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On this week's episode of Tape Talk, Quint talks through six important steps to take towards financial freedom. Listen in to find out how to get and stay on the road to your own financial well-being.

1. What's the Goal?

Do you have a goal or objective for your finances? If not, what are you working towards? Without a written out goal, it's almost impossible to develop a plan. The goal of financial freedom is not just to have more. Rather, there should be something specific you're trying to accomplish that will help you stay focused when the journey gets tough.

2. Know Where It Goes!

Where has your money been going? If you're running out of money before running out of month it's very likely you have no idea. It's time to start tracking where those dollars go every month. It doesn't have to be complicated but it does need to be a system you can stick to. So, start now, keep track of where every dollar goes so you can start identifying the opportunities for change.

3. Create A Budget

Once you know where your money is going, it's time to start telling it where you want it to go from now on. A budget is simply a plan for your spending. Instead of letting your money slip away each month you take the responsibility and put in the effort to make your plan a reality. 

4. Find and Allocate Extra

Now that you have a budget you can create margin. What's margin? It's the extra money you have that doesn't "have" to be spent. This is the amount you can allocate to debt or savings. Work ruthlessly to find the extra in your budget and begin telling it where to go from now on rather than just letting it slip away.

5. Snowball Your Debt

Sure, it makes mathematical sense to pay down your highest interest rate debts first. However, what may work best mentally is seeing the number of your debts evaporate quicker. To do this you need to use the snowball approach. To do this, pay off the smallest debt first, then use that extra money to add to your next smallest, and so on. Pretty soon your snowball is growing and you'll be paying significant amounts towards your largest debt.

6. Be Patient

Your personal finances are less exciting than watching grass grow in the desert. However, what distinguishes the people who succeed from those that don't is often patience and perseverance. The changes you make won't drastically change your situation overnight. However, with every prudent brick you lay you are creating your own road to financial freedom.

5 Ways to Manage Risk

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On this week's episode of Tape Talk we're talking about risk, specifically how to manage it! We'll explore five different approaches you can use in your investment life to help manage your risk.

1. Use Stops

One of the key ways to provide some risk protection when investing is to have a plan which includes predetermined levels at which you would exit and reassess your investments. This technique is referred to as a "stop" level. Whether you utilize an order placed in the market or a mental line at which you'll personally execute the order this technique allows you to go into an investment with an estimate of your initial risk should your thesis not pan out.

2. Take Profits

Exiting a position isn't reserved only for investments moving lower. If you are trading with a plan there may come a time when an investment has appreciated significantly and the wisest thing to do may be taking a portion of those profits to diversify elsewhere. Utilizing this strategy helps to ensure no one position becomes significantly overweighted at the top of its trend while also freeing up capital to be used for new opportunities. 

3. Don't Fear Cash

After taking profits, you'll be left with some cash in your account, this is nothing to fear. Cash is a resource to be deployed into an opportunity, not a burden to be relieved as quickly as possible. An important element of risk management is to avoid fear and anxiety over holding cash. When the correct opportunity comes along, this stockpile will allow you to move on something that others may miss.

4. Understand Your "Live" Risk

Your live risk is an important element of your investment portfolio. This level is best defined as the total risk from all of your investments. So, simply take the difference between the market price and the stop level of each position you hold and add this number for all your positions together, the total is your live risk. If every one of your positions were to revert to your stop levels, and you could exit at that price, this is the amount of your potential loss. Know this number, accept it, and ensure it doesn't keep you up at night.

5. Be Aware of Your Emotions

Emotions are a part of life. However, when unchecked these emotions can begin to overrule the plan you put in place. When volatility strikes or boredom sets in different emotions may begin to creep into your investment strategy. It's important to identify these, assess if anything in your plan has really changed, and make changes only if they're truly prudent. By carefully separating emotions from actual changing criteria in your plan you may save yourself a few investing missteps. 

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On this week's episode of Tape Talk Quint takes a look at the recent action in the financial markets to examine what's going on under the hood. Is the recent end of quarter weakness an indication of what's in store for the remaining summer months? Are financial stocks broadcasting something about the overall market? With international stocks down is it time to increase exposure?

