Where and how to retire

As you already know, it has been a really odd year, and we are only halfway through at this point.  We still have a presidential election, schools starting back, an unsure football season, Holidays to celebrate, and a Flu-season to go through.  All of this might make us just want to stay in our houses and avoid the rest of the world.  However, if you know me very well, I can’t stand to sit still or not have a vacation I’m organizing, so I haven’t stopped planning.  Through my searches of places to visit, I came across an article in Kiplinger’s that was called “Find a Great Place to Retire”.  So now I was sidetracked, and my financial planning side kicked in.

One of the things I noticed immediately was that these cities were predominantly in the South from places like Huntsville, AL to Pensacola, FL.  But to my surprise, I saw Knoxville, TN on their list.  This is a great accolade for the place that I like to call home.  I guess sometimes you forget how good you have it in your own back yard.  This article on Knoxville focused on the relatively low cost of living in the city, which helps make your nest egg go further, but it also outlined many of the low-cost activities just outside our door.  It went on to point out that we are blessed with the Great Smoky Mountains filling our horizon, the abundance of lakes and streams that run though our communities, and access to a top educational institution like the University of Tennessee.  So, you should be able to find an abundance of free or low-cost activities to fill your day and time you’ve never had while working and raising families.

As I progressed down this path of thinking, I remembered a conversation I just had with a new client who is approaching retirement.  As usual, I got around to one of my favorite questions pretty quick: “What are you going to do in retirement?”.  That matters more than you might initially think because retirement lifestyle is one of the most important keys to the age-old question of “do I have enough?”.  His answer revolved a lot around the happiness of not working, but also the ability to take time and go hiking (a simple lifestyle).

I hope you find your happy place in retirement, but that process starts now.  We all need to make sure we are taking care of the things we can do today to help ensure our futures look like we want them to.


This Summer's Hot Trade

As July creeps to a close, the thermometers in our part of the country are pegged north of 90. It's hot. Too hot to think about kids going back to school or off to college. Too hot to think about COVID. 

On the investment side, let's add Gold to the hot list. The popular GLD exchange traded fund is up 26% this year and increased 10% in July alone.

In the aftermath of COVID-related economic closures interest rates have plunged to all time lows. Five year Treasury notes only pay .28% and ten year US Treasury notes yield less than .6% which has in turn, pushed mortgage rates to all-time lows. Outside the United States other countries are experiencing the realm of negative interest rates which are manufactured by Central Banks as they attempt to stimulate economic growth.

The global pandemic of low yields is pushing investors to consider their alternatives. Safety-first investors overseas are fleeing negative rates and flocking into gold to avoid losing money. In the US, few investors can stomach tying their funds up for 5 years at a measly 1/4% return. Stock market valuations are stretched as speculators pile into momentum stocks regardless of weak fundamentals. Only folks who can endure stomach churning volatility are chasing this game. 

Washington's response to the COVID shutdown was to offer massive stimulus payments to almost everyone in America. Concerned investors have done a quick mental calculation on the cost of all of this and now realize that our national debt is on the verge of reaching a tipping point. With somewhere between 3 and 6 TRILLION in new debt added to the books this year alone, debt payments run the real risk of engulfing our budget. Exploding debt poses a big risk to the US dollar's reign as the safe-haven/reserve currency for the world.

This debt spiral has been building for years and it is the main reason that we have long advocated a position in precious metals. We view it as a reasonable insurance policy against the dollar declining in value. Gold prices have responded the confluence of economic events this year with a rally to new all-time highs. The question I'm fielding from friends is "can/should I chase it higher?"

Precious metals are becoming the hot trade and will attract the fast money crowd that likes to chase momentum plays. This will increase volatility (and therefore risk). When this ends, I don't know. We're enjoying the ride for now and using the big moves to sell gains down to our pre-determined exposure levels. This frees up cash to re-deploy into other asset classes that are still out of favor. This discipline is the essence of buy low, sell high. It keeps us from getting cooked in the hot trade and smart investors always have a plan to get out of the heat.



It’s one of my favorite times of the year.  I enjoy going to the local farmer’s markets in July.  You can find fresh tomatoes, squash, green beans and many other locally grown vegetables.  It brings back great memories of my grandmother and how she could masterfully prepare all of summer’s bounty from the garden.  I eat more vegetables during these months partially because of their availability and my own nostalgia for the food that was on our table in the past.  I’m trying to share some of that love with my own kids as we prepare weekend dinners.

I’m also hearing about friends that are “going keto”, trying intermittent fasting, or joining a new gym.  I’ve learned in my adult years that there is no “magic bullet” when it comes to diet and exercise.  It takes discipline, commitment, and time to see the results that you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  The same holds true in your financial life. 

As many prepare to send their kids to college this Fall, those that have saved for this goal didn’t accomplish this overnight.  They began preparing for this time years ago, likely saving money each month to plan for moving into the dorm.  Some have also paid off their mortgage in 2020.  That also wasn’t a goal that they were able to achieve (unless they had a substantial windfall) in a short time.  They likely paid an extra payment each year or added principal to each payment.

Whether saving for college, paying off debt or saving money in a 401(k), there is no method to snap your fingers and make that goal a reality.  It takes discipline to save rather than spend, and sacrifice to give up a temporary reward for long-term gain. 

And just like those that have lost weight, run a 5k or made long lasting health changes in your life, we find that our clients that are financially independent are equally as happy.   It’s never too late to start saving.  The incremental benefits may seem trivial or unimportant, but the long-term effects of those behavior changes will do you a lifetime of good.


