Michele Clark
Clark Hourly Financial Planning - Chesterfield, MO Advisor
17295 Chesterfield Airport Road, Suite 200
Chesterfield, MO 63005 USA
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Michele Clark Quoted in the News: LearnVest article about saving for retirement

February 27th, 2015

In the LearnVest article online this week “30 or Bust?  What Retirement Really Looks Like When You Put Off Saving” the article discusses the advantages of starting retirement saving in your 20s, and ways to ramp up your savings if you are starting in your 30s.

The majority of the reading audience is self-directed investors that are looking for financial education, probably not going to hire an advisor, and definitely need to know how to best help themselves. She asked me when she interviewed me if I thought that people should use online retirement calculators.  I told her, “yes!”  They should use everyone one of them that they could get their hands on.  I told her that in the online calculators that I have seen, there are usually one or two assumptions that I don’t like, but if you can do several of them that would give you a better picture than not doing planning or doing just one.

One challenge that I have as a professional financial advisor is that the majority of clients that come to me for retirement planning are coming to me in their 50s or sometimes in their 60s and they have never estimated how much they need for retirement.  Therefore some of the plans I do require some kind of adjustment in expectations:

1) saving more between now and retirement than they thought they needed to or

2) retire a little later than they hoped or

3) spend less than they had imagined they would,

or a combination of the three.

Which work out fine, and clients go away feeling relived to know what needs to happen to be on track.  But if they pulled up calculators when they were 20 or 30 and did some preliminary estimates, wow!  The results would be terrific.  And I am seeing more 20 and 30 year olds coming to see me for help with balancing financial goals.

I was so thrilled to participate in this article.  Financial journalists reach so many more investors than financial advisors ever could.  I am so glad that this message can get out.  Saving early has a big impact!

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Michele Clark Quoted in the News: St Louis Post Dispatch article about financial compatibility

February 26th, 2015

The St Louis Post Dispatch quoted me in their article “Is Your Honey Good With Money? Better Find Out Before Tying The Knot.” in the Sunday paper.

I shared my thoughts on couples and financial compatibility.  As a financial advisor for twenty some years, I have worked with many different couples of various age ranges, so I was able to share some ideas for checking to see if you think about money in the same way.

Even if you don’t, one of the most important things to do is to talk about it before you marry.  Money squabbles are one of the leading causes of divorce.  Valentine’s Day has just passed and love is in the air, take a look at this article to make sure it stays that way!

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Emergency Fund: The Foundation for Financial Success

September 3rd, 2013

Unexpected financial expenses seem to crop up at the least opportune time. The car needs a new transmission, you lose your job, or a parent or child becomes ill and you need to reduce your hours at work in order to care for them, taking an unexpected reduction in income. All of these expenses, and others, can drain savings quickly.

Why have an emergency fund?

You can resort to using credit cards to pay for emergency expenses however, worrying about paying down your growing credit card balance can lead to further stress during an already difficult period. You will experience “one step forward and two steps back” where it’s hard to see any progress.

How to create an emergency fund.

The better choice is to establish an emergency fund now. Determine how much money you want to set aside in the emergency fund and set up an automatic deposit into that account once a month for a small amount, so that you establish the habit of adding to the emergency fund. If you have finished paying off a monthly loan of some kind, consider immediately setting that money aside for the emergency fund so you don’t use it for daily expenses. Set up an account with your bank that is not easily accessible so there is less temptation to use the money.

Remember a large screen TV or a vacation is not an emergency. If large items such as these, are on your wish list, start saving for them separately and only use your emergency fund for true emergencies.

How much should you have in an emergency fund?

The rule of thumb is to keep six to twelve months of living expenses in savings for emergency funds.

Whereas a dual income family could get away with six months of income in savings, if you are a single income household, you would want twelve months of income saved.

If you and your spouse work for the same company, there is a greater risk of you both losing your jobs at the same time, therefore it would make sense to keep twelve months.

Having an emergency fund will reduce your stress during periods of difficulty because you can tackle the situation and not worry about the financial aspect.