Navigating Medicare

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The world of Medicare can be complex and overwhelming. On this week’s Tape Talk Quint takes a break from the norm and sits down with independent Medicare insurance professional Kim Milner to discuss the various Medicare options seniors have when they become eligible for benefits.

Bull Market Missteps

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On this week's episode of Tape Talk we discuss some of the big mistakes investors can make in a bull market. After all, it's not just bear markets that cause people to lose money. 

Headlines

In the news this week is the Federal Reserve who raised rates once again, to a range of 1.75-2.00%. The news release included a forecast for the Fed's consensus of two more rate hikes this year. However, the market doesn't believe the Fed here and sees only one rate hike left on the table before year's end. Why the disconnect? 

Misstep 1 - Equating a Bull Market with Intelligence

One of the biggest misstep investors make during the run-up of a bull market is thinking that the changing value in their investments is directly related to their intelligence and market savvy. This is a dangerous position to take! One of the powerful elements of a market that trends higher is that many of the underlying companies go along for the ride. Therefore, if you're making money in a bull market, it might just be more the market's fault than yours.

Misstep 2 - Underestimating Momentum

The saying among traders goes, "the trend is your friend." Still many an investor has sold their investment for modest gains only to see it tick higher for weeks, months, and years to come. Others investors have taken a contrarian view of the market and waited in cash because it's simply "too high." The fact is the trend is the trend until it ends. Understanding that momentum is a powerful force that will often keep things moving in a general direction is an important part of capitalizing on bull market trends.

Misstep 3 - Not Knowing When It's Changed

No trend has yet to go on forever without some significant pullback. Therefore, regardless of the time frame you're utilizing for your investments it is important to identify and understand what signals a change of character for the trend you're in. We typically utilize a group of both technical and fundamental indicators to review the market's trend as a whole. However, regardless of what you use, it's important to identify what the current trend is and when you think it might be coming to an end.

Misstep 4 - Not Rebalancing

The market moves in cycles and assets classes, sectors, and different individual companies can often provide levels of diversification and risk mitigation. However, getting the full benefit of this diversification means taking funds from your outperforming assets and adding them to some currently underperforming assets. It can be difficult! But, when the trend changes and rotation takes place, a proper rebalance may just help you capitalize on new trends and opportunities. 

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On this week's episode of Tape Talk, we consider the recent headlines about Social Security. Is this program, that millions of Americans rely on, in jeopardy or is the news just static?

Headlines

Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this week's show we start off with some of the week's biggest headlines!

Twitter (TWTR) is in the news this week after the stock extended its recent rally with the news that it would be replacing Monsanto in the S&P 500 Index. We look beyond the price action and consider what this means for investors. For instance, this may be a prime example of the index momentum factor. Every S&P index investor who may have never owned Twitter in the past will now own this company that was already up 60% year to date before the news. And, as more money goes into index funds more shares will be bought thus providing additional demand for the stock that might not have been there otherwise. This doesn't mean it has to go higher forever but simply a good example of the effects of index investing on the wider market.

AT&T (T) was downgraded this week on continued concerns of cable cutting affecting its entertainment subscription business. While this is not new news it did send the stock lower initially before later recovering. We'll take a look at the recent move lower in the stock and consider what this might mean for investors, especially the dividend investors typically attracted to this telecom stock. Is there an opportunity here to buy a decent yield at a good price or is this a dividend trap that investors should avoid?

How Social Security Works

With the news out this week that social security is going to dip into its trust fund reserves for the first time in decades, it may be a good idea to get on the same page of how this program works for the wide population of Americans who depend on it. For instance, while many know that they fund the program through their paychecks, few know where this money goes or how it's invested once it gets there. Furthermore, we need to explore what the potential headwinds for this type of program might be before we can discuss some potential solutions going forward.

What Does This Mean To You?

It's no secret that social security has had some issues coming down the road for some time now. In fact, it's often a hot topic around Washington and Congress that something must be done yet little ever happens. This is why we'll take some time to review some of the key issues surrounding this social program and how they might be resolved.