Change that Will Do you Good

I am recently married and my wife and I have spent the past few days consolidating our households, realizing that we have 2 of everything in our kitchen, and trying to find the best way to fit two cars and six bikes into our garage. 

We’re also combining our bank accounts, updating our wills and changing the beneficiary information on our retirement accounts and life insurance policies.  The process was fairly simple, but only because we had copies of those statements and contact information for those companies.

Part of my role at LeConte is to help our clients get organized and stay organized.  We provide an online vault for clients to keep their information in a secure cloud format that they can access at any time. 

Just as I have updated my estate planning documents and beneficiary information, perhaps now is the time for you to do the same. 

  • When’s the last time you reviewed those designations on your life insurance policies?
  • Can you easily find the policy number and contact information?
  • Have you had a life event that would cause you to change those?
  • Do you have a will, and if so, when’s the last time you had it updated?

I would recommend creating a folder or online location to store all this information.  Tell your loved ones about it and show them that information. 

Waiting on hold, filling out forms for these changes isn’t how one would choose to spend their Wednesday afternoons, but the peace of mind that comes from planning and preparing for my wife and children easily outweighs that.


5 Things to do before you turn 25 to Ruin Your Financial Life

Conveniences, efficiencies, and instant gratification. This is what our world is full of. When we want something, we usually expect to have it immediately. If we do not get it, we simply get annoyed.  

Renowned author, Stephen Covey titled a chapter “Begin with the End in Mind” in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. A simple concept, yet so hard to follow or implement for many. When we think about the end, that is the position we would like to have achieved or the goals we would like to attain, we tend to be too late. We give no time for our choice(s) or decision(s) to get off the ground, face objections, and allow ourselves time to adjust. 

Right now, I want you to create a mental picture your future self. The self that is at the end of your life. What do you like about that image?  

Good, bad, ugly, or indifferent; now is the time to think, prepare, and get started on how you are going to make that image a reality. 

Often, we read the thousands of thoughts or ideas that can make our life successful (however you define that), yet we often disregard the hurdles that can severely hinder or even ruin the opportunity to reach those successes.  

After much thought and after initially writing a list that stretched multiple pages, the following are the 5 things you should do to ruin your financial life by 25:


1. Refuse to accept responsibility  

We each have seen someone live a life that is overflowing with stress. Although stress is a normal part of life for everyone, it can be minimized. You ask how? I tell you, simple… by not accepting responsibility.   

If you do not have any responsibility you cannot be blamed, you will have no anxiety from expectations, and you can daily choose what to do! Sounds amazing right? 

Besides, mom, dad, or surely the grandparents will step in and take care of whatever you need. You have more important things to do anyway. 

And then you are 75 

You wake up and have a flashback. You get dressed, hop in your truck and clock in for an eight-hour day only to realize it is not a flashback, it is reality. I am not saying going to work at 75 years old is a bad thing, but when you are 75 you should have a choice. Therefore, it is so important to take responsibility for your choices and actions now. It is the very reason why it is important to ponder the choices you have made and revisit them to make changes when needed.  

Responsibility - the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone.

- Oxford Dictionary

By definition you have a choiceto work or not workto spend your earnings or save some of them. The choice you make is the choice you live with.  

The results of your decision is not your parents’ fault. It is not your siblings’ fault. It is not your friends’ fault. The choice was yours, so the consequences are yours. Own it. If you don’t want to own the choice(s) you make, then continue to point fingers at everyone besides the one who made the choice(s) and put yourself on the fast track to ruining your financial future. Remember, the choices you make have consequences. 

I’ll post the rest of the list next week. Stay tuned... 



Don’t Miss the Opportunity

I spent last night taking graduation pictures of my son and fellow graduating neighbors in our yard. It was great to be around a small group of people again, but it was much different than the hypothetical plans we had made a year ago before the coronavirus changed our lives. There were no large graduation parties, extravagant trips overseas or even the traditional graduation ceremonies everyone just takes for granted. 

It could easily seem that so much was taken away from us, but I think we got more out of it than we at first realized. For months, we had my now 18-year-old son and his two younger brothers in the house together with no place to go. We played UNO, Wiffle ball, basketball, Monopoly, watched movies, and started a nightly work-out program. I truly believe very little of that would have happened if not given the opportunity to slow down, stay at home, and focus time on what is really important.

At the same time, I was working from home during this pandemic and missed out on so many opportunities. I found myself tied to my makeshift office desk trying to help people with PPP loans and Stimulus checks, and I had a hard time pulling away for lunch or to end the day anywhere near the 5 o’clock whistle. That doesn’t even take into consideration the multiple projects that seemed destined to be completed with all of this “extra time”. Instead, what I have now is stacks of paint cans ready to transition bedrooms into new teenage oases. Where did the time go to complete these projects?

What I’ve come to realize is we didn’t get more time, but it was just different and other things consumed my attention. Today my son selected his college dorm room, so he will soon be out from underneath my roof. He will be making important decisions that impact the rest of his life. I have had 18 years with him, but how many opportunities did I miss to show him the right way or help him figure out how to make difficult decisions? I’ll still have opportunities to be an influence going forward, but we only get one shot at today. If this virus was good for anything, I hope it slowed us down enough to think about the important things in life and to take the opportunity to enjoy or accomplish those things we’ve been putting off.

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