiting to happen.

Matson On Wall Street Bullies

You should know that most larger financial organizations don’t want you to solve these problems (with investor behavior). It is simply not in their best interest. Your problems are their profits.

Excerpts from Main Street Money by Mark Matson