Think you have the solution for fixing the social security program? Check out this neat tool by the CRFB to see how your ideas might play out. Social Security Reform Simulator

The Importance of Planning

Most people know that retirement planning is a moving target but they may assume some aspects of their retirement are set in stone. As we consider that social security is a large portion of income for many retirement plans while at the same time the program requires fixes to be sustainable, it becomes clear that it may be time to take this aspect of your financial plan more seriously. If you haven't yet, it may be time to start developing your financial plan and laying the roadmap for your retirement. The sooner you start the more you can adjust as needed before you hit your target. To take the first steps, find out more HERE.

Employees and clients of Joule Financial own investments in Twitter and/or AT&T.

Summer Market Update

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On this week's episode of Tape Talk, Quint and Daniel break down this week's happenings in financial markets. Is Italy set to weigh on Europe (and the world)? Are the new tariffs good for markets? Where is there opportunity lurking now?

Trade Scuffle

The White House was out his week with fresh news on tariffs. The new proposal targeted countries that would have been exempt in the prior round, with Europe and Canada being affected by the 25% steel and 10% aluminum price protection. Domestic producers of the metals reacted positively to the news on Thursday while users of the commodities faced headwinds. We'll look at what this means for markets and trade going forward.

Italy, Arrabiata!

Italy was all over the headlines this week after a breakdown in the country's political landscape raised questions about their future in the Eurozone. If the populist party gains strength in this year's elections investors will be forced to consider a possible departure for the country from the Euro. This caused Italian debt yields to spike and stocks to retreat for fear of contagion. We discuss whether investors need worry or if this news is all headlines.

All About The Fins

The litmus test for where the markets are headed in the near term just might be financial stocks. While not as glamorous as the often talked about tech stocks (we're looking at you FANG!) the financial sector often serves as the foundation for the rest of the market. In fact, it was this sector that was the first to turn lower before the Great Recession. We'll dive into what the sector is doing here, what level might concern us, and what it all means for the market.

Small Caps and Energy Look Rosy

Volatility isn't always a bad thing, it works to the upside too! There are a few areas that seem to be moving higher even as recent headlines point to headwinds for the market. Small caps, for instance, broke out to new highs even while the S&P still stands over 5% off its high. Also, as oil has been trending higher, energy stocks have rejoined the party and made some recent gains. We discuss these two areas and whether they might present an opportunity to investors or just a well-crafted trap.

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On this week's episode of Tape Talk, Quint and Daniel breakdown some of the headwinds to early retirement as well as tips to navigate the journey strategically. 

Headlines

Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this week's show topic it's time to take a look at some of the headlines moving the markets this week. The trade war with China seems to have come to a screeching halt, does this mean the trade war trades will start to reverse? The North Korea Summit gets canceled, the market barely blinks, were these proposed peace talks more show than substance? The Fed casts a dovish tone sending interest rates lower, should investors be more concerned about higher interest rates or higher inflation coming down the pike from the Fed? 

What Is Early Retirement?

When it comes to retirement there are a lot of numbers thrown around. You can't tap into your IRAs "without penalty" until 59 1/2. You can't take social security until 62. Medicare starts at 65. Your RMD and maximum social security begin at 70. All of these numbers beg the question, when does retirement actually start? Well, for some people who've saved prudently and wish to retire earlier that number may be a bit lower. 

Healthcare On Your Own

When you decide to retire before you're eligible for Medicare, you'll need to have a plan for keeping yourself healthy for retirement. Unfortunately, gone are the days when most companies paid for a pension and healthcare when their employees retire. Today, you may just need to figure out healthcare on your own. Luckily, whether you like it or not, the health insurance exchange is a very viable option for early retirees. Add in fact with some prudent tax planning you might save significantly on your premiums making you want to start retirement sooner than you expected!

Social Security, Can You Live Without It?

One of the largest components of most retirees' income is their social security check. This amount significantly reduces what's needed to withdraw from investments or other sources. However, for those that retire early social security may still be a long way off. Furthermore, all those years of no income between when you think you should retire and when the social security office considers "normal" may penalize your future earnings. Still, with proper planning, you may just be able to navigate this retirement curveball safely.

