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Is the “magic number” a magic bullet?

We frequently hear that each of us has a “magic number”—the amount of money we need in order to not outlive our retirement savings. Here at Siena, we believe you can have multiples of your magic number and still fall short, if you don’t plan well. Instead, we believe there are eight numbers you should track:


This is what you own minus what you owe.

Consider net worth your canvas—it’s what you have to work with, but it’s not the whole picture.


We recommend having three-to-six months of living expenses in the bank, plus a cash position, as part of your portfolio. Having an operational cash reserve can actually shield you from down markets. In 2009, if you had to sell securities to cover expenses, and had no reserves, you locked in losses that in many cases you couldn’t recoup.


No matter what your income or net worth, without a clear view of what you spend, you can’t plan for what you’ll need. We suggest taking an honest look at your spending so you know what it costs to live the life you’ve chosen. Then determine what to do with what’s left over, such as investing, paying down debt or making charitable donations.


Imagine that the resource you use to fund your life— your income—is cut off. That will not only impact your lifestyle but bite into your net worth. Most policies will replace 60 percent of current income—is that enough? Is your bonus income also insured? Disability income protection will help to replace gaps in your income and protect your portfolio.


The cost of long-term care depends on the type and duration of care you need and where you live. But an expense like this can impact your portfolio more than any dip in the market. You may choose to self-insure, (using your net worth or cash flow) or purchase extended-care insurance—there are many options out there. However you choose to protect yourself, have a plan and make sure your family is aware of it.


What’s your legacy? Do you need to protect your loved ones, fund a trust, prepare for estate taxes or protect your business? Having term or permanent life insurance should be considered a key portfolio strategy to help protect your family, your business and your legacy.


This is the magic number. And it surely is important, but there are many factors that feed into it.


This is your assets minus your liabilities plus your life insurance proceeds. Yes, the life insurance you own outright becomes part of your estate when you die. So, it may be to your benefit to have your life insurance portfolio owned by a trust. This is critical for large estates. We recommend that your financial advisor attend your meetings with your estate attorney to help you ensure a singular strategy.

Successful financial planning is like a puzzle—many pieces must fit together to make a complete picture. And while it’s not as simple as one magic number, by focusing on these eight numbers, we feel you’ll have a greater chance of success at achieving what we call “living your balance.”

This information is being provided only as a general source of information and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual investor. Investment decisions should always be made based on an investor’s specific financial needs, objectives, goals, time horizon and risk tolerance. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Before you purchase, be sure to ask your financial advisor about the insurance policy’s features, benefits, risks and fees, and whether the insurance is appropriate for you based upon your financial situation and objectives. Ameriprise Financial and its affiliates do not offer tax or legal advice. Consumers should consult with their tax advisor or attorney regarding their specific situation. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER TM and CFP (with flame design) in the U.S. Investment advisory products and services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc., a registered investment adviser. Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA and SIPC. © 2016 Ameriprise Financial, Inc., All rights reserved.

This article was originally published in the February/March 2016 issue of Worth.

Investing and the EconomyRetirement Planning

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