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Retirement Planning: When You Haven’t Tracked Your Spending

August 19th, 2013

Planning for retirement is not a subject you dwell on every day until you realize it’s closer than you think. However, there are various components for you to consider when planning for your “golden years.” An important piece of this planning requires you to calculate your current spending so you can make wise financial decisions for your retirement years.

How much do you spend?

Some families track their spending using software, online tools, a homemade spreadsheet, or simple paper and pencil. If you have been tracking your spending, congratulations! You have some solid spending history to use when estimating how much you will need to spend each year to pay your bills and do the things you want to do to enjoy your retirement.

What if you do not track your spending?

Many families that are easily able to pay their bills and accumulate healthy balances in their savings and investment accounts have never felt the need to track their spending. However, as they get within a few years of retirement they realize they do not have any spending history to use for projecting whether they can afford to retire soon. They do not know if their investments will provide enough income to support them with the same lifestyle they have always enjoyed. Fortunately there is a solution.

How to calculate your current spending?

Before you decide to turn off your income from employment, you want to be confident that you know how much money you need for retirement. What you don’t want to do is not have enough income at the time of retirement to provide for you and your loved one. Therefore, it is best to use pure facts when calculating your current spending.

  1. You make A.
  2. You give B to the government for taxes.
  3. You save C.

The rest is what you spend.

A – B – C = what you spend

It’s that simple. Don’t let the fact that you have not been tracking your spending delay your retirement planning. You can use this simple calculation to estimate how much you spend currently. And track your spending going forward so that you can more accurately estimate your spending needs in retirement.

Tracking your monthly spending today is important to do in the last few years before retirement. If you haven’t started, it’s okay. Start now. When you have an accurate picture of your expenses today, you’ll be better off in your future.



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Financial Bloggers Give Advice to Increase Your Savings Rate

November 18th, 2012

Think about this: on average you have 45 years of working life to save up for 30 years of retired life.

While you are working, it can be hard to save because you have bills to pay; utilities, groceries, gasoline, insurance, property taxes, day-to-day living expenses.  You will have all those same bills to pay when you are retired, however they will be more expensive due to inflation.  So you need to save now to pay for those bills that you will have later, all while paying your current bills.  It can seem overwhelming!

When faced with a large task, the best way to accomplish it is to just get started one small step at a time.  A friend of mine, Jim Blankenship, CFP®, EA a financial advisor in New Berlin, IL, came up with the idea of asking financial bloggers all over the country to write blog posts encouraging people to increase their savings rate by 1% in their employer sponsored retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s, or Thrift Savings plans.  Earlier in the year I was quoted in a US News and World Report article about 401(k) retirement accounts, and one piece of advice I gave was to increase your contribution rate by 1% each year, so when I heard Jim’s plan, I knew immediately that I wanted to participate.

So far there are thirteen articles with ideas that can help you increase your savings rate by 1% in your retirement account:

From Jim Blankenship: Add Your First 1% to Your 401(k) 

My Contribution: Employer Retirement Accounts: 2013 Contribution Limits

From Roger Wohlner: Need Post-Election Financial Advice? Try the 1% Solution

From Sterling Raskie: A Nifty Little Trick to Increase Savings

From Robert Wasilewski: Increase Savings Rate by 1%

From Mike Piper: Investing Blog Roundup: Saving 1% More

From Theresa Chen Wan: Saving for Retirement: The 1% Challenge for 2013

From Steve Stewart: Seriously. What’s 1 percent gonna do?

From Laura Scharr: In Crisis: Personal Savings-Here Are Six Steps to Improve Your Retirement Security

From Ann Minnium: Gifts That Matter

From Alan Moore: Financial Challenge – Should You Choose To Accept It

From Jonathan White: Ways to increase your retirement contributions 1% in 2013

From Emily Guy Birken: Increase your savings rate by 1%

After reading these posts hopefully you know why it makes sense to increase your savings rate, and have some good tips for where to find the money in order to allow you to increase your savings by 1%.  The next step is to take action, and this is the season to do so.  This is the time of year that HR departments are having their annual meetings about benefits.  Commit to yourself and your family’s future financial security and increase your contribution by 1% this year!

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