Retirement Account Withdraws

Most investors are aware that withdrawing from an IRA, 401k, or another retirement plan prior to 59 1/2 comes with a steep penalty. However, we rarely talk to people who are aware of some of the ways around this. We take a look at the "Rule of 55" and Rule 72(t) to examine how both of these exceptions may make your early retirement much more comfortable. One disclaimer though, especially with Rule 72(t), you will need to ensure you have a good tax professional on your side as mistakes in this area can be disastrous for your plan!

It All Starts With A Plan

Regardless of when you retire, you need to have a plan for the journey ahead. Comprehensive financial and retirement planning gives you the opportunity to examine your entire financial roadmap for the journey ahead so you can make the most of opportunities and prepare for some of the roadblocks. You can learn more about our financial planning services HERE or Contact Us for more information on what the process entails. 

Listener Questions

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On this week's episode of Tape Talk we go to the mailbag and discuss some of the questions we've been receiving lately from listeners, clients, and people out and about. We cover everything from retirement savings to annuities in this one!

What's the Story On Tesla?

Elon Musk is a charismatic, and often entertaining, entrepreneur who seems to never be far from the business headlines. Among the companies he spearheads is Tesla, the electric car manufacturer attempting to put the likes of Ford and General Motors out of business. Given the hype around these electric vehicles, is Tesla a place to park some speculative funds for the long-term?

Should I Max-out My 401k? Or, Should I Use A Roth?

Deciding between retirement tools isn't always easy, in this scenario we consider a listener who wants to know if they should max their 401k or use a personal account first. When it comes to the question of tax paid now or later it's more a bet on future tax rates than anything else. We'll consider who might want to pay the tax later and who might be better served to pay it now.

Should I Utilize My No-match 401k?

Continuing on talking about 401k plans we consider a no-match plan. Use it or not? We'll talk through the difference in investments options, accessibility, and a bit of estate planning considerations. While an employer plan and an individual retirement account may look similar there are a few key differences for investors to consider.

Yield Versus Yield to Maturity (YTM).

We're often asked by people when talking about fixed income investments why there's often a difference, sometimes a very large one, between what a bond is supposed to yield and what it lists as its yield to maturity. We'll discuss how demand, interest rates, and market movements affect bonds and change the realized yield you'll obtain if you buy those bonds after they've been issued.

Why Gold to Battle Inflation?

We've been talking about gold a few times on the show lately as we consider the potential for inflation to come down the pipe. You guys are listening! We've had more than a few questions in follow-up about why now is the time for gold if it hasn't worked in recent years. Find out why we're looking at this asset class now and our plan for it going forward.

Annuities! Can I Really Get 7%?!?

Quint rounds out the show talking about one of our least favorite investments in today's low interest-rate environment. On the surface, annuities often look like the perfect solution for what ails the risk-averse investor. However, we'll discuss some of the potential pitfalls and misunderstandings of this often overly complex asset class.

The Buffett Bounce

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On this week's episode of Tape Talk we catch up with the latest moves across the market. Find out why Buffett made Apple pop, what's going on in oil, and whether Gold is losing its shine. 

Buffett talks, Apple pops.

Warren Buffett talked about Berkshire Hathaway's accumulation of additional shares in Apple (AAPL) during the first quarter prior to this week's annual shareholder meeting. The news and exuberance from the "Oracle of Omaha" sent the company's shares to new highs help drive the S&P and other indices higher for the week. Quint Tatro, Joule's CIO, talked with CNBC earlier in the week to discuss how investors may need only watch Apple for clues of where this market goes next. 

Gold, still glittering?

Gold has been quiet of late but that may not be the case forever. We'll talk about the bullish cash for this precious metal as inflation comes down the pipe. We'll also examine the technical set-up and how we've been looking to capitalize on this investor favorite inflation hedge in our clients' portfolios.

Oil, rally or head fake?

Oil saw its share of volatility this week as investors prepared for and digested news of the United States' intention to pull out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and the potential for increased middle east tensions. We'll look at whether this is a start of a new trend in this economically important energy sector or if investors need to dip their toe in cautiously. 

Interest becomes, interesting!

It's difficult to remember the last time we got excited about bonds and interest on this show. The fact of the matter is that interest rates have been anything but interesting recently. However, with the Fed's latest moves, inflation ticking higher, and China selling down treasuries is it time for an opportunity in this market